Friday, March 25, 2016

The Farm On Stafford Road

     Traveling down Hackett Road in Manchester towards Macedon, the first road on the right is Stafford.  About a mile down Stafford on the right sits a horse farm.  The home on the property today is not the original building, that structure burned in 1928 and was probably quite a bit larger that the present house.  In 1898 the extensive farm property was owned by Lydia Clark, a widow who lived there with her unmarried son Eugene.  One August night that year, seventy four year old Lydia started downstairs in the dark and somehow lost her footing.  Eugene discovered her at bottom of the stairs in the morning, dead of a broken neck.  Also living in the Clark home in 1898 was the family of Philip Power who worked the farm on shares.  Along with Philip, who was an Irish immigrant from County Waterford, was his pregnant wife Mary from County Kerry and their five children.

     The Widow Clark's death was about to set in motion a chain of events that would reverberate through Ontario County courts for years to come, and provide an endless source of gossip for the residents of Manchester.  In addition to Eugene who inherited the farm, Lydia Clark had two other children, married daughters who lived locally.  Their anger upon learning that Eugene had deeded the farm to Mary Power, the sharecropper's wife, can only be imagined.  They sought to have Eugene declared incompetent at a hearing in Manchester Village in 1899, and the jury agreed that Eugene was unfit to manage his affairs.  Four months later however, that finding was dismissed.  Now began a battle royal.

     Mary Power contended Eugene had given her the property in return for her taking care of him as his mother had done, and that since the deed reserved life use to Eugene, he had lost nothing in the deal.  The sisters countered, "the influence of the Power family became such that Eugene would not speak to his relatives and was completely subservient to the will of Mrs. Power."  And so it went, back and forth with suits and counter-suits, decisions and appeals.  More about the court case here.

     By 1905, six long years after the first filing, the sisters had had enough and threw in the towel.  In the New York State Census of 1905 we see--

Philip Power       45    Ireland   head

Mary                    38   Ireland   

Nora L.                19   USA

Edmond               15    "

Emma                  12    "

Marie                   11    "

Liddie                    6    "

Philip Jr.                 5   "                              

George                   1   "   
Eugene Clark        54   "   boarder  

     Philip Power was listed as head of the household, Eugene as a boarder.  Eugene died at the farm in 1909.  His sister requested and received letters of administration in the $700 estate he left, clearly that did not include the real estate.  Even in this instance though,  the Power family would prevail, the letters were revoked when a will surfaced leaving all Eugene's property to Mary Power and naming her executor.

     The Power family owned the farm until 1978 when the last surviving son, Philip Jr. passed away.  Mary had died of bronchitis in 1927, the year before the fire, and Philip Sr. died in 1929.  His cause of death?  He fell down the stairs...

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