ANTOINETTE B R O W N BLACKWELL
"New England ancestry of several generations is an inheritance which one may accept with cheerful satisfaction. My father, Joseph Brown, and his father, Joseph Brown, were both born in Thompson, Connecticut. My grandfather served from the very beginning of the Revolutionary War until its close and was made a non-commissioned officer.His health was greatly impared by the hardships he had undergone and after some years he became partially paralyzed and nearly helpless. At this time my father's elder brother, William, had already become a physician, had left home to practice his profession and my father, next in age hoped to become a minister and was studying in the family of a neighboring clergyman while he waited for the moving of the
spirit in true conversion, feeling that the human desire should be augmented by a special sign from Heaven. When my grandfather became an invalid, since the otherchildren, two boys and two girls, were considerably younger, my father felt it his duty to return home and become the caretaker and manager of the farm.
My father's marriage occurred soon afterwards and my mother cared for my grandfather tenderly until his death. My mother was Abbey Morse, of a substantial old Connecticut family, the seventh generation from Samuel Morse, Puritan, who came to this country in 'the good ship Increase' in 1635. She was a natural business woman of much executive ability, able to carry through any undertaking. she had lived in modern times, she would certainly have been a power.
My father left his young wife and three children to serve for in the War of 1812. A few years later, he sold the Connecticut farm, and, partly through the influence of his brother William, who had settled in Pembroke, New York, a small town between Rochester and Buffalo, my father decided upon Henrietta as a desirable home for his growing family. He purchased about one hundred acres of land, with a double log house of six rooms, and later added two adjoining farms of about forty acres each. To this new home my father took his growing family, then consisting of his mother, wife, my Eliza Brown, and four children, two boys and two girls. They traveled in a prairie schooner, moving slowly and often stopping by the way. I was born in the log house at Henrietta, New York, on May 20, 1825, a seventh child in a family of ten children.
One of my earliest recollections is the large kitchen with its loom in one corner, at which the older women wove nearly all the home garments, the reel and the spinning wheel in another corner, and the large old fireplace where all of the cooking was done. I can clearly remember my first visit, taken with my oldest sister, where I spent the night, sat on a little chair on the grass, played with a little dog and ate cake. When we returned home we found a new baby sister. She was a little less than two and a half years my junior. My sleeping place in the log house was with this little sister in a trundle-bed, which in the daytime was rolled under the bed of my father and
When I must have been about five years old, I learned Pope's universal hymn, or part of it. The door of my sleeping room had a heavy cleat across the lower part, and I remember climbing on that and swinging as a child does on a garden-gate. One morning when everyone else had left the room, I began swinging and singing at the top of my voice:
'Father of all, in every age,
In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove or Lord!'
repeating the sonorous last tine again and again. This brought the entire family, the children eagerly crying out 'Nettie Brown, you're swearing, you're swearing.' I stopped in horror, protesting that it wasn't swearing and couldn't be swearing for it was a hymn. I remember today the amused and understanding look on my father's face. We had one family of neighbors whose boys were more or less profane, and we had been taught that swearing was extremely wicked.
In my sixth year, we moved into a new stone house (now 1099 Pinnacle Road) a short distance from the log house on the same side of the road. On the day of the moving we children were required to remain at the old house until most of the furniture had been taken over, with the promise that we should help by each bringing something. The toddling baby was given a tin coffeepot, which he held in both his hands while my sister and I took hold of his arms, each of us holding a full pail in our free hand, and then we marched in a row down the hill to the new house, making a little fete of the moving.
The new house was supposed to be still more or less damp in parts, and my aunt and several of the children slept in the large open attic. The room was so pleasant that we chose to sleep there for several years. At this time the Millerite excitement with the expectation of the end of the world was much discussed. Although none of my family believed in the theory Iheardit talked about, and one night I was awakened from sleep by the sound of heavy teams rolling one after another past our house on the frozen ground. The almost empty room echoed with the sound and I trembled with the belief that the end of the world had really come. Too frightened to cry out, I lay terror stricken until the startling roar passed by.
The month of May was one of many family birthdays. We had three in succession, mine coming first, my brother's on the next day and my father's on the third day. My brothers used to tease me by pretending that I was a day older than my brother and two days older than my father. I remember pondering on this problem — I knew they were wrong, but was unable to see my way out of the dilemma.
