Old Times in Windham
by Rev. Henry Hedges Prout
Originally published in the Windham Journal from February 18, 1869 to March 31, 1870. Article 13 published on May 20, 1869. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Windham Journal located at the Vedder Research Library.
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
What is known as North Settlement, is a high pleasant region—a basin-like valley—having its own central stream of water, its hills and mountains, bounding it on three sides while in the southern direction, the valley opens into the valley of the Batavia creek. It is now a productive region, having a thriving population. The earliest settlers appear to have been Jabez Barlow, and Silas Lewis, Sr. Mr. Lewis filled an important place in the early time, as Justice of the Peace, Surveyor and school teacher. Having a holiday, he took his gun, on a certain occasion, and went into the woods, followed by his two dogs. On the high ridge, between North Settlement and Sutton Hollow, he discovered a panther, well up in a tree, and firing his gun, the beast sprang toward him, wounded but strong enough for a desparate fight. The two dogs strove to defend their master; the larger dog’s head was, however, soon in the mouth of the panther, when the smaller one, attacking him in the rear, drew his attention and saved the big dog’s head. Mr. Lewis fortunately found near him an ironwood handspike, which, using as a cudgel, he struck the panther a heavy blow across the small of the back, but he never winked. The next time hitting his adversary adroitly and very heavily, he broke his neck. The animal was a very large one, but Mr. Lewis in the excitement of the time shouldered him and proceeded towards home, but having stopped to rest, he found himself unable to resume his burden. The nervous energy of the hour of struggle was gone, and becoming "like another man," he could not lift the monster he had killed. What a mystery is the nervous energy! With what strange power is the human frame sometime clothed to meet a crisis of peril! The blow that broke the neck of the panther was no trifle; but with the crisis that required it, the energy was gone.
Mr. Lewis lived to a good old age. His attendance on divine worship at church, his punctuality and dignified propriety of manner have been averted to. His wife’s maiden name was Hannah Wooster, and her place in society was one of responsibility. It was her frugal custom to drill holes in her crockery and sew the broken vessels together; and the public surveyors, dining at her home on a special occasion, were very much pleased at observing her skill in the matter, as well as delighted with the neatly dressed and savory viands she set before them; and one had the politeness to invite her to go to his store, in Kingston, and be supplied with a bowl such as she needed. The boys of the family went barefoot in winter, and also wore linen clothing, and the girls made their own shoes. The matron of early times must needs spin and weave, like Solomon’s virtuous women, who "layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff." Though we must modify a subsequent phase in his description and say indeed of "scarlet," all her household is clothed in linen and tow. How should it be spun, and the infant soothed and quieted? Nothing easier; the infant is tied in the mother’s apron, as she wears it at work, and thus is carried by her, to and fro, as she draws out and winds up the threads.
Ebenezer Baldwin came from Wallingford, Conn., about 1798. His wife lived to be 101 years of age. Solomon Munson came from the same place at the same date; but of him and his son Jairus Munson, the writer hopes to have a fuller and better account written than he can give.
Taking the date of 1810, the following would be a list of the principal families residing in the North Settlement: Deacon Osborn, many years Deacon, so that he was better known by that, than by any other name, lived where Henry Cook now lives. Farther up, successively, were Mr. Bronson, Solomon Bishop, John Cargill, Ezekiel Tuttle and Josiah Chatfield. On the road running toward Mitchell Hollow, was Ebenezer Blakeslee, the father of three or four sons, some of whom with their families, lived near their father, -Enos Osborn, Davis, Palmer, Atwood. On other road were Smalling, Hitchcock, Barlow, Baldwin, Aaron Steel, and Ard Osborn. Lower down the valley were Burnham, and Mr. Tyler, who lived where Joel Tuttle had lived previously. The grist mill had been built by Marshall Lewis, a brother of Silas Lewis.
The writer cannot but hope that those who have knowledge of facts and events in regard to the families above mentioned, will communicate them. It is a matter of social interest to set in order what may still be known of the past in our local history. Let none be deterred by thinking that what they happen to know is of little importance. Let all freely contribute whatever may have come to their knowledge concerning the "Old Times," and it will doubtless be gratefully received and read by those who hold the forefathers of the country in veneration.