Sunday, August 3, 2008


This post is lifted directly from the latest weekly newsletter of my distant cousin, good friend, and great family researcher, Terrell Shoultes:

“I have found that the study of family genealogy over the past 8 years (now 33 years) has brought many of my ancestors back to life. It is fascinating to look at an old b/w photograph and stare into the eyes of kinfolk who lived over 100 years ago. Genealogy has taught me that as long as we are remembered, we are never dead.”

Terry Shoultes - Dinner speech to the Lake Worth Rotary Club in 1983

It is my usual practice during the time between the end of summer camp and the beginning of the new school year to do genealogy research and update my SHOLTES-SHOULTES-SHULTES computer database.

My genealogy database (as of August 1, 2008) contains the following:

Total number of individuals = 33,109

Total number of marriages = 11,564

Average lifespan = 58 years 5 months

Earliest birth date = 100 A.D.

Total number of generations = 69

Total number of difference surnames = 5,610

With more people in the house and my computer office serving as a bedroom, my usual schedule of late night/early morning research has been modified. Even so, I have been able to read, process, and discover a wealth of new information. I have also been able to write contributing articles for research documents, magazines, newspapers, and various websites.

The picture at the beginning of my weekly letter was provided courtesy of the Ball family of Berne (Albany County), New York. During my trips to Berne between 1977 and 2005, I had a chance to meet a few of those in the picture:

#2 - Clyde Alexis Sholtes (11Jul1904-21Jan1997)

#10 - Clyde Lawrence Ball (14May1888-10Mar1991)

#13 - Alta Mae (Sholtes) Ball (12May1891-25Sep1996)

#29 - Mildred Alberta (Ball) Wright (06Jan1913- )

#30 - Gertrude M. (Ball) Deitz (13Oct1916-16Apr2008)

The same Sholtes farmhouse as in the 1927 picture as it appeared in 2005

The original farm tract of approximately 160 acres was established in 1786 by Johan Jacob Scholtes (12May1761-1Feb1852) and his wife, Mariah Fisher (abt1760-1Jun1839). In his last Will and Testament published in 1840, Jacob Scholtes declared the following:

Fifthly, I give and devise unto my Grandson, Jacob Scholtes, all that certain piece or parcel of land situate lying and being in the town of Knox, in the county of Albany, and the State of New York, and known as distinguished as Lot number six hundred, in the manor of the Rensselaerwick, and bounded on the south by lands of Peter Marselis and Gerardus G. Marselis, and on the east by lands of said Peter and Gerardus Merselis, and the north by lands of Philip Sternburgh, and on the west by lands of John Stiner, and supposed to contain one hundred and fifty acres of land be the same more or less, to have and to hold the same unto him, his heirs and assigns forever, provided he pays and performs the bequests and legacies herein before given and bequeathed unto his brother, Gedion Scholtes.

Seventhly, I give and bequeath unto my Grandson, Jacob Scholtes, son of my son, John I. Scholtes, all the horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, farming utensils, and the rest and residue of the personal estate and effects which I may have at my decease, after the payment of ten dollars to each of my sons herein before given and bequeathed to them, and after payments of my debts and funeral expenses.

Jacob Sholtes, the grandson referenced in his grandfather’s will, was born at Knox (Albany County), NY on June 3, 1817. He grew up on the farm and eventually became the owner and operator of the enterprise.

Jacob Sholtes married three times to: 1) Mary Ann Haverly (16Mar1824-22Dec1847); 2) Christina Weidman (16Feb1826-15Aug1849); and Angelica Schell (28May1828-13Nov1906). He was the father of twelve children.

Jacob Sholtes (3Jun1817-3Sep1891) - Angelica Schell (28May1828-13Nov1906)

In 1851 following his marriage to Angelica Schell, a new farmhouse was constructed. It is said to have taken two years to complete. The original house remained standing until around 1910. The barn (see picture below), built by his grandfather in 1800, was dedicated with a historical marker by Berne Historical Project members Harold Miller, Al Deitz, and me during the Berne Heritage Festival of 2005.

To my knowledge, there is one survivor remaining from the family photograph taken in front of the Sholtes farmhouse in 1927. It has been my pleasure to meet, write to, and otherwise communicate with my cousin, Mrs. Alberta (Ball) Wright since I started researching the family genealogy back in 1975. At the age of 92 when I last visited her home, she recalled many family memories and details.


