Working for a living

Examining a 1921 journal kept by W.R. Spaulding and his son Ed, I am able to put together what a typical day was like at their livery stable. Some weeks W.R. and Ed took in $35 – $501 today.

I imagine most mornings Ed or W.R. Spaulding would have been in the livery stable by 7 a.m. They owned many horses including Lady, Dan, Maud, Buster, Prince, Mag and Nell, Babe and others.

Ed took excellent care of his horses, brushing them out each morning so they looked their best. His wagons, sleighs, and buggies were well-maintained. Along with the livery stable, he carried passengers around Chester and area towns with his horse-drawn taxis.

Working from the 1921 journal, I see they owned a three-seater sleigh, a two-seater as well as various wagons and buggies. The three-seater was a luxurious sleigh used to carry passengers in style.

Ed Spaulding’s Star Route license plate from a Ted Spaulding donation. Photo provided

W.R. and Ed boarded and hitched horses. Hitching a horse was taking in someone’s horse for a few hours and usually 15 to 25 cents. Feed was extra.

Because this was Ed’s business, he took great care keeping his horses and vehicles in tip-top condition. Brass sleigh bells and the brass tips of hames were kept polished. Leather harnesses were kept oiled. These vehicles were always spiffy and ready to go.

Ed might spend an hour or more each morning grooming his horses and another hour cleaning his vehicles. When a train pulled into the train station next door, a passenger might wander over to Ed’s and need a carriage or sleigh to Cavendish, Windham, or Grafton. He had to be ready to go on short notice. In Ed’s daily journal entries, he mentions who hired him, the fee, and the horse or horses used. Some entries are “Stranger.”

I found this entry interesting: “March 23, 1922 Hearse to Grafton & Saxtons River. Pete and Babe horses $8.00.”

Hugh Henry was a regular customer usually going to his office at 50 cents. Pearl Dorand paid 50 cents for a ride to school. Some will remember Pearl as Mrs. Sherwin who lived across the street from the Park Light B&B. Funerals were recorded as for who and how many vehicles were hired.

Other entries are Ed Farr and Wilt Holt. Both men had Star Route mail contracts with the government. In 1910 Ed became a substitute driver on Ed Farr’s Star Route from Chester to Rockingham. Others Ed subbed for were Wilt Holt and Tom Sullivan. Tom Sullivan lived in the house on High Street that I grew up in. Average charge for subbing was $4.65 per day. Eventually Ed had his own Star Route. That’s another story.

In the journal I found a couple horse remedies:

“Black Water 1 pint linseed oil, 2 oz turpentine, 2 oz of nitre. Put liniment on kidneys.

“Condition Powders 2 lbs Sulphur, 1 lb cream tartar, 4 oz Salt Peter. 3 days skip 3 days Tablespoon at night.”

Ted told me his father learned a lot about veterinary work and treated his own horses. While Ed wasn’t a licensed vet, people in the area would have him treat their horses. Because Ed wasn’t licensed, he couldn’t charge. Instead those seeking his help made donations.

In my mind I imagine travelling by sleigh from Chester to Springfield. You can hear the sleigh runners as they slide over the snow-covered road. And because the sleighs were flexible you would feel every dip in the road. The sleigh bells would be jingling with the cold air in your face. Riding in a sleigh gives you the sensation of floating on air. I wonder what the driver and passengers talked about. It must have been an enjoyable trip.

There are several entries listed as “Standard Oil Company.” I wonder what their business was in Chester. One entry reads: “Standard Oil men around town $2.00.” What were they looking for?

While Ed was out delivering mail or driving passengers, W.R. would have run the livery. They must have had spare drivers. With Ed away, any customer who came in for a carriage would not have been made to wait. This was a professionally run business.

Now I offer an explanation Ted Spaulding told me about horses. I recall years ago hearing old-timers talking about horses, a hoss or hawses. I always thought it was a Vermont accent but this is not so.

In the old days: A single workhorse was a “hoss.” Two workhorses or more were called “hawses” or a “team,” and a riding horse was a “horse.” Today, those of us who work in a trade have terminology limited to those working in that trade. These terms for a horse would be the same thing.

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