thank you to Gary Banks for this information and for his subtle
reminders to make the time to format and post this very important
"first person" narrative of life in Redding, Connecticut.
You were right Gary, this stuff is priceless.
Platt, Life in Redding from the 1880's into the 1920's:
My first recollection was a trip
over to Newtown to my grandfather Platt's with my mother.
Coming home she gave me the horse whip to play with and I
got it caught in the wagon wheel and broke it. When we arrived
home, dad asked mother what happened to the whip. The rest
was simple. Dad took me across his knee and gave me a good
spanking which I never forgot.
We always had Thanksgiving dinner
at Grandfather Platt's and the dinner was always cooked in
the brick oven and it was much better than today.
I now began to grow up and my father
said to me one night as I was going to bed, "Tomorrow, son,
you are going to school". In the morning we yoked the oxen
because he was going to Mike Flood's blacksmith shop to get
them shod. He said, "Get in and I will take you to school".
The Center District School was
just south of Redding Center on the east side of the road
on a stony hump. This was a one room school with eight grades.
The teacher was Miss Mary Flood, a sister of the blacksmith,
whose shop was a quarter of a mile beyond. My father took
me in the school and I began to cry. Miss Flood told my father
that I would be alright and I was. Soon I began to enjoy school.
In my second year we were playing
hide and seek one day and I jumped over a fence right on a
stub which pierced my foot so that I bled like a stuck hog.
The boys helped me into school and the teacher boiled some
water on the stove and washed my foot. The she took the broom
and brushed down some cobwebs, pushed them in the stub hole
to stop the bleeding, and sent me home with two older boys
to help me.
That summer I spent with my mother's
parents in Dodgingtown. One day granddaddy Crane (George)
took me to Danbury and got me my first suit with knee breeches.
These were my first pants. Before this I had worn kilts. The
next morning he cut off my long curls and dressed me in my
new suit with a pair of leather boots. About noon my parents
came to dinner. As soon as my mother saw me she started to
cry and cried the rest of the day. I spent the rest of the
summer with my grandparents and came home to go to school
in the fall.
In October the town had a small
pox epidemic. Bill Reed, a colored man with a big family,
who lived on Gallows Hill Road across the brook from the intersection
of what is now called Old Stagecoach Road, asked Dr. Wakeman,
of Redding Center, to help his family.
Dr. Wakeman refused so Dr. Barber,
who lived next door to the Methodist Church in Bethel, came
down. Dr. Barber would stop on Gallows Hill Road, change his
clothes in the brush, spray himself, go on and treat the family
as best he could, go back and change his clothes and go back
to Bethel. He saved all but one small child. This would have
been the fall of 1887.
Dr. Wakeman said that all children
had to be vaccinated so one day my father took me down to
the doctor. Dr. Wakeman sat me in a high chair and said, "Roll
up your sleeve young man." He took a small knife and a saucer
out of a dish closet. He said, "I'm not going to hurt you
young man." and I began to cry. He pricked my arm in three
or four places, dipped the knife in something that was in
the saucer, and rubbed it on my arm.
In March of the next year, 1888,
the blizzard came. The man next to us, named Upton, worked
for Beers, near the Center (now Streeter's). The day the storm
started, Upton's wife went down to ask him to come home, she
was worried because the storm was getting so bad. He told
her to go home and mind her own business but she did not.
The storm was so bad it got the best of her. About a week
later she was found, frozen to death, opposite what is now
Redding's Town Office Building but was then Hill Academy.
My mother's father, George Crane,
came over one day and told my mother I should be in school.
She said there was no money to spare and he told her he would
take care of the costs. So he took me to Mr. Webster, the
teacher at Hill Academy, and after they talked for quite a
while Mr. Webster gave me an examination. I guess I passed
because he told me to come to school the following Monday,
which I did. The Academy was equal to the high school of today
and some of the boys and girls were fully grown.
More than anything else I remember
the pranks I had a part in at the Academy. One sunny spring
day I asked to go outside to the toilet. On the way I found
a black snake about eighteen inches long. I cut a hole in
my coat pocket and put the snake in. When I went back inside
I walked down the aisle where the girls sat, bent over quickly,
and put the snake on the floor. Just as I got to my seat there
was a scream and the girls all got up on the desks. One kid
told the teacher he saw me drop the snake and I got a good
Soon after that three of us boys
went up to the belfry while the teacher was at dinner. When
he came back someone told him where we were. He tried to get
us to come down but we had pulled the ladder up after us and
he couldn't get to us so he gave up calling to us. We watched
for him to go home and when he did we put the ladder back
and came down. The next morning he called school to order
as if nothing had happened but when he dismissed the school
that day he said, "You three boys can stay after school."
He then told us to stay every night until we had made up the
time we had lost. This took longer than we had thought.
That fall, Miss Burgess was looking
for someone to pick apples for her. She asked me if I wanted
the job and I took it because I wanted some money for the
Danbury Fair. As I started to fill each barrel, I put leaves
and sticks in the bottom to get a head start. I got my money
for the fair. About a week later Miss Burgess came to the
school and wanted to see me. She told me she was ashamed of
me to cheat her as I did. "Now," she said, "you can come over
and pick enough more apples to make up for the sticks and
leaves you put in my barrels." I did. I guess I was a little
At the time of the Corbett - Fitzsimmons
fight (March 17, 1897) some of the big boys teased a boy named
Godfrey and me until they got us to agree to fight. They made
a big circle on the ground and we stepped in it. One of the
boys put a chip on my shoulder and told Godfrey to knock it
off. In stead he hit me in the pit of my stomach and I went
down and out. The boys worked my arms and legs and the teacher
came running out with a pail of water. I knew he was there
and wanted to tell him to stop but I had no breath and he
threw the whole pail of water in my face. They helped me into
the school but I did no studying that afternoon. I glared
at Godfrey and thought of a way to get even.
I guessed right that he would
go to Squires' store after school to buy candy. I met him
there and knocked him into some rose bushes and started to
hammer him. Mr. Squires came out, pulled me off, and gave
me a good spanking and told me to go home. The next day, Harvey
Rumsey came up to see my mother and told her I was a nuisance
and the best thing she could do was to send me to a reform
school. But, again, Grandfather Crane came over and patched
The next summer, five of us went
to Falls Hole to go swimming. After we swam awhile someone
suggested we wade to the upper end of the hole and pick some
pond lilies. When we came back, Joel Selleck said he was going
to swim across the hole. I told him not to because I knew
he couldn't swim well but he started out anyway. He went down
in about eight feet of water. Four of us formed a chain, out
from the shallow water, with me in the lead since I was the
best swimmer. I got out to him and he grabbed me and down
we went. I struck him behind the ear and when I managed to
get him to the bank there wasn't a boy in sight.
I did not know what to do. I tried
to open Joel's mouth but I couldn't so I found a stick and
pried it open. I dragged him to a round boulder and pounded
his back and the water came out of his mouth like a river.
Finally he came to and the first words he said were, "Don't
tell Auntie or Dad because I will never go swimming again."
There still wasn't another boy in sight but after a while
they all came back. Joel later studied law but he never was
much of a swimmer.
One of the boys had come down to
Falls Hole on horseback and his old horse had got loose and
wandered, looking for grass. When we found him another boy
grabbed the rope he was trailing and the horse kicked him
in the mouth, knocked out two teeth, and cut his upper lip
so that Dr. Wakeman had to put four stitches in it. We had
quite a day.
That same summer Hezzy and Fred
Nickerson, Joel Selleck and I built a hut in sections, put
it on a wagon, took it down to the Saugatuck, put it together
and camped for a week. It was strawberry season and one day
I picked quite a few. That night we went over to another boys'
house. His father, Mr. Tip Jones, gave us a gallon of milk
out of his milk pail and told us to tie a string on the jug
and put it on the bottom of the river so we could have milk
to drink. We decided to save the milk for breakfast to go
with the strawberries but by the next morning it had soured
- there had been too much animal yeast in the milk. The strawberries
were pretty good anyway.
In the fall I went back to school
and nothing much happened until Danbury Fair time. Bicycles
were much more popular than they have been ever since and
Howard Miller and I rode bikes a good deal and we could beat
anybody we had ever come up against. We decided to go to the
fair and try to win the free-for-all. On the way to Danbury
on our bikes we met some summer boarders with a horse and
a two seated wagon. The horse took fright and jumped across
the road. I struck him amidships and went over his back and
into Mrs. Miller's garden. She was going out to feed the pigs.
She emptied the swill pail and went to the brook and got a
pail of water and threw it in my face. I came to and looked
at my bike and saw that it was smashed. I knew who the city
boarders were and I began to lay the law down to them. They
finally shut me up and I really felt a little sorry for them
because their wagon was a total wreck.
Howard and I went to Danbury on
the trolley. I asked Howard what I was going to do and he
said he knew a man - a friend of his father's - who ran a
bicycle shop and we went and told him our story. He told us
to pick any bikes we wanted and take them to the fair. We
did and we raced in the free-for-all but couldn't quite make
first. We came in second as a team. We went back to his place
and his father brought me home and I went to bed and stayed
there for a week. His father was County Commissioner and he
had a big farm in Redding. After he became county commissioner
he let the farm out on shares and moved to Danbury.
Then in November, the teacher sent
the class to the blackboard to do some algebra. We set the
problem down on the board and I turned my back on it and the
teacher told me I could not do it with my back to the board.
He looked at me and I looked at him and I made a dash for
the door with him after me. He did not catch me and I went
home. Mother asked me what I was home for and I said I was
not going to school anymore. She watched for the teacher to
come that night and she called him in and they had quite a
talk. He told me to come up to his boarding place after supper
and he would show me. I did and he showed me more in one hour
than he had showed me in a year and a half but I did not go
back to school. I was sorry in later years that I did not
because I thought I wanted to be a lawyer.
There was a colored man by the
name of Sip Coon (That's what everybody called him, I don't
know as anybody knew his real name). He was some man. How
he could play a banjo and sing. One day he gave me ten cents
to go to the store and buy him a five cent plug of tobacco
and I could have the other five cents for candy. I spent the
whole ten cents for candy and came back home. I tried to make
myself scarce but he finally spied me and asked where his
tobacco was. I told him I lost the ten cents. Dad gave me
five cents and I had to go back and get Sip tobacco. I did
not buy any candy that time.
Another thing I remember is the
Danbury Fair. Dad always drove what they call a carryall and
carried people to and from the fair. This carryall was drawn
by two pair of horses and he always hired Beach Baldwin to
drive as he could handle two pair of horses to perfection.
And scrap, too, as sometimes had to be done coming back to
Danbury as some would have two or three sheets in the wind
or would not have any money to pay their fare and it almost
always started a fight. Dad would call on Beach to settle
the argument and he did, most always. They would stay all
the week in Danbury. There was other carryalls but the man
that had the best looking rig and could holler the most got
the most passengers as there was no other way to get to the
fair unless you went by train and they did not run often enough.
If the weather was good, dad made out pretty good and on Sunday
they would come home with two pair of pretty tired horses
and two tired men as there was no fair on Sunday.
In my kid days, onions were the
main money crop around here. Most all the farmers raised onions.
They were hauled to one boat in Westport and three in Southport.
In Southport they sailed from docks where the yacht club is
now. The owner's names were Meeker, Banks and Jennings and
they would take onions and other farm stuff to New York and
sell them for a commission of twenty one cents a barrel and
bring back the empty barrels. They would make a trip in about
ten days or two weeks. They had two and three masted sail
boats and they carried a crew of about eight men. But they
finally gave up and that ended the onion business. The year
my father died we had about fifteen hundred barrels of onions
and we did not get enough out of them to pay the fertilizer
bill so that was the end of onions for us too.
Mother did not know what to do
to support us three boys and a great grandmother. We had a
man working for us name of George Poys, a polish fellow. He
worked the farm on shares and he done some teaming on the
outside and we got along pretty good till he got to drinking
and my mother could not put up with him any longer.
At that time we had a colored girl
working for us name of Jenny Willis. She and George had their
troubles. She hit him on the head with a cast iron skillet
and knocked him down and then she got a butcher knife and
she said, "I am going to cut your heart out." Mother heard
the racket and separated them. She paid Jenny off and told
her to take the first train out of West Redding in the morning
which was 6:15. She went and I never saw her again till, about
twenty years ago, she came back to Redding to live. She was
my "Black Mammy".
I am a little ahead of my story.
