|"To recall their customs, sufferings and
The Bethel Antiquarian Suppers of the 1850s
Nathaniel Tuckerman True (1812-1887)
Founder of Maine's
Farmer's Club (1853) at Bethel
Originator of the Bethel Antiquarian Suppers (1855-1857)
A founder of
Gould Academy (1836) and, later, editor of The
Bethel Courier (1858-1861), the
town's first newspaper, Dr. True was instrumental in December of 1853
in the creation of Maine's first Farmer's Club at Bethel. (Other
early farmer's clubs in Maine were located in Naples ; West
Minot/Hebron ; and South Windham, Norridgewock, Waterville,
Pembroke/Robbinston, and Fort Fairfield .)
According to the Rev. Darius Forbes, a Paris, Maine, Universalist
preacher and charter member of the Maine State Agricultural Society,
the formation of farmer's clubs was an important "means of usefulness
and improvement to the farmer." In an address given at the Oxford
County Cattle Show and Fair on October 5, 1854, Forbes stated, "The
members of these clubs may meet every week in the winter and employ
themselves in discussions or in reading some of the many valuable works
on agriculture. They can then test what they read." A
precursor to the Grange (Patrons of Husbandry), farmer's clubs, at
least in Bethel, also provided the type of forward-looking and
backward-glancing ambiance that encouraged a veneration of the
past. On an annual basis for three years—in 1855, 1856 and
1857—members of the Bethel Farmer's Club closed out their winter
meetings with "a supper after the olden
time." Although this early effort toward preserving (and
celebrating) Bethel's past
did not result in the formation of a permanent historical society (the
Bethel Historical Society was not founded until 1966),
detailed accounts of these events were written up by Dr. True and
published in the pages of the Oxford
(see below). Of additional significance is the
fact that information gathered at the suppers was later used by Dr.
True in his History
which was published in
serial form between 1859 and 1861.
life in the mid-nineteenth
century was the scene of constant change. Smoke-belching
factories, crowded cities, the expanding West, and the invention of
many labor-saving devices resulted in an increasing sense of
rootlessness for many of the country's citizens. For New
Englanders, in particular, this feeling of displacement was offset
somewhat by a desire to return to a simpler time—what one historian of
the period has called "a longing for earlier days and customs."
Inspired by the efforts of such pioneering organizations as the
Massachusetts Historical Society (1791), American Antiquarian Society
(1812), Maine Historical Society (1822), New Hampshire Historical
Society (1823), and New England Historic Genealogical Society (1845),
individuals in rural communities began to take notice of "old-time"
objects (notably furnishings and items associated with the kitchen
hearth), which were viewed as morally and aesthetically superior to
household goods then being produced for the mass market. Items
ranging from porcelain teapots and spinning wheels to pewter platters
and fireplace tongs evoked the comforts of a vanishing world of simple
pleasures and "heroic patriotism," the latter stemming directly from
the Revolutionary War era. In the decade before the Civil War
(when antiques were frequently displayed at "sanitary fairs"), various
groups of people in many New England towns began holding "antiquarian
these occasions, citizens dressed in
old-fashioned clothes, brought relics (anything odd or old) to
exhibit, shared stories of days gone by, and enjoyed a
bountiful meal. Typically, the driving force behind these
informal gatherings was a local historian keenly interested in
recording the town's "colonial" traditions, legends, and events.
In western Maine, the earliest examples of such antiquarian suppers
were held by the Bethel Farmer's Club between 1855 and 1857 under the
watchful eye of one
of Maine's most prominent historians of that time, Dr. Nathaniel Tuckerman True
On the evening of April
18, 2005, modern-day residents of the Bethel area once again gathered
an "antiquarian supper." Sponsored by the Bethel
Historical Society as
a spring fundraiser, the 2005 supper took
place at the Broad
Street home of Dr.
Moses Mason, who attended all three of the earliest Bethel Farmer's
Club Antiquarian Suppers. A special feature was a small display
of items exhibited at the suppers held in the
1850s. A similar event took place at the Society in 2010; the
next antiquarian supper is scheduled to take place in 2016 in
conjunction with the Society's 50th anniversary.
Randall H. Bennett
The following articles
published in the Oxford Democrat
newspaper contain a few corrections,
plus some minor
changes in punctuation,
capitalization, and spelling to improve
Dr. Moses Mason (1789-1866; portrait
by Chester Harding)
Participant at 1855, 1856 and 1857 Bethel Farmer's Club Antiquarian
Paris, Maine, Friday, March 2, 1855
Supper in Bethel
The following communication is both
unique and entertaining. It
gives an account of an entertainment, which must have been social,
useful and amusing. We think similar meetings, for similar
purposes, might be held with profit in every town and village.
Soon the generations which first settled this County will have passed
off the stage. Most of the pioneers are already gone. To
treasure up their memory, to record their deeds, to celebrate their
praises, to imitate their patriotic and virtuous example, to rehearse
their legends, to recall their customs, sufferings and relics, should
be the high ambition of their sons. We thank the author for this
favor, and publish it with favor; and would be happy to receive others
of a similar character.
The Bethel Farmer's Club, in this
place, had a supper after the olden
time, last evening, which furnished a fine opportunity to collect
together the antiquities of the place; and, although we could boast of
no articles from the May-Flower, yet enough were gathered to furnish a
delightful theme for the evening. A beautiful supper was
furnished, consisting of the veritable bean porridge of the past,
pumpkin pie, fire cake, parched corn, and sage tea, which were eaten
with as much apparent relish, as if it had been a more fashionable
supper. A blessing was asked by the patriarch of the town, Peter
Twitchell, Esq., now in his ninety-fifth year, who, though unexpectedly
called upon, collected his ideas so as to adapt them to the special
occasion, much to the delight of the company. After supper, a
poem was delivered, commemorative of bean porridge, when an examination
was made of the antiquities present. An ancient plate, belonging
to the old Gen. Putnam family, was exhibited by one of his
descendants. A mug purchased and used at the battle of Bunker
Hill. A porcelain tea-canister of olden time, a really elegant
affair much resembling a modern Cologne bottle, was exhibited by Hon.
Moses Mason, which acquired an additional interest when he informed us
that the article was formerly set on the table as a part of the regular
tea-set, when each one poured on boiling water for beverage.
Various articles of earthen and silver ware, a hundred years old, and
upwards, were also exhibited.
