Benjamin Chase.

History of old Chester [N. H.] from 1719 to 1869 online

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The first cooking stove in Chester was bought by Daniel
French, Esq., in 1824. The next about the same time by
Hon. Samuel Bell. The James pattern was perhaps the
earliest here.

Tlie first cooking stove in the Long Meadows was one of
the James, by Hon. John Folsom, about 1830, bnt not
liking it, he carried it back ; and the first to permanently
remain was a rotary, in which the top turned to bring five
different boilers over the fire, bought in January, 1835, by
the writer ; and several others were bought the same winter.

Before cooking stoves were generally introduced, the tin
baker was invented, and used to ])ake cakes, pies, <fec.,
before an open fire. It consisted of a tin box about twenty
inches long, the bottom about a foot wide, inclining about
twenty-two and a half degrees, and set on legs ; a perj)cn-
dicular back four or five inclics wide, with a hinge, and the
top similar to the Ijottom, with a sheet-iron bake pan sus-
pended between them, so that when the baker was set
before the fire at a suital)le distance, the inclined surfaces,
top and bottom, refiected the rays of heat upon the materi-
als to be baked. The first of these in the Long Meadows —
probably in Chester — was bought by the writer in the
spring of 1832.

Previous to the stove or baker was the Dutch-oven, for
baking, frying, &c. It was a shallow cast-iron kettle, with
a cast-iron cover. The articles to be baked were put into
it, over the fire, and the cover filled with coals.

Previous to any of these devices, for roasting meat a spit
was used. It was an iron rod about a yard long, with a
crank at one end. The andirons had l)earings to support
the spit riveted to the side next the fire. The meat was
attached to the spit, which was laid into these bearings,


and the crank turned to bring all sides to the fire. I have
seen the apparatus, but I think not in use.

Another mode, which I have seen a great many times,
was to suspend the spare-rib by a hook and line before the
fire, with a dripping-pan under it, and one of the children
would turn it with a stick. When the line became hard
twisted, it would turn itself the other way until untwisted.

Before the introduction of stoves, they endeavored to
" keep fire " by burying a good hard-wood brand in the
ashes. When fire was lost, and neighbors were not at hand
to borrow from, resort was had to flint and steel, with
tinder (a cotton or linen rag burnt to coal) to catch, and
a sulphur match to take from that ; or a gun, with a little
powder and tow, was sometimes used. When stoves be-
came common, about 1832 or '33, friction or lucifer matches
were introduced.

A story used to be told of a " Mother Hoit," who, when
her fire was low, poured powder from a horn, intending to
stop it off with her finger, but it proved too quick for her,
and the horn went out at the top of the chimney. It used
to be a saying, " as quick as Mother Hoit's powder-horn."
Oliver Eaton, of Seabrook, informed us that it occurred
there, and that he once heard the expression used on a
wharf in New York by an English sailor, who said that
he had heard it used on the wharves of London.

The milk-pails then in use were wood, and the pans of
earthen, tin not being used until within the present
century. Their dishes were of pewter, the dresser — a set
of open shelves — being set off with platters and plates,
basins and porringers. These may be seen in the back-
ground of the cut illustrating combing flax and spinning
linen. Then the children had wooden plates, or, perhaps,
a square trencher to eat from. I used a wooden plate
when a boy, also a pewter spoon. Their spoons were
mostly made of pewter. They were clumsy, and very
liable to be broken.

Robert Leathhead, who lived where Matthew Dickey


lately lived, used to itinerate with ladle and spoon-monld
to run pewter spoons. He was a religious man, a Presby-
terian, and knew nothing of responses, or the use of amen^
except as a finis to a religious exercise. On one occasion
he put up with a family of Freewill Baptists or Methodists,
who invited him to lead in their family devotions. He had
but just commenced, when there came a loud, responsive
" amen," which Mr. Leathhead took as a signal for him to
close, which he reluctantly did.

They had a piece of cooper's ware, called a piggin, hold-
ing aV>out a gallon, one stave of which projected four or five
inches above, for a handle. It served as a ladle to dip
water, and also as a \\'ash-dish. They also used a gourd-
shell as a ladle. It had a long neck, like some species of
squash, which made a convenient handle. One may be
seen lying on the floor in the forementioned cut; Hard-
shell pumpkin-shells were used to store balls of yarn and
remnants of cloth. It was told of one old lady that at her
death she had pumpkin shells which she carried from her
father's at her marriage, fifty years before.