The next morning, George went to the constable, whose name
was George Bartram, and he came up and asked my mother where
Jenny was. Mother said, "I do not know." "Well," he said,
"I will find her." But he never did, he died first.
So the end was near for George
Poys and, to finish it up: He went up on the hill to mow and
mother gave me his dinner to take up to him. I got up there
and he had cut of the end of two of his fingers. I finished
the piece and we went home. Mother was so mad she would not
speak to him and she told me to take him down to the doctor
and I did. Dr. Wakeman told George to lie on the floor and
told me to sit on his chest and he sewed up the ends of George's
fingers and we went home.
When we got home mother was out
in the yard and she said, "George, we are through." He packed
up and left and my mother said to me, "We will run the farm,
you and I." It was a hard job as there was five of us to support
but we did pretty good.
I got a job as a snot (plumber's
helper) at Hull and Rogers in Danbury. I went there after
the holidays and the boss asked me if I knew anything about
horses. I said I did and he told me to hitch up the white
horse and come around to the porch. I did and he put a mess
of tools in the wagon and we started. We got into the street
and he looked around and said, "You will have to run back
and get the blow torch." I did not know what a blow torch
was. I was looking around and the handyman asked me if I was
looking for something. I told him I was and said what and
he said, "There it is on the bench in front of you." If it
had been a snake it would have bitten me.
It was very cold that winter and
about all the work we had was frozen toilets. I could not
take it. My stomach would not let me. I spent one month and
I told the boss I could not take it. He said he thought I
would make a good man for the business but I wound up my job
as a plumber.
About that time I got a letter
from an old school mate that had graduated the year before
and gone to New York to work. He said he had a job with an
insurance firm. I went down and had a talk with the boss and
he told me to come to work Monday morning. I did and all I
done was run errands. This was down on the lower part of Broadway
and we boarded over in Brooklyn. The elevated train ran close
to our window and I could not sleep. I stayed close to six
weeks and, one night, I told my chum that I was going home
to stay. That was the end of the city for me.
When my mother's brother, Bryne
Crane, knew I was home, he came down and told me I was to
go into the hat shop and learn a trade. He told me I had been
running around enough. So I went to work up to E. Mallory
and Sons and I signed an agreement to work for them for three
years and they were to keep fifteen percent of my wages. I
was to work on all branches of the finishing business which
was stiff hat, soft hat, silk hat, lady's felt hat, and knap
hat. I was to work two weeks on each one of them for nothing.
If the man who was learning me saw fit to give me a dollar
or two he would but many weeks I got nothing. It was pretty
But I finally got a break. When
I went there the shop was what they called a hoppen shop and
two months after I went there the shop went fair and that
made my agreement no good. The boss called me down to the
office and said, "Our agreement is no good now so we will
give you back half your money." After that I was on my own.
Then I began to look at the girls.
There was a girl there from New York that boarded to Nickerson's
in the summer, Bessie Moore, but she gave me the go by. She
became a model and then she went to stage. The next girl was
an Alice Gorham. Her father was always telling me what to
do and what not to do and I did not like that so I quit her.
Shortly after that she began going out with another boy and
one night the horse ran away and she was killed. The next
girl was Lucy Sanford. Her mother didn't like me so we broke
One Sunday afternoon I was sitting
around the house and mother told me she wanted me to take
some dress goods up to Annie Haines. So I hitched up my horse
and went up. She had a younger sister, Allie, which I gave
the once over and as I started to go she walked out to the
gate with me and we had quite a talk and I asked her if she
would go riding with me next Sunday and she said yes.
That started something. We kept
company for a year and a half and then, the last day of 1900,
we were married. I went down to get the marriage license and
Judge Nickerson said, "I can not give you a license, you are
a minor and I will have to see your mother." And he did and
I guess she said alright because I got the license and that
day we were married. I quit early and went to her house and
told her father that Allie and I was going to get married.
He looked at me and said, "This is kind of sudden, well, take
good care of her, she is my baby." We got married that night
down at the parsonage and came home and my hired hand had
our bedroom all decorated. After new years we both went back
in the shop.
Shortly after that mother began
to disagree with me so I went over to grandfathers' and told
him that my wife and I was going to leave, that he would have
to pay the taxes and the insurance as he had the mortgage
on the farm. He told me that I had better stay and I came
home but things did not get any better.
Shortly after that he died and
things got worse because he had left me twice as much as he
did my brothers, and me being a minor made things worse yet.
So I went down to J.B. Sanford and told him the story and
asked him if he would act as my guardian and he said he would.
I went home and told my mother what I had done and that I
was going to leave. I told her that I would give her half
the stuff. She said, "I will not give you nothing."
I had three horses, twelve cows,
a barn full of hay, about a hundred bushel of potatoes, twenty
barrels of apples and ten pigs. When she said she would not
give me nothing I was pretty blue. I went to Mr. Sanford and
told him and he came up and talked with my mother and she
let me have one horse, two wagons, and two pigs. Mr. Sanford
told me to forget the rest so I did. The next day my wife's
father came down and asked what we were going to do. He said,
"Well, you come up to the house and live with us till you
know what you're going to do." So we did.
You know two families can not live
in the same house together. I came home from work one night
and the pot was boiling. He had been arrested because he had
been harboring a horse of mine which I had had the vet cut
the tail off of which was against the law. Several people
told me to take her over to Brewster and have her tail cut
off because you could not drive her. She would get her tail
over the line and just stand there and start kicking till
you got the tail off the line. The case was called so we went
to the Bethel Court House. I had a lawyer and the court was
called to order and the judge up and said, "I have looked
into this case and I don't think Mr. Haines is guilty of any
crime and the boy be morally guilty but not legally guilty.
Court dismissed." I paid our lawyer fifty dollars.
I took the horse over to Baxter
and Shove Stables in Brewster and they sent her down to New
York to be auctioned off and the next I knew I came from work
one night and I got off the trolley and Mr. P.J. Gavin that
ran the drug store met me. He told me Baxter and Shove wanted
me to call them. I called them and they asked me what I was
going to do about that horse. They had sold her to a woman
and she had run away and smashed up the carriage and broke
the woman's arm. "I am not going to do nothing. I did not
guarantee the horse." I said. I don't know how they came out,
I never heard from them. Since I got nothing out of the deal,
I lost the price of the horse plus the cost of cutting off
her tail and fifty dollars I paid the lawyer - a pretty dear
About that time my wife and I were
not getting along very well with her parents. One morning
at the breakfast table I was dunking my bread in my coffee
and her father said to me, "Young man, as long as you eat
at my table don't dunk your bread in your coffee because I
don't like it." That night I told my wife we better get some
rent so the next day we went to see Mr. Ed Andrews, the man
I worked for when there was no work in the shop. He said there
was an empty house two houses from him that was owned by a
man in Waterbury and he would call him on the phone. The man
said, "Yes if he will do his own cleaning up, and I mean back
yard too, and he need not pay any rent until he hears from
me." I took the rent and moved in. Mr. Ed Andrews told me
I could take a team of horses any time I wanted to clean up
the back yard. I did and we stayed there three months and
I never saw the man that owned the house and I paid no rent.
One thing that happened while I
was there, Mr. Ed Andrews came down one night and asked me
if I wanted to go to Waterbury in the morning as he had bought
two pairs of horses from the brass factory. We went and we
put a saddle on one, tied the three others together, and I
got into the saddle and started for Bethel. He led me out
of the city and then he left me. I thought, "Boy, you will
He no more than left me and it
started to rain. I had no rain coat and I was wet through.
Then I began to get blisters you know where. I would get off
and walk and then get back on and ride. I would swear and
then I would cry but got into Bethel about ten o'clock that
night. Ed heard me come in and he came out and said, "Boy,
you had a bad day." We put the horses in the barn. "Now you
come into the house, my wife has got a nice lunch for you."
I said I had better go home as my wife would be worried about
me but I went in and he and his wife could not do enough for
me. They gave me dry clothes and then I went home and I found
my wife crying and the first thing she said was, I thought
you were never coming." I did not get out of the house for
two days as I could not sit down or walk.
A few odd things about my father
in law, Mr. Haines: He was a very witty man. The old timers
laugh about him till this day. They would like to talk to
him as he always had something to say to make you laugh or
make you mad. One time he was a judge in Bethel and the courthouse
was always full when he had a case because he was so witty
he would keep them laughing all through the trial. He was
a blacksmith by trade and he was a good one but in his later
years he gave up blacksmithing and done a little farming and
a little work for the neighbors.
Fourth of July, he would have the
whole family home for a big day with a big clam bake. One
fourth, he wanted some peas and he asked a neighbor if he
could buy some peas. His name was Wildman and he was right
named because he was wild. He told Haines the peas was too
old but Haines got the peas anyway and they were old and you
could not cook them.
Wildman peddled ice in Bethel at
that time and, when he was coming back from Bethel, he went
by Haines house. Haines saw him coming and was mad about the
peas. He went out and told Wildman he wanted his money back.
Wildman told him he would not give him his money back. Haines
pulled him off the wagon and they started to fight. Wildman
knocked him down and got straddle of him and began to punch
him in the face. My wife told me to go and pull Wildman off
or she would and I guessed she would so I pulled him off.
Wildman looked at me and said, "Where in hell did you come
from?" I said, "It makes no difference." I told him I thought
Haines had had enough. Haines got up and he was a sight; two
black eyes and a bloody nose. He went in the house and the
girls washed him up. He told me to hitch up the horse and
take him to Bethel as he was going to have Wildman arrested.
I told him to cool off. "You are not going to have him arrested
as you are to blame." He cooled off but I guess they never
spoke after that.
One day, when he was about seventy
five, he was fixing a silo for a neighbor and he fell about
fifteen feet and broke his pelvis bone. That put him in bed
for a long time and my wife and I would go up twice a week
and I would shave him and my wife would wash him and he would
say, "I feel fine."
One day we went up and somebody
had butchered a hog for him and he told me to go up to the
barn and cut up the hog and I did. I was cutting up the hog
and I heard somebody hollering, "You are killing me." I got
down to the house and his three daughters had got him into
a wheel chair and you could hear him a mile. The girls told
him that it was doctor's orders and that, if he did not get
up soon, he never would. But we had to put him back to bed.
The next day it was not so bad. In three or four days, he
got so he could get from the bed into the chair himself.
When he got so he could get out,
they was working the town road in front of his house and he
went out and sat on a stone. It was in the spring and the
stone was cold and he took cold and developed pneumonia and
One Sunday my Uncle Will came up
and asked me if I wanted to buy the home as he was going to
foreclosure. It would be appraised and if I wanted it he would
put a flea in the ear of the appraiser to appraise it low.
I said, "Well it depends on how much they appraise it for."
They appraised it and I told my wife we would buy it. I went
down to Mr. J.B. Sanford as he was still my guardian and he
said he thought it was a good buy. His sister came in the
office and said, "Howard, you know that is an unlucky place
as three young men have died there in my day."
I bought it, moved in, and soon
found out nothing went well. One day I was looking at the
buildings. The barn and the house needed new roofs on so I
told my wife I was going to sell. Before I sold, I lost a
horse and, again, I went to Mr. Sanford and told him I had
no money and I had to have a horse. "I will meet you at the
City National Bank in the morning. I will endorse your note
and get the money." I met him there and in we went. He introduced
me to Mr. Griffin, the president, and told him that I wanted
to borrow some money. "That is alright if you will endorse
the note." Mr. Sanford said, "Sure I will." Mr. Griffin then
asked me how much I wanted. I told him I had changed my mind
and did not want any. Mr. Sanford said, "If you was my boy,
I would tune your pants." Mr. Griffin said it was a disgrace
to borrow if you can't pay it when it comes due. "You come
in and pay the interest and a little on the note. We will
make out a new one and everything will be alright." I said,
"No, I would not borrow no money."
I came home and went down to Sanfordtown
where a horse jockey lived and told him I had some heifers
I would trade for a horse. In the morning he came up and said,
"I will take them two heifers there for the horse that you
was looking at." We traded and if I had given him the two
heifers and killed the old horse I would have been better
off. He was cut in the wind. You worked him about ten minutes
and had to rest him for five minutes. Well, I got along with
him that summer and in the fall I sold him for five dollars.
