Asa Sanborn Edgerly.

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The Life of a New England

Written in His Adopted State






I dedicate this book to Mrs. Violet Mabel
Hoggins Webber, in consideration of the great
service she has rendered me in writing it.








My Boyhood Days 13


My School Days 21


I Studied Dentistry 40


Engaged in Teaching School 43


Got Married 49


Teaching Continued 51


Went Into the Restaurant Business With My Brother

in Almira, New York, and Other Changes 59


Engaged in the Life Insurance Business 62


Engaged in Fanning 66


Canvassing and Ice Cream and Real Estate Business. . . 69

Built the Edgerly Block 77


The Boom Broke 82


Running Rooming Houses 86


Rooming Houses Continued 92


Gave Up Business 95


Built Four Homes on the Two Hundred-Acre Vineyard
North of Town for My Children 99


Extracts 103


My Own Architect Ill


My Habits of Life 112


The Church ' 117


Lessons to Poor Young Men 118


My Views of Spiritual Life 120


There Is a God 123


Sunday Trading 125


Cutting Wood 127


A Word to Young Men and Women About to Marry. . . 129


My Wife 131


Golden Wedding 133


Go to Oakland 134


Cataract 135


Deed All My Property to My Wife and Children 137


Looking Forward 139


The Life of a New England Boy



Away back in New England wh^re the wild
fox digs his hole unscared, and the red squirrel
hoards his nuts in the hollow of a tree undisturbed,
where the wild turkey builds its nest and rears its
young unmolested, and where the country is held
in its icy embrace for six months of the year,
is where the writer first saw the light on March
15, 1834. Born of the persecuted Puritan descend-
ents of poor but respected parents, I passed my
youth on a New England farm, so sterile, that it
seldom made proper returns for hard work be-
stowed. Being the sixth child of the numerous
family of twelve children it became necessary for
me to look elsewhere for a living.

14 The Life of a New England Boy

It was a custom in that country for boys to re-
ceive their time from their parents at the age of
eighteen, so that I, being desirous of an education,
told my father that if he would pay my expenses
for six months' schooling at the Academy, I would
work for him on the farm for the other six months
of the year. This talk was had on an early Mon-
day morning whilst we were mowing in the field
before sun-up, as it was customary for us to
begin the day's work during hay-time before the
sun rose. He said he would talk it over with my
mother and report to me that evening. I included
in my proposition that the expenses of my sister,
Martha, next younger than me, should also be
paid at the Academy for three months of the year.
Pie reported acceptance of my proposition that
evening. This was in the month of July, 1852,
and school at the Academy was to commence the
first of September following. A few days before
the first of September my father went to the vil-
lage where the Academy was, four miles away,
and made arrangements there with the merchant
of the little town for our board. The condition of
the trade with the merchant was that we were to
board with him and his family for five days of

The Life of a New England Boy 15

the week for one shilling a day each. On Monday
morning of the first day of September he took us
to our boarding place. On Friday evening of the
same week he came for us and took us home, and
thus we paid for five days board per week, at one
shilling per day a shilling is sixteen and two-
thirds cents.

We attended the Academy during the eleven
weeks of the term. The school was taught that
term by Rev. Eeed, pastor of the Free Baptist
Church of the village.

My first interest was aroused in education by
a young lady who was my first sweetheart, Chris-
tiana Jacobs, who lived one-fourth mile from my
home, whom I visited with my sister, Martha, one
Sunday evening, when she made the statement,
that she was going to school at the Academy in the
fall and insisted on Martha's and my going, too.
I thought the matter over that night and made the
proposition to my father, and it was accepted, that
we should go to the Academy in the fall. Although
I enjoyed her society during the school term, a
neighbor boy succeeded in marrying her later on.

