Sugaring Season News

[Editors Note: Candyce Fulford has found (and transcribed) three articles from the New Hampshire Sentinel (now Keene Sentinel) published in March of 1891. The first and third are written by “Themistocles”, and the middle article by “Recorder”. While a variety of news is covered, the focal point seems to be about maple sugaring, and a rivalry between the two reporters becomes quite evident.]

Date: Wednesday, March 11, 1891    Volume: XCIII    Issue: 10    Page: 5

NH Sentintel March 1891The Presiding Elder of the Methodist church has appointed Rev. William Merrill to preach here each Sunday, and his first discourse was delivered in the hall last Sunday.  An effort will be made to organize a Sabbath school, next Sunday.  Hereafter, service will begin at 10:45 o’clock a.m., instead of at 1:30.

Already preparations are being made for the annual sugar-making, and perhaps it is with the view to obtaining the government bounty on maple sugar that a few are making improvements in their appliances.  H. D. Taylor has contracted for one of Wheeler’s new process evaporators to be put in this Spring, which is expected to make a saving in labor and time, with less waste, and improvement in quality.  The furnace is portable and made of iron.  We haven’t room for extended description, but presume Mr. T will be pleased to show it in operation to all his friends and give them a taste of sugar.

If the destruction to sugar lots goes on as it has in this town for the past twenty years, it won’t be long before all the maple trees in town won’t make sugar enough to be entitled to a bounty.

Badly drifted roads affected the attendance of the regular meeting of Granite Lake Grange last Friday night, but nearly one-third of the members were present, and enough to make a good meeting.  The report of the special committee on a children’s fair, in the Fall, was heard, and the proposed plan accepted.  The committee was granted a sum of money with which to issue premiums, and it is hoped that enough enthusiasm will be developed to make the projected fair a success.  The Lecturer’s programme consisted of music, readings and a talk upon the subject of maple sugar-making.  Past Master Taylor read a paper upon maple sugar-making in the earlier times, and remarks were made upon the subject by several experienced sugar-makers.  The evidence was all in favor of cleanliness as the first requisite for first quality.  The theory was also advanced, based on tests and observation, that the flavor and lightness of color depended a good deal on the soil upon which the trees grew.  The subject for the next meeting is How can we make our homes more attractive, in-side and out?”

Gideon Vigneau has sold his place at the centre to Mr. Simmons of Keene, head clerk for Wm. G. Hall, for a Summer residence.  Mr. V. is moving to Keene.


Date: Wednesday, March 18, 1891    Volume: XCIII    Issue: 11    Page: 5

Town meeting has come and gone, and perhaps it may interest the outside world to know, as in the days of the civil war “All is quiet on the Potomac;” so we make the announcement.  Circumstances over which we had practically no control having rendered it inadvisable to attend that meeting, we are obliged to take reports concerning it, at second hand.  We think we speak advisedly in the statement that the vote of the town transferring all future town meetings, and the transaction of all town business, to Munsonville, by a meager majority variously stated at from one to not over three, said vote being secured by the action of a good number, owning little or no real estate, as a flagrant disregard of the rights of a majority of real estate owners of the town which is unprecedented in the history of Cheshire county.

The young people connected with the Y. P.S. C. E. furnished refreshments on town meeting day, the proceeds to be appropriated to the payment for the new organ, recently purchased.

F. D. Taylor and George Bailey were chosen new members of the school board on March 18th.

Preaching at the Centre by Rev. Mr. Newhall, March 15th.  It is announced that preaching services will now be held regularly till the middle of next month, by which time a stated supply is expected.

We think Brother Themistocles is very liberal in the free advertisement he gave H. D. Taylor in relation to the implied invitation to friends or the public calling to see the operation of his new sap evaporator, and to test the virtue of his maple sugar.  If there should not happen to be enough of Mr. Taylor’s sugar to go around, we would suggest that Themistocles is himself a sugar maker, and we hope Mr. T. will be equally liberal and direct those wishing to test free sugar to give him a visit and try his sugar for themselves.