About that time Mr. Deacon, who
had bought the place next door, came over and asked me if
I wanted to sell the place as he had heard I was going to
build a tobacco barn across the road from his house and if
I did that I would spoil his view. I said I was not going
to build anything. I don't know whoever told him that. "How
much will you take for the place?" I told him, "I will let
you know in a day or two." The second day he came up and said
he would take the place if I would take a half mortgage for
one year and I did. He bought the place for his son and ran
it for about a year and that was enough for him. He told me
he had had all the farming he wanted. Then it was rented for
two or three years to two different parties. Both of them
had bad luck. Then Mr. B.J. Sanford bought it for his oldest
son and I guess it was no better for him. He got discouraged
and gave up.
I am a little ahead of myself.
The first one that rented, both he and his wife died. Their
youngest and second said it was the most "who do" place they
had ever lived in. Then it was sold to Mr. Harold Burritt.
He died there a young man. His wife is living there now.
When I left there I went to work
over on Cough Hill for a man by the name of Lester Peck. I
told the foreman when he hired me that I thought we could
not get along together because he was too quick temperament.
He said, "We will get along alright. I will tell you what
to do in the morning and that is all there is to it." It did
not. We got into one argument after another. The final one
He told me to yoke up oxen with
the boy that was working there and go down in the woods and
get a load of brush. We got our load of brush and was coming
up the cart path and I saw Stowe, the foreman, coming down.
I said to the boy, his name was Paul Johnson, "Someone is
coming." We met Stowe. He said, "What is the matter with you.
We did not hire you to tell us what to do." I asked, "What
do you mean?" He said, "You told Paul that he had better go
and learn the carpenter trade as he had a good chance to go
to Senior's Lumber Yard and learn the trade." I said, "What's
wrong about that?" He looked at me and me at him like two
cats. "I said, "Take your damn oxen. Here is the whip. Drive
your own oxen."
That night, he and the big boss
came down to the house and tried to patch things up. They
offered me more money and a half day off to go to Bethel to
pick up the meat and groceries that Peck sent up from New
York every week, but I would have to be there at night to
help milk as we was milking sixty head. Things went along
pretty well for a while till our only child at that time got
sick and the doctor told us we had to get a nurse. I told
the boss. He said, "Well, I am going to Danbury today and
I will find one." He came home and said, "You stay home for
a while and help your wife as we had four of the help boarding
with us. The next morning there was a knock on the door. I
asked who was there. Stowe said, "It's me." You have to come
up and help as some of them have gone off on a drunk." I had
not been to sleep for two nights and one day and was not very
agreeable but I went and helped milk and came back home for
After breakfast I began to put
the cookware and dishes into barrels and one of the men said,
"Boss, what are you doing?" I said, "I am leaving you." He
went up to the Stowe house and told him what was going on.
Stowe came down and wanted to know what this was all about.
I told him I was leaving. He tried to get me to stay but I
would not. I went back to work at the hat shop.
About that time, Ed Miller got
married. He bought out his two brothers and he wanted me to
come work the old Miller farm for him. I did. We moved upstairs
where the post office is now.
One day he said he had to go to
Danbury and he said for me and his younger brother to finish
connecting up the water pipe that ran from the top of the
hill down to the barn. As we was putting on the last length
came a bolt of lightning. His brother was on the end holding
it and I was screwing it up when the lightening came. It threw
him out the door about six feet. I went to him and he was
unconscious. I brought him in by the water tub and splashed
water on him and he came to. He said, "Did you not feel it?"
I said, "No." I think the reason I did not was because I had
rubber boots on. I then told him we would go up to the house
where I lived. We did and we got up there I could not find
my wife or the lady that lived downstairs there, name was
Delaney. We finally found them on the back stairs with both
doors shut. I asked them why they were there and they said
so they could not see the lightning. I think it was one of
the worst storms I ever seen.
Ed made a failure of farming, sold
out to Dan Warner, and he moved to Bethel as his wife had
come into possession of a hardware store and five houses.
But he did not make a go of that either and finally lost everything.
We then went to Boston for a while, as we had some friends
up there by the name of Beers, and looked around for a farm
as he was in the real estate business. One night my wife said,
"We are going back to Redding and buy Mrs. Banks' place."
I said, "Alright." We came back and I went down to Southport
where Mrs. Banks lived to see what she wanted for the place.
She told me that Mr. Deacon, over in Bridgeport, had an option
on it. She said, "I will give you his address." I told her
I knew him and I had had dealings with him. I went over to
see him and he said if I would pay half of the option I could
buy it. I told Mrs. Simon Banks that I would take the place.
She could have the deeds drawn up and I would be down in a
few days with the money.
I went down and she had the deeds
of two pieces only. I told her that there were three pieces.
She said she did not know, that I would have to see her brother
in law, John Todd. I went to see him and he said, "Yes." I
told him I knew where two pieces was but I did not know where
the third piece was. He said, "I will show you tomorrow. I
will meet you at the Midbrook place at ten o'clock in the
He showed me the piece and after
he had shown me we sat down for a little talk. "How much did
you pay Mrs. Banks for the place?" I told him and he said,
"You did not buy it, you stole it. Now, young man, you are
starting out in life now. You want to save ten cents out of
every dollar you make. When you get to be an old man, you
will have something." I told him that it was alright for him,
"As you are shipping one and two car loads of lime a day.
Your income is large."
I bought the piece and one night
I hired a horse from Will Nichols and my wife and I drove
down from Bethel. Dan Warner was living here at the time and
he had been here fourteen years and paid seventy five dollars
a year rent. He had let the farm grow up to bushes and weeds
as he made his living outside. I told him I had bought the
place and I would give him thirty days to move. He got really
mad and asked me how I could buy it, that he had been trying
for two years to buy it. He moved over to the Miller farm
when thirty days was up. Ed Andrews let me have a team of
horses for nothing and I brought a load of stuff down to the
place and I found that Warner had taken about all the doors
that had been upstairs and all the potato bins with him.
I went over to see him. I told
him I would give him until tomorrow night to bring the doors
back and hang them and the potato bins he could have or I
would have him arrested. He brought the doors back and did
not speak to me for a year. But he got over it and we were
the best of friends till he died. He was constable for a number
of years and he would always call on me when he had a job
he did not like.
I remember one case he had a young
fellow from Danbury hammered up a old man over on the West
Redding and Danbury line for his money and he was taken in
by the police. But the house was in West Redding so he had
to be tried in Redding.
Warner came over to the house
one night and said he had a job for tomorrow and would I help
him to bring that fellow down from Danbury for the trial.
We went to Danbury with a horse and a two seated wagon. We
went to the jail and the captain told Warner we had a bad
actor and we had "Better handcuff him to one or the other
of you." Warner said, "I will cuff him to you." I said, "No.
If I can't get that boy down to West Redding without him being
handcuffed to me, I will shoot myself." We had no trouble
getting him down to West Redding. I sat in the back seat with
him and gave him a cigar and we had a very nice ride. He got
one year in jail.
Coming home from jail that day,
Dan asked me if I had ever found that piece of woodland up
on Huckleberry Hill. I told him I had. "John Todd showed me."
I tried to tell him. "You are all wrong. The only way you
will ever find it is to get Henry Hill to show you. If you
can get him to." he said. Henry said, "I will show you anytime.
We set a date and the three of us went over and, going over,
Dan said, "If I am wrong I will give you and your wife the
best oyster supper you ever had." We got over there and Henry
said, "Somebody has been cutting wood on me." Dan said, "That
somebody is me if that is your wood. I will pay you for it."
Henry said, "No. I will never cut anymore wood. Now, the piece
just north of here is Howard's." "How do you know?" Dan asked.
"Well it was left to me by my father and I have been on and
off it for over sixty years. I ought to know." Finally he
convinced Dan that he was wrong. Dan said, "I am beat so I
will let you know when we will have that supper." A few days
after that Dan came up and said that supper would be served
"at 7:00 o'clock tomorrow night."
We went down and what a supper
that was. We had baked oysters, fried oysters, oyster stew
and all the fixings that goes with it and we had wine but
Henry would not touch it. Dan told him he would get to heaven
just as well if he had drank it. "No.", Henry said, "I am
temperate. I never touch the stuff." Mrs. Warner was one of
the best cooks in Redding and we had a very nice evening.
But all four now have gone. I don't know whether they went
to heaven or hell.
Well up back of our house and barn
was a three acre peach orchard and the federal government
came along and told me I would have to cut them down as they
had what they called "yellows" and they would have to burn
them up. "If you want them cut down, you cut them down." I
said. They told me I would have to do it myself. Two weeks
after that they came and cut them down about two feet above
the ground but they did not burn them. It took me all winter
to trim them up and burn the brush.
One day when I was trying to plow
with a pair of old horses, my neighbor Aaron Read came in
and said, "What you want on this run down farm is a pair of
oxen as you are the nervous type and a pair of oxen would
do you good. They are slow and easy." I said, "I got no money
to buy oxen with." "Did I ask you about any money? You be
ready in the morning and we will go to Wilton."
In the morning I got up early and
done my chores and got my breakfast and in he came. Down to
Wilton we went and we drove into Sam Lockwood's and he came
out and said, "Gosh, brother, I have not seen you in a long
time." Mr. Read asked him if he had any oxen. He said, "Yes."
"Well, we are down here to buy a pair if you will trust us."
Mr. Read said. "I don't know any better man to trust than
you." said Mr. Lockwood.
We went down in the lot and he
had four pair. We looked them over and Aaron asked me what
pair I liked. "I like all of them but I got no money." "There
you go again." he said. Mr. Lockwood said, "That don't matter
any. I will trust you." Mr. Read picked out a pair of Holstein
and asked Lockwood if he could get them up to the barn so
we could try them out on a cart. He brought them up to the
barn and yoked them up to a cart and Mr. Read drove them around.
"Howard, you are going to buy that pair of oxen." he said.
Again I said I had no money. Lockwood said, "I have told you
you do not need any money as these oxen will make you some."
By that time they had me convinced. Mr. Read said, "You will
have to take the boy's note." And Mr. Lockwood said, "That
We went to the house and he started
to make out the note and I told him to make it out for half
as I had enough money in my pocket to pay for half now. "If
you need that money you keep it as I don't need it." He made
out the note for half and we started home with the oxen. Aaron
drove them pretty near up to Georgetown and he said, "I am
getting tired. I think you can get home with them." He got
into the wagon and went home and I took the oxen.
I got up to the railroad crossing
and I could not get them across. An old man came along that
I knew by the name of John Peters. "What is the matter? Can't
you get them across?" he said. He took the whip and turned
them around and backed them across. "You learn something every
day." he said.
I got home and I began to feel
pretty proud as all the neighbors all around me came to see
them as they looked like they were twins. I found out afterwards
they were twins. A man came along one day and stopped. They
were out across the road and he asked me where I got those
oxen. I told them and he said, "I raised them and they are
I rooted up the whole farm and
got it in good shape. One day I was harrowing a piece of rye
over back and it was time to go and get the school children
and the oxen were tired. Their tongues were hanging out. I
drove them under a tree and went for the children. I came
back in about one hour and could not find them. It was getting
late and I had a lot of chores to do so I came home and, while
I was milking, in came J.L. Blackman to sell me some feed.
After he sold me some he said, "I think your oxen are over
by Amy Carter's farm under an apple tree eating apples." As
you know, cattle can eat enough apples to make them drunk.
I rode back with Mr. J.L. Blackman and brought them home.
They did not eat enough to make them drunk.
Then, one time, John Read and I
was having trouble about our line fence. I did not think he
was fixing his half. I wanted to turn in the oxen in this
field where this piece of fence had not been fixed. So I took
a steel tape and measured it and found that there were seventy
five feet that belonged to him. When I went and told him he
said, "I will not fix it. I know where my half is. I was born
on this farm and I know all about the fences." "Alright,"
I said, "tomorrow I am going to turn those oxen in there and
if they get on your land and do any damage you need not blame
I turned them in and it was on
a Sunday and he had to go to church. He came home and found
the oxen tearing a couple of stacks of hay to pieces. He came
down on horseback and told me my oxen was up in his barnyard
and I could not take them out until I had stacked that hay.
I told him I would not and, about that time, his horse was
getting into my wife's flowers and she began to tell him what
she thought of him which did not make things any better. He
went home and I got my ox whip and went up.
I opened the gates and he would
shut them. We did that a couple of times and I told him I
was going in the yard. And when I hollered he would not have
any gates he said, "Your oxen can not jump them gates. They
are too high. Mr. Adams has just built them for me and, you
break them, I will have you arrested."
