Thursday, February 28, 2013


((This what my 2x great grandfather Jonathan  Phelps West told
William Brewster when they met on Back St. in Upton, Maine.
on Thursday, October 8th, 1907. I first posted it here back in 2007)) 

I first found this on the Oxford County Maine site
celebrating the county’s Bicentennial, but it now
appears to have been taken down. I’m not sure
who the person was who rediscovered the excerpt
while doing research at the Agassiz Museum at
Harvard University so if anyone reading this
knows their identity, please let me know so
I can give them credit.

I’m fairly certain that this could be my great
grandfather Jonathan Phelps West. While the
birth year is three years earlier than his (1834),
he was born and lived his entire life there.
A cached version of the website is here
and mentions several Abbotts.

"Jonathan West spent his entire life in Upton, having
been born on East B Hill in 1831. In his youth Lake
Umbagog was much less extensive in summer than it
is at present. It was then bordered in many places by
natural meadows where the farmers cut large of coarse
hay which they took off with horses and wagons, for the
ground was quite dry and firm except in early spring,
when it was flooded for a few weeks. The forest trees
growing at high water mark and for some distance back
of this, were chiefly white pines. They fringed the banks
of the Cambridge, the Androscoggin and the Magalloway
Rivers and sometimes occurred on highground, but not
very generally or numerously. Most of those near the
water were cut and rafted off by the lumbermen between
1840 and 1850. Very little clear white pine was wasted but
spruce trees were accounted no value and whenever the
encumbered land was desired for farming purposes they
were almost invariably piled up and burned, after being cut

"When Mr. West was a boy, moose were numerous,
although less so than in earlier times. There were only a few
deer and the first settlers had found but few. Caribou
occurred plentifully in certain locations. The Canada Lynx,
the fisher and the sable were common. The otter was perhaps
the most abundant of all the fur-bearing animals (except the
muskrat) which frequented the shores of the lake and that of
its connecting rivers. Partridge abounded in the forest.Wild
pigeons visited the clearings in enormous numbers sometimes
"darkening the sun" as their winged phalanges came between
it and the eye of the observer and doing much damage to the
farmer's grain. They appeared chiefly in spring and autumn
but Mr. West has never known more than a few scattered
pairs to breed anywhere about the Lake.He remembers when
the lake attracted innumerable water fowl, among which
were many Canada geese.

"According to Mr. West, Metalluk was a St. Francis Indian,
banished from his tribe because of some offense of a political
nature committed when a young man. After leaving Canada

he lived for many years about the lower lakes of the Rangeley
chain having a permanent camp at the Narrows on Richardson
Lake and one used less regularly, yet not infrequently on the
island in Lake Umbagog that bears his name. He was a
thoroughly "good" Indian, honest, upright, truthful and very
kind and friendly, in his dealings with the early settlers, all of
whom liked and trusted him. When they were hard pressed
for food he often brought them trout and moose meat, for, like
most of his race, he was an expert fisherman and hunter. He
frequently accompanied them as a guide and assistant during
their excursions into the forest and whenever he visited the
settlement of Upton he was cordially welcomed at their
houses. He stood in much fear of their dogs, however, and
Mr. West remembers that when he came to his father's
house on East B Hill he was accustomed to call from the road
requesting that their dog be tied before he would enter their

door. His only vice was drunkenness, to which he was hopelessly
addicted. But he was invariably mild-tempered and inoffensive
when under theinfluence of liquor."

The Birds of the Lake Umbagog Region of Maine
Professor William Brewster 1907


Earlier this month a gentleman named Steven Smith emailed me this image
from The Diaries of William Brewster. Brewster was a noted ornithologist
and the first President of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and often took
trips to Northern New England to observe and collect the local plants and birds.
In October, 1907 he took a trip to the Lake Umbagog area of Western Maine
and made entries in his diary about the trip.  This image are for the four days
he spent visiting the area around Upton, Maine, the town where many of my
ancestors lived.

As you can see, the entries are handwritten and while most of it was easy to
transcribe, there are some words I just couldn't decipher. These are denoted
in my transcription with a (sp?). The part of special interest to me is the entry
for Thursday, October 8th. I've underlined the relevant passage.

Lake Umbagog
Wed. Aug.7, 1907
Clear & warm with light S.W. wind.
Alva met me at the landing and took
me up Cambridge River in his canvas canoe.
Wilder, Pearl, and Bowman accompanied us
in another canoe. We went up to the middle
of the meadows. The river is unchanged.
It was at its very best as we paddled &
floated slowly back in the late afternoon.
I collected a lot of plants & made notes on
the vegetation. We got back at 5:30.
Some boys had had my canoe all day.
I sailed part of the way back to Lakelands (sp?)