Letter writing was much less practiced then than now. Each letter cost twenty-five cents to the sender. There were no envelopes and New England economy covered the inside of the carefully folded and sealed sheet with fine writing to get its money's worth. Once when
my oldest brother was away at school, my father had written him a letter which for some reason was read aloud to the family. One sentence was 'Nettie is the same loquacious little prattler.' The long word was a startling one and a teasing big brother told me that a 'prattler' was just like a 'Tattler. This criticism from my father really hurt me and when this was discovered they began to comfort me so that I finally understood that it might be almost a compliment and not a rebuke, but the phrase has lingered in my mind for over eighty years.
When my second teeth were coming, there seemed hardly room for one of them and Dr. Hazleton, our family physician, decided that if one tooth should be taken out the others would find plenty of room. Accordingly I was taken by my father to Dr. Lewis. He kept a small variety store in the village but his business consisted chiefly in pulling teeth; his implements a sharp knife and a turnkey, by which the tooth was screwed out. I can just remember the little shudder and the resolve to be very brave as I took the chair and opened my
mouth, and then the terrible wrench. Both men praised me, which was some comfort, and when the pain was better my father asked me what I would like him to buy for me. The tempting bottles of red and white candy were in the window and I answered innocently 'I should like a stick of candy.' Both men laughed so impulsively that I was glad to hide my face and wonder what I had said which seemed so absurd. We never had been treated too frequently nor abundantly to candies, but on that occasion my father nearly emptied the jars of candies, giving them to me without a word, and that evening at home we had a festival of sweets for the children.
When I had learned to count as far as thirty the elder children were always confusing me with the forties, fifties and sixties, and I was never able to reach the hundred quite correctly. One morning, when my aunt and I were still dressing in that attic room, she explained to me that fifty meant five tens and that I must follow along with the units. From that moment I could really count.
One day I came home from school to the new house, swinging my sun bonnet by the string, to find a number of old women in deep scoop bonnets in the garden with my mother and my aunt. One very old lady laid her hand on my head, saying 'How old are you, little girl?' 'Five years old', I replied. 'And I am one hundred and five', said the old lady. At a social gathering in that region many years later, I retold the story and one of my hearers said 'That was my grandmother.' The inhabitants of the neighborhood were noted for their longevity.
In my earliest recollections of the farm, much of it was still heavily wooded and in other parts the large old stumps gave a great deal of trouble. When the corn was young and juicy, many little animals came to the cornfields to share the feast. This led to 'possum hunting. Dogs, boys and men all went out in great glee, often bringing home one or two fat 'possums. The feast of fat wild meat stuffed and baked in the great brick oven was most delicious. The cornfields came up near the doors and made hiding places for the children. There was a large 'sugar bush' as the grove of sugar maples was always called, and the spring sugar making was a yearly festival of great interest to the children. A little hut was built in the bush, where some one slept at night and a little fire was steadily kept under the sap kettles. It was delightful to put on thick mittens, heavy clothing and stout shoes and run out to the bush to see them tap the trees, to drink the sap, to see it carried to the large boiler in pails from a yoke worn over the shoulders, and to watch the boiling down of the sap to syrup or sugar. What a luxury to spread the hot syrup on snow where it could be worked over and drawn out tike molasses candy! It was much more delicious than cane sugar candy, especially when visitors came to help us eat it. We roasted potatoes in the ashes and either roasted eggs or boiled them in the hot syrup, and sometimes even brought out the corn-popper and added corn to our feast.
Once one of my brothers gathered a mass of hay and climbing a tall dead tree tied the bunch to the dry limbs, and on a dark night set the whole ablaze. The neighborhood far and wide was aglow, to the delight of many and the alarm of a few.
We had at first a natural wheat farm. Later the land was so much exhausted by this crop that it was almost impossible to raise wheat on it and, as the forest diminished, the new land was steadily put into wheat. The fences were all old Virginia rail with zig-zag corners.
In these we built our play houses, both at school and at home. In harvest time, when the men were drawing wheat and hay into the barn, as swine and other animals often roamed the streets, we children were made useful by sitting in the gaps in the fence to ward off intruders. We were all fond of school, but it was a delightful vacation to sit one in the barndoor and one in the gap, making visits to each other or reading stories instead of going to school Most of us preferred to help father outside of the house rather than mother inside.