An old fashioned hat, bonnet and cloak, of red broadcloth, furnished a
rich fund of amusement to the young people. The bonnet, a
splendid affair in its day, was the reverse of those worn at the
present time, possessing a most ample front as well as rear.
A few ancient books were collected from the Academy Library, and from
private individuals, among which were an Arithmetic and Latin Grammar,
used just one hundred years ago. These were the property of Rev.
Daniel Gould, the first settled minister of the town. A pamphlet
without date, entitled, Consideration
on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies, for the
purpose of raising a Revenue, by Act of Parliament
, manifested a
coolness of temper quite characteristic of our forefathers.
Another book printed about the year 1717, was on various religious
subjects. Among the titles was, Some
few lines towards a description of the NEW HEAVEN
, written in
1697, author unknown. The writer states "that in 1622, at
Plymouth the Drought lasted from the third week in May, to the middle
of July, without any rain, and with great heat for the most part,"
reminding us of a similar drought experienced here last year.
Another book was printed in 1733, entitled Durham Cathedral, together with the
Histories painted in the Windows
. The most curious book
exhibited was printed in London in 1723, and is entitled A New Theory of Physick and Diseases,
founded on the Principles of the Newtonian Philosophy
single extract may enlighten your medical readers: "Bloatiness must
arise in all cases, where the solidities of the nourishing Particles
are lesser than their Surfaces, in Proportion to the Quantity of Matter
they contain, which must render them less compactedly adhering to the
Constitution of the Body, and of Consequence must give them greater
void Spaces, from whence arises that State or Condition, we call a
bulky, or unweildy Corpulency."
A Catalogue of Harvard College, previous to the Revolutionary War, was
exhibited by John A. Twitchell. Sixty-two students graduated in
1771. A manuscript in the hand-writing of Dr. Benjamin Franklin,
while in England, in 1766, was among the interesting relics of the past.
The first Thanksgiving sermon ever delivered in town was written by
Caleb Bradley, A.M., candidate for the ministry, in 1798, and printed
at Fryeburgh by Elijah Russell, of which a copy was exhibited.
The first wagon that ever came into town, was in the year 1811.
Whenever a person came to Bethel, they were said to come through the woods
, as it was an unbroken forest
for many miles. Consequently when a stranger came, everybody knew
it, and ascertained his business before he left. The first
building erected in the vicinity was a grist mill in 1774. No
miller attended, but every man carried his grist and ground it
himself. The same course was adopted with the saw mill. The
first house painted white was erected in 1814 [sic
], by Hon. Moses Mason, to whom
we were indebted for many interesting facts. Seven by nine glass,
at that time, was eleven cents a square; lime, seven dollars a cask;
nails, a shilling a pound. On the other hand, a house frame cost
nothing for the material. A pine tree that would now be worth
fifty dollars, was sold for one dollar. In the early history of
the town, a man went on foot 70 miles to Portland with his hand sled
and hauled home a bushel of salt. The second child born in town
is Joseph Twitchell, seventy-three years old, and still a vigorous
man. His mother came into town on snow shoes. The first
barrel of York flour ever brought into town was in 1824. Previous
to that time the inhabitants carried a surplus of wheat to
market. Among the first settlers was Eli Twitchell, whose
daughter, now living, he carried in his arms twenty miles through the
woods. he kept the first store in town. There are but three
heads of families now living in town, who were such in 1799. The
first representative to the State Legislature was Eliphaz Chapman in
1808. The first post-office in town was established in 1814 [sic
], Moses Mason, Jr., P.M.
The first ordained minister in town was Rev. Daniel Gould, a graduate
of Harvard College. The first school-house in 1800. The
first meetinghouse in 1806. The first family who wintered in town
was that of Samuel Ingalls, in 1778.
The Indians frequently visited the inhabitants. Among these was
an Indian doctress, the last of the Pequawket tribe, by the name of
Mollyockett. She was fond of rum and emptyings, of the latter she
would drink a pint at a time. A good story is told of her, that
when her husband died she went to Canada. The priest demanded
some money to pray his soul out of Purgatory. She bantered him to
take less, but he refused. She at last counted out the money and
laid it on the table, when he made his prayer, and told her that her
husband was safe. Then she said to him, "He sartin safe?"
He replied to her satisfaction. She immediately took the money,
and put it into her pocket. The priest threatened to pray him
back again. She says, "Me Sanhop very careful Indian; when he get
um in a bad place, he stick um up stick, and never catch um there
agin"; and she went off with the money. She was supposed to be
over a hundred years old, and used to say that she could remember
Lovell's Fight in 1724. She has been dead about thirty-five
years. A branch of the St. Francois tribe occupied the fertile
intervales in town where they raised their corn. The corn-hills
were recognized many years after the town was settled.
In 1780 [sic
] three of the
citizens were taken captive by the Indians. One escaped, and the
others were carried to Canada, where they were redeemed the next year.
Such are some of the facts gathered at the meeting, which we do not
pretend to note down in chronological order. Nor is this the time
to collect the materials for the history of the towns of Oxford
County. The present generation can recount what they and their
fathers have seen. It is contemplated at a future time to have a
similar meeting embracing as many of the citizens as possible, for the
purpose of collecting all the facts of the early history of the
town. If a company of thirty individuals can bring out so many
facts, what may we not expect from a public meeting. I need
scarcely add that the meeting was a happy one to all present.
Speeches were made, and the President presided with his usual ease and
N[athaniel] T[uckerman] T[rue]
Host of the 1856 Bethel Farmer's Club Antiquarian Supper
Paris, Maine, Friday, February 29, 1856
last meeting of the
season was celebrated Feb. 13th, 1856,
by an Antiquarian Supper at Grandfather Jedediah Burbank's. At
sunset an ox team with sleds covered with chairs and quilts and
coverlets, was started from the village by Uncle Gilman Chapman,
containing the officers of the society and the belles of the village,
dressed in bonnets which will hereafter be described. Horse sled
teams were also started by Uncles Samuel Chapman and Moses Mason.