After years had passed on her only son and
daughter were graduated at New Hampton In-

16 The Life of a New England Boy

stitution, where I had graduated years before, and
the son came to me in California where I was then
living and I took him in my arms, as it were, and
helped him to get a school where he taught for
two years and earned money enough to pay his
expenses in college. After graduating from col-
lege, he came back to California and married a
girl whose acquaintance he had formed while
teaching school there, and took her back to Cleve-
land, Ohio, where he became a professor in a col-
lege there.

At the beginning of the last term of school, of
the agreement with my father I went to Guilford
Academy, twelve miles away from my home. Pro-
fessor Benjamin Stanton was the principal. After
passing through the school term, I engaged to
teach a school near that town for ten dollars a
month and my board, and I boarded all over the

After teaching two months where I had a suc-
cessful school, I went home, and from there I went
to Boston, Mass., to find employment. After walk-
ing the streets of Boston for about three weeks,
I found a job in a grocery store for which I agreed
to work for one year for seventy-five dollars and

The Life of a New England Boy \1

board. I worked three months and my health
failed me. I left that place and went to my uncle,
Daniel Edgerly, who lived in the city of Boston.
After staying there about one month I had suf-
ficiently recruited my health to go to work again.

I started to find another job ; I found a job
where I could earn ten dollars a month and board
in a baker shop. After working there three
months my health failed me again and I left there
and went to my father's home in Meredith, New

Although my father had a numerous family of
twelve children, ten of whom were at home at one
time, the two oldest were away at work in the
cotton factory, where they earned some money, the
bulk of which, after paying their expenses, they
brought home to my father and gave it to him as
a loan. We had a school for three months in the
winter and three months in the summer; in the
winter the large and small went to school, in the
summer only the smaller children attended the
school because the older children had to stay at
home and help make a crop, for all of the family
old enough to earn anything had to do his share
of the work on the farm, because the farm was so

18 The Life of a New England Boy

sterile that we had to make every thing count to
keep us through the hard winter. The land was
so poor that the country there was given the name
of "Hard Scrabble," for we had to scrabble
through the summer to get enough to keep us
through the winter. During the winter term of
school father kept an old mare and sleigh for us
to go to school with, and there were eight of us
children to go, and we would all pile together in
the sleigh and my oldest sister, Hannah, would
take the lines and whip and drive to the school-
house a mile away. After unloading the children
she turned the mare's head toward home, tied the
lines to the dashboard, then taking the whip give
the old mare a few cuts and she would start off
and never stop until she arrived home. In the
evening father would come with the same old mare
and take us home. In the summer time we would
attend the school on foot, carrying our lunch pail.
Usually the lunch pail had a respectable dinner for
us all, but one day mother was so put to it that
she did not have a sufficiently respectable dinner
for us, so she put into a large pail milk and into
another pail bread, and when the noon hour came
we were ashamed to eat our bread and milk before

The Life of a New England Boy 19

the other scholars, so Hannah, who was the oldest
and manager of the group,, took us all off to the
woods ; there we sat down and ate our bread and
milk picnic fashion, each having his own tin cup
and spoon. The numerous family of my father
made clothing and provisions for the family a
serious problem, but we have always said that we
never went to bed hungry and we all had a special
suit of clothes for Sunday, because father kept
sheep and had the wool carded and the girls spun
the wool into thread and my mother wove it into
cloth and dyed it, and father had a tailoress come
there once a year and made the goods into cloth-
ing for the boys, and a dressmaker came to make
the goods into dresses for the girls, and father
being a cobbler, had a neighbor cobbler to come
there and make the leather obtained from the
slaughtering of the animals for the meat that was
salted down to supply the family, into boots and
shoes for the family. Thus my father supported
his family from the proceeds of the old rocky farm.
The 1)1 eak weather with its snow and ice made it
necessary for him to spend a larger portion of
the winter in breaking the roads. The way they
did it was that after every storm the neighbors

