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Diary of Hiram Harvey Hurlburt Jr: Chapter 2

I think it is strange as I look back seventy years and renew my acquaintance with things long past, and practically forgotton only to be brought vividly present by going over the ground in my mind.

One Sunday when at 5 years of age my aunt led me to the Quaker Meeting House it was a perfectly still day about the middle of June, we took our seats in the front, back at the pulpit desk sat Uncle Samuel Meeker and by his side Aunt Miriam his wife, (all called those aged Quakers uncle and aunt) then were seated next to Uncle Samuel a brother in the church – next to Aunt Miriam a sister, and so on were the sexes seated. It was so still the stillness could be felt; just the eternal roaring of the falls and the buzzing of the profane flies, probably I was never before so quiet in my life, not a whisper, it seemed to me in my agony that hours and hours were passing. Finally Uncle Samuel majestically rose up and at the same time Aunt Miriam his wife, they quietly shook hands, the other brethren and sisters the same, all quietly left the house, when we came home my aunt looked at the clock and said to my mother “The meeting was just an hour.” I thought there was some mistake and I pledged myself silently that the next time I went, I would know by the clock the length of time, and even now I wonder if my aunt did not make a mistake of an hour at least. On my mothers inquiring farther about the service? – her sister replied “That the Spirit did not move.”

As I was quite forward in children’s studies, that fall there was a select school started in this meeting house by a Quakeres named Rebecca Weeks, among the scholars I was numbered. I had at home a Websters spelling book my parents were teaching me from; and the pronunciation was different from the Marshalls used by the Quakers. I was reading along and pronounced the word different from the Marshalls authority, the teacher has about the blackest of eyes – she gave me a look that was piercing telling me the correct way. I said, “I won’t! For mother says it is so.” Miss Weeks had a fine twig of birch just cut, she brought it down on my neck and shoulders – and it hurt. My heart was broken, and how long I was in the wilderness of grief I have no recollection. As soon as I was free I went across the street where my grandmother lived, I must have carried my sobbing with me, for my grandmother found out about the punishment. She found the horrid mark across the neck and shoulders as I only wore for a vest some cotton fabric. My grandmother doctored the long welt and took me over to Miss Rebecca to show her mark of her punishment. Then Miss Rebecca was to explain the cause. My grandmother was the most capable woman with her tongue that I am sure I ever heard. I am sure she said to her language that was entirely appropriate to the occasion – at least she was so eloquent in her manner that Miss Weeks was in tears – for we left her crying while my grandmother took me home. When my mother saw the mark and told the reason for it, I can see how white she turned. My mother had a very delicate complexion white and red – when she came to get her voice and speak it was “I will not send Hiram another day!” This did not hinder me from advancing in my studies.

My father was a teacher of vocal music. In the long winter evening he had a sing school and I use to attend and it seems to me that I did not have to hear a tune more than twice, when I would be familiar with the air or leading part. I remember attending church and standing on the seat beside my father and accompany him in the words and music looking over with him in the words and tune book.

The winter after I was six years old was a season of theatrical exibitions. They were called dialogies in which the actors would be resplendant in uniforms, swords and various trappings to designate the character acted. I was told to learn two pieces for one occasion. One was: “Sarag went to Boston and saw a negro.” The other was, “You scarce expect one of my age, To speak in public on the stage, Don’t view me with a critics eye, But pass my imperfections by.” At the close of each piece the house was in a roar of cheering, to which I was in great wonder, But finally, concluded not to be frightened, as I walked back timidly to my station I had chosen beside the cheif violinist whose art had captivated my whole soul.

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

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.)