Clara Townsend Hudson

Today’s blog post was graciously written by Matthew Thorenz, the Adult Services Librarian at The Moffat Library of Washingtonville. A few years ago, Matt did a wonderful presentation on some of the amazing and memorable women of Washingtonville and Clara was one of his subjects. Clara shares a monument with her parents and several of her siblings in our cemetery.

Clara Hudson’s photo courtesy of The Moffat Library from their local history collection.

Clara Townsend Hudson was born on January 14, 1899, to William J. Hudson (1861-1946), and Grace Alma Wright Hudson (1864-1950) and was the 5th of the Hudson’s six children: William Hendrick Hudson (1888-1900), Ethel Wright Hudson (1891-1936), David Wright Hudson (1893-1971), Alma Hudson Elston (1895-1990), and William Reeves Hudson (1906-1992). The Hudson family has lived in the Blooming Grove area for several generations, stretching back to Captain Daniel Reeves Hudson in the late 18th century. The Hudson farm was located off of Hudson Road, on New York State Route 94 heading south.

Looking back on her childhood in a 1999 interview with the Times Herald Record, Clara
recounted “As a child, my daily after-school chores were to feed the chickens, gather the eggs,
and bring in the wood for the stove…There was a large cast-iron sink in the kitchen with a water
pump that provided water for our cooking and drinking”.

Prior to the start of World War One, Clara worked as one of the first switchboard operators of
the Washingtonville Telephone Company, later the Highland Telephone Company, located at
the Brewster residence, formerly the milliner’s shop of Huldah J. Little, adjacent to the Edward J.
McLaughlin Store on Main Street. According to historian Edward J. McLaughlin III, Clara, and
Alice J. Hookey Brewster would “sit on tall stools with headsets and answer each client’s call”.
Clara continued as a switchboard operator until the company transitioned to dial and moved to
Monroe. Clara also worked in the Washingtonville school cafeteria, and Star Expansion, a
manufacturer of anchors, and fasteners. One of the more colorful stories involving Clara
however occurred during her time working for the telephone company:

“While walking along the crossroads in Washingtonville I thought I saw a dog walking along the
fence…we met on the school side. He crouched down and I thought it was a little pup and I
didn’t know if he would jump. I had to hurry to get to work at 6 a.m. At the time he was ready to
almost jump, I stood up straight and said ‘it’s either you or me,’ and I sprang towards him. I
scared him and he ran away in the field. When I came to work, I found that a black panther got
loose from a circus”


During the First World War, Clara, and her sister Ethel, volunteered their time as members of
the Washingtonville Chapter of the American Red Cross, which sewed clothing, and surgical
garments for soldiers, and war refugees. Clara’s brother David also served during the war as a
sergeant in the 6th U.S. Infantry. Following the war, she continued to be an active member of
the Washingtonville chapter.

Garments, and surgical dressings weren’t the only things Clara sewed. Beginning after Clara,
and her mother moved to their new home on Main Street in 1948, Clara began re-purposing
19th century fabric scraps to create period clothing for over 100 dolls, all named. Clara’s brother
Reeves was also involved, making doll stands for her many dolls. Clara described her hobby
best in a poem she wrote later in life:

I know it may be just a fad,
In fact, I may be hobby mad;
But deepest pleasure I confess
Comes from these dolls I possess,
They represent so much to me;
In looking at them I can see
A picture built into my mind
Of olden times, and I can find
Myself entranced by Jennie Lind,
Or Dolly Madison’s highland fling,
Or Mary Todd and Frances See;
And many other dolls I see,
With [good] pictures let me roam
And dress my dolls right here at home.
The waxen pattern dolls have untold charm,
Their very beauty would disarm
The prejudice of anyone
Who didn’t love this hobby fun,
So just like going to a show
To run across a doll or so;
But for the interest friends have shown
My hobby would have been unknown,
So please if you are hobby mad,
Get friends to share this hobby fad.

Clara continued to live in her home on Main Street until she suffered a mild stroke in 1998, the
first time she was ever hospitalized. A practitioner of homeopathy, Clara used natural remedies
to reduce side-effects of illnesses that could be treated by medicine. Her first flu shot occured
when she was 95 years old.

Over the course of her long and eventful life, Clara collected family stories, heirlooms, and
photographs. When she passed away on March 1, 2002, she was one of Washingtonville’s
oldest residents. Her memories now reside in the Moffat Library of Washingtonville’s archives,
where they are being cataloged, and preserved for future generations to study.

SOURCES:

Klukkert, Vicky. “Clara Hudson Has a Century’s Worth of Memories.” Times Herald
Record. December 29, 1999.

McLaughlin III, Edward J. Around the Watering Trough: A History of Washingtonville, N.Y.
Washingtonville, New York: Washingtonville Centennial Celebration, Inc., 1994.

“Red Cross Has Helped Many in Past Year.” Middletown Times Herald, November 2,
1935, LXXXXIV edition, sec. 258.

“The Misses Hudson Entertained.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 27, 1921, Afternoon
edition, sec. Social Events.

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