The Right thing

Lillian Flintís old home was donated for its historical value

By BILL BUELL Gazette Reporter

†††Nailing down history as it relates to the Flint House is a hard thing to do, and some things, such as who killed David Reynolds on May 20, 1901, weíll probably never know.
†††What we do know is that the land the house is on, on the west side of the Mohawk River in Scotia, was first farmed by Dutch immigrant Claes Andries De Graff, probably sometime late in the 17 th century. We also know that the Reese family lived there from 1820 to 1871, helped make broom corn the biggest crop in Schenectady County and then sold the farm in 1887 to the aforementioned Reynolds.
†††"He was bludgeoned to death in the barn behind the house, and most people think it was because of the money he carried in his shoes," said Michelle Norris, Scotia village historian and caretaker of the Flint House. "They never found his shoes, and they never found the person who did it."
†††After Reynoldsí death, the home passed through four different owners before Lillian Flint, a spinster who gave dance lessons at the Van Curler Hotel in Schenectady and sold pastries from her back porch, bought the house in 1952. She lived there until she died in 1994, donating the house and four acres to the L L village of Scotia. "Her family came from Arizona and took most of the furniture and her belongings. So when the village took it over, it was basically empty," said Norris. "But Miss Flint wanted the house to be used for historical purposes. She knew that was the right thing." The two-story white house sits at the end of Reynolds Street in Scotia. The front porch is gone and the front door is almost always kept shut, with visitors coming in through a side entrance into what was Flintís kitchen. There are several exhibits in the kitchen and in an adjoining living room, and the tour continues to a parlor on the first floor and two more rooms upstairs. But while the house is home to the Scotia Historical Society, as a museum it is still very much a work in progress.

Open infrequently

†††"Itís hard to find volunteers to keep the house open. So right now, weíre only open Saturdays February through May," said Norris. "Our long-range plans are to have the house open longer, but we need to raise more money to do that."
†††The Flint House Fall Festival, held in conjunction with Our Redeemer Lutheran Church just up the street, serves as the houseís yearly fund-raising event and will be held next Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. Along with tours of the house, there will be Colonial-style weavers and spinners, a horse-drawn carriage carrying people back and forth from the church, and plenty of 19 th century music and games for children.

Tough to pinpoint

†††Although literature on the Flint House indicates that it dates from 1735, the house as it looks now was probably built around 100 years later, according to Steve Jones, whose archaeological class at Union College performed a series of digs at the site last summer.
†††"My hypothesis is that the house we see now was built by David Reese in the 1830s. However, it could have been the upgrading of something that was already there," said Jones. "There was already a farmhouse on the property. So we donít know why he would have built another house unless there was already some outbuilding or caretakerís cottage there. So itís very likely he just expanded on that."
†††Jonesí college crew was looking for evidence that might confirm exactly when the house was built, but that proved impossible.
†††"We wanted to find the foundation trenches and then date the house by looking at the artifacts, but as is the case sometimes in archaeology, we didnít find anything conclusive," said Jones. "We had a problem because the foundations were in poor condition, and if we dig too many trenches the house might fall down."
†††As you look at the house now from the end of Reynolds Street, it is only about half as wide as it was throughout most of the 19 th century.
†††"The back was much bigger, but part of the building caught fire and was torn down, making it much more squarelike," said Jones. "They also removed the front porch around the 1890s, and there were a number of alterations in the 20 th century. When Miss Flint bought the house, she took off another section of the back and added on a porch."

Living in Reeseville

†††Across the dirt road that runs in front of the Flint House is a small stream called Reese Creek, which is actually part of the Mohawk River. The Reese family was so prominent during the early part of the 19 th century that the community became known as Reeseville and remained known by that name until Scotia was incorporated as a town 100 years ago.
†††"There were no definite boundaries, but Scotia was very small and headed north up Ballston Avenue [now Route 50]," said Don Keefer, former Scotia village historian. "There were only a few houses on Mohawk Avenue, and the center of Reeseville is where Sacandaga Road [Route 147] meets Mohawk Avenue."
†††The Reese Farm had its own family cemetery, according to Keefer, and in an era when nearly every successful farmer in Schenectady planted broom corn, the Reeses were one of the biggest producers of that crop.
†††"Schenectady County may have been the leading place in the world to make broom corn back then," said Keefer. "It was planted throughout the Mohawk Valley, and we had broom factories all over Schenectady and Scotia."
†††Eventually, the Midwest supplanted the Mohawk Valley as the chief producer of broom corn, but it was still a big part of the countyís economy up through the middle of the 20 th century. Technology put an end to broom corn as a viable agricultural crop, and in the early 1960s the last broom factory in the area, the Whitmeyer Broom Co. on Front Street in Schenectady, closed down.

Hook Farm

†††The area around the Flint House has also been commonly referred to as the Hook Farm, but instead of being a family name, Hook refers to a bend in the Mohawk River where it takes a sudden turn to the west. Hook is derived from the Dutch word "hoek," meaning corner or angle.
†††"I can remember when I was younger talking to older people who used to call the place the Hook Farm," said Norris. "They also remembered the broom corn and how the whole village used to smell in the fall because they put so much cow manure in the soil. Broom corn was a great cash crop, but it really depleted the soil."
†††When Norris was a young girl growing up in the village, she became quite a fan of Flint, who moved to Scotia from Pennsylvania sometime after World War II.
†††"She was a fantastic woman who wrote poems and loved photography," said Norris. "I took dance lessons from her at the Van Curler. She was a wonderful lady and we could never understand why she never got married."
†††Norris found out the reason soon after Flintís death when the village took possession of the home.
†††"We were going through some of her papers and we came across this notification from the U.S. Army," said Norris. "Her fiance, a Maj. James Wilson, was killed during World War II."

The Flint House, at the end of South Reynolds Street in Scotia, was willed to the village by Lillian Flint, pictured below, after her death in 1994. The home now serves as a museum and office space for the Scotia History Center and Scotia village historian Michelle Norris. HANS PENNINK Gazette Photographer

Scotia village historian Michelle Norris displays an 18 th century period costume to be worn next Sunday at the annual Flint House Fall Festival. The event is the annual benefit for the Flint House.
Gazette Photographer

A typewriter, papers and a village firemanís helmet, all from the late 19 th century, are part of the collection of exhibits on display at the Flint House in Scotia.
Gazette Photographer

††† HANS PENNINK Gazette Photographer
Michelle Norris, historian for the village of Scotia, unfurls a 48-star American flag from the 1920s that was donated to the Scotia History Center at the Flint House.