Hell and damnation

Here’s another photo from Ted Spaulding. A note on the reverse reads: “James Ashton Spaulding’s sugar orchard 32 wooden sap buckets.”

Ted provided me with what he knew about Ashton. Also in volume 2 of “Families of Cavendish” by Linda Farr Welch, I found additional information. Below is what I learned.

Thirty-two sap buckets at Ashton Spaulding sugar lot in Weathersfield. Photo provided by Ted Spaulding.

James Ashton Spaulding (1855-1911) was born June 29, 1855. In 1882, he married Mariah Baldwin of Proctorsville. Here Ashton ran a prosperous farm.

In November of 1892, Aston sold his Proctorsville farm to James H. Bates for an incredible $3,000. Would this become the Bates Mansion? He then bought the Ed Lord farm in Weathersfield for an astounding $4,000. This was one of the finest farms in Weathersfield.

I think many will know Ashton’s house. Take Route 106 from North Springfield to Downers Four Corners. Go through the intersection staying on 106. Route 106 meanders and then opens to a broad valley on the right.

On your left is where the old stone house was belonging to Alan and Laura Miller (my aunt and uncle.) This is the place that was bulldozed in a few years ago by a new owner from down country. Ashton’s is the stone house on the right just past the Miller place. I recall attending the auction here about 1977 or 1978. We’ll talk about that a little later.

The Ed Lord place included about 300 acres. It was made up of several parcels. His real estate’s value was $6,800, a rather sizeable estate for 1911.

Here from his itemized estate inventory I give a few of his holdings: Sugar making equipment $60, one pair of oxen $100, 20 cows $500, nine calves $75, two horses $225, 100 bushels corn $60, 20 tons of hay $200, and more.

While Ted never knew Ashton, Ted’s father Ed did. Ed told Ted what he knew about Ashton. Ashton was a loud, somewhat coarse, and outspoken man. It could also be said he was a little rough around the edges.

Ted told me two instances he remembers his father telling him. The first account takes place down in Gloucester. Ted’s father Ed was in Gloucester on business and was walking the street when he noticed Ashton walking ahead of him. Ed snuck up on Ashton and kicked him in the butt. Immediately Ed ducked into an ally between two buildings. Ashton turned around and hollered, “Who in hell in damnation is taking liberties with my ass?”

The second story Ted remembers is something Ashton said about his son Robert. It seems Robert wasn’t the most motivated individual. “He don’t show no surprise or admiration for anything.”

  The photo

The photo with this article would date to 1905-1910. Therefore, we can conclude this photo was taken in Weathersfield and not Proctorsville. Remember Ashton moved to Weathersfield in 1892.

I found mention of Ashton producing 800 pounds of maple sugar and not one gallon of syrup. Why so much sugar you might wonder? In the mid-1800s on into the early 1900s maple sugar was produced to compete with the cane sugar market. Maple sugar could be sold in five-pound pails. It became very popular with customers.

The auction

It was fall of 1977 or 1978 that an auction was held at the Ashton Spaulding stone house. I remember Murray Fraser from Woodstock was the auctioneer. It was a two-day auction with hard rain the first day and not a whole lot better the second day. The tent was filled with auction goers with absolutely no room, not even standing room. Many stood in the rain.

I went to see my neighbor Mary Fraser the other day. Mary was at the auction the first day. I remember her bidding $4,000 for an 18th century hutch table. It had shoe-feet and original red paint. Mary lost the table to Al Backofen, an antiques dealer from Lebanon, N.H. Al paid $4,500, a sum unheard of at the time. A hush fell over the crowd. These old generational homes are now gone. What fun it was to be part of those now gone days.

I also remember the field where cars were parked becoming deep, muddy ruts caused by traffic and the heavy rain. As cars drove in and out, it worsened. A farmer with his tractor made a few bucks pulling cars out of the field. But my best memory is a man from out of state. The farmer pulled him out without incident. Once free the man drove up the road, turned around and drove right back into that muddy field. Whoops, stuck again.

In 1909, Ashton wrote his early memories for the Vermont Tribune in a column titled, “The Recollections of James Ashton Hall Spaulding.” Ashton’s stories are included in Linda Welch’s “Families of Cavendish.” This book was published by the Cavendish Historical Society.

  This week’s old saying. “If you don’t like sore knuckles quit knocking on my door.”

Back To Top