The Amrods live on in Saugerties and elsewhere

Left to Right – Ablen Amrod, Vincent Amrod, Johnny Lahoud, Besher Fadoul.

Family histories have fluidity. In cases like the Amrods of Saugerties (as well as Red Hook, and many branches throughout Dutchess and Ulster counties), they also have elements of the utmost solidity.

Local engineer Ablen Amrod shares the name of a great-grandfather who founded and ran a Sawyer community institution for decades. Amrod’s Department Store started off renting space in the Curry Building on lower Partition Street, where the Brine Barrel is now. Eventually the Amrods bought and moved into 123 Partition, currently home to Mirabelli’s and other businesses.

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The place was old-school, a window into an earlier world, said Hudson Valley historian and Saugerties native Vern Benjamin. “It was a wonderful place, musty but packed full of stuff,” he said. “For a young kid, to go in to that store was something. There were stacks of pants and shirts, but they always knew exactly where your size was. And you were always welcome.”

Ablen Amrod, the engineer, told a family story about how his great-grandfather met his great-grandmother Mary on the ferry that used to run between Tivoli and Saugerties. They’d each come to America from Lebanon, he from a village, Zwar el Hoss, she from the region known as El Bauar. Family legend had them pass through Beirut and maybe Paris to New York City and then to Kingston, though apparently without knowledge of each other. Ablen found work as a peddler, at first with a backpack and eventually with a horse and cart. Mary’s mother also peddled, as her great-great-grandson put it, moving to Tivoli to service customers there. Her name was Bridget Lahoud.

But then Ablen started to look at dates from an account by Mary’s sister, Helen, as well as old photos and ferry accounts. Maybe his great-grandparents visited each other for several years using the ferry.

“Helen was interviewed at one point, and there’s a transcript of what she remembered,” the current Ablen said. “They were all Catholics. Mary and Ablen had eleven children, including Paul, VIncent and Francis. There was a boy, Milhelm, who died young, around 17, diving off a rock at a Saugerties swimming hole and smacking his head. When they were in Kingston, much earlier, they lived downtown.”

When the names of Rondout, Ponckhockie and Wilber get raised, all seem familiar. His family, he added, grew up in Red Hook, where his grandmother still lives. His grandfather’s now in Florida.

“It’s ironic, given that it took us so long to track my great-grandmother back to Tivoli,” he added.

Silvia Amrod and Ablen Amrod in front of Amrod’s

Back then, what was known as the village was down by the river, and not where it is these days. In the early 1900s, what is now Tivoli was called Madalin.

Benjamin talked about the store’s heyday running from the 1920s into the 1960s. He recalled a Petey Amrod, “a kind person with a club foot” who worked with all the local families who needed uniforms for the school at St. Mary’s of the Snow. “He’d help out the children from Cementon, sometimes taking clothes to them, or making deals for those families that couldn’t afford anything. My mother thought he was a saint.”

Ablen Amrod wondered a bit who Benjamin was referring to. Then he remembered family members noted that the original Ablen’s son Francis was known as Petey. He and his brother Vincent, who ended up in New York City while keeping a second home in Saugerties, worked at the store with their father for years.

Ablen also brought up an “Uncle Beshir,” a peddler friend of his great-grandfather whose family, the Fadouls, married into the Amrods. Eventually, the family morphed further into McCartneys, Feldmanns, Lawlesses, Lahouds and Keeleys, including the famous Saugerties Athletic Association co-founder and sports aficionado Jack Keeley, who helped push through the town’s renowned sports complexes before his death in 2005. His mother was an Amrod, according to Benjamin.

They all get together every few years now, he said, for large family reunions. Occasionally, everyone they rent the American Legion Hall. The tendency has been more towards get-togethers in warmer climates down south, Ablen noted, where many of the extensive clan have relocated.

There are images of Ablen Amrod and his three sons in World War II uniforms, plus a daughter on the eve of her marriage, standing in front of the Amrod store. He told how there were ladies’ and men’s entrances. Helen Amrod Keeley, who lived into her nineties and had a big home at the corner of Main and Market, had kept numerous “treasures” from the old store in her basement. Her daughter, Joan Feldmann, had cared for such items as piles of buttons, department store hats, and Amrod flags. Now “no one knows what happened to that stuff.”

Joan used to run Joan and Eddie’s cafe and deli, “the local hotspot for conversation and coffee,” as he put it.

Vincent Amrod, Sylvia Amrod and Johnny Lahoud

Vern Benjamn seemed to recall it being in the back of what had been the department store, which later became a laundromat.

Ablen Amrod talked about his great aunt Helen’s talk about how her mother’s family came to America as girls in their teens. After enough was raised for passage, one family member would be sent with a younger sibling. Some ended up in the Hudson Valley. Money would be sent back to back to Lebanon and again an older sibling would come across with a younger sister or brother.

“Bridget Lahoud, my great-grandmother’s mother, had four children in Lebanon who she got over here, and then more once she was in Kingston and Tivoli,” Amrod said. There were huge differences in age within nuclear families, as well as across the whole lot tied together as Amrods, Lahouds, Fadouls, McCartneys, Keeleys, and Feldmanns. Someone born in 1907, or before the turn of the century, could have a sibling raised in the 1920s.

After several generations the size of families grew smaller.

“In the end, my great-grandfather Ablen had a stroke in his late seventies,” Ablen the engineer said. “That was 1961. Mary, his wife, lived on until 1970.”

The Amrods live on.

There are 2 comments

  1. Dave Hall

    Hello! Thanks so much for this story!

    I, too, am a descendent of Bridget Lahoud, who came to America in the 1890’s and who, after raising money selling notion off her back to the great mansions on the East side of the Hudson River, brought first her husband, then her children over from Lebanon, one by one, as she could afford to.

    According to family lore passed on to me by my mother Jean Lahoud, who grew up in Saugerties, Ablen Amrod courted her aunt Mary Lahoud when she lived with her parents in Tivoli, crossing the frozen Hudson on foot from Saugerties during the winter to do so. As with all family stories, there are many variations on this one I’m sure, and we can’t be sure which version is true, but this one always struck me as kind of romantic and exciting!

  2. John (Jack) McCartney

    Jack McCartney

    What a fantastic and great article!

    My mother, also (Bridget) was a Lahoud. I knew my mother as Betty or Bessie to all as I was growing up. Now, lo these many years later my geneaology juices have once again been stirred.
    I’ve recently come across the original marriage document for my father John Aloysius McCartney and my mother, February 23, 1925.
    I was born February 6, 1934… During the war years I briefly lived with Uncle Joseph & Aunt Gabrielle Lahoud. Lived with the Amrods at 123 Partition Street, again for a short time. Finally moved in with Grandma (Siti) Lahoud. All this about December 1940 and 1941. Grandma spoke very little English, as I recall, but made herself understood.
    Many memories come flooding back of those years; especially the return of my Uncle Johnny (Lahoud) who made sure I studied my lessons, daily.
    Incidentally, all this came about by the passing of my Dad in October 1939. Everything then was in flux. Mother had cancer (her first of many bouts); we children found ourselves in a ‘Shelter’ until near Christmas, when four of my sisters were sent to Mother Cabrini’s orphanage (upstate NY) and I to Saugerties.
    This sounds so melodramatic… We none of us, went hungry, clothed or loved. It was just life.

    I now live in St. Louis, Missouri with the love of my life, Mary and most of my children nearby, with one galavanting aound the globe, and he gets paid to do it! Makes his home in Amsterdam.

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