Benjamin Chase.

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

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younger ones walked, sometimes from three to six miles.

The heel pegs were made with a knife. Sometime, prob-
ably from 1812 to 1815, Mr. Pillsljury, the inventor of the
bark-mill, fixed a tool to plow grooves across a block of
maple, and then cross-plow it, which pointed the pegs, and



then tliey were split with a knife and mallet. Mr. Pills-
bury soon got up improved machinery and did a large
business at making pegs, and then pegged shoes were in-
troduced. (See Shoe and Leather Reporter, July 10, 1868.)
Boots were not in common use. They had " leggings "
or "buskins," knit to reach from tlie knee to the shoe,
with the bottom widened so as to cover the shoe, and
leather strings to tie them down. I wore them myself
when a lad, and I have heard my graudfiither say that he
never had a pair of boots nor an outside coat before he
was twenty-one years old. Boots made by crimping in the
ankles were not in use before 1805 or '6, and they were
known for many years as " Snwarrow boots," fi-oni the
name of the Russian General Snwarrow. Before that the
fronts were in two parts. The foot had a tongue which
went up two or three inches into the leg. They were gen-
erallv worn with white tops and small clothes or "breeches"
which came down just l)clow the knee. Breeches were
generally worn till about that time, and some old men wore
them as long as they lived.


The plows had the wrought-iron shares, the beam being
very long with wooden mould-l)oard, plated with old hoes
and other scraps of iron. What are now bent for handles
were then straight, and were called " thorough-shots," as
was also the stud at the forward part of the irons, which


projected far enough above the beam to attach the handles
to it. The handles were lon;^ pieces of wood attached to
the forward '' thorough-shots," and also to those behind,
with wooden pins, and extending back two feet or more
behind, making a very long plow. Franklin Crombie, Esq.,
says that he measured one that formerly belonged to Mat-
thew Templeton, which was nearly fourteen feet long.
After a wliile the crooked handles were introduced, though
within the present century. They then went into the
woods and found a tree with as good a turn as they could,
and split out their handles. When the turuiiikcs were
built, in 1803, the Dutch plow was introduced. It was a
triangular piece of iron, so made as to form a wing and
point, and the forward part of the mould with a wooden
land-side, plated and attached to the wood by a bolt. The
plow was very short. Uany of them were afterwardj? made
by Abraham Sargent, Jr., and Daniel Wilson, as late as
1830. The first cast-iron plows, so far as I know, were the
Hitchcock pattern. Proliably the first brought into Chester
was by Hawley Marshall of Brentwood, 18o0-183o.

Iron or steel shovels were not much, if any, used here,
previous to building the turnpikes in 1805. They used to
take a large red-oak tree and split out the shapes and make
wooden shovels and have the edge shod with iron, which
were called " shod shovels." July 0, 1775, the committee
of safety ordered James Proctor paid nine pounds fur
"sixty Shod Shovels by him delivered." In Stephen
Chase's diary Feb. 24, 1797, is an entry " Sawed great oak
log, — making shovels." Air. John Brickett of Haverhill
was, as late as about 1810, famous for making shod-shovels.

The manure-forks were of iron, very heavy, with long
handles like a pitch-fork handle.

Hoes were made by common blacksmiths, of iron and
laid with steel, and were frequently new-steeled.

The scythe-snaths were either straight or with a natural
bend, and home-made. Probaldy there were none man-
ufactured by being steamed and bent previous to 1810.

The rakes were also of home manufacture, and much


heavier than the modern ones. The first that my father
had of a different khid was a Shaker rake in 1808.

The pitch-forks were iron and very heavy and clumsy at
that, steel ones not heing used much before 1830. My
grandfather's, made about 1762, are yet in good condition.


When wagons were first introduced into Chester is not
known. Tbe first that I liave seen any mention of a wagon
is August, 1797. Lieut. Josiah Underhill charges Joseph
Hall with " binding of wagon wheels," and in October of
the same year, credits Mr. Hall for his " wagon to Haver-
hill, 8s. 6d." It appears from Lieut. Underhiirs accounts,
that soon afrcr that time he had a wagon built himself,
and often let it to others. Simon M. Sanborn says that the
first ox-wagon in that part of the town was owned by his
grandfather, John Hoit, he thinks, not more than sixty-five
years ago. Capt. Noah Weeks, born 1790, says that the
first ox-Avagon on the street was procured by Mr. Sweetser
to draw liis store-goods on ; and that he had taken eight
barrels of cider on a cart with bags of apples on the top,
and driven the team to Newburyport. It is related of one
Moses Williams of Sandown, that he procured an ox-wagon
to move a family from Danvers, and that lie lay awake the
night befine starting, planning how he should turn his
wagon when he arrived there.

