Aunt Cass was short and wide. She lived on a strict schedule
and ruled her domain with a rod of iron. Breakfast was at
six, summer and winter; dinner promptly at noon, supper at five.
She loved company, but everyone in the house conformed to her rules.
If, on a cold, dark winter morning, a guest preferred to remain
in bed for an extra hour before braving the frigid atmosphere of
the upstairs bedroom, she descended the stairs to find breakfast
definitely over, the dishes washed, and no provision for a snack
When I was in school at Edwards, I stayed there occasionally,
when the weather was stormy, and I remember vividly the warmth of
Aunt Cass' small kitchen-dining room in the early morning.
A kerosene lamp partially dispelled the darkness and Aunt Cass'
ample breakfast rewarded us for the heroic effort needed to dress
in zero temperature. We always had pancakes with butter and
maple syrup, "warmed over potatoes", toast, sausage or
ham and eggs, sweet cucumber pickles, coffee and delicious homemade
fried cakes. Aunt Cass was an excellent cook and proud that
she "set a good table".
Her housework was always done at 9:30 (with Sadie's efficient
help). (Ruth Adams, another niece, mentioned that she got
up between four and five and did all the work before daylight, except
the dusting, which she had to wait for daylight to see to do).
Even on Mondays, the laundry was swinging in the wind before nine
o'clock. She had scant patience with the women who didn't
wash on Monday because of adverse weather conditions.
From 9:30 until 11:00 Aunt Cass and Sadie sat in the tidy sitting
room, Aunt Cass knitting or sewing and Sadie doing "fancy work",
crochet or embroidery or working on the "biscuit" slumber
robe, which consumed hours of time.
Dinner was served promptly at noon and after the dishes were
washed, there was a long, leisurely afternoon when callers were
welcome and there was time for more needlework. At five supper
was on the table and in the early evening Sadie went to the post
office for the mail, then did necessary errands - to Jim Shea's
for milk and, once a week, to Carrie Pratt's for yeast. Uncle
John and Aunt Cass played cards for an hour or two. By nine
o'clock the house was dark and quiet. Only extreme emergencies
were allowed to interfere with the family's established routine
I shall always remember a particular Thanksgiving when Aunt Cora
invited Uncle Eb and Aunt Josephine, Aunt Weltha, and Aunt Cass,
the only members of Grandpa's family who lived near enough, for
dinner. Aunt Cass was afraid of horses and when Uncle Clint
Goodnough drove to town for them in the morning Aunt Cass refused
to go. A strong wind was blowing and she was sure that something
would blow across the road, frighten the horses, and they would
all be injured. Later Uncle Eb appeared with his slow, steady
Old Fan, but Aunt Cass' mind was made up, so Aunt Weltha stayed
with her. We were still at home that day and late in the forenoon,
when Mother looked from the pantry window and called us to see.
I can see them yet. Aunt Cass and Aunt Weltha were walking
the last of the three miles. The wind was still strong and
Aunt Weltha's tall, thin frame swayed, and her skirts twisted around
her as she struggled on. Aunt Cass' solid bulk defied the
elements. She planted one foot ahead of the other with determination
and they arrived at Aunt Cora's in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
She did decide to accept a ride home in spite of her fears.
She lived for many years after Uncle John's death. Ray
married and lived in Gouverneur where he worked in the Tribune Press
office until his death. Roy came home and worked at odd jobs.
He, Sadie, and their mother lived their well-ordered lives together
until a paralytic stroke put an end to Aunt Cass' executive ability.
She was a kindhearted, dependable person, and solid as a rock.
Like many others, I remember her with affection." (Ruth
Adams, who lived neighbor to Aunt Cass, told that following the
stroke, she lived a few weeks and her bed was brought down into
the living room so it would be easier for Sadie to take of her.)
In 1977 Cascendana Bancroft Brown Hooper had just one living
descendant, her granddaughter, Anna M. Brown, in Gouverneur.
The first week of December she wrote her memories of Aunt Cass and
entitled it "Grandma Hooper".
"My earliest memories of my grandmother recall the picture
of a short, stocky lady with grayish-white hair parted in the middle
and pulled back into a fine braid. This braid was wound into
knot at the back of her head and held in place by gray tortoise-shell
hairpins. This severe hairstyle concealed a slight wave and
soft curl, which was visible when she took it down at bedtime.
