The time capsule

Last week, I wrote about John Leon Spaulding’s donation of family diaries to the Chester Historical Society. I estimated there were close to 100. Well, we counted them and there are 120. Below is a story made possible by selecting a few entries found in William Ryland Spaulding’s “W.R.,” 1889 Weston diary.

Merrill Stevens barn on left showing two other barns now gone. The brick house on the right was where Merrill lived. Now owned by Steve Copping. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society

I chose the title, “The time capsule” for this story because it truly is. It has been 75 years or more since anyone has read these diaries.

W.R.’s diaries document daily life in Weston and how he made a living. He worked in the woods logging, hauling logs to sawmills, repairing sleighs and wagons, sugaring and working as a teamster trucking all variety of goods.

In recent weeks, I wrote what history I knew about the Merrill Stevens/Jeffrey barn. In that article I mentioned the timbers for the barn came from Weston. I described how the timbers would have been trucked to Chester. I also mentioned that sometimes we find a tidbit of information that completes a story. Below is a perfect example of that.

In W.R.’s 1889 diary we found: “March 12, 1889 Went to Merrill’s today with last load of timbers.” So if this was the last load, previous loads would be before this date in the diary. We found them. More importantly, we now know who trucked the timbers and lumber to build Merrill’s barn. It was W.R. Spaulding.

Other entries

“January 24, 1889 Went to Chester with timbers. Fred worked (Fred was W.R.’s brother) Bought only bag of salt of Geo Robbins .75 cents” “January 28, 1889 [logged] today” “February 6, 1889 Hauled logs from the cold spring lot” “February 7, 1889 Oiled harnesses” (oiling harnesses kept the leather supple) “February 8, 1889 Hauled timber to the top of the mountain” “February 15, 1889 Went to Chester with timber” “February 16, 1889 Went to Chester with lumber” “March 5, 1889 Went to town meeting” “March 7, 1889 Went to village after load of sawdust” (sawdust was used in horse stalls and cow barns.) “March 13, 1889 Went to Chester with load of flour barrels” “March 14, 1889 Stayed at home settled with Foster + Jacquith on logs drawn” “Went over with Barton to break out the road” Breaking out the road was breaking a trail through the deep snow so horses and horse-drawn vehicles could travel with less effort.

W.R recorded his many trips to Merrill Stevens barn delivering timbers, lumber, and shingles. Today, the barn has a metal roof but under the metal roof you can see wood shingles. I’ve seen the shingle mill in Weston operating. It’s an amazing machine.

There are other interesting entries in W.R.’s 1889 diary. W.R. notes who worked for him or whom he helped. Will Sheppard was one name I recognized. Will’s daughter, Marion, married Gale Peck. Many will remember Gale or his son Howard.

The most personal entry is March 1, 1889: “Went to Chester and met Hettie Marshall.” He must have liked what he saw. Mehitable “Hettie” and W.R. were married May 27, 1891.

I imagine we might find in a later diary where W.R. makes an entry: “Engaged to Hettie today.” And there would definitely be an entry for his wedding day. We have that 1891 diary.

Hettie was John Leon “Gramp” and Ted Spaulding’s grandmother. This explains why Ted and Gramp had so many photos and documents from the Marshall family.

Merrill Stevens married Moriah Spaulding of Cavendish. Moriah’s relation to John Leon and Ted is three or more times removed.

Here’s another interesting entry: “Went to Chester to see Mark Moore about ironing the hearse.” Ironing a wagon, sleigh, or carriage was done to strengthen the vehicle. After a vehicle was driven a year or so, the shaking and jouncing over the road would loosen or weaken the iron braces that held it together. Wagons were often overloaded causing excessive wear and tear. Perhaps your wagon was rated for 1,000 pounds but you wanted to haul 1,500 pounds. A blacksmith could beef up the wagon by using larger and sturdier iron braces he forged.

I found Mark S. Moore in Child’s 1883 Gazetteer listed as: “(Chester Depot) blacksmith, carriage ironing, owns with Robbins & Lawrence 12 acres on Shawmut Avenue.”

This week’s old saying was told to me by Ted Spaulding when we were talking about “ironing the hearse.” A Swedish man in Chester who had a difficult time pronouncing the letter “H” said, “If you’da ironed up that wagon it would’da carried one turd more.”

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