The mode of drawing boards on one pair of wheels was
to have "drafts," — aspire al)out twenty feet long spread
Aery Avido, pinned on tlie top of the axletrce and extending
l^ack four or five feet, so that the boards Avere to bear on
the drafts before and behind and not tip on tlic axletree.
On sucli a vehicle large quantities of boards w^ere drawn to
Haverhill and Sweat's Ferry. It has Ijcen done within my
OAvn recollection by my father.

The earliest light, one-horse wagons Avere about the year
1810. Deacon Walter Morse says that lie had the first one
in Chester, about 1811. They were rather rough and


heavy, the body on the axletrees, without thorough-braces
or springs. Tlie first gig-wagon in the Long Meadows was
owned by Deacon James Wason, I tliink, abont 1812.
John Ordway, Esq., says the first he ever saw or heard of
was made by Samuel Smith, of Hampstead, about 1809 or
1810. Before this, a few of the wealthiest had a licavy,
clumsy, square-top chaise. In 1805 there were about twenty
persons taxed in Chester for a chaise. The tire of wheels
was formerly cut in pieces the length of tlic felloes, and
nailed on. The whole or hoop-tire came into use with the
gig-wagon. The first on oxcart wheels was about 1820 •
Short boxes were used, — for cart wheels, about three inches
long, and for light wheels about two inches. The pipe
boxes and iron axletrees, I think, were not used previous
to 1820. The boxes were then made with a chamber, so as
not to bear in the middle. They were not made without a
chamber before 1830.

Most of the traveling was done on horseback, and fre-
quently doul^le, — the man before, and the woman on the
jnUion behind. Much transportation, especially of small
and ligbt articles, such as bottles, jugs, sugar and butter-
boxes, was done in saddle-bags. Most of the going to
mill was also on horseback. Sometimes larger and heavier
articles were transported long distances. When Wells
Chase built his house in 1771, he brought windows ready
glazed on horseback from Newbury. When he built a pair
of cart-wheels in 1780, he and another man went to Deer-
field for the iron on horseback. I find on his account-book
a charge, " By myself and horse to Deerfield, 4X 16s., Old
Tenor, to E. Fitts ; " also for a day " tiring the wheels."

This iron was made in Deerfield by Daniel Ladd, on the
Lamprey river, about a mile above Robinson's mills. South
Deerfield. The ore was the bog ore, and was dug near the
base of Saddleback mountain, and near North wood line,
and transported to the furnace. The quality was indiffer-
ent, containing sulphur, or some other foreign substance,
which made it difficult to weld ; but it answered a purpose,
the supply from the mother country being cut off by the



It is related of Deacon Jonathan tiall, that when he
visited his daughter, the wife of Deacon Joseph Dear-
horn, at Rnraney, he carried her a bag of meal on horse-
back. When Jonathan, the son of Deacon Jonathan Hall,
moved to Rnmney with his wife and child, they went on
horseback with two horses, and carried their bed and cook-
ing utensils, and a child. She sometime — probably after-
wards — carried a linen-wheel before her on horseback to


Snow-shoes were much used in traveling on foot on deep
snows, and, presenting so large a surface, prevented slump-
ing. The folhjwing descri))tion and the annexed cut are
made from a ]tair of snow-shoes which my grandfather
bought aljout one hundred and five years ago, Avhich are
now in good condition :

The snow-shoe consisted of a piece of
tough, hard wood, generally abput scven-
eigliths of an inch tliick, l)ent at the front
part in a semicircle about sixteen inches
in diameter, and tlic hinder part elon-
gated, so that tiie ends came together side
Ijy side, and were riveted and loaded willi
a small piece of lead, so that wlien walk-
ing that end would trail on the snow. The
extreme lenofth was three feet. Near eacli
end, and tenoned into the bow, were flat
pieces of hard wood, to which, and to the
bow, was fastened a strong netting of
leather or green-hide. The foot was fast-
ened near tlie toe by means of a leather strap and strings,
while the heel was It'ft free. A man used to them would
travel with great case, some said easier than on bare ground

In 1703 Captain Tyng raised a company of volunteers at
Dunstable, and marched to Winnipiseogee against the
Indian enemy on snow-shoes, for which the survivors had


a grant of laud from the General Court of Massachusetts
in 1736, lying on the east side of Merrimack river, three
miles wide, extending from Litchfield to Suncook, which
was called "Tyngstown." Once within my recollection
my father took a bushel of corn on his shoulder and
traveled on snow-shoes to Blanchard's mill, a distance of
two miles and a half. I have, many times since I have kept
house, traveled across to the Long Meadow meeting-house
to meeting on snow-shoes. I have heard my grandmother
tell of being caught out in a snow-storm at a childbirth,
or other occasion, and walking home on snow-shoes.


