Esperance, New York: Fred Lape's Home Town

By Lee Lattimer

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: face​book​.com/​E​s​p​e​r​a​n​c​e​H​i​s​t​o​r​i​c​a​l​M​useum.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.

Summer 2018

Volume 36 , Number 3

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