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Thursday, April 1, 2010

To Begin It is after the Revolutionary War of 1776


The Granger Homestead in Canandaigua, built in 1816, now a historical museum.When the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, the thirteen colonies were finally recognized as the independent United States of America. The biggest losers were the Haudenosaunee. Most of their land was confiscated or ceded by treaty to the state. This opened up vast areas for settlement. Land speculation made some millionaires; others bankrupt. A large migration of New England farmers ("Yorker Yankees") moved into Upstate, settling in new villages like Canandaigua, Geneva, Auburn. The fertility of the land in the Finger Lakes and the Genesee Valley was very enticing with one major drawback. How do you get your produce to market? Transportation costs were minimal when the majority of farmers lived along the navigable Hudson. The new hinterland was too far away to participate fully in the expanding economy, without some internal improvements. Until this happened the new western communities were isolated and grew slowly.


Picture yourself involved in the excitement of being part of the Birth of our Nation. After the Declaration of Independence in 1776, it would be 1786 before the matter of total freedom from English rule was assured and secured for the now well planted brave population who fought so brilliantly with a musket and a pitchfork. A post war business boom was well on its way and it was a great opportunity for the new citizens to open the road West for adventure and financial success. It appears the dream entered John and Saphrona Aikin.

Although I do not yet have a date for the birth and marriage of John and Saphrona Aikin, there is enough information written by a family member to give us a timeline when they arrived in Canandaigua, New York. They were probably born sometime early 1800. The Aikins immigrated from Scotland and settled in Connecticut. Saphrona's father fought in the American Revolution and probably moved his young family to New York State. This is where Saphrona White (probably from English settlers) met John Aikin and married him. It was between 1820 and 1830 that this young couple set out with all their worldly possessions to a beautiful town on a lake in New York State. This Lake, Canandaigua, is often called the thumb of the finger lakes. Put your dream cap on and imagine them with a horse or two and a covered wagon approaching Canandaigua after several days of rough travel.

What they saw was a super wide Main Street leading right down to the beautiful lake. You see,
the town was established and designed to be the main hub City in mid-western New York State. (just for the record, Rochester won out because of its postition with a good Port on Lake Ontario).

It would seem this was not a random happening that they came to this beautiful town. Records show other Aikins there. John's sister Betsy Lampman lived there and no doubt encouraged him to come. This was the time of horse and buggies. For some reason horseshoe nails were not made in the area and that was John's special expertise, so he came to be the manufacturer of these special nails and reportedly did very well.

John and Saphrona moved into a large house on Center Street. It is still there and is on the list of historic homes. There were six children in their family: Mary, Charles, Frances my great, great grandmother, Melissa, Elizabeth and John.They were considered a handsome family except for Frances, being the plainest looking of them all. Frances was considered the kindest and sweetest person among all her siblings. Her brothers and sisters turned to her when Saphrona died. Aunt Libby used to say, "Fan was not the oldest but she was like a mother to us all."

Aunt Mary had auburn hair and green eyes. Melissa, who died at sixteen, was considered the beauty of the family and little is known of her. Aunt Libby said, she had light curly hair, blue eyes and a pink and white complexion. Aunt Libby had jet black hair and deep blue eyes and was considered extremely beautiful by the family and folks in town. These remarks were passed down from generation to generation. Aunt Libby lived to be 91 and it is said she was just as beautiful then with perfect features, white hair and those deep blue eyes. There is a picture of her at the Wedding of John and Mary Doyle in 1930. (to be inserted later). She is sitting in the first chair next to her niece Ida Bradfield Bates (my great grandmother) in the very large group picture of the Wedding Party and Guests.

Aunt Libby did most of the talking as seen with the verbal vignettes she handed down.

Charles and John will be discussed later. Right now it is important to get a feel for what life was like on Center Street. The house was large and suited the family. It was an easy walk to "town" and this was a dressup state occasion if the family went to town. There would be the usual horse and carriage to go any distance. The Aiken family had a live-in housekeeper to help Saphrona with all the chores that go with keeping a large family fed and clean. Since it did not take John Sr. long to make a living there were two or three cords of wood available for the cold weather. Food was properly "put up" or dried for the coming months and this included a slain pig and cow all of which were put in the cellar. In those days there were no supermarkets and one did not run to the store for groceries. If you needed something, it would be in the basement fruit and vegetable cellar. Water came from a well and in the winter the well would freeze up so the icicles hanging off the roof would be harvested and melted for drinking, cooking and washing clothes. You have seen the bedroom bowls and pitchers in antique stores. They had their practical purpose for washing all over usually in the morning. In the winter the ice had to be broken in the pitcher in order to wash. The huge tea kettle was always full of hot water. The fire in the stove was stoked and the kitchen was the warmest place in the house. The memories of those days indicated a happy family up to a certain point.


Saphrona White Aikins

Saphrona was a lovely woman, gentle, fun loving, and filled with spirit. She had a strong sense of loyalty to her children and this held true when she forbid John to strike the children when it became obvious he was physically hurting them, drawing blood. This behavior was unacceptable for a wife. Saphrona did not stand on protocol when it came to her family. A female tiger with cubs comes to mind. She taught the children how to sing, dance and play instruments which indicates she came from a home that encouraged family fun. John was slowly changing into a severe, strick, unpleasant person. The happiness in the family eroded and the stories took on an edge of sadness as related by Aunt Libby. It is highly likely that John did not have much of an education. It is questionable whether he even knew how to write. Saphrona on the other hand appears to be more educated and possibly taught the children their basic reading, writing and arithmetic. Sometime in the late 1840's a young man from London, England arrives in the Aikins home. His name is Isaac Newton Bradfield. It is possible he was a grand nephew of Sir Isaac Newton. He simply loved Saphrona and they became very close friends. By 1850 Saphrona developed a long term illness. Although we do not know what it was, Aunt Libby reports that Isaac was at her bedside every day, offering her expensive bite size sweets in hopes she would eat something. No mention of John's presence during this illness. At 42, Saphrona died. Aunt Libby was 9 years old and John Jr. was 8 so the date would be around 1855. Before she died she made Isaac promise he would marry her daughter Frances. He made and kept the promise. Saphrona was a woman of Faith. She, John and all the children were members of the Presbyterian Church. They attended services regularly. A strong Christian Protestant ethic was passed down through the generations along with the usual suspicions of the Catholics especially Irish, something that would tear the family to smithereens by 1901.


  1. A great introductory blog Aunt Eileen! How fun it would be to go and see that house on Center Street! Thanks for sharing!

    xoxo, T.

  2. Love the idea of a family blog. Great idea Aunt Eileen and thanks Theresa for letting me know about it! Happy Easter to all!

  3. Love the blog and I look forward to more installments!!!