Reminiscing with Carl Sotherden

Posted on February 4, 2019


Reminiscing with Carl Sotherden


Now that the holiday season of 2018 is over and we are almost at the end of January of 2019, thoughts go to planning for gardening and spring planting by the farmers across the road from us.  Martha Sotherden, Carl’s widow, who sat next to me in choir, told me stories of living on the Caughdenoy Road farm and gave me a copy of Carl’s manuscript of his life’s memoirs.  He was born in 1908 and lived all his life on the farm.  Following are some memories of his early childhood. 


Carl states: “I remember going to church and Sunday School in the Lutheran Church at Dutch settlement (this was the church building on the corner of Caughdenoy and Van Hoesen Roads) and about Easter being a big time for speaking pieces and how we got new suits and got all ‘gussied up’ for the occasion.  My mother had ordered a new suit for me from the Sears Roebuck Catalogue.  As the time grew nearer for speaking my piece and the suit didn’t come, mother became very frustrated, but on the Saturday before Easter, the mailman delivered the suit.  Well, as we traveled to church by horse and buggy, I was warned many times to be extra careful not to get dirty.  It was easy to get horse hair on your clothes as the horses always shed their winter coats at this time of year.  I guess it must have come off smoothly as I don’t recall any further comment…..


“It was the custom in those days to drive to a friend or relative for Sunday dinner.  We generally left right after church and Sunday School and then we had to plan to get home for the evening chores.  That was the thing that was inevitable on a dairy farm, but once you became accustomed, it was very routine and very monotonous.  Likewise, we often had visitors for a Sunday dinner.  Chicken ‘n biscuits with all the fix-ins was a very popular menu and boy was it g-o-o-d.  Another favorite amongst the older folks was good old salt pork with milk gravy……


“I started grade school in September 1914 and both our road (Roger’s Corners) now Caughdenoy and (Cicero-Baldwinsville) now Route 31 were dirt country roads.  I believe it was 1915 that they paved Route 31.  How I remember was that I was going to school and saw the laborers with their picks and shovels working on the project.  Some of these laborers were inmates from the Onondaga County prison at Jamesville and they were transported to their jobs each morning in an open truck with seats running lengthwise, one on each side.  The two men who had charge of the truck were acquainted with our school teacher, Florence Strever (later Mrs. Fred Graves).  One day all us pupils piled on the truck and had our picture taken…...


“The small village of Clay for a short time had three grocery stores while I was growing up.  The Weller Store located just west of the railroads tracks, Bruce Cranes Store just east of the railroad across Route 31 from the railroad station and then Howe’s Cash Store in the Schneider Building.  I recall stopping in the Weller Store to get a huge stick of candy for a penny.  The large glass covered jars that held the candy sat on the counter and the customer was allowed to reach in and help themselves.  That stick was a real bargain and afforded lots of chewing.  Mrs. Mary Weller was Postmistress for some period of time; also Mrs. Mary Carpenter and Charles F. Neuman, who built a small wooden building between the (Sotherden) feed mill and the (Clay) Hotel to serve as the Post Office.* ..…In those days all the mail was transported on the railroad so it was necessary that the Post Office be located nearby……


“As far back as I can remember, the morning Daily Post Standard came by mail and the cost was $5.00 a year.  The Sunday papers were delivered by paper boys at $.10 per copy.  Somewhere in the early teens, the automobile began to show up in our community.  Some of the business men of the town were the first to have cars, along with the mail carriers.  The Model T Ford was one of the popular makes and my Dad bought his first car in 1917; a Model T Touring car with soft top and side curtains.  As soon as the first snow arrived, the car was jacked up on ties to save the tires and then a large canvas was tied on to cover the entire car to further protect it from dust in the garage.”


All these memories were 100 years ago, 1914 to 1917, and are exactly as Carl remembers them because he was there.  The events, people, and buildings seem to come alive again as he remembers them.  Life was simple and everyone worked hard and enjoyed the little that they had.


*These buildings were the center of Clay and that is why the Congregation of Immanuel wanted to move their church building to Route 31 to be closer to the business district.  The present edifice was built just about the same time as Route 31 was being paved.


Dorothy Heller, Historian



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