In 1902, the Lape family, father Herman, mother Emma, and son Fred moved from Holland Point, NY, to a small shack on the Silvernail farm in Esperance. The Silvernail farm was run by Herman’s father Henry, who had taken Mahala Silvernail for his second wife. In 1903, Herman bought the neighboring farm. A promontory on the land gave a splendid view of the Schoharie Valley and was a favorite spot of Fred’s father. A majestic white oak stood there, leading to the farm’s name, Oak Nose Farm. The farm and the village of Esperance were to be Fred’s home for most of his life, with only a short period away attending Cornell University and teaching.
In 1912, the Lape family moved to the village of Esperance so that Fred could go to high school first in Altamont, then in Cobleskill. This made his mother very happy, as she had never adapted to farm life. His father took a job in the local grist mill and most certainly missed the farm, as he loved the land and the animals. Village town folk and groups of boys taught Fred many things including fishing, swimming, piano playing, and birding.
Fred went on to Cornell University in 1917 where he obtained an English degree and taught there and later at Stamford University. Fred returned to Esperance in 1928, taking up residence at Oak Nose Farm, which had been uninhabited for many years. He wrote articles and poems for magazines and attracted a coterie of artists and writers.
His love of the village and its inhabitants is most apparent in his book, A Farm and Village Boyhood, printed in 1980. In this memoir, he appreciated such structures as the covered bridge and two grist mills and lamented their destruction. The town’s noble and sometimes odd characters were immortalized. Local personalities such as Dr. Paul Moore, John VanVechten, Amie Clayton, Annie Denison, Fred Brown and Abbie McCarty come to life. To make sure that the past would not be forgotten, Fred established the Esperance Historical Society and Museum. Located in the old school house, it includes many items from the Lape household, including a cream separator, dishes, and a quilt, dated 1863, made by Rachel Silvernail, and a Confederate flag with Rachel’s initials on the corners. Also included are several displays of village life with items from all over the area.
Please stop into the museum – and be sure to come to the village’s Bicentennial Celebration on July 14th, 2018. Festivities include a parade, concerts, and fireworks! Food and craft vendors will be there all day. See more details at: facebook.com/EsperanceHistoricalMuseum.The museum is located at 123 Church Street and is open 1 – 4 on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is free, but donations are greatly appreciated.