Copyright
Sylvester Barbour.

Reminiscences online

. (page 5 of 11)
Online LibrarySylvester BarbourReminiscences → online text (page 5 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the property, and the conversion of the buildings for
some charitable purpose, for instance, a home for the
widows of poor clergymen. Judge Stoughton, who lives
near by, and has long been familiar with the premises,
says the seminary proper, and the chapel, are changed
very little from their original condition. They are said
to belong to Nannie S. Verner, are unoccupied, and pre-
sumably for sale.

S. B.
Hartford, December i, 1906.



[Editorial HARTFORD TIMES, Dec. 6, igo^.]

Another of Judge Sylvester Barbour's excellent chap-
ters of local reminiscences is printed on page 3 of this
issue. It deals with Canton, and is worth reading.



BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES 6 1

NOTE.

(Data concerninii the family of Alson Barber, supplementary to
the foregoing letter.)

Marriages of His Children.

(Phoebe) Maria to James H. Coe, May lO, 1846.

Nelson L. ist, to Zilpah Case (sister of Uriah), September
12, 1846; do., 2d, to Julia Smith, Januan^ i, 1868.

Harriet (E.) to Amos Gridley, September 16, 1840.

Sarah E. to Lucius Foote, May i, 1844.

John, 1st, to Maria Mills, April 4, 1849: 2d, to Susan Vin-
ton, June 14, 1869.

Jennette to James T. AUyn, November 27, 1851.

Lemuel to Susan E. Case, November 23, 1854.

Mary to P. Franklin Perrj', April 19, 1854.

Hannah to Howard Rogers, December 6, 1865.

Martha J. to Solomon Ervin Whiting, January 29, 1861.

Children of IVLaria.
George, Cornelia, Willie, Charles. ,

Children of Nelson.
Edda J., Delia, John.

Children of Harriet.
Lucelia E., Kate AL

Child of Sarah.
Ellen E.

Children of Gaylord.
Florence L, Clarence H., Adelaide, Catharine, Allison.

Children of John.
(First Wife.)
John M., Nellie, Carrie.

(Second Wife.)
Jennie, Mary, Herbert.

Children of Jennette.
Laura H., Herbert, Ethan.

Children of Lemuel.
Lucy A., Cora H.



62 BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES

Children of Mary.
Alice M., Kate, Jennette B., Grace. Florence.

Children of Hannah.
Stanley H., Ervin.

Children of Martha.
Carrie M., Josephine B., Lizzie M.

DEATHS.

Luther H., August 17, 1907.

Phebe Maria, February g, 1892.

Nelson L., January 5, 1885.

Harriet, June 24, 1898.

Sarah, August 30, 1883.

Gaylord, May 21, 1879.

John, April 10, 1894.

Jennette, January 19, 1905.

Mary, May 14, 1895.

Lemuel, Februarys 13, 1892.

Lucius Foote, April 23, i860.

Zilpah, February 28, 1866.

Maria Mills, first wife of John, September 22, 1867.

James H. Coe, April 23, 1890.

Howard Rogers, February 12, 1894.

Amos Gridley, February 24, 1901.

Solomon Ervin Whiting, January 16, 1908.

S. B.



[The Hartford Daily Times, Saturday, March g, 1907.]



CANTON REMINISCENCES;

TOLD BY JUDGE BARBOUR.



Fourth in the Series of Interesting Articles on
Country Life of Long Ago.



ABOUT THE HUMPHREY FAMILY.



To the Editor of The Times:

If you and your readers are not wearied with Canton
reminiscences, may I add this further chapter? I wish
to say, I fully appreciate the great honor you have con-
ferred upon me, permitting me to speak to 90,000 readers
of a paper so widely circulated and so highly esteemed
as The Hartford Times. You give your average daily
circulation as over 19,000, each copy of which I assume
may be read by an average of five persons, at least. I
realize, too, that to make articles concerning local matters
generally readable, to some extent they must be of general
interest.

In area, Canton is a small town, abounding in rocks
and hills, yet, in its time it has produced many very
staunch and upright men and noble women, some of whom
have distinguished themselves in the learned professions,
in this and other states; and, being the seat of an exten-
sive manufacturing industry, so well managed and pros-
perous that its stock is gradually soaring to the $200
mark, a concern furnishing implements of great variety,
always, true to representation, and of world-wide use, I
think I hazard nothing when I say the town has a good
reputation.

In giving dates of events, I am careful to verify them.