As time passed, the gray changed into a beautiful silvery white
top above a face with fine, though wrinkled, skin.
Grandma Hooper was a decisive, well-organized individual who
believed in following a schedule. There was a time for all
things and certain activities should be done at certain times.
Because of her tremendous routine, in my childish mind, she could
be very strict, too demanding, and overly expectant in her concept
of how little girls should behave. At home my playmates included
several boys in my immediate neighborhood. Perhaps in self-defense,
or perhaps from instinct, I had become somewhat of a tomboy.
My grandmother never did agree with some of my ideas of fun; she
wanted Ray's daughter to be a "little lady".
I do not remember at just what age I began to spend a week at
Edwards during the summer, but I do remember the afternoons, after
the noon repast, when Grandma and Aunt Sadie daily devoted an hour
trying to teach me the ladylike arts of sewing, knitting, embroidery,
etc. I did learn to embroider, but poor Grandma never succeeded
in making a "lady" out of me, but I have wished many times
that I was as proficient as she and Aunt Sadie in producing lovely
needlecraft articles. I still have three quilts they made
for Mother and Dad as gifts. Even in 1977 I use on my dining
table a linen table scarf Aunt Sadie embroidered.
I have said earlier that she lived by a strict schedule; Grandma
definitely was the ruler in her household. At her home one
came to meals on time - or else! Yet she never disappointed
her family or guests who were treated to delicious and plentiful
meals. Right here I must interject a humorous observation.
I am sure that some of the 1977 medical profession might frown on
the amount of salt she used in her meats and gravies. Aunt
Sadie used to remark that one of Grandma's own family often said
she would salt her food once, then turn her back and throw in another
handful. At each meal appeared an unusual sauce or sweet such
as homemade currant jelly or gooseberry conserve, the fruits for
which were grown on the hillside by chicken coops.
One unforgettable food from Grandma's kitchen was those long
brown sweet pickles in the crock down cellar. Many times I
have made a trip down cellar to pull these succulent pieces of cucumber
to a pickle dish for the next meal. I can honestly say I've
never tasted anything like them! Also down cellar was large
swinging rack on which the pans of milk were placed until the cream
should rise - in turn to be used at the table, or in doughnuts,
cookies and cakes.
Every morning an hour was set aside for handwork. The afternoons
were used also for needlecraft, or for going calling or receiving
callers. I do not recall going too often with Grandma, but
I do remember going to different homes with Aunt Sadie. Grandma
sat in a large, high-backed rocking chair and in a dim way I picture
her feet planted on a curved footstool covered with tan material
with rust-colored designs. Aunt Sadie, being tiny, sat in
a smaller rocking chair. Sometimes they played games with
me and sometimes they worked while I did something else. Uncle
Roy had whittled some tops and when I was small I would sit for
hours trying to spin the top as well as he. Frankly, I never
While working, Grandma always wore a large apron over her long
skirt and shirtwaist. When she dressed for company, she discarded
the apron, of course, and wore at her throat a large bloodstone
brooch, which I thought gave her a distinguished look.
In the fall of 1928 Grandma was stricken with a paralytic stroke
and the front parlor became her bedroom. Mrs. Leon Spicer
was hired to care for her. I always remember the kindness and sympathy
of Mrs. Spicer for Grandma. My father and I had gone
to Edwards one Saturday by train. That afternoon I was in
the room with them when Grandma asked her to sing Red Wing.
The lady, who was quite large, possessed a rather pleasant voice.
I have never forgotten standing by my grandmother's bed while she
sang for her. I think this was the last time I saw her alive.
Grandma died 19 Dec 1928, at age 77, and is buried in the old Edwards
cemetery (Riverside) at the center of town.
These reminiscences are those of a young person as she recalls
someone who wanted her to be a "lady". I hope my
grandmother would be pleased to know that her tomboy did become
a reasonable facsimile of her image. And I must add a postscript,
which should honor her. She was, indeed, - a lady."
Contributed by LaVerne H. Freeman who gathered and organized
the Bancroft material into the Bancroft genealogy in 1977.