HERBERT EUGENE GLEASMAN
A Remarkable Man Respected By Many
Herbert Eugene Gleasman was born 3 May 1879 in the family homestead on Gleasman Road in the Town of Ava, Oneida County, New York and he was the seventh child in a family of ten children belonging to Christian and Caroline Senn Gleasman.
While attending the Oneida County Fair in Boonville, New York at the age of nine years “Herbie” fell ill and complained of unusual tiredness to the point of wanting to sit and rest frequently. Several days later he awakened to find himself paralyzed from the waist down from polio. This was quite a blow to a young farm lad who was expected to carry his share of the chores and, in other ways, to be useful to his farm family.
Young “Herbie” was blessed with parents who knew that their son must be strong to face the hardships of life while they were here and after they were gone. They treated him no differently than they treated his siblings and they did not let him feel any pity for himself for his situation. It was they who encouraged him to be as independent as humanly possible and to be self sufficient in his livelihood. He was given a 2-wheeled cart and a donkey to help him get around the farm and the countryside.
In time, Christian and Caroline
Senn Gleasman sold their homestead farm to their youngest son Elmer who was
married and was the father of a young family. It was at this time Herbert
Gleasman left the only home he had ever known to go room in a boarding house
in nearby Boonville, New York. He found employment as a harness-maker
with the Cassidy Harness Shop. He later was employed by the Phillip
Snowshoe Manufacturing Company and learned this trade that helped augment his
income throughout his life.
In these early days circa 1912 he used a wheelchair to get about and had to wheel himself nearly a mile to and a mile from work daily even during the severe snowy winters for which Boonville was known.
Indoors, “Herbie” used his hands to get himself around. Using 2 wooden blocks in his hands he dragged his body, with his legs tucked underneath, across the floor. This physical exertion resulted in his having extremely strong upper arms.
On his farm and on his woodlot, these muscular arms allowed “Herbie” to grab a tree limb and to hoist himself up in rapid fashion. He then either sawed off tree limbs for fire wood or picked apples for jellies and sauces. (According to a grandniece, Sharon, “Uncle Herbie” also made the most delicious strawberry jelly.)
During World War I and World War II Herbert Gleasman worked in defense shops in Rome, New York. Afterwards, he followed the snowshoe making trade for over fifty years while also engaging in poultry farming, and taxidermy.
In the 1950s Herbert Eugene Gleasman’s farmhouse, which was located on the Stokes Road between West Branch and Ava, New York, housed his Gleasman Snowshoe Factory. This somewhat dilapidated farmhouse was a popular spot for hunters and outdoorsmen from areas of northern and central New York.
Gleasman’s snowshoe, which he called a “Canadian half mulley”, was considered by him to be superior in quality to such popular snowshoes as the “bear paw” and the “pickerel”. The “bear paw” was originally made by Native Americans and the “pickerel” resembled the fish for which it was named. His snowshoes, bought by numerous hunters, were to be found all over the upper part of New York State.
“Herbie” Gleasman rarely talked about his handicap and exuded an aura of wanting neither pity nor help. He lived in an austere, old-fashioned farmhouse with no telephone and had limited contact with the outside world. He was a practical man who did not believe in reading fictional accounts, preferring to read “what was real life”.
Being a man with the spirit of an old pioneer, Herbert Gleasman valued his independence and took great pride in his self sufficiency having made his way in life for nearly seventy-nine years depending solely upon his own resourcefulness and ingenuity.
In late September of 1958 Herbert’s strong heart and arms began to fail him so he went to live with his sister Laura, a widow, in the City of Corning in Steuben County, New York. Two weeks later on 12 October 1958 Laura was awakened to find her brother “Herbie” in great distress. Asking him if he was dying “Herbie” replied to Laura, “I think so”. Funeral services for Herbert Eugene Gleasman were held at the Trainor Funeral Home in Boonville, New York and he was buried in Boonville Cemetery alongside his parents.
Herbert Gleasman, an independent man, was a symbol for others. He was able to rise above his handicap and to make a good life for himself.
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