6-4



BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES



well knowing that otherwise they are valueless; and, In
mentioning occurrences and relating anecdotes, to state
nothing that is not personally known to myself, or coming
to me well attested, manufacturing nothing for embellish-
ment. In that way, I hope I am contributing in some
small degree to the enjoyment of present readers, and to
the help of posterity in historical matters.

Pepper on the Stove.

My allusion in my last article to the disturbance of
the singing school at the center, by the putting of pepper
on the stove at recess time, must have raised the query in
some minds, what led to that act, and what happened to
the person who came forward at the time of the trial of
the accused person, defended by Charles Chapman, and
confessed the deed? There had been a division of senti-
ment as to who should be the teacher, Mr. Charles Foote
or Warren C. Humphrey, both Canton men and capable
te.achers, each having many friends, the contest being
quite sharp, Mr. Foote being chosen. The confessing
person was evidently of the Humphrey party, who had
been outvoted. Mr. Chapman had been let into the secret
as to the facts, and, presumably on his direction, the guilty
one went beforehand before a justice of the peace, plead
guilty and was fined one dollar. As the accused man was
acquitted, it should no^ seem improper to mention his
name (Mr. Thorpe), but I forbear to give the name of
the confessing party. He is still living, a respectable
citizen, and so far as I have ever heard, has never been
charged with any other misdoing. For a long time he
had an unpleasant prefix to his name.

I spoke in the late article of the burning in the night
time of the " Squire " Hallock dwelling-house and many
of the records of the town, of which he was clerk, as
having occurred in the 40's. It' was, however, in Febru-
ary, 1838. I remember the event well, and hearing at



BARBOUR'S REMINISCENXES



6S



the time, that in efforts made to get some of the effects
out, a simple-minded man carried out an armful of fire
wood. Austin N." Humphrey happened that night to be
on the way from the north part of the town, where was
a powder manufactory, carrying a load of kegs of powder,
and, as he was anxious to reach his destination before day-
light, it not being considered prudent to transport powder
in the daytime, when the people might be on the street,
he risked the safety of his load by cov^ering it with wet
blankets, and passed the burning building unhaiTned. On
the 4th day of July of that year, while some young men
were preparing to celebrate, by firing an extemporized
cannon at North Canton, a keg of powder exploded,
fatally injuring Chauncey Moses's son, Harry, who died
the next day, and others of the company were severely
burned. Not long afterward, the manufacture of powder
at that place was given up, the buildings taken down,
some of the materials of which wer.e carried to CoHins-
ville and used in constructing dwelling-houses.

Old Custom.

In the early days of which I speak, and until recently,
it was the custom to ring and toll the church bell for
deaths, first, a short ring, then, pausing a moment, to give
information to the community as to whom it might prob-
ably be, nine strokes for a man, seven for a woman, five
for a male child, and three for a female child were given.
Personally I never knew the ceremony to occur in the
evening, but am informed that it did a few years since,
when Howard Foote's first wife died, adding greatly to
the mournfulness of the occasion. At the time of a
funeral, the bell was tolled from the time the head of the
procession could be seen from the church until the audi-
ence was seated in church (most funeral services were in
the church, with sermon) ; and then, in passing from the



66 BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES

church to the graveyard near by, and until the burial was
completed. I vividly remember how we would pause in
our farm work, when we heard the bell strike, first, to
learn whether the dead one was an adult or child, then
count the strokes for the age, then speculate as to who
probably was the dead person. In the tolling of the bell
there was a solemnity connected with death and funerals,
befitting the occasion. I suppose there are people who
are glad that custom has ceased, but I am not. It seems
to me we cannot too often be impressively reminded of
our own mortality. In the procession to the church, and
in that from the church to the cemetery, when burial was
not in that near-by, the horses were driven always in a
walk.

The modern way, sometimes practiced, of trotting the
horses in funeral processions, seems to me like an effort
to get through with an unpleasant duty as quickly as
possible, and quite unbecoming on so solemn an occasion.
In those days neighbors were called in, usually In pairs,
to " watch " with the dead at night, for hourly applica-
tion of a saturated cloth to the face to preserve the
features, a gruesome ceremony I went through with once
In my youth. In the case of a much emaciated aged man,
my associate, younger than myself, and less Impressed
than myself with the awful silence of the dead, made
more so by the profound stillness of night in the country,
performing the duty put upon us, while I held the candle
at arm's length, and with averted look. I doubt if I am
alone in this feeling of dread. It extends to the lower
animals. If any one doubts this, let him try to drive a
horse by a dead one, lying by the roadside; let him drive
a herd of cattle over a spot where an animal has been
killed, the only evidence of which killing is the blood
remaining on the ground, the very sight and smell of
which sets the herd bellowing in distress, and otherwise
manifesting that distress.



BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES



67



In the early days of the last century stoves had not
come Into much use, and the mode of heating dwellings
and doing cooking was by a fire in large fireplaces, con-
nected with which in the chimney was a large brick, oven
for much of the baking. The chimneys were much larger
than those of today, that in the house in which I was born,
built more than 100 years ago, is nine feet square at the
base in the cellar, with an immense fireplace and oven
(both now bricked up, however), on the first floor, and
an apartment in its side in the attic, for smoking hams.
Chimneys of similar size were common in those days, some
of which still remain. Churches were rarely, if ever,
heated by a fireplace, and not much heated at all, the zeal
of the worshipers and their interest in the services being
calculated, I suppose, to make them unmindful of the
cold atmosphere about them. The women helped out the
situation somewhat by their heated bricks and their foot
stoves, often quite ornamental articles, about nine inches
square, and not quite so deep, made of metal, with per-
forated sides, a wire bail, a door in front for putting in
a metal pan, in which was burning charcoal. One effect of
the poisonous gas, emanating from the charcoal, was to
produce drowsiness in the worshipers, which would lessen
their consciousness of the cold air about them. At noon-
time, to get warm between services (then they had two
sermons) people repaired to the " conference house "
across the street, a building some forty feet long, in each
end of which was ready a huge -fire in a large fireplace.
About the time of my earliest recollection, however, box
stoves began to come into use, and two large ones were
placed in the church, near the front end, with long reaches
of smokepipe suspended to the side galleries, running to
the back end of the church, an arrangement common in
the churches at that time, but very unpleasant for persons
sitting underneath the pipe because of too much heat for
their heads, and occasional wet, sooty drippings at the



68 BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES

joints, protected, however, sometimes by a saucer-shaped
metal receptacle suspended by wire under the joints.

Amusing An-ecdote.
Speaking of methods of heating, I might add an amus-
ing anecdote. There was an implement in quite common
use in families, called a bed-warmer, made of copper or
other metal, about the size of a common milk pan, with
a tight-fitting cover and long handle. In preparation for
retiring, this article was filled with hot ashes, coals, or
water, and moved about in the bed to warm it. In the
case referred to, the labors of the wife generally kept
her up far into the night in the repair of garments that
had been vacated for the night (an experience, by the
way, common with my dear mother) , and until her hus-
band had lapsed into deep sleep, and she had been often
cautioned by him, to be careful when applying the instru-
ment to her side of the bed, preparatory to her retiring,
not to hit him, and seemed so distrustful of her skill in
the operation, she thought one very cold night to have a
little fun at his expense, and filled the implement with
snow, making it as cold as possible, then placed it in such
a position in the bed as to touch his person, when he
awoke, sprang up, with the agonizing exclamation,
" There ! I knew you would scald me some time ! " Pre-
sumably, after that, he trusted her not to " scald " him.

The First Matches.

The introduction of matches, not more than seventy-
five years ago, relieved families of much trouble as to
their fires. Before that time, when the weather did not
require keeping up fires through the night, for warming
dwellings, by carefully covering the embers with ashes, fire
could generally be kept for kindling in the morning. If
this expedient failed, there were different methods for
starting fire in the morning. Families who had a flint-



BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES 69

lock musket, with it could produce a spark, which, com-
municated to a sprinkling of powder and tow, or other
very' inflammable substance, would accomplish the desired
result. Then, there was a punky substance, or tinder,
which, if ignited at bedtime, might keep the fire all night,
and a pipe-stem shaped, slow-burning substance could be
utilized in like manner. But it was not unusual, when a
family lost its fire during the night, in the morning to go
to a neighbor's to borrow some. And this leads me to
speak of the memorable 13th day of November, 1833.
During the night before, my parents lost their fire, and at
an early hour in the morning they sent my brother, Henry
Stiles, then 1 1 years old, to get some fire at a neighbor's,
a quarter of a mile distant. While on the way, across the
fields, there came that shower of shooting stars, and he
returned in deadly fright.

