County of Brant Public Library Digital Collections
Interview with Corydon C. Randall
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Excerpts from the journal kept by with Corydon C. Randall regarding his life and living in Paris. The interview was contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. Scroll down to the Full Text section below to read the journal.
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.2 Longitude: -80.38333
Paris Museum and Historical Society
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Paris Museum and Historical Society
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Paris Museum and Historical Society

51 William Street, Paris, ON

N3L 1N4

(519) 442-9295

Full Text

424 Second Avenue Detroit, Michigan October 14, 1895

Monday noon. The children have had their dinner and gone to school again. Chas, Ellie and Alan, to the "Cass" where their aunts went years before them.

Anna wants me to write what I remember of my life from my earliest recollection. Knowing how much I regret my father's reticence, so that I know almost nothing of him or his family, I think it a very good idea in this case and anyone's.

I was born in Hamilton, Ontario, then called Canada - July 30, 1841 - just when I think I have known but do not remember. I think somewhere on John St. near King. I know my father and mother were born and brought up in Ellington and Podunk, Conn., quite near Hartford, their houses almost within sight of each other but did not know one another till they had both drifted to New York where my father's sister, Mrs. Christopher Arnold, lived, and where my mother, Caroline Matilda Burnham, was - whether as a boarder or acquaintance I don't know. Mr. Arnold's brother John wished to marry her but Mrs. Arnold wished very much for her to marry her brother James Janeway Randall. I don't know where the Janeway came from. During the time she was with Mrs. Arnold she got angry about something and ran away, finding employment binding books at some establishment, where Mr. Arnold found her and persuaded her to go home again.

Some time after my birth - it couldn't have been more than a year or two - we moved to Paris, about 30 miles from Hamilton, where we lived on the bank of "Grand River." With us was Mrs. Stratton, then a girl of eight or nine, a niece my parents had adopted when she was two years old, in Connecticut, the child of my mother's eldest brother, William Burnham.

One of my earliest recollections of Paris is of my father and some other men going out in a couple of boats to get large stones for building a foundation. The river was then wide and mostly shallow, the stones being more or less out of the water. He took me up and plunged me under the water two or three times to take the timidity out of me. Another recollection is of standing on the bank of the river and seeing the long covered bridge burn. Another of standing behind one of the workmen who was quarreling with another over the ownership of a chisel, and as he pulled it away it went behind him and struck me over the right eye, the scar of which still remains. The fighting stopped and' my father put a-cloth saturated with turpentine on the cut and carried me to the house a few doors away.

Father was then in the cabinet business, having a factory run by water power, doing well by himself, so well that he took in a partner for the sake of help and capital, and the result was as it was every time in after life - doing well alone until he felt it was best to branch out, then a partner, and faith always in the honesty, and then the little end of the horn.

While in Paris I had my first dream, I suppose. I got up in the morning and dressed myself hastily and went out through the kitchen door fully expecting to find the money and jewelry and toys I had seen strewn there. I was very much disappointed and upon enquiring of my father he, after laughing much, explained to me that it was a dream.

I think it was in 1847 that we moved from Paris to Hamilton again. Marian was a baby then and the rest of us were settled in our house before someone drove my mother and the baby from Paris to Hamilton. It was a big yellow frame house in the lower part of the city. I recollect well when she drove up to the house, and that night as I sat by and listened to the talk of the neighbors who had called, and my mother who sat there nursing her baby, I discovered for the first time that we'd all got to die sometime. It was a horror to me. I waited till the callers had gone and then questioned my mother about it. She told me it was so, and my recollection tells me I hardly slept for nights and I think it made me very serious all through my childhood. The possibility of losing my parents up to the time I was thirty was always a horror to me, and the future life and its possibilities was something that I used to speculate on after I was in bed and when walking, a subject constantly with me from that time up.

I don't know how long we lived in that house but while there we went up to spend the) evening at a big brick house on the corner of King and Catherine St. with Hiram Clark's family: self, wife and three daughters, Caroline, Annie and Sarah, (my two sisters are named after the first two.) Sarah was about my age. They had a piano which she was learning to play and sang for us that night "Wild Roving Indian Girl, Blue Junietta." I never hear the song without going back to that night.

