Our trip to Elmira, NY was a visit to the Stermer family eastern home.
Peggy’s father John Stermer was raised in Elmira, NY along with his brother’s and sisters. Elmira is in south central New York state, not far from the Pennsylvania border. Peggy’s great grandfather Stermer had a farm near Lawrenceville, PA which is just across the state line from Elmira. Her grandfather Stermer worked for the railroad out of Elmira. Many of the Stermer aunts, uncles and cousins continue to live in the Elmira area.
A few things about Elmira:
+ Mark Twain’s wife was from Elmira.
+ Mark Twain (Samuel Clemons) is buried in Elmira; his study is preserved at Elmira College.
+ Elmira was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad of the mid 1800s.
+ The area was once an agricultural area, including such crops as corn and tobacco. Now, most farms are small and you might have a hard time finding a tobacco barn.
The Night Before
The night before our arrival, we stayed in Ferenbaugh campground north of nearby Corning, NY. We were followed by lightening, thunder and rain. Turns out, the campground was right across the street from one of Peggy’s cousin Colleen and her family, unbeknown to us. Peggy had been to the campground before, thirty plus years ago and didn’t recognize it.
Aunt Helen’s Place
The next day was a short drive into Elmira and the family re-union of sorts began. It was great. Aunt Helen, Peggy’s father’s youngest sister, graciously accepted us as her guests and we parked in her backyard. Several cousins and Uncle Fred, Peggy’s father’s youngest brother, came by to chat. Most conversations started with trying to figure out how long its been since Peggy had seen them. It had been at least 35 years since Peggy was in the Elmira area; Robert had never been.
Aunt Helen’s children, cousins Colleen, Cindy and Steve, with some of their families, came by. When the Stermer family visited in the 1960s and 70s, Peggy and two of her sisters spent most of their time with cousins Colleen, Cindy and Steve. Of similar age, Peggy remembers swimming, playing 45 rpm records and having a great time. Peggy had a wonderful time catching up. More cousins, more fun.
Visiting Uncle Paul’s & Aunt Dorothy’s Family
We visited with Peggy’s Uncle Paul, another of her father’s younger brother’s, and wife Aunt Dorothy and children (cousins) Debbie, Karen, Tommy, and their families, too. Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Paul took Peggy on a driving tour of Elmira, including Mark Twain’s grave site, Grandma and Grandpa Stermer’s grave site, their former neighborhood and park. After 35 years, you can imagine Peggy doesn’t remember most of it. Lunch was out at cousin Debbie’s home near Erin, NY.
Cousins Karen & Eddie
We were fortunate to have aunts, uncles and cousins as tour guides. Cousin Karen took us to see another cousin, Eddie, son of John’s brother Albert. Then it was off to Harris Hill, one of Peggy’s father’s favorite spots. John would come to Harris Hill to watch gliders and paint landscapes. Harris Hill has an excellent view of the Chemung River that runs through Elmira and Corning.
Karen’s daughter, Michelle, and husband Marco are restoring two historic buildings in downtown Elmira. We took a tour of their “1829 Federal Inn”. WOW! Its a bed-and-breakfast in the making. Peggy loved the huge kitchen among other things. Its impressive what Michelle and Marco have done already.
Thanks Eastern Stermers!
We spent our final night in Elmira parked at Karen’s house. She has a lovely screened in porch so, naturally, we watched the sun go down. It was a wonderful visit to Elmira and refresh so many of Peggy’s memories of excellent times. Thanks to the Stermer family, one and all, for making us feel welcome!