It was curious to see with what interest we were viewed by those we met
on the way, especially the ladies in their flaunting bonnets. We
were warmly greeted by our host and hostess, and a numerous company
thronged their capacious dwelling. A good old fashioned fire was
blazing away in the fireplace to keep off the severe cold without.
attention of the
company was first directed to antiquities of the
place, some of which I will mention. Of books there were many
specimens, and as they exhibit the tastes of another generation
in their selection, and as it brings to light books of which even a
large library might be deficient, I will give them a more extended
notice. The oldest book present was printed in 1579, entitled Analysis Psalmorum, written in
Latin, exhibited by N. T. True, from the Academy Library. A Treatise on the Supremacy of the Father,
by Gilbert, Lord Bishop of Sarum, 1718, a work on a subject rarely
treated of at that day, by J. Burbank, Esq. A volume of Sermons by Rev. Ebenezer Erskine,
1744. Euclide's Elements,
1746. A bound volume of the New
York Journal and weekly Journal
and weekly Register, 1799 to
by Dr. Wm. B.
Lapham. Bound volume III of the Boston
Recorder. A commentary on Revelations, author and date
unknown. On the margin is the following: Nathaniel West, this is
his book to read in the yeare 1684, March 9/10th, exhibited by Rev.
Z[enas] Thompson. Dr. Watt's Sermons
published previous to 1777, by the same. The Connecticut Evangelist, a
magazine for 1801, Vol. 1, No. 8. A good number. Sermons on the Modes and Subjects of
Baptism, by Joseph Lothrop, D.D., 1803. Samuel
Barker. His Book, Read with Candor. Nature of Saving Conversion by the
Rev. Learned and Eminently pious Mr. Solomon Stoddard, 1719. A
Family Bible, 1708, elegantly printed and bound, by Daniel Young.
Christian Institutes, by the
late Lord Bishop of Chester, 1775. From Rev. E. A Buck. Psalms of David by Brady and Tate,
1774, by Jed. Burbank. Two
Sermons on the Prophecies, by Rev. Eliphaz Chapman of Bethel,
1799. Mills and Hick's British
and American Register, for 1774, by Gilman Chapman, Esq. Memoirs of Chas. Louis, Baron de Pollnitz,
by John Locke.
variety of coins, by A.
Burbank, also Continental money by the same,
and J. A. Twitchell. Two pillow cases of Old India Cotton.
What a chapter in our national history does this one article
present! Linen spun and wove 88 years ago, by Susannah Barker,
mother of J. Burbank, Esq. Table cloth 63 years old by Susannah
Bundy, mother of Mrs. Frances Burbank. Wedding shoe 80 years old,
with high heels in the hollow of the foot, by Mrs. John Harris.
Tea cannister upwards of 100 years old, Dr. M. Mason. Tea spoons,
sleeve buttons, buckles and teapots, too numerous to specify. An
Indian pestle dug up on excavating the railroad. Wooden
candlestick and antique lamp. An elegant porcelain teapot upwards
of 100 years old, by Mrs. Wm. Gerrish. This was truly of elegant
pattern and workmanship. A pitcher from a sister of Gen. Putnam,
by Mrs. Roxanna Twitchell, a descendant. Sleeve buttons descended
from Samuel Clark, who was killed in the Revolution, by S. W.
Killburn. A box made of birch bark, by Mollyocket. A keg,
mate to the one carried off filled with rum by the Indians when they
captured Lieut. Jonathan Clark in 1781, by his son in law J. Burbank,
Esq. Ancient candlestick, really elegant, by Mrs. Moses
Cross. Pocket book out in the French war, by John Burbank.
From Jed. Burbank. Wrought worsted pocket book, 1754, by Lydia
Morrell, Rowley, Mass. From Mrs. Timothy Chapman, also do. by
Esther Parker, wife of Lieut. Jonathan Clark, wrought 77 years
ago. Infant's short and cap of domestic linen, 75 years old, by
Mrs. Sarah Twitchell. A scythe, the first ever used in town, by
J. Burbank, Esq. An account book was instructive. I will
give you a sample, exhibiting both the prices and customs of the times:
plantation record, is that of
the Sudbury Canada, Committie, Report of Accounts allowed on Nov.,
172. Among these was Wm. Benj. Russell's accompt for going to
Boston with a Petition for souldiers for our defence, £9 18
0. Wm. John Grover's Account for going to Fryeburg on an express
(to notify the inhabitants of the attack of the Indians) £1 10
0. Mr. Daniel Bean for 10 days work on the foort (the garrison).
| To two
| " 1-2 Bush.
| " one mug of
| " Boarding
| " Oxen 1 day
| " 1 Mug Toddy
| " 1-2 Mug
| " 23
gills of Rum
1-2 douzen Pigeons
| " 1 Quart
Boarding and licker
A list of
autographs of the following persons were interesting, among
whom were John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, R. M.
Johnson, James Madison, Benj. Franklin, Daniel Webster, John Davis,
Silas Wright, W. C. Rives, J. C. Calhoun, Thomas H. Benton, Abbott
Lawrence, Henry A. Wise. These were received by Hon. Moses Mason.
examination of the antiquities, the young people were
entertained with an exhibition of the grandmothers at the spinning
wheel. Flax was combed, and wool carded, an entirely new scene to
many young persons present. But the grandmothers were rather
outdone by Aunt Sylvia Kilburn, a young married lady who let the old
folks understand that she could spin on a little wheel with a child in
her arms. Grandfather Burbank in his blue frock, was very busy
making a birch broom; grandmother Burbank was trotting round lively as
a cricket in her linen blue and white checked tire; while some of the
children plagued their mothers by getting their fingers scratched in
the fliers of the little wheel, and then sent off with a scolding.
But I must
describe the dresses of some present. It would have
made you laugh to see Uncle Moses Mason enter the room with his bell
crowned fur hat on, a foot in height, and his checked linen
handkerchief on his neck, made some 70 years ago, accompanied by his
lady with her striped satin bonnet richly made, but of enormous
dimensions, and large flowing dress of brocade green silk, followed by
Uncle Gilman Chapman with his very low crowned hat and largely
distended ruffled shirt; while his lady appeared by his side in her fan
waisted dress as neat as a pin. Then followed a bevy of young
ladies in straw bonnets protruding out in front so far as utterly to
preclude the use of veils or the sight of sunshine, or stolen kisses; a
regular Puritan bonnet, and were well calculated to reconcile the
opposite sex to the special conveniences of the cut off bonnets of the
present day. Large ear rings and enormous haircombs in the hair
done up on the head, with combs behind their ears, gave a charm to
those who wore them. A dozen or more different patterns of
dresses of former days were conspicuous among the fair sex. Aunt
Addie won applause in her low necked, short waisted dress with balloon
sleeves, the fashion of a quarter century gone by. Dresses short
and long, single skirted and double skirted, found their
admirers. So changed were some of the ladies in appearance, that
they were hardly recognized by their most intimate friends.
