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MY GRANDFATHER BEEDE

by Mary Ann Beede Bell


                Grandfather Phineas Beede       Grandmother Miriam Taylor

                  Born:  December 6, 1773            Born:  October 17, 1773
                  Poplin, New Hampshire              Poplin, New Hampshire

                                   Married:  January 29, 1798
                                   Brentwood, New Hampshire




                Phineas Beede                   Hannah Lock Purington

                  Born:  August 18, 1809             Born:  June 2, 1811
                  Poplin, New Hampshire              Poplin, New Hampshire

                                   Married:  April 24, 1831
                                   Epping, New Hampshire

"Recalling in her fitting phrase,
So rich and picturesque and free,
(The common unrhymed poetry
Of simple life and country ways)
The story of her early day."

My Grandfather Beede used to tell of his starting off, as a young man, with his bundle of clothes tied in a bandanna, and trudging north in New Hampshire to find work.

He saved his money and had a thousand dollars in the bank before anyone knew he had a cent. He was a slow worker but very industrious and often worked at fencing the farm, in which he invested his savings, by moonlight, after the evening chores were done. He was a stern, hard-working, upright old Puritan, whose prudence and industry brought him to become the owner of the largest farm in Rockington County, where he laid the foundation for a comfortable home for his descendants down to the third generation.

Being such a worker himself, he required labor of his children even under difficult circumstances. One of his sons was sent out to chop wood in bitter weather, but soon came in crying because his hands were cold. His father sent him out again, saying, "When it is cold enough to freeze a potato, you may come in." Grandmother Beede, out of her mother's heart, stood before the open fire till her homespun woolen apron was heated hot, and going slyly to the door at intervals, warmed the boy's hands with the welcome heat.

When one of his sons was told that he might go with his father to help drive the oxen to Newburyport to sell the load of wood they were hauling, the boy, who had never seen a "city", was greatly pleased. When they came to the toll bridge over the Merrimack, however, Grandfather unhitched the young steers that were in the lead and sent his son back home with them to save paying toll on two yoke of oxen, so the boy had no glimpse of the city's splendors. The shilling or two toll counted large against the boy's eager anticipation.

Grandfather grew his own Indian corn and rye and had them ground into flour at the mill, and from these was made the "rye and Injun" bread which the family ate. After his son Phineas took over the running of the farm, Grandfather complained at the extravagance of buying wheat flour for bread declaring that "rye and Injun" bread was "just as good." They reminded him that when there was any wheat bread, he also ate it, and he said, "Well, if the rest have it, I am going to have it too."

In general, he considered his son Phineas extravagant and remarked, anent a new cap that Phineas had bought, that he had worn his own coonskin cap for twenty winters. Mother (Grandmother Bell) once heard him muttering to himself, after her brother Joshua, then at Dartmouth, had had a broadcloth coat, that "homespun is good enough for me, but gentlemen must wear broadcloth."

Grandfather had once inadvertently promised to leave $100 in his will to each child that was named for him among his descendants, but after several of his children had named their young hopefuls for their father, he thought them too numerous and left them nothing after all. Uncle Joshua used to say that it was bad enough to be named Joshua without missing the promised reward.

He did, in his old age, buy a string of gold beads for each of his daughters and one of them remarked that she should have liked it better if he had given them to her when she was a girl at home and he was so "pinching" with them.

He was as penurious with his wife as with his children and in his later years used to boast that he never gave her but one cent in all their married life and that was to make change.

Grandmother Beede did not however, go penniless because of his failing to supply her. There were the eggs, of which she could spare some to "trade" at the "Rocks" for hers and the children's needs, since she bought all her and their clothes that her busy spinning wheel and loom did not supply. An occasional chicken might be exchanged at the store also, and if those proved not enough, she could slip out a strip of pork from the well-stored pork barrel, or a sack of corn from the granary and, with the connivance of one of her sons, take even these heavier articles to trade in at the store or to pay for a day's help when it was needed. Grandfather well knew from whence her money came and used to laugh about it sometimes in his later years.