Our next move was into this Clark house where she kept boarders, and the corner building my father had with E. J. Ring, now rich lumberman in East Saginaw, a hardware and tin shop, my father doing his painting and japanning of the tinware down in the basement. The first and second stories were for the store and shop and the third story bedroom* for apprentices. We also had a big shed in the yard where machinery was set tip for stamping tinware, a new thing then.

While we were there Tom Thumb was exhibited in the Town Hall and Jim sat up on the sofa with him. We had a cistern near the house and one day our mother missed Jim and finally looked down into it and saw him. Our father cane running out and dropped down into the well carefully so as not to strike the child and lifted him up to those who had gathered around. They took him into the house to roll the water out, and after awhile needed our father who couldn't be found till someone thought of the cistern again, where they found him up to his neck in water, no chance of getting out without help - waiting for the help to come.

It was in this house that my brother Ed and I had cholera in one of the epidemics. Our father, who was very attractive to his children and very happy with them, was dew* in his paint shop attaching the tall and string to a kite I had made, down on one knee a little ways in front of me when he jumped up and caught me as I fainted. I was put to bed and I think I was out again in about a month. In the meantime my brother Edwin Forest,who had become ill the same day, died within 48 hours. I didn't know it till I had been out some time. One of the boys told me. I disputed it because I had been told he was in the country but on asking our mother she told me it was so. I felt so bad about it that my father op it his work for the afternoon and he and a lawyer, Fred McDonald, finished the kite and went up the mountain (Burlington Heights) with me and flew the kite the balance of the day.

Caroline I!. Was born in this house. Miss McChesney and her son Fred McDonald boarded with us, also Chan. Kellogg and his first wife who afterwards was an intimate acquaintance for years in Detroit and the founder of the Detroit Bridge & iron Works. While living here father was very sick with what was then called "inflammation on the lungs"* The two doctors finally gave him up and mother put aside the medicine and brothed him back his strength. She was instinctively a nurse, as I believe her mother was before her.

I don't know in what house Ellie or Annie were born but think the same as the second Edwin Forest, the youngest of our family, In the old house, corner of John and King William St., a large rough cast house with two story verandah and large white columns, the steps opening from one and a wide and very large long yard at the side and back with large willow shade trees and many fruit trees. In this house I remember my first nightmare. Jim and I were sleeping on a straw tick laid on the floor in the sitting room beside the door of mother's room. I saw an Indian crawling across the floor from the front hall with a knife in his hand, and of course it woke me up in great fright, and it took much explanation from mother to convince me it was not a reality.

After father became strong enough, by the doctor's advice he took one of the men off the road - they had several "Tin-Peddlers" out, usually one-horse trains, and traded their wares for hides, etc., going out with the former and back piled up with the latter - and father went out on a trip and became so much better and dis so much better than the men that he kept at it and traveled thereafter until sometime after we cane to Detroit to live, Sunday July 6, 185k. We had been ready to move and had sent most of our stuff ahead but stayed over the 4th of July as we always celebrated with 18 or 20 resident-Americans who lived in Hamilton.

In 1852 or 3 while living in the rough-cast house in Hamilton I went to the theatre about every other night with a chum, Johnny Atkins. Our house stood on one corner, Methodist Church on another, Baptist Church on a third, and on the other was John Nickerson's theatre (an old frame church made over). While living here mother boarded some of the theatrical people: Johnny Albaugh, now managing the leading theatre in Washington; Den Thompson who became rich through playing one role for years} the leader of the orchestra, Thomas Cook, an Englishman, and his three daughters Caroline, Julia and Rose, all of whom danced in the interval between the little farce of 20 minutes which was the custom to open with, before the play of the evening. I was in love with each of the girls in turn and saved some money and presented the youngest when it was her turn with a cornelian ring. Old Cap Nickerson, a British soldier who ran the theatre, also one in Toronto, had three daughters Charlotte, Virginia and Belle, all handsome, Belle educated at a boarding school. Each of these I was also much in love with, in fact it was my chronic state from 9 or 10 years till ------.