It is now past
eight o'clock when the children are called to
supper. The old folks are seated around the table, the children
in the rear, or in an adjoining room, a blessing is pronounced by the
patriarch present, Deacon Geo. W. Chapman, 75 years old, when bean
porridge hot was dealt out to all present. Aunt Mary Ann Chapman
had the credit of making this, and some of the boys declared that it
tasted like oysters. It was pronounced by all to be the best they
ever ate. Next come a milkpan full of hulled corn prepared by
mother Lucia Kimball who has a way of fixing up things a little nicer
than anybody else. It was good as everybody said.
Grandmother Roxanna Twitchell provided the Johnny cake which was
capital. Aunt Mary Brown furnished another which they said was
nice, but the children grabbed it so quick, that I could not obtain a
piece. The parched corn was furnished by Aunt Orinda
Twitchell. It was better, I doubt not, than our fathers could
obtain. Grandmother Burbank made the pumpkin pies, none of your
milk and water sort of thing of modern times, but the genuine, fragrant
smelling, and something tasting pumpkin pie of former days. Then
there was the huge brown loaf like a volcanic mountain smoking away in
the centre of the table. Sage tea was supplied by the old folks,
with sugar to sweeten it for the sick, and molasses for the well ones,
while the children drank water. There was considerable grumbling
among the children because they had to wait so long for their
supper. One great stout fellow turned round to his brother, and
said, "Jess, we've got to live three weeks on clear bean porridge to
pay for this treat on pumpkin pie and doughnuts." Jess was
conscious of this, and did ample justice to the topping off
things. Before we got half through with supper an alarm was
raised that we were short of bean porridge. There was much
excitement, but the alarm proved to be a false one.
After they all
had satisfied themselves with the good things set before
them, remarks were made by the patriarch, Deacon Geo. W. Chapman, who
stated that he was the only one present who had been a resident of
Sudbury Canada, the former name of Bethel. He was reared on bean
porridge commonly on two meals a day, and on one cooked meal if they
could have bread and milk for breakfast and supper. In 1803 there
was not, probably, a half a pound of tea in Peabody's Patent, now
Gilead. He visited with his friend Lieut. Jonathan Clark in
Sudbury Canada, on an oxsled sixty three years ago, and it was as
pleasant a visit as ever he made. He said that he was born on
Christmas day, and as his father was a great admirer of George
Whitefield, who had a high regard for that day, he was named after that
celebrated divine. He then repeated some verses which he composed
last Christmas, on his 75th birth day. It will be understood that
Deacon C. is totally blind.
MY BIRTH DAY
The recital of
these verses, under such
circumstances, touched a cord of sympathy in all that heard them.
After supper we
were entertained by some music from the Old Folk's
Choir. The tunes were pitched in old style faw—sol—faw—m, and the
rooms were filled with good music. The grandmothers piped in and
out the old fashioned Counter, which younger readers must ask their
grandmothers to explain to them.
At half past
ten the whole company sung Old Hundred, which never
sounded better, and our host requested the Rev. E. A. Buck to close
with a prayer.
passed a vote of thanks to our host and hostess for their
uniting efforts to make our visit agreeable. It was then voted to
adjourn to some day in October next, selected by the officers of the
society, for the purpose of holding a Town Fair, and for the collection
of the antiquities of the town. Buck and Broad were driven to the
door, and the happy company separated to their homes. Thus has
ended the meetings of the Club for the season. Instead of
grumbling about our neighbors, we have spent the swift hours of our
winter evenings in real improvement and genuine enjoyment. We
have made noble resolutions which we doubt not will be slowly but
surely carried into effect. To the Clubs all over the land and to
the one in Hebron and Turner, this Club sends greeting.
Hail, blessed Christmas, precious word!
The brightest feature in my date,
The birthday of my blessed Lord,
The glory of his advent great.
I claim it too as my birth day;
Alas! it finds me in the dark;
I turn its beauties to survey.
But, to it say, I must depart.
My seventy-fifth has come and fled;
On Jordan's brink I lingering stand,
Ready to mingle with the dead,
When ere my Master gives command.
Blest Jesus bid me come to thee;
I ready come or willing stay,
Till thou a convoy send for me,
To guide me through the lonely way.
Then Jordan's stream I'll fear no more,
No more I dread the chilling wave,
My spirit upward then shall soar,
My body downward to the grave.
Dr. N. T. True residence, Broad Street,
Site of the 1857 Bethel Farmer's Club
Paris, Maine, Friday, March 6, 1857
conformity with our
purpose, we took the cars for Bethel on
Wednesday afternoon, and arrived there in due time, and found a large
share of the guests assembled—the venerable patriarch and matrons, the
middle aged, and the young folks, and the children—all full of life and
their faces wreathed in smiles. Even the wrinkled faces of the
aged seemed radiated with the glow of youth, by remembrance of the past
days revived. And then the tables—they were loaded with the
substantials of life, done up in the style of days of yore, in part—a strange
mingling of the past with the present. There was the "bean
porridge hot," the baked beans, the brown bread—this last a little modernized—the boiled dish, the
"hulled corn" and milk, and all the et ceteras of the over-loaded
tables of olden times, of which all partook with a relish and good will.
the repast, remarks were made
by the patriarchs, and then by the younger members of the assembly,
mostly of a historical character, going to show the great change that
had taken place in the condition of the country, a full report of which
we hope to get for our next issue.
occasion was one of great
interest to all, and of amusement to Young America, in the unique
dresses of some of the ladies in particular. Although afflicted
with a severe headache, we enjoyed the entertainment very much.
Very many of the habits carried us back to boyhood days, and brought up
the remembrance of uncles and aunts, long since departed.
finale to the winter meetings of
the Farmer's Club, this festival was exceedingly interesting and
appropriate, and we wish other towns, in this county in particular,
would imitate the example of Bethel in this matter. Why may not
every town in this county have its Farmer's Club, and thus, not only
awaken a new interest in farming, and accumulate and diffuse
agricultural information, but help form something like society in the
farming community, of a rational, intelligent, and profitable
character, instead of the gossiping visits which constitute so much of
the intercourse among the families of the farming community, which
every intelligent man wishes to escape as he would the leprosy.
