My Early Life
I was born December twentieth, eighteen hundred and thirty-six, in the town of Raymond, Maine. The place is near, or joined, my Grandfather Haydens farm. The house has long been gone.
I was the daughter of Ebenezer and Jane (Staples) Hayden. Father was the son of Jeremiah Hayden, one of the first settlers of Raymond, and wife, Margaret (Davis) Hayden.
I lived in this home four years, and the first event in my life that I can remember was moving from there to a farm at the head of Panthers Pond. That farm joined Grandfather Joseph (Dingley) Staples place (my mothers father) and her mother, Elizabeth (Davis) Staples. Those were happy days, when I could run across lots to grandpas.
I went to school then in what was called the Rolfe schoolhouse. There was a fireplace in the schoolhouse that would easily take in cordwood. While our faces burned our backs would chill. We had only one aisle and two rows of benches, and those sitting near the wall would have to work their way out past the others to the aisle.
It was here that I became slightly acquainted with Greens grammar. If I had studied instead of gazing out at the hay-makers, I would have accomplished more; but I am glad that I watched the hay-makers, for that was a scene never forgotten. And how different from making hay today. Then it was all done by hand. There were most always three mowing. They always struck at the same time, and in perfect time, and how the scythes would ring when the men sharpened them. Threshing was done with a flail. Two men generally worked together, first one striking, then the other. When one flail went up the other went down, and the flails never struck each other.
Here was laid the foundation of my good health. I was a frail child, and roaming the fields and woods and living out of doors so much made me strong and well. I sometimes went hunting with my brothers.
One winter the snow was very deep, and stayed on the ground until late. Uncle Tom. Witham (mothers uncle--his wife was a sister to Grandmother Staples) told his son Mial to take a sack of corn to the mill, maybe a mile away, on his handsled across the fields over the tops of the fences. It was then the fifteenth of April. He told him that he would have it to tell his grandchildren when he was an old man. Mial is still living in 1916.
I remember the big drifts, and the long sloping sides, where we coasted down to the meadow many rods away.
Grandfather Staples lived near. His family consisted of himself and grandmother, Aunt Eliza, a single woman, Uncle Joe, and Aunts Mary and Sarah, two young girls about the age of my two oldest sisters. The four girls were much together and were very well contented.
Grandfather Staples was a shoemaker, and every fall father would buy a quantity of leather, and move Grandfather and his bench to our house, and he would shoe us all up for the winter. One year the leather gave out before my shoes were made, and they cut the tops off a pair of worn-out fine boots, and made me a very nice pair. I would like to see them beside a pair of childs shoes today.
Uncle Joe--dear old Uncle Joe! -- the best uncle anybody ever had! He never had much to say, but would surprise you when he did talk. He afterwards married, and his wifes name was Betsy Jane. They are all gone these many years, and I am an old woman in my eightieth year
Uncle Nat. lived on the adjoining farm, and dear Aunt Esther was of the salt of the earth. They had a houseful of children, of whom Quimby, Minerva and Mary went to school with me.
Mother had two other sisters at that time--Aunt Lydia Jackson of Poland, and Aunt Paulina Davis of East Raymond; and another brother, John, who was a sailor. I never saw him but once, when he came home on a visit. I remember the rejoicing and feasting that went on while he was home.
My great-grandfather, Peter Staples, with his wife, Sally (Dingley) Staples, came from England when young, and settled in the town of Raymond, which afterward was divided, and the part they lived in was called Casco. We, also, lived there at one time. Grandfather Peter and Grandmother Sally had several children. Joseph D. was the eldest. Then came James, Frost, Elliott and Peter. There were two girls, Sally and Paulina, who never married. They lived on the home place with their mother, until she died at the age of 99 years and six months. My great-uncles were all old men before I ever saw them. Uncle Jim had one son, Whitman. Uncle Frost had two children, a boy and a girl. The son was killed by lightning while pitching hay. The girl married a man by the name of George Watkins, and had a family too numerous to mention. Uncle Elliott lived in Naples, and had a good sized family. I knew three sons, because they used to come to our house when I was little, and one, Charles, always brought me candy. Sam went to California, and was killed in the mines. Edward died only three or four years ago (this is 1918). Uncle Peter lived in Buxton, Maine, and had a good family; but it was so far away I never saw them. Grandmother Sally had a brother who settled in Casco, and he had two sons, Capt. Sam and Capt. Joe--men about the age of my great-uncles. They lived in Casco when we did. Sam had two sons. Mark and ______, and six girls. One girl married a man named Andrew Libby, and the others lived at home. One of them, Maria, taught our school.
I cannot forget the wild roses that grew along the pond shore. There were rods of them, and they were most beautiful. They grew three or four feet high, and formed a solid row, quite wide.
My sister Abba was born in this home.
