N. S. (Nathaniel Shatswell) Dodge.

Sketches of New England, or, Memories of the country online

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Look iiow at Aiiiericau Saxondom ; and at tliat little Fact oi the sailing of
ihe Mayflower, two hundred years ago, from Delft Haven in Holland : For it was
properly the beginning of America ; there were straggling settlers in America
before, some material as of a body was there ; but the soul of it was first this.




Entered according lo Act of Congress, in the year 1842, by


ii th;^ ( 'lerk's Office of tlie District Court of tiie United States, tor the
Southern District of New York.


Astor.lenox and Tilden ./
fou. ddtions. ^

128 Fultr;i) bUcoT.




N K W K N G r. A N U




The Author of the following pages is a New Englaiider.
He was born on the banks of one of her beautiful rivers, and
was nurtured among her mountains. He boasts his descent
direct from one of those stern old Puritans who chartered the
Mayflower, and much of his childhood was spent on the
very homestead, where the good man pitched his tent, and
cleared his land. Like many of her sons indeed, he has, in
riper years, wandered over sundry parts of the world, and has^
seen and known much of its excellence and beauty ; but he has
always returned to the " rude and rocky shore" of New Eng-
land, with new love for her homes and her institutions, — new
respect for her hardy sons. He is willing to confess that all
his predilections are for New England; that although " Aba-
na and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, are better than all" her
streams, he loves them not as well ; that he would live upon
her barren soil, and die there among his kindred.

His opportunities of knowing her inhabitants have not been
small, for it has been his lol to have resided in each one of her
States, and to have seen every condition, — ranks there are
none, — of her population, and he rejoices in the belief, that,
among the thousand caricatures of her hardy yeomanry which
have filled the world, he has been able to paint one faithful


picture, of those he loves as brethren. His description of
manners is of what he has seen, and his dehneations of charac-
ter are of those, who have been his neighbors and acquaintan-
ces. There are many, whose memories will bear testimony
to the faithfulness with which he has endeavored to transfer
to paper an outline of that beautiful scenery, which is spread
all over her hill-sides and river banks, and rich cultivated
meadows; and not a few will follow him, through her home-
steads, and into her cottages, with the awakened feelings of
a glad and hardy boyhood.

Five of the " Sketches" have already appeared in the
Knickerbocker, and the author would do injustice to his own
feelings, did he not gratefully acknowledge the high, and cer-
tainly undeserved, encomiums they have gained from the Edi-
tors of Public Journals, and the favorable reception they have
met from the community. He hopes only in conclusion, that
he may not have written anything which will alarm the
grave, or weary the gay ; and having said thus much, lie
makes his most respectful adieu .

Dec. Uth, 1841.


Saturday Evening ... . . .9

Thanksgiving Day .... 24

A Country Story . . . . .41

Sunday in the Country . ... 55

Governor Wentworth . . . .65

OssiPEE Falls ..... 79

The Notch ...... 86

Mount Washington .... 97

Country Visitings . . . . ,115

Country Doctors ..... 150

The Village ..... 176

Cary Arran ..... 213

Country Girls ..... 244

ouNTRY Burial Places . . . 258

Country Weddings .... 270



It's no in titles nor in rank :

It's no in wealth like Lon'on bank,

To purchase peace and rest ;
It's no in making muckle viair ;
It's no in books ; it's no in lear,

To mak us truly blest !
If happiness hae not her seat
And centre in the breast,
We may be wise, or rich; or great,
But never can be blest :
Nae treasures, nor pleasures.

Could make us happy lang ;
The heart aye's the part aye,
That makes us right or wrang.— Burns.

The good old custom of observing Saturday evening
as the commencement of holy time is fast going into dis-
use. In the cities and larger towns of New England it
is already done away with, and the next twenty years
of our innovating age will hardly leave a relic, in the
most sequestered hamlet of the mountains, of what
was half a century ago universal custom. I have
called it a "good old custom;" and I believe that
no one who has ever beheld its practical effect upon
the condition of a community, or upon the individuals
composing that community, will be disposed to deny


that it is so. Aside from the ties which all customs,
handed down to us from our fathers, and which are
associated with the memory of the Puritans, have over
us, binding us to the holy principles which they loved
and honored, there is something I believe in the very
nature of the sacred observance of Saturday evening —
in its calm preparations and unusual stillness — w^hich
fits us better for the duties of the Sabbath, and tends
to render the day a more holy one : " sacred to the
Lord, and honorable."