The men of our family were dignified gentlemen of the old school. Uncle William was a favorite, who often visited at our house and I was greatly impressed by his long words and high sounding prayers, one beginning 'Omnipotent and transcendent Deity.' He had a daughter who had become blind through some infection of the eyes. Little Susan was a sweet cousin about my own age and we loved dearly to exchange visits with her. There was a tittle half brother two or three years younger than his sister who was inclined to tyrannize over her, making her give up her tittle chair for his whim and other childish things of the same kind. Our whole group of tittle sisters were up in arms at this injustice, none of us could do enough for tittle Susan and we were inclined to turn a cold shoulder to the little brother, although he could not have been more than five years old. And all our lives our hearts were made tender toward the blind for love of this child cousin.
Uncle William one day introduced into our family a friend of his, a Mr. Manchester a widower with grown children, who to the great astonishment and amusement of all the children proceeded to sue for the hand of our Aunt Eliza. Aunt Eliza was over forty and seemed to
us children as old as Methuselah, and the courtship and wedding was a most unexpected and interesting event.
My father took a weekly political paper The Rochester Democrat, a religious paper The Evangelist, and every reform paper that he knew of, among others The Moral Reform Journal edited by women in New York. We had The National Era from its earliest beginning.
This was the anti-slavery paper, in which Mrs. Stowe afterward published Uncle Tom's Cabin.
My father was a justice of the peace and there were so many small controversies that he had a regular court room at the house and nearly every week held many sessions. I have as an heirloom a bureau surmounted by a secretary with a lid dropped down upon the top of
the bureau. This piece of furniture was supplemented by a high stool so that my father could either stand or sit while he held court.
Our house had a partially enclosed wood-house, in which was a well enclosed by a curb, with a windlass and double chain of buckets. High above the windlass was an open attic running the length of the wood-house. A ladder usually stood against the wall, and, quite unknown to the family, we often climbed up. I generally went first, then the sister older helped one tittle child up the ladder while I reached down a hand and when she was safely up, placed her on some planks laid over the rough ceiling. After all the little ones were brought up, we played house, sometimes all creeping almost over the well, holding to each other and looking down, fearfully, into the dangerous depths. If some one came to draw water we remained as quiet as mice. It was a delightful game until, probably because of discovery, the ladder disappeared.
At the back of the house the cellars were nearly on a level with the first floor. They ran into a hill and a flat roof of boards extended down with a gentle slope nearly to the ground. Here we often played 'farms and farm houses, building the houses of blocks and fencing in the farm lots with sticks and boards. Large yellow and brown caterpillars were shut in for oxen and sometimes toads and other small creatures were added to the livestock. The houses were ornamented with flowers and greenery.
Near the low roof was a large old tree-trunk hollowed out and fed by a pipe from the roof. It was used for a watering trough for horses. Here we floated chips and other mimic vessels and watched the bright yellow, white and many colored butterflies and birds come down to drink.
The most charming of all playgrounds was the forest itself, through which we wandered day after day. One of my delights was to steal away alone and tie on the grass or leaves looking up at the blue sky, or in the evening at the moon or the stars as they came out one after another. It seemed as though I had found a new heaven and a new earth.
Of course we had chickens and hunted eggs, and often had special pets among the chickens. At one time we had a blackbird with a split tongue and we labored faithfully, although unsuccessfully, to make it talk. A dog named Turk helped take care of the children. My youngest brother had a small dog, Lion, much petted by the children and especially precious to us after my brother's death. It was frolicsome and not very well trained, and it had a bad habit of rushing out and barking at passing horses. When this became almost unbearable, and a rumor had arisen among us that neighbors were threatening to shoot the dog, my father one day followed it with a whip, evidently in a mood to punish it severely. Poor Lion fled to the house and crouched down beside one of my tittle sisters. The child threw herself entirely over the body of the tittle dog, shielding it with her arms and saying not a word as she looked up pitifully into
my father's face. He stood with the raised stick in his hand, his face softened, tears sprang to his eyes, and he turned away.
