John Leverett Merrill.

History of Acworth, with the proceedings of the centennial anniversary, genealogical records, and register of farms online

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time than a pair of swift horses could be turned around. I inquired of him
who invented and patented that valuable improvement, and was more than
pleased to find that he was an Acworth boy — son of my old friend Ezra
Luf kin ! The same skill here displayed would have invented the steam-
plow, or mowing-machine, had this son of Acworth been a resident of the
Prairie States of the West. Such inventions are a necessity there because
they must raise two or three bushels of grain to your one, being so much
further from market, hence their plowing, planting and reaping machines.
Had Acworth been a cotton plantation, instead of a flax-raising town, so that


our mothers were under the necessity of using and spinning raw cotton as is
done in many parts of Connecticut, for instance, some son of Acworth would
no doubt have invented the cotton-gin instead of a Connecticut Yankee. I re-
member that when a child, I thought it qiiite a task to help half a dozen sisters
pick the seed out of the small quantity of cotton then used by my manufac-
turing mother. If the busy mothers had used cotton instead of flax, the fingers
of their numerous children would not have furnished cotton-o-ins enough.

I will now endeavor to illustrate this last point of my text. The industry
manifested and the improvement made hy your mechanics. On such an oc-
casion as this I may be pardoned, if some of my own personal experience
should mingle with my illustrations. At the time I first aspired to the honor
of being a mechanic of Acworth, the custom of using pegs in the bottoms of
boots and shoes instead of thread was introduced, but how to make the pegs !
They were then made with a knife, and were bungling things pointed only
one way. An ingenious son of Amos Bailey, who lived in the north part of
the town, soon came to our relief by constructing a plane to point them both
ways, and he would bring them in small cards four inches square. Soon he
so improved the machinery as to split the pegs for us; and furnish them by
the quart, and soon by the bushel. See what your sons have done in this
branch of business. Truman Silsby next took up the work which Harley
Bailey had begun, and sold pegs by the hundred bushels. Then Samuel
McClure applied horse-power to his machinery, and now a son of Acworth
by the use of water and steam-power, and improved machinery produces
shoe-pegs by the tens of thousand bushels.

Indulge me with another practical illustration of mechanical improvement
since the early settlement of Acworth. The first settlers were under the
necessity of being their own manufacturers and mechanics. To subdue the
wilderness and cultivate the soil were matters of the first necessity. I have
alluded to the primitive custom of our fathers in having shoes and garments
made in their own families, and of employing "itinerant" shoemakers.
The shoemakers who went around from house to house, were very unpopu-
lar with such as were shop-keepers, and the term " cat-whippers " was applied
to that class. The custom was soon abandoned. But the tanners were
still longer subjected to the inconvenience of tanning the hides, as brought
to them by the farmers, on shares ; and the farmers brought their own
leather to the shoemakers, which was cut to great disadvantage, and sub-
jected the shoemakers to great inconvenience in keeping each man's leather
separate. At length one of your shoemakers determined to break up this
custom by purchasing stock in large quantities, and working it up to his own
mind, refusing all " measures " unless to be made from his own stock. His
plan at first was treated with derision. " No one would buy sale shoes ! "
The reputation of " salework," was universally bad. Many a sad story
was told of the sufferings of the continental soldiers, without shoes, and
when supplied with new ones they proved worthless. But none of these


things moved our young mechanic ; he declared his purpose was fixed, and
he wouhl make his " salework " much better, than he could do when cutting
from every man's leather hap-hazard, amid the interruptions and annoyances
incidental to tiiat system. And more than this, he would warrant his work
much better, and would sell it twenty-five per cent, below the ordinary price,
on the old system, and leave the question of patronage with his old custom-
ers, to buy or let it alone, — for he could sell an honest article abroad, as
soon as its merits were tested. This suited the tanners, of whom Lemuel
Lincoln was the father. It relieved them of dressing every man's leather on
the shares, and enabled them to tan, dress and sell it in lots. I need not
say the plan was successful ; you have the results before you. It cost a few
struggles, and there were some vicissitudes attending the business for a time ;
but all obstacles have been overcome, and now sterling young men have the
business in hand, and annually distribute thousands of dollars among the
families who aid them in their work. With real pleasure have I witnessed
the skill and industry and improvement this class of young mechanics of
Acworth have made; since my residence in town thirty-five years ago.