20 The Life of a New England Boy

would club together with their oxen and sleds and
drive ihrough the roads in the district set apart
by the officials to keep clear, so that about one-half
of the year's time was used in keeping the roads
clear. The balance of the time, after breaking the
roads, was consumed in cutting and hauling the
wood to supply the family. A large pile of wood
consisting of several cords was piled up in the
door yard of the house. In the spring of the year
when the snow was melting and the roads im-
passable, it was father's business and the boys to
cut and prepare the wood for the stove and haul
it into the shed where it was stored for summer

The Life of a New England Boy 21



Prof. Benjamin Stanton, who was the professor
at the Academy of the school in Guilf ord Academy
where I last went, was elected by the Institute
Board of New Hampton as principal of the New
Hampton School. It also had a theological de-
partment. In this school they educated and grad-
uated young men to enter college, and there is a
female department where they educate and grad-
uate young ladies. When I was at the age of
nineteen, I told my father that I was not physically
strong to be a working man and that I must go to
school and fit myself for lighter work than a day
laborer. "But how can you do it!" he said. "I
don't know how I wilt do it," I says, "but where
there is a will there is a way." And I went to
New Hampton to school. The first thing I did
was to engage a room where I could cook, eat and
study. I boarded myself for three years, kept


The Life of a New England Boy 23

bachelors hall, had nothing to eat excepting what
I cooked myself and what mother would send me
in the shape of pies and cakes. I bought my books
with the little money I had saved from my Boston
trip, and entered the Sophomore class of the New
Hampton Institute. I joined the Social Frater-
nity, a prominent literary society, and remain a
member to this day. This was the fall term of
the Sophomore year.

Col. Lewis, a native of Mississippi, came to New
Hampton to recover his health long before the
forties and settled there. He soon became inter-
ested in the New Hampton Institute. Being a
man of great wealth, he was a power there. His
wealth consisted in owning a large number of
negro slaves which he owned with his brother in
Mississippi. But his brother remained at home
and run the plantation while he lived in New
Hampton with his family and spent his money.
Fronting on Main Street were fifty acres of rich
land, running back quite a distance. He cultivated
this land like a garden. He built near the street
a green-house in which he cultivated grapes and
flowers. He told me one day, while I was visiting
his conservatory, that some people thought him


The Life of a New England Boy 25

foolish to spend so much money upon fruits and
flowers, "but," says he, "I derive more revenue
from grapes and flowers than any farmer in the
county does from his farm, notwithstanding that I
have to keep it heated by day and night for one-
half of the year." He had a family of children,
three sons and one daughter, on which he doted, as
Southern people of wealth will do. Being wealthy,
he could send his children to school. They
did not have to do a lick of work, while I, being
poor, had to put in every moment of my leisure
time in working to get money to help pay my ex-
penses. While seeing this, I began to grieve that
God had given them so much and had given me
nothing, so one day I went to Col. Lewis, whom I
found in his conservatory, and asked him for a
loan or a gift, I do not remember which. He
turned to me and said, "Because I'm able to send
my children to school and your father is not able
to send you, I must help you, must I not ? " " No, ' '
said he, "go on as you are now going and
I venture to say that you will come out better in
the end than my boys will." I went away much
grieved because he had turned me down, but I
have watched his sons, and his prophecy has been

26 The Life of a New England Boy

literally fulfilled, for his sons who have been raised
in ease and plenty and were never required to work
or do anything for themselves, have not made their
mark in life, whilst I have succeeded so well in
life that my property exceeds theirs by many
thousands. Now the tables are turned; I am rich
while they are poor. And I owe it all to the fact
that I had to learn to work in my boyhood. Col.
Lewis had often been spoken against by Abolition-
ists in New Hamplon, of whom there was a goodly
number in the neighborhood, because he owned
slaves. It was frequently argued against receiv-
ing contributions from his wealth, because it was
earned largely by slave-labor, but his great popu-
larity as a man overcame all such scruples.