I cannot better describe that extraordinary scene than
by copying from the weekly CouRANT of November 18
this graphic account: " The sky was for hours filled with
luminous meteors, shooting and falling in every direction,
crossing each other in their courses, and leaving behind
them trains of great length and brilliancy. They assumed
a variety of forms, sometimes darting across the heavens
like an ordinary shooting star, at others, suddenly making
their appearance like a ball of fire, then separating, as
if by an explosion, into a great number of parts, and van-
ishing like the fragments of a rocket. The exhibition,
all agree, was grand and splendid beyond description.
The whole sky was brilliantly illuminated, and the meteors
so numerous as to resemble a shower of fire.
The sky, during the whole time of this remarkable exhi-
bition, was bright and without a cloud." In Volume 16
of Encyclopedia Britfanica is this: "The air was thick
with streams of rolling fire; scarcely a space in the firma-
ment that was not filled at ev^ery instant — almost infinite
numbers of meteors; they fell like flakes of snow."



yO BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES

A few years afterward, there occurred a thunder
shower and tornado, very destructive in Canton and else-
where. Toward night on Saturday, August 9, 185 i, while
we were at work in the hay field, an angry, billowy cloud
suddenly appeared above the western horizon, quickly
enveloping the whole sky, accompanied by furious wind,
of wide extent, prostrating crops and fences, uprooting
trees of great size, and doing much damage generally.
The pathway of the storm in its greatest severity, how-
ever, was not wide; its intensest force in Canton being
concentrated at a forest of heavy timber on the western
slope of a mountain, a few rods south of the residence of
Deacon Lancel Foote, It mowed a swath, so to speak,
through that forest, up the mountain, about 100 feet wide,
breaking down trees of great size, leveling to the ground
everything before it. A little to the westward, right in
the line of that gale, Captain Loin Humphrey was at
work raking hay, when the wind swept him and the hay
a considerable distance. The next day, Sunday, was a
busy one for farmers, putting up fences to secure their
crops from cattle; and, for days, and until prostrate trees
in highways were removed, travel to a considerable extent
was through fields adjoining.

In some localities in the state, lightning and hail did
much damage during that storm. Edward Ackert, of
Canton, and another man were fishing in the Farmington
river, and had to get into it to protect themselves from
the wind and hailstones. In North Canton the barn of
Watson Case was struck by lightning, and two steers be-
longing to Richard Case were killed. In West Hartford
barns were blown down, some twenty were unroofed, and
one was moved two or three feet from its foundation. In
Windsor hundreds of trees were torn up by the roots,
• some twenty barns unroofed, and one woman was killed,
by being burled under a falling chimney. The force of
the gale was sometimes confined to a very narrow limit.



BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES yi

In SImsbury, in one cornfield, it was confined to tAvo or
three rows, sweeping the ground clean of stalks, doing
little damage to rows bordering thereon. The Times,
in speaking of the storm, said, " The present season will
long be remembered on account of the frequency of thun-
derstorms, and destruction of life and property." There
was an eclipse of the sun (one-fourth covered) In the
early morning of July '28, and some people would nat-
urally connect that, in its effects, with the tornado.
That's a question for the scientists.

The Humphrey Family.

In earlier articles, I have spoken of noteworthy fami-
lies in Canton. I wish now to speak of those bearing the
name Humphrey; and, to begin with, I think I may prop-
erly speak of my mother's brother, the Rev. Heman
Humphrey, D.D., born in Canton In 1779, in a house
located near where the venerable Levi Case now lives.
He died in 1861. His father, Solomon, and other rela-
tives of the name, were in the Revolutionary war. Solo-
mon had fifteen children, his first wife two, and his second
(Hannah Brown, aunt of John Brown, the martyr),
thirteen, the former and nine of the latter, living to adult
years. The doctor was president of Amherst college,
1823-45, while he was rearing and educating his children,
three of his sons, Edward P., D.D., Zephanlah and John,
becoming distinguished clergymen, located respectively In
Danville, Ky., Chicago, and Binghamton, N. Y., and one
son, James, a prominent lawyer In New York city, and
for several years a member of congress from New York.
The latter's wife was Urania Battell, sister of the Hon.
Robblns Battell, they, and other members of that noted
family, giving to the Congregational church of Norfolk,
Battell chapel. John, In college, was called " the Apostle
John," on account of his gentleness and goodness. The



72 BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES

mother of these children was a sister of the Rev. Dr.
Noah Porter, president of Yale college.

