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Gordon W. Stevens

Gordon Warren Stevens

Born: June 02, 1879 at Athens, Ontario, Canada

Married: November 27, 1901 to Alice Esther Williams at the First English Lutheran Church in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York

Died: December 14, 1981 at Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York

History Written by
Jill Sibson Holmes Russell

My grandfather was born in Athens, Ontario. His father was a blacksmith, and had a shop in Athens for many years. [I have a photo of Abel's blacksmith shop.]

From "THE RECORDER AND TIMES" dated Saturday, April 22, 1933, "Old Farmersville Seen as a New World" by Harry D. Blanchard reads: "...on that memorable second day in Old Farmersville...came two of the nicest-looking small boys we had ever seen. They seemed interested in 'the new boy in the Liddie Sheldon house', but they were shy and he was shy. We gradually edged our way to the sleigh-tracks mid-street and they twain likewise. The older boy shyly asked our name and we told him. He then asked how old we were, where we came from, how many brothers and sisters we had, and a long list of other questions. These two boys were 'Ardie' and 'Gordie' Stevens, younger sons of Abel Stevens and his wife, who was a member of the well known Warren family. Abel ran a blacksmith's shop and carriage-works on Elgin Street, at the northwest corner beyond our new home. Their residence was immediately north of the shop and there was then a well on the street in front of the house, close to the fence. Ardie and Gordie had an older brother, Will, who, like his father, was very fond of racehorses and often 'jockeyed' them at the Farmersville Driving Park, which was located on the property now occupied by the House of Industry. Gordie, or Gordon, is now the father of Warren Stevens, former flying wing and quarter-back, the most talked of football player of the year 1931, now the well known coach for the teams at Toronto University. Warren, it will be noted, gets his Christian name from the maiden name of his grandmother, Mrs. Abel Stevens, who, before her marriage was Elizabeth Warren of Elgin, Ont. On his grandfather's side of the house the descent from Deacon Abel Stevens, the Canadian U.E. Loyalist pioneer, is Warren, son of Gordon, son of Abel, son of S. K. Stevens, son of Rev. Abel Stevens, son of Abel Stevens, U.E.L. Rev. Abel Stevens, son of the original Abel, was educated and ordained in the State of Vermont and came to Canada with his parents, rather than take the oath of allegiance to the United States government.

On an old map located by our faithful correspondent, Curzon Lamb, Upper Beverly Lake is given the alternative name 'Abel Lake' after the pioneer, Elder Abel Stevens....

Well, on that second day, at the hour of high noon, we sealed our friendship with Gordie and Ardie Stevens and many a happy hour we spent playing with them during the year following, until we moved to our new home on Main street east, this friendship being continued for many years by our later chum, Cliff, now Dr. C. C. Nash of Kingston, as recalled to us by Cliff himself when we last saw him. The dear mother of Gordie and Ardie Stevens was awfully good to us always; she was kindness personified and we have many happy memories of the good times spent in her home, when it was too imclement for us boys to play out-of-doors and of the visits of Gordie and Ardie to our own home...."

Elizabeth Warren died when my grandfather was just eight years old. It is said that she "died of a broken heart". Family lore is that her husband had been unfaithful. Shortly thereafter, Abel Stevens moved to Syracuse, NY, following his cousin, Peter Bresee to the Syracuse area where he had a string of race horses. The boys, Wilson, "Ardie" and Gordon stayed for a while in Athens. When their father sent for them they arrived at the train station in Syracuse, one boy carrying the picture of his mother, and another the frame for the picture carried around his neck. They waited some time at station until their father arrived. At first they resided in the Syracuse suburb of Baldwinsville, later moving into downtown Syracuse.

Abel Stevens continued his profession with horses, riding, showing, shoeing and caring for horses. Regardless of how fashionably he was dressed, he always smelled like horses, reminisces his granddaughter [my mother]. He lived in a succession of boarding houses with his three sons. My grandfather, Gordon, only had a third grade education, obtained at the old school in Athens before his departure for the U.S. At age 12 he worked in the Smith Corona typewriter factory in Syracuse. His father was an avid pool and billard player, and my grandfather often found his father in the pool halls late at night.

