Saturday, October 17, 1998,
Sally Sessler, Howard Easter, and Bob Ranger spent the afternoon at Buckley
Road viewing points of family historical interest. After lunch at Denny's,
Howard treated us to many stories and details about life in the early part
of the century as occurred at the Easter, Schiesser, Ranger, Avery, Bendict, Concolino,
Dudley, Hafner, Dixon, Emmi, Ford, Lowe, Mara, Melvin, Reck, Schmid, Smith, Van Alstyne, Vickery, Wagner,
White, and other farms in the Buckley Road area.
The migration from Brockville to Syracuse was part of a general migration
from Canada to New York State and New England. A whole community of Brockville
natives set up farms and businesses, and made homes in the Syracuse area.
A major difference between Canadians who settled in New York State and
those of New England is that the French language didn't survive in New
York at all, the way it did (and still does) in New England. Howard can
remember that the whole Ranger family, including Old John, were completely
Americanized in speech and mannerisms. Of the family, the only French speaker
Howard knew was Archie Larocque, and I suspect Archie picked up his French
when he played semi-pro hockey.
When their children were grown, John and Catherine, unfortunately, went
their separate ways. Catherine owned a restaurant [Dad said she owned
it, Howard's version is--she didn't own, but managed it]. John moved
into the Ranger homestead on Buckley Road and
worked at the greenhouse. He died in 1956 at the age of 94 after spending
his last days at the Cardinal nursing home in Theresa, N.Y. From this,
we speculate that Rangers still had contacts in northern New York as late
as the 1950s.
Charles' farming career was to be short-lived. After a series of unfortunate events, Charles Sr. and Florence separated and as a result, the young family would soon unravel. Our grandmother Florence moved into Syracuse and Grandpa Ranger returned to Brockville. My dad's younger brother, James Edmund (Ed) lived with some neighbors (Avery's) for a time, and Dad moved himself into a milk shed on an adjacent farm (Wagner's). They say that Dad painted and cleaned up the place, and he acquired a piano. According to Howard, from that shed he could often be heard playing the piano late into the night.
The farm is near the present site of a commercial office park, Salina Meadows - on the right as you travel north on Buckley Road, across from present day Volney Drive. It appears that Salina Meadows is planning to use the land for future development.
Curiosity got the best of me -- I drove back in on the property as far as I could, and then walked, or should I say shlogged, around. It appeared that nobody was going to hastle me for trespassing, so I looked around on the property that was formerly my grandparents'. As hard as I tried, I couldn't get a true feel for the past. Jet airliners from nearby Hancock International were taking off and landing. And although not visible because of the tall brush, the roar of the traffic on Interstate 81 was easily heard, so it must have been very close by.
Looking for artifacts -- a foundation . . anything at all -- proved
futile. The land has been altered beyond recognition by ongoing construction
projects. For instance, tons of sand were poured into the marsh, presumably
to give bulk to the land, to make way for yet another commercial building.
Items of interest are surely buried deep beneath the soil by now -- not
by Grandpa Ranger and Smokey's plow, but by Salina Meadows' excavators
After many years of operating a successful farm and greenhouse business, Dave Ranger, in the mid or late 1950s, sold the land to the New York State Thruway Authority and to Holiday Inns at a handsome profit. We never heard much about Dave, Aunt Lil, and Louie after that, but they are known to have retired to Florida. Coincidentally, both of Syracuse's Interstate highways, I-81 and I-90, run across former Ranger farm land.
Today, the Ranger farm and greenhouse acreage is occupied by a portion of the New York State Thruway (I-90) and by Club Hotel by Double Tree, part of the Holiday Inn Corporation. If you go north on Buckley Road, it is on the left just over the Thruway bridge, about a quarter-mile north of Seventh North Street. In the present day (1999) photo collage at upper left, the picture on the lower right might give a hint of how it was in those early days to look north on Buckley Road from the front of the farm.
Family members, including my grandmother, would go to High View often. Antoine apparently let them stay free or else he didn't charge them much -- the whole family visited more often than would have been possible otherwise. Larocques, Easters, Schiessers, Rangers, all seemed to have free rein at the place. It is said that old Antoine was a genial host and was kind to the many children and cousins who visited -- although at times he was probably happy to see them leave as well.