Friday, March 13, 1857
space to Dr. True's report of the Antiquarian Supper at Bethel.
We do this, as we doubt not it will be more interesting to our readers
than anything we could write. What the Dr. writes is always worth
reading. This we know our readers will fully endorse. There
is an unwritten sequel to
this nice time, of which the lovers of Bean Porridge have an affecting remembrance.
Supper of the
Bethel Farmer's Club
The members of the
club held their
annual Antiquarian Supper, Feb. 25th, 1857, at the dwelling house of
uncle N. T. True, and at half-past 2 P.M. the latch string was thrown
out, and the grandfathers and grandmothers began to arrive on sleds
covered with quilts and chairs to the music of antiquated
sleigh-bells. Fresh arrivals occurred during the afternoon, with
such forms of apparel as most of the grandchildren never saw
before. The vigorous shake of the hand, the rich fund of
anecdote, and the hearty laugh kept the old folks happy all the
afternoon. There were thirty-five grandfathers and grandmothers
present. The patriarch was Dea. George Chapman, aged 70 [sic]; the youngest, a
48. The sum of their ages was 2050 years, average age 58
1-3. Early in the evening the uncles and aunts and grandchildren
arrived in large numbers.
Tables were set
for the old folks, while the children stood behind and
were waited on in turn. The old-fashioned tin trumpet called the
company to supper, a few remarks of welcome were made by uncle True,
and the president, uncle Josiah Brown, called on the Patriarch to crave
a blessing, when the bean porridge was served out in abundance.
It has been suggested since, that some ate of this more than was
proper. We thought that the bean porridge last year was the
nicest ever made, but we cannot help thinking that aunt Susie True,
grandmother J. A. Twitchell, and aunt Gilman Chapman can make it a
little nicer than any body else in this world, at any rate it was the
theme of conversation for several days afterwards. Then passed
round the hulled corn and milk in all sorts of antiquated dishes.
This was furnished by grandmothers Lucia Kimball and Laura Young.
Then came along the biled
by aunt Mary Brown. Grandmother Timothy Barker came trotting
along with the baked pudding and beans. Aunt Phebe Twitchell
produced the old-fashioned election cake. Aunt Gilman Chapman,
aunt Dr. Grover, and aunt Levi Twitchell piled in the fragrant pumpkin
pies. Indian pan-cakes by grandmother J. A. Twitchell.
Parched corn by aunt Joseph A. Twitchell, and baked peas by aunt Silvia
Kilborn. Moose steak was furnished by Dr. Grover.
Then there was
an abundant supply of pastry to tickle the more modern
tastes of the young gentry, some of whom, if they don't behave better
in the presence of their superiors, will, before they die, find a
lodgment in the State Prison. Let them beware.
the grandfathers were called upon. Grandfather Dea.
George Chapman first spoke as follows:
My friends, the
Past and Present on this occasion are brought
together. The differences are but very little in reality.
What have the present generation gained over the past in domestic and
civil pursuits, sound knowledge and righteousness? Among the
improvements within my memory, I recollect the first list of machine
rolls for wool fifty-three years ago. I saw the first cotton
factory spindles the same year in Massachusetts. My play-ground
in boyhood is now the city of Lowell. Where I slid down hill, are
now large blocks of buildings.
And yet there
have been improvements in morals as well as in domestic
arts. Within the present century, the missionary society has been
formed, the Bible society, and Tract societies, whose object is to
benefit the human family. Then there is the Sabbath School, whose
recent achievement in sending out the Morning
whose sails are now spread to carry messages of love and
good will to men, is among the eras of our race.
Mason spoke: Forty-two years ago I moved to Bethel
Hill. Two other houses containing three families constituted the
site of the present village. In what constitutes the west parish
of Bethel, Gilead and Shelburne, only one couple remains who then
inhabited the territory. there were then but two roads to market,
one to Portland by way of Norway, the other by way of Waterford.
It was then a solid growth of forest all around the opening where the
common now is. Strangers came to town on horseback.
Everybody expected to know their business, and when they left. I
was appointed first postmaster in town 42 years ago. It was first
carried to the other side of the river to my father's. It came by
way of Waterford, Paris, Rumford and Bethel. In the summer it
came on horse back, once on foot. (I must be allowed to interrupt
the Dr's speech to relate an incident. The Dr. and myself were
witnessing the first arrival of the cars to this village. Said
the Doctor, "I do not feel half the excitement now that I felt when I
first heard the postman's horn a mile distant with the first mail to
Bethel. Then I felt
excited." N[athaniel] T[uckerman] T[rue]) During the first
quarter there was no office in Gilead and Newry. I collected for
government $2.83. The postage on letters was 12 1-2 to 37 1-2
cents. There was no newspaper taken in town during the first
Burbank, Esq., next spoke: I well remember more than 60
years ago, the machinery invented by Perkins, for making heads to
brads, in Newbury, Mass. It was an object of the greatest
curiosity, and visited by multitudes. There is present on this
occasion the first scythe ever used for cutting grass in this
town. You may see here a marked change for the better in this
important instrument. I have here a memorandum of household
furniture given to Esther Parker, wife of Lieut. Jonathan Clark, which
will show to young ladies present the habits of industry among your
grandmothers. Among these articles were 18 lbs. wool, 6 lbs. tow,
12 do. flax, 1 trammel, and 1 bread trough.
True, Esq., of Pownal,
spoke. My father, Jonathan True, and
his brother-in-law, were the first settlers in Pownal. They lived
in the southwest corner of the town, a mile and a half from the nearest
neighbor. I was born in 1785, and am the third male child born in
town, and the oldest native resident now living. I can remember
distinctly the history of the town as far back as 1790. My father
would take a bag of corn on his back, five miles and back to mill,
through a bushed out road a greater part of the way. It was
necessary to go five miles to obtain ox work. The sweetening for
family use was mostly made from maple sap. My father would point
out his boys to his friends as his cubs.