The blacksmiths did all kinds of work. They not only
did the jobbing, such as shoeing, forging chains, plow-irons,
tfec, but made the axes and hoes, shod the shovels and made
scythes. Slitting-mills were not common, and they took the
Russia and Swede's bars and split them with a chisel, and
drew the iron to its proper size and shape.

Swings for shoeing oxen, I think were not used much,
if any, before 1810, and not uniformly used until a much
later date. A bed of straw was prepared ; the ox was
thrown down and turned upon his back ; a man sat and
held his head ; the fore and hind legs were drawn and
lashed together, so that they crossed each other between
the knee and ankle, and were shod in that position. Lieut.
Josiah Underbill used to prepare the shoes and nails, and
go up to Deacon Kelly's and in his stable shoe all the oxen
from there to Martin's and White Hall. I find on Lieut.
Underhill's tedger, 1798, charges for " a scythe, 6s.; laying
a broad-axe, 9s. ; laying a hoe, 2s. 6 ; two new hoes, 9s.;
shoeing a shovel, 3s. ; laying an axe, 3s. ; a crooked shave,
3s. ; new axe, 8s. ; breasting a mill-saw. Is. 4. [The saw
was of iron, and when worn so as to be hollow on tlie
breast, was heated, and the back struck on the anvil and
so straighted.] Cutting new teeth on a mill-saw, 3s."



Although Lieut. Josiah Underhill, and perhaps other
biacksiiiiths, made scythes, a large portion of those used in
Chester must have been brought from abroad ; and al-
though not particularly relating to the history of Chester,
some facts may be worth preserving, and illustrate the his-
tory of the times.

Maj. Benjamin Osgood made scythes by hand at Methuen
about fifty or sixty years ago. He was a very powerful
man to work, and of great endurance : and he once told
me that he had worked from four o'clock in the morning
till eight at night, with two sledgemen, who took turns in
blowing and striking. They took Russia bars and split
them up with a chisel, and also the steel, and they would
make eight scythes in a day, so that four scythes would be a
a very large day's work to make. Tlie earliest scythes that
I recollect were stamped with the name of " Waters."

Sutton, now Millbury, Mass., was a great place for mak-
ing scythes, and I have the following facts from Mr. Na-
thaniel Waters, an aged man, througli his grandson. He
says that the first scythes made in this country were made
at Salem, Mass., about the year 1700, entirely by hand.
Quite early a man by the name of Putnam commenced
making scythes by hand on Putnam Hill, in Sutton. There
was an act of Parliament cited in the history of Mc-
Murphy's mill, in this work, forbidding tlie use of tilt-
hammers. Putnam, to evade the law, as he supposed, ran
one by horse-power many years. About 1770 Deacon Asa
Waters erected a shop in Sutton, and ran tilt-hammers in
violation of the law, and several other shops were built in
that region about 1795. The •' Waters " scythes and " Sut-
ton " scythes, much used in Chester from fifty to sixty-five,
or more, years ago, came from there.



Coopers' work was of course done by hand and with
coarse tools. The earliest howel for crozing the staves for
the head, which I ever saw, was a small adz with the edge
curved and a short handle, somewhat resembling in shape
a shoe-hammer. "When I was a lad they had one at Dea.
Morse's with which we used to crack nuts. This gave way
before my day to a crooked shave or drawing-knife, with
an iron shank for the right hand in the barrel, and a han-
dle for the left outside. About 1815 the stock howel, a
kind of heel-plane with a curved iron, was introduced. At
that time and later, a large business was done at fish bar-
rels, also on beef barrels ; and of course staves and hoop-
poles were quite an article of traffic, as they were before
that time. It appears by Lieut. Underhill's ledger, men-
tioned under the head of " Blacksmith," that he took them
in pay for his work and hired them drawn to Haverhill and

For a season, making " shooks " was quite a business.
They were red-oak hogsheads for molasses, set up, trussed,
pared and howeled, and taken down and bundled and sent
to the West Indies. But so many unskillful men and
cheats went into it that they ran it under. Corresponding
with this was making hoops to go with these shooks.
Making staves and heading was once quite a business, as
was also cutting hoop-poles. Wood land was owned by non-
residents, and the old hoop-pole men were not over-particular
about their lines. One of them had a novice at the business
helping him one day, who inquired if they had not got to
his line ; he replied, " My line always goes till sunset, sir."
Eum, beef and fish barrels, also molasses hogsheads, were
made in Chester, and large quantities of stock carried to
Haverhill, Newbury and other places and sold.