All good New England housewives baked the winter's supply of pies, mince, pumpkin and apple, before Thanksgiving and Grandmother stored here in a chilly unused upper room, where they promptly froze and were perfectly refrigerated till used. One of her sons used to cut a delicious piece of mince or pumpkin for private consumption and be roundly scolded when the marauding was discovered, but Phineas boasted in later years that he used wisely to abscond a whole pie and escaped detection. Once however, he was discovered and Grandmother threatened to whip him soundly, but he climbed to the top of the generous woodpile and mocked her efforts to reach him, pretending to be a squirrel and crying out "chit-er-a-dat" as he munched the stolen pie. He waited to come down till his father had returned home, knowing that Grandmother would say no more about it lest his Father's severity should make the punishment out of proportion to the offence.

Grandfather was a devout Universalist and would often retire to the ciderhouse to pray aloud "in his closet", so that Mother used to hear him there and was much impressed. In his old age, a brother of his came to visit him and they had much talk of religion. After the brother had climbed into his sleigh and started for home, he was "moved" to turn around again and come back to reason with Grandfather on the unsafe state of a man who believed that all souls might be saved and so wrought upon Grandfather that he accepted the more orthodox doctrine of hell for some of his fellowmen and joined the Methodist church. In fact, when he and his wife were grown old and feeble, she once came to Mother complaining that "your grandsir" in petulance, "wish I was in Tophet; and I never wished such a dreadful wish on anyone in my life."

Grandmother Beede was by no means the delicate clinging vine. She could cope with hard pioneer conditions, provide her own spending money, bear and rear the children and battle her way through her strenuous life.

When the hired man, or perhaps her husband himself, took away her washtub to scald the newly killed pig, she could bluster loudly, "Who has taken away my tub?", to which Grandfather retorted "Your tub! How did it come to be your tub? I bought it and paid for it." an attitude not perhaps unknown in the "provider" in more households.

Grandmother's "spare time" was occupied in busily spinning, weaving and knitting. It is told of her that she spun and wove linen sheets and sold them to buy the more highly-prized cotton sheets for her daughter's wedding outfit, cotton being at that time hand-cleaned and correspondingly expensive, modern and desirable. Doubtless that daughter's descendents would gladly cherish the despised old linen sheets of Grandmother's weaving.

Grandmother still believed in witches and used to tell how when her father was returning home late one night he saw where all his fences had been laid low by a witch but the next morning they had been put up again. Her son used to say to her, "I wouldn't tell that if I were you, Mother. I think he must have been a little the worse for liquor that night." The widow Tarsey, who lived in the neighborhood, was the poor old soul who was supposed to have made that fatal bargain with the evil one for the sake of tormenting her neighbors. Then Grandmother told these fearful witch tales to Mother as a child, she was instructed privately by her own mother that there was no truth in them.

In their old age, Grandfather and Grandmother Beede occupied one large room in the big farmhouse, otherwise occupied by their son Phineas and his family, and here she continued to cook the meals for herself and her feeble husband at the old fireplace by preference, too old and set in her ways to take up with such innovations as cooking stoves. Her hands still plied the knitting needles and when she died she left knitted stockings enough to supply her daughters for life.

When they must have been between sixty and seventy years old and Grandfather felt the heavy labor of the farm growing irksome, they tried in turn several of their sons to "come home and take care of the old folks for the farm." Each time it appeared that the old folks could not get along with the son's wives. At last they came over to "The Rocks" where Phineas and Hannah were keeping tavern and besought them with tears to come back home and care for their parents in their "few remaining years." The young folks rather reluctantly consented to this plan and cared for Grandfather and Grandmother there for over 20 years.

In the later years, Hannah's mother, Grandmother Purington, also occupied a room in the old house, gentle and beloved by all. Even the stern grandfather on the other side faithfully carried up the wood for her stove as long as he was able, a tribute to her sweet spirit.

In Grandfather's last feeble days, Grandmother fixed an orange, a rare treat, to coax his failing appetite. He turned to her and said, "I've brought you many a sweeter orange that this, Nancy," to which she replied, "So you have, father, so you have."