Thursday 8
Brilliantly clear with fresh N.W. wind.
Spent the A.M. in my room writing.
Just after dinner Mrs J.P. West
of Upton called and took me to
her farm on Back St. where I had
a long talk with her husband who
was born on East B Hill in 1832.

I walked most of the way back
calling at Judkin's store to examine
the town records &  (sp?) Hollis Abbott.
The walk from Upton to (sp?) was
(sp?). I have (sp?) (sp?) (sp?) (sp?)
(sp? & mountains to (sp?) beautiful.

Fri, Aug,9, 1907
Brilliantly clear with light W.  to S.W. winds.
Just pleasantly cool yesterday & today.
Spent forenoon in my canoe behind
B.Point writing out the information obtained
yesterday. Sailed over to Upton just after
dinner to call at the Morse's. Saw the whole
family, I believe, Bennett Morse, his
wife(formerly Miss Peaslee) their attractive
daughter Miss Lucy & a younger daughter. Had
a long talk about early conditions here. (Bennett
Morse came to Upton in 1843) . Called on (Sp?)
Sargent but he was up the (Sp?) . Spent nearly
two hours at the Lake House taking notes.
Paddled back to (sp?) at sunset.

Saturday 10
Sunny but slightly hazy with cumulus
drifting before a fresh W. wind.
Warm  (sp?) (sp?) rising to 80.
Spent most of the day writing in my
canoe on the further side of B Point.
Paddled over at 8 a.m. & sailed back
at noon for dinner at the hotel.
Sailed both ways in the afternoon.
My favorite little cove is rich in bird
life. I saw there this afternoon a fine
adult Bald Eagle, a Fish  Hawk, 2 Herons,
100+ Brownish Grackles & many smaller birds.
Messrs. Pearl & Bowman took (sp?) for hours
this morning. I (sp?)(sp?) (sp?)

There is more written up the side of the entry about hearing the songs of some
species of birds but I can't make out anymore of it than that.

The "Mrs. J. P. West" and her husband were my 2x great grandparents  Louisa
(Richardson) West and Jonathan Phelps West. 

 Now, are you wondering just what Jonathan P West told Mr. Brewster? Well,
I already know, and I'll share that next.

Thanks to Steven for sending this image to me!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


If you Google "Amos Hastings" and "Bethel, Maine", your search will turn up
some variation of the following brief biography written by William Lapham:

"Amos Hastings was born in the west parish of Haverhill, Mass. He was in the
affair at Concord and Lexington, and also in the battle of Bunker Hill. He served
several years and came out with the rank of captain. He married Elizabeth Wiley,
a sister of the wife of John Grover, and came here from Fryeburg. He settled at
first at Middle Interval and for many years his house was the town house. Later
he moved to a farm on the north side of the river. He was early identified with
the militia of the town and held office through the various grades to that of
Brigadier General. He was a man possessed of sound judgment which was often
utilized by the town when difficult questions came up requiring careful
investigation and adjustment. He may justly be regarded as one of the fathers
of the town."- p43  History of Bethel: formerly Sudbury, Canada, Oxford County,
Maine, 1768-1890; with a brief sketch of Hanover and family statistics
(Google eBook)
,  Press of the Maine Farmer, 1891, Augusta, Maine.

But when I found Amos'  service records over on Fold3, all I could find were
documents listing him as a fifer in Colonel Gerrish's Regiment. That would
matchup with Benjamin Barker's affidavit in the Pension file. The search
of the War Rolls by the  Massachusetts Secretary of State surely would have
turned up some confirmation that Amos had risen to the rank of Captain, yet
apparently it did not.  And neither Daniel Gage nor Benjamin Barker mention
Amos being an officer in their statements.

Amos was indeed a Brigadier General of the 2nd Brigade 13th division of the
Maine Militia in 1815 and so probably also served during the War of 1812.

I think the  information about his captaincy during the Revolution may have
been a result of two things, the first being that by the 1890's the generation that
had fought in the war was long gone. By that time, sketchy family traditions had
been handed down to the great grandchildren of the veterans and there was a
tendency to add a few embellishments.