Nor is this all I have witnessed I have been to South Acworth, formerly
known as "Parks Hollow." See what your mechanics havQ done there?
They have no broad valleys in that section of the town, nor are their hills of
so gentle a slope as near the center, but the farmers there put the side-hill
plow to a practical test, and to good advantage. And now let me say before
closing, that during all my residence in town, from boyhood up, I never saw
the farms so well cultivated as now, the houses so well kept in repair, as I
see this day. What if you have no water power or railroad center on these
beautiful hills ? You are more than compensated by the healthy moral tone
you can maintain in community, by the absence of demoralizing influences
so prevalent in our large manufacturing villages and busy railroad centers.

Let me conclude by giving emphasis to the sentiment of my text. May
the Mechanics of Acworth live another hundred years ! and when the next
Centennial year comes around, may they exhibit as much itnproi-ement on
the present, as loe noio tvitness on the commencement of tlie past century!

The following remarks were from Mr. Jonathan Eobinson of
Keene :

Mr. President: — I am not here for the purpose of making a speech, nei-
ther do I expect to add anything new to what has already been said. But
as this is the native town of my "better half," perhaps there will be no im-
propriety in relating what I knew of the town fifty years ago. What oc-
curred here a century ago can only be gathered from history. Fifty years
ago this present year I was here most of the time during the year, and part
of the time I was a pupil of your then settled minister. Rev. Phinehas
Cooke, A very competent and excellent teacher he was, and I have often
regretted that I|^ver had an opportunity of thanking him cordially for the


interest lie manifested in my education, and especially in teacbing me the
outlines of Astronomy. Fifty years next winter, I kept a school in town, in
what was then called the Deacon Finlay district, and a very pleasant time I
had ; and while here, from the information I obtained and personal observa-
tion, I believed it to be one of the most industrious, enterprising and thriving
towns in the old county of Cheshire, and for aught I know it is so still.
Perhaps there was no town in the county where the wealth was so equally
divided as in Acworth, and it had the reputation of being one of the best
farming towns in the county. It may appear incredible, but I believe there
has been more dressed hogs, in one season, sent to market from the three or
four stores you then had in this village, than would now furnish every family
in town with a sufficiency of pork — besides leaving enough for your minister.
I was here the winter after your present meeting-house was built, and was
much interested and amused to hear your merchants discuss the subject of
jDaying for the meeting-house ; but after canvassing the town and investiga-
ting the matter, they finally came to the conclusion, that it was no great affair
for Acworth after all, for the town that year raised flax and flaxseed enough
to pay for the meeting-house, and besides give every man and woman in
town a new liijen shirt, and the boys a pair of tow pants. In my school-
keeping here, as the saying was, I "boarded round," and had a very good
opportunity of seeing something of the industry of the inhabitants, and I
believe that some of my boys, even in the mornings before school time,
dressed a number of pounds of flax, but this I cannot vouch for, for the reason
that school-masters were allowed to lie in bed till they were called to breakfast.
But one thing I do know, and I presume many present know by experience,
that as soon as the supper table was out of the way, the big spinning-wheels
were brought out, as many wheels as there were girls in the family, to spin
tow, and the mother with her little wheel would spin flax, and it was buzz-
whiz and whiz-buzz, until bed time. The boys would tend the fire and draw
cider, for Acworth then made some six or seven hundred barrels of cider
yearly, and you know it would not do to let it all go to vinegar. Fifty years
ago next March I deposited my first vote here in Acworth for State and
County officers, and I have never failed to vote in this State at every annual
election up to the present time, and I think I have always voted right.

Of the many hundreds of letters received by the " Committee
of Invitation " we can insert only a few.


Hanover, N. H., September 15, 1868.
Gentlemen, — It is a matter of regret to me, that circumstances connected
with the opening of our college year, will forbid my attending your approach-
ing Centennial. I cannot leave my pressing engagements here.


