Monday, February 2, 2015

The Mysterious "Mr. Youse" - Part 1

(or How A West Coast Clue Led to An East Coast Photo of Cold Spring)

A number of years ago we came across a few brief mentions in local Lebanon newspapers, from the year 1916, about a "Mr. Youse, of Trenton" visiting, moving to, and working at Cold Spring.  These vague snippets provided very little information about "Mr. Youse" and his activities at Cold Spring.  Searching for a man named Youse in New Jersey censuses, Trenton city directories, and other records, yielded nothing pertinent.  It was as if the man never existed.  Frustrated by the many dead ends, we added "Mr. Youse" to our "To Follow Up" folder and busied ourselves with more productive leads to uncovering the history of Cold Spring.

Details on who "Mr. Youse" was and what he was doing at Cold Spring eluded us - until a woman living in Washington State emailed us a Trenton (NJ) newspaper article, from 1916, headlined "Walter L. Hughes to Live in 'Wilds'."  The "wilds" were identified as Lotell, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, or, in other words, Cold Spring, its post office at the time being named Lotell.  What followed was a description of the projects Mr. Hughes intended to pursue as a partner with Mulford Foster, then owner of the Cold Spring Nature Farm at Cold Spring.

A sudden revelation hit us - aha!  NOT Mr. Youse, but Mr. Hughes!  No wonder we could find nothing about this person!  Knowing his true identity and having the detailed article from the West Coast, our subsequent research quickly revealed much about "Mr. Youse" and his reason for being at Cold Spring.

Walter L. Hughes 
(Trenton Evening Times, NJ,
November 6, 1916)
Walter L. Hughes was born in Trenton, NJ, on November 23, 1889.  He graduated with high honors from Princeton University in 1911 with a degree in Agriculture, having financed his education through various jobs including newspaper carrier, raising chickens, canvassing, and prep school teaching.  He was actively involved with both the YMCA and the Boy Scouts, being employed for several years as assistant secretary then Boys' Work Secretary at the Trenton Central Branch YMCA.  Walter was scoutmaster of the first Boy Scout troop established in Trenton.  He enjoyed the outdoors and being a leader and counselor of boys and young men.  He was an idealist who strongly believed in the value of practical education.

All of this seems to have made Walter Hughes a suitable partner for Mulford Foster, a self-taught naturalist who for many years was also involved with the YMCA and the Boy Scouts, at various locations, giving nature talks and as camp naturalist.  Mulford was caretaker of the Camden (NJ) YMCA's Camp Ayer, at Cold Spring, for a few years, before purchasing the property in January 1916.  He hosted summer camps there for other boys' groups when not in use by the Camden YMCA.

Certainly their shared interests must have brought Walter and Mulford together.  Mulford lectured in the public schools of Trenton during the winter of 1912, likely including the school Walter's younger brother Harvey attended, perhaps how they first met each other.  Possibly Mulford's brother, Hubert, was a catalyst in some way since he was residing in Trenton at the time and a YMCA supporter.  We do know the two men interacted at the Trenton YMCA's 1914 summer camp, Camp Washington, on Marshall's Island in the Delaware River, near Frenchtown, NJ.  Walter was director of the camp and Mulford was camp naturalist.  During July 1916, Walter again was in charge of the Trenton YMCA's summer camp, and the following month was head of the commissary and equipment departments of the Boy Scout summer camp on the same island.  A Lebanon newspaper mentions Mulford spent three weeks in August at Camp Washington; no doubt he was there as camp naturalist.

After the New Jersey scout camp closed that summer, Walter, his wife and young son, visited Cold Spring for an indeterminate length of time.  He resigned his position as Boys' Secretary in October and moved to Cold Spring in early November.  In the "wilds" of Pennsylvania, Walter planned to assist Mulford in a number of projects - developing an extensive chicken and pigeon business, planting a large apple orchard, and bottling spring water - along with general farming.

Walter's primary goal, however, was to establish "an all-year camp or rather out-of-doors school for boys," in which he would be an instructor.  He felt that "to give a lad the opportunity afforded by practical study in the open would tend to make of the youth a perfectly developed man, physically, mentally and spiritually..." (Trenton Evening Times, Nov 6, 1916).  He felt assured that his venture would be highly successful, but things don't always work out as planned.

To what extent Walter and Mulford worked on their intended projects is unknown.  Little news came out of Cold Spring in the winter months.  They planned to clear forty acres of land for the apple orchard to be planted in the spring.  Apparently, they did so, for it was reported that 150 apple trees were planted the first week of May 1917.  Shortly afterwards, Walter visited South Carolina for a few weeks.  Then we could find no further mentions in the Lebanon newspapers of Walter Hughes at Cold Spring.

Our newfound information about "Mr. Youse" had enlightened us, but some mystery still remained in unanswered questions such as:  Why did Walter leave Cold Spring?  Where did he go?  Where did he reside during his six months at Cold Spring?  Were his wife and son living with him?  Neither were ever mentioned except for their visit to Cold Spring at the end of summer in 1916.

More research was needed.  And we thought perhaps if we could locate a living relative of Walter Hughes, they could provide us with some answers.  We tracked down Walter Hughes' two granddaughters, who live on the East Coast.  Both were interested in and appreciative of the information we had dug up about their grandfather, it being from a time period of which they knew little about his life.  Having aroused their curiosity and wanting to help us with our research, the one granddaughter offered to look through "a sizeable trove" of inherited family photographs and mementos for anything pertaining to Lotell (Cold Spring).  Since their grandfather had only spent six months at Cold Spring, finding anything seemed a long shot.

A week or so later, this photo arrived by email:

"Lotell, Spring House, Walt & Pete"
(words written on back of above photo of the Cold Spring, circa 1916)
Walter Hughes, at left, and his young son Walter Jr.,
nicknamed "Pete" because he was as curious as Peter Rabbit
(Photo courtesy of Judith Hughes)

At first glance this photo may look like "just another picture of the springhouse."  Upon closer examination, however, you see what appears to be an elevated V-shaped wooden conduit for water, running from the springhouse (just to the left of little Pete) and ending just short of the lower left corner of the photo.  This structure appears in only one other photo we have of Cold Spring (shown below).  The Hughes photo shows a different perspective on the structure which could help us determine what its purpose was, as well as the function of the shed below the spring.  That's why every photo and Every Memory Matters.  Each adds a piece to the panoramic jigsaw puzzle of the history of Cold Spring and the Stony Valley.

Cold Spring & a small shed below it, circa early 1920's
(Photo courtesy of Francis Ditzler)
We've speculated on three possible uses of the shed:  a gravity-fed bottle filling area for the spring water business, housing for a hydraulic ram pump, or housing for an acetylene generator.  We'd like to hear your ideas about the purpose of the wooden structure and the function of the shed.  Post a comment or email us.

As for the unanswered questions about Walter Hughes, I'll share what we learned in my next blog post, The Mysterious "Mr. Youse" - Part 2 (or Thriving on Fresh Air and Wood Rats).

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