Hampton Reminiscences -- Part II

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By Enoch P. Young

(July 3, 1824 - January 11, 1910)

The Exeter News-Letter

September 25, 1903

- Part II -

EDITOR, The Exeter News-Letter. -- The placing of my picture in so public an exhibition room as the News-Letter, wholly unexpected by me, tends largely to excite my gratitude. I shall have to be on my guard, least it excite my vanity. But a few more of my scribblings at most, then my pen will be still. I must apologize for my seemingly too often personality. When writing, I do my own way, please myself, else not write at all. When I remember the writings of the apostle Paul, I am encouraged. That good man, among the wisest and best scholars, was addicted to the same habit. His personality is not only spice, but adds rich perfume to all his letters. Let me refer to the eleventh and twelfth chapters of Second Corinthians. In those two short chapters, the personal pronoun "I" occurs more than 80 times. Does any one complain that it comes any too often?

Recollections of the long ago homes may refresh memories of the few aged ones yet remaining, and be new to those of later growth. Seventy years ago, but 10 dwelling houses then in Hampton had ever been covered with paint, many others not so much as clapboarded! Although now, the number of dwelling houses in town, including those at the beaches, have more than tripled, there are but three that were never painted. A large majority of all others to-day are neat and tidy as a new garment just out of the drawer. The jointing of the board covering of such as were not clapboarded was by the process called feather-edging, shedding rain comfortably well, till the boards, after years of sunshine and storm, became shrunken and warped. The jointing then opened, wind and snow freely found a way inside, when in such rooms as had no plastering (many chambers then were in that condition). Open chambers, snow, assisted with a strong wind, often made our bedroom very much like out-of-doors, with snow drifts by our side, if not on the bed. Such mornings we gladly made out flight to the big open fireplace with its big backlogs all aglow with heat.

The dwelling houses of those times were liberal in according room for the big brick chimney, near the centre of building, space large enough for a good sized bedroom. The open fireplace in chimney, upstairs and downstairs, was considered an absolute necessity. No hard coal then. No cast iron stoves then, excepting perhaps the Franklin (Stove), used in parlor or sitting room. An open stove, patterned somewhat after the open fireplace, was largely ornamental, with its polished brass andirons, shovel and tongs, with mantle ornaments and a swinging crane. The Franklin's place was usually on the broad fireplace hearth of parlor or sitting room with the brick fireplace closed. Its use was confined to the few that could afford such luxury.

Many chambers were provided with open fireplaces, the then only available method by which the sick in chamber could be kept comfortable in the cold days of winter.

Mother's foot stove we used to take to church for her on cold Sunday mornings answered for them, provided the janitor had coals enough for all. But such an arrangement had not force enough for the sick room. It needed the open fire with the generous wood pile near at hand. On the lower floor most of the fireplaces were accompanied with the big brick oven at their side, where mother and sister expected they should do much of the family cooking, home baked pork and beans, brown bread and Indian pudding, fired up several times some weeks. Mother's other cooking utensils were the long handle frying pan resting on coals, or on andirons backlog, steadied usually by it long handle, nearly four feet in length, resting on back of some kitchen chair.

The Dutch oven, hanging on the fireplace crane, with its peculiar cover, so arranged that a liberal amount of hot embers could be kept on the cover, while fire beneath, near the andirons, did the rest. The tin baker or roaster had its place on the broad brick hearth, front of the open fire. Here fancy cooking and meat roasting was expected. Roasting potatoes, or much of it, was done in the hot embers, on hearth between andirons. When sufficiently cooked they were raked from the hot embers on to the broad hearth. Cook placed them on cloth kept for that purpose, shaking off the ashes, and the potatoes were ready for the table. They are cooked no better to this day.

