*The original spelling has been used throughout.
click, click of the hoe on the gravel soil of the garden stopped as a
neighbor called over the fence, “Have
you any green peas yet?” “Yes,”
father replied; “No
medicine like fresh vegetables from the soil, no exercise like hoeing in
conversation went on which I did not understand---and then again the
click, click of the hoe as the neighbor left.
It stopped suddenly, however, as a stranger came up and asked,
“Is this Dr. Thayer?” “yes,”
again answered my father. And
slow conversation ensued which I did not understand. They spoke in serious tones and father had a little troubled
frown upon his brow.
length I heard him say, “I
will be ready in a few minutes,” and he turned toward the house.
awful sick?” I asked in
my childish voice, wondering what illness could drain the color from his
face and cause him to look so serious.
I realized that he was taking this case more serious than most of
his cases, and he had many, for father was a Doctor and subject to
sudden desperate calls.
the whole country is sick, child.”
He took me in his arms and walked to the house.
“I must leave for a long time, by baby.
Be good to your mother and do all you can to help her.”
little Mary,” he said as he put me down on the back step.
There were a few words to mother—a horse was saddled—a bundle
packed and he was away with it tied behind his saddle.
His farewell kiss had been tempered with the words, “Remember
our motto is “Liberty or death!”
“Liberty or death,” repeated my mother as she sank down upon
the step and took me in her arms to shower me with tears.
“What hurt you, mother?” I asked.
father may never come back,” then seeming to remember me for the first
time she straightened up as she added, “But we must be brave.”
The neighbors came and went.
There was great excitement.
All the men but daddy Godfrey left.
He came every day to see how we were getting along.
He stopped by the door on the first visit after father’s
departure, with his cane in his hand, his gray head nodding as he almost
sobbed, “If I were only a little younger…Well---I guess I can at
least be home guard,” he added a little more cheerfully. “So, let me know if you need anything.”
was also daddy Godfrey who helped me to gather scraps of wool from the
sagebrush after the Torys had taken all the sheep.
He helped to get it for mother to spin—even helped knit it into
stockings, which we made for the soldiers while the war lasted.
was he who came over and chopped wood for us until he was too feeble.
After that, we would drag in the wood, and placing one end on the
fire, shove it along as it burned off.
became very scarce, and as the fighting drew nearer our home we tried to
find a hiding place in which to store a few provisions.
Often we hid in the woods from the band of who came to pillage
our possessions. One night
we saw the Red Coats coming and slipped out into the woods where we had
a hiding place with some secreted food.
We peeped out continuously, hoping they would pass on, but they
did not. They entered the
house, took possession of the barn and everything else they could
possibly use, even the hay we had gathered for our old cow “Pink”.
This meager supply of fodder was fed to their hungry horses.
The night was cold but we did not dare make a fire.
Mother cuddled me in her arms and I slept until the sun shone
are cold, Mother, you gave me all the cover,” I cried.
“Keep quiet,” she cautioned,
“They are leaving.”
the sound of the last hoof had died away, mother slipped cautiously out
and returned for me presently saying,
“They are gone and taken everything worth while with them, even
father’s best clothes, and left only an officer’s old, red coat.”
is still a scrap of the old coat in the family.
1933.—and again 1998)
old cow “Pink” disappeared when they put their horses in the stable. We thought they had taken her, but in a couple of weeks she
came aback with a new calf. The
milk, with the potatoes we had stored away, and the nuts I had gathered
in the woods, supplied us with food for ourselves and a little for
anyone who came hungry to our door.
We had to empty our bed ticks to feed old Pink until the grass
was never well again after the night in the woods.
I was three years old when the war started, having been born in
1773, but so many responsibilities were placed upon me that it seemed
like I was almost grown up when it was over, and I was six.
I tried to raise a garden but it did not look like father’s.
But oh, how he praised my efforts when he finally returned to
continued to help in the garden even after his return, for he was kept
quite busy with his patients.
lived two years after his return, then I became housekeeper.
It was always necessary to practice economy in order to build up
our run down place, and help build up the new and now glorious country.
I was ten years old my father bought me a light red riding habit of
heavy twilled material. He
put my pillow in behind his saddle and I rode behind him to church as
proud as a queen.
day we went out to see Uncle Cornelius White, who was given a grant of
land for his service to the nation.
At that time most of the land in New York State was covered with
timber. It was so dense
that it had taken him a whole year to clear one acre.
The great trees were cut down and burned---the ash sold for
potash, and used to make soap, etc.
Some times the roots had to rot before they could be entirely
Cornelius had succeeded in raising alfalfa, a crop of potatoes, after
his first year’s clearing, and as we rode up, the wholesome odor of
baking potatoes came to my nostrils.
A few minutes after our arrival, a surveyor came to survey the
land. His three cornered
hat sat jauntily on his head, his velvet knickerbockers had silver
buckles at the knees, and there were great silver buckles on his shoes.
In admiration I stood with mouth and eyes wide open as with a
lace handkerchief he stooped to flick the dust from his shoes.
then, Aunt Nancy stood in the doorway and called, “The meal is
ready!” “Will you join us?” asked Uncle Cornelius of the
surveyor. “I would be
delighted to!” he answered graciously.
Very much thrilled, I walked along closely behind him.