There are places in New England where the cus-
tom is still observed in all its pristine strictness. They
are not the manufacturing villages which are studded
thickly along her wild and rapid streams, and w^hich
forever crowd the bustle and noise of labor's appointed
hour into the night as w^ell as the Sabbath ; nor are
they the large towns w^here business facilities have
drawn streamlets into them from the great tide of emi-
gration ; nor the capitals of the States ; nor the market
towns of the rich intervales and meadows j nor the
new settlements on the borders of the forest ; but they
are the quiet old homes of the peasantry of the moun-
tains ; the ancient farming towns of the commonwealth,
whose soil, too rough to tempt the avarice of the indo-
lent, has been handed down with the staunch virtues
of its first cultivators, from sire to son, from the earliest
settlement of the country. The external appearance
of some of these old agricultural towns makes a singu-
lar impression upon a stranger. The time-worn church


is situated most likely on the highest and bleakest hill
where its builders could find a public road, and behind
it run off the long sheds, numbering as many stalls cs
there are chaises and wagons in the parish. Low
gable-roofed farm houses of every shade and color,
stand like decrepit patriarchs among the huge barns
which have grown up around them. Red school-
houses in the centre of each district ; old cemeteries,
with the slate head-stones half sunk in the earth, or
hid in the rank luxuriance of the grass ; whole miles
of moss-covered stone-walls j the road, without regard
to hills or points of the compass, winding from farm to
farm ; the powder-house, the pound, the poor-house,
and county-house, are all objects of notice to the trav-
eller. The antique garb of the inhabitants may strike
him strangely ; but if he be in a pleasant humor, the
rustic civility which accompanies it, and which he
meets with every w^here, cannot fail to delight him.
The urchins, trudging homeward from school, greet
him with 'doffed hats and ready bows; the checked
frocks and aprons in their rear render the graceful
courtesy ; while the complaisant smile of the parasol'd
and glov'd school-ma'am betrays her pride in the good
breeding of her little flock. If it chance to be a pleas-
ant afternoon of summer, he will find bright faces
looking after him from every door ; the grandame
plying her knitting-needles or turning the foot-wheel,
less for gain than as a thrifty pastime; the careful
mother making " auld claes look amaist as weel's the


new;" the daughters carding the white rolls of wool
or rapidly as shifting the bobbins of the lace-pillow^s ;
and all listening meanwhile to the simple ballad or fast
chattering of the neighbor's news from the market
town. The boys suspend their ball game while he
drives over the green ; the veteran 'Squire, the patri-
arch of the place,

" With his old three-cornered hat,
His breeches, and all that,"

respectfully uncovers his head, with the true dig-
nity of the old John Hancock courtesy ; the rustic
maid, full blow^n as the summer rose, glances a coquet-
ish look from beneath her dark eye-lashes, and hastens
home to tell of the handsome stranger whom she met ;
and not least, the fat landlord — mine host of the Sun
for forty years — meets him at the door, and welcomes
him wdth a most gracious air to the well-sanded parlor.
You are in truth reminded at eveiy step that nature
is not out of date here, and that the standard which
art and fashion have introduced over the world, w^hich,
like the bed of Procrustes, reduces redundances and
racks out deficiencies, to suit its dimensions and meas-
urement, has no dwelling-place among the people.
Take your fishing-rod in your hand and travel through
all the country ; sit down by the huge sirloin of the
farmer's table, or take pot-luck at the more simple
meal of his daily workman ; plant your cold and drip-
ping limbs against the peat embers of the cottager's
hearth, or before the roaring beacon of the landlord's


hall ', trace every stream from its mouth through all
its windings to its source, and chat with every one you
meet j and the same unaffected simplicity ; the same
honest and manly frankness ; the same independence
of thought and manner, will arrest your attention
every where.