I took a school in Bristol, New Hampshire,
across the Pemeguosic Eiver, opposite New Hamp
ton, where I was very successful. The day before
the school closed there came a man from Center
Harbor, N. H., who wanted a teacher. I intended
to go from this school back to New Hampton and
resume my studies, but he offered me a good price
if I would go and teach his school, for it was dif-
ficult to find teachers at that season of the year.
After teaching that school Mr. Cany, a prominent

28 The Life of a New England Boy

citizen, had a son and daughter who were patrons
of my school, and he suggested to me that I go to
Meredith Village, three miles distant, and open
up a private school where he sent his son and
daughter. The teaching of these schools carried
me through the spring term, but I had kept up
with my classes by studying extra times, and went
back to my school for the summer term. I worked
at haying and canvassing for books to raise money
to help me with my expenses. At the close of this
term I went to Cape Code to teach school. A
member of our class went there for the purpose
of engaging schools for the students. So many
schools did he engage that when they went down
there they were called the drove. "He is one of
the drove," they would say.

He located me at the little town called West
Sandwich, Barnstable County, Mass. I had in
my school seven young ladies of about my age. I
remember distinctly the first morning I began
school. These young ladies came trooping in and
took their seats ; their size and beauty very much
abashed me, but I, following the custom of the
school from which I came, opened the school with
prayer. The school numbered about forty stu-

30 The Life of a New England Boy

dents, very few of them of much size. After
prayers I enrolled the names of the scholars.
There was one young lady in the group who very
much interested me, who afterwards became my
wife. I boarded around the neighborhood to help
out the length of the school which was about three
months; my wages was thirty dollars per month
and board. The first day at noon when I went to
my lunch, I thought to myself that I had earned
seventy-five cents that forenoon, the most money
in the shortest time that I ever earned. The
school district had a social turn, and during the
winter there were several social parties where I
was invited and accepted. To one of these parties
I took two young ladies in the old-fashioned shay.
After the party had broken up, the horse being a
very spirited one, we drove home very rapidly,
four miles. I took each girl to her home and then
took the horse to the stable and went to my board-
ing-house and immediately retired before the other
young people had gotten home. I left my plug
hat standing on the ante table in the hall. After
I had gone to sleep the other members of the
household came home and took seats in the parlor
waiting for me to come. After they had sat about

The Life of a New England Boy 31

an hour they began to wonder where I was, think-
ing I was a long time getting home, but one of
them happened to go in the hall and saw my hat
on the table ; she reported to the other girls in the
parlor that I must be at home as my hat was there.
Then they all retired. This was a huge joke on
them, and the next morning at the breakfast table
some one asked where I was the night before,
which sat up a big laugh because I had so fooled
them, and we had a big time over it. I always
wore a high silk hat those days, for I thought a cap
was not dignified enough for a school teacher. I
was so popular in that family that we used to
gather in the parlor and have social chats with
the school girls that would come over. I being a
single school teacher, became quite a favorite with
the girls. And thus passed the winter in the
school and social circle. At the close of the school
we gave an exhibition; we needed lamps to light
the school-house. Gustavus Swift, who founded
the great Swift Packing Company of Chicago,
was a boy at that time, called by his chums * * Stut-
tering Dick, ' ' because he stuttered ; he was janitor
of the church. I invited him to bring the lamps
of the church and light up my school-house that

32 The Life of a New England Boy

night. The next morning he took the lamps to
the church. I asked him what I should give him
for his trouble; he told me I might give him
t-t-t-wenty f-f-f-ve c-c-c-nts i-i-i-f I w-w-was a
m-in-mine t-t-to. I paid him the twenty-five
cents. This Gustavus Swift started his career
in life by butchering sheep for one cent a head
for his brother, who was in the meat business. He
also went to the Brighton Market, near Boston,
where they would buy droves of hogs, drive them
down on Cape Cod and peddle them out to the
people who each wanted a pig or two. This young
man would take the money his brother gave him
for his wages and buy a few pigs to drive on down
the Cape with his brother and sell them out. After
awhile he had accumulated enough to buy a drove
for himself. He made some money then and went
into the butcher business down on the Cape in the
town of Barnstable. He started a market and
sent out four wagons to sell his meat to the coun-
try people. There were in the town four men in
the same business who nudged each other and said
they were sorry for the boy, for he would lose
what he had in a few weeks, for he gave over-
weight. In less than one year he was selling beef



