Many of my White family ancestors are buried in Belmont. In the 1920s, my father Arnold spent his summers in Belmont with his grandfather Frank Patch. Frank lived in a small log cabin he built on Tiffany Road.
My father told me countless stories about his days in Belmont. Frank kept a rowboat at Star Lake. My father told about catching pickerel from this rowboat. Frank and my father made many hiking, fishing, or hunting trips together throughout the area. Along the way Frank told my father many stories about the past. Frank was born in 1859 and died in the 1940s, so I never knew him.
When I was a boy, my father took me to many of these same places to hunt or fish. It was important to my father that these stories be passed down. Sixty years ago, he took me to the Yale Forest. Ask Dennis Devereux about upcoming hikes to the Yale Forest.
This past weekend was Cider Days in Belmont. I decided to go alone.
Belmont is a beautiful little village. At Cider Days, there were vendors set up selling their wares. The Mount Holly Fire Department was open with their firetrucks, all spiffy, sitting outside.
The library was open. What a beautiful interior. I walked about the village thinking. I was struck by a group of musicians – sorry I didn’t catch their name, but there were three fiddlers, a banjo, mandolin and guitar. These musicians had to have cold fingers. They played lively old-time tunes perfect for the day. I went back several times to listen.
The Mount Holly Historical Society was open so I went in. I was greeted by knowledgeable docents. They have a nice collection including a huge wooly mammoth tusk. From here I walked down to Will White’s blacksmith shop. Will is kin of mine so I had an interest.
There’s a wonderful little book, “Mount Holly, Its Early Days” by James Holden. It’s full of anecdotal stories. As I walked around I kept this book and its characters in mind. I managed to transport myself back to these days and my ancestors, several of who are mentioned in this book.
Being alone I was able to stop and think about what I was seeing, my family history along with a deep understanding I have of what life was like long ago. As I looked out on Star Lake, I saw my father as a boy in his rowboat almost 100 years ago.
From “Mount Holly, Its Early Days:”
Will White’s blacksmith shop was a meeting place.
“One frequent visitor was Frank Parmenter, a local Justice of the Peace. Frank was a large man who liked to lean back in a chair and with hands clasped over his ample belly, he would spout forth gems of philosophy. Once he said, ‘I have made up my mind that there is a little something to almost everything – generally speaking.’”
Another short story involving Frank Parmenter and my great-grandfather Frank Patch:
“For a time Frank Patch boarded with Frank Parmenter and his wife Polly. A village band was organized and, after the first night’s practice, Frank Patch passed through the dining room on his way to bed, carrying a large horn. Excepting the usual ‘good nights’ nothing was said. The next morning at breakfast Mr. Parmenter spoke up:
‘Well, Patch, joined the band I see.’
‘Yes, Mr. Parmenter.’
‘Well, understand, not a d—-ed toot in here!’”
“One day Mr. Parmenter sat alone at the edge of the pond fishing. He was a stout man, so crouching down was not easy for him. In some way he lost his balance and fell in. A lady member of the Baptist Church witnessed this and promptly reported it around the village. Later in the day Will saw him sitting on the piazza of the village store.
‘Went fishing this morning, Mr. Parmenter?’
‘Fell in, I hear.’
‘Yes I did and it ain’t anyone’s business if I did. If it hadn’t been for those d—ed Baptists no one would have known about it either.’”
I recommend you read this little book, maybe over and over as I have. You’ll get to know the characters and who did what.
I lack the words to describe how I feel when I walk through this village. It’s almost a magnetic feeling. It’s a sense of belonging or being home. I hope these anecdotes will help you understand how everyone knew everyone and in some way depended on each other. It was a great way to live.