I got over in the yard and let
out a holler which is not in the English language and the
neigh ox made a leap. He got his front end over but his hind
end came down on the gate and it went to pieces. The off ox
followed him and they never stopped running till they got
down to the barn. My wife said she saw them come down over
the hill and she never saw anything as fast. I never heard
no more from John. He fixed the fence and that was the end
When the state built the piece
of road from Qualley's up to Lonetown School, a colored man
was boss of the job. He came to the house one morning and
asked if he could hire me to go down to Sanfordtown and draw
his automobile. It had broken down and he said he would like
to have it up on the job so he could fix it. "I will give
you five dollars if you will bring it up." he said. We both
went down and hitched on to it and we both got in the front
seat and started for home. He said, "I have rode in everything
but never a car drawn by a pair of oxen." He sang all the
way up. He was a good singer and I enjoyed it. We got to the
job and he gave me my five dollars.
They had a stone crusher with two
pair of mules hooked on to it trying to move it and they could
not. I told the boss I would move it for another five dollars.
"Alright," he said, "You move it. "Now I don't want anybody
around." So he told the men to take their hammers and go and
break some stone. There was a wall that ran from George Williams'
barn up to the school house. I hooked on to it and then we
got some water and poured it under the skids. I began to get
the oxen excited and they began to manure and I would pull
the crusher sideways, first one way and the other until I
got it on the manure. The rest was easy. I only had to draw
it about seventy five feet. He gave me the five dollars more
and that made a good pay for the day. Ten dollars was a lot
of money in those days.
Then, one day a telephone man came
in and asked me if I wanted to draw some telephone poles.
"We are putting in a new line from here over Gallows Hill
to West Redding and would like to get somebody to draw out
the poles. They are already cut. We have bought them off every
land owner from here to West Redding. We will pay fifty cents
a piece to draw them out and leave them about where they need
to be set." I took the job.
I put a hame or a horse collar
on one oxen bottom side up so as not to choke him as an ox
draws from the top of his neck and a horse from his breast.
I left the other ox out beside the road and went into the
woods and hooked on to the tip of a pole and told him to "Get".
He would start for the other ox and if the pole got caught
on anything I would take a log hook and loosen it and he would
go out to the other ox. I made a good pay - some days three
dollars, some days six dollars.
One day I took a load of hay up
to the firehouse in Danbury with the ox and up on Main Street,
where the Genung's store is now, I got in the trolley track.
It was icy and when I tried to get out the bail hay turned
over. A cop came along and asked me where I was going. I told
him down to the fire house. "I will get you a man to help
you load it." he said. I told him I did not need any man.
"I loaded it this morning and I could do it again." I told
him I would take half the load and come back and get the rest
of it. When I came back he was there with a man. The man was
about half drunk. I told him I was very thankful to him as
I could do it myself much easier. Everybody in the street
had a good time looking and I finally got it cleaned up. I
got home that night about seven o'clock. I forgot to say that
the bails of hay at that time was much larger. They would
weigh about two hundred pounds and they measured four feet
long, three high, and two feet thick which made quite a bundle.
Now the oxen were getting old and
I thought I would go into making milk as I was making butter
and sold it in Bethel for fifteen cents a pound. One day Sam
Lockwood drove in and I told him I was going to sell the oxen
and go into making milk. "Well, can't we make a deal? I will
give you five heifers for the oxen." He took me down to his
place and we made a deal. "Now," he said, "I bought twenty
five head of cattle from Amos Camp this morning and he's to
bring them over to your place in the morning and you can bring
them and the oxen down to my place and I will pay you well."
Mr. Camp came in the afternoon with the cattle and turned
them in the lot across the road that was all free from bushes
at the time. Next morning Beach Baldwin and I started for
Wilton with the oxen. Beach went on ahead with the oxen as
the cattle would follow. We got down to Wilton with no trouble.
That was my last cattle drive. Truckers began to move cattle
after that which was a godsend for man and beast.
Then I went into making milk. I
had to take the milk over to a rock house on the Easton and
Redding town line. The farmers would meet a man there with
two pair of horses and he would take it into Bridgeport. Finally
we got him to come up to the brick house which was about two
miles nearer and he got a truck and came up to the foot of
"S" Hill. About that time another man came into the picture
and told us he would come to the church on the Ridge and for
less money. We told the other man and he said he would do
About that time the farmers decided
to team up and go every other week. I teamed up with John
Read. He died and then I teamed up with George Williams. Some
days he would have two cans and some days three cans. I smelt
a rat. I thought he was selling some water. And sure enough
one morning I was going to Bethel and he came out and asked
me if I would do him a favor. I said "Yes, anything but money."
"Well the State had me arrested for watered milk and my car
is broke down and I am supposed to get Judge Davis to plead
my case and would you bring him down to John Munich for the
I said yes and I went to the Judge's
office and told him my errand. "I will be ready in about five
minutes." he said. We came down and John came out and said,
"Come in and listen to the show." I went in and court was
called and Mr. Williams jumped to his feet and said "Gentlemen,
I will plead my own case. I have Judge Davis here to help
me out if I get stuck." George started out and in about five
minutes he had the two lawyers for the State stunned. They
did not know whether they were going or coming. George won
out and I took the Judge back to Danbury. He said, "That Williams
is a smart man. All he needed was somebody to pilot him the
right way." I told him I thought Williams was a smarter man
than he was.
Shortly after that a carpenter
in Newtown who I was working for when things on the farm was
a little slow got a job to fix over the Judge's new office.
He was moving from Main Street onto West Street. Every day
the Judge came in and one day when the man and I was eating
our lunch he looked at me and said, "Don't I know you? I think
we have met before." I said "I'm the one took you to Redding
Ridge to plead William's water and milk case." You know, what
you said was true." he said, "I wish I had listened to you
as he has got my goat."
About that time the federal government
passed a law that cattle had to be tested for T.B.. The test
came and I lost every one. The state and federal government
would pay you about half what they were worth and I lost about
a thousand dollars. There were more and more inspections and
things began to get worse and worse. My arms began to ache
and I could not sleep nights and I went to see the doctor.
He told me that my arteries and the muscles of my heart were
not working as they should and I had to stop using my arms.
I bought a milking machine but that was not much help. I went
to the doctor again and he said, "You will have to quit."
I did. I sold off the cows that was milking and kept the dry
ones and some heifers that was coming fresh.
I hung around for three or four
more weeks and Bill Banks called me up one night and wanted
to know what I was doing. I told him, "Nothing." "I want a
handyman", he said, "as I am short of help." At that time
he was building a house down in Westport. My wife told me
I was not going to work but I did and I worked for him about
a year off and on. He was putting a roof on the Water Company
cold storage plant and, coming home one night, I felt bad
and pulled beside the road and it passed away. I went to the
doctor's again and he told me I had high blood pressure and
would have to stop. I did.
About that time the heifers that
I kept back began to come fresh. I began to make a little
milk and sold it to Burritt's Dairy. One day the inspector
came and I had a pair of pigs in the barn with the cows and
he said "You will have to get those pigs out of the barn or
I will have to stop you from selling milk." I told him that
it was too cold to put those baby pigs outdoors. I told him
that when it came spring I would put them out. In about two
weeks he came again and the pigs was in the barn. "Well,"
he said, "I will have to stop you from selling milk." I went
down and told Emerson Burritt what had happened. He told me
he needed the milk and I should keep on, that he would come
and get the milk. He did and spring came, I put the pigs outside,
and the inspector came on day and asked me what I had been
doing with my milk. I did not say anything. "Well I know what
you have been doing with your milk. You have been selling
it to Burritt's. I might have you arrested." But nothing every
The inspections was getting worse.
They began to tell you what time you should clean your stables
and sweep down the cobwebs. I told him I was going to sell
out, that he need not come again. He did come and I had sold
out. He said, "I think you are making a mistake as the price
of milk is going up." I told him I did not care if it went
to a dollar a quart. I was through being dictated to, that
this was a free country.
Well, I can't find too much fault
as God and the world has been pretty good to me. But I do
have a few faults to find. The way prices keep going up. My
town taxes was twenty dollars a year. Now they are over three
hundred dollars. I used to buy sirloin steak two pounds for
twenty five cents and you could chew it. Now you pay a dollar
or more for one pound and you can't chew it. But the young
people tell me it's all for the best. I can not see it that
We raised three daughters. Two
went to Normal in Danbury and taught school. The third one
went to a prep school in Bridgeport. She wanted to be a physical
education teacher but she got married and that was the end
Marion, the middle one, she taught
for a while and she got married. She taught in the County
Home in Norwalk for a while. One night she called up from
Norwalk and told her mother she would not be home till late
as they had a meeting. Her mother said to me, "I bet Marion
has had an accident." And, sure enough, she had got in the
trolley track and it was icy and the trolley was coming and
she stepped on the gas. She jumped the track and went down
an embankment and run against a state marker and tore off
the bottom of the transmission. A coal truck came along and
drew the car back on the road and, about that time, a friend
of hers from Bethel came along and told her to get in her
car and follow him; that he knew where there was a good garage.
That afternoon, one of the teachers that rode with her could
not find her gold beads and she finally found them in her
The oldest daughter, Winifred,
taught in Easton and, one Friday night when we was bringing
her home, she said to me, "I am going to get married." And
I said, "You know the old saying. 'Your mother and I gave
you a head, now it's time for you to use it. As you make your
bed now you will have to sleep in it.'"
I was born May 16, 1882. I had
two brothers, one Arthur and the other was Clarence. Arthur
had a mean disposition. Nothing would please him. Clarence
was the other way. You could not make him mad. Arthur would
sometimes get mad and hold his breath and turn black and mother
would say, "Get on the horse. (name was Kit)", and I would
go for the doctor. He would come up and they would put Arthur
in a tub of hot water with mustard and he would come to. The
doctor then told my mother not to cross Arthur and he would
get over it but he never did. He still had that same temper.
Clarence, the younger brother died at age thirty five.
The last days of my father, he
left West Redding Depot for New York with five cows and a
pair of oxen in a box car. The next thing we knew, the ticket
agent came over to the house with a telegram that he had been
hurt. My mother and his mother, Mabel Hill Platt, took the
train to New York. They had taken him to the hospital because
his skull had been fractured. They brought him home even though
the doctor in New York said no. We always thought there was
foul play because we never found his wallet or his watch and
he had a revolver which was gone too.
He seemed to get better during
the winter. Mother would take him to Danbury to collect money
that was owed him for the hay and straw from livery stables
and the fire department and one day he got a check from the
department and we found out that every place he called at
he would cross off their account. Then mother knew that something
was wrong. He kept getting worse. Finally we called the doctor
and he said he would have to have an operation. They did it
right at home. We had three doctors and two nurses. Doctor
Wolfe was the surgeon and Doctor Barber and Doctor May from
Bethel. But on May 23, 1892, he died. I was ten.
I will tell you some of the ways
he had to make money. He went up to Maine and would buy a
carload of potatoes, put a stove in the car with the potatoes
and keep fire in the stove so they would not freeze. He would
come into Danbury and sell them. He would go into Canada and
buy a load of turkeys. One time when he was up there, the
man that was taking him around thought they had better stop
and get a drink and some eats. They stopped and they went
to the bar. The bartender said, "Brother, your nose is froze."
They put some snow on it and it was alright until he got home
and then it all peeled.
He would fatten up those turkeys
and dress them and take them into Bergham and New Haven. Bergham
is now part of New Haven. The neighbors would come in and
pick them for ten cents a piece. The last trip to New Haven,
the horse ran away and crashed into a store front which cost
dad quite a lot of money to settle. That was the end of the
turkey business. Then he would car in hay from Vermont and
sell it to the livery stables as there was many at that time.
All this was a sideline to his
farming. After haying, a good many farmers would go up to
Vermont and the northern part of New York and buy cattle and
drive them down. One time I went up with Aaron Reed and, up
in the southern part of Vermont, he stopped and there was
a man hoeing corn. Mr. Reed said, "Hello, brother!" (that
was quite a saying at that time). "Your corn don't look very
green. It looks yellow." "Yep." he said, "I planted the yellow
kind." "Do you know who has any cattle to sell?" asked Mr.
Reed. "Yep." he said. "Right up the road a piece on the right
there is a big red barn and on the left is a big white house.
I think you will be able to find someone there." We did and
bought fifteen head and about five miles north of there we
bought ten more. That made enough so, next day, we got them
together and started back. The distance you could make in
a day depended on the weather. If it was hot and they began
to stick out there tongues and froth to the mouth you had
to stop or they would act like a person who has been sun stroke.
