REMEMBERING CLAY: TheSotherden Beginning
As we patiently await the grand opening of the freight Yard Brewery Tap Room to be located on the property of the Old Sotherden Mill, let’s go back to the very beginning to see how it all evolved. James Sotherden was born on November 11, 1815 in the County of Kent, England of Puritan stock whose ancestors opposed the tyrannical rule of Charles I. He had two brothers and three sisters whom he left behind when he met and married the prettiest lass in the county, Ann Sears. In 1939, the young couple came to America and settled in North Syracuse. After two years, he bought four acres from Zenas Rogers who owned much land in Clay. Clearing the forest from the land, James built a log house and a barn. He soon bought about 50 more acres from Zenas and a large frame house was built where they raised their six sons and two daughters.
On November 14, 1907, a 92nd birthday party for James was held. A general invitation was sent to all states where his descendants resided. Thirty-seven attended. After dinner at 1:00 p.m., the rest of the day was spent playing games and talking about the good old days. Many letters of regret were sent by those unable to attend. A photo shows James, his son John, his grandson Alvin and his great-grandson Master Howard Sotherden. (They are the ancestors of Jim Sotherden – more later). Others who attended were: Mrs. Mary Edmonds Sotherden; Mrs. Alvin Sotherden; Mr.amd Mrs. John Sotherden; Mr. John and Mrs. Margaret Sotherden Hesselton; Mr. Howard Sotherden; Mr. and Mrs. ‘Thomas C. Sotherden; Mr. Valentine and Mrs. Lillie May Sotherden Brand; and their sons, William, Jesse and Ray; Mr. and Mrs. John W. Sotherden and sons, Willard 3 and Burton 1; Mrs. Anna V. Sotherden Baxter and sons Howard and Clayton age 9; Miss Eva Sotherden; and Mrs. Clarence Sotherden with daughter Marion 5 and son Maurice 3. All are on the Family Chart. Those attending but not on the chart were: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wright; Mr. and Mrs. William Wilson and daughter Ruth; and Mrs. Louis I. Hand. Those attending from the Sotherden Mill branch and on the chart were: Mr. and Mrs. George Sotherden and Frank Sotherden at 28 years of age and single.
Following is a short aside of how Jim Sotherden fits into the story. One spring afternoon in 1994, Jim was waiting for a prescription to be filled at a pharmacy in Seneca Mall when he heard the name Sotherden called and an elderly woman answered. It was Martha and the two began to talk. This led to an invitation to visit Martha and her husband Carl. Martha is from James’ son Thomas and Carl through his son George to Clarence. Jim, Carl and Martha met weeks later with Jim’s mother, father and son. Jim’s father Howard, who was the little boy in the 92nd birthday photo and Carl were first cousins. They reminisced about growing up in Clay. Martha brought out a copy of the 1907 article and photo of the 92nd Birthday party for James Sotherden. Jim related to them his interest and research on where William, James’ son born in 1850 was buried. Conflicting stories of how he died in the Civil War and where he was buried were discussed because Carl had first-hand research information. This provided Jim with background to continue his research for several years. Clarence, Carl’s father and Frank, Don’s father are brothers so Carl and Don are first cousins. (See Photo) Clarence is on the left and Frank is on the right.
Frank was born in 1881 and attended the Euclid grade school just south of Route 31. His brother, Clarence was two years older and a brother Charles only lived to the age of 15. He attended the Phoenix High school after which he took teacher training at a school in Baldwinsville. He was paid $5.50 per week and out of this he paid $1.75 a week for room and board. He also taught at Buckley Road and Hastings Center schools. His career as a teacher ended in 1905 at that time making $10.00 per week which was top pay for a district school teacher. In April of that year, he was appointed Mail Carrier for Route 2 in Clay. In 1910, he married Albie VerPlanck. The year Donald was born, 1912, Frank purchased a Model T Ford. This was the first time a car was used locally to deliver mail. It had to be cranked by hand to start, had oil burning tail lights and acetylene head lights. He was required to have special permission from the Assistant Post Master General to use a car on his mail route. He had to agree to keep horses on hand to be used if anyone complained of irregular service with a car. (To be continued).
Dorothy Heller, Historian