I took some violin lessons of Mr. Cook and he bought me the violin that Ferris now has. Old Daddy Rice, the original delineator of the darky character Jim Crow, etc., used to come occasionally. Charlotte Nickerson was very beautiful and refined, and when she played Eliza in "Uncle Tom's Cabin", which was the newest thing then, and sang "Swanee River", I was completely gone. I about 11 years and she nearly 30. Sir William Don, an English baronet, was too and took to the stage for the sake of playing with her, a thin man 6 1/2 feet high, sandy and bubbling over with fun. We were both disappointed as she married one of the owners and editors of the "Toronto Globe", probably the most Influential paper in Canada. After some years as a leading woman some trouble caused a separation and ended with her running a place of questionable character with her sisters.

Among the intimate friends of the family wore Hiram Clark's family, E. S. Whipple, Farr -contractor in building the Great Western R.R., and who married a Miss Randall of some Eastern State, Tom Foster, George Barnes, an Irish bachelor, and Edwin Robt. Owen, an English bachelor. Barnes spent almost every night at our house playing backgammon with my father. "Corregan," he used to call me. He kept the leading book store and it was my headquarters after school and between hours. I sold "Bank Note Detector", Yankee Notions, Harpers Magazine, etc., and I made a good deal of money.

Johnny Atkins was learning the printing business and got $2 a week. We had our regular seat in "the pit" at the theatre. While I knew all the actors I never used them to dead-head me in. Only once Mr. Cook insisted upon taking as around the back way and over the stage with him into the orchestra, but once was enough. I always paid my way, and Johnny and I would help each other out if one was short.

My father had a somewhat peculiar way of dealing with me. If I asked him for a sixpence or a shilling he always gave it to me without any hesitation; then he'd ask as what I was going to do with it. If I didn't wish to tell him he would not insist upon it. If I told him and he approved of it, all right; if not he'd give me his opinion and usually I handed him the money back, but if I still wanted to spend it he said nothing more. After getting his advice it was my privilege to do as I liked. So at school the teachers were instructed by him to always accept my word if I was absent or late, consequently I never ran away from school.

I was always very serious. That possibility of death of one of my family was always with me. Then I was always in love. Both very serious matters. I did not play as other boys or with them, I was "stuck up" to them. However, I have no regard for myself as a boy. I could see no excuse for anything bad in another boy. One streak utterly damned him. I was a favorite with older people - reliable and had tact - bat how much good it would have done me to have walloped some of it out, for I knew just hew much it impressed them. Hunt as a small boy started out the sans way but took a new tack. So did I, but much later. Jim was always heedless and unreliable as a small boy, his mother's favorite and I my father's, although I was my mother's right bower from a small boy up and Jim gave her no especial pleasure through his always being into scrapes but that made no difference with her love. I knew all the family affairs from a small boy till now and our mother and I consulted on everything as father was very reticent and chewed on a thing too long. He was very cautious and careful to not say a thing till he had thought it all over and knew he was sure, while our mother generally spit it out.

Notwithstanding I was undoubtedly much of a favorite with my father we were never well acquainted. We would talk of matters in general and of our business but seldom anything personal. Seldom he ever spoke of his early days or his family, although sons little funny incidents he has told me incidentally to illustrate something. I look back now and know we none of us understood him. I do now, and have a great regard for him and if X were to go over again the last 10 or 15 years of his life I would feel and deal with him very differently. His drinking habit took all the force and energy out of him that can be criticised. I was supporting the family and willing to and capable, and he knew it, so he shut himself up within himself, but I can understand the "within him" now and the surroundings, etc., and no one could have a much finer regard for their father than I have now. He was well-read, a good memory, poetic, good hearted, and had a better head than Jim and I together. During his life I felt the distance between HUT and his family so much that I always determined not to have it exist between my family and me. It used to make me blue at times but I never spoke of it to anyone.

When my father went out of the tin and hardware business with Ring in Hamilton he went into the patent medicine business with a man by the name of Briggs, and also the tobacco and cigar business with a Mr. Barker. He traveled for both and they apparently did well but he placed entire confidence in both and utterly la eking the quality of looking after details with the result of being practically robbed. After closing up with them he came to Detroit.