We loved the young calves even after they had grown to be cows. One of my childish ambitions which I was able to realize was to wean some of the calves when they were taken from their mother and taught to drink milk for themselves. Warmed skimmed milk was prepared and I put my fingers into the calf's mouth and held its head down to the milk. It would first drink sucking my fingers; gradually I would withdraw my hand and the calf would go on drinking for itself. The feel of the tittle calf's rough mouth on my small fingers comes back vividly to this day.
We also partially tamed various squirrels and chipmunks. Little 'Brighteyes', a chipmunk who lived in a stone wall, would come out and look at us whenever we began to talk to it, to sing, or to recite something, but it would dance back again if we stopped speaking. Lambs and colts were petted friends, and we often brought up the cosset lambs which followed us about until they were grown sheep. An old horse almost past service was allowed to wander about feeding on the grass by the roadside. It would sometimes disappear for days foraging for itself and then return home to be received with pleasure and pettings. We thought little pigs were extremely pretty but were not fond of the mothers, living in muddy styes, eating unsightly food, and sometimes breaking out of bounds and making trouble besides damaging gardens and cornfields.
To have these pretty gentle creatures disappear, and especially to know that they were to be put out of life or sold, was a cause of real suffering to young and old. We children found it impossible to enjoy eating any part of a chicken which had become to us an individual to
be loved and fed from our own hands.
At one time the Government tried to promote the cultivation of silk worms and offered to supply eggs to any one who would undertake the experiment. We had one large and flourishing mulberry tree, which had been planted before my father's time and grew in a pasture some distance from the house. We children were eager for the novelty and agreed to gather the leaves. Shelves were prepared in a small room, the eggs were hatched and the whole family liked to watch the worms eat the leaves. They generally began eating at the edges, their mouths opening and their heads lifting in a peculiar way. When they began to weave the cocoons, that too was interesting. But to scald the poor creatures when they were quietly tucked away in their cocoons was so distasteful that they were often left to gnaw their way out and spoil all prospects of silk making. The experiment was not a money making success to us and was soon
Fruits and fruit trees were less subject to destruction by insects than today. The virgin land was more productive for all kinds of vegetation and the enemies of plant life much fewer. 'Old crookback' was a favorite friend. It was an apple tree which had become much bent in its childhood and had formed a large head. Even a small child could easily climb this tree and as it was of thrifty growth it would sometimes hold four or five children at once. It was a lovely shady
place for one child to go alone and enjoy a quiet hour of reading. Another tree produced fruit on some of its branches in which the same apple was partly sweet and partly sour, sweet stripes or layers and then sour, and so repeated. The apples were light in color, partly greenish, the other part much yellower, so that we knew at a glance which part would be sweet and which sour. We children believed this phenomenen was produced by carefully splitting two grafts of equal size and binding the two split faces together before grafting them together into the tree.
We children took great interest in the occasional household labors, which added greatly to the variety of farm life. I recall the making of tallow candles in the kitchen. Two chairs were laid down on their faces some distance apart, connected by two long parallel poles. The
candle-wicks had previously been hung upon round sticks, a dozen or more on a stick and these were hung across between the two poles. A kettle of boiling mutton tallow was brought and one stick at a time was lifted off, the wicks dipped into the tallow and that stick hung back in its place, and so on until the whole long line had been once dipped. This operation was repeated until the candles had grown large enough to be allowed to cool and put away. We children watched the operation with enthusiasm, and although, to our great regret, we never could be permitted to dip the candles, we were sometimes allowed to have short wicks and little sticks of our own and make candles for ourselves after the others were finished. Later we had a set of tin candle moulds.
Another operation was the yearly making of soap. A barrel of wood ashes was set upon logs, water was poured in at the top and a pan was placed below it to catch the lye as it dripped out from the bottom of the barrel. Then the accumulated grease, which had been saved from the various culinary processes, was put into a large kettle, the lye was poured over it, and a vigorous stirring commenced. After a time a clean soft soap was made and occasionally a pot of it was carried on into a hard soap.
One of the current industries of the neighborhood was the dyeing of yarn, which was afterward made into clothing. We had an old blueing pot, a dark brown dye made of butternut shells or bark, and several other dyes of a brighter color — one was a purplish hue, made of poke berries. At one time my mother had a large quantity of different colored yarns which she herself wove into woolen cloth, which was afterward manufactured into the childrenJs dresses. We and all the children at school thought it extremely fine and there was enough of it to last for several years, one child often taking the outgrown dress of an older one. In the summertime we wore cotton
clothing, sometimes the colored product of home manufacture, sometimes a cheap calico purchased at the store.