There was no road to the center of the town till I was eight years
old. When eight years old my father raised ten acres of corn, and
my stent through the winter was to shell one bushel a day. About
one-fourth part of the town was owned by the Powell family, and
remained unsold till 1808.
employment of the inhabitants was lumbering. They cut
tun timber which was shipped to England for $1.00 per tun. I was
twenty-five years old before they had a settled minister. One of
the hardest employments of the females of that day way the breaking and
carding of wool. They often worked out doors, pulled and spread
the flax for rotting. It was customary to invite all the
neighbors of the vicinity to a wool breaking. Spare cards were
always kept on hand for the boys. The use of ardent spirits was
not common until a later period, except at huskings and raisings.
kind of employment now out of
use, was card-board making.
There was a machine at North Yarmouth, and it was our winter's
employment to rough out the boards and send them to the machine.
We had a machine of our own for making the handles. These boards
were boxed up and sent to Boston. I once shaved out three gross a
day for a fortnight in succession. One winter we kept the machine
going night and day. People labored hard and fared hard, but
generally were in good circumstances until the war of 1812.
spoke: I can well remember the time when my father
erected the first frame for a wool carding machine in America, which
was put in operation by Mayall in Gray. He manufactured
broadcloth which he carried to Boston on horseback for sale.
Fa[nn]ing, of Long Island, New York, spoke: My
grand[father] came from England, settled on Long Island. Among
the incidents he would mention [would be] the existence of a building
still standing where they went to church with their guns on their
shoulder. They usual food was corn and milk, with meat twice a
week. In his boyhood they planted potatoes with the skins upward,
three in a hill in a triangular form. Now one horse and a boy
will plant four or five acres a day in the same locality. The
boys and girls used to have frolics in pulling flax, to whom punch was
furnished as a drink. In those days there were no double wagons
nor carts. Now there are no spinning wheels. It is a rare
thing now-a-days to obtain pure linen thread. It is nearly all
mixed with cotton as the microscope will show.
Esq., of Andover, next spoke: The first settlers
of Andover came from Andover and Methuen, Mass. A company of
young men went as far as [Bethel], and finally commenced a settlement
in Andover. My grandfather, Ezekiel Merrill, and wife, first
moved into town in 1789. For two years his wife saw no female
except the native Indians. They lived on little birds known as
the cross bill, which they baited and caught in traps. After two
years, my grandmother came to Bethel on horseback, when there came a
great snow-storm, and she walked home on snow-shoes. Their log
house took fire and burned up with everything in it. In 1792, the
first mill was built. The proprietors offered 400 acres of land
to the man who would erect it. First post office was in 1823, and
the mail was carried in a pocket-handkerchief.
Forbes, of Paris, spoke: Paris was my native
town. My grandfather came to the spot where I now live in
1805. When he came, it was next to an impossibility to reach the
town with a wagon. Within my recollection the post-office at
Paris Hill was the farthest interior then established. On
Saturday afternoons, the postman's horn might be heard beyond the depot
at South Paris and sometimes below Norway Village. The whole
weekly mail could be taken in the hand. Next it was carried in a
sulky, then in a stage-coach, and finally in the cars (and if more
speed is necessary it can be sent by lightning). Now the daily
mail goes by the hundred weight.
Uncle N. T.
True begged the privilege of saying a word. He said
that he came to this town 22 years ago the present month, for the
purpose of teaching the first High School ever taught in this
town. From that single school situated in a remote corner of the
State, in a village of half a dozen houses, no less than ten
individuals have become members of legislative bodies in different
States in the Union. He could not tell whether or not it might
arise from his superior knowledge of politics that has rendered so many
of his pupils so successful in political life. Most of these are
comparatively young men, and we may yet hear more of them as public
men. One reason of their success may have arisen from the fact
that they were all good boys, and good boys will make good men.
Hon. A Grover
responded: I claim to be one of that number.
I can call to mind the names of Twitchell and Davis, now in our State
Senate, among the members of that school. Then there was Col. R.
I. Burbank, of Boston, who won the barrel of apples in the last
Presidential campaign, and Kimball, of Paris, and Grover, in Oregon,
and many others who have attained to honorable positions in society.
But I wish to
allude to the old people present. If this evening's
entertainment is a sample of the hard times which they talk so much
about, I shall begin to doubt the reality of their past trials.
But we do possess some things of which they knew nothing. They
had no railroads, steamboats, nor telegraphs in their in their earlier
days, things which have almost served to revolutionize the state of
speeches, came an exhibition of antique dresses. And
how shall I describe them? There were Uncle Moses Mason in his
cocked hat, and his lady in her calash and splendid variegated satin
dress; Grandmother Burbank in her drab colored fur jockey hat, and
purple silk dress, a sample of the fashion 40 years ago; Uncle Gilman
Chapman in his wedding suit, and aunt in her Leghorn Hat; Grandmother
George Chapman with her old-fashioned pelisse, her small calico shawl,
with a cap containing sixteen yards of ruffle; Aunt Mary Brown and Aunt
Poor, with their baloon-sleeved dresses; Aunt Ellen Barker with her
dress, the very opposite of those at the present day. Imagine a
lady of slender form in a dress of only two breadths at the
bottom. It was a pleasure to stand by her side without injury to
one's crural extremities. Uncle N. T. True, who, by the way, is
under any circumstances, a pretty handsome man, attracted the special
attention of the ladies in his small clothes and hair tied up in a
queu, while aunt Susie appeared in her long-trailed dress of blue silk
of more than a century old, and crimp cushioned head dress. The
President appeared in antique spectacles, lopped hat, and overcoat
reaching to the ground. Then came the young ladies, Mademoiselle
B., from the city, appeared with queenly demeanor in her green and
white brocade with its long trail, and next in a double skirt, with
bodice behind instead of before, the fashion of a century gone
by. Then there were Miss M. E. B., with her straight dress, and
waisted apron; Miss H. A. T., with her high horn comb, reaching from
ear to ear. Miss W. B. N., most admirably deceived her own
friends in the character of an old lady. They all appeared
uncommonly attractive. One could not help laughing to meet
one person with the waist up in the back, another with the back in
front, while another had no waist at all. It was an admirable
position to study the principles of a correct taste independent of
Next came the
carding and spinning, in which Grandmothers Stevens,
Twitchell, Mason, and Barker took part, much to the gratification of
the juveniles present who had never witnessed the like before.
Next came the
exhibition of antiquities. These were very
numerous. Among them was the head of an ancient Mexican idol from
the great Pyramid of Cholulu, by N. T. True. A slab of gypsum
from the ancient Nincoch, with a crowned king cut in relief, by Rev. F.