At night we would hunt up a pound
as every town in those days had one to put stray cattle in
and the owner would have to pay to get them out. We would
put them in and if it was not storming we would take our blankets
and lay down for the night. In the morning we would start
out again. The pound in Redding was where Mrs. Almy now lives.
At that time it was owned by Albert Gorham.
Talking about cattle, my grandfather
and his wife would drive a pair of oxen from Newtown to Bridgeport
with a load of farm stuff such as was raised on the farm.
Also some fresh meat - beef, pig, lamb - his wife would take
eggs, butter, cheese, tallow candles, and yeast. She would
go from door to door and sell her stuff and take the money
and buy cloth to make a dress and things for the boys. Grandfather
always bragged about it. He would say he raised three boys
and all he did was to feed them. In the fall he would gather
walnuts, chestnuts and butternuts and take them to New York
to sell them and get enough to pay his taxes and some left
over. About all they had to buy was tea, coffee, a few spices
And while we are talking about
oxen, my brother was getting Mrs. Osborn's hay on Redding
Ridge and the night we finished up we put all the tools and
cider jug in the ox cart. Three men and myself got in to go
home and we got to the top of the hill going down to Little
River and the oxen started to run, turned the cart over, and
as the cart went over, the pin on the end of the pole that
holds the yoke dropped out and then the oxen was free. They
went as far as Little River and all they wanted was a drink
Every farm boy knew about horses
but, because my father died when I was ten, I had to handle
horses earlier than most. At the time my father died we had
five horses. A horse is a funny animal. He has more diseases
than any animal I know of: he has flat feet, corns, side bone
spasms, ringbone, quitor, fistula, poll evil, glanders and,
worst of all, he has colic - three different kinds. Some horses
you can not feed or water when warm for they have the colic.
Then there is another bad thing, is balking. He won't move.
Sometimes they would put a chain around his neck and pull
him with a pair of horses. Sometimes you could break him but
you had to carry the chain with you and, when he stopped,
you would take the chain and rattle it and he would go. But
that would wear out.
I had one that I could not drive
but my wife could. I told her that there would be a time when
she could not. So, one day, she and a neighbor was going to
Bethel and the horse stopped and would not go. Finally the
horse turned herself around and came home. That was the end.
I sold her for ten dollars for dog meat and her hide. I had
another one that I got from J.B. Sanford that had no control
of itsbowels. Every time you drove her she would cover you
all over the wagon and all. I have no use for that kind of
horse. The last pair I had I sold for dog meat and I got just
as much as I paid for them, two hundred dollars. So you see
dog meat has gone up since the old days.
One of the best horses I ever owned
was a horse that Mark Twain had sent over from England for
his daughter to ride. She never rode him much as she died
shortly after. That horse would do anything you asked him
to do. One day I was plowing and my wife came up in the lot
and told me the Academy was on fire. I jumped on his back
and went to the fire and when I got there there was three
men. We formed a bucket line using some of the larger boys
and we put the fire out. We done about as well as our fire
company does today. We did not break no windows or doors to
make a draft as they do today.
The finish of Scotty, that was
his name, I went to harness him one morning and he was bleeding
from the nose. I put a wet bag on his neck and head and called
the vet. He came down and said, "I can stop it. You keep those
bags wet." He blew some powder up in his nostrils and the
bleeding eased up. I told the vet that was the end. He said,
"No, he has not laid down yet." I told him when he laid down
that would be the end and, about that time, he laid down and
that was the end.
I threw a blanket over him as
I had to go to Danbury the next day. The doctor came up as
he was the Board of Health, and asked me if I had a dead horse
up back of the barn. I said, "Yes." "Well, I had a compliant
this morning that he smelled bad." He said I would have to
bury him that night. I drew him over back and buried him and
put a heap of hay and the blanket over where he was as I knew
who made the complaint. The next day the doctor came up again.
"Now, Howard, I don't want to make any trouble for you but
you will have to dispose of that horse." "You get in the car
and I will show you where that horse is." I said. We got in
and started over back. We got about half way there and he
asked me if I was taking him for a ride. We finally got to
where the hay was with the blanket over it. The doctor said,
"Well, that's something." I knew very well who made the complaint
but the doctor would not tell me. I left the pile of hay there
with the blanket over it so the old maids could see because
I knew they was the only ones that could see where the horse
One morning I took milk over to
the Ridge with Scotty. After I unloaded the milk and picked
up my eight empty cans, I drove up to the platform of John
Munich's store to get some groceries and, as I stepped from
the wagon onto the platform, John drove up with his car and
the horse started down the hill. I asked John if he would
go after him. He said he was no cowboy but he would. We got
down to Little River and there stood Mr. Tucker holding the
horse. Tucker said he saw him coming and tried to stop him
but, when he got into the road, the horse threw himself. The
lines had got caught in the wheel and rolled up so tight that
they threw him. Tucker cut the lines and that let him up.
It did not do much damage but it cracked the shaft. I tied
up the lines and we went back up to the store and picked up
the eight empty milk cans as I went along as every one had
been thrown out. I met Milo Osborn who lived at the top of
the hill. He said, "I never, in all my life, see a horse run
as fast as that horse did. He was just flying." It was a bad
hill but the state took it over and straightened it out. I
think the hill is hoodoo because that is where one of my girlfriends
was killed in a run away.
My father sent his father over
to Georgetown to get a load of cider barrels and, coming home,
he was coming down Knob Crook which comes down to the Glen.
The barrels started to role and they rolled off onto the horses
and they ran away and ran into a tree. One of them could not
get up so granddad got on the other horse and came home. He
told dad what had happened and they went back down and dad
thought the horse's leg was broken. Grandfather said, "I will
go to Bethel and get the vet." The vet came down and the leg
was broken. "If we had him under shelter I could put some
splints on and, with close watch, you might bring him through."
At the foot of the hill lived a man by the name of Ferdinand
Gorham. Dad asked him if he could put the horse under his
shed. Mr. Gorham said, "No, there is so much glanders going
around I don't want him on my place." Glanders is very contagious.
So the vet told dad he had better kill him as he had a spavin
on the leg that was broken and he was not worth trying to
So the vet shot him and we drew
him up on the Old Stagecoach Road and left him in horse heaven.
That was a place where all the farmers took their dead animals.
It was about a mile from my house. Soon the dogs, wild animals
and birds had them all cleaned up. In a week or ten days there
was nothing left but the bones and us kids got the bones and
sold them to the rag man. So you see how much was gotten out
of them animals. Now, the board of health makes you bury them
so the wildlife gets no food and the kids get no money for
Things I remember about different
I will start with Mike Flood, the
blacksmith. One night there was a bad ice storm. The next
day I tied burlap bags on the horses' feet and went to the
shop. It came dinner time and Lou Smith came in the shop.
He lived right by the shop and he asked Mike Flood if he was
going home for dinner. Mike said, "I think my sister will
bring it over." It came one o'clock and she did not come so
Lou Smith asked Mike if he could bring him over some food
and he said. "Yes, if you got any to spare." So over he came
with a big plate of food. Mike ate it and then Lou said to
Mike, "When is Howard going to get out?" "Not before five
o'clock." So he went back and came back with another plate
the same as Mike's: mashed potatoes, and turnip sauce and
a big piece of white meat. I ate it all. Then Lou asked Mike
how did he like his cooking and Mike said, "Fine." Then Lou
asked him if he knew what kind of meat it was. Mike said,
"All I know is that it was good, no wonder you was a cook
in the army." "Well, it was skunk!" Mike tried to get rid
of it but it would not come up.
One morning Mike was going to work
and we had a bad snow storm and, half way between the center
and the shop, he dropped dead. A neighbor came along and found
him and he stopped and told Dr. Smith. So Dr. Smith and his
son took a sled and put him on it and took him home.
His father was the first man I
ever saw to have his shirttail outside of his pants and, one
day, I asked him why he did it and he said, "To keep cool."
The first town meeting I went to,
somebody got up and made some motion, I don't remember what
it was, and Harvey Rumsey was selectman. He jumped up and
asked him if he had paid his taxes last year. The man said,
"No." "Well, sit down we don't want men like you to try to
run the town." Sometimes I think the town today is being run
that way. They drift in and out like the tide. They get us
in a hole and then they are gone.
Then there was Walter Edmonds.
One day he sat on the porch at the store and he fell out of
the chair. I ran over to Dr. Wakeman who lived just across
the road. He came over and said, "I think he has been eating
too much fresh pork." They took him home but he kept on having
the spells and he had to stay in bed. One night Mrs. Edmonds
came down to the house and asked my mother if I could come
up and stay with her. That I did and we went in the bedroom
and she told me to watch him and, "If he opens his mouth,
you take that handkerchief (which she had in some water) and
put it in his mouth." He opened his mouth and made a funny
noise and I went out in the kitchen and told Mrs. Edmonds
that he did not look right and she came in and he was dead.
John Todd, he would walk from
West Redding over to the church in the center with his shoes
under his arm, sit down on the steps, and put them on and
go in, listen to the sermon, put more money on the plate than
all the rest together, go out, take his shoes off, and walk
back to West Redding.
Deacon Abbott, he paid his bills
twice a year. That was when he got his interest money. One
Sunday, he and the Preacher Jennings came by. My father was
getting hay and they tried to tell him what a bad man he was
to get hay on Sunday. My father told them he did not think
it was any worse than it was for a preacher to get up in the
pulpit and preach to make his living. Dad got the hay and
they went home.
Mr. Will Loundsbury, they called
him "The Newspaper". He knew everything. He would stop everybody
that came along and get the news. He would keep on talking
and you would have to go on and leave him talking. One morning
I went up to pick up the Lonetown children to go to school.
His mother came out and asked me to come in and put her son
on the lounge as she could not wake him. I went in and he
was slumped over in his chair. I told his mother he was dead.
I saw that if he went over any
farther he would fall on the stove so I picked him up and
laid him on the lounge. I told her that I had heard that it
was against the law to move a dead person. She said she didn't
care and I told her I would get the doctor as soon as I got
the children to school. I went down and told him and he asked
me if I would take him up and I did. We both went in and he
looked at him and told his mother he was dead. I took the
doctor home and went down to Selleck Corners and told her
other son, Henry, and he went right up. Then, after that,
he got the Qualleys, that lived a little way from there, to
take Mrs. Loundsbury as a boarder.
She was there quite a while so
the Qualleys thought she was getting on and may die in their
house. The old Irish thought it was bad luck for a protestant
to die in their house so her son found her a place in Bethel.
Then, came the day to move, her doctor asked me if I would
help as Seth Rider was going to help. So the three of us went
up. The doctor went to her bedroom and told her and he came
back downstairs and told Rider and me that she refused to
dress. What will we do? We looked at one another and the doctor
said, "Howard, what would you do?" I said, "Let Rider take
hold of two corners of the sheet and I will do the same and
we will pick her up and sit her in a chair. If we can get
her in a chair, you tie her with a towel." It worked and Seth
and I carried her downstairs and put her into the seat. Seth
and I sat in the back seat with her and she fought and hollered
all the way to Bethel. We got her there and she did not live
long after that.
Isaiah Platt, he was another neighbor.
He was totally blind but he could do several kinds of work.
I did like to talk to him. He kept two cows and he always
kept a pig to butcher in the fall. I would get his hay, plow
his garden, and cut and draw his wood. He would come out and
tell just how much more I had to get. He would saw and split
that ten cord of wood and pile it. He had one daughter and
he would say, "If I could open my eyes and see her, I would
be willing to die." His wife was blind in one eye but she
would gather roots and herbs and she would help everybody
around that was sick.
I was coming up the back road one
day and he was trying to shut the barn door and the wind blew
it against him and knocked him down. I picked him up as he
only weighed about a hundred and forty pounds. I took him
up to the house, laid him on the lounge, and told Mrs. Platt
that I would get the doctor. "No.", she said, "I will make
him a cup of tea and he will be alright."
I did go down and tell the doctor
what had happened and he came right up and looked him over
and told his wife he thought his hip was broken. Doctor asked
me if I would go and tell his daughter. (She lived in Danbury.
She had married a Mr. Homer Fellow. He was mayor of Danbury
at the time.) I did and they both came down and took him to
the hospital and neither lived very long after that. I don't
think they were any relation of mine.
Another was Henry Hill. One day
when I was delivering the school children at the school, Dr.
Smith met me and asked if I was busy today. I said, "No."