I the more regret this, as I have not only had relatives resident with you
for many years, but your town has had worthy representatives in our college
and it has had many warm-hearted friends among your citizens.

May the same blessing of the Most High, which for so long a period has
crowned your hills and gladdened your valleys, abide there till the end of
time. Yours very truly, Asa D. Smith.


Franklin, N. H., SeptcniLcr 14, 1868.

Gejitlemen, — Be assured it would give me great pleasure to accept your
kind invitation to attend your Centennial Anniversary on the 16th inst.,
but other engagements will prevent my attendance. You have my hearty
approval of the objects and design of the celebration. Our citizens in our
several towns should oftener meet together, and forgetting the cares and
little animosities of daily life, improve themselves by recalling to remem-
brance the virtues and worthy example of their fathers, who have gone to
their rest.

I have a lively recollection of the lives and character of many of your
citizens, and can bear honest and faithful testimony to their intrinsic worth.
The more immediate object of your celebration will be to revive the memo-
ries and trace the history of your early settlers, and such as have gone down
to the grave, having acted their part well here. It is to such men you are
indebted for your good standing as a town. We hear it said of you that
none of your native inhabitants were ever committed to the State's prison for
crime. Few towns can show so pure a record, and I trust a long time shall
elapse, before your good fame and reputation, so honorably acquired, shall
be tarnished by the criminal conduct of any of your children.

In my youthful days I was accustomed to meet many of your citizens.
While dwelling in my father's house in my native town of Antrim, we often
met those who were claimed by me as relatives or " kith and kin." We re-
member and embrace in the number the Duncans, the McClures, the Dickeys,
the Wallaces and Wilsons. Some of these people were old when I was
young. We remember Col. John Duncan as one of the early settlers of the
town. He was a man of superior ability, possessing an extensive knowledge
of men and things, and a great fund of 'anecdotes. He represented Ac-
worth and Lempster in the convention which met in Exeter, when our State
constitution was adopted in 1792. He was the father of many children,
some of whom no doubt will attend your anniversary. His oldest son, Adam
Duncan, of Barnet, Vt., was a man of good talents and acquirements.
When the spotted fever first appeared in the town of Antrim in February, .
1812, he happened to visit my father's house, and to his sagacity and experi-
ence, some of us were much indebted, because the physicians had no expe-
rience with the disease, while Duncan during the previous season, had seen
its ravages, and learned its treatment in his own town. You will remem-


ber my other numerous relatives as possessing great physical strength, in-
dustrious habits, general intelligence, some wit, and much good humor, in-
clined to hospitality and ready and williug to do their share to promote good
order, and a good social feeling in the respective societies in which they

The Acworth people were remarkable for their industrious habits. We
can never forget the sleigh loads of flax and cloth, among other productions,
which they formerly carried to market. The business of raising, and the
home manufacture of flax, was formerly an extensive business with your peo-
ple, but we regret to say that it has now become one of the lost arts in this
State. It was the source of income to many of your inhabitants, and con-
tinued to be so as late as 1825. Many of your farms, besides producing
enough of other materials for man and beast, raised annually one thou-
sand pounds of flax. The home or domestic manufacture of a portion of
this crop, was deemed indispensable to the support and success of the fe-
male department of the family. Another, a surplus quantity of a good
quality, supplied the foreign market. Now the hum of the little spinning-
wheel, as it stood upon the ancient hearth-stone, plied by our good old
mothers and grandmothers, is no longer heard. These days of domestic in-
dustry and true enjoyment, contributing to good health, and sound moral
training, have been exchanged, to a large extent, for homes in factories, far
from the parental eye, and in ill- ventilated and ill-kept boarding houses.
As a people, we may be richer, but not better or happier.

In conclusion I have only to say, select from the good habits and the vir-
tues of your ancestry, everything worthy of imitation, and let this genera-
tion and their descendants have for their guiding motto. Excelsior.

With much respect, I subscribe myself your well wisher and obedient
servant, George W. Nesmitii.