The second possible cause of the misinformation was the nature of the books
it appeared in, because frankly, some of the family histories of prominent men
in the town were "puff pieces" meant to enhance their prestige. By the 1890's
there were several Hastings men who were leading citizens of Bethel, Maine
it may be whoever provided the biography of Amos Hastings to William Lapham
did a little "gilding of the lily" as it were. Someone must have felt that being
a Captain in the Revolution was more impressive.

Ironically, I think that  Amos Hastings being only a fifer in the Revolution and
eventually rising to the rank of Brigadier General in the Militia is a greater

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


When John Hastings once more applied for the Revolutionary War pension
in 1851 it brought to an end a thirteen year long and ultimately unsuccessful
attempt to receive that pension. I have been puzzled as to why John and
his mother Betsey before him had their claims rejected. It could not have
been a question about whether or not Amos Hastings actually had fought in
the Revolution.  I've found documentation of that service and so did the
Massachusetts authorities when they examined the war rolls at John Hastings'

So why was the pension request rejected? I have several possible reasons.

The first involves the Act creating the pension Betsey Hastings was seeking. It was
passed in Congress on July 7 1838,  and granted 5-year pensions to widows who
had married a Revolutionary War veteran  before January 1. 1794.  Betsey had
produced proof of her marriage to Amos in 1778. The pension was continued
three times: March 3rd 1843, June 17 1844 and February 2nd 1848. John cites all
four dates in his final attempt. Could it be that the Widows Pension act had finally
expired, or that it didn't extend to the widow's children.

Another possibility was the discrepancies in the information John provided in his
two statements: he used Rebecca for his mother's name instead of  her birth name
Elizabeth which was on record already in Washington from the documents she had
submitted. He also had the wrong names for the officers Amos had served under.
While the Massachusetts Secretary of State had provided the correct information,
the fact that John used the same incorrect information in the 1851 application may
mean he never saw it and that it was submitted directly to Washington.

There was aother possible reason that first Betsey and then John were rejected.
The Hastings family was a prominet one in Bethel, Maine, and while they weren't
very wealthy they were reasonably well off compared to many other pension
applicants. That may have possible been a deciding factor in the process, although
as the youngest son John probably hadn't inherited much when his father Amos

Whatever the reason,  neither Betsey Hastings nor her son John ever collected
the pension.

But there was another question about the Revolutionary Service of Amos Hastings.
I'll discuss that next.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


After John Hastings presented his latest declaration on the matter of
his father's Pension, the Court issued the follwing document. Apparently
the clerk didn't have the appropriate form handy, or there wasn't one that
would fit the particular circumstances of the case. So he used a form
from Cumberland county and crossed out the words or phrases that
didn't apply. I've boldfaced the printed parts of the form and italicized
the handwritten information:

Oxford County, ss
Be it known, That on this
sixteenth  day of
September 1851 it has been satisfactorily proved in open Court,
being a Court of Record, That
Amos Hastings
late of Bethel in the said County, was a Pensioner
of the United States and that he
died at said Bethel
on the twenty eighth day of July 1829
And that left a is the widow of Rebecca Hastings
who died on the deceased twelveth day of May 1846
and that Amos Hastings, Jonas Hastings, Betsey Russell, Lucinda Fletcher,
Huldah Barker and John Hastings
are the only surviving children of the said Rebecca Hastings
and that she was not married after the death of her
husband aforesaid.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto affixed the seal of said Court, and 
subscribed my name, this sixteenth day of September in the
year 18
Geo.M. Shaw,  { Register of Probate for
                                 Oxford County.

Chronologically, this is the last document in the Amos Hastings Revolutionary
War Pension file. I'll have some thoughts about all this in my next post which
will conclude this series.

To be continued...

Friday, February 22, 2013


I don't know whether John Hastings' application for his father's Revolutionary
War pension was rejected in 1848 or if he failed to follow up on it after he
received the information he wanted from Massachusetts. Whatever the
case, he made another attempt to collect it three years later. What puzzles
me is that John gives the same names of two officers he believed Amos had
served under in the War as he did in 1848, despite the fact that the official in
Massachusetts had found no record of Amos serving under Captains Clapp
and Malone.

Here's my transcript of the three page 1851 declaration:

State of Maine
Oxford SS
On this sixteenth day of September
in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and fifty one personally
appeared in open court before the Honorable
Job Prince Judge of Probate in and
for said County of Oxford,
John Hastings, a resident of Bethel
in the County and State aforesaid
aged fifty five years, who open oath
makes the following declarationin
order to obtain the benefits of the
acts of Congress passed July 7 1838,
March 3rd 1843, June 17 1844 and February
2nd 1848- And the declarant states
that he is one of the children of Amos
and Rebecca Hastings, both deceased.