The week-day life of these dwellers upon the old
farms of New England is to be sure one of wearisome
and uneasy labor. But then it is the labor of content-
ment and innocence, where pride has not dissatisfied
the heart, nor luxury enervated the spirit. Nor is it
unvaried by bright homes of mirthfulness and enjoy-
ment. Beside the satisfaction with which the owner
surveys his thick hay-cocks and waving grain, his
fatted, herds and heavy fruit trees, he finds scenes of
frequent enjoyment in the regularly observed customs
which each season brings. Harvest-time from the
earliest haying to late in the autumn, is to the young
men and maidens a perpetual scene of merry-making.
The berrying parties in the dull days of July ; the
roast-corn frolics ; the apple gatherings ; and above
all the long round of husking-bees, with their rich fun
and well earned forfeits, the shows of white linen and
fat cattle at the annual fair, and the nobly won pre-
miums of the young housewife, furnish sources of en-
joyment, long remembered, and anxiously counted on
in the future.

But from all the scenes of merriment, the day of rais-
ing a new building bears off the pahn. For weeks be-


fore the event arrives, the day is set, with the proviso of
an adjournment to the first fair day, if bad weather
should prevent, and invitations are sent by the owner
of the building to the v/hole neighborhood, for miles
around, so that oftentimes an hundred helpers will
congregate to the gathering. If the enviable aspirant
for the new building should chance to be a bachelor
who is preparing his house for the reception of a wife,
the merry-making is multiplied four fold. Custom
makes it imperative that the bride-elect should be upon
the ground at the close of the work, and to drive the
last pin into the main brace of the corner-beam. —
The frame is all complete ; the last " heave yo, my
men !" of the master carpenter has been given ; each
stud, and joist, and main-stay, and king-post, is fitted
and fastened to its place j the workmen have all de-
scended and ranged themselves in long file in front of
the work ; when the bride-to-be steps forward with
uncovered head from her concealment, and taking the
pin from the master, drives it with mallet in hand,
merrily home. As soon as the last blow rings from the
beam, she hastily retires to send in the banquet which
she is expected to furnish ; and loud huzzas are re-
peated, till the welkin rings again. The hearty meal
and liberal drink :

" the brown October, drawn

Mature and perfect, from his dark retreat

Of thirty years" —

wind up the day — the merriest day of the farmer's ca-


On Saturday evening, whatever may be the season
of the year, no festivities can take place. The work
and the play of the farmer's boy have then ceased, and
young and old all prepare for the approach of holy
time. Early in the afternoon, an attentive observer
might notice something different from the ordinary
avocations of the week ; for the workmen are earlier
by an hour, in quitting the field, the heavy-laden wains
are more rapidly drawn to the granaries, the cows come
by broad sunlight from the pastures, and the oxen ar^
turned out upon the meadows long before the usual time
of ceasing from labor. In-doors the female part of the
household are equally forward with their work. The
house has been thoroughly cleansed and " put to rights,"
from the disorder which the week's movements have
occasioned ; the long rows of shining pewter upon the
dresser have been newly scoured ; the proceeds of the
last churning have been thoroughly worked and neatly
put away; the new-made cheese is placed under the
press ; the beer has been brewed ; and the batch of
Indian bread — with its Sunday-noon concomitants,
baked pork and beans — is safely deposited in the oven.

As evening comes on, the children are called into the
house to undergo the thorough weekly ablution, and
then, one after another, are called to learn the Bible
questions for Sunday school. The men drop in, as each
one finishes his duties ; the boy has collected and put
by all the farming utensils for the next week ; the rich
store of milk is brought in from the barn-yard ; and


sunset finds the whole family partaking of the evening
meal. All loud talk or boisterous merriment is, as if
by common consent, suspended; and throughout the
whole neiohborhood, so strict is the custom of the ob-
servance of the evening upon all, no visits are made,
nor unnecessary work engaged in. At dark the mer-
chant has closed his store, and the mechanic has locked
up his shop ; and a stranger might well suppose that
some fearful calamity w^as impending over the town, so
silent is the whole scene around him.