Fredonia, N. Y., August 13, 1868.
Dear Sir, — As the historian of the town of Acworth, you have asked me
to give you a sketch of some of the old men, who have passed away, and
who were representative men of the town during my pastorate. I now recall
with special interest a few of these, whom I will mention. Among the iirst,
who died soon after my settlement in Acworth, was Capt. James Warner, a
brother of Maj. Nathaniel Warner. He was a man of noble physical person,
dignified deportment, kind and genial in heart, of strong sense and. greatly
respected and loved by all. At his funeral the church was crowded. Daniel
Robinson, Esq., was another of the old men who was marked for strict integ-
rity of character, and purity of life. He had passed through many reverses
of fortune when I knew him, but still preserved his early habits of industry
and enterprise. He was a great lover of order. An amusing habit was
once related to me, illustrating this trait of his character. On retiring to

Sai^-t^^. e/! ^^^c^^' - ^


bed at night, he was accustomed to lay his clothes in such order as
he would wish to put them on in the morning. At the bottom the
boots and stockings, next the pantaloons, vest and coat, and the whole
surmounted with the hat, with which he began dressing. Thus no time
was lost in dressing, and due order was also observed in the meiJiod.
Deacon William McClure was a man of great firmness of character, and
ardent in his devotion to the interests of the town, both civil and re-
ligious, and ready for every good work. Mr. Lemuel Lincoln, father
of Deacon Lincoln, Dr. Carleton, David Montgomery, Esq., Dr. Brooks,
and some others I remember with special interest, as excellent men and
valuable helpers in perpetuating the good influences which have made
Acworth so worthy of a noble record in the history of the towns of New

The Scotch-Irish element predominated in the still earlier fathers, who
were the leading men at the time of the Kev. Phinehas Cooke's ministry.
Mr. Cooke related to me a very interesting incident in regard to " old Capt.
Dickey," as he was then called, showing the tenacity, both of personal opin-
ion and of personal friendship, among the early fathers. Mr. Cooke preached
a close sermon on temperance in the beginning of the temperance reform.
Capt. Dickey was very much offended with it, and with Mr. Cooke. But on
Monday morning, he drove into Mr. Cooke's yard with a very large load of
hay, saying to his pastor, in his broad Scotch accent, as he stepped out of
the door, " I have brought ye a load of hay, for that mad sermon you
preached. Ye was mad when ye wrote it. Ye was mad when ye preached
it, and ye're mad now." I hope you may be prospered in your efforts to
make the approaching centennial anniversary one of interest and profit.

Yours respectfully, E. S. Wright.


Detroit, September 9, 1868.
Gentlemen, — It is with no ordinary degree of pleasure that I acknowledge
the receipt of your invitation, to be present at the celebration of the one
hundredth anniversary of the settlement of the town of my birth, and I
had, as I hoped and believed, made all arrangements necessary to enable
me to be present on the occasion. The very recent death of my brother
Eliphalet Cram of Racine, Wis., with domestic duties, pertaining to his
family and estate, which by his will, making me executor, have devolved
upon me, and my official duties besides, will render it impossible for
me to participate in the celebration. I thank you, and through you the
citizens of Acworth, for the honor conferred by your invitation, and regret
exceedingly my inability to be in Acworth with you in person, as I will
be in heart, on the 16th inst. I have the honor to be your friend, and
very respectfully, your obedient servant, ^ T. Jefferson Cram,

Maj. Gen. U. S. Corps Engineers.



Atlanta, Ga., June 8.
Dear Sirs, — Your esteemed favor of the 9tli ult. I have deferred answer-
ing in hopes that my affairs might assume such a shape, as to allow me the
pleasure of accepting your k-ind invitation, and mingling with my old Acworth
friends in the joys of a reunion of her hundreds of sons and daughters, at
home and scattered throughout this happy land. But I see no chance to re-
lieve myself of the heavy responsibilities that press upon me, and demand
my presence here. I know of no earthly assemblage that could afford me
so much pleasure, and it is with a heavy heart I am forced to deny myself
the great boon. Be assured, though absent in person, that my thoughts,
prayers, and sympathies will be with you, and the thousands who congregate
at that happy gathering. Many will be there whose path verges close on the
other world. Give my kind regards to all my old friends, and accept the as-
surance of my highest esteem and respect. Nedom L. Angier.