I think my father and mother left New York to come to Detroit in l835. They lived on Jefferson Ave. near Brush or Beaubien. He had a charcoal kiln and I think made and sold charcoal. Eliza was then the only child. He also worked at painting with Joseph Godfree From here they moved to Hamilton where I was born. On leaving New York he seemed to lose touch with his family though I remember his brother Corydon C., a Jeweller, coming to visit us in Paris. He afterwards went to California and after some correspondence with his family dropped out of sight and nothing has been known of him. He had a son, Theodore, and three daughters, - ? -, Clara, and Belle. The two former are dead. The latter is the wife of a minister I think is still living out west somewhere. The eldest whose name I have forgotten married A. B. Clark of Milwaukee. Clara - who lived with us for I think about a year when we were in the Fisher Block - married a college professor, nice fellow, and I called on them about 18 years ago in Now York, drove over there from Roslyn, L.I. with the Eastmans.

While we were living on the corner of King and Catherine Streets, Hamilton, and father and mother were in Paris, Christopher Arnold in passing through Hamilton stopped over a day at Weeks Hotel and asked Mr. Weeks if he knew a family by the name of Randall who had moved to somewheres in Canada. He told him where we lived and he went over but from all he could gather from Eliza he concluded it was not the family ho was looking for and went back to the Hotel. Later in the evening my parents drove home from Paris and hearing the story my father went over to the hotel and found his brother in law eho then lived in Milwaukee, Wis. Sometime afterwards he brought his wife (Clarissa) and son (J. Middleton) and daughter Libbie and Mrs. A. B. Clark to visit us. Ho had one other son that I don't think I ever saw. He was married and lived in Janesville or Waukeshaw, Wis.Mr. Arnold was a pious, close-fisted old cuss. His wife was better but masculine -the man of the family. Libbie like her. Mid, a handsome, selfish, bright fellow. Is yet Lives now in Chicago. Capitalist. 2 children. Boy, good for nothing tramp. Daughter married. Mid's first wife Carrie was from Salem, Mass. Tall, slim, conceited, affected, good-hearted woman. Mother of the 2 children. Mid married his second wife for money and I guess is rich. She is a cold-blooded,arrogant, rather common woman that we've had little to do with. All of the Arnold family I think are dead but Mid. Mid doesn't possess much soul.

Theodore Randall left 2 children, Frank and Ida, who got divorce from her first husband Beatty and is now Mrs. Simminean of East Saginaw. The "Theodore" family wore very bright and coarse.

After our family moved to Detroit we lived for about a year at 228 Jefferson Ave., I believe. M. T. Gardner, £. F. Church and D. M. Ferry had just started as partners in the seed business and Jim and I worked some weeks for them poking seeds into bags. Three close-fisted, nice men. Jim and I were the only employes then. While there Kirk White walked in and dropped his carpet bag on the counter and inquired for Mr. Church who was some relative. After I had been at work here some weeks Hiram Clark came up from Hamilton to make us a visit and wanted mother to have a picture taken to take home to his wife so she wont down with him to Moore's gallery. She had an ambrotype taken. Daguerreotypes were just past date as photographs had not yet appeared. As we were looking at it in the evening he said, "Corydon (my name was spelled then Corridon) why don't you learn that business; it's just the thing for you." (I ran to drawing and music.) I thought I'd like it but we had no money. He told me if* I would learn the business and write to him he would lend or giv* me the money and set me up. I accepted and when he had gone my mother took me down to Moore's to see what he would teach me for $50.00. We then went to Moses Sutton on Jefferson Ave. who agreed to teach me for $25.00. After I had "learned" and left them Sutton told me an incident. It seems that he wanted a boy to learn the business and assist them, and on coming back from the Post Office he said to his operator Weeks: "I saw just the boy we want today coming out of the post office as I was going in. Who is he? I don't know, didn't you speak to him? No, I wish I had; he was just the boy for us. So in the course of a week the boy went in to learn the business of him. I spent three weeks learning, then bought an outfit of him.

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Interview with Corydon C. Randall

Excerpts from the journal kept by with Corydon C. Randall regarding his life and living in Paris. The interview was contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. Scroll down to the Full Text section below to read the journal.