Atwaters  of  Stephentown


William Henry Atwater > Calvin Hayes Atwater (1881)


Calvin Hayes Atwater(1881)


b. 10/4/1881    d. 10/?/1947

Married Elsie Snow
b. 6/22/1881    d. ? 1967

Date of Marriage ?

Calvin Haynes (1881), Elsie Snow Atwater and Blanche I. Coffey

Both Elsie Snow “Oggie” and Calvin H. (1881) Atwater were born and brought up in Stephentown.  Oggie lived on Snow’s Flats in West Stephentown, Uncle Cal lived in Garfield.  They married in and as was the custom of the times they lived next to Uncle Cal’s family.  They lived in a house that now has the address of 450 Presbyterian Hill Rd. which is where  Georgi Beebe now resides. Oggie had several miscarriages and later they went to the orphanage in Albany and came home with Blanche Coffey (Ba).  They never legally adopted Ba and later in life Oggie commented that she didn’t know why they never got around to that.  She was, however, their daughter in every way that mattered to them.

By Janet Atwater, Grand Niece

Oggie was called Oggie because I could not pronounce Aunt Elsie and Ba was what I could say for Aunt Blanche. Betty Green sometimes Ba would call her Lelly because when Betty was young she could not pronounce Elsie.

Uncle cal was a logger, lumberman and businessman his entire life.  When I lived there he ran a saw mill and a business which sold lumber, hardware and paint among other things.  People would come there to purchase something and would stay to visit; maybe even have a coke.

I lived there in my early years and I can only tell you my story of the family from a child’s point of view…my memories. My sister Georgi lived there much longer and knew Oggie and Ba when they were older. Georgi was a teen when Oggie died and an adult when Ba died and although I knew them all that time I did not spend much time with them, therefore Goergi can give a profile of them from a different perspective.

I was just 18 days past my third birthday when Uncle Cal died but I remember him very well.  I guess I would say that he was a father figure in those early days of my life because I stayed with them a lot and then lived full time in his house with him, and with Oggie and  (Ba).  I remember Uncle Cal as being very kind and loving.   I was very happy when I was with him.  In the mornings, winter or summer, we would walk through the lumberyard and “check on things”. He would give me a file to carry and I would walk along and file the ends of boards that made up the stacks of lumber he had for sale.   Then I would go to the office with him where I would sit in a chair and “write” things.  

We had our big meal (dinner) at noon. Uncle Cal came down from the office,  Ba came home from work, and  we all would sit down to dinner together. Sometimes on a Sunday  afternoon Uncle Cal would take a nap in a room in the northeast corner of the house. Everyone called it Wyomanock because the Wyomanock area of Stephentown  is in that direction and that room  was so far away from the central part of the  house.  In the Summer, after the business closed, or on a Sunday, Uncle Cal would say,  “let’s go up north”.  That would mean we would go up to Cherry Plain to what was, until recently, Bridgeway.  It was an ice cream parlor in those days and we would all climb in the car and set out for a treat, usually Ice cream sodas all around. 

We were a happy bunch.  Oggie loved us all and was a hard worker and she seemed to be good at everything.  She was a strict Baptist in her beliefs and we did not wear shorts or play cards (except Old Maid and not even Old Maid on Sundays) and she never allowed even a hint of an alcoholic beverage in the house.  Oggie wasn’t real fond of boys either.  When my mother was pregnant with Georgi I wanted a brother in the worst way but Oggie told me that boys were messy and  a lot of trouble.

 I remember Oggie as a great cook although she said that she only knew how to boil water when she came to start her married life with Uncle Cal. She frequently made baked potatoes which she baked on top of the stove in a potato baker.  My favorite meal was dandelion greens with boiled potatoes and salt pork.  Other meals fondly remembered were  New England boiled dinner (ham, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and beets, everything turned purple),  cubed steak with baked potato and cabbage salad (made with vinaigrette) and spaghetti with butter and cheese, Potato cakes made from left over mashed potatoes and perhaps best of all corn fritters with maple syrup.  She also made creamed salted cod which I could not stand to smell and never tasted.  Oggie made the best lemon pie and Boston cream pie that I have ever eaten. For my 5th birthday she made me a chocolate cake with boiled frosting and there were small colored glass animals all over the top.   Sometimes Oggie and Ba would go to Grange meetings.  Uncle cal stayed home with me.  Oggie always took a lemon pie to the meeting as part of the refreshments. I remember watching her bake  the pies and seeing her putting a cloth around the edge of the pie crust so it wouldn’t burn.  She used to tell me it was the pie’s necktie. Many times there were small lemon drops on the meringue (which I have since learned should not be there) and she told me they were tears. She always cut a piece out of the pie and left it behind for Uncle Cal and me to eat. It makes me smile when I think about how those pies went to the meeting missing one piece.

….and every night when I went to bed Oggie would say, “Good night, sleep tight don’t let the bed bugs bite”.

When Uncle Cal died Oggie insisted that he be embalmed at the house.  She said he would not leave his house until he went to his grave.  She then asked my father to wait to be sure they sealed the cement Vault. People tell me that I was there while Uncle Cal was in the casket and during viewing hours and I would say to people, “Doesn’t Uncle Cal look nice?”  I have no memory of anything about his death except that one of the last times I saw him I took him a small dish of dark red Jello. 