He states that his Father was a
soldier of the Revolution. He believes
he was a volunteer in the Lexington
alarm, and again in the alarm  at
the battle of Bunker Hill, but as he
believes he was not in the battle, as  the
Companyh to which he belonged having
been on fatigue during the night    

(page 2)
previous to the battle, were relieved from duty
during the engagement. He further states
that his father was in the service in the
winter of 1775-1776 at Cambridge and
Dorcester at the time the British troops
were shut up in the town of Boston,
and that this service was two months
or more. That he was again in the
service in 1776 and was at Crown Point
and Ticonderoga, which service was five
months. And that he was under Capt.
Clapp and Capt Maloon at other periods
of the wat, and that he was in the
service at least seventeen months besides
serving for some time as a substitute
for his brother Jonas Hastings.

His father was a resident of Haverhill
Massachusetts in the time of the Revolution.
He also further states that his father
the said Amos Hastings died in Bethel
on the twenty eighth day of A D 1829 
and that his mother, Rebecca Hastings,
survived him and remained a widow
until the time of her death which took
place on the twelfth day of May A D 1846
and that Amos Hastings, Jonas Hastings,
Betsey Russell, Lucinda Fletcher, Huldah
Barker and John Hastings your declarant,

page 3
are the children and the only surviving
children of the said Rebecca Hastings
deceased- and that evidence of David
Gage and Benjamin Barker, Revolutionary
Pensioners, touching the said Revolutionary
services of the said Amos Hastings, and as
he believes, upon the files of the Pension office
at Washington and which he prays may
be examined--
John Hastings.

State of Maine
Oxford SS
Probate Court at Bethel
September 16th 1851, then personally
appeared, John Hastings and made
oath to the truth of the foregoing Dec-
laration by him Subscribed in open
Court -Before Me
Job Prince Judge

Saturday, February 16, 2013


John Hastings didn't have to wait very long for answers from the Massachusetts
Secretary of State. He'd written his letter on December 13th, and the reply
was written on January 1st. (New Year's Say wasn't a recognized holiday
yet.) In all probability he received it by mid January.

I should make note that I was incorrect in my last post in this series
when I questioned John's statement that his father Amos Hastings
was at the taking of Fort Ticondera. Benjamin Barker had also stated
that Amos was there, and the following transcription confirms that.

The preprinted text of the form is in bold face, the handwritten material
is in italics:

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Secretary's Office, Boston
January 1 1848
I hereby Certify That, from an examination of the Books
and Documents relating to Military Services in the War of
the Revolution, which remain in this Department, it appear
that the name of Amos Hastings is borne
upon a Muster Roll of Captain Richard
Ayers Company in Col Johnson's Regt
as a private of Haverhill, from April 19
1775, 5 days. Upon a Pay Roll of the
travel of Capt Timothy Eaton's Company
in Col Edward Wigglesworth's  regt from Ti-
conderoga in 1776, as a private of Haverhill
no service mentioned-number of miles travel,

Not upon rolls of Capt Mallone
Not upon rolls of Capt  Clapp
No evidence of his services as a substitute
for Jonas Hastings.

The preceding is all the evidence of service
of any one of the name shown by the
military records in the department.

page 2:

And I further Certify, That, before search made for evidence
of said facts, the application hereto annexed was filed in this
Office, in the form in which the same now appears; that the search
was made by myself and my clerks alone; and that said applic-
cation and the certificate above set forth, contain all the facts and
circumstances within my knowledge, pertaining to the case.

In Testimony Whereof, I have hereunto affixed the Seal
of the Commonwealth, the date above written.

Wm. Tufts
Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth.

John Hastings had proof of his father Amos Hastings'
war service. Would he be able to obtain the pension from the
Federal government now?

To be continued. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


((This was first posted on 7Jul 2008. It's a nice story with probably a
little truth to it, but true or not it makes a good Valentine's Day story)).

I mentioned in my previous post about John Prescott that
there is a romantic (and probably romanticized) story about
his son Jonas Prescott's courtship of Mary Loker. I've found it
recounted in several different books on Google Books, and
while I'm not entirely sure it's true, it does make for another
interesting family tale.