Let me call to mind other home fixings, such as mothers and grandmothers of those times used in most family homes, adornments of their principal home room, their life work shop, the old family kitchen. There was the kitchen table, ever in its place, doing liberal service without partiality. The large, generous open fireplace, with broad brick hearth, andirons all aglow with heart from the backlogs, a large family could gather in its comforting surroundings. The fireplace crane with pothooks and trammel, pots and kettles, ever present in generous variety, shovel and tongs. Turkey or goose wings were hearth dusters. The fish oil lamp, hanging in chimney corner, or on swinging out, chimney crane, an inveterate smoker, with chimney flue for its vent.

The home-made hemlock broom, from green hemlock boughs, used principally about the kitchen hearth and sanded floors. Then many of the working room floors were not painted but sanded.

The bellows, hanging in the chimney corner, was an important factor when kindling fire. This was before friction matches were in use. The flint and steel (usually an old file) and tinder, which was obtained by an adept method of burning cotton cloth, kept in a tin box in chimney corner or on mantel shelf, were then the common methods used for kindling fire. Some practised banking coals in embers on hearth, between andirons over night. Failing to succeed in saving fire for morning use, they begged of some neighbor who had been lucy in keeping his own over night. Such occurrences were common. I can certify to practical experiences in that line myself, when a boy. The first friction matches I ever saw, an uncle of mine, working in Boston in the middle thirties {1830s}, brought home. They were called lucifer matches, costing nine pence (12½ cents) per box, containing about fifty strips of waxed cotton cloth or tape, two inches in length by one-fourth inch in width, touched on one end with a substance that ignited easily. In the same box was a piece of sand paper, folded with sanded faces together. Place the end of the match between, with sudden pull, you have fire.

Candlesticks, brass or iron, with their adjunct, the snuffers, were found in nearly every house; tallow candles were the principal movable light about the house. The tin lantern, constructed purposely for use of tallow candles, did outside movable work. Glass lamps with whale oil afforded stationary light many years previous to the discovery of coal or kerosene oils. The cast iron cook stove was then an almost unknown quantity. I remember well my father's purchase of his first cook stove, and he was among the first in this neighborhood to have one.

Household duties then were a never ending task for mother. Culinary or cooking was the one task where her energies were fully taxed, such large families to be care for and fed. Mother was not only main spoke, but hub to the wheel, around which all other spokes revolved. The mothers of to-day seem to have dropped into an easier world than their grandmothers.

Many families in those times kept their flocks of sheep. Several hundreds were kept in this town. Wool cards, knitting needles, spinning wheel and loom departments were busy factors in many a household. Much of the family clothing was manufactured at the home. Mother and the daughters were directly responsible for the productions. Willing and busy workers, many of those daughters became adepts to perfection. When they obtained later on, homes of their own, they were fully prepared to act well their parts as wife and mother, the wheel within a wheel that makes home a paradise on earth. The wool cards, spinning wheel, loom and its fixtures, that furnished mother and daughters such healthful recreation all gone, only occasionally now to be seen, the laid by relics of so lately gone by age. Lawn tennis, golf and cricket were unknown then, their recreative qualities I cannot vouch for.

Divorce, that dire disease so prevalent now, notably so, was rarely known in mother's day. Now matters trivial part husband and wife. It excites no alarm. A few years since a woman, tired of her husband (or of waiting for him to die), decided on divorce.

The Sabbath day in those times was religiously observed by nearly all of both sexes. If you doubt, ask your grandmother. Mother, with all her cares, did not forget the children on God's holy day. Ringing the church bell, both forenoon and afternoon, signalled the hours. No one service then, but two, sometimes three. The preacher then did not belong to the easily tired set, with periodical vacations often, for recreation. The hard working layman had no privileges in that time. Called and set apart as preacher, they seemed to feel the "woe tis me, if I preach not the gospel." Looking well after the Master's business in love, without shirking, ready at all times and places to fearlessly tell the story, with full faith in the promise, "Open your mouth and I will fill it." In childhood's days we ever expected to attend church Sabbath day, if well.. If in summer we went barefoot, and in winter carried for mother her foot stove, her comforting comforter, while in the large, open church room, two stories in height, with thermometer often at zero or near by it, and only one moderately sized box stove near the center of the lower room, to generate heat for the whole building.


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