When I was twelve or thirteen years of age father sold the place, and moved to Casco, on another farm. Here he built a new house. We were one mile from school, and a mile and a half from the Hawthorn Church, or, as everyone called it then, the Radeaux Meeting House, where I went to church and Sunday school. The church was just across the line in Raymond. The towns were divided by a small river, not more than a mile long, that connected Lake Sebago and Thomas Pond. There was a sawmill and store owned by the Mannings (Mrs. Hawthornes brothers) in early days. Their residence was on the Casco side.
We lived on a stage line, and one good-natured driver would pick up the children and take us to school, if he had no passengers.
There was a field of grain (rye, I believe) that was on a rocky hillside beside the road that I traveled to school, and men cut it with sickles. The land was very rocky, and they would gather the grain in one hand, and cut it with the sickle held in the other hand. Father soon after that bought a cradle. We thought it the most wonderful thing in the world.
We lived on this farm a year, or two, or three, and then moved to Raymond village. It seems to me that moving was the main event in my life. Dear old father always saw something a little better ahead.
Our place in Casco was on the road from Portland to Waterford and on up into New Hampshire. I have seen a half mile of teams loaded with produce going to Portland, from up country, and five or six stages (two and four horses) a day, in the winter. All had bells. In summer tourists went that way to the White Mountains and other resorts. It was a nice spot, and I dont know why we moved away.
We are told that my Grandfather Staples (Joseph D. Staples) was a cousin of Henry W. Longfellows mother. Mr. Longfellows mothers name was Frost, and grandfather had a brother, Frost Staples. Also, that my great-grandfather Clement Haydens wife was a sister to John Adams mother. We never have tried to trace the relationship, but some of the younger generation may want to.
While we were living in Casco my eldest sister, Elizabeth died of typhoid fever. She was twenty-one years old, and everyone loved her.
Mothers relatives, the Dingleys, lived in this neighborhood.
We moved to Raymond village, one-half mile from Uncle Davis Haydens. He lived on grandfathers old homestead. I enjoyed life here with cousin Louise and her brothers and sisters. I soon became acquainted with the young people in the village. I formed some girl friendships that have always lasted. Here I went to my first grown-up party. I was very bashful, and was glad when it was over.
We had a large school here. Many large boys and girls attended. Three months every year a student from Bowdoin College came and gave us extra schooling. There were not many who could go away to school at that time; so they brought the school to us. At this time I studied Comstocks Philosophy and Algebra.
We had lots of fun sliding down the mill hill on a one-horse sled in the evenings. Some boy, most always my brother Eben, sat on a small sled between the shafts, and steered the big one. We would go very fast down the long hill and across the bridge far on the other side.
In summer a goodly company of us would walk to the Radeaux Meeting House (the Hawthorne Church) on Sunday morning, a distance of three miles, to attend church. It was a lovely walk, and we all enjoyed it.
In 1840 father was elected to the Legislature, and spent the winter in Augusta; and I think it was the following year that he was appointed to fill a vacancy there, and went again. Hon. Hannibal Hamlin, afterward vice president of the United States, was speaker of the assembly. We lived at the head of the pond at that time, and I was four years old when he first went, but I can remember it well; also that he brought me a new dress, and told us stories from Nicholas Nickleby, having read it while away. He brought papers with pictures showing scenes from the book. 1 still can see how funny Squeers looked.
John Sawyer kept the only tavern in the village at the time that we moved there, and also the postoffice. He served in these positions for over fifty years. Sawyers Tavern was known for many miles. The hotel was the old Longley House. Mr. Sawyer was a son-in-law of old 'Squire Longley. They had a big family of young folks. September, 1916, I just received notice of the death of his daughter Sarah B., whose married name was Holden. She was a dear old schoolmate of mine.
Life in the village was short and very pleasant. Some of our schoolmates are still living in 1916. Father bought another farm only one mile from the village, on what we called the meadow road. The house set back from the road. There were two small houses connected by an openfaced woodshed. A thick grove stood between the house and the road.
In the winter father would hitch the oxen to a big log, and drive them out to the road to make a good path for Abba and me to walk in.
Young people didn't have so much for entertainment then as they have now. We went to all the apple bees and corn huskings, home dances, and sometimes a public ball.
It was on this farm that we found the most beautiful trailing arbutus that I ever saw. In places the ground would be pink with the blossoms
The woods were strewn with boulders, big and little, some as large as our woodshed. Father used to split them into slabs for cellar walls. They were covered with moss, and moss hung from many trees.
And what May parties we used to have. Everyone was loaded down with blossoms.
I was very happy there. In winter we would walk across the pond to Grandpa Staples and Uncle Nats, and in summer we would take the meadow road, along the shore of the pond, a little distance back, all the way.
When I was about seventeen, my brother Cephas came to Wisconsin. Uncle Joseph Hayden lived in Beetown, Wisconsin, at that time, and wrote to him to come. Father took the western fever, and in a year he had sold everything. On Monday, October 9, 1854, we rode to Portland, and there took a steamer for Boston, and Wisconsin...
To read the rest of Josephine Hayden Brooks' autobiography, please visit: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~brooks/Jesse.htm
RAYMOND-CASCO HISTORICAL SOCIETY
P.O. BOX 1055
RAYMOND, ME 04071