A. Buck. An Ink-horn with ink, pen, and knife, from Syria, the
same as mentioned by Ezekiel, and still worn in the girdle of the
Turks. The oldest book present was printed was printed eight
years before the landing of the Pilgrims. The Christian
by I. Dovvname,
Batcheler in Divinitie, 1612. Commentary
of the Epistle of James, by Thomas Manton,
Treatise of the Loves of Christ to his
by Thomas Bolton, D. D., by Mrs. Hannah P. B.
Chapman. From Academy Library, Liba
of Christian Theology, 1760. Dr.
Manuscript of Observations of the Solar Eclipse, April 12, 1782, at
Cambridge, Mass., by Rev. D. Gould, first settled minister in
Bethel. By W. Heywood, Selections
by Noah Webster, jun., Esquire. By John
by Samuel Phillips, 1738. Truth's
victory over Error, by David Dickson,
1684. By Timothy
made to the
Mass. Soc. for promoting Agriculture, 1806. By
Sermon of Rev.
Charles Frost, in Bethel, by J.
W. Ellingwood, Feb. 20,
1822. Do. of Rev. H. Sewall, in Bethel, by D. Thurston, Jan. 20,
1819. Rev. J. Willard's Sermon,
On the duty of the good and faithful soldier, 1781. The
Christian Institutes, by Lord
Bishop of Chester, 1755. Mr.
Ruthland against the English Popish Ceremonies, 1637. By
Mrs. Hannah P. B. Chapman, Dilworth's
Fading of the Flesh, and Flourishing of Faith, or, one Cast for
Eternity, and the only way to throw it well, 1662. The
1792. By Mrs.
T. Chapman, Confession
of Faith in
the Church of Scotland, 1768.
Newspaper in the Burman
Language, from Dr. Judson. By Rev. D. Forbes, The
Primitive Origination of Mankind,
by Sir Matthew Hale Knight, 1677. By Mrs. Jacob Holt, 1 vol. Boston
of Christianity, by
Jonathan Dickson, 1732. By J. A. Twitchell, first instrument for
extracting teeth ever used in Bethel. Compass used in the
original survey of the town. Mrs. S. A. Russell, an infant's
shirt more than 100 years old. Pillow cases. An indenture
date, 1757. Widow Smith, spoons 150 years. Mrs. J. A.
Twitchell, a cap owned by her aunt, a niece of Gen. Putnam. W.
Heywood, spoons 100 years. Mrs. J. Kimball, home-made lawn infant's
cap, 1785. Mrs. H. P. B. Chapman, carving knife and fork, Capt.
Wm. Bucknam, Falmouth, 100 years; a double skein of the thread could be
drawn through the finger ring. By Dea. George Chapman, a
petrified peach from the Sea of Galilee. Continental money.
By Mrs. Nancy Brown, fine table cloth, spun by her at the age of
12. Table cloth 65 years. By widow Wm. Frye, a silver
tankard, weight 2 1-2 lbs. avoirdupois, presented to Gen. J.
Frye. The following is the inscription:
To JOSEPH FRYE, esq.
Colonel and Commander-in Chief of the Forces
in the Service of the province of the Mass.
Bay, and late Major in the 2d Battalion
of Gen. Shirley's Prov. Regiment,
From a just Sense of Care and Conduct of the
Troops while under his Command at Nova Scotia,
and a proper Resentment of his Paternal Regard
for them since they returned to New England, Is
Presented by His Most Humble Servants, the
Officers of said Battalion. Boston, April 20th, 1757.
also received an elegantly silver
mounted sword at the same time. Chair owned by Capt. Nathan
Marble. By Mrs. T. Chapman, table cloth and teaspoons. By
T. Chapman, Spanish Crown, dated 1727. Mrs. Lydia Cook, pitcher,
with inscription, O! the Roast Beef of Old England. By Mrs. Levi
Twitchell, a sword picked up after the battle of Stillwater. Hair
pin 120 years. By J. A. Twitchell, pocket and log book, made by
Eleazer Twitchell, 1794. By Master Geo. M. Twitchell, powder horn
more than 100 years old. Mrs. T. Barker, shoebuckles 60
years. Childs sack, 60 years. Calico, 100 years. By
Isaac Cross, tomahawk used by Paugus in the Lovell fight. Mrs. L.
Kimball, wooden waiter made by Capt. Eli Twitchell. By Stephen
Holt, wooden bowl made by his father, 58 years. Moulds for
running spoons. Manuscript of Zela Holt, while in Gen. Gate's
army, at the capture of Burgoyne. List of autographs, by A. L.
Burbank, also by the same, the following manuscript, which shows that
even in the darkest hour of the Revolution, our fathers had some
Camp Valley Forge,
Recd 631 Doller in full of all accounts.
Twelve Barls of Beer, 584 Rols of Tobacco,
12 Teen nives, 22 1-2 hanks of Thread.
A pressure of other
duties prevented us from noting down the numerous anecdotes of the
Grandfathers. A few will suffice.
following will serve to
illustrate the customs of the times.
Oliver Fenno commenced a settlement on Robertson's Hill, where the
Robertson family still reside. He built the barn now
standing. When the frame was ready to be raised, Master Powers
told him that he must have some spirit
to raise the building. It was in vain that Fenno
expostulated. There was none to be had short of Standish, and no
road save a horse-path. He offered to pay the hands for their
labor, and furnish them with a good supper, but all in vain. At
last the master-workman broke out, "Why,
I wouldn't be guilty of raising a barn without some spirit."
