The Amsden photo with this article is from Ted Spaulding. My mother grew up in Amsden and told me many stories about growing up there. She spoke a lot of Teddy Robinson and the “Panther.”
Last week I went to the Weathersfield Historical Society to research this photo. Ellen Clattenburg greeted me and had many files ready for me to examine. The article below is information gathered from that visit.
As early as the 1780s the first sawmill was established by Levi Stevens in what today is Amsden. In 1849 John Howard was operating a gristmill at this same location and hired 17 year old Charles Amsden. Howard was out of business two weeks later. Amsden with $100 to his name bought the mill to run it himself. From this meager beginning Amsden built an empire that included many different mills. Of greater significance perhaps were Amsden’s two lime kilns. You will read about these below.
Condensed from Victor Rolando’s book titled “200 Years of Soot and Sweat”: The lime produced in Weathersfield (Amsden) is a dark color, not white as in most other locations. It is a well-known fact that the dolomitic lime of Amsden makes a mortar much more durable when exposed to moisture and weather.
Also condensed from an article Ted Barrows wrote for the Weathersfield Weekly: The limestone was blasted from the ledges, then breaking it into smaller pieces with a sledgehammer, it was hauled to the burning kilns where it was fired overnight. Vast amounts of firewood were required. In the morning it was removed from the kiln, put through a crusher where it was powdered, loaded into barrels and hauled by horse and wagon to Claremont to be shipped on the railroad. Some lime was hauled to the railroad station in Proctorsville.
Barrows further writes: Many barrels were needed to ship the finished lime. His uncle Louis Hoisington was a cooper (barrel maker) in Amsden. All parts of the barrel were manufactured here: staves, barrel heads and hoops.
Along with the sawmill where his father and Clarence Emery were sawyers, was a busy store and busier school. A barrel of flour cost $1.98 and if you could carry it 300 yards without setting it down it was yours.
Another condensed article by Sue Davis in the Weathersfield Weekly: Max Emery upon visiting Robert Undeen noticed a particular wooden barrel. When Max offered to buy the barrel Mr. Undeen gave it to him. Max recognized the barrel as one his father Clarence had a hand in building at the barrel works in Amsden, located in the gorge beside the Amsden Store some 50 or more years earlier.
Max’s father, Clarence Emery, made the saw which cut the staves for the barrel and another saw to cut shingles. Max’s father and Max’s sister Laura worked in the barrel works, Laura making the heads for the barrels.
The 1927 flood took out the mill complex including the barrel works and shingle mill. Later Laura Emery Miller bought the Amsden Store and ran it for several years. Laura then bought the Perkinsville Store.
In the 1880s the general store, gristmill, sawmill, blacksmith shop, and two large limekilns producing 10,000 barrels of lime yearly all belonged to Charles Amsden as did the twenty houses, chapel and the schoolhouse which he built for his employees. And he owned approximately 1,000 acres.
The large building in the background of the photo is Amsden’s store. The two buildings in the foreground were probably associated with the lime business.
In 1937 my mother (June Emery) was sitting on the counter in the Amsden store when my father Arnold walked in. This was my parents’ first meeting.
Another little tidbit of local history was told to me by Ted Spaulding. The 1938 hurricane destroyed a mill in Weston (where Ted was living at the time). Later the engine from the Weston mill was found downstream, recovered and sold to a shingle mill at Downers. This shingle mill was owned and operated by Clarence Emery.
Max Emery Sr. was my mother’s brother. Clarence Emery was my mother’s father. Some may remember Laura Emery Miller, my mother’s sister, who lived in the stone house on Route 106 on the way to Reading. This is the stone house that was destroyed by a new owner in recent years. Laura was known for her braided rugs. Little known is the fact that my mother braided rugs for Laura on order.
The Chester Historical Society is asking for donations of antiques for our antiques sale this Sept. 15 and 16. Give me a call at 802-374-0119 and I’ll come pick them up.
Instead of an old saying I offer something my father taught me. “A man never extends his hand to a woman in a handshake. The woman must extend her hand first.”