Almost as a matter of course, coming poor into a new
and hard, rocky country, our ancestors must have fared
hard, and sometimes had a scanty living. I have heard it
related that a lad, some sixty or seventy years ago, re-
marked that he supposed Mr. So-and-so's folks lived well ;
that they had meat all the year round — implying that his
folks had not, which was probably true. I have heard the
woman of the other family relate that they were short of
meat, and boiled a small piece with some sauce and greens ;
that they had a caller to dinner who was probably meat-
hungry, and he took the whole and ate it.

It was usual for a man who had a family to go to the
" Falls," or to Haverhill, and get and salt a barrel of ale-
wives, or the Derryfield folks of lamprey-eels. Once when
the fish were rather short at the Falls, and many were wait-
ing, one of the fishermen fell in and went down through the
falls some distance, and when he got his head above water
one of the anxious customers inquired : " And saw ye any
fish in your downcoming ? "


The English, by boiling beans very soft with their boiled
dish, and thickening the liquor, made bean-porridge, which
was a common and favorite dish. It has been said — I do
not vouch for its truth — that when the man was going
away with his team the woman would make a pot porridge
and freeze with a string in, so that he could hang it on his
sled-stake, and when he wanted to bait, would cut off a
piece and thaw it. The Irish had a corresponding dish in
barley-broth, barley being substituted for beans. It was
related of old Mrs. Linn that she had company one day,
and had some charming good broth, but forgot to put in
the meat. The Irish used to churn their milk and cream
together, and use the buttermilk as a common drink.

There was another dish which was a great luxury, which
was baked pumpkin and milk. In the autumn and early
winter, take hard-shell pumpkins and cut a hole in the stem
end sufficiently large to admit the hand, and scrape the in-
side oui clean, and replace the top. If the oven was not,
like Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, heated seven times hotter
than it was wont to be heated, it was a great deal hotter
than usual, and after the pumpkins were in, it was plastered
around the lid to keep the heat in. Dr. Bouton, in his
" nistory of Concord," says that they filled them nearly
full of new milk, and ate directly from the shell, and that
Governor Langdon, when boarding at Deacon Kimball's,
preferred that mode as being the most genteel. I never
saw that mode practiced, but have eaten pumpkin and milk
a great many times. The shells were very useful to hold
balls of yarn and remnants of cloth.

Some wheat was raised, and the flour used, but most of
the bread used was brown, composed of rye and Indian.
Such a thing as purchasing flour was hardly known j^revi-
ous to 1810, or later.

A favorite and good method of cooking potatoes was to
open the hot embers on the hearth, and put the potatoes in
and cover and roast them.

The most common drink was cider, but in warm weather
beer was made. In some places malt-beer was used,


but I have seen no indications that it ever was in Chester.
It was commonly made of hops, though sometimes by boil-
ing spruce boughs. Spruce beer has been made at my
father's long since my recollection. Beer would be an
indispensable article for every innholder in cold weather,
for the purpose of making fiiio.

When the people had large families it was not uncommon
to have but one suit for each of the children, and the
mother must wash and drv the clothes after the children
were in bed. I have heard an old man say that when he
was a boy his mother made him wear his shirt backside for-
ward half of the time, to make it wear out alike.

The clothing was mostly of domestic manufacture. The
men, however, sometimes wore leather small clothes of
moose-hide, buck-skin or sheep-skin. The Committee of
Safety (Col. N. H. Hist. Soc, vol. 7, p. 63) " agreed with
Mr. Daniel Oilman for 100 coarse moose hide breeches at
18s." Simon Berry and William Locke came from Rye about-
the same time, and their fathers soon made a journey to
Chester to see their sons. Mr. Berry wore a pair of sheep-
skin breeches, and being caught in a shower, the breeches
got wet and sagged to the calf of the leg. Mr. Berry took
his knife and cut them off at the proper place at the knee ;
soon the sun came out, and the breeches shrank, so they
were as much too short as they had before been too long.

Their sheep were of a coarse-wooled kind. The wool
was carded with hand-cards, which was very laborious
work for the women. Sometimes, to make it more cheer-
ful, they would have a 5ee or loool-hreaking . It Was, I be-
lieve, as much work to card as to spin it, and a woman's
stint of spinning was five skeins per day, for which the
usual price was fifty cents and board per week, perhaps less



Caeding and SnxxixG Wool, Cotton or Tow.