There were no pail- and tub-factories, — all was done by
hand. When we consider the enormous quantities of such
articles turned out at these establishments now, we are led


to wonder what is done with them on the one hand, and
how our ancestors got along on the other. Their work
was from the best materials and was heavy and substantial,
and was carefully used. My grandmother was married iu
1700, and soon went on to a farm, and procured a cheese-
tub and milk-pail which were in use long after my recollec-
tion, I think till her death in 181-1, — at least fifty years.


The wool for hats had first to be carded by hand and
then " bowed." The bow was a catgut line fastened to a
wooden bow, similar in form to an Indian's bow, which was
struck by a wooden pin and snapped into the wool, which
threw it into a light mass into the desired form. The
bowing was quite a trade to learn. Probably " Hatter "
Undcrhill was the earliest hatter in town, afterwards Dan-
iel Greenough, Perley Ayer, Stiles, Daniel Langmaid and
James French.


Daniel Pressy was a wool-hatler, and resided below
Ingalls' hill where Francis Chase now lives in Sandown,
and had a brother-in-law by the name of Mason Lincoln,
also a hatter, who worked with him, who was the inventor,
or brought the art of getting out the stuff and making the
hats. A gauge with several spurs at suitable intervals?
from one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch, was passed
heavily over a piece of poplar wood about eighteen inches
long, then a jointer with the iron lying very flat cut the
stuff off, which was braided with seven strands and sewed
into hats. Mr. Lincoln and Micajah Rogers, who lived
where John Hunkins lately lived, got up a set of tools, and
commenced the business of getting out the stuff. Jonathan
Bond, who lived where Ezekiel Currier now lives, got sight
of the tools, some said clandestinely, and did a great busi-
ness in getting out the stuff. It was at first a great secret,
but it soon became an open one. This was in 1806, and


the first hats sold for fifty cents each. It became a great
business in all the region, nearly all the women and child-
ren going into it, and all of the traders dealing in the hats.
They were sent South and West in vast quantities. The
price of common coarse hats eventually came down to four
or five cents each. They were very light, — good summer
hats, and in a rain would swell so as not to leak badly.
The business was liowever overdone as to quantity and
quality. William Hazelton of Chester, and John Ordway
of Hampstead, dealt largely in these hats, and happened to
be in Boston together in March, 1827. A dealer who pur-
chased of them had just imported some palmleaf, and got
a man by the name of King, from Rhode Island, to instruct
in the art of making hats. They purchased stock and
hired Mr. King to come up and instruct the girls at two
dollars each. Mr. Hazelton and Mr. Ordway had twelve
or fourteen girls each to learn the trade. From this begin-
ning it became a great Ixisiness. The leaf was then split
with a knife by hand, and the hats were pressed by hand.
For the fine hats they then furnished stock and paid one
dollar each for making, and sold in Boston for one dollar
and fifty cents. They were sent to South America and
sold there for five dollars each.

These facts are communicated by Mr. Ordway. Since
writing the above, I have received the following account
from Mr. Jabez Boyden, of South Pedham, aged about
eighty years. He says that the first he ever knew of the
palmleaf-hat business was in 1823 or '4, he does not remem-
ber which. He was engaged in the sennit or braided-hat
manufacture, and used to peddle them in Rhode Island.
One day at a tavern in Newport, some one asked him why
he did not hire a man by the name of King, whom he
knew in that place, who knew how to make palmleaf hats
braided whole. The man King said he had been a sailor,
and had been captured by the Spaniards and put in prison
where he learned to braid palmleaf hats. Mr. Boyden
hired Mr. King to come to South Dedham and teach the
girls to make them. He says that the first hat cost him