Date: Wednesday, March 25, 1891     Volume: XCIII  Issue: 12  Page: 5

There was a quiet wedding at the home of the late Ezra Wilder, on the 15th inst., the contracting parties being Miss Lucy M. Wilder and William Wood, and the officiating clergyman, Rev. William Merrill of the Methodist society in this village.  The future residence of the bride and groom will be Fitchburg, Mass.

At the chair shop the timber is being fast converted into stock and it is probable that all now in the yard will be sawed up much earlier than has usually been the case.  The band saw, under the direction of Sawyer Gibson, seems to be doing excellent work and proving to accomplish what was claimed for it when put in, viz: – A time and labor saver, and an economizer of timber.  In the finishing department, several new and very attractive styles of chairs are now being made.  Samples recently shown your correspondent were considered of a taking style, and excellent in workmanship and finish.

Sumner P. Fisher expects to move into his new house about April 1st.

Perhaps we were somewhat liberal in our implied invitation to taste Mr. Taylor’s sugar, but we only referred to those persons interested in improved sugar apparatus and did not expect the whole community would accept it as an invitation to a feast.  When Themistocles gets a new evaporator he will be pleased to do as he suggested Mr. Taylor would be glad to do.

Sugar makers in this vicinity have not tapped their orchards yet.

At the regular meeting of the Granite Lake Grange, last Friday evening, it was voted to have a public sugar party in the near future, the date to be determined by a committee.  The lecturer’s hour was given to readings and a discussion of the question, “How can we make our homes more attractive inside and out?”  In the opinion of the speakers it was not necessary to have unlimited means to make our homes more attractive, but the great essentials were neatness and order about the premises, and a cultivation of the homely virtues of good nature and forbearance about the household.  Shade trees and flowers, a well kept lawn and vegetable garden are no small items in the attractiveness of a farm home.  For the next five months the grange will meet but once a month, the third Friday.  Subject for April 17th, “Temperance.”

Frank B. Hardy has been incapacitated from work for two weeks with erysipelas in his face, but is now nearly recovered.


Home Life in Nelson (from Rev. Noah Hardy)

Home Life in Nelson
(provided by Bert Wingerson)

The kitchen in most homes is still the center of activity although it is very different from the old Nelson kitchen described by the Rev. Edwin Noah Hardy (1861-1950) in an edited selection below taken from his manuscript Home Life in Nelson written early in this century.



The old kitchen was the best loved and most used of all the rooms of the house.  It served not only as kitchen, but as dining room, sitting room, parlor, and general living room for the whole household during several decades of Nelson history.  Even the young swain did most of the courting of his sweetheart there in the presence of others.  The itinerant shoemaker and other specialized workmen plied their trade there for the family, and members of the household worked in the kitchen at handicrafts to earn a few extra shillings or supply particular needs of the family.  For the first and well into the last century, everything was handmade and homemade; each family priding itself on its ability to make just about everything — tools, garments, furniture, etc. — required for daily domestic use.

The kitchen was also used on occasion for making candles, cider, and soap, as well as for apple parings and quilting parties.  In the kitchen the flax would be broken, the heckle spun and woven, the wool fleece transformed into the homespun suit, in fact, the kitchen was distinguished among other uses as the household workshop.  The women were extremely industrious and any leisure secured from the common routine of domestic duties was eagerly used for mat-braiding, chair caning, palm-leaf-hat making, button making, spoon molding, beadwork, and fancy sewing and knitting.  It was rare indeed when the kitchen was not being used for some of these activities.
The entrance to the kitchen was ordinarily through a large door from the lean-to or shed.  The windows were few and small.  In the early homes cupboards, closet and pantries were rare.  The kitchen dresser with wooden or glass doors or more often doorless held the pewter and china dishes in common use and the spices, cooking utensils, and baked foods.