In Coffin's " History of Xcwbiuy," under date 1704, it
is said : " In June of this year the first incorporated
woolen factory in Massachusetts was erected at the falls of
the river Parker, at Newbury. The machinery was made
in Newburyport, by Messrs. Standring, Armstrong and
Guppy." This was probably the first wool-carding done
by machinery in this region, if not in the country, and I
am so informed by Mr. Dustin, of Salem, N. H. The next
was by Mr. Alexander, where Mr. John Taylor's factory now
is, in Salem, N. H., soon after the year 1800. The people

of Chester used to go there with their wool, and pay a' out



eight cents per pound for carding. I believe Mr. Alexander
did some manufacturing.

In 1805, Samuel Ilaynes, of Chester, procured a carding
machine, and ran it that season, and then returned it to
the vender. The next carding machine in this region was
made at Chelmsford, Mass., and put up at Poplin Rocks,
by Samuel Gibson, who came from Methuen, Mass., in 1806.
The next carding machine was made by D. & J. Marsh,
Haverhill, Mass., for Moses Chase, and set up in the Haynes
fulling-mill, in 1810. Some of the conservatives, or fogies,
were much offended at the innovation, as it would ruin the
women, and make tliem idle and lazy. The cards were
then all set by hand, giving employment to women and
children to set the teeth.

For men's wear, fulled cloth was made and dressed by the
clothier at from ninepence to one shilling and sixpence per
yard. Sometimes, to save this expense, heavy waled cloth
was made and dyed with bark at home. For women's win-
ter wear, " baize " was made and dyed green, or without any
fulling or napping, dyed with redwood or camwood, and
])ressed, and called pressed cloth; or sometimes merely
dyed with l)ark at home. Nearly every good house-wife
would have a blue vat, in the form of a '' dye-pot," in which,
instead of dissolving the indigo at once with sulphuric acid,
it was put in a bag and dissolved gradually in urine.
Tiiose old enougli to remember the operation will retain
vivid recollections of the operation of " wringing out the
dye-pot," on their olfactories. Here Avas dyed the v/ool
for stockings, and mother's and grandmother's woolen
aprons. Many times when I was a small boy, when I came
from sliding, or other recreation, with my hands aching
with cold, I had them wrapped in grandmother's blue
woolen apron.

For summer wear the men had a cotton and linen cloth
called fustian. The women had for dresses, aprons, &c.,
plaids of various patterns. So occasionally a web was
made for handkerchiefs.

The raising of flax and the manufacture of linen was



first introduced by tlie emigrants from Ireland to London-
derry, in 1719, and they were eminent in that line of man-
ufacture. It may be wise to preserve a knowledge of the
various processes of it.

After tlie flax was " pulled," the seed was threshed off,
and the flax was spread to rot. It lay exposed to the dews,
rain and sun, until the woody part had become tender, so
as readily to break in pieces. The fibre would meanwhile
turn of a darker color, and become more pliable. After
the sledding had broken np, al)out tlie first of March, the
flax was "got out." The first operation was breaking.

fe . -^iViaK'r/ « alt ,'?^.



In "



Tlie flax-break was an oak stick some six feet long and a
foot square, set on legs, with about four feet of it about half
cut away diagonally, leaving one foot square of each end.
Here were inserted four hard-wood slats, edgewise, with
the upper edge sharp. To match this were another set of
slats, one end inserted in a block called a " head," and the
other in a wooden roller hung to the back part of the body
of tlie break. The operation of breaking was to raise the
top slats with the right hand, by means of a pin or handle
in the head, and with the left hand put the flax into the
break, and it was operated until the woody part of the flax
was broken fine, and most of it fallen on the floor. The
next operation was combing the seed ends hy drawing it
through a comb of twelve or sixteen iron teetli inserted in
a board. The next operation was swingling. A board
about seven inches wide and four feet long was set in a
heavy block to keep it steady and upright. This was a
^' swingling board." A heavy wooden knife about two feet
long w^ag used to beat the flax over this board to separate
the finer " shives " and the coarser tow. This operation
was called " swingling." A very smart, man, with good
flax and a good dry day, and leaving it rather rough, would
swingle forty pounds in a day, though twenty pounds would
be an ordinary day's work. The breaking was about equal
to the swingling, which would make ten to twelve pounds
■on an average, as an ordinary day's work of dressing from
the straw.