He said, "My car is broke down and Mr. Hill has got to go
to the hospital. Can you take us up?" I told him, "Yes." "When
can you go?", he asked. I said, "About an hour." I came home
and fed the livestock and told my wife I was going to take
the doctor and Mr. Hill to the hospital. She wanted to know
what was the matter and I told her I did not know. When we
got to Danbury, Mr. Hill wanted to stop at the bank and he
wanted me to come in. He got some papers, told me to be sure
to give them to his wife, and up to the hospital we went.
Dr. Smith asked me if I thought
Mr. Hill acted pretty good when we got back into the car.
I asked him what he was going to the hospital for and he said
that was secret. We got up to the hospital and the doctor
wanted to know if I was in a hurry. I said, "No." and went
into the waiting room and wait I did. About an hour and a
half later the doctor came and said. "Well I'm ready to go
and I will tell you what's the matter with Mr. Hill. Last
night he was trying to pin his night shirt and he swallowed
a safety pin. He did not want anybody to know about it." In
about a week I went up and got him and he came home. He said,
"I suppose Doc told you what the matter was." I said, "Yes."
"Well," he said, "don't tell anybody because they will make
fun of me." But it did get out and the whole town laughed
about it till the day he died.
Another old timer was John Todd.
I was in the Groveland Hatter one afternoon after work with
another fellow to get a glass of cider. We stood at the bar
drinking our cider and in came Mr. Todd, barefoot, dirty pants
and shirt, and he went into the backroom and sat down. He
paid no attention to nobody. After a little while the bartender
went in and told him he would have to get out, "As this is
a very high tone place and the customers would not like the
looks of you. Now if you don't get out I will call the cops."
Mr. Todd said, "You go and tend to your business and I will
do the same. I am going to sit here until the boss comes in."
Finally Mr. McPherson came in and the bartended told him some
bum in the backroom wanted to see him. He went in and you
would have thought they were two brothers who had not seen
each other for years. McPherson said, "I am glad to see you.
I meant to get down to the place before but I didn't. I will
make you out a check for the interest and I won't let it happen
again." When Todd went by the bar, the bartender asked him
if he would have a drink "on the house". He said, "No. If
I want a drink I will buy it and pay for it like a man." I
guess the boys razzed the bartender till the day he died.
Another thing that happened there,
Mr. Murphy, that ran the big livery stable, he stopped out
in front of the City National Bank one day and there was no
place to hitch his horse. Mr. Todd stood there and Chew Chew,
as the boys called him because he was always chewing tobacco,
asked Todd if he would stand by his horse a minute as he had
to go in the bank. "I will give you ten cents." Todd stood
by the horse till Murphy came out. "Well I stayed longer than
I thought. I will give you an extra nickel." he said. "No,
a bargain is a bargain, I guess you don't know who I am."
Todd said. "No I don't and I don't care." "Well, I am John
Todd of West Redding. I am the richest man in Redding."
After we got our car paid for my
wife said, "Well, I am going to have a bathroom." Where are
you going to get the money to pay for it?", I wanted to know.
She sold her chickens and, the first thing I knew, she handed
me a card from the freight depot in Bethel that there was
some bathroom fixtures there. I went up with the old horse
and, after I got them loaded, Mr. Gellar, the freight agent,
said, "I am going to tell you a little story. I guess I have
told it a hundred times."
"You know Mick Famming over in
Frog Hollow?" I said, "Yes." "Well, he had three daughters
and, when they got old enough to work, they had a bathroom
put in. One night the girls had their boys in to spend the
evening and they were playing cards. Their father got up,
put on his coat and hat, and one of the girls asked where
he was going. "I have a job of my own to do." "Why don't you
go upstairs?" they asked. "Now, when you girls was growing
up we cooked cabbage and corned beef in the house and did
our job out in the backhouse. Now it's the other way around.
I am not going to change. Do you hear that?"
Chris Lovely was another man I
will always remember. He was a short witty man that could
not read or write and liked to look at funny pictures in the
paper. If there was no picture, he would get the paper upside
down and you would say to him, "Chris, your paper is upside
down." And he would say, "Any damn fool can read right side
The first piece of hard surface
road that was put in the town of Redding was from the Redding
Center firehouse up to the grammar school. Will Sanford was
boss and first selectman. The roadbed was dug out about eighteen
inches and filled in with stone. The stone had to be laid
small end down so as to have good drainage. They call it till
Lovely and I had the job to lay
them stone. I was placing a big stone and Lovely picked up
one and threw it down against the one I was putting in place
and smashed two of my fingers. Will said, "You darn Irishman!
Did you not see Howard's fingers?" "I couldn't help it. I'm
sorry." Chris said. Will told me to go home as it was close
to quitting time. I did not. I finished out the day. That
night, they pained me so I could not sleep. My mother told
my wife to get some hot water, put some wood ashes in it,
and for me to put my fingers in. I did and I went right to
sleep. The next day will put me to driving a team.
That Irishman raised seven children
and he used to walk from his house up to Carney Crossing,
work ten hours, and walk back again. He was a tough Irishman.
He said he would live to eat the goose that ate the grass
over my grave. But he did not.
There was a colored man named
Herbert Freeman that lived close by and worked for me a good
deal. He died and his wife asked me if I would dig his grave;
that she had no money but she would pay me sometime. I told
her yes I would dig the grave and she need not pay me anything.
I got Lovely to help me and we went over to Redding Ridge
with her father, Beach Baldwin, as he had a plot over there.
He showed us where to dig. "Now don't go to the north any
farther than that stake for I have a baby boy buried there."
Lovely did the picking and I did
the shoveling and I kept telling him that he was going too
far north. We was down about four feet and I came out of the
hole and he went down to pick some more and, the first time
he struck the pick in the ground, out came a big piece of
wool cloth. He came out of that grave as if he had been shot
out, white as a sheet, and would not go down in that grave
anymore. I had to finish it alone.
Lovely lived next to me in a house
that is gone now. The water company bought it and tore it
down. The last of his days, there was a man by the name of
Jim Sweeney lived with him and they were drunk most of the
time. One day, they went to Danbury and, that evening, Jim
came to the house and said Lovely was dead. That was all he
could say so I pulled him into the house and gave him a good
shaking and slapped him on the side of the face a few times.
"Now, where is Lovely?" I asked him. He said he was up the
road, "He is drowned." So I put two and two together as Jim
was soaking wet. I thought maybe the old horse had dumped
them in the brook. So we went down to the barn and there was
the old horse but no wagon. Jim began to sober up a little
and he said the wagon was up the road. We went up the road
and we found the wagon up by the big oak tree up by Hill's
corner. There was Lovely in the brook with nothing but his
head and shoulders out of the water.
It was a bitter cold night and
I ran to John Reed's house and told him what had happened
and he said, if Old Lovely wanted to get drunk and fall in
the brook, that was none of his business. "Well, you can not
leave him there to freeze to death." I said. He finally gave
in and went out to the barn and hitched up the horse and drove
out to the brook where Lovely was. But Sweeney was gone. John
and I picked Lovely up and threw him into the wagon like a
dead hog and I sat down on top of him to hold him. We got
him home and carried him in and put him on the bed and there
was Sweeney sitting by the stove.
They did not live long after that.
Lovely had a daughter in Bethel and she came down and took
him to Bethel but he died shortly after that. I believe he
was the toughest Irishman that ever lived.
The second house north of us, lived
a family by the name of Qualley. They were one of the best
neighbors we ever had. The father worked up to Putnam Park
and one day the park commissioner had a clam bake and there
was a lot of clams left over. He ate some of them and he came
home from work and was taken with convulsions and died. The
doctor said he had poctaime poisoning.
Shortly after that, during the
First World War, his wife came running down the road hollering
as loud as she could that the Germans were coming. I told
her I did not think so and I tried to quiet her but I could
not. Finally a bunch of boy scouts came along and then she
quieted down and she went home much relieved.
About that time I had the pleasure
of having the chicken pox. Dr. Smith came up and the first
thing he said was, "Howard, if you was in the city they would
take you to the Pest House." I had not slept in two nights
and one day and I was about crazy. Doctor gave me some dope
and tried to put me to sleep but I would not go so he gave
me some more and it did not work. About that time Mrs. Qualley
came in and the doctor told her I had chicken pox.
She said, "Now, don't you worry.
I'll fix you up when the butcher comes." At that time, Emery
Sanford ran four carts drawn by horses and, every five minutes,
I would ask my wife if the butcher had been and, finally,
she said, "Yes. Is there anything I can get for you to eat?"
I said, "No." About one hour after that Mrs. Qualley came
in with an old fashioned cup about half full of something
that looked like lard. "Now, you put some of that on those
boils and you will be alright. The spots you can't reach,
let your wife do it. If you did not have a wife I would do
it myself but I know she would not like that."
I did as she told me and, in thirty
minutes, I was fast to sleep. That evening she came down and
I was sitting up in bed eating a piece of toast and a poached
egg. She came in and said, "You look much better." I told
her I did not know how to thank her and I asked her what it
was she gave me and she said mutton tallow. I found out that
is what they use in face lotions and they call it lanolin.
For those that don't know what it is, it is plain sheep fat.
It was not long after that that
Kathy, one of the daughters, came down and said that her mother
had fallen on the floor. She said she and her sister, Nell,
could not pick her up and, "Would you come up and help us?"
I went up and picked her up and laid her on the bed and I
told Kathy, "I think your mother has had a stroke." The doctor
came up and, sure enough, she had had a stroke. She did not
live long. That left the two of the girls living alone.
The house this side of them lived
a colored family name of Brown and, every Sunday, they would
get to drinking and it would end up in a good free-for-all
fight. One time, one of the boys by the name of Herbert Freeman
got the worst of it and he ran up to Qualley's to telephone
the constable and they did not open the door fast enough and
he smashed the window and went in. He did not use the phone.
He was too drunk. Kathy came down to the house and asked me
to come up and see what I could do with him. She and I got
in the car and went up and he lay on the floor bleeding like
a stuck hog. I got him up on his feet but he could not stand
without some help. I got him out of the house and into the
car and he asked me what I was going to do with him. I told
him I was going to take him down to Dr. Smith. "I do not want
to go to Dr. Smith. I want to go to Dr. White in Bethel."
I was about one mile from the doctor's and he hit me on the
back of the head and, for a minute of two, I did not know
whether I was going or coming. I saw a man on the sidewalk
that I knew and I asked him if he would help me out. It took
a lot of talking to get him to help me but he did and we got
Herbert over to Dr. White's.
I did not go to the door as Herbert
had got sober enough to fight. So I called aloud to the doctor
and he raised his window and asked what was the trouble. I
told him and he came downstairs and let us in. Of course he
wanted to know the whole story. After I had told him he went
to work on him. He took off his shoes and they were both full
of blood. He had been cut in four places and it took several
stitches to sew him up. Doctor said it was a wonder he did
not bleed to death.
About that time, Maury Britto,
the chief of police in Bethel, came in. That took all the
fight out of Herbert. Maury put the handcuffs on and told
Herbert he was going to take him up to the jail so he could
I was very fond of bicycles, swimming,
and baseball. One day the Center Team was playing the West
Redding Team. I was the pitcher and Marcus Burr was the catcher.
I threw the ball and broke his finger.
In the winter the girls would have
a party and we would have dances over to Whitehead Hall on
Redding Ridge. The parents would bring the girls and they
always had a chaperone. One night, after the dance, some of
us boys was down under the hall in the store and a boy by
the name of Harry Prindle was making fun of my girl. I grabbed
him and pushed him through a plate glass window. I went through
too. He stopped but I kept going. It was very dark and I ran
into a horse. I guess his hoof was harder than my big toe
as it broke and has bothered me ever since.
Then the girls would have parties
at their houses. We would play post office and have a great
time. We would go to Putnam Park on picnics and have a good
time. And then, two or three times during the summer, the
boys and girls would go over to Lake Kenosha. That was a great
place. It had several amusements. We also went to the sea
shore for one week which we enjoyed very much. The girls went
too but not at the same time.
While I was living in Bethel the
second time, I bought a place from Dr. Barber for a thousand
dollars. I went to the bank and asked the teller, which I
knew very well, for a thousand dollar bill. He told me that
they did not have such a thing in the bank so he gave me ten
one hundred dollar bills and we went down to the doctor's
with the money. He said that I would have to keep the money
till morning; that he would not keep it in the house over
night. I asked, "Why not? You got a big safe." but he would
not take it so the next morning I came in with the money and
we went over to the clerk and had the deed made out. I never
lived in the house. I kept it about six months and made five
The day I bought the house and
doctor and I got things straightened up, I thought I would
walk down the street and see if I could find something to
do as it was too late to go to the shop. I got as far as Peter
McDonnell's office and he came out and asked me if I wanted
to work. I told him I did. "Well, I have some soft coal to
go over to Ed Short's hat shop which is beyond the Catholic
Church a little way."