After cleaning up, Al and I drove over to the residence of Alberta Ball Wright, daughter of the late Clyde L. Ball (14May1888-10Mar1991) and Alta Mae Sholtes (12May1891-25Sep1996). When I first discovered the Shoultes link back in 1977, Alta Sholtes Ball was my nearest living relative at 86 years of age. We met Mr. & Mrs. Ball in 1977 and videotaped another visit in 1987. Al Deitz is their grandson. Alberta Ball Wright is one of the charter members of the Berne Historical Society. We enjoyed a delightful afternoon of family discussion and regretted having to leave so Al and I could attend a church supper at the Berne Dutch Reformed Church (established in 1834 and the church where our ancestors worshipped).

I have spent the past two weeks researching an outstanding publication of pictures assembled by Willard Osterhout (also one of my longtime PLANET JUPITER readers) of East Berne, NY. His publication is titled THE JOURNEY CONTINUES … LIFE ALONG THE WAY published by the Warner’s Lake Improvement Association in 2007. For those who have roots in the Albany County Helderburg region, the book is highly recommended reading. If you are interested, send me an email and I’ll tell you how to get in touch with him.

I honor the memory of Mrs. Wright’s father at the end of this letter by transcribing a newspaper article written about him in 1980. Please take the time to enjoy some family history.


Clyde Lawrence Ball was born near the village of Altamont (Albany County), New York on May 14, 1888; the son of Charles Eugene Ball (11Jan1856-21Sep1951) and Minnie B. Onderdonk (16Feb1862-7Mar1948). This story was written by Carol DuBrin and appeared in THE ALTAMONT ENTERPRISE issue of February 1, 1980. It was my great pleasure to meet Mr. Ball during vacation trips to New York in 1977 and 1987 and I have a treasured videotape of our 1987 visit. If there were ever a role model of duty, honor, integrity, and family values, Mr. Ball shines as an example for all Americans to emulate. He died on March 10, 1991 at the age of 102 years.

With a little sketched map of where I was going, I drove up the hill from Altamont, around the sharp turns in Berne, out of that hamlet to Switzkill Road and left out along that to three residences clustered on a little knoll around a bend in the road.

There live the Clyde Balls on land that has been in his family since the turn of the century. On each side live their daughters with their families. What a wonderful way to live the "golden years", with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren near at hand!

I went out there to visit a man much respected and admired -- "a lovely man," as my husband said, who has served his community and his church well over the long years -- a family man, a good friend, a helpful businessman, an excellent teacher.

Sitting in his favorite rocker, his charming wife knitting nearby, we reminisced over the experiences of a lifetime. "I can see 90 years," he mused as we chatted, joined briefly by both daughters. With their help we wove a life-pattern of love and service, filling it out with the little incidents that somehow stick in our minds and color the whole.

To begin with, the Balls were rural Altamont folks living on a farm on the hill above the village where the Altamont Reservoirs collect village water. That was back in 1888. Doc Barton drove his rig up the hill on May 14 to deliver the first of the two Ball children. Two years earlier, the young couple had rented this farm on shares from the owner, a certain Mr. Schoonmaker. They worked hard and the farm prospered as little Clyde grew.

A stream came down the hill past the farm. As a five year old, Clyde remembers going out in the field to pick golden dandelions for his mother. They looked bigger and yellower on the other side of the creek. And so the lad carefully picked his way on stepping stones, leaping to one large rock and then to the further shore.

He gathered a great bunch of the bright flowers and headed for home, jumping to the big rock, then down to the step-stones -- but he missed and fell into the deep, rushing water. He could not swim or gain a foothold against the current.

A passerby saw him struggling and reached out, hauling him safely to shore as his flowers floated on down the creek! Which was worse -- the loss of his pretty dandelions or the cold wet clothes sticking to him and weighing him down as he hurried back to the house?

It was long about that time that Altamont decided it needed a village water supply. After much study it was decided that part of the Schoonmaker - Ball farm was the ideal spot. And so the first reservoir was laid out and dug, to be fed by that same stream little Clyde had fallen into.

The field had been pasture land for the Ball horses. They had not yet been removed the day the retention dam was closed. It started to rain. It not only rained, it poured -- and the family had to rush out into the storm to drive the horses to safety beyond the waters reach. The reservoir filled in that one day.

Living near all that water, the hired man figured young Clyde should surely know how to swim. So he decided on a no-nonsense approach. He went with the lad to the reservoir, picked him up and threw him in! Two years older than when he had fallen in the creek, Clyde faced with the choice of sink or swim, swam. And he soon learned to enjoy it.

The reservoir became his summer recreation spot! It also offered great bullhead fishing. Clyde remembers that first fish he caught -- it got him with one of it’s' spines and the sore burned mightily, giving the youngster a healthy respect for the fishes defense mechanism.

