October 7, 2023
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Family genealogy collections and books are cherished histories that connect the dots in ancestral lines and prove reference for future generations. We should know where we come from.
But when someone researches and toils for a very long time – a few years – and comes up with such a collection that isn’t just about one family, its tangents and roots, but becomes a history of place and time affecting many unrelated people, well then that is special fruit.
Special fruit literally. Beverly Schultz Csordas, whose mother was Margaret Concklin Schultz of the well-known fruit farming family in Pomona, N.Y., has compiled “The Olden Days, My Mother’s Family History, 1594-1997.”
It is a well-documented review of the Concklins, from English times – the first Concklins (John and Ananias Conklin or Conkling) coming to America about 1637 from Nottinghamshire – to Nicholas arriving in what became Rockland. He walked on foot from Haverstraw to what is now Pomona after crossing the Hudson River from Westchester in 1711.
Nicholas is famous beyond the Concklin Family for beginning what is now the beloved Orchards of Concklin with 400 acres from Kakiat Patent, Lot. No. 1, now operated by Richard Concklin and Scott Hill, whose late mother Linda was a Concklin. The fruit farm, which once extended to the Rt. 202 area of Mt. Ivy, remains productive today off the South Mountain and near the magical arts colony of the road that bears the mountain’s name (Maxwell Anderson, Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya and more.)
Although Beverly’s book is principally a tribute to her mother;s heritage and to her own (she recalls as a child asking her Mom to tell her about the “olden days”), the deep research this genealogy required has led to a partial road map of the Native-American, pre-Revolutionary War land that became Rockland in 1798; the thousands of early county farms; the farmers’ crafty ways of survival, which included being smithies, carpenters, mechanics, etc.; and the mass supplanting of farms hand dug from the county’s rocky soil by the bulldozers that scooped out holes for the basements of 1950-on suburbia and “progress,” a debatable term given much unplanned growth, however inevitable.
In that, the book is a tribute to all farmers in Rockland, for it was they who developed land and sustenance for settlers upon settlers, truly into the deep 20th century.
Margaret, 1908-1997, was the daughter of long-time farmer Ervin Raymond Concklin and Leah Hannah Miller. In 1936 she married Theodore F. Schultz, founder of the present Schultz Ford agency in Nanuet, a business since the 1940s, once operated by Beverley’s brother Ted L., and now by his children Traci Ann Brega and Craig Schultz.
Margaret and Ted began their married life in the home where she was born and across South Mountain Road from the family farmhouse. True to upbringing and taste, both Ted and Margaret kept a large vegetable/flower garden, canned fruit from the farm and otherwise participated in rural life, church (Dutch Reformed in Spring Valley), the garden club and many other community and social activities.
In 1940, the couple drove Margaret’s parents Ervin and Leah to Florida, with Ervin keeping a detailed diary of the trip, noting farms, Washington, D.C., and other sites along the way. What a journey that must have been in the pre-interstate days with standard-shift, no power-anything cars.
There were educational journeys as well for children Ted and Beverly, arranged by former school teacher Margaret.
In September 1997, Margaret would pass in the home where she was born, almost certainly in the very room, according to her daughter.
It is significant, I will offer, that Margaret Elizabeth Concklin Schultz left earth in the gathering shadow of the South Mountain where fruit farming back to the 1700s has never ceased, where for so long great artistry has thrived. Older folk of Rockland will tell you of the spirit that seems alive in the morning fog from the Orchards of Concklin to the foot of the South Mountain, down the twisting road to the hiking path leading to High Tor Mountain and the ways of the Native Americans whose souls are there.
Margaret Schultz’ spirit left her childhood/adulthood home and blended with so many others – those of the Concklins, relatives, other farmers, artists, Rocklanders, all that ever lived and toiled by the South Mountain.
Her daughter Beverly is to be applauded for her book, this tribute first to mother Margaret but in its compilation a history of rural-into-suburban Rockland County. Her newly written tree of knowledge will grow branches that extend way past the next generations.
The book contains numerous diary entries that relate, written in that almost lost art, about life and times in the 1800s and the 20th century. There are cherished and proven family recipes. There are agricultural statements on farming by Ervin Concklin, with his deep mix of book training, on-the-job learning and that acquired through ancestry.
So, not just a fine and accomplished book for one family but a wide look into farming Rockland and living back in the day.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. (firstname.lastname@example.org)