At that time the preserving of fruit in bottles was not customary. Instead, we dried in the sun or before the fire apples, pears, plums, peaches and pumpkins, the pumpkins being pared and hung in sliced rings from poles or laid upon earthen platters. We made sweet preserves with sugar enough to keep them from fermentation. There was always a high brown earthen pickle jar of cucumbers made in the fall and smaller vessels of pickled onions, beans and other vegetables.
We had a long cheese room, with shelves, and at some seasons of the year cheeses were made in a large tub, the white curd beautifully attractive. We enjoyed seeing it, eating some of it and drinking the sweet whey. We watched the curd which was cut into pieces, drained and put into the round cheese moulds. Another treat was to be allowed to go into the cheese room and see the cheeses rubbed and turned after they were taken out of the moulds. They were generally covered with a thin cloth to preserve them and once every day rubbed over with some preparation of lard and turned from one face to another so that all might dry evenly. These cheeses were in part eaten at home, but many of them were sold in Rochester.
There was also butter making in a large old fashioned churn with a dasher which moved up and down. When we were old enough to lend a hand that operation was not especially attractive, but it was pleasant to see the golden butter taken out, worked over and after a time made into balls or long rolls. Then there was the baking. The large old fashioned brick oven was heated carefully until it was the proper temperature and the drawing out of the mass of red coals was a rather fearful and sometimes startling spectacle which had its own fascination. Afterward large
batches of bread, pies, a cake, often a roast of meat or a pot of beans were put in the whole shut up until they were baked. The pies and cakes were always placed at the front and taken out first.
In these days it is thought that the farm is a place for a dull and monotonous life. To me it is in memory, and I believe it was then, a place of perpetual variety and it looms up in my memory like a far off fairyland.
We had two large apple orchards and smaller fruits of many kinds. I can remember the ground almost covered with delicious peaches which it would not pay to market, and we children were privileged to throw away any peach which did not prove of first quality after it was bitten. We had peaches, early and late; plums, white, blue and purple; pears of several varieties, and cherries, gooseberries and currants. Fruit gathering was often made a family pastime. Dozens of large apple barrels standing under trees, boys up in the trees with baskets, little girls picking up the fallen fruit, and my father putting away carefully into barrels, presents one of the vivid pictures of that attractive past.
Another picture is an evening when the large family was gathered about the table with its several tallow candles, the older children studying their lessons, the women of the family sewing or reading, one brother with an iron candlestick with a hook at the top hung over a chair, slate in hand ciphering, my father with two kitchen chairs turned on their faces and an old scythe suspended between them, he seated at one end of it with a large basket of corn at his side, shelling it upon the edge of the scythe. The cobs were thrown to one side and eagerly seized upon by the smaller girls for cob houses. Soon a tall brother left his books and made us a mimic
church with a long cob for the steeple, the whole so tightly pressed together that we could lift our little meeting-house by its steeple, and when it finally fell apart the scattering of the cobs was another source of merriment.
Wood was so abundant in those earlier days that it was almost a relief to see it disappear in aglow of light in the great open fireplace in the kitchen. This was the day of the tinder-box, before lucifer matches had been invented. Our method was to keep the fire for a month together in cold weather. At night the large partly burned back log and a few half burned sticks were packed together, the whole covered with ashes. In the morning it was raked over and made alive again. But at long intervals the fire would burn itself out before morning, and on such an occasion one of the boys would go with a long handled warming pan to gather live coals from a neighbor and start the fire afresh. This warming pan was used in winter to iron the bed smoothly between the sheets making it warm for the children and I suppose for the grownups.
The weather was often very cold and we had only the kitchen fire and a stove in the other large room on the ground floor. The heating pipe went up through the ceiling into the room of father and mother and warmed the sheet-iron dummy, which kept the room comfortably tempered. The little girls brought their clothing into mother's room to dress in the morning, but the older and hardier boys braved the cold as best they might. I remember the arrival of the first tin oven, which was placed before the fire to bake the bread and meat. I can also just recall the pushing out of the long iron crane and the hanging upon it of the roast of beef, mutton or sometimes
venison. This was to be slowly turned to the fire while the dripping fell into a pan below. This was an infrequent way of cooking. At last there came the regular cooking stove and the large fireplace was closed up, and about the same time came lucifer matches.
