By Jean Bierwirth Bornt
I was born in a little New York State town named Petersburgh on
September 27,1926. The delivery took place on the dining room
table at the home of my grandparents, Frank and Myrtle Church,
my mother's parents, assisted by Dr. Hull and his nurse Mabel
Gardner. I was a breach birth baby and it was a trying time for
my dear mother. I was the first born of Esther Church and Otto
My first home was in Grafton, New York. The house was on the
Dill Woods Road. A former owner had committed suicide in the cellar
by hanging himself from the beams under the floor. My mother was
afraid when she was alone at night. She always heard strange sounds
coming from the cellar. Her dog Marshall would whine and bark
which made her more afraid.
On a warm March day she put me out in the carriage in the sun
and I received a slight sunburn which worried her greatly. I survived
that ordeal in fine style. The next trial was worse than the sunburn.
She decided to walk with me to visit her Aunt Emmajane Weeden
who lived about five miles up a very steep road near Babcock Lake.
It was a balmy spring day and she decided to carry me instead
of taking the carriage, which was a big mistake. A sudden snowstorm
came up with high winds. She struggled up the hill carrying me
and while the wind took her breath away, she was afraid that I
would smother and that we would never make it to Aunt Emmajane's
house. Luckily for us a neighbor man came driving by and picked
us up and delivered us safely to our destination.
My Dad sold that house and we moved into the town of Petersburg.
It was called the "Duffy" house and we lived in an apartment
that had an upstairs. Neighbors lived beside us, Mom's relatives,
Uncle Walt and Aunt Mae and their children. Across the road my
Uncle Ned and Aunt Myra lived next to The Little Hoosick River
bordering on their property. One day Jim and I were playing near
the banks and he fell down and almost fell in the water. I screamed
and Mom came running and with help she managed to get him to safety.
What trials she went through with us when we were young. She always
said that was why her hair turned white so soon, and she was probably
We moved several times in the same town, and my three brothers
were born there. Jim in 1928, Tom in 1931, and John in 1933. Fred
Hewitt's house at the Head of the Lane was Jim's birthplace. Fred
was living upstairs with his mother. He was a photographer and
took many pictures of Mom, Jim and me. Our next move in 1930 was
to Ferdinand Reynolds tenant house by the railroad tracks, where
Tommy was born. Mom was breast-feeding the baby at that time.
Jim and I were playing by the tracks and very nearly were sucked
under the train. Mom was so frightened that her milk dried up
and she put him on a bottle.
The story continues...
Early Years Photo Gallery
Johnny, Esther, Jimmy, Jean, & Otto - July