The Life of a New England Boy 33

to these same men. He would go to Brighton and
buy carloads of cattle, ship them down on the
Cape, slaughter them and sell the meat to these
four men. To get this money to buy these cattle
he went to his uncle Paul Crowell, my wife's
father, to borrow the money. He got six hundred
dollars for thirty days and he paid it back the day
before it was due, and he said that was the key to
his success in life to pay borrowed money the day
before it was due. When he needed more money
than Paul Crowell could furnish him, he went to
the Barnstable Bank and asked the president if he
would loan him six thousand dollars. The old man
drummed on the counter with his pencil and
opened wide his eyes and looked at the young man
and said, " Young man, what are you going to do
with six thousand dollars ?" The young man re-
plied, "I am going to Albany, New York, and buy
six carloads of cattle. " "What security can you
give, ' ' the old man asked. ' ' Nothing but my note, ' '
he said. The old banker was thunderstruck and
thought for a moment. He knew the young man
was a thrifty boy. He had done business with
him for a couple of years and knew he was a
thrifty young man and faithful in paying his loans.

The Life of a New England Boy 35

After a moment's thought he said, "You can have
it," and made out a note for six thousand dollars
which the young man signed. The day before the
note became due the young man appeared at the
bank window and paid the six thousand dollars
and took up his note. He then looked up at the
old banker and said, * i Can I have that six thousand
dollars again?" "Yes," the banker said, "you
can have it, ' ' and it was paid again the day before
it was due. This circumstances of prompt payment
gave the young man credit for all the money the
banks could loan. He then moved to Chicago
where he commenced the great establishment, The
Swift Packing Company. He borrowed money by
the millions, but he always paid it the day before
it was due, and this prompt payment was the key-
note of his success. He told me this on one occa-
sion when I was visiting him. "I have but one
advice to give to any young man when he borrows
money, always pay it back the day before it be-
comes due, and this will establish his confidence
with the banks, so that he can borrow all the
money he wants." He said, "If I had failed to
pay the loan when it fell due, I would have lost

The Life of a New England Boy 37

their confidence and been crippled for life. By
prompt payment I established confidence. "

School on Cape Cod having closed, I went back
to the New Hampton school for the spring term.
I met numerous school mates and we passed
through the summer term, keeping up successfully
with my class. While many of the boys were en-
gaged in playing ball on the school ground I was
engaged in hoeing corn for a neighbor at ten cents
an hour during corn hoeing time. Other times I
would be engaged in sawing wood for the neigh-
bors around, and thus passed my time in work
while other boys more favorably provided for
were playing ball. After the term of school closed
I went to work for the farmers, making hay during
my vacation, where I earned considerable 'money
to help pay my school expenses. The fall term
passed much the same as the previous term, at the
close of which I returned to Cape Cod to teach the
same school where I had taught the previous
winter. I received the same wages, but did not
board all around over the neighborhood. I had
virtually the same group of young ladies as
pupils, and the one I mentioned interested
me so much is where I boarded altogether. The

38 The Life of a New England Boy

close proximity to each other in the family
caused us to become well acquainted, and finally
ripened into courtship, so that by the time the
term closed we had entered into arrangements to
be mates for life, which was consumated three
years afterwards, after I had left college and
gone South to teach. The school having closed I
went back to New Hampton to resume my studies
there with much the same conditions as in pre-
vious years. When the next fall term closed I
went back to Cape Cod and took another school at
Centerville, about fifteen miles further down on

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Online LibraryAsa Sanborn EdgerlyHe did it : or, The life of a New England boy : written in his adopted state, California → online text (page 1 of 5)