Monday, August 10, 2009

Kinnelon Estate of Francis S. Kinney - Part IV

Didja Know?Here follows Part IV of the "Kinnelon" Estate of Francis S. Kinney -- in what is now Smoke Rise in Kinnelon, NJ -- as described in Cornie Hubner's Didja Know? series.


The fantastic promises of the incredible improvements expected in the rapidly approaching twentieth century were anticipated by the Kinneys. There were accounts of what could have been the first electric power generator whose spasmodic power produced a miraculous brilliance from many windows of the "Cottage" in spite of a sputtering flicker. More and better telephones provided immediate contact with all buildings from the Superintendent's office where a clicking monster typewriter noisily proclaimed its efficiency. Much improved amplified sounds of voices and music supplied the evening entertainment from the first fragile disc platters that replaced the wax cylinder records of the "Victor" talking machines. ["His master's voice" was the famous slogan of a "Victor" ad that pictured a fox terrier with turned up ears at the open end of the megaphone that amplified the recreated sounds.]

The family spent more and more time at the "Cottage" leaving only for summers at the shore and trips around the country and abroad. The children were at exclusive schools returning for life they enjoyed at what had become a completely self sustaining hamlet. Their interest in the welfare of their neighbors and the well being of the township made them welcomed neighbors. Except for the added help at harvesting time, a full staff was maintained all year. Plans were made for new buildings and expanding facilities for the increasing herds of the blue blooded animals now beginning to be exhibited.

The 5,000 acres, stocked by Nature with an inexhaustible supply of game from the surrounding wilderness, was a hunter's paradise. The entire family's interest in the sport led to a gradual increase in the number and variety of canines from terriers to hounds. "Trick" and "Jack" were terriers mentioned in the 1893 log - "Jack drew coon out of 3 foot lengths of 8 inch pipe, arranged for the test and fought it close and hard in the open - showing good spirit. Trick failed to go in pipe and little pluck in the open."

A few days later - "Tried the terriers on 20 rats - they killed them in fair shape." If one wonders where the rats come from, another entry "Call from Mrs. Kinney - something moving in her room - brought the dogs - they killed a rat," an invader from the nearby stable. Terriers were again mentioned when "a mink running about the house, was finally shut in the game room, where the dogs killed it." The Kennel, building 17, was built and a professional trainer hired after three pointers died when three other of the same litter were thriving in homes of the friends to whom they were given.

Several breeds of hounds were purchased and trained for competition and local hunting. Local hunters were frequently invited to match their dogs against the trained blooded hounds in "Coon Hunts," which they often won. A triumph of tender loving care over the disciplined blooded hounds, joyfully celebrated by the amateur trainers. An ancient oak, west of the North Gate, reminded an old timer of a terrifying night he spent, as a boy, high up in its branches, after dislodging the coon, an unable to find his way down until dawn.

Lake KinnelonActivity reached a peak, just prior to World War I, with the introduction of the hitherto unknown breed to American Dogdom. According to this story, one of the Kinneys visiting England fell in love with a pair of blue grey long haired puppies. He hired a bi-plane for the hazardous flight over the Channel to France where, with other stranded Americans, he boarded one of the last liners, with his puppies, just before the fall of France. Attracting immediate attention, more were brought to an awaiting market by returning seamen on their submarine threatened return from delivery of vital supplies. The beautiful animals, while not as large as a Panda, were viewed much as we might today react to one of the Chinese beauties on a lead on Fifth Avenue. The English Sheep Dog was listed officially a few years later and became the favored breed in the Kennel that then contained more than 100 canines of various breeds.

While fostering all wildlife, folklore reveals Mr. Kinney's dislike snakes. If you've wondered about the absence of reptiles you might be inclined to believe that, unlike St. Patrick with his miracle, the Kinnelon population was banished in a practical way. The Estate Superintendent was authorized to pay a bounty of 25 cents (2 hours pay in the 1890s) for the head of every rattlesnake or copperhead caught by the workers. It undoubtedly led to the reduction of the reptiles inside and outside of the gate. A true story is told of a bridge playing Smoke Rise Club group, one of whom saw a snake directly outside of the screen of the porch on which they were serenely playing. A call to the gate brought a rescue force that removed it and reassured the players that it was harmless. A visiting player disagreed saying it was a diamond back rattlesnake because "it had to display diamonds to get past the gate."

Much of the information for these articles was obtained from logs and diaries up to 1895 from John Talbot's Library and descendants of employees of the Estate.

Future stories of the Kinney Family and the Smoke Rise Club will continue in the column which again encourages your participation in the midmonthly edition.

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