I got as far as the church with
my first load and the wagon wheel came off. While I was thinking
what to do, a kid came along and I asked him if he wanted
to make a nickel. He said, "Yes." I said, "You go and tell
Peter McDonnell that the wheel has come off the wagon and
when you come back I will give you a nickel." He did and Peter
came with a little colored fellow. He told the colored fellow
to "Take hold of the corner of that wagon body" and lift till
his face turned white. He told me to do the same "till your
face turns black". I did not think we could lift that ton
and a half of coal but, you see, three corners of the load
was already up. We did lift it up and Peter put the wheel
on. I drew coal till dark and went to put up the team.
At that time there was a big barn
where Canger and Lango Groceries is now. Peter kept eight
to ten horses there and he was at the barn when I got there.
He pulled out his money bag and paid me. "If you want to work
tomorrow, come around." At that time there were three dealers.
Peter's office was where Mullaney's store is now. Pat Dolan
was just across the tracks (that was the Dolan boys' grandfather).
And, where the Dolan's are now, was Beers and Fellow. All
of them sold coal, wood and sand and they all did a good business.
I worked more for Ed Andrews because he did more team work
than the others.
One night he came down to the
house as we lived the third house from him. "Well, what are
you doing tomorrow? If you have got no work in the shop I
would like to have you to start drawing sand up where Frank
Lee is going to build his new factory." I went up in the morning,
hitched up my team. "Now, you go over south of where Parloa
Field is and get your sand."
I had made one trip up to the
new factory and was making my second. I had got as far as
Carney Crossing and I thought I heard a horse running. I turned
and it was the boss. He hollered at me to pull to the side
of the road. At first I thought the man was crazy when he
said, "Unhitch that team, throw the harness on the ground,
and leave the collars and bridle on." We started for Danbury
with the team tied beside the horse that he was driving. He
was a great man to holler when he talked. People always said
my wife's father could holler but I think Mr. Andrews could
We got up to Jack Dan's Livery
Stable, which was where the bus terminal is now on upper Main
Street. Jack came out and Mr. Andrews told him he wanted a
long whip and white canvas head stalls. He took the bridles
off and put the new head stalls on and told me to get in the
buggy. I did and he tied one horse on each side of the one
that I was to drive. Then he said, "You have got to get that
team down to Sinclair's Hotel by noon."
It was a very hot day and the
horses were ringing wet with sweat. I thought to myself, "When
I get out of sight of him, I will slow down." But it did not
make much difference as it was very hot. I finally got down
to Sinclair's and I went into the barroom and there sat two
men playing cards. I asked them if they were the ones that
had bought a pair of horses from Mr. Andrews and they said,
"Yes, you are half an hour late." "I can't help that. I done
as the boss told me. If you want to find any fault, you go
to him as I only work for him." I jumped into the buggy and
started for home.
Ed had told me when I got home,
to feed the horse. I got home, put the horse in the stall
and went to get his oats and I heard a noise. I turned around
and that horse was sitting on his rear end, the other side
of the barn. Just then the boss came in and said, "I must
tell you never to tie that horse as he will break his rope
and if the rope don't break, he will throw himself." You always
learn. I put him back in the stall and there was a chain hanging
on the wall and I should have seen it.
I ate my lunch and the boss said,
"We will hitch up that pair of broncs on the mowing machine
and you go out to Elmwood to the Eastman place and try to
finish mowing that lot south of the house." The broncs were
only about half broke and I went a little way and one bronc
jumped over the pole and, as he did that, threw the other.
There I was with two broncs down. I got off the machine and
you could hear me swear way back to Bethel. I took the harness
off and got them up and hitched back onto the machine and
looked over toward the road. There stood the boss leaning
on the fence. He was laughing and he said, "Boy, you done
almost as good as I could have done." I did not say anything
but I was pretty mad to think he had stood there and never
offered to help me.
When I finished the piece and went
back he said, "Well, boy, what are you doing tomorrow? If
you can I would like to have you pick up that hay on Hoyt's
Hill." So, next afternoon, another man, Tuffy Lyman, and I
went to pick up that hay. We got one load and we went back
for the second load and the boss came up. We had six heaps
in another lot and I told the boss we better not get them
as we had to make a very sharp turn to get to them. "Your
load will not fall off if you just follow me." he said. I
did and, as we was making the turn, off it went and Tuffy
Lyman went down Hoyt's Hill so fast a gatling gun would not
have got him. It was Saturday night and getting dark. The
boss said, "What will I do? It is too late to find a man and
I can't pitch hay. We will have to leave it till Monday for
I think it is going to rain and it will all be spoiled."
Tuffy worked in the shop with me
and, Monday morning when we went to the shop to work, I asked
him why he ran away. He said Ed Andrews knew too darn much.
Neither one of us ever worked for him again.
The First World War:
During the First World War, most
of our National Guards was called into the service and then
the towns began to form what they called the Home Guard. One
day the men had a notice to appear at the town hall to form
a home guard and enough enlisted to form a company. Fred Osborn
said to me, "Howard, you was never yellow when you went to
school but you are now. Why don't you sign up?" I told him
I could not as I had too much work to do. Then I said, "Well,
to prove to you that I am not yellow, I will sign up."
The following Sunday we all met
and elected the officers. There was some of the boys that
had been to military school. Then Charlie Ward, he had been
in the Spanish War, he was elected first lieutenant; John
Munich, second lieutenant; and Brett Nash, first sergeant.
The following Sunday we got together and formed the rest into
squads and started to drill. I tell you, it was a mess. Most
of the men could not keep step but we finally got going. Then
our uniforms and rifles came and we thought we were somebody.
You ought to have seen us try to do the manual of arms. But
we finally won out. In good weather we drilled at home and,
in the winter, we went up to the armory in Danbury.
I remember one night I was doing
guard duty down in the lot where the firehouse is now and
it was getting dark. Brett Nash jumped me from behind and
took my rifle away. I was some mad. We rolled around and,
finally, I got on top and grabbed the rifle and I told him
I was going to smash his damn face in with the rifle. He begged
me to let him up and I did. He told me to follow him and he
took me into the captain and did he talk to me. I listened
and, when he got through, I told him no damn man was going
to take my gun from me. "I admire your courage. That makes
a good soldier. But you must not do it when we are drilling."
After that, Brett was one of my best friends.
We had many parades. I remember
one in Bridgeport. We had inspection down at Pleasure Beach.
It was very hot and some of the boys keeled over and they
had to take them away on stretchers. We were going down Main
Street and the fellow ahead of me was way out of step and
I kept stepping on his heel and, finally, his heel came off.
He turned around and said, "I have a good will to knock your
block off." He could do it because he was a big fellow. His
name was Alley Dudley.
When the boys was keeling over
with the heat, first lieutenant said to me, "Keep your toes
and fingers moving and it will be alright." It did help. We
finally got home. It was eleven o'clock before I got my chores
done; some day! Now it was coming winter and we began to go
up to the armory in Danbury. Sometimes it was pretty tough
because we had a lot of snow. One night, Lem Sanford took
us up with a pair of mules. At that time he worked for the
water company and lived down in Sanfordtown. The place he
lived in is now flooded and I think it cost him his job. Mr.
Hubble, the boss, found out and they had quite a time about
it and he left right after.
Now, some of the boys was called
into real service also. The corporal of my squad went and
the captain told me I would have to take over. I told him
I did not want the job. "You will have to take it and that
is orders. Now take your squad out and drill them." I took
them out on the floor and we went through the manual of arms
and I told them "at ease" and we stood around talking. The
captain came along and said, "That is not drilling." I said,
"They know as much as I do. I do not see any use to drill."
We had quite a laugh and the captain called me into his office
and did he talk to me. You would think we was in a real war.
One night I fell in without my
rifle and the captain said, "Private Platt, front and center.
Where is your rifle?" I told him I did not know. Somebody
had taken it and left a dirty one in its place and I did not
take it. I told him I could identify my rifle as I had put
a notch in the bottom of the stock. He began to look them
over and he found it. He asked the fellow why he did it and
he said he knew we was going to have inspection that night
and he knew that his rifle would not pass. "Well, don't do
it again. Take your rifle downstairs and clean it quick and
get back up here and fall in." He was always sorry after that.
We had a good time that winter.
Every month we would have a good feed and pass a very nice
The winter was over and we were
getting back home and beginning to have some fun. Wrestling
was one of them and, one day, Lou Warner threw me down so
hard it knocked the wind out of me and when I got it back
I asked him to try and do it again. He said, "No. Once is
enough." I never could get him again; not even up to the day
We would do a good deal of target
practice. Mr. Demming gave four Winchester rifles to the company
to give to men that had the highest score. I happened to be
one of them and I still have the rifle.
Now the boys began coming home
from the war and the town had a big home coming day up to
the park. We had a big feed and, after that, we had some games.
I remember one very well. It was a foot race. Bart Sanford
was in the lead and I think to myself, "I have got to win."
I did, but when the string broke, I did too. Down I went and
did I have a pain in my side and it has bothered me off and
on ever since. Shortly after that the company was mustered
out. We all got an honorable discharge and the experience
I got I never will forget.
One more thing, the company went
to South Norwalk for a parade and it snowed. We went down
on the train and spent all day. In the afternoon it snowed
hard and the lieutenant told us to seek shelter. Close by
was a big house with a porch on two sides. We filled up the
porch and back of the house was two big pine trees which we
huddled under like chickens. We was about froze. Joe Beaudry
said, "I am going to get something to warm me up. You keep
watch of my rifle and I'll be back in a little while." Sure
enough, he was back and he had a pint of whiskey. He had drank
about half of it and was not cold anymore.
Finally it was time for the train.
We got into Danbury and it was after dark and still snowing.
We got off the train and started for the armory and, on the
corner of Main Street and West, J.B. Sanford fell on the ice.
Joe gave him a swallow of whiskey and he said, "Joe, you saved
my life." Joe and I helped him up to the armory and J. B.
never forgot it. I got home about ten o'clock, had a little
to eat, and went out to the barn as I had about two hours
of chores to do. So, you see, it was not all fun.
The Milk Business:
I will tell you some ups and downs
in the milk business. About the time I started there was too
much milk coming into Bridgeport and we had hard work to sell
it. Some farmers got together and called themselves The Farmer's
Dairy and then they would go to each of the farmers to sign
notes. I signed one for five hundred dollars. They took them
to the bank and the bank took them for half value and we started
a plant of our own.
But every man we hired did not
do very well and we kept getting into debt. We had one arrested
and he was found guilty of stealing. He got one year in jail
but it didn't do any good. Finally we went bankrupt and the
Mitchell Brothers took the plant and the Farmer's Dairy was
owing a lot for milk. I had fifteen hundred dollars coming.
Mitchell Brothers had a meeting of the farmers and told us
they would give us half of our money that we had coming from
the Farmer's Dairy or we could put it all into ice cream stocks.
I took half of the money I had coming but I was sorry because
it is now called Sealtest and it pays good dividends.
Before we left Mitchell's, George
Williams came down to the house one morning and asked if I
would go to Bridgeport with him as he had to have some money
in advance on his milk as he had nothing to eat. I asked what
good I could do and he said, "Well, you know them better than
I do and maybe you could talk to them." I didn't want to go
as it was bitter cold but I went.
Half of his windshield was broken
and when we got to Bridgeport we was froze. I told him the
first thing we were going to get was something to eat and
he said he did not have any money. I told him I would pay
for the eats and we found a place and went in. I asked what
he wanted and he asked, "What are you going to have?" I told
him I was going to have oyster stew. "Well, I'll have the
same." We cleared that up and said we would have another helping.
Well, we each had two stews, a piece of pie and coffee, and
started up to the plant. George said, "There is nothing like
food to make a man forget his troubles."
We got to the dairy and went into
the office and there sat one of the brothers with his feet
up on the desk. George said, "You look like a man of leisure.
Well. My family is starving to death and I would like a little
money in advance on my milk." Mitchell called the book keeper
and told him to bring in George Williams' account. He did
and Mitchell looked it over and told George he could not give
him any money. That made George mad and he grabbed him and
told him if he did not give him some money he would choke
him to death.
