Cordy Rich sells oil business; keeps busy with Civil War memorabilia

By Cheryl Petersen
“Louise and I bought the Arco Oil business in Delhi, 42 years ago,” says Cordy Rich. “Our family operation delivered fuel oil to farms and homes.”

Citing health reasons in a letter to their customers last week, Cordy and Louise announced that they are selling their business to C.E. Kiff, Inc. of Delhi. While their oil business will soon be a thing of the past, the past will still be very much a part of their present and future. Cordy Rich is a collector of old stuff. Valuable old stuff.

“We kept the garage (on Route 28 east of Delhi where Arco Oil has been located) though,” adds Cordy, as he opened the building door to explain in one visual blow exactly why it was retained: Rich is a collector of Civil War artillery, clothing, documents, pictures, gadgets, gizmos, books, doo-dads, you name it, the place is a cache of knowledge spanning not only the Civil War but also the early history of the United States.

“Look at this,” says Cordy, as he pulls a sword out of an elaborate sheath. “The sword blade is decoratively engraved and embossed with gold and silver.” Displayed on the wall are almost 70 Civil War era swords.

Cordy’s bright blue eyes then move to the row of guns, clean and standing upright on their butts.

Colts among favorites
“I collect Winchesters and Colts,” he says as he picks one fancy gun and brings it closer to view. “This gun was made in 1856, by a gunsmith named A. R. Davis, who lived in Deposit. It was made for Ransom Fish, who lived in Fishs Eddy, and see here, there is patch box art, shaped like a fish, and made with German silver.”

In a safety vault, Rich has an assortment of pistols in all sizes and shapes. “These tiny fancy pistols were held by women in their hand muffs,” explained Cordy. Also exhibited was a pistol issued to General Custer’s 7th Calvary.

Rich then eagerly reveals a peg leg used during the Civil War, and also a full artificial wooden leg. “I work with museums and historical societies and loan items out, in fact, the Town of Middletown and I are working a deal right now for an event coming up in the near future,” he said.
The phone rings. Cordy excuses himself, retrieves and answers his cell phone, asking,
“Hey, got any of those latches to hold the ram rod on a trap door Springfield?” Cordy is always on the move for artifacts.

Local treasures
“I find most of the items right here in the county at yard sales or auctions,” he says after the call. “But, over the years, many people know to bring things to me because they learned I am a collector. Look at this air rifle, it was one like what Lewis and Clark took on their expedition across the United States.”

Researchers and historians have also learned the Rich private collection is a storeroom of information. Cordy opens a drawer and carefully draws out a yellowing paper framed in glass. “Here is a Clipped Document with Abraham Lincoln’s signature,” said Cordy, as he pulls out a pair of glasses to place over the pair of glasses he is wearing, and reads, “February 1863,” the year it was signed.

Garage sale find
“I picked up this Boston Militiaman’s hat at a garage sale,” he says with a respectful grin. “These funny looking hats were important statements as far as an officer’s position.”

“Now, these size 17 shoes are extremely interesting,” says Cordy, as he picks up and holds a pair of shoes fit for Goliath. “The Confederate Army ordered them from Britain for their men to wear on hot surfaces, such as the floor of the broiler room on a ship. The men would place their own shoed feet inside these shoes. The thick wooden sole would keep them from burning the bottom of their feet.” Moving to the present time, Cordy looks up and adds, “These shoes are very hard to come by, they can cost a collector between $7,000 and $8,000 today. To think, some guy walked into the garage here and sold them to me a few years ago.”

Public service
“The place will continue to be open to school children and people interested in learning about the Civil War and history,” says Cordy. “Although the Arco business is sold, my quest as a collector continues.”

Louise Rich, on the other hand, will be spending her time quilting. Taking a cigar out of his pocket, Cordy Rich adds, “We like visiting the grandchildren, and I plan on cleaning out the building a bit.”
As the comment about cleaning the building escapes his lips, Cordy Rich begins to laugh, then inserts the cigar in his mouth and gives it a nibble.