“Talby” Button

John Bartlett


     I went to the First Presbyterian Church of Chittenango as a kid.  One of the people who left a mark on me stood about 5 feet tall, was as stout as a stone, had healthy red cheeks, but when we sat down, he was somehow taller than me; a gangly 6 foot teenager.  I look back on those times pretty thankful, as Talby was all about planting goodness wherever he happened to be.  Sitting next to him in church was a lot more interesting than some of the sermons we pretended to listen to.  Today, with the world as it is, I can only remember him as an olden times gentleman who gave and received respect, regardless of who you were.  Without fail, Talby, Bertha, and Betty would arrive at their place in the church, probably 15 minutes or so early, each pleased to be there and pleased to see who else was there.

     Talby truly was an animal lover, but first he was a lover of this life.  I remember going to visit him one Saturday and sitting in what I think may have been a very old Buick, parked in front of the barn.  Talby, his dog, and I just sat in that car, talking about whatever came to mind.  From what I can remember, I think the dog must have been through the routine more than a few times because it wasn’t five minutes later and he was asleep.

     Talby was an ambassador for all that is good.


~  ~  ~



From the “Madison Accent” (Vol.4, No. 27)

The Syracuse Herald-Journal

Wednesday, July 4, 1984:


The Passing Parade

For 60 years, Talbot Button has seen the world grow from his front yard…

By Lindsay Kramer



     From the vantage point of a lawn chair on his property on Tuscarora Road, Talbot Button has seen Chittenango come of age.

     In Button’s heyday, there was nary another house on the road, and the preferred means of transportation employed horse power in its most literal sense.

     “It was a nice place,” said Button, 92, of Chittenango in the early 1900s.  “There weren’t cars, but nobody ever got hurt, they drove horses.      

     That was entertaining to us.  To have a good horse and get out and ride.”

     Button used horses for more than entertainment, though.  For 20 years they were his livelihood, as, along with his wife and daughter, he ran a riding stable on the 110 acres he owned on Tuscarora Road.

     No slouch as a farmer either, Button, a Chittenango native, first ran a farm on Bolivar Road.  Then in about 1914 he came to his current residence, where he ran the farm for someone else for five years and then bought the place himself.

     “This was supposed to be the best farm in Madison County,” he said.  “The land was good.  It was all work land.  You could grow anything here.”

     About 20 years ago, Button sold all but 10 acres of his property.

     “I got too old to ride, and the insurance was too heavy,” he said.

     About a year ago, his wife, Bertha, died.

     “I don’t like to talk about it much,” he said.  “We enjoyed life together.  It is pretty lonesome without her.”

     Button still keeps active, doing daily chores.  Now on the farm to keep him company are three ponies, one horse, one dog, six ducks and 25 chickens.

     “It is a disease,” said Button of his love for animals.  “That is what keeps me busy.  It keeps me alive.  You keep going, that’s all.  You feel good and you have lots of friends, and that makes you feel good.”

     Button’s daughter, Betty, frequently stops by, and there is a steady stream of townsfolk, sometimes as many as a dozen a day, who visit Button as one would visit a historic landmark, or a local library.

     “He is a nice old fella,” said one friend, Mearl Burke of Chittenango.  “You couldn’t ask for a nicer person.”

     Button will wax nostalgic on almost any topic a visitor mentions.

     “That’s all I got, a mind and a remembrance,” he says.

     Some samplings include:

  1. The development of nearby land: “(In the old days) They didn’t come and go, they came and stayed,” he said.  “I’m glad, they (his neighbors) are good people.  But I don’t know many.  All these farms have changed hands two or three times since I came here.  I don’t know hardly anybody.  People today don’t mix with you.”
  2. On technological developments: “When I was first here, we didn’t have electricity or gas.  Now that costs us so much, I can hardly manage.”
  3. On the youth of today: “They used to take a lot of young (prospective) lawyers and doctors and put them out on the farm.  Today, they have enough to do without being on a farm.  They can get so much more money out working (in professions) today.”
  4. On the future of farming: “Some of them will stay with it, as long as they can make a living.  It can’t be dying.  As long as people eat, there will be plenty of good farmers.”
  5. On Chittenango: “It is peaceful here.  Everybody is pleasant and nice.”

     Although he admits age has taken its toll on his physical capabilities, Button claims he is at least eight years away from retirement.

     “I think when I get to be 100, I’ll retire, do nothing,” he said.  “But I will stay here until they take me.”






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