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September 2007

Diary of Hiram Harvey Hurlburt Jr: Chapter 1

My birth day was March 5th 1827. I have it before me recorded by my father in his well known hand to me, in a small testament on a blank leaf. This testament was of very small type-size, three inches by five and one half inches, less than half an inch think. It was printed with the letter “s” like the italic “f” they seem to be arbitrary in their placing, one of the ways was; as when the letters came together of gan??ind, one will be one fashion. The printer evidently to avoid confusion so placed them.

It is penciled on the stingy margin to note many passages that seem precious to my dear father; whose hand placed my birth day on the blank page at the close of the volume. Once more he wrote the name of a brother, Henry W. Hurlburt June 30th 1829, whose death a few years later brought a cloud over the happy family. Then I was left along, when my little playmate had passed the company of kindred spirits where sickness and death do not enter.

I was not just rugged like some. Then I wanted some one to play with. I ??? little girl about my age across the street and how I came to wander to her yard I have no recollection, but that I did wander from the prescribed bounds I well remember, as my mother made me feel it from a squitch of curra?? bush – and that was enough! I did not disobey the parental order afterwards.

This is my only recollection of being punished in a corporeal manner by parents. It was necessary that there should be a limit to my wandering as the back of the house was founded on a precipice of Otter Creek with steep descent of at least thirty feet to the deep water, only three or four rods above the falls of thirteen feet which at times made great roaring.

When about three years of age my father bought a place across the ponds, a fine level of intervale land and moved to it. This eased my mothers fears for me a measure.

My mother took me over to this purchase before moving, to see the room. The lady then resident – had a small boy in her arms of two years, he interested me quite a good deal. His caretaker had been induced to bring him up as he had no mother living. His first name was the same as mine “Hiram”, we were more or less mates as I was only one and a half years his senior. After we had lived in this new purchase a few years, this calling acquaintance became quite frequent, until I heard my mother say, that she caught the lady in gossip that was highly embellished. So she acquainted the lady with the fact. For reply: The lady said, “When I hear a story and it does not sound proper only to me, I add to it, to make it sound right.” This answer was give in open countenance , as if it was a virtue to be distinguished. As I grew older, this did not seem in my view to greatly lower the lady’s reputation. I would hear the remark. Oh! That came from Mrs. Abbott, and, we must make some allowance – Mrs. Abbott never makes a story out of whole cloth as-such a one can.

The word cloth was in frequent use, and I suppose why it was so common was that my father and his brother in law “John Robbins” were joint owners in a woolen factory for making broadcloth. This business was one of the necessary ones for this Quaker Village. It was quite in advance for the times, in one particular manner it excelled all others far and near – it had an indigo blue dye, of which the sitting up and getting in proper shape cost one hundred and fifty dollars. There was a secret process whereby the dye could be kept perpetually of which these ??? had exclusive knowledge.

There had to be a large copper kettle set in an arch of brick arranged for a fire underneath that would hold one hundred gallons – then convenient to ladle oil to a tank of wood that would hold the same amount. I remember well this tank of whose top was about four inches above my head, with a wooden reel above to run the cloth into the dye an almost endless job, as the pieces of cloth were attached together, so there could be an endless web of two hundred yards or more and its journeyings again and again. Then another reel over the copper in the arch for an immersion when the dye was properly heated.

This dyeing of cloth was almost a wizard business, the secret of preparation and keeping from year to year caused its reputation for durability of color to go far and wide – goods being sent from Troy and Whitehall N.Y. and north to the Canada Line.

There were three weavers employed – two English and one Welsh and their goods were well liked – having a ready sale.

In July 1830, a freshet occurred and swept away this four story factory. There were fourteen lives lost, from a village called Beamens Hollow in the town of New Haven, Vt. (now Brooksville.) Eleven of the bodies were found when the water fell on some islands below Quaker Village. The jacks and mule and looms were found on those islands broken and worthless. The loss of the factory was complete except the blue dye tank and the arch and kettle.

My father and Uncle soon had another substantial wooden structure erected. They went at carding wool and the coloring and finishing up of the cloth spun and wove by the thrifty families about them.

One of the first things I found to be useful was to care to care for the rolls as they came from the cards. To grasp the proper quantity from the receptacle as they were combed off from the machine, give the bunch the proper twist as they were placed in the pile on the cotton bed sheet to be when finished nicely rolled up and fastened with thorns that were plentiful on some pasture grounds. In gathering these thorns was one of my occupations. I had a set price at ridiculous low figures, but which to ???

(The full diary will be located here when complete.)

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