Apparently, the reservoir provided just the right growing conditions for the bullheads as Clyde recalls the day the dam was opened and the water drained for cleaning. All the area farmers came with grain sacks and left with them full of the wriggling, flapping fish they had scooped up.

It was when Clyde was seven that his sister Hazel was born. That completed the small family circle. Hazel was a baby but Clyde attended school -- District School No. 4 (still standing but altered with additions). It is the yellow house above the George Walk farm on Route 158.

He can remember part of one year when he was the only student (and the school was scheduled to include grades 1 through 8). Clyde used a shortcut through the fields to school. His father insisted anyone could follow his train as it was paved with the lead pencils the lad lost as he skipped along!

Much of the farm is now under water. With great frugality the family had saved a bit of money and they decided to buy a farm of their own out beyond Berne where some of the family already lived. The new farm had 100 acres and a house on the road -- the cost, $1,450. The year was 1899.

Still, crops had to be harvested at the Altamont farm and much work done to arrange for the moving, so it was set for the following spring. On the other hand, when the move was made, they would want to be able to get the seed crops planted right away.

To manage this, the father and the hired man went early one morning over the hills to the new farm to plow and prepare the land.

One day, young Clyde was sent by his mother to take the men their mid-day meal. Along with the packed dinner was a bucket of good thirst-quenching milk from their own cows. To make the trip, Clyde harnessed up the family's small two-wheel cart and set out letting the horse go at a good pace. The little cart bumped and swayed, jiggled and bounced along behind the frisky horse.

They made the trip in good time for the men's lunch. The food arrived in fine shape but the trip had been too much for the milk -- it had turned to a fat lump of butter! All the liquid had slopped out as the cream churned itself on the bumpy road!

The spring of 1900 saw the young family move to their new home. Clyde and a friend, Frank Witter, were given the job of driving the livestock, six or seven cows and about 30 sheep, from one farm to the other.

They started right after an early breakfast, following the roads, the two lads herding their flock along. At mid-day, they were still some distance from Berne. By mid afternoon, they reached the little community.

At that time, there were sidewalks through the village. And the sheep chose to follow (better than the gardens) as the boys pushed on, past the houses, the stores, around the bend, out of the community and on to the farm where they arrived about 4 p.m.

Clyde's aunt lived in the house on the knoll where he now resides and she had the boys in for dinner -- ham and eggs. "Boy did that taste good!"

New home, new school and this one was just down the road apiece. His new teacher was Myron Shaver, and a good one he was. Clyde liked him immensely but the teacher that followed was not so dedicated, so Clyde elected to walk the several miles back into Berne to go to school. There he met Alta Sholtes, his future wife. Her home was where "His" Farm Fellowship is now located and it was just down the road from the school. Still if it was a cold or stormy day, she would get her horse and ride quickly across the field, dismount at the school door and send the horse running back to his barn again, Mrs. Ball recalls. (She has been busily knitting on a sweater for a great granddaughter all the time we were conversing).

Way back there in the country, sister Hazel became very ill and developed deadly pleurisy. A specialist, a Dr. Etting from Albany, was informed of her serious condition. The doctor packed his black bag (all doctors had them then), caught a train to Altamont, hired a horse and carriage at the village livery stable, and drove up the mountain to Berne, out the Switzkill Road to the farm, and there, operated to drain the fluids which were flooding Hazel's lungs. She recovered beautifully.

In our recollections we now reached the high school years. There was no high school up on the mountain. The nearest was the Altamont High School on Grand St. in that village. In order to attend, Clyde had to board in the community. He lived with the Gene Sturgess family during the week and only made the long trip home on the weekends.

The two years he attended high school, he made a bit of money working for Dr. Barton, the same doctor who delivered him and his sister in the Altamont hill farmhouse. He remembers caring for the doctor's horse -- a big white that he washed down daily. Summers, Clyde worked on the farm.

In 1907, the one-room school above his family's farm needed a school teacher and 19 year old Clyde got the job. He has saved that first teaching contract (and all subsequent ones) and it shows that he received $280 for that year of teaching. He was paid in three installments -- a third in the fall when money came in from the school taxes, a third in January when "public money" became available, and the last third in June as they finished the school year.

He had grades one through eight, taught all the subjects and did his own janitor work! That was the beginning of 23 years of teaching in one-room schools.

Summers, Clyde went to Middleburgh to school himself, to upgrade his own education. He also clerked in a store (at 15 cents an hour). Later, he sold insurance and, because he was so good with figures, assisted people with their income taxes. Mathematics was his joy.

