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Monday, January 31, 2005

Uri Mulford-A Rare Breed

Uri Mulford
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Sally Ann.

by Joe Hayes (from the Sunday Telegram, Elmira, N.Y. Oct. 6, 1974)

Have always wanted to write a sparkling story about Uri Mulford whom Frank Tripp called "The Little Giant", As editor of the Corning Daily Journal, Uri was a small man with big courage and I'm afraid that no present-day reporter could do him justice. I'm sure I can't. He came from another school of newsmen--his own.

He would never allow his reporters to use unnecessary words because they were expensive to print, and the Journal type was mostly hand-set, letter by letter. It was said that Mr. Mulford always kept one line in type, a line that he could add to any item about a party, picnic or dance--"A good time was had by all."

Jimmy Barret, a rival newsman who ran the Corning Tower Column, wrote, "Uri is so short that he has to sit on a big Bible in order to see the top of his desk." Uri answered, "I never put my rump on a Bible. I put it on a stack of Corning Evening Leaders, which proves they are good for something after all."

More than a hundred men from the rural sections had to be called as prospective jurors for a complicated murder trial in Corning. Uri commented in print, "We can expect a poor harvest this year; so many farmers are wasting their time at the Court House."

Evangelist Henry Stough boasted that he had "saved" Elmira. Uri, a part-time clergyman, said, "I was in Elmira last Sunday and the only things running were four trolley cars, three ice cream parlors and about 50 saloons." Mulford was not impressed when Stough told him that his snowy beard and long white hair made him look like an Apostle. Said Uri, "But I wear pants and shoes."

I never really knew the little man until he became a local representative of the Elmira papers. Then, I frequently visited his cubicle on Pine Street. He told me many things and made his dislike of high-brows and hypocrites very clear. He wished that The Advertiser would adopt the old Corning Journal slogan, "We Stand By Our Friends and Our Friends are Those Who Stand by Us."

Although he never drank anything alcoholic, he had many opportunities. When the natural gas boom was booming in this area, John Arthurs, a well driller from Mount Pleasant, Michigan, invited Uri to a party at this temporary home on E. First St. John began by serving "rickeys", the best that prohibition permitted. When Uri refused to touch the gin drink, John whispered, "I was unable to buy any whiskey today, but I'll get some for you if you tell me where." Uri left the party.

He attended a wedding reception and the mother of the bride gave him a pint of home-made brandy. He broke the bottle on the railing of the back porch. The good woman demanded 25 cents. Uri asked, "Is that all the brandy was worth?" His hostess answered, "That's what the bottle was worth, they're hard to get these days."

Mr. Mulford wrote, printed and bound a 528-page book, "Corning and Vicinity," which is sort of an informal history of our community, now valued at upwards of $25 a copy. A Northside merchant hollered blue murder because he was not mentioned in the book. Uri yielded, "I might have said that you take care of orphans and widows, especially widows."

He was largely instrumental in the construction of at least a dozen rural telephone lines and was extremely proud of one which he said would serve 100 families. Frank Webster called attention to the fact that his new directory listed on 20 phones. "Right," agreed Mr. Mulford. "That's one phone for every five families and that's enough."

If I could remember all of the anecdotes related to me by Uri Mulford, I might have written that sparkling story about him, but I can't. Although he has been dead these many years, he remains my top candidate for Corning's Hall of Fame.

It was part of God's plan

That I'd know such a man,

One who said what he thought,

and who couldn't be bought.

Though at times I could hate

him and often berate him,

I know, now, that he was as right as could be.

A note from Kitty Pierce, Lindley Town Historian: You asked if I had any thing that might be of interest (to post on the blog). I have been reading Uri Mulford's book-"Corning and Vicinity" with the idea of finding some tid-bits of Lindley history.In going through the book which came from Dick's father Harold, I found this article which he (Harold) had apparently put in the book before he died. As you know Uri was a direct descendant of Dr. Ezekiel Mulford and Col. Lindsley. The article gave me a little insight into Uri.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Hayes who wrote the article probably unknowingly influenced my interest in history. He and the Star Gazette awarded me a cash prize for an essay that I wrote as a senior for my American History class. Our class had taken a tour of the County Buildings in Bath . As a follow up assignment, we wrote our impressions. My essay was chosen for the award from the newspaper. I can still remember a State Trooper and Mr. Hayes delivering the check to our house. !!!! During his years as a reporter at the Star Gazette, Mr. Hayes wrote numerous articles about people and places in this area. Needless to say, I always read them whenever possible.

Thanks Kitty....great tid-bit from Lindley's past. Sallyann


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