The Otego Historical Association


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The Gillinghams of Otego

The year was 1928, just before the great depression, when Arthur & Betty (Wright) Gillingham moved to Otego and settled on the farm above the village on Rt 7 near what is now Sprinkles & Cream. Betty, from Irish ancestry, was originally from Portland, Maine, and Arthur, from Japanese, English ancestry was originally from Pleasantville, NJ. When they settled on the farm, they began to raise vegetables, a few cows and later chickens. Betty was a mother, homemaker & farmer. Arthur was a teacher at the Otego Central School and also did much of the farm work. Their original home had no electricity or running water. It was rather Spartan living which required the whole family to pitch in to make it work. Lynn Gillingham aka Gilly, their first child, was born June 22, 1933 at the Reeves homestead on the West Branch of the Otsdawa. A local doctor was called for and assisted with his birth, as home births were usual in those days. 4 yrs later, an infant son, Guy was born. In an unfortunate accident, it was found that he was not breathing while in his carriage. Mrs Herring drove Art, Betty and the baby to the hospital but nothing could revive him. The family was devastated by the loss. The rest of the Gillingham children were born as follows: Mary in 1938, Pat in 1940, Nancy in 1944, Bill in 1949 and Judy in 1951. As they grew up they were all expected to help with the responsibilities of the farm. They always had about 5 cows, 4 pigs, chickens and at times pheasants. They always slaughtered and canned the meat for family use & spent long, long hrs in the field planting, cultivating, harvesting and selling vegetables. Canning vegetables for winter use was a yearly effort. Yet, there was time for fun. Neighborhood  kids,   John, Merle & Charlie Herring were like brothers & sisters to the Gillingham children as they worked & played together. As a youngster Gilly joined 4 H and under their guidance raised pheasants, & pigs. The latter he would exhibit at the Morris County Fair. Later he had a flock of 300 chickens which he cared for. This required waking at 5am, collecting eggs & feeding. After school he would again care for them. Every winter the family cut blocks of ice from the pond & put it up in the ice house. It was the kids' responsibility to cover the ice with at least 3" of sawdust to insulate it from the summer heat. This ice supply would last until the following September Gilly remembers the bathing kettle. All of the kids would be placed one at a time in a big pot of warm water by the stove & scrubbed. This was their weekly bath during the cooler months. In the summertime, after a good scrubbing, his mother made the best root beer ever in that same kettle! Gilly tells a story of harvesting tomatoes after school. H, Bill Groves & Roland Ouimet were getting a little bored with their work when they noticed tractor trailer trucks driving along Rt 7 by the fields. They thought they might be able to hit the trucks with tomatoes if they timed it right. After several failures, Gilly lobbed a perfect one which got the driver. Needless to say, the driver had words with Gilly's father who in turn had words & a licking for Gilly. In those days a licking was used without apology but made a firm impression on the one receiving it.

There were not many needed as one quickly learned what the rewards for improper behavior meant. In the early 1950's Art Gillingham & Frank Bard started a construction business together. Herm Ackley, Lewis & Tom Barber were carpenters, Stan & Claude Hamilton were plasterers. At times Lynn worked with them but had less time now since he was in sports & class offices in high school. Gilly went to Delhi Tech starting out with the $87 he had saved. He worked his way through the 2 yr course in construction by doing food prep before classes. Upon graduation in 1953 Gilly, Gordy Hyatt & Bob Fraser went into business together. Their first effort was to build a 3 bdrm camp on Buckhorn Lake for Dr Rothman, an Otego dentist. They gave him an estimate of $1900 for the job. After finishing the job they each had about $650, a losing but learning effort if ever there was one!! After staying in the bldg trade for about 10 yrs, Gilly became a bricklayer & was able to join the bricklayers union. With an improvement in his earnings, Gilly was married and had 5 children with first wife, Lillian. He has a stepdaughter Sherry & another daughter Sandy with his second wife Joan. In 1978 Gilly was asked to be foreman for the

construction of a sewer plant in Canton near Utica. He also worked on projects such as college bldgs at Colgate in Hamilton, Cornell in Ithaca & various hospitals. His work took him to more cosmopolitan areas such as Syracuse, Utica, Binghamton & NYC. He and Joan live in semi retirement. Some of their land is kept under production with pumpkins. Says Gilly "I love my family, my neighbors and the farm. I am here to stay."

Kicked by an Auto

The following article appeared in the October 7, 1908 Rural Times

A.L. Martin sustained painful injuries Friday evening, which has laid him up for the present. After closing the office at the depot Friday evening, he went out to crank up his auto to enjoy a little spin about the village. Mr. Chase heard what he recognized as an unusual sound shortly after and going to investigate found Mr. Martin laying on the ground several feet from the machine, in a dazed condition. Mr. Chase assisted him into the office and called Dr. Ford, who found the jaw bone fractured, some teeth knocked out and others loosened. How the accident happened Mr. Martin is unable to explain, but the crank must have flew back and hit him a terrific blow to have knocked him so far from the machine, as he is a man who weighs over 200 pounds. While the injuries were painful Mr. Martin was fortunate in escaping with no more serious results, and it is hoped he will speedily recover.



Otego Historical Association
2009 - 2010