The next process in the manufacture was comljing. The
iiax comb was made by inserting teeth made of nail rods,
say six inches long, and pointed, into a board or plank,
which would be secured firmly to a chair, or something
-else. My grandmother's, yet in good condition, has twelve
teeth, about half an inch apart, and seven deep, the teeth
ill each row standing opposite the spaces of the preceding
row. The Jflax was drawn continually through this comb,
until the "tow" or short and imperfect fibres of tlie flax
were all drawn out. The flax was then ready to put upon
the " distaff"." The Irish, or linen wheel, was about twenty



inches in diameter, hung on an iron crank, and was opera-
ted by the foot on a treadle. The wheel had two grooves
in its circumference, one to receive a band to drive the fliers
and the other to drive the spool with a g^uicker motion
to " take up " the yarn. The distaff was a sapling about
an inch thick, with four or live branches, which were tied
together at the top. The flax was put on this and the thread
drawn from it. Two " double skeins " was a day's work.

C0MBi>-G Flax axd Spinning Linen.

The linen manufacture was quite a business with the
Scotch Irish of Londonderry and Chester, making fine
linen cloth and thread, and bleaching it and sending it to


the towns to market. The beach of Massabcsic was a fa-
vorite place for bleaching. Linen constituted a very impor-
tant part, with cotton, of household fabncs and barter, —
shirts, slieets, table linen, summer dresses, handkerchiefs,
meal bags, &c.

There was a process to facilitate bleaching, called " buck-
ing." It was to put the cloth or yarn into a tub, cover it
with a cloth, and fill the tub Avith ashes, which were leached,
the lye passing through the cloth. Tlic process v/as re-
peated at j)leasure.

After bleaching the cloth, came the final operation of
" beetling," which was performed l)y folding the clotli and
laying it on a flat, smooth stone. The beetle was of maple,
or some hard wood, perhaps two feet long and five inciies
in diameter, two thirds the length turned down to. a suita-
ble size for a handle. The cloth was beaten with this, and
the folds continually changed, until the whole web was ren-
dered sufficiently pliable and soft. I have seen the opera-
tion performed by laying the cloth on the stone hearth, and
using the pestle.

The smaller girls would take the " swingling-tow " and
beat out the shives, and spin and double and twist it, and
sell to the merchant for wrapping-twine. The older ones,
to make their purchases at the store, v.'ould make all-tow,
tow-and-lincn, or cotton-and-lincn cloth, to barter with the
store-keeper, ^[y sisters tell me that when one was about
nine and the other thirteen, in 1810, the elder one spun
the warp and the younger one tlie filling, and made a web
of tow cloth, and bought them dresses ; and tliat they now
have pieces of those dresses.

Also the shoe-thread was of linen, and all shoes were
then sewed. Pegging the soles is a modern invention.
The people wanted ropes for bed cords, and other purposes,
which were frequently, if not universally, of home manu-
facture. The flax or tow was spun and warped in three
strands, of the required length. A machine was made by
taking three pieces of hard-wood board about a foot square,
and making round tenons or bearings on the opposite cor-
ners, forming cranks, one end of which was inserted in a


stationary standard with hooks, to which to attach the three
strands of the rope. A shorter and movable piece of board
with corresponding holes was put on to the other tenons,
by moving which gave a crank motion, and twisted the
strands. A simple crank at the other end twisted the
rope. A small block, with three grooves for the strands,
aided in " laying the rope even."

In the culture of flax there was a weed very prolific in
small seed, called " wild flax." This increased so fast that it
was necessary once in two or three years to clean the seed.
Tliis was done by having a cylinder of tin or sheet-iron,
perforated so as to let the wild seed pass and retain the
flax seed. This screen was suspended on bearings, the
seed put in and the machine turned by crank until the seed
was cleaned. The two last named machines, I think, might
have been seen about the premises of the late Jacob Chase,
a few years since, probably made and owned by his grand-
father. Tow was carded and spun on u large wheel like
cotton or wool.

