Sepia Saturday 447: Sixth in a series about my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George — one of those friends, acquaintances and neighbors (FANs) who can make such a difference in a person’s life.
My fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George was a history buff — so is it any wonder that she wrote and directed plays about local and state history for my classmates and I to appear in?
In her play “Hooper’s Favored Site,” Miss George created a drama about the settlers who ventured west in the early 1800s and came to rest near Binghamton, N.Y., in what is now known as Endwell — but back then was called Hooper.
Settler history at school
In Binghamton, Its Settlement, Growth and Development: And the Factors in Its History, 1800-1900, published in 1900, William Summer Lawyer described the town’s founding:
Hooper is the name of a small unincorporated village of perhaps less than a dozen dwellings, with one general store, a district school, and a milk depot on the main road leading from the city to [Town of] Union. One of the earliest residents in this locality was Elisha Hooper, who came from Massachusetts in 1807, and died in 1869. The hamlet, however, was named for Philander Hooper, son of the settler and one of the prominent men of the locality.
Miss George based her play on these local details, and we fourth graders portrayed the families of Hooper and another early settler Amos Patterson — whose large house still stands on River Road near the Hooper-Patterson family cemetery that we often rode over to on our bikes.
Miss George’s script is lost to history — but I remember appearing in her play in an old-time dress (sewn by my grandmother) that my Mom or her sister Aunt Rita had worn when they were in grade school.
Native history in the neighborhood
What I don’t remember was any mention of the Native Americans who inhabited the area before the settlers arrived.
Unfortunately, it was not unusual back then for Native history to be omitted from school curricula.
So we fourth graders had to expand our knowledge elsewhere — like in our neighborhoods.
My street was only one block from the Susquehanna River, where pretty much any digging with a backhoe unearthed carefully chiseled arrowheads.
These exquisite projectiles bore historic testimony to the sheer numbers of displaced Native people — like the Susquehannocks and others — who for generations had lived, planted, hunted and fished along those shores.
Broome County’s website today pays tribute to the Native guardians of the land, identifying some of their settlements:
Until the end of the American Revolution, the Broome County area was inhabited by Native Americans. Two main settlements were found at Onaquaga, near present-day Windsor, and Otseningo, located along the Chenango River, just north of the present-day City of Binghamton. Smaller Settlements could be found at Chugnuts, Castle Creek and the Vestal area.
What came before
Despite her play’s shortcomings, Miss George’s general enthusiasm for history was infectious as she directed us in our roles.
My time in her fourth grade class marked the beginning of my own interest in history, social science and delving deeply into the past to draw lessons for today — one reason why Molly’s Canopy carries a statement that honors Native land.
Miss George sparked my curiosity about what came before — and for that I will always be grateful.
Please stop back as this series continues. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.