Irza's art recalls historical J-E area

"Looking Backward" is a regular feature in the Baldwinsville Messenger. Contact McMahon via e-mail at bvillehistory@earthlink.net.

Back in January, I had the good fortune to purchase a remarkable work of art. Like most artwork, its charm derives from its aesthetic qualities. But, there's more to it than that. What also makes this particular print so wonderful is the insight it provides into our past. Entitled "Steam Thresher," it depicts an upstate New York farm near the turn of the century. One of several in the "Vanishing America" series, this etching was engraved by a Warners native back in 1949. His full name was James Irza Arnold, but he was known simply as "Irza."

I became so enamored with the etching that I wanted to learn more about its creator. So, I tracked down Irza's grandson on Cooper Road out in the town of Elbridge. His full name is Albert Hawley Arnold, but like his grandfather before him, he goes by his middle name alone. Hawley lives just down the road from the former family farm north of Jordan, about halfway between Jack's Reef on the east and Cross Lake on the west. According to Hawley, "the place was always known as Outlook Farm, because you can see Cross Lake from there."

Hawley and I have two things in common. First and foremost, we share a passion for local history. Second, we were born about one year apart some 50 years ago. A natural storyteller, Hawley looks and sounds a bit like Garrison Keillor from a "Prairie Home Companion." But, while Keillor spins yarns about the fictional Lake Wobegon, Hawley tells tales about the family farm near Cross Lake. Several concern his grandfather, Irza, the engraver.

Irza's great grandfather was George Hawley (the first) from Warners, of whom I wrote back on Jan. 13 in an article entitled, "The Hawley Home of Highland Farm." His grandmother was George Hawley's oldest child, Susan, who married Benjamin Mitchell Arnold in 1847. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Outlook Farm, where Benjamin died in 1870. Their fourth child, Frederick William Arnold (born 1856) married Laura Ellen Watts in 1880. Hawley said that Fred and Laura's son, "Irza was born in 1887 on the old La Du farm at the intersection of Amboy Road and Herman Road in the town of Camillus. In 1889, Irza moved with his family to Outlook Farm."

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