He had long been troubled by a rupture, which as he lay in bed protruded and caused him to be restless and uneasy though he could not tell what was hurting him, but "Darter" meaning Mary Ann (penciled in on original copy: "my mother"), divining the cause, pushed the bunch back in place and recalled in later years with pleasure that she was able to relieve so easily his discomfort.

Old Elder Marsh's cow was allowed to stray along the roadside in summer to glean her living and annoy the neighbors, and Grandfather, the tottering and childish, sallied forth to chase her off his grass one day and had a paralytic stroke from overexertion.

Phineas Beede was a blonde, hearty, childlike man, easily influenced, warm-hearted, hard-working, generous and fond of the good things of life, especially abundant food. The cellars and buttery overflowed with the eatables provided by those hard-working, thrifty, New England farm people. A large hog was killed when two years old or over and weighing two to three hundred pounds, when cold weather came and was put down as sausage, trips, souse, ham, scrapple and salt pork. Only the ham and shoulders were smoked, over the corncob fire in the old smokehouse. The sides were picked in brine, a barrel of them, and were firm and pink and fine, such as cannot be now bought in any market. In winter a cow or steer was beefed and corned beef was standard food, to be cooked with cabbage or used in making the bean porridge, approved of our forefathers, and which was often taken as a lunch by the woodcutters in winter, frozen solid and tied to the sled stake.

There was always abundance of milk, eggs, turkeys, chickens, butter and especially cheeses, made by capable Hannah and oiled and turned and ripened to such perfection that when she had a supply large enough so she could spare some to sell, they always brought more than the market price for cheese. Sometimes, to vary them for home use, she made a sage or a tansy cheese.

Calves and sheep furnished variety in meat for the household and from the former came the rennet used to curdle the milk in cheesemaking. But chickens were the meat for year-round quick emergencies. One room in the house was known as the "Minister's Room" being so often used for that purpose and was looked upon as almost sacred by Grandmother Beede, a minister being not quite like a common mortal in those days. When ministers were entertained at Conference time, Hannah would rise early, kill a chicken, scald and pluck and dress it, and by the time the guests came down it would be cooked and ready for the substantial New England breakfast. In late winter, a kit of salt mackerel from the nearby coast town varied the diet and a barrel of Boston crackers bought by Phineas, under some apprehension lest Hannah should demur at his extravagance, divided the honors with home baked loaves and hot corn bread and biscuits. The day of canned goods and sweets had not yet arrived but half a barrel of Cider applesauce was made in the fall by boiling down a barrel and a pailfull of cider to one pailfull, thick like molasses, and in this the apples were cooked and stirred to prevent burning in the great copper kettle. Cider was the daily drink and was made in such quantities that it never gave out, though used on every occasion.

Bins of vegetables, turnips, beets, carrots, cabbages and parsnips helped fill the cellar but in the early days potatoes were used much less freely and only a barrel of them would be put down, about the same as the supply of carrots. Tomatoes came in much later and Mother herself can remember when they were only grown as a curiosity in the flower garden and were called "love apples" and accounted poison, since they belonged to the dangerous nightshade family.

When Phineas took over the place, he put $1000 into making over the house, adding a long narrow porch in front, putting in more modern windows to replace the older very small panes, taking out a partition to enlarge the dining room and making other changes. This was done after they had lived there for some time.

Beyond the kitchen was the woodshed, overflowing with summer's warmth against the winter's need. The long, cold, New England winter consumed those cords and cords of wood at an astonishing rate and still left most of the house with a tomblike chill that sent the intruder back in haste to the kitchen fire.

Near the woodshed was the shop where the cobbler's bench still stood, relic of an earlier day, when Grandfather Beede eked out the proceeds of the farm by making shoes in odd moments.

It was this home that Phineas and Hannah brought their young health and strength and their two children, Joshua and Mary Ann, and it was here that later were born Phinny and Sylvie, the latter named Mersylvia, not for any of her forebears but after the heroine of some then-modern tale.

