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Lincoln: Saying goodbye to some of Conquest's finest
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Lincoln: Saying goodbye to some of Conquest's finest

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One of the most fascinating things about being an historian is the detective work — that is, until you hit a "brick wall"! Linda Slayton Granath reminded me of our joint appreciation for a beautiful headstone in the Conquest cemetery and my promise to find the story. Diligent searching for Norman Gilmore, who died on March 14, 1861, has revealed very little. He was born in Vermont and his family lived in Conquest in 1850 and 1860. When he died he was 13 years, 9 months and 9 days old. His family farmed, and in 1860 a young woman named Josephine Campbell, about his age, lived with them. His father Levi was Conquest highway commissioner for a time. Would love some help if a Gilmore relative has anymore information about Norman or his family.

Seems as if this is a season of goodbyes. I will miss Roberta Guy Green. Even though she graduated a few years ahead of me, she was always willing to mentor an underclassman — her yearbook message to me: "Hope you have as much fun in PBCS as I did!" Her good humor and smile seemed never to falter; she seemed to not even be aware of how attractive she was and what an inspiration! Her guiding friendliness at the Erie House the past few years helped staff and volunteers to be welcoming to our visitors. Wherever she was, there was a positive light and energy. Many, many folks valued her friendship and are missing her.

Lila Kerns Fields was an incredible musician. She played at concerts, weddings, funerals and church services, always radiating charm and excellence. Her stories about her early life gave us all an appreciation for "we’ve come a long way ..." and even in her later years, she gave and sought the respect that she had been taught! It was a distinct honor to guide her to the podium to accept her honor as a Port Byron Alumni Hall of Fame recipient.

Ethel Barnes was the best mentor ever for a new historian. She was the first historian of the town of Conquest and diligently recorded our sesquicentennial celebration 50 years ago. There have been many women in my life who were grand ladies — she was certainly one. She was a Gold Star Mother, losing her son shortly after she moved to Conquest. She had the most infectious laugh ever; her good humor was an inspiration, as was her steadfast love for her country and its history.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, it seems as if more folks are noticing/feeding birds and appreciating flowers. Facebook pages are rife with celebrations of orioles, grosbeaks and feeding techniques. We have a wren family living in our cute, yard sale birdhouse. The mother and father tolerate us sharing their tree shade. This wren family reminds me of my first wren friendship. I was more than a bit of a bookworm growing up, and often my gram would shoo me outside: "Get your nose out of that book and get some sunshine." We had a cherry tree in the backyard with wide, comfortable branches where I would take my book and perch for hours. One summer, a wren built her nest on an adjoining limb and shared her family with me. I must have been 10 or so, and today when I hear those warbling wren notes, I can still recall the wonder of those magical moments.

I continue to be proud of my school and the learning and teaching that has continued through the virus shutdown. Thank you all for not giving up on our kids and their education. I do believe that this challenge has made us stronger and that we have learned from our struggles. Yes, "Port Byron Strong," but also celebrating our neighboring districts and inspiring stories throughout the country.

Cayuga County has been a beacon in the overt and covert racism crisis. Please, neighbors, do not let your guard down here, either. Getting it right is not easy — in education or in society. We are smart and dedicated and energetic. Keep on keeping on.

Joni Lincoln is the historian of the town of Conquest.


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