I pulled them apart and said,
"I did not come down here to fight. I came to help you out
and if you don't stop, I am going to walk out, George. Mitchell
said, "I am going to loan you a hundred dollars out of my
own pocket just to see what kind of a man you are. If you
don't pay it back, God bless you." George got his money and
we came home and we was as cold when we got home. We went
in and I fed him again and he could not thank me enough.
Shortly after that the farmers
got together and called themselves the C.M.P.A. and tried
to control the price of milk. They did pretty well but the
dues was sky high. One night when I was milking, a man by
the name of Beers, from Norwalk, came and wanted to know where
he could buy some milk as he was going to start a route of
his own in Norwalk. He said he would like about twenty cans
of milk. I asked him what he would pay and he told me. I told
him I was not satisfied with where I was selling and I knew
two others that was in the same boat. I told him, "I will
see you tomorrow."
That night I went up to Gary Burnett
and down to Bart Sanford and told them what was up. Gary said
he would take us down tomorrow and we went down and he bought
the milk. I told them we ought to have a contract. "Alright."
Beers said, "My father is a lawyer. We'll go down and get
some papers drawn up." We did. We got him to put a bond and
to agree to take our milk for six months and we had to haul
the milk up to the Bethel depot. He paid us two dollars a
day and things went fine for the whole six months.
When the six months was up, we
all went down and we had everything our way. He was just about
ready to sign the paper and in came Mr. Germain, and he asked
Beers if he wanted to buy some milk. Beers asked him, "How
much a quart do you want?" He told him and it was one half
cent less than Beers offered us and that made me mad. I told
Mr. Germain that he was nothing but a gentleman farmer and
he got quite mad and Gary told me to shut up. Then we split
the difference and went home. All three of us was pretty mad
at Germain but he did not last long. He went broke. I told
him I would make milk after he went broke and it came true.
Now it was coming haying time and
I was trying to find somebody to haul this milk. One day I
was down to Flood's blacksmith shop and Charlie Favreau was
in the shop. I asked him if he would like the job of carting
our milk to Norwalk. He said, "I got no money to buy a truck."
I told him that I would take him down and we would have a
talk with Beers. We did and Beers financed him. He got the
truck and he made a good living for a long time. He died and
then his son took it over and, finally, Borden's bought Beers
out and that was the end.
The Mills in Town:
Every good sized stream had a mill
of some kind and there was more water in those days to drive
the wheels. Going to a mill with grain or with apples for
cider was an all day chore but I looked forward to going and
there was a time when I thought I would like to own a mill.
There were mills over in Little
York which runs from Mark Twain's house to West Redding. The
first mill, going from south to north, was near Mark Twain
and was called Lounsky's. A man by the name of Adams, he lived
on the four corners, gave the land for the mill.
The next man to run it was Bennett.
He was a big man, about six foot six, weighed about three
hundred pounds. He would take two bags of feed, each weighing
one hundred pounds, and throw them into the wagon. His hands
was so big they used to scare me. The next up was run by a
man named Ryder. He made cider, sawed logs, and done a little
wagon making. One late fall day I went over to get some cider
made and there was about fifteen loads ahead of me. Nobody
seemed to be moving so I went to see what the trouble was
and I found Mr. Ryder sitting on a box south of the shop with
a bottle of whiskey about two thirds gone. The farmers stood
around begging him to start the mill. He said, "No, not till
this bottle is empty." Soon it was and he started the mill
and, I am telling you, he made cider fast.
One half a mile north of there
was two more mills owned by Jim Blackman. One was a grist
mill where he ground feed and sold feed and coal. Then over
by the depot, south of Brookside Park, he had a saw mill.
Grinding feed in those days was quite a job. All the farmers
raised their one grain both for their cattle and themselves.
In the late fall they would take some wheat, some rye and
some buckwheat to get ground for family use. I tell you, buckwheat
pancakes with some homemade syrup was fine. You could eat
six or eight and some home made sausage and you could go out
and face the cold.
North of there, on the Bethel line,
was John Todd's lime kiln where he burnt lime rock and shipped
it all over. I remember the first time I saw the kiln. My
father told my mother to get ready and we would go over and
get some lime. So he hitched up a colt that he was breaking
and we got to the top of Gallows Hill and dad got out to shorten
up the back straps. He had fixed one and he went around to
fix the other one and the colt started and father hollered,
"Jump!" But we did not and the colt ran into an old chimney
and we went out of the wagon. It was a wreck so we left the
wagon and dad got the colt and we all walked back home. Mother
told dad, "You know the saying, 'That colt is no good because
he has got four white feet.', skin him and give him to the
The next day he hitched up another
horse and we all went over to the kiln and the one thing that
I will remember was a colored couple, man and wife, that was
putting the burnt lime into barrels. They had no eyebrows
or eyelashes. They were all burnt off from the hot lime, and
the whites of their eyes was just like blood.
Now, south from Mark Twain's library
on the next corner was a blacksmith shop run by a man by the
name of Ezekise Burr. Then, going south from there about three
miles, was what we called the Buckley Forge which was in the
town of Weston. It is now covered with water which is owned
by the Bridgeport Water Company. The farmers for miles around
would take all their old iron there and trade it for what
they needed which was a stove or a plow.
A little way south of there, also
in the town of Weston, was the Bradley ax factory where they
made several cutting tools such as the common ax, the broad
ax, and what we call the adze. The adze was used to score
timber or chip it. Then they would take the broad ax and square
it up. Most everyone around would go there and buy seconds.
Now, coming back to Redding Center,
we had the country store and the post office. The mail man
would drive one or two horses from Redding Ridge to West Redding
and back. At the country store you could buy anything from
a needle to a gallon of molasses. The store was run by Mr.
Joe Squires and the post office was taken care of by James
Gregory. I used to help him sort the mail.
I remember one thing that I got
a good kick out of. There was a man by the name of Con Keith
that could not write. He had a girl in New York that had worked
up here and she went back to New York. So he got Mr. Gregory
to write for him. Mr. Gregory would not seal the letter till
I came in and, when I came, he would say, "Kid, you know more
about love than I do, I being an old bachelor…" The things
we put in those letters would not bear repeating but it worked
and they were married and had one son by the name of John.
He lives in Bethel now but his mother and father are dead.
So is my friend Mr. Gregory. He left our oldest daughter his
piano and that made the Sanfords mad as he was brother to
Mr. J.B. Sanford's wife.
Most of us used to have a good
horse and we would do a lot of racing to see who had the best
horse. Sometimes we would lock wheels and get a broken wheel.
There was no hooting and hollering and there was no arrests.
We would patch things up ourselves and somebody would bring
you and your girl home with the horse on behind. When I was
going to see my girl which is my wife, they lived in Plumtrees.
There was a bridge about a quarter of a mile south of her
house and she said she could hear my horse when he hit that
bridge. Well, the second time I went to see her, I went in
and her other boyfriend sat there. She introduced us and we
sat there looking at one another. It began to get late and
I told her I guessed I would have to go. She said, "Not yet.",
and then she told Willis Burr that he need not call on her
anymore. He went out and slammed the door. I kissed her good
night and she said, "I hope I have done the right thing."
I started for home and had not gone far when I met Willis.
I asked him if he would like a ride as he had about one mile
to go. He got in and said, "I guess you are the best man."
We went to dances and skating and he and some other boy was
always trying to pick a fight with me.
I remember one night I went up
skating on Wildman's pond and it got pretty tough. There was
a lot of name calling and I knew things was not getting any
better. One night I was going up skating and I had a friend
by the name of Henry Hawley, that worked for J.B. Sanford,
that liked to fight better than eat. I asked him if he would
like to go up to Plumtrees skating. He went and we got up
as far as Adam's place and got in a rut and broke a wheel
on the wagon. There was some boys and girls skating on Adam's
pond and I asked one of the boys that I knew if he would take
my horse home. "I'd be glad to. It will save me from walking."
he said. We went on to Plumtrees afoot.
I stopped and got my girl and
she asked me where my horse was. I told her we had broke a
wagon wheel and we had walked up. We went up to the pond and
I was putting on my girl's skates and someone gave me a kick
you know where. I jumped up and slapped him in the face and
that started things. Part of the boys got on one side of us
and part on the other side. Henry got in the middle and said,
"I can lick any three of you fellows." and a free for all
started. After a while things cooled off and we started up
to my girls house and there was three boys that followed us.
After a while Henry turned. "Now."
he said, "I have had enough of this cursing. You go on about
your business. If you don't you'll be sorry." Then he said,
"Give me your skates." He took a pair in each hand and did
he hammer those boys. They started running and we went up
to the house and my girl's father said, "You two boys better
stay all night as those boys will gang up on you." We did
not stay and, after that, everything was fine. I guess that
learned them a lesson.
After that Henry joined the Navy
and was stationed out in the Philippines. He took a swim one
day and that was the last he was ever seen. About twenty years
after that my wife and I were coming home from Danbury and
the old horse fell down. My wife said, "If we ever get home
I am going to call up Lou Unger." He sold Ford cars. She did
and he was down at the house in about half an hour. We bought
a Ford and my younger brother learned me to drive. When I
got stuck he would say, "Figure it out for yourself." I finally
learned to drive and, one day, I drove up to the Bethel Garage.
There was a man there every Wednesday that tried you out.
The garage man told me not to cross him because I would not
get my license. He had me drive around Bethel and back up
to the garage. We went in that the garage man asked him how
I made out. "Not so good." he said. "I think the boy can drive
alright." the garage man said. "I don't care. He drove up
to the garage and did not stick out his hand. When he learns
the signals I will give him his license." That made me open
my mouth. I told him, "Why should a waste my strength when
there was nobody in sight?" Then he began to ask me about
who had the right of way and so on and so on. Finally he gave
me a license. After he made out the papers and had given them
to me, he asked how I got my car up to Bethel. I told him,
"I sat behind the wheel and steered it up here." "Don't get
sassy. You will have to get somebody to drive it home."
I went down to the post office
and mailed the papers and a few days after that I got a letter
from Hartford saying there was no money with the application.
If I would send the money they would send me my license. I
got my license and a few days after that the car went wrong
and I went up to the Ford station and who should I meet but
one of the boys that was in the scrape down at Wildman's pond
twenty years before.
He looked at me and I at him. His
name was Ned Baldwin. He said, "Your name is Howard Platt."
I said, "Yes." While he fixed the car we had quite a chat
about old times. When he finished fixing it he said, "Well,
we will try it out." We went up the street and he said he
was dry and he stopped to a saloon. "Come on in and have a
beer." I said, "No." "Well, come on in and have a cigar."
I went in and when the bartender put the box of cigars on
the bar he said, "Don't I know you? You're one of the boys
that gave me the licking of my life."
He raised his hair. "You see that
scar? That's what I got when that friend of yours struck me
with that pair of skates. What has become of him?" I told
him he was drown in the Pacific Ocean and he said it was a
good thing; that he was glad of it. That did not sit very
well with me and things began to get pretty hot and Ned said,
"Come on, Howard. You two are going to get in a fight." He
took me by the arm and started for the door and, to have the
last word, I told that bartender to go to hell and Ned and
I walked out. Ned was the only one that ever apologized. He
said, "I'm very sorry that I made such a fool of myself."
Running a One-man Farm:
Running a one man farm, as I did
for most of my life, I had to learn to do things the easiest
way I could. Here are some things I learned. It's easier to
dig a ditch or shovel snow uphill. You don't have to reach
or lift as far. But mow down hill with a scythe or a grain
cradle. You take one step forward and swing your cradle and
clip your grain about four to six inches above the ground
and, as you come around, you slip the grain off the cradle.
The cradle has four or five fingers made of wood and you could
cradle one acre in about two hours. Most farmers raised their
one grain so it made quite a job. After the grain was cut
it had to be done up into bundles and to be shocked. Fifteen
bundles made a shock to dry so it could be thrashed. When
it was thrashed the grain was put through a farming mill and
then it was ready for the mill.
Now, with a scythe it is different.
You don't clip but you keep the back of the scythe on the
ground and scuff your feet along the ground. You mow what
they call a swath which is from four to six feet wide according
to your reach. You could not cut as much with a scythe as
you could with a cradle.
Now, talking about digging a ditch,
I knew a blind man that could dig a ditch as well as a man
that could see. The sides would be straight up and down and
it would be the same width at the bottom as it was at the
top. You laid a rail on top of the ground and he would follow
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