Weather prophet used moon signs
Cousin George Henry Casabonne was a farmer, stonemason and factory worker who was famous for his long-range Mohawk Valley weather forecasts.
Born in Northville in 1886, Cousin George used lunar phases, the size and prevalence of woolly bear caterpillars and his own weather records when he created his seasonal forecasts. In his last winter forecast, Casabonne said he based his predictions on the “sign of the moon like the Indians did.”
He believed that weather conditions had never been quite the same since calendar makers crowded 13 lunar phases into 12 months.
Casabonne burst onto the local media scene in the 1930s following in the footsteps of a weather prognosticator called Uncle George Van Derveer of the town of Florida.
Cousin George became the darling of the regional newspaper and radio media and lived long enough to be featured on television. He was in demand as a fiddler and caller at square dances, although he took some ribbing because of the squeaky sound of his violin.
He serenaded downtown Amsterdam shoppers with his fiddle and appeared as Santa Claus at Christmas parties. He played the harmonica and the Jew’s harp and could clog dance and tap dance.
As a stone cutter he was said to have cut stone for the old Montgomery County courthouse in Fonda, using stone from the old Erie Canal in Fort Hunter. Cousin George also was reported to have the ability to dowse for water using a divining rod.
He maintained a farm on West Line Road in the town of Charlton in Saratoga County for many years before moving to his daughter’s home on Lyon Street in Amsterdam. Until 1951 he also worked at General Electric in Schenectady.
Former Recorder and Gazette reporter Steve Talbott said his desk at the Amsterdam paper was closest to the door in the 1970s when Cousin George was ending his run. Talbott tended to receive incoming news releases first, including the annual fall visit from Cousin George with the winter forecast.
In early years the weathercaster drove a beat-up 1922 pickup truck to the newspaper to deliver his forecasts. In 1973, Cousin George’s daughter drove him to the paper. When asked about her father’s health, his daughter looked down sadly and said he was not well.
On March 16, 1974, Cousin George sent his granddaughter to the Recorder with his spring forecast the day before he was admitted to Amsterdam Memorial Hospital.
The newspaper reported, “Cousin George’s last forecast was among his best, and ‘right on the button.’ ” That phrase was one of his favorites. He died March 21, 1974, the first day of spring that year. Snow turned to rain as he had predicted. A member of St. Mary’s Church, he was buried at the parish cemetery.
The newspaper wrote, “Wherever there was to be fun and activity, Cousin George was likely to turn up.”
Historian Hugh Donlon has reported that two lunch wagons were popular in downtown Amsterdam from about 1900 to the 1920s. The wagons were operated by the McNally family, who stored them during the day at sheds near what is now the post office on Church Street. Each night, teams of horses pulled one wagon to the corner of Church and Main and the other to Market and Main. The Church Street chef was Matty Curran and the Market Street cook was Allie Goffin.
“Wafted on the summer zephyr or swirled fiercely by the winter’s gale, the onionized fragrance of a McNally western egg sandwich could be sensed blocks way,” Donlon wrote. A western egg sandwich cost a dime, according to Donlon, while a piece of pie was a nickel.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper.