Monday, March 30, 2015

The Mysterious "Mr. Youse" - Part 2

(or Thriving on Fresh Air and Wood Rats)

My previous post revealed the identity of "Mr. Youse" as Walter L. Hughes, of Trenton, NJ, who moved to Pennsylvania in November 1916 to assist Mulford Foster with farm work and other projects on his Cold Spring Nature Farm.  Walter's main objective was to establish an outdoor school for boys.  Despite all we initially learned about Walter's six-month stay at Cold Spring, some aspects of his life remained a mystery, and additional research and communications with Walter's family were undertaken to try to answer certain questions.  It turns out we may never have any definitive answers, but we can make some inferences based on the records we found and information and insights provided by one of Walter's granddaughters.

Where did Walter Hughes reside while living at Cold Spring?  And were his wife and son with him?

Foster Family Home
at Cold Spring in 1916
(Photo courtesy of Herbert Barr)

Mulford Foster lived with his wife, Fridel, and daughter, Gerda, in the corner house at Cold Spring.  At times during the six months from November 1916 to June 1917, the Fosters had extended house guests, including Fridel's father and stepmother, and Mulford's older brother and his wife.  Would there have been room with them for Walter and his family?  At this time also, according to personal letters, the farmhouse at Cold Spring needed considerable improvements to make it habitable.  Would they have stayed there?

Another possibility is that Walter and his family resided in the nearby Ney farmhouse over Second Mountain, Mulford having purchased Joseph Ney's home and property in October 1916, the month before Walter's arrival.  The Ney property, just over 211 acres, lay in both East Hanover and Union Townships, straddling the Cold Spring Road on the south side of Second Mountain (see map below).  One newspaper article says Walter lived "near Lotell" (aka Cold Spring).  The same article, however, also states:  "Circumstances make it necessary that they be outdoors most of the time, excepting nights..." - which could support the crowded house hypothesis - or simply mean most of their daily work was done outdoors.

A portion of F. W. Beers' 1875 County Atlas of Lebanon, Pennsylvania,
showing the location of Joseph Ney's property (marked "J. D. Nye"),
with information in red added by author

Whether or not Walter Hughes' wife of two years and their year old son ever lived at Cold Spring is unknown. We could find neither mentioned in any newspaper articles as being at Cold Spring except for the snippet about their visit, with Walter, to Cold Spring at the end of summer in 1916, a month or two before Walter moved there.  Yet, the photograph of Walter and his son at the springhouse (see previous post) appears to have been taken in the Fall or Spring, the trees being without leaves, suggesting that his wife and son either lived at Cold Spring or at least visited Walter there.  We can only conjecture about the reasons Walter's wife and son may not have lived with him at Cold Spring.

A Trenton Evening Times article dated January 29, 1917, does reveal that another member of Walter's family, his younger brother Harvey, did indeed live for awhile at Cold Spring.  The article states that Harvey, who was about twelve years old, "had taken up his abode" with Walter and enjoyed living "in the wilds of Pennsylvania," as this excerpt relates:

Foxes are fun to catch, but
wood rats make a fine dinner!
"In letters received by friends of the Hughes boys here [in Trenton, NJ], they relate some experiences.  Outdoor life, they say, is having its effects upon them physically.  Skating and coasting is a pleasure during all of the winter months...and they have learned to follow the snowy trails of the mountains in real mountaineer fashion.
Harvey has gone in for all kinds of trapping, the fox seen in the accompanying picture being an example of one of his catches.  Wood rats are in the section in great numbers and the young trapper has learned the ins and outs of cornering that species.  All kinds of trapping proves profitable, but the catching of rats is doubly profitable for the Hughes boys say they eat them, and they aver a rat dinner surpasses most any other dish and is not excelled by venison."

Why did Walter Hughes leave Cold Spring?  And where did he go?

The most likely answer to the first question was found by Walter's granddaughter on a civil service application from the 1930's, which also held the answer to the second question.  Under past employment was recorded:  July 1911-November 1916, YMCA Central Branch, Trenton, NJ, Boys Work Secretary, annual salary $1080; November 1916-May 1917, Cold Spring Nature Farm, Lotell, PA, Naturalist Assistant, no salary, immediate supervisor M. B. Foster; May 1917-May 1919, Community YMCA, Rock Hill, SC, Community Secretary, annual salary $1800 (followed by succeeding jobs).  It seems that Walter left Cold Spring to accept paid employment, or at least that was a determining factor, especially with a family to support.  That no salary was listed for his position at Cold Spring didn't surprise us, since our research shows that financial constraints came with the life Mulford Foster chose to pursue at Cold Spring.  Mulford was involved with many ventures but none provided a steady income, perhaps one of the main reasons he eventually left Cold Spring, too.

Walter's granddaughter describes him as "a man of deep convictions who [seemed to] change positions as much as a matter of principle as of opportunity."  Dedicated to education and devoted to the public good, Walter spent much of his life working for various YMCAs.  He also engaged in farming.  He finished his career with fifteen years at the Franklin Institute in Boston, first as a chemistry and mathematics teacher and then as a supervisor of admissions and placement.

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