We generally had one maid of all work, sometimes a neighbor's daughter and at other times brought out from Rochester. She also was a member of the family. It was a thoroughly democratic neighborhood, where none was rich and none was very poor. Visiting, not over frequent, was entirely informal, the women simply dropping in for an afternoon without sending word in advance. Other work was put aside and sewing or knitting taken up and the afternoon chatting began. When about time for tea, a quick fire was built, cream biscuits were put into the oven, the table was laid with the company dishes, and sauces and relishes were provided. There
were always preserves, probably one kind of cake and tarts or cookies, sliced meat or dried beef, and sometimes a custard pie. This, with a few variations, was the tea in every family.
My father and mother had extremely different temperments. My father was just over medium height, rather inclined to stoutness, fond of reading and not over fond of manual labor. My father as justice of the peace was known as 'Squire Brown' pronounced 'Square' and was sometimes known as 'Deacon Brown, when he was no longer a magistrate. I can never recall anyone's speaking of him as 'Mr. Brown,' except my own mother; she always spoke to him and about him in that way; he in turn speaking to and of her as 'Mis Brown' the Yankee way of pronouncing the marriage title. They were people of the old school, never 'Joseph' and 'Abby' to each other, at least in the presence of their children.
My mother was tall, thin and extremely energetic when in her usual health. My oldest sister was more than twenty years older than the youngest, so that there was generally a baby in the family and her life was never an easy one, although she superintended her family even when in feeble health. She never seemed very fond of ordinary housework, but I think she really delighted in weaving, as much as we did in watching the flying shuttles and the growth of the web. The routine of cooking and dishwashing is in itself distasteful, but the steady growth of anything new has a charm all its own. I can quite understand how my mother enjoyed the making of something
new and attractive. The repetition of even the noblest truth, continually harped upon for the good of others, becomes almost a burden to one's own soul I remember her carding wool into rolls, but I never recall seeing her spinning yarn.
My eldest sister was thrown from a carriage when a young girl, and the sprained shoulder continued to give her trouble throughout her life; for that reason she did not spin, and I think none of my younger sisters learned. I learned, and liked very much to measure off the right length of the roll and see it draw out to the desired thickness. The girls were all taught to knit their own stockings and mittens, the tittle ones first learning by knitting garters. In the fall we had our daily stint of knitting, so many times around before we were allowed to play or read. We also sewed patchwork, hemmed towels, and learned on over-seams and hemming of sheets. Sewing was always my destination, although the two older sisters enjoyed it and the one nearest my own age was fond of fancy work and the making of pretty things. When an uncle gave us several jointed wooden dolls with china heads, my sister was able to make them pretty dresses
quite to our mutual satisfaction. These were our first 'store dolls' and I must have been nine or ten years old at the time, although previously we had loved our rag dolls, home made with painted faces, red cheeks and dark hair and comfortable to cuddle up with in bed.
When I must have been about twelve or thirteen years old, my father added a new and smaller farm to our possessions. It had a delapidated house which had been occupied by a family of girls and it seemed a marvelous thing to us, they were going away to that far distant west, the State of Michigan. The old house soon disappeared, but on that farm there was a beautiful little brook with green banks on either side and at the back there were still trees and woods, which gave us new and delightful rambles. That little stream has now entirely disappeared and our farm is now four or five farms, each with its own houses, and on one was built a creamery.