Go into that low moss-roofed dwelling, whose sum-
mer w^alls are covered with the richest honey-suckle,
or into the large painted one in whose shadow it stands,
where the vast barns and thick out-houses indicate the
owner's wealth, and you may have in either a picture
of every family in town. In each the affairs of the
household are arranged for the night. The clock
strikes audibly in the corner ; the hghts shed their
bright beams over a quiet and thoughtful circle ; the
very house-dog himself learns to know the evening,
and has lazily stretched himself to sleep beneath the
master's chair ; while on the wooden chimney-piece
lies an open Bible, ready for family w^orship. At eight
o'clock the old church bell rings, the chapter and the
prayer close the evening, and all retire to rest for an
early rising on the day of our blessed Lord.

It was my fortune to visit the house of my grand-
father during the month of July, in 1840. He had
long since passed away with the generation in which


he lived, not a relic of which remained save the old
pastor, who had been settled over his flock for more
than sixty years- I knew he was to meet me at the
corner of two roads, where the stage coach turned off
towards the next post-town, and I had been reflecting
at times, all the day, upon scenes which twenty years
had not effaced from my memory, and speculating upon
the changes which I should find the lapse of time had
made upon the vigorous frame of my old and earliest
friend. He had been before my mind's eye as he was
during my childhood ; a noble, venerable man, the
father of his people, habited in the most plain and
homely manner ; not less loved and respected at home
than venerated and esteemed abroad ; carrying along
with him into all the intercourse of life " a mind void
of offence" — a sincerity and earnestness which extended
over every religious duty, from the blessing at the frugal
meal to the higher ministrations of the pulpit. I re-
member him in his Sabbath services, giving to his flock
the simple food of the gospel ; his grave demeanor as
he walked from the house of God to the parsonage ;
the easy and unassumed familiarity with which he
greeted even the poorest of his charge ; and the total
absence of all selfishness which his whole life showed.
I thought of him in his visitations ; his quiet and cheer-
ful aspect at the sick-bed ; his grave and solemn tones
in the churchyard ; his relief to the poor, his comforts
to the afflicted, his reproof to the wandering ; and I felt
that to no man more than he, could the apostle's de-


scription be applied : " Blameless, vigilant, sober, of
good behavior, given to hospitality."

I found him still the same — unchanged, save in the
increased Vvhiteness of his thinning locks — and his
hearty welcome made me forget the long years of ab-
sence -which had passed. Leaving my trunk at a house
near by, to be sent after from the parsonage, I took a
seat by the old man, in the very same chaise, as it
seemed to me, in which my boyhood used to rejoice?
and turned with him down a deep shaded lane, which
led to a remote part of the town. He w^as going to
perform the last solemn rites at the funeral of a young
member of his congregation j and as we rode along,
he took occasion to narrate to me some of the incidents
connected with her death.

Her father, w^ho was a respectable and independent
farmer, lived in a very charming but retired situation.
I had known well in childhood that lonely farm-house,
so far off among the beautiful wild green hills ; and
some of the brightest hours of my holidays from school
had been spent in saihng over the lake that lay just
below it, or in rambling through the woods that
stretched far away to the eastward over a long range
of rough mountains. An elder sister of the one who
now lay dead had been my schoolmate and playmate,
and I had not forgotten the bright faces of brothers
and sisters to whom she used to bring me on Saturday
afternoons — nor the pleasant greeting of the parents,
that made me sure of a welcome whenever I could get


permission to accompany her. The other sons and
daughters had grown up, and left one after another the
old homestead ; until Agnes, the youngest — the petted
child of old age, now fast creeping upon the parents —
was the only one left to cheer the once merry fireside.