The legend. According to my dad, Antoine Wendling was a patent-medicine magnate and successful manufacturer of pills, and he was possibly involved in some other business as well. He made a fortune and he intended to leave his family a good inheritance. My father and grandfather were to be beneficiaries and, in fact, both their middle names were Antoine in homage to wealthy Uncle Antoine.
Well, it seems that old Antoine, now a widower in his eighties, met a beautiful woman who "made him young again." Yes, she made him happy and he would even do a little dance on his yacht to show how young she made him feel. As you might imagine, the beautiful young lady ended up with the Wendling fortune.
The story my dad told of Antoine Wendling is corroborated by Howard
Easter except on one point -- Howard never heard that Antoine was a pill
manufacturer. It could be that Dad remembered that pills were dispensed
at the hotel. In Brockville, there actually was a famous pill manufacturer,
George T. Fulford, who manufactured "Pink Pills for Pale People,"
sold by the billions world-wide.
For many years I believed that the greenhouse at the Schmid farm, pictured at left was the site of the last Ranger greenhouse on Buckley Road -- Ranger & Lovine Florists. It was directly across from Dixon's barn, the front of which came almost to the pavement of Buckley Road. Due to lack of corroboration, I now suspect this was not the site, but I'm still open to the possibility. The barn and greenhouse in the photo comprise one of the few scenes that is clearly recognizable as the buildings and terrain of seventy or more years ago.
This account would be incomplete without a mention of the Ranger parrot, "Salty." The parrot was around for many years and lived in the D&L Ranger greenhouse. Salty managed to learn a few curses over the years and was particularly vocal when the phone rang. Whenever a dignified customer came in to purchase some flowers, Aunt Lil and the staff would fervently hope that the phone wouldn't ring and jar Salty out of his quietude. They tried moving the bird farther away from the phone, but it was never far enough. The listener on the other end could always count on hearing a few choice cusses delivered by Salty.
Dave's wife, Aunt Lil (Lillian Merrill), had a relative (possibly her father or uncle) called "Vet" Merrill. Howard Easter remembers that Vet would show up dressed in a fine suit of clothes, and would pull out an expensive pocket watch and "time" the various operations. He may have been an early time-study expert.
Another Brockville Ranger, Damase Ranger, was a son of Antoine Ranger, and a brother of Dave. Sr., making him a first cousin of Dave Jr. and Old John. I submit that Damase's descendants also ran a farm at Buckley Road. There was a Tom Ranger farm at Buckley Road that, according to my dad, was run by a cousin to Dave, Louie, and John.
It's fun to speculate, but we'll probably never know the answer to some
of these questions. But I hope this information might be entertaining and
valuable to future researchers.
Howard Easter was the son of Howard Easter Sr. and Mary Kathleen Ranger (photo at right c1946), and grandson of John David Ranger. Howard and his family moved from Brockville, Ontario to Syracuse in 1921. Howard remembered the move; he must have been about five or six at the time. He was born in about 1915 in Brockville and my dad, Charles A. Ranger Jr., was born in 1917 in Syracuse. It's interesting to compare Howard's version with my dad's version of some of the family stories. Howard passed away in 2008.
Pictured at left is the present day shell of the Easter homestead. This
house, originally at the corner of Seventh North St. and Buckley Road,
was moved about one-eighth of a mile south to its present location. It
now occupies land directly across from Ray Street, on the right as you
go north, just before Seventh North Street. Children raised in this house
by Howard Easter Sr. and his wife, Mary Kathleen Ranger, include: Howard
Easter, Robert Easter, Glenn Easter, Patricia Easter Senecal, and
Barbara Easter Mulroy.
This account is compiled by Bob Ranger, son of Charles Ranger
Jr. and Olive Brennan, grandson of Charles Antoine Ranger Sr.; great
grandson of John David Ranger; and great great grandson of Basil David
Ranger Sr. Also, many thanks go to Larry Coderre, Ranger Family Historian,
for his unrelenting search of the archives in Ottawa and for discovering
the ancestry of the Ranger family of Syracuse, New York.
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