Gordon met his future wife, Alice Esther Williams, at a church picnic. His Sunday School teacher, as well as his future in-laws, took a liking to this shy, quiet boy whose mother had died so young, and who was left to fend for himself amid a less than normal home life. Gordon was a self-educated man. He loved sports, and surely, if he had had the opportunity, he might have been a sports star himself. Although small in stature, as was his son, Warren, he spent every free moment either attending sports events or listening on the radio the football, basketball, baseball or hockey games.

Early in his married life, he and Alice lived on the northside, her parents living with them. For a while he worked on the New York Central Railroad until his foot slipped while crossing between cars, and his foot and leg were caught in the coupling of the train. After that near disaster, he left the railroad. Gordon's brother, "Ardie" went into the milk business, pasteurizing milk in the barn behind his home on Hartson Street. At one or two o'clock in the morning, the milk would be delivered to the barn behind Gordon's home on Bellevue Avenue, from which he delivered milk in a horse and wagon on Syracuse's southwest side. I remember 'Gramp' telling about the very icy day when, as he was out of the wagon delivering to a customer, the wagon began to slip down a steep hill. The horse bolted, and the wagon came loose and slid down the hill on its side. The horse disappeared. When 'Gramp' walked home, there was the horse, 'Joe', in his stall in the barn. The horse knew the route so well that he found his way home alone.

Because of his schedule, Gordon was rarely around the family. He would leave the house at two o'clock in the morning so the milk would be in the customer's milk boxes before they arose. After his route was done for the day, he came home and was in bed and asleep by early evening.

After the advent of motor cars, 'Gramp's' horse and buggy milk route was abandoned. For a short time, during the depression years, he became involved with a friend of his in the house-building business. They built two houses on Winkworth Parkway, off Bellevue Avenue, in Syracuse.

The Stevens family purchased a home at 1707 Bellevue Avenue, later moving to a home at 1826 Bellevue Avenue. In the early 1930's 'Gramp' built a home at 206 Carleton Road, also on the city's southwest side. They lost this home during those years immediately following the depression. My mother, Dorothy Elizabeth Stevens, was married at the Carleton Road home in September, 1934. I still have the blueprints for the home--a gracious Dutch colonial.

Sometime around this time, and perhaps leading to the loss of the Carleton Road home, my grandfather and a friend invested in a Florida land deal. They purchased what they believed to be land in Winter Haven, Florida. During that era, land sales in Florida was a big business, and unscrupulous people are always attracted to investment deals such as this. After purchasing the land, 'Gramp' and his friend took a cruise to Florida to check out their investment. When they arrived, they found the land under water. After a six months' stay in Florida they returned to Syracuse emptyhanded.

Gordon went to work for Yackel & Rupp, insurance agents, as a premium collector. He was given an automobile, and crisscrossed the city of Syracuse to collect premium payments from folks who notoriously paid late. He worked there for many, many years, retiring at the age of 85.

Gordon and Alice Stevens then moved to 111 Cherry Road in the suburb of Westvale where they rented for 15 years. After that, a one-year lease at 401 Avery Avenue, and another one-year at 411 Hopper Road discouraged them from renting individual homes where one-year leases ended with another move. Their later years were spent at 219 Village Drive, in the Eastwood area of Syracuse, where they rented a one-bedroom apartment for many years.

Alice (Williams) & Gordon W. Stevens
(50th Wedding Anniversary)
Gordon Stevens was a 33rd Degree Mason at the Salt Springs Lodge in Syracuse. He was also a member of the Citizens' Club on James Street in Syracuse. For his entire life he played billiards. I have several newspaper articles and photos of him playing billiards at these two clubs. He was a crack shot, and regularly beat opponents of all ages. After his retirement from the insurance business, he would take the bus from Grant Village to downtown Syracuse to play billiards at the clubs.

At age 96, and six years after the death of his wife, he went to live at the Masonic Home on Bleeker Street in Utica. Although active and vital up to that stage, he became increasingly resigned to his age and lost vitality. He was living at the Masonic Home when he died at age 102.

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