"The Scarsdale Story"

Tell us your "Scarsdale Story"
by Joan Firth Kaysen '52

Many of us have a family history that has contributed to the “Scarsdale Story”. No matter how small and insignificant your story may seem to you, it may have molded history in a certain aspect which has undeniably made its impact on the town of Scarsdale. I am totally absorbed in family history, that of my own and anyone else who wishes to share those facts or family lore. When I find a family story, I believe it until I prove myself wrong. Sometimes the right or wrong gets lost in the annals of  time. Much of the time we can prove our family story with a paper trail, but sometimes either by human error or purposeful elimination the history remains dimmed by the passage of time. Truly only families can pass down these stories from generation to generation and that is all that is required in this space.

Sometimes we wonder about what causes people to emigrate from their place of birth and all that is familiar in their lives. The stories are wide and varied as are the sunrises and sunsets all the days of our lives. This is human history throughout the ages. From the earliest times the nomads wandered for elemental reasons, food, shelter and all the basic needs of life. Their work each day was for their survival. As “man” began to realize that “he” could be the master of “his” life by growing “his” food and not having to rely on the wild animals or picking berries from a bush, he settled for longer periods of time in one place. However, someone would come along and tell him that the living was better on the other side of the river and he would up and move and rebuild all over again for the betterment of his family.

As “man” became more social and developed a sense of community with his neighbors he took on more powerful roles in his town. This was mostly driven by his desire for land ownership and protection for himself and his family and lastly his friends and neighbors. As families became larger because the needs on the land were demanding and “many hands made light work” it became necessary for younger sons to seek out their own land as mostly the farm was left to the oldest son. Daughters would marry and begin their own land ownership with their husbands. If the patriarch of the family had accrued enough land he would divide it in his will with all of his sons and leave the daughter a cow or furniture or clothing or some money. Mostly the sons had to move on to another place to begin their land ownership. Families mostly stayed in the same town if they could. Some would move away together to a new place settling on a parcel of land and as time went on they bought more lands which were passed on to the children.

There were many other reasons why folks moved away to a different location. Many were not farmers, but had a service to sell or became small business owners. It seems as if the landowners and business owners throughout time were the most likely to have the stability to stay were they were.

How many of us really know the history of our hometown and how it eventually relates to us and our family during our years of living in Scarsdale. Do you know why your family came toScarsdale? My knowledge of Caleb Heathcote, who settled Scarsdale, is that he was jilted by his girlfriend in England who liked his brother better so he set sail for New York and started buying land in Westchester. Now I am sure this was an unusual reason to emigrate your native land but that is what happened. Her loss was our gain. Early on in Scarsdale, we see these names appearing in the census takers handwriting: Heathcote, Palmer, Secor, Brewster, Popham, Ogden, Drake, Underhill, ButlerGriffin, Hyatt, Valentine, Boniface, Costain, Dobbs and many others.

When you have finished reading this you may feel that you have no family history withScarsdale, maybe you have interesting bits of information of things that happened in our community during the years you lived there. These are acceptable also as they are all human interest stories. I think of Doc Leighton on Popham Road who at one time saved my life. He was a cigar toting guy with a big brusque manner about him and could he cuss up a storm, but he could fix your sore throat in a nanosecond. He was a great doctor and his contribution to our town is undeniable and that is worth talking about.

If you fear you are not a writer but want to tell your story, never fear as I can help anyone with that. Send me the facts and I will see what I can do. My email is: joanfirthk@mindspring.com

 Joan Firth Kaysen