"We were going together when he started teaching school in Berne," Mrs. Ball recalls. "One winter day we were in a crowd of young people all going to a party up on West Mountain at the top of Sickle Hill. A storm developed and it snowed so hard there was no way we could get home that night. The whole party stayed at an aunt’s house. She had 21 of us for a pancake breakfast the next morning!"

"Of course there were no telephones to let our families know," Clyde added. "Later we had three phone companies here in Berne alone: the West Berne Telephone Co., the Jerome Burst Telephone Co., and New York Tel. And we could use them for 10 cents a call."

"We came back home after breakfast. We couldn't see the roads and the horse got off in drifts so high he was up to his neck and he had to fight his way out."

Clyde Lawrence Ball and Alta Mae Sholtes were married at the home of her parents (the Sholtes farmhouse on Rock Road) on Thursday June 1, 1911

In 1911, Clyde and his Alta were married. They rented a big two room apartment (one up, one down, privy attached in the rear) in Berne for $5 a month. There was no electricity or running water. They carried that by the pailful from the well outside.

Here, their first daughter was born. They moved to bigger quarters, a home owned by the Wood family. There, their second daughter was born. They would tease her by saying, "Oh, you were just born in the woodhouse!"

While Clyde taught that one room school, his sister Hazel attended there -- also her future husband. then his own children grew and he had daughters Gertrude and Alberta in his classes!

When they came to school they never addressed their father as such -- always "Mr. Ball" or "Teacher". It must have been hard to remember!

"Dad was a good teacher," they recall. And, in fact, he inspired Alberta to go on and become a teacher herself -- as his mother had been and her father before her.

A family treasure is grandfather Onderdonk's old school bell. First used in 1860, the bell has been engraved with the names of the family teachers: Charles L. Onderdonk, Minnie Onderdonk (Clyde's mother), Clyde L. Ball, Alberta Ball Wright, Ruth Wright DeWitt, and Jean M. Wright. The last two are Clyde and Alta's granddaughters.

Usually the bell sits in a place of honor at the Berne Historical Society. Right now, it has been borrowed back so that a great granddaughter with a broken leg in a cast can use it to ring for help!

A desk from the old Berne one-room school sits on the Balls' back porch, lacy ironwork supporting a double seat. The outhouse from the school is up in the field behind their house.

I've seen a number of these little buildings converted to the modern day use of shelters for kids waiting for their school bus at the end of long rural driveways. I wanted to put one we had to such use but my city-bred husband was appalled at the thought. So on windy below-zero days, I would drive the girls down our long lane to the road and wait for the school bus with them. No way could we see the road and watch for a coming bus from the house.

Clyde remembers that school discipline in those days went on the assumption that to "spare the rod would spoil the child." He says that wouldn't work now.

Then, it was expected and it usually did the trick -- and without the child ending up hating the teacher, either. Clyde was so popular with one of his little students that when he changed schools she went to live with her grandmother just so she could still "go to school" to him!

From 1916 to 1920, Clyde served as Berne town clerk. Later he was justice of the peace. In that role, he had one exciting incident when a lawbreaker threatened to kill the police, the judge, and others he was angry with.

During the First World War, Clyde had a third responsibility, as a member of the local draft board. In the Second World War, he served on the ration board.

Clyde taught almost continuously from 1907 to 1947. In 1930, he had been asked to teach in the Berne-Knox High School. Of all the former one-room teachers, he was the only one certified for both elementary and high school teaching.

"He was a good and kind teacher. I wasn't too good at business math and he would stay after school to help me," a friend told me of her former teacher.

"Good with figures." Clyde was the treasurer of St. Paul's Lutheran Church for 50 years and was honored when he retired from that position nine years ago. Sixty years a Mason -- a director of the Maccabees -- a member of the Cemetery board.

At home, Clyde and Alta's lifetime of devotion continued. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a big party at the Grange Hall. Their 65th wedding anniversary at St. Paul’s, coming up on June 1 is number 69. And their family grew and the generations were added so now there are fourteen great grandchildren for Alta to knit for!

And of a winters evening, Clyde and Alta sit in their comfortable living room and play a game of dominos, looking back together over a good life in the Helderburg hill country.

But they have seen much more -- many trips to Michigan taking grandchildren to and from college -- even a fast summer tour of the U.S. with their friends (and relatives), the Harry Gibbs, back in 1955 when they went west by the northern route and came back through the South. Memorable was the drive along the California cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.

Great memories -- family, friends, service to church and community -- such are the 90 years Clyde Ball can look back and see.

We had a great visit!


Mark said...

Thank you so much!
Mark Shultes

Mark said...

I can only see the top picture. Is there a way I can get the other pictures?

Harold (Hal) Miller said...

Mark, Send me your email address.