Life on Howe’s Hill Farm in Matthew Jones’s Time

[last half of nineteenth century]

Written by Dora Beryle Jones and given to nephew, Charles Page in 1975

Much of this detailed information was told to Beryle by her Uncle Matt Jones, son of Matthew. She wrote it out in long hand and I typed it out mostly using her own words. C.E.P.

Her Story:

When Grandpa Jones [ Matthew] bought the place in 1868, there was a pig pen, a small horse barn, and small cow barn with a barnyard in between. The cow barn held 11 cows that were tied with ropes or chains around their necks as there were no stanchions. If a lot of calves were raised they were tied to poles up and down. The cows had to go down to the woods to drink. They were mostly milked out doors in the summertime in the barnyard. Milk was poured from strainer pail into pans which were set on a milk rack in the milk room. After the cream had risen to the top, it was skimmed off and churned into butter. The butter was packed into 50 to 60 pound firkins, painted blue, and taken to butter dealers in Hamilton or Waterville. One used to see big stacks of blue firkins by the railroad stations. Some people instead of making butter, drew their milk to cheese factories- there was one at Madison Center , one at Sangerfield, and another over toward Mason street. Milk used to be as low as thirty cents per hundred. Butter was probably 16 to 18 cents a pound. Aside from butter income, Grandpa raised potatoes, pork, and sold wood which was delivered to town at about $1.25 or $1.50 a cord. There were very few hens. They used to gather beechnuts and probably butternuts as there were many trees on the place. They also made maple syrup which was boiled in the woods in a big brass kettle hung on a pole with back logs. It was carried to the house with a neck yoke, there to be further boiled down and cleansed on the kitchen stove. When Grandpa bought the farm, he had Old Fan and Old Blind John as horses. He raised a colt from Old Fan which he sold to a neighbor.. Everyone had a yoke of oxen.

There were no [power] saws then except a coarse rip saw to saw boards by water power. People first used a broad ax to hew logs for houses. As to tools for farm use, there were peg tooth drags, revolving rakes and a reaper where a man had to walk behind to rake off the grain. The school in the district was down on the corner where the road goes to Tinker Hollow. There were 32 weeks of school then. The teacher boarded around with the families of the district. Subjects taught were reading, spelling, writing, grammar, astronomy and physiology. The boys wore short cotton pants, waists, leather boots and no underwear. Uncle Mat remembers building fires at the school for twenty-five cents a week . The stove was like a long hop stove - two-foot logs were put in the door at the end and there was a 6 ft. poker to use.

The people had to work their own roads according to the poll tax - so many days, usually about 5 days. There were about 5 families in Grandpa’s road district and the town was divided up into road districts. Each district had a little hand scraper, straight steel with a handle. They hitched horses onto it with a chain and scraped the road [dirt into the road] and then used hoe and rake to level it off. Each year the town superintendent of roads appointed a path master in each district. He was supposed to look after the bridges [plank] and culverts. He got a little pay according to what he had to do. If a man used a team to work on the road, it counted as one day, plow counted one day and man one day.

When Grandpa came to Hill place [Howes Hill ] there was a plank road from Utica to Oriskany Falls. Stage coaches carried the mail . There were no daily papers, if any, a weekly.

The women were busy - there were stockings , mittens, and wristlets to make. They made candles and all soap - both soft and sandstone. There were paring bees when apples were pared and strung on string an hung all over the kitchen to dry. Also pumpkin and corn . There was no canning. Each Monday morning wash water had to be carried to the house from a spring down the creek.

Most people went to church twice on Sunday - services were held in all school houses and prayer meetings in the farm houses. Then there were school and church picnics in some grove where the children spoke and played games. There were also quilting parties. Tin and pack peddlers came around and their visits were always important events. When the O&W railroad was built from Utica down to Line Brook [between Norwich and Oxford] an excursion was run and Grandpa Jones went on it.

Note by C. Page: See "notes" under "Matthew Jones"[JonesPageFamily"in Tree Maker] for succession of owners of the farm.

Howe’s Hill farm is on a now dead end road called Skuban Road south east of Madison Center. When my grandfather, Edward Evan Jones lived there it was called Jones road. The road use to extend past their farm to the south and they called that part after it was abandoned the Henderson road since their next neighbor that way was Henderson. Edward Evan and family lived on this Howe’s Hill [or Matthew Jones farm] until his death in 1946. He farmed much the same as hisfather before him, using the old methods. No electricity or running water until REA in the 1940’s.

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones 1838 - 1894