She had out-grown the mere unthinking gladness of
childhood, but had not yet reached the time when self-
ishness mixes with the pure current of love. Unlike
the others, nature had endowed her with the richest
charms of beauty, as if to add a new link to the chain
which bound her so strongly to her parents. With
dark eyes and jet black hair, set off by a luxuriance of

health which ffives such a lioht and bloom to the coun-
ts o

tenance ; full of buoyant mirth and gaiety, softened by
a mildness and propriety that won every beholder — she
had been the pride and loved one of the village at
every rustic gathering. From among her numerous
admirers she had selected one who was, in ever)^ re-
spect, worthy of her, and who, engaged in a course of
collegiate study, in which he was gathering the brightest
laurels, had led her to look forward to a preparation for
a higher sphere of action than she had yet filled. His
college vacations were spent at her father's house ; and
the beautiful scenery of woods and mountains around
them, where they sought out every fairy knoll and
heath-covered fell, and among which they passed many
a long Summer afternoon,

" While time seem'd young, and life a thing divine,"

increased and strengthened the pure and devoted love


which had grown up between them. Indeed, no one
could see her, in her neat and simple dress, with a pro-
fusion of dark glossy tresses escaping from her sun-
bonnet, so unsuspecting and innocent ; now hanging
upon his arm, with her soft dark eyes fixed upon his
manly face, and anon bounding away over the hills, or
along the narrow beach, with the lightness of a roe,
laughing at his vain attempts to overtake her ; without
confessing that here surely was real unselfish attach-

It was during one of these walks, in the autumn be-
fore, that they sat upon the side of a large rock, the
extreme end of which shot out into the deepest part of
the lake, forming a bluff and bold shore for nearly a
quarter of a mile. Wearied with the excitement of a
long walk and the warmth of the day, Agnes had laid
her bonnet in a crevice of the rock just above them,
and was parting back the ringlets from her brow, when
a light gust of wind lifted it from the rock, and rolled
it over the side, toward the water. Both sprang from
their seats to grasp it ; and the lover, in his haste to
save it, unconsciously stepped upon a slippery part of
the rock, and was precipitated at once into the lake.
The poor girl sprang to the edge of the bank, but he
had sunk, and probably becoming entangled in the
weeds at the bottom, never again rose ! With the most
pitiable screams she alarmed some men, who were at
work near by, one of whom dived several times near
the spot where he had disappeared, but without sue-


cess; and the poor girl was taken home — a raving

Months had passed after this heart-rending event,
before Agnes had so sufficiently recovered as to be
able to leave her room. And then how changed ! The
elastic step, and bright eye, and laughing face, were
gone, without leaving a single relic of her beauty !
The winter came and went ; and the beautiful spring
too, \vith its fresh breezes, and bright flowers, and soft
tones, without one glad feeling in her heart. Never
again was her bright and noble spirit lifted up -, for
her heart lay buried in her lover's grave. And the
summer month was to witness the last office which her
friends could pay her. She had been calm and un-
murmuring under the whole, but it had long been too
evident to all her friends that the heart was gathering
about the citadel of life every drop of the vital current,
and must ultimately burst in the struggle to relieve

Declining the invitation of my friend to enter the
house, I seated myself on a rustic bench beneath some
birches, some rods below the house and out of sight of
the mourners. It had evidently been a favorite retreat
of her who was departed. Around the sides and back
woodbines and evergreens had been tastefully inter-
twined, and wild rose bushes were thickly clustered all
over the little hillocks behind. The view which it
commanded of the scenery around was eminently beau-
tiful. Below you the hill swept off toward the lake


Avith a gentle descent, covered with the brightest green-
sward, and interspersed with frequent copses of large
forest trees. Waters were unruffled by a single wave ;
and one little wooded island, just off the shore, seemed
hung in mid air, and looked like a fairy resort of cool-
ness and beauty. Beyond were the deep blue moun-
tains, over which the shadows were flitting like winged
messengers, while their broadly indented summits were
bathed in a flood of purple light. It was one of those
delicious evenings which occur only during the long
droughts of midsummer, when the rapid evaporation
from the bodies of water during the day gives fragrance
and coolness to the atmosphere of the coming night,
and softens the light which the sun throws over the
landscape just before setting, in a mellowness and ra-
diance which no words can describe. It was in sweet
unison with my own feelings and with the burial scene.
As the procession moved slowly round the side of the
hill, preceded by twelve maidens of the age of the de-
ceased, dressed in white, and carrying wreaths of white

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Online LibraryN. S. (Nathaniel Shatswell) DodgeSketches of New England, or, Memories of the country → online text (page 1 of 17)