Saturday, December 19, 2009

Francis S. Kinney's Kinnelon: The End of An Era

Cornie Hubner's Didja Know?Continuing on with the tale of Francis S. Kinney's Kinnelon from Cornie Hubner's Didja Know??? Series comes...

The End of An Era

Mr. Kinney's dream of a self sustaining Manor, unique in the Country, was realized when World War I started. The Swiss Brown Cows, now an extensive herd, were winning top prizes nationally and at state and county fairs while the pure bred bulls were in demand at increasingly higher prices as the English Sheep Dogs, still comparatively rare, were becoming popular. The Stables, never in Madison Square competition, were welcomed at State and County shows and the piggery provided aspirants for prizes at the same exhibitions with an active staff and field organization of almost one hundred, the farm, pastures, orchards and greenhouses were producing in over abundance as the woodlands natural inhabitants thrived undisturbed under the care of the "environmental protection" of dedicated wardens.

For sometime after the start of the War, three years before our entry, it was rumored that like many other Americans of German descent, Mr. Kinney shared some sympathy with the German cause, deriding newspaper reports of "Hun" atrocities and outrages. This story soon lost its credibility when he opened his coach house to what was probably the largest personally supported Red Cross station in the state. The entire household staff, female members of the residence, and outside employees' households and local volunteers, tackled the unlimited stock of wool that he furnished, with their knitting needles. Supervised by Mrs. Warren Kinney with a competent teacher, an endless stream of sweaters, socks, scarves and gloves reached the Allied defenders and in increasing quantities when "our boys" arrived to turn the tide in 1917.

Warren and Morris were now in their mid-twenties. Actively participating in the family business and the management of the Estate, Warren was happily married and the father of two children. Business seemed to have little attraction for Morris who devoted his time to nature, hunting, fishing and fostering area athletics. As the "Gibson Girls" influenced fashion at the time of the Century, the "Arrow Collar Men" were the idols of every male over fourteen, for more than a generation.

Both the Kinneys could have modeled for the colorful ads appearing in every magazine, on billboards and in streets and subway cars. Recent and current cigarette ads have copied the allure, but failed (fortunately) to exert the influence on habit, that the collar ads had on attire. Making one of his first appearances, with his baseball team, the six foot, patent leather black hair Morris caused the Butler fans to gasp at the mature man garbed in what was the first pair of khaki shorts that displayed long coffee brown legs in public. Warren, slightly shorter, was lighter with a blond mustache, "the height of fashion" and was occasionally seen in stores on Main Street and regularly throughout Kinnelon on political and compassionate missions.

When War started, Morris enlisted and was a commissioned pilot when we declared war. He saw active service in France, until attached to the staff of Gen. R. Sherbourne, as what was probably the first Air Force Aide attached to a Field General's staff. The Unit was being transformed from Cavalry to Tanks with the assistance of J. Alden Talbot, a close friend of the Kinneys since boyhood. At the same time the failing health of Mr. Kinney caused an increasing burden of responsibility for Warren in the management of the business and Estate. The War and labor needs of Munition Factories attracted most of the irreplaceable young help reducing farming production and seriously affecting maintenance. He spent most of his time participating in National or State Fund Drives, directing County and Local Benefits, opening the Estate for fund raising, Carnivals, Picnics and Athletic Contests. His personal interest in the families of the Military, the poor and sick and his political efforts this end of Pequannock Township, brought him prominence which would be of local benefit a few years later.

Morris returned immediately after the War to throw himself whole heartedly into restoration of the fields and woodlands. He planted several acres of daffodils in the area surrounding the Inn and on both sides of the road leading to Cotswold. (These covered the area with a solid mass of yellow blooms well into the '50s - some still growing on the side of the private Talbot road.) Resuming his interest in the local baseball team, he recruited outstanding players from Butler and Bloomingdale, to field a team regularly playing local teams and occasionally semi-pro teams from as far away as Paterson for the appreciative fans.

Not to be undone, early "Equal Rights" advocate, Mrs. Warren Kinney, formed a girls' baseball team. She provided the equipment and the girls bought their uniforms. The "Bloomer Girls" played with the same hard ball as the men and frequently drew larger crowds.

Warren, recognizing the limited clout of this remote section of Pequannock Township, canvassed the area to obtain signatures on a petition to form a separate Boro. His efforts were successful in February 1922 when the governor approved "an Act to incorporate the Boro of Kinnelon." Mr. Kinney had graciously transferred the name he had given the Estate, to the town and renamed his 5,000 acres "Smoke Rise," a name that appears on documents of the area in the early 1800s.

Personally know to few, but kindly remembered by all, the "Lord of the Manor," Francis Sherwood Kinney, died in 1923 leaving the Estate to Morris.

With his passing, a forty year dream ended. The staff was disbanded and a unique, rare way of life ceased to exist. Much of the history of the new Boro has been covered in books and articles. Recollections of those who witnessed the waning years of the Estate, hardly of historic significance, might appear, entitled "The Fall and Rise of Smoke Rise," soon.

P.S. The auto in the September 1st column would never be recognized as a "Simple." Some old timers might (?) as the "Simplex."


Shar said...

I really like these Didja Know columns. The whole era is fascinating and detailed accounts like this inspire the imagination!

CB Whittemore said...

Sharone, thanks for your feedback. When I first came across these articles, I thought I had stepped into the looking glass and felt it was a shame that others didn't get a chance to have their imagination inspired. Best, CB

Unknown said...

Did you know that Morris Kinney worked on the assembly line at Radio Aircraft Corp. in Boonton Twp., NJ during WWII. According to my father, who worked with him, Mr. Kinney wanted no special treatment, and he donated his wages to the war effort (maybe the Red Cross). I can't tell you much more than that because I was only a child at the time. But, I did meet Mr. Kinney when I went to Smoke Rise with my father to get some plants for our vegetable garden. I was so impressed with Smoke Rise, especially the island church, I can recall the visit as though I were just there yesterday. CRK

Unknown said...

Did you know that Mr. Morris Kinney worked on the assembly line at Radio Aircraft Corporation in Boonton, Twp., New Jersey during WWII. According to my father, who worked with him, Mr. Kinney wanted no 'special treatment', and he donated his wages to the war effort (possibly the Red Cross). I met Mr. Kinney once when my father took me to Smoke Rise to pick up some vegetable sets for our garden that Mr. Kinney wanted him to have. Even though I was only 4 or 5 years old at the time, I was so impressed with Smoke Rise, especially the island church, that I recall the visit as though it happened yesterday.

CB Whittemore said...

Clayton, thank you for sharing that memory. How marvelous that you met Mr. Morris Kinney. I remember reading something about Radio Aircraft Corporation in Cornie Hubner's stories; I need to find that reference. Do you still live in the area? Best, CB

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