Dear Sirs, — Your kind invitation to attend the Centennial Celebration in
Acworth was duly received, and I hereby acknowledge the kindness and
courtesy of my friends. I regret that I am unable to attend the anniversary of
the settlement of the town. The reminiscences and scenes of bygone years
will come up in review, and the cordial greeting of old friends will enhance
the pleasures of the occasion. But I must forego this great pleasure, on
account of age and infirmity. I think I was highly favored in having my
birth and education in dear old Acworth. " How dear to my heart are
the scenes of my childhood." From my father's farm on " Derry Hill "
the scenery was grand and beautiful in every direction ; on the west from
Ascutney far to the south, the beautiful Green Mountain range was in full
view, and we had a grand panoramic view of the valley of the Connecticut
River, dotted by its villages, churches and public buildings.

There were many events in my early life quite interesting, and in their
distinctness outlive the lapse of years. The great eclipse of the sun at noon-
day in June, 1806, 1 remember distinctly. Napoleon Bonaparte was then in
the full tide of his mighty career, and I used to eagerly watch for the Post to
read the bulletins of the grand army of Italy and mark its wonderful career
after crossing the Alps. The cold season of 1816 was remarkable for frost or
snow during every month in the year. The memory of our dear pastor, Rev.
Phinehas Cooke, will ever be gratefully cherished. The great revival of 1817
in the schools and through the town was wonderful, and many souls were
converted. It seems but yesterday when thirty-six of our young men and
women stood up in the broad aisle of the old church in Acworth and pro-
fessed their love for Christ. I hope and trust you will have an interesting
and pleasant time on the 16th. Respectfully yours, John Wilson.




Thanks for this invitation, — this token of respect,

For oft we find the aged are treated with neglect ;

'Tis a joy to be remembered in this world of change and care,

And we estimate our friendships by the time that they will wear.

I am writing for my Mother, — for seventy years ago

She was a little infant in Acworth town we know,

But now her form is bending beneath the weight of years,

And childhood through the mists of time like fairy land appears.

They called her Milly Currier, and she lived upon the hill.

And this invitation tells me she is not forgotten still ;

She remembers all her play-mates, and strings their names like pearls

Upon the thread of memory — those happy boys and girls !

But when to womanhood she grew, my father claimed his bride,
And nearly half a century they've traveled side by side ;
Four mischief-loving children once filled their home with glee.
But the eldest and the youngest have sailed o'er death's silent sea.

My brother's grave is far away where Texas' wild flowers bloom —
And God's bright stars their vigils keep, over his lonely tomb ;
We gave him to his country — and no stain his glory dims.
He tried to sooth the aching hearts and bind the shattered limbs.

I'm writing for my Mother — and her heart is sad and sore,
For the son who left his home to die upon that distant shore ;
Though we miss him and are lonely where'er our footsteps stray.
We would not call him back to earth from o'er the starry way.

Alas ! I hardly dare to think how old my parents seem.
Their threescore years and ten have passed so like a fleeting dream,
While many dear companions whose jjartiug hands they've pressed
Have exchanged their weary earth-march for the grave's unbroken rest.

The life-steed, hastening to its goal with such a rapid pace,
Reminds us that this world is not our sure abiding place ;
But the silvery tents are gleaming on the distant Eden shore,
Where the lonely saddened spirit finds shelter evermore !

I'm writing for my Mother — and she wishes me to say

Her thoughts will oft be with you on the bright centennial day ;

Wishing prosperity may rest upon her native town.

While peace and plenty evermore those hills and valleys crown.

Friends of her youth and childhood, if any such remain.
How gladly would she meet them in childhood's home again,
To renew the olden friendship, that time cannot destroy
And eternity will brighten from earth's dimness and alloy.


/ Md dear friends in Actvorth some twenty years ago,
Who now may seem like strangers, for time has changed us so ;
But those old familiar faces I should dearly love to see,
And I cannot think my school-mates have quite forgotten me !

Online LibraryJohn Leverett MerrillHistory of Acworth, with the proceedings of the centennial anniversary, genealogical records, and register of farms → online text (page 11 of 33)