So Fenno was obliged to suspend operations, mount his horse with a keg
on each side, go to Standish and obtain the spirit. After a journey of
four or five days, he returned, and the building was promptly
raised. Fenno was the first and only blacksmith in town for many
years. His shop stood a little to the north east of the barn on
the road. He afterwards went to Jay, where he died.
pleasing reminiscence was related
by a lady. Her grandmother
belonged to a family of musicians, and when a girl she had learned to
play very skillfully on the snare drum. They lived on the banks
of the Connecticut River, and when her brothers were discharged from
the war at the close of the Revolution, she waited for their arrival on
the opposite bank. As they appeared in sight,, she beat a
familiar and favorite movement on her drum, which was at once
recognized by her brothers, who returned the salute by re-echoing the
same with their musical instruments. Such a recognition must have
been peculiarly exciting to the actors.
last beaver was caught in town in
1827—the next year after the
White Mountain slide. He had a dam on Alder River. He was
first caught in the trap by the fore-leg which he gnawed off, then by
the other fore-leg which he also gnawed off, and, lastly, by the
hind-leg by which he was secured. The last moose caught in town
was in 1855. The last sable in 1856.
oldest person being in town the
present year was Chloe Young, who
died Feb. 20th, 1857, aged 92 1-2 years. Her descendants were 15
children, ten of whom survive her, 84 grandchildren, 154 great
grandchildren, and 2 great great grandchildren, total 216. The
oldest person now living in town is Richard Estes, aged 88.
diary kept by Zela Holt while a
soldier in the French and Indian war
will show to boys of 16 what were the toils of their
grandfathers. The following is extracted:
15th Sept. Went till eleven at night, and did not find the place, and
laid down until three in the morning, and then we went two miles.
16th day crossed the Lake 12 miles above the fort, and steered for Lake
George, and laid in the woods. 17th day we marched for the old
landing at Lake George, and we marched most all night and we got
through the woods and got round the enemy just about the break of day
at the old ferriage. 18th, this morning John Andrews was shot in
the right hip whilst attacking the Block house at the mills. This
day we had the luck by God's assistance to march into the French lines
and there we staid all night. 20th, we marched to the French
lines, and back and forth all day. 21st Sunday we laid at the old
landing. 22nd we started for Diamond Island and rowed all
night. 24th we rowed down against Diamond Island and they were
too strong, and they killed one man aboard our vessel, and broke one
man's leg on board the bateaux, then we retreated to the east side of
the Lake and marched about 3 or 4 miles and camped in the woods.
25th we marched for Spenshore, and we got out to the roads about
sundown and camped in the woods. 26th, we marched to Speens' and
laid in the open air. 27th, we marched for Pollet and laid in (gonnel?
) 28th we got in
Sunday. 29th Found the things which I left. 30th,
rested. October 1st. Washed my shirt and hose. 2nd,
marched to Manchester and encamped.
A remark of Gen. Hastings, one of the first settlers, was
related. He said that it was considered a great privilege to
assist families in moving into town. He and another man, on one
occasion, went to Standish on snow-shoes, and hauled through the woods
on a handsled a woman and two children, and were glad to do it without
any compensation, for the sake of having settlers added to their number.
The number of Revolutionary soldiers who have resided in town so far as
ascertained was 43.
Then followed a description of my grandfather's kitchen, which was
prepared for the occasion.
MY GRANDFATHER'S KITCHEN. I as distinctly remember my
grandfather's kitchen as any other object whatever. It was on the
northeast side of the house. On one end was a cellar way, of
which the latter was sometimes chosen to find the exit out of doors,
and resulted in landing the unlucky person at the bottom of the cellar.
The walls were ceiled up with boards and painted red. At one end
were the dressers, where were arranged in rows the pewter plates,
platters and crockery. On the back side of the room were banks
which served as substitutes for chairs. I remember the huge fire
place, so large, that we grandchildren could look up the chimney by the
half dozen. In the jamb was a small recess made by the omission
of a brick where the inkstand was placed to keep it from freezing, and
where the family pipe found a lodgement. On one side was the huge
oven with its wooden lid which often caught fire much to grandmother's
Then there were the huge andirons made of wrought iron by the
neighboring blacksmith, and which were almost as tall as myself, but
whose third leg was burned off and a rock substituted therefor.
Above these hang the crane, hooks, trammels, tea-kettle, dish-kettle
and great kettle for washing. In one corner were the poker and
tongs, the latter no mean imitation of a long-legged boy. In one
corner was a settle into which a half dozen found accommodations at
once. The floor, made of clear spruce boards, was white as water,
soap and sand could make it. Overhead were the poles on which
hung the strings of apple, pumpkin, and clothes. Near the entry
door were nails for the boy's hats and the bootjack, while over the
fire-place was the old queen's arm just ready to go off.
I well remember how grandfather would, just before sunset, cut off a
large log, roll it to the door, raise it on end, and walk it into the
house, just as he would a boy by the shoulders, lay it down by the side
of the fire-place with other wood. In the morning the ashes are
raked open, the slumbering embers begin to glow, the back log is rolled
in and partially buried in ashes, with a back-stick, fore-stick,
trimmings and kindlings to make the first fire. Sometimes the old
spruce logs snap most merrily and burn the children. When the
wood was green, the sap would sizzle out of the end of the wood and
burn the unlucky fingers that found their way there.
I remember how grandmother would roast the potatoes in the ashes, and
bake a cake before the fire on a board before breakfast. Then she
would trot from dressers to cellarway, from which arose a peculiar odor
from cheese and apples, both of which tasted better than any I ever
meet with now-a-days.
In short, the old kitchen served as a place for huskings,
corn-shelling, reception-room, dining and work-room, and meeting-house
. Here the
neighbors met during the long winter evenings, had a bountiful supper,
a bowl of apples and a mug of cider. Here they talked of witches
and of battles fought and won. I remember how grandfather would
speak of old Ticonderogue
(which he always pronounced in four syllables, with peculiar emphasis
on the last syllable) whither he was ordered during the
Revolution. But they are gone, all gone, and we remember them as
among those who acted well their part in this world's history.
After examining the curiosities, grandfather John Kimball, who has been
chorister in this parish for at least two generations, pitched the
faw-sol-faw-m of an old tune from which the good old-fashioned counter
came out most sweetly by the grandmothers. The Anthem for Easter
was still pronounced good. Finally, Old Hundred was sung, a
prayer made by Rev. E. A. Buck, and the company returned to their
homes, highly gratified with the evening's entertainment.
The Club chose a committee to revive the laws, and another to make
arrangements for the Town Fair in October next. Thus have ended
the social gatherings for another year which will long be remembered by
those who have been the most interested in them.
Any persons having any old account books, letters, anecdotes, books or
papers, or any information pertaining to the history of this town, are
requested to send them to the writer of this article. Also any
information respecting the Indians, Indian names of places, meaning of
Indian names in this vicinity. Anecdotes of early settlers,
exploits in hunting, accounts of Revolutionary soldiers, and their
services in defence of their country, will be very