The huge fireplace with a hearth of stone, brick or tile was the distinguishing feature of the room.  By the side of fireplace stood the settle, a high backed wooden bench with arms wide enough to hold two or three adults.  This was the favorite seat for the aged members of the family.  [It was the warmest place in the house].  Inside of the fireplace were one and often two iron cranes with S-shaped hooks of various lengths to hold the kettles.  The skilled housekeeper could by proper adjustment of the kettles on the swinging cranes hasten or slow the cooking of her dinner at will.  The swinging crane was a Yankee invention and not in common use until nearly the time of the first settlement of the town [1767].  Nearby would be a motley collection of skillets, griddles, pots and pans, and a boot-jack, tin lantern, and dinner horn.

The kitchen was unpainted and unplastered and ordinarily without sheathing.  The bare boards became blackened and grimed with smoke from the fireplace.  Hanging from the overhead beams in the fall would be drying pumpkins, strings of apple rings, bundles of sage, flag root, thoroughwort, pennyroyal, catnip, checkerberry, and other herbs.

On the side opposite the fireplace was a sink with a wooden shelf attached.  A lead pipe, or far more often, a square wooden trough would carry waste water through the outside wall.  The water pail stood on the sink shelf and wooden or tin basins were in the sink.  Extra kettles and skillets, scouring sand or brick, a pan of grease for use on cowhide boots, a box of sulphur, and other nondescript articles found a safe hiding place in the enclosure beneath the sink.  On the shelf over the sink would stand a row of neatly polished candle sticks, the tinderbox, and other needed things.  Hanging nearby on the wall was the knife box. The good bone-handled knives and two-tines forks were expensive and highly prized.

Over the door hung the old flint-lock gun with powder horn and bullet pouch nearby.  In the chimney corner would stand the birch-shaven broom and the house mop.  There would be common wooden-bottomed chairs and stools for the family use.  The long dinner table was somewhat narrow and usually supported by X-shaped legs.  Of course, there was in the evolution from log cabin to the larger frame house, a corresponding evolution of the furnishings from the roughest and crudest to furniture of exceptional grace and beauty.

Three very important items in the old kitchen were the big brick oven, and the Dutch and tin ovens.  The brick oven was built into the side of the fireplace.  It had a flat floor four or five feet in length and about three feet in width with an arched top and an iron door.  A great fire would be built once a week, usually on Saturday.  When it was heated to the proper temperature, the hot coals would be shoveled out, and the floor brushed clean.  It would then be ready for use.

The tin oven or “roaster”  made of tin or sheet iron was used mainly for roasting meats.  It was open to one side [facing the hot fire in the fireplace] with a spit that could be turned to allow even cooking. The results were a more delicious roast than modern appliances can produce.  Underneath the spit was a drip-pan that caught the juices and fat from the roast that was used to baste the roast and make gravy.  [Vegetables roasted in the drippings have an incredibly good flavor!]  The Dutch oven was used for bread and cake baking. [It was a heavy kettle with a lid  made of cast iron.  It was placed over the coals in the  fireplace and additional coals were heaped on the rimmed lid to provide even heat.  Baking time is about the same as a conventional oven.]

Round and square gridirons were used for broiling meat by placing them over red-hot coals raked onto the hearthstone.  Some were made to save the delicious dripping from the meat.  Potatoes were generally baked in the hot ashes.

A shovel, tongs and an iron poke were necessary for tending the fire and for cooking.  A long-handled wooden [or iron] shovel was required for the brick oven.  Dusted with Indian meal [corn meal], the mass of prepared dough was placed on the shovel and than, by a dextrous turn of the hand, was slid off into the desired corner of the oven.  This shovel was also used to remove the baked loaf of bread or the cake.

A cookbook in the writer’s possession printed in 1837, indicates that the cooking stove was just then coming into  use in the larger cities.  It first appeared in 1819, but did not come into general use until 1850. It was unknown to many a home in Nelson until much later and with it cam radical changes to the domestic life described here.