Hannah was a black-eyed, nervous, ambitious, energetic woman, a notable housewife, who never spared herself in the service of her family. As the old saying was, "You could eat off her kitchen floor." She was tirelessly industrious, making soap and candles, knitting and patching, washing and scrubbing, endlessly cooking and providing for her family. Her husband ably seconded her labors in his own province of the farm and admired and loved his wife sincerely, yet stood a little in awe of her criticism and exalted moral standards, and mourned that he loved Hannah more than any one else in the world, but she loved the children best. Truth to tell, she did not quite trust or honor her husband, being herself of finer sensibilities and standards of conduct, though with less formal education. She had left school early to earn and in her later years took up one of the children's school geographies and went through it by herself because she had not had it in school and wanted to know more about the world she lived in. She had great respect for her husband's superior book learning and boasted that he and his brother were the smartest boys in the district school in arithmetic. None of them went beyond what the district school had to offer.

Having grown up in poverty, Hannah had early lessons in industry, economy and self reliance. She went to Lowell as a girl of thirteen to work in the Lowell Mills along with her sister and her father, who was employed there for a time as a carpenter. These were the days before the influx of immigrant labor for the textile mills and their operatives were recruited from the daughters of the surrounding countryside. Lucy Larcon tells of a similar experience in her story of "A New England Girlhood." In Lowell, the two girls were out in the care of a pious Methodist old maid in whose home they were sheltered.

At an even earlier age, she had worked at home. She learned to spin when she was so small that a plank had to be laid beside the wheel so that she could reach it.

Bound boys were sometimes taken by the farmers to chore about the farm for their board and clothes and winter schooling "as far as the Rule of Three" and a new suit and a few dollars when their term of service ended at twenty-one. While Hannah was still small, such a bound boy was taken into the family from some poorer household. The boy was very destitute of clothes and school time was at hand. He must have a suit of clothes at once. The two girls must spin and the mother weave to supply it. Betsey elected to stay at home from school to do her share but ambitious Hannah rose early and did a "Maid's stint" before schooltime in the morning.

Hannah fell in love with a second cousin of hers and the young man fell in love with her and they plighted their troth. But "the course of true love never did run smooth". Her parents preferred the suit of young Phineas Beede, fair and strong, generous and sociable. Also, which weighed heavily in their judgement, his father owned the finest farm thereabouts. With a heavy heart, Hannah resigned her lover in obedience to her parents' wishes and accepted Phineas.

When he came courting, he was at first attracted to Betsey, who was something of a beauty, but their brother, who was well acquainted with his sisters, assured him that "Betsey was prettier, but Hannah was smarter and would make the best wife. The friendly advice was taken. Hannah crushed out her love for her cousin and took what fate offered her. Years afterwards, when that cousin came to her home to visit, he remarked, "I always thought you would never prosper, Cousin Hannah, but I see you have."

With the money carefully saved from her small earnings in the Lowell Mills, Hannah, as was the custom at that time bought all the smaller and some of the larger household furnishings for the new home. She went with Betsey to Lowell to purchase the best China, driving the long way with the buggy. Coming back, the precious box of china with its edges of purple gilt was carried for safety in its new owner's arms. But coming through a town, Betsey objected that the great box on her lap did not look well and persuaded Hannah to set it down in the bottom of the buggy. Roads were not all they might be for smoothness in those days and when the china was unpacked, much of it was found to be broken and another set had to be bought to take its place. Another ill luck befell her wedding outfit. The best black silk dress, destined to be worn for state occasions for years to come, was made and hung up in the closet. The puppy was accidentally shut up in that closet and ruined one whole breadth of the dress, which had to be taken out and replaced by a new piece. But preparations were finally complete, the bans were posted and cried in church as by law required, and Father and Mother started out on their life together.
(
penciled in: "This is supposed to be told by mother. Lucy Benson)

THIS BIOGRAPHY:

* Lucy Benson is the fifth daughter of John Bell & Mary Ann Beede

(who is the daughter of Phineas Beede & Hannah Lock Purington).

* original copy in the possession of Charlotte C. Seely.

* printed by John Rudnick whose wife (the former Kathleen Ann

McManimie) is the great-great-great granddaughter of Phineas

Beede and Hannah Lock Purington.

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