Nina Daniels



Wednesday, June 30, 1948

We were speaking of the pleasures and diversions of the early settlers, for it is normal for those of all ages to crave diversion from the stern ways of life. Even animals enjoy their moments of relaxation when the cares of everyday living are thrown off by a brisk canter in the field or a scrap with a neighbor.

It has always seemed to me that the mothers of those early days had less relaxation than the fathers. Drudging from morn to eve over their spinning, weaving, washing, soap-making, candle molding and cooking, all with the most primitive tools, their days were overcrowded and even their pleasures, such as quilting parties, were often work of some kind.

The visits of the shoemaker and pedlars were, in a way, a change as they no doubt brought news and gossip from one family to another. And it was a treat to select their scant purchases from the pedlar's stock. Elisha Risdon in his diary tells of one giving one of these wandering merchants a deer skin for 50 cents worth of goods bought. They consisted of an almanac, six cents; comb, four cents; soap, eight cents and a tin pail for 32 cents.

Probably the almanac was The Old Farmer's Almanac, an institution still in existence, although its price is 25 cents now. The cakes of hard soap were cherished until the pedlar should come again. The soap was a change from the strong soft soap used in washing and scrubbing. And how the housewife cared for the shiny tin pail; she had so many heavy iron utensils. Sometimes several pedlars would come at once and were kept several days.

The shoes for the family were made by traveling shoe-makers and created quite a change in the housewife's program. Coarse boots would be fashioned for the boys; lighter shoes for the girls. Mr. Risdon paid $4.75 for a pair of heavy boots and two pairs of shoes. And they were careful of their foot-wear. An old lady told me of going to church from her cabin home to the village. She carried her precious shoes in her hand until she came to the edge of the village when she painfully donned them. They were far from being the fine and fancy articles now worn by young ladies, but they wore for years with care.

The shoe-maker stayed several days and had his lodging and board. No doubt he regaled the family with news of all the other folks he had recently shod.

The great majority of the early settlers of Parishville, Hopkinton and Stockholm came from Vermont and New Hampshire, and were descendants of the Puritans and Pilgrim Fathers who founded the nation in New England. Thus the settlers were, as a rule, of a deeply religious nature and fervently entered into and enjoyed religious meetings. These were entertainment for those men, women girls and youths deprived of the pleasures demanded by present-day youngsters.

Evangelists, preachers and exhorters were much in evidence and they took their duties seriously. It was their job to save their bearers form the horrors of the hell in which all believed, and their methods were such as to excite the imagination and arouse both the joys and the fears attendant on their pictures of the future life. They shouted, they wept, they threatened and they cajoled

A certain Rev. Burchard, in Stockholm, especially created great excitement by his preaching and violent efforts to save the souls of his trembling hearers. Settlers, especially young men and women, went for miles around to hear him. Both preacher and listeners were in deadly earnest regarding their conduct in this life and the one to come. It was no wonder that a heaven where ease and joy awaited their weary bodies appealed to them and that they should welcome descriptions of the ways to attain such a heaven.

On the other hand, perhaps the threat of eternal punishment in a red-hot furnace kept them honest and good. Anyhow, they were enduring, brave and kind to one another and strove to make their communities decent. However, human nature is ever the same and there were thieves and even murderers among them.

Can you see your great-great-grandparents and the children load themselves into the ox-cart and slowly make their way of the Market road to hear the Rev. Burchard? That would be down the road to Southville, then along the country lanes known as roads north to Stockholm, probably the village known now as West Stockholm.

Slowly they proceeded—the ox teams were no sprinters. Wild roses grew along the way, likewise buttercups and daisies. Robins called to one another and far off whippoor-wills pensively sang their sad refrains. Great trees still grew thickly around them and mayhap a distant wolf howled. Father held his gun more securely and his women-folk shivered. The dews had fallen and a sweet moon shone upon them before the log school-house was reached where the preaching was to be held. For that was more than one hundred years ago. Possibly they had their church then. Returning some hours later, the talk would be of the sermon and those who were "converted" or took their places on the "anxious seat." Maybe the younger ones would question their elders regarding the doctrines they had listened to. No doubt they resolved to do their work better and be careful to tell the truth and so escape the direful fate of the transgressor.



North Country