fifty dollars. After he got everything ready he had to give
five dollars for the first hat to new beginners, and one dol"
lar each afterwards. The hats sold at from three to ten
dollars each, according to quality. After Mr. King had
worked for him three or four months, some one from New
JETampshire offered him great pay to go there and teach the
^nls- He went and was gone a few months and returned.
My- King was dissipated and would not work when he had
money. About the time Mr. King came to South Dedham,
a womg^a at Dedham Centre took an old hat to pieces and
learned to make them, made one for her husband and
claimed to be tlie first to invent the art of making them,
and ihreatened to sue Mr. Boyden for infringing upon her
rights. He got his first leaf from South Carolina, but it
was not strong, so they chartered a schooner from Salem
to go to Cuba and get a cargo. The first lot of hats he
sent to New Yoj:k was sold wholesale at two dollars and
fifty cents each.


The boiling of potash was quite a business in early times.
The early inhabitants burnt good hard, green wood, in an
open lire, and made good ashes and an abundance of them,
and nearly every trader took in ashes in pay for goods. I
think that Col. Webster was a manufacturer. I find in
■merchant BlasdeU's ledger, date 1770, an account of what
his potash cost. The " potash Citals " were three hundred
and twenty pounds ; bringing " the Citals from Haverhill,"
twelve pounds. The whole expense was six hundred and
six pounds, equal to one hundred and one dollars. Robert
Calfe made potash, and paid ninepence per bushel for ashes.
In 1700 Samuel Shirley had a potash manufactory near the
]3ond and paid eight pence per bushel for ashes. After-
wards George Bell, son of William, had a store on the east
side of the road, opposite the pond, and made potash where
Mr. Shirley had done. For a long period after John Bell
came to Chester he had a manufactory, which I think was
the last in Chester.



The early inlmbitants had few clocks. The people were
poor, and clocks were scarce and dear. As a substitute,
sun-dials were used. The dials were made of pewter with
a triangular piece called the " gnomon " placed on the me-
ridian to cast a shadow, and the circumference was grad-
uated to show the hours. The English school-books then
used gave rules for dialing. But dials were useless in the
night and in cloudy weather.

The earliest clocks were of English manufacture, and
some had only an hour hand and struck but once at each
hour. One, apparently very ancient, was owned by Dea.
Richard Haselton, and afterwards by his son Thomas. I
am informed by the Rev. T. H. Miller that there were
clocks made in Portsmouth about one hundred and fifty
years ago, and that there was a clock-maker there by the
name of Fitz, who flourished about one hundred years ago
and later. There was a David Blasdell of Amesbury, born
in 1712, who was a clock-maker. I have seen several of
his clocks, one with the date 1741 on it. His son Isaac
came to Chester in 1TG2 and carried on the clock-making
business until his death in 1791.

The clocks were of brass, rather heavily made, and to
run one day. The line was of linen, passing over grooved
wheels armed with points to prevent slipping. One line
and one weight carried both time and striking. Chester
people and others were supplied with these clocks as far as
they were able to purcliase. My grandfather, Wells Chase,
made a great effort, and in 1788 purchased one, for which
he paid twenty dollars for the movement, and had the case
made. He paid a part of the purchase in wood at eight
shillings per cord, drawn to Chester, where John West now
lives. Col. Stephen Dearborn had one about the same time
wnth the name of Mr. Blasdell's son Richard on it. My
grandfather's is yet good, and I have it running. Mr.
Blasdell made a few eight-day clocks near the close of his


life. There was a Simon Willard, of Roxbury, Mass., who
was a celebrated clock-maker, but I believe none of his
clocks came to Chester. Timothy Cliandler, of Concord,
born April 25, 1762, first learned the trade of card-making,
(wool cards) and at the expiration of his apprenticeship
traveled on foot from Pomfret, Conn., about 1784. He did
not go into card-making, but hired a man by the name of
Cummings, who was an apprentice to Mr. Willard, and set
up clock-making in Concord, and did a large business. He
made eight-day clocks of a lighter and better finish than
the Blasdcll clocks. Several of these clocks came to Chester.
It may not be improper to give here a short description
of the manner in which clock work was once done, wliich I
have from Abiel Chandler, son and successor to Maj. Tim-
othy Chandler. The wheels were cast blank and the teeth
were cut on a gear engine which was turned with one hand
and the tool held down with the other. The teeth were
rounded up with a file. The pinions were imported cut,
but the lever had to be rounded with a file. Mr. Clian-

Online LibraryBenjamin ChaseHistory of old Chester [N. H.] from 1719 to 1869 → online text (page 35 of 60)