Deacon Theophilus Humphrey (a son of Samuel,
who was born in 17 lo), was a resident of West Simsbury,
now Canton, many years subsequent to 1750. He had
eleven children, a daughter, Hepzibah, born 1767, who
married Jesse Barbour; five of his sons, James, born in
1765, died 1830; Alvin, bom in 1769, died 1847; The-
ophilus, Jr., born 1776, died 1851 ; Loin, born 1777, died
1854, and Pliny, born 1780, died 1852; were life-long
residents of the Canton part of Simsbury, and assisted in
the setting off of it as a town in 1806, and were prominent
in public affairs. James was a trying justice of the peace,
and nine times a representative in the legislature. Le-
Roy Jones of Collinsville informs me that when he went
to live in the house sixteen years after James's death, the
papers then remaining in the house, showing the extent
of his participation in public affairs, were numerous. Al-
vin was in the house in 1821. Loin (in the house '24
and '29), was a man of keen mind and an interesting
talker. I remember him well; he was a noticeable figure
on the street, with his long homemade, straight walking
cane, extending above his hand several inches. His sons
were men of great intelligence and prominence. Warren
C. (house '59 and '72), was a pillar in the church, long
the leader of its choir, was thrice married, first, to a
daughter of General Ezra Adams, a woman of rare amia-
bility, secondly, to Mrs. Eliza Ann (Hinman) Moses,
a very intelligent woman, and thirdly to Albert Bidwell's
widow, whose maiden name was Pike, a very estimable
woman, still living in Canton; Loin Harmon (house,
'56), having four daughters, Sophia, Ellen, widow of
the Rev. David Strong; Emily, widow of the Rev. Ed-
ward Bentley; and Fidelia, wife of Major Horatio N.
Rust, who lately died in California; all of these daughters,
except Fidelia, are still living [Emily died September 2,



BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES



73



1907]; Mrs. Strong having three sons who are clergy-
men; Austin N. (house, '49), having a son bearing his
own name and four daughters, the eldest, Jane, being
the first wife of the late Hon. Jeffery O. Phelps of Sims-
bury and mother of Jeffery O. Phelps, the present judge
of probate of Simsbury^ A daughter of the first-named
Loin was the wife of the late Oliver C. Adams (house,
'52). The said Pliny's son, Pliny Orestes Humphrey
(house, '54), was the father of Rollin O. Humphrey
(house, '57). The last named is still living, as is his
cultured wife, Caroline Mills, daughter of the late Hon.
Ephraim Mills of Canton, and he has been prominent in
town affairs, serving in most of the offices of the town,-
and, until lately, as juror in our national and state courts,
much esteemed in that capacity by litigants and lawyers,-
and not infrequently selected by his associates for their
foreman. Alvin had a son, Dwight, who, like Zaccheus,
mentioned in Scripture, was quite diminutive in stature.
He was sometimes chaffed because of that, and his reply
usually was, " What I lack in stature, I make up in feel-
ing," gospel truth, I may say. Not that he was puffed
up, haughty, conceited, but courageous, energetic, chuck
full of push. He combined with farming, carpenter work,
getting out by hand the frames for, and putting up many
buildings. People of the present day have little concep-
tion of what it was to erect buildings of the style of those
common in those days. Now, four or five men can put
up the so-called balloon-framed buildings, one stick of
moderate size at a time. Then the timbers were much
larger, joined together in bents or sections, preparatory
to being lifted into position, often requiring twenty or
more men to do the raising and great skill in the master
of ceremonies, to see that there was no mishap. Mr.
Humphrey could direct and command with wonderful
skill and efficiency the neighbors called together to assist
in the raising. I fancy I can hear his stentorian and in-



74 BARBOUR'S REMINISCENCES

spiring voice, when commanding his assistants. Boys
were permitted to attend as witnesses, a treat they greatly
appreciated, chiefly, however, because of the raisin cake
served at the close of ceremonies.

I well remember how we children, in playing in the
barn of my father, would run across the big beams, a
dozen feet above the floor, feeling as safe as when walk-
ing on the ground, because of the great size of those
timbers. A man could readily stand and balance himself
on them, in pitching sheaves of grain to the upper scaf-
fold, Mr. Francis A. Gillette, now owning that barn,
which is more than lOO years old, has measured for me
some of the timbers. The beams are 10x12 inches, the
posts supporting them 11x12, and, as if to prevent posts
and beams ever parting company, they are fastened to-
gether with three wood pins at each joint, an inch and a
half in diameter; the plates and purline plates 40 feet


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibrarySylvester BarbourReminiscences → online text (page 5 of 11)