Cotton has been a constituent part of clothing as far
back as I have any knowledge. It was of course carded
and spun by hand until the starting of factories, wlien cot-
ton warp was made and sold at the stores, and the weav-
ing done by hand. Cotton was also sold at the stores. The
weaver's reed or " slaie," was made of sticks of cane, whittled
with a knife, and the twine wound by hand. Peter Aiken and
James and Alexander Shirley were famous in Chester for
making them. Their looms were heavy, clumsy things.
Tlie web was sprung by the feet, the shuttle was thrown
and the " lathe " swung to beat in the filling with the
hands, so that with every throw of the shuttle and beat of
the " lathe," the hands had to be changed- from one to the
other. Five or six yards was a day's work of weaving.
The yarn was reeled in threads of two yards each, forty of
which made a " knot, " and seven knots a " skein," and
fourteen knots a " double skein." The warp, for warping
was wound on " spools," and the filling on " quills " made
of elder. The spooling and quilling gave employment to
boys and girls.


Another branch of household manufacture was yarn cov-
erlets for bed covers, in which a good deal of taste and
mechanical ingenuity were displayed in the colors and fig-
ures. Among those eminent for weaving this article in a
great variety of figures was the wife of John Locke, and
after her death his daughter Polly, now the wife of John
Currier of San down.

The tanners had no chemical process or hot liquor. To
grind the bark they used a circular stone, generally a worn
out mill-stone. They fitted a central post or shaft with
wooden bearings, with a horizontal shaft or axletreo, one
end working with a wooden bearing in the post, the other
end fitting and passing througli the eye of the stone far
enougli to attach a horse. A circular platform of wood was
l)uilt nearly twenty feet in diameter. As the horse made
his circuit, the stone rolled over, crushing the l)ark. A
hand was always in attendance to continually rake the
coarse bark out under the stone, and shuvc the fine to the

The first barlv-mill was invented and ])atentcd in 1808,
by Paul Pillsbury (an uncle of Parker Pillsbury of aboli-
tion notoriety), who Avas born at West Newbury, and lived
at Byefield. Instead of the cylinder and cone being cast
whole, as in modern mills, they were cast in segments, and
fitted to wood. He sold his patent for two thousand dol-
lars, but never got his pay. The first bark-mills introduced
into Chester were at a later day, probably about 1812, and
were cast whole, the cone being fitted to a perpendicular
Avooden shaft, and standing in the centre of the platform,
and the horse attached to a sweep and traveling in the old
track. The farmers were their own butchers, and carried
the hides to the tanners, who tanned either by the piece or
upon shares. Upper leather would tan in the course of the
summer, and it would be a winter business to curry it. It
was all shaved down with the currying-knife, there being
no splitting-machines before 1810 or 1815. The sole
leather took a year or more to tan. There is the name of
Lemuel Clitford of Chester, tanner, in a deed as early as


1734, but wlietli^er lie actually tanned here is uncertain.
Ichabod Robie, a grantee, was a tanner at Hampton Falls,
and taught his sons the art. He settled his son John on
home lot No. 85, about 1738, who had a yard where Robin-
son's yard lately was, and he taught his sons the art. Sam-
uel Robie settled on his father's lot, 116, and had a yard
whore the Blake yard lately was, and taught his son Ed-
ward the art, who once carried on the business in Candia
at the brook north of Parker's Corner. Tanner Martin set
up the business in Chester Woods about 1780, and James
Wason at the Long Meadows about 1785, and Capt. Ezekiel
Blake came to Chester in 1792 and did quite a business at
the Samuel Robie yard.

There was no such thing as sale-shoe work then. The
people carried their stock to the shoemakers, or sometimes
shoemakers itinerated from house to house with their " kit."
I recollect about fifty-five to sixty years ago, Mr. Stocker,
a very small man, father of Aaron Wilcomb's wife, used to
go through our neighborhood. It is said of Samuel -Mur-
ray tliat he would make shoes for Dea. John Hills, and that
the Deacon would pay him in labor on the farm ; that Mr.
Murray would work with the Deacon day-times and make
shoes to pay him nights.

At that time the utmost economy had to be practiced.
All of the young people and some of tlie old ones went
barefoot during the summer, and the maidens when going
to meeting would either go barefoot until nearly there or
wear thick shoes and carry the " morocco " ones in tlieir
hands to save the wear. Long within my recollection, the
maidens going across to the Long Meadows to meeting
carried their shoes in their hands until across the brook.
The father and mother, if not the grandfather and grand-
mother, had the horse with the saddle and pillion, and the

Online LibraryBenjamin ChaseHistory of old Chester [N. H.] from 1719 to 1869 → online text (page 34 of 60)