I was almost under his heels as he entered the cottage door, but
hastily jumped aside as suddenly he began backing out, saying,
“I guess I won’t eat!” (having seen the table with nothing
but a platter of potatoes).
did not understand what was happening until after Uncle Cornelius
grabbed him by the shoulders and almost threw him into a seat at the
table. “Oh yes, you will
eat. You are no better than
I am!” And suddenly I was
proud of Uncle Cornelius in his leather knickerbockers and cow hide
shoes—and never in my life did Aunt Nancy’s baked potatoes and fresh
milk taste better to me. Even
the surveyor ate with relish. The
potatoes with the skins and all, as they were by the Indians, who seemed
to think the skins were a necessary part.
Whole wheat boiled and corn hominy were luxuries during the war.
The grist mills were soon running after the war ended.
As money was scarce, father had to take what he could get for his
services. He usually
received the produce of the country so we had plenty from the farmers.
“The Idler shall not eat the bread of the Laborer” was lived
up to as strictly as the Ten Commandments.
Everyone who was able to work was expected to keep busy.
had learned industry and that it was wicked to wasted anything, even
time. So I, having time to spare, decided to make use of it by
learning the tailoring trade. I
could spend part of my time as an apprentice and still keep up my
homework. One day after my
day’s work, when I was just removing the apple dumplings from the
fire, there was a knock at the door.
Father answered the knock, and shouted heartily,
“We have a guest for supper!”
It was a young man by the name of Bengar Bundy, who had fought
with father in the war. He
seemed so delighted with the dumplings he came often thereafter.
It was a long time before I realized that he like me better than
he did the dumplings I made.
had gone barefooted as a drummer boy during the war, and had decided to
learn to make shoes, if only for his own use.
So he served an apprenticeship soon after the war was over.
He came to our town to find a suitable place to start the
business, so it was not long before he had several men and boys working
were married and were very happy for a while, but I was left a widow
with two children within five years.
The eldest child, Bengar, seemed to be full of adventure, and
before he was full grown he determined to go to India to seek his
fortune. At one time we
learned of the fortune he had gained, and of his intention to come home
to Mother,---We never heard of him again.
Was he lost at sea? Robbed
and killed? Or did he die a
natural death? These
questions have been continually in my heart.
Bengar left I went to work at my trade to educate my other child, Sally. When she was through school her father’s brother invited
her to go to Farmersville in Catargus County, New York, for a vacation.
Shortly after her arrival there her uncle died and I expected
Sally to return promptly, but instead received news of her wedding.
She was married to Moses Wade, who owned a fulling mill at Niagra
Falls, and was considered very well off.
Sally’s marriage, I felt that I had to keep busy, so when people
wanted me to go to their homes to do their tayloring and sewing, I
decided to go. It saved cooking as I got my board and since money was
scarce, I got only twenty-five cents a day.
I was able to save almost all of it, by living economically
during the ten years following.
I received word from Sally saying she was sick, and that her husband had
been cheated out of his mills. She
had four children and I knew that I was needed.
I had been saving clothes that had been given me during the years
I had been sewing and making them over for the children.
I started on my journey.
Isaac Thayer had already passed on, and I was completely alone, and my
going made little difference to anyone.
Father had lived to be a hundred and eight years old and died in
his chair. It was quite a
saying in the family, that grandfather Thayer lived to 108 years old.
He had never been sick a day in his life, and when he went, he
dropped off to sleep and never awakened.
I arrived at my daughter’s home I discovered that she had tuberculosis
as my mother had had. She
had four children, the youngest, Minerva, was three.
I could see my own actions in this busy little mite but I don’t
think I was ever so mischievous. She
would get at my spinning wheel and try to spin, only to break off the
end and I would have to hunt for a long time to find it.
Whenever she got into mischief she would slip around behind me
and putting her arms around my neck, say,
“Oh Granny, I love you!”
She was the age I was when the war broke out---and she will go on
with the story.
*excerpt from Minerva Sally Wade Hickman's journal about her 'granny'.
I loved Granny, and tried to do everything she did.
that is why I was always trying her spinning wheel.
When she would scold me I would get behind her and putting my
arms around her neck, would say,
“Kiss me, Granny!”
but she would shake me off saying, “Get away, Judas!” ”I
will be good, Granny!”
I would promise and then would plead until she forgave me.
was away five days when I was three and I began to worry about her work.
Mother heard me rattling the dishes in the kitchen and called
“Minerva, what are you doing?”
“Dis a legilating,” I said, trying to use the word
‘regulating’ as grandmother did whenever she spoke of tidying up.
Mother was not able to get up and see, and as the other children
had gone to school and she had to wait until father came home to find
out what mischief I had been up to, was surprised when father told her
that the dishes were all washed and the hearth winged, meaning it had
been swept off with the large turkey wing used for that purpose.
I had done so very well that my self-assigned task became my
When Granny came back I thought she ought to do it and I would
say, “Granny, I is tired.”
But, her answer was, “Little hands can work as well as big
stayed with us a whole year, then she went back and forth to Albany.
She always brought us clothes, and seemed to take the
responsibility of us almost entirely.
When I was ten years old my mother was partially restored to
health, and began working at millinery.
She would walk to and fro, weaving the straw into braid, then
fashion it into hats for men and bonnets for women.
I, too, learned to weave straw and enjoyed it.
My mother was beautiful and I desired to be like her and do
everything she did.
She had beautiful clothes which were laid away, and I used to
long to see her dressed up in them, just even once, and then to wear one
of the beautiful bonnets she would make.