The story is that Jonas and Mary fell in love but her parents
John Loker and Mary Draper had other plans for their
daughter. They wanted her to marry a lawyer, a man of
prospects, not the son of a blacksmith who was following his
father in the family trade and they forbade Mary from any
more contact with Jonas. One version told by Caleb Butler in
"The History of the Town of Groton" says the Lokers even
went so far as to install gratings on the windows of her room
and would lock her inside if Jonas was nearby. But even this
drastic measure didn't stand in the way of love:

"He (Jonas) took opportunities when the cold wind blew
and the
pelting storm raged when no listener could overhear
the soft
whispering of true lovers to place himself beneath
her grated window and
there enjoy sweet communion
with his dearly beloved ."

But eventually Mary's parents found out about this trickery.
Perhaps Jonas' idea of a whisper in a storm was a bit too loud?
At any rate, Mary's parents next decided to send her away to
a secluded village so Jonas could not find her while they looked
for a more suitable prospect for Mary's hand in marriage.
They sent her off to the small frontier town of Chockset which
is now Sterling, Massachusetts.

Jonas searched for Mary until one day while traveling near
Chockset he met some men of his own age and asked if they
knew of any pretty girls in the area. They told him there was
a quilting and a dance that night in Chockset and invited him
to come along.

You can see where this is going, I bet!

Jonas found Mary Loker and they continued to meet in secret
for some time until her parents once more found them out.
Mary's stubborn insistence that she would never marry any
man but Jonas Prescott at last forced her parents to give in,
although they did so with the angry condition that they would
provide no dowry for the bride. Legend says that the young
couple set up their household with so few essentials that
Mary used a large hollowed out pumpkin shell!

I'm a bit skeptical about that pumpkin part but I think the
opposition of the Lokers to Jonas Prescott pressing his suit for
their daughter might have some truth to it. After all, although
Jonas' father John was well off, he was not exactly in the good
graces of the Puritan government, and the Lokers might have
had their hearts set on young Mary marrying someone who
could eventually rise to a position of power. Ironically, the
Prescotts eventually became one of Massachusetts' most
distinguished families.

I am descended from Elizabeth Prescott b 23Jan 1676,
d. 18Mar 1644.

She married Eleazer Green about 1694 or 1695. Their daughter
Elizabeth married John Ames(Eames), and their descendant
Arvilla Ames married my ancestor John Cutter West

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


My 4x great grandmother Betsey Hastings passed away on 12May 1846.
She never collected the widow's pension she'd first applied for eight
years earlier. But now another member of the family set about trying to
collect. John Hastings was the youngest son of Amos and Betsey Hastings,
He was born in 1796, was married with seven children, and five of them
were adults when he sent the following letter in 1847:

"Application for Certificate of Revolutionary
Services made by a Son and heir of the
Party who rendered the Services

State of Maine
County of Oxford. Town of Bethel.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Mas-
sachusetts is hereby requested to furnish evidence
from the Rools of his office of my father,
Amos Hastings', Service in the wars of the

  He enlisted from the town of Haverhill
in the County of Essex and State of Massachusetts.
He served, a part of the time,  under Capt
Clap  and Capt  Mulloon, I think.

  He served about seventeen months 
besides Serving for some time as a
Substitute for his brother, Jonas Hastings.

  I have often heard my father speak of his
Service but it was some years ago and my
memory does not enable me to state anything
more definite in relation to the Same.

  I think he was at the taking of Ticonderoga
and accompanied Arnold's expedition
into Canada.
  My father died about Sixteen

years ago & my mother about one year ago.
Witness my hand this 13th day of Dec. 1847
John Hastings
Signed by said John Hastings
in my presence, Moses Mason} Justice of the Peace." 

I noticed right off that there were discrepancies in John’s statement from
the information Betsey had given. Fir one thing the names of the officers
his father Amos had served in were different. John mentioned  that he thought
Amos had been at the “taking of Ticonderoga“, perhaps confusing it with
Saratoga.  Finally,  he states that Amos had been on the expedition into Canada
led by Benedict Arnold, but then crossed that out, Had another family member
corrected him or had John thought better than to invoke the name of the
infamous traitor in his case?  What ever the case, it's crossed out.

So now there were two different versions of Amos Hastings' service record.

Which one was correct?

To be continued.

Friday, February 08, 2013


Many of the settlers of Oxford county in Western Maine were veterans of
the Revolution who had originally come from towns in northern Essex
county in Massachusetts such as Andover, Methuen, and Haverhill. So it
was not surprising that thney had encountered or even served together to
some degree or another during that war.

