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The diary of Louisa Sparkes

December 22, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

In the 1920s, Louisa Sparkes and her younger brother, Bill, lived in Gabriels. Her diary is on loan to me from Don Tucker via Jim and Michelle Tucker. Michelle says the Sparkes came from England; Louisa arrived in 1910 and bought a farm at the end of Hobart Road. Her brother, Bill, joined her in 1921 when he was discharged from the British Army. She apparently was a Nanny in England and may have first came to America with an employer. In any event, while in Gabriels she traveled frequently by train back and forth to New Haven, Conn., where she was employed as a Nanny for the Edward Reed family. Mr. Reed was on a college faculty, guessing it was Yale. The Sparkes farm is now part of the Tucker acreage.

Some day I must to do a more detailed story of Gabriels because it pretty much started with the Sisters of Mercy building the tuberculosis sanatarium at Gabriels. Then they built the huge "Sister's Farm" near the end of The Crossroads, where my father Dennis was the farm manager, and where we were all born. The farm is now owned by Richard Freeburg.

Frank Hobart operated, not a livestock farm, but a potato and produce farm; the spinach, lettuce or other rows of vegetables were so long one couldn't see the end; I know, because a bunch of us young teenagers were hired to weed them on our hands and knees. If any of us wanted a drink of water or to use the toilet we had to get permission from our boss, Ezra Guyette, who was not the warm, fuzzy type and here is the Hobart/Tucker connection Don's mother was Flora Hobart Tucker, Frank's sister, and as I can tell you first hand; the best cook in the North Country.

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Strange that I just found out someone came to see me 82 years and 5 months ago. My mother, always known as Bessie, was Elizabeth McKillip Keegan Riley and had turned age 31 on Aug. 1. I was one month old on Aug. 20, 1930 … I am Howard John Riley and I approve this message.


Thediary Years

The top of the diary pages are all printed 1927 but Louisa used the same diary for years, writing in the year, 29, 30, or whatever, but under the correct day and month. Following are a few casual entries:

"July 18, 1927 - Picked 105 quarts of strawberries."

"Aug. 17, 1927 - Gabriels Station burned. Jesse took Miss Randolph, Miss Wright and me down to see it. Fortunately no wind."

"Nov. 24, 1928 - Big ball game. Harvard won. [Louisa attended the game with the Reeds. Jim Tucker researched the score it was Harvard 17, Yale 0.]

"Jan. 17, 1929 - Went to Carnegie Hall to see Ruth Draper. Mrs. Thompson gave tickets to Ila and me. Lovely!"

"Jan. 16, 1930 -?Went with Billy (her brother) to meet FA at 3 o'clock in lawyer Cantwell's office. Bond and mortgage papers passed over to me and paid $1142.25 to finish up paying for the farm at Gabriels. Thank Heaven. Posted discharge of mortgage by registered post in evening."

"Jan. 19, 1930 - Went to the Manse [house owned by the minister Rev. Koenig] in afternoon and stayed until Mrs. Koenig drove me back to Gabriels. Met Mrs. Gallagher and Mrs. Ned Sawyer there both fine women."

"Jan. 29, 1930 - Went to Bessie Riley's but they were out." [Then this later entry on Feb. 16 - "Went to see Bessie Riley's family - eight children present." Huh? There were only 6 of us.]

"February 19, 1930 - Went to Saranac to shop and put Fire Insurance slip in Safety deposit box. Went back to Gabriels and later bought ticket for night travel got on the 10:10 p.m. train for New York. Feb. 20 - Reached New York at 10 a.m., had breakfast and caught the 11 o'clock train for New Haven. Went to Mrs. Fitton's and had a kindly welcome."

"Aug. 30, 1930 Picking peas 'till 10 a.m. Mean kind of day but went to Saranac Lake with the Rork's and enjoyed the drive. Saw the fire at Branch & Callanan's and Dupre's Garage."

"Sept. 22, 1930 - Took 5 chickens up to Mrs. Coolen's for her to make the pies for the church supper. 'Old Fred' had killed them, with Bill, in the morning, and Fred and I plucked them and he 'drawed' them. Margaret came in the afternoon and washed them and cut them up."

"Sept. 4, 1931 - Went to Sunday service at St. John's in the Wilderness and enjoyed the service very much. The sermon was on the hiring of the vineyard workers. Went to church in Harrietstown that evening."

"Sept. 15, 1931 -?Mabel Leavitt called for me in the afternoon. Was so pleased as I wanted to meet her."

"June 6, 1932 - Left N.Y.C. for Gabriels at 8 p.m. Mary Riley on same train." [I know Mary Riley, married to Larry, who lives just down the road from me, but I had no idea she was around in 1932.]

"June 7, 1932 Reached Gabriels 6:30 a.m. Bill to meet me."



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