Oggie also made all my dresses.  Most of them had Peter Pan collars and ties at the waist which made a bow in the back.  I remember a green plaid dress with lace on the collar that I especially liked. I still have the white dress with poodles all over it that she made, no tie in the back on that one.   When I wore it I would listen to the radio and wait to lip sing to “How much is that Doggie in the Window” on the radio.

Oggie would also spend a lot of time brushing my hair and she put my hair in braids before I went to school because Ba couldn’t do it very neatly.

Oggie knew how to braid my hair, sew my clothes, cook delicious meals and how to skin a rabbit…Ba, not so much.


Back in the 30s and even the 40s there were men who traveled the roads, some looking for work some not.  We called them Tramps.  I remember a story that Oggie and Ba used to tell about a tramp that stopped at the house and asked for some food one morning.  Being a good Christian family they gave him some milk and some fresh biscuits that Ba had just made.  He ate every crumb, thanked them profusely and went on his way.  That noon  when they sat down to  dinner, they realized the biscuits were awful!  Ba had used baking soda instead of baking powder.  They often laughed about that but I always felt sorry for the tramp.  

Ba may not have been the best at sewing, cooking, braiding or skinning a rabbit, and she really squashed toast when buttering it but she held two sometimes three jobs, had musical talent, and  a sunny personality.   She was a kind person who liked almost everyone and spoiled me.  She could sing and play the piano and  in church on Sunday her voice rang out above all others.  She was a genuinely happy person who spread that happiness to others.  Ba laughed a lot and  she brought a lot of happiness and laugher to that house. Maybe Uncle Cal and Oggie  told me stories at bedtime but I remember Ba’s stories most of all.  She worked part-time at Sis Mayer’s Country Kitchen and sometimes my bedtime story would be how to make a hot fudge sundae or a banana split or a Stephentown Special, which was kind of a banana split with Oreos and vanilla sandwich cookies on the sides.

Elsie Snow Atwater and Calvin Hayes Atwater(1881)


Oggie’s Recipe Book

Blanche and Elsie

Maybe that’s where my sweet tooth comes from. She also worked at the Library on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.  I loved going there to read books and help check them out. Her main job was at Walter C. Sykes store and sometimes I would get to go with her on Friday nights.  Between the store and the library and the Country Kitchen I knew everyone in town. 

Oggie was a staunch Republican. There was a picture of Thomas E. Dewey hanging in the “camp” window.  Oggie would have me throw a kiss to Dewey every night before we turned off the outside light and went to bed.  She really disliked FDR and his policies.  She insisted she would not collect Social Security. Ba told me that she signed her up without her knowledge and every month Oggie signed a Social Security check that she thought was from something else.  Oggie also taught me my first poem:  “Skin a rat, skin a cat, skin a dirty Democrat”.  I remember years later when Richard Demick ran for Town Clerk.  He was (and still is) a nice guy.  Ba said to me “He is such a nice young man, I wish I could vote for him”.  I said “Of Course you can”.  She said, “Oh, no I couldn’t, he’s a Democrat”.      

We had a cat called Kitsey that came as a stray to live with us when I was around 5 or 6 years old.  Kitsy was a beautiful long haired white cat and she was a great hunter.  She would bring home all sorts small animals in various stages of demise as gifts for Oggie.  Oggie would skin the dead rabbits, wrap them in waxed paper and keep them in the refrig until it was time for Kitsey’s next meal. Then she would cut meat off the rabbit for Kitsey’s meal.

This was a family that loved dogs as well.  There was always a dog around.   In the evenings during the months that fleas would infest the dog, we would put a big pan of water on the stove to heat.  Then we would comb Peggy, the Irish Setter, with a fine tooth comb and dip the comb in the hot water to kill the fleas.  After Peggy died we had Jackie who came to us as a stray from Jenny Greenspan’s.

There was no TV back then so in the evenings I would sit on Uncle Cal’s, Oggie’s or Ba’s  lap and someone would read to me,  sometimes we would  listen to Ba  play the piano… or we would pop popcorn  in a big pan with a handle. We had to keep that pan rocking back and forth on the stove so that the popcorn did not burn. …or we would have ice cream sodas which consisted of chocolate ice cream in cream soda.  Later when we got TV, there was one NBC black and white channel.  As multiple channels began in the cities and color TV was talked about being in the future, I asked Oggie which she would rather have, Color TV or more channels.  She said that she guessed she would rather have color TV, because she wouldn’t have to try to decide what to watch. Thinking of that makes me laugh because there is little on TV now she would think was worth watching.   She may have liked Soaps though because I remember we used to watch One Man’s Family. We also watched Henry Aldrich and Meet the Press.  Oggie disliked Laurence Spivak because she felt he wasn’t very nice when he questioned the guests. 

Oggie strongly guarded her privacy and she wouldn’t allow my friends have access to most areas of the house including upstairs where my bedroom was located so I moved back to my parents house in the late summer or early fall of 1954. 

No biological children.
Blanche I. Coffey raised as a foster daughter.