On our original farm when it was purchased was a distillery, and some provision in the deed prevented my father from hindering the making of whiskies for a certain length of time. As soon as the lease expired (before my remembrance), he destroyed the old still. It was in the neighborhood of a lovely natural spring, but we children always looked upon the region with awe, as having a bad tradition. My father had become so incensed over the scenes around the old still that he and all his family became ardent iemperence advocates. He was once planning to build a large new barn and all the neighbors said to him 'You can never raise that barn unless you give the men something strong to drink!' His answer was "Then I shall never have this barn raised. No whiskey shall ever be given on this farm as a beverage. At that time all buildings were raised with the help of the neighborhood. My father was determined and went about among the
church members, getting a rather picked group of men. As the time approached, there was a wonderful sense of cookery through the house, and on the morning of the raising the odor of coffee filled the air, mingling with the smell of frying doughnuts, the other cooking having been done earlier. Large tables were spread under the trees,loaded with food, and tea and coffee were ready at the right time. The men ate and drank with zest and good humor, the great beams were lifted heroically, and the whole barn was properly 'raised.' When the wheat harvest increased to larger dimensions, a like prophecy was made 'You will never harvest the wheat without the help of strong drink.' But various drinks were made of water, vinegar and molasses, spiced and flavored, which the children carried out in pails to the harvesters. The men drank freely and did their work satisfactorily. So much for the pluck of a determined spirit! While
the barn was building, the men took their meals in the house and during their absence my youngest brother, one sister and myself would run out to the new barn, climb up the ladders and trot around the highest beams without accident, I going as high as I dared and looking with envy at my older brother and sister on the ridge pole.
I was always fonder of outdoor than indoor work and I loved to tread the hay or feed the threshing machine. Once I begged my father to allow us to ride the horse to plough the corn between the rows, and as no boy was available, he reluctantly consented. At the end of the first row the horse stepped down a tittle decline which was covered by tall grass, and most unexpectedly I slipped over his head. My father said 'now go home,' and that was my only experience as a ploughboy. Summer after summer I was accustomed to go down to one of the meadows some distance from the house to let the cows out of the pasture. They could make their own way home, but I often did walk back with my arm about the neck of a favorite cow.
At other times, I would join my brother doing farm work not far away. At the close of the day's work, he would unharness his team, put me on the back of one of the horses and we would ride home, half a mile along the road. Once my brother, who happened to be in haste, suggested that he ride rapidly on ahead, I to follow at leisure on the other horse. We started satisfactorily, but when he was disappearing over the top of a steep hill and I was at Ihe bottom, my horse decided to join its mate and I was unable to hold him. He went on up the hill, along the road and around the corner with increasing speed until he brought up at the barn door. My feet, both at one
side, dropped suddenly to the ground. Every bone in my body seemed driven into my brain. I think a little more violence would have ended life itself. A neighbor reported the speed at which I passed her house and I was forbidden to ride alone but afterward horseback riding became a favorite pastime.
I was allowed by my father to take the place of one of the men with the threshing. The home-threshing machine was turned by the horses going around in a circle and I was allowed to build up straw stacks, or at haying to put hay in the mows. For such services, my father insisted on paying me. It was delightful to earn this first money, and equally so to spend it on my own dresses, with a feeling of personal independence. My youngest brother was five years my senior. It was convenient to have a little boy about the farm, and I was that little 'boy.
My father was always desirous of having the best and newest machinery both in the houie and on the farm. I remember a corn-sheller, a machine turned by a crank; on the top was a hopper into which the ears were poured, the crank was turned and the corn and cobs thrown out upon the barn floor, the corn to be afterwards gathered up and taken to a mill about a half a mile away; a toll of meal was paid to the miller for grinding, and the remainder was brought home, often bran and meal together. Sometimes it was fine meal and sometimes samp, but it always had to be sifted before using. A little later came a machine for cutting up corn-stalks and
other coarse fodder, thus enabling the cattle to eat much more of it than would otherwise have been possible. My father said that the machine paid for itself in a year.
In the house we had washing machines and whatever was supposed to be of assistance to the women. At a later date there was brought into the house a spinning-jenny. It had nearly or quite a dozen spindles. By moving some mechanism, the top slid back on rollers, drawing out a long thread, which was then twisted by hand and reeled onto the spindles. Sometimes a thread broke and then the whole mechanism was stopped until the break was mended. This was never a favorite method of spinning in the family. I am not sure that the spinning-jenny was not taken on trial with a possibility of return if not approved. This was about the time when the factories began to destroy home industries of that class and soon after our clothing was no longer home spun or woven."
excerpt from "Henrietta Heritage" by Elenor Kalsbeck page 233
The following account was written by Antoinette Brown Blackwell and sent by her grandson, Horace Beebe Robinson, for the Henrietta archives.