I've mentioned before that my 4x great granduncle Benjamin Barker turns
up as a witness in many Pension Request Files. By the time Betsey Hastings
was seeking her widow's pension Benjamin was eighty-three years old
but still in possession  of a good memory. He testified twice about Amos
Hastings' service. The first was the longer of the two: 

"I Benjamin Barker of Rumford in the County of
Oxford and State of Maine aged eighty three years do
testify and say that I was personally acquainted
with Amos Hastings who was a private in the army of
the Revolutionary War, that he belonged to the Com
pany of Captain Timothy Eaton- and Colonel Gerrishes
Regiment. I further testify and say that said Amos
Hastings was in the year seventy five in the eight
Months Service in Captain Cogswell's Company-and
that he served his time out in said Company-belong
ing to Col. Fryes' Regiment being the same Regiment
to which I belonged. That I further testify and say
that said Amos done eight months service in
said Captain Eaton's Company and Gerrish's Regiment
in the year seventeen hundred and seventy seven
and that he was at the taking of Burgoyne's army.
And I further say that I have been personally
acquainted with said Amos since the Revolution
ary War- and continued to live within seven
miles until his death which was was in eighteen
hundred and thirty one.
Benj. Barker

State of Maine
Oxford County SS  October 24th 1838
Then the above named Benjamin
Barker who is a respectable person and entitled to credit
and made oath to the truth of the above affidavit
by him subscribed in my presence.
Peter Virgin Justice of the Peace."

The second statement had some other new pieces of
information. It was made seven months after the first statement:

"I Benjamin Barker of Rumford in the County of
Oxford  and State of Maine aged eighty three years do
testify and say that I was personally acquainted
with Amos Hastings late of Bethel in said County of
Oxford deceased,  at Winter Hill and on Bunker Hill as a Soldier
in the army of the Revolutionary War in Captain
Eaton's Company-and Col. Gerish Regiment- and
he then served seven months. I again say that I
was knowing the said Amos was at the taking
of Burgoyne- and at Ticonderoga- and that he then
served eight months in Captain Cogswell's Com
pany as I believe
Benja Barker

State of Maine
Oxford County SS April 27, 1839. Then personally app
eared the above named Benja Barker who is a person
entitled to credit and made oath to the truth of the above
affidavit signed in my presence.

Peter  C Virgin Justice of the Peace "

Despite Benjamin's two affidavits Betsey Hastings did not
receive her widow benefits and the struggle continued.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


((In view of the much ballyhooed approaching Snowmageddon  that is
Winter Storm Nemo, I thought I'd repost this from 2008 which includes 
my second biggest snow adventure after the Blizzard of `78)) 

Winter….ah, talk about how time changes the way you look at

When I was a kid and we were living in the Dorchester section of
Boston, Winter was fun! We lived near the corner of Capen and
Selden Sts. and after a good snowfall most of the neighborhood
kids broke out their sleds to coast down Selden St. Somehow or
another the snowplows never seemed to get many of the streets
down to bare ground right away so we might have a whole
afternoon if school was out to enjoy it.

Another activity that I took part in occasionally was street
hockey. No, not the type they play on playgrounds nowadays
with plastic balls and roller blades. This was played out in the
street with your regular shoes because the street was slippery
enough already for you to “skate” on it. Real wooden hockey
sticks were used as well and either half a “pinky” or “pimple” ball
or a real puck, depending on who might want to risk hitting a
neighbor’s car with a puck. I didn’t play this one often because
the adults in the neighborhood weren’t too thrilled with the idea.

I never learned how to ice skate because it seemed I spent more
time falling down than standing up. My sister Cheryl was better
at it and her daughter Sara even competed on a statewide level in
later years.

Then we moved out of the city to the suburbs in Abington and
Winter and snow became …gulp…work!! It’s amazing how
quickly snow loses it’s charm when you have been shoveling
out the length of the driveway. I was content to go back inside
and read a book afterward!

Adulthood brought on the new challenge of driving to work and
back in snowstorms. The two most memorable instances were in
the Blizzard of `78 and the April Fool’s Day Storm of 1997. I’ll talk
about the Blizzard in a later post to mark the 30th anniversary
next month.

On the night of the April Fool’s storm, I was at work at the Silver
City Galleria Mall in Taunton, Ma. which was about twenty miles
south of South Weymouth where we were living at the time. The
mall decided to close early at around 8pm but by the time we got
the bookstore closed and the cash drawers counted it was 8:30
when I started for home. I drove up an unplowed Rte24 that had
very few other cars on it and then took my usual exit off at the
smaller Rte106 through West Bridgewater, then turned off onto a
shortcut that comes out at Rte 18 in East Bridgewater Square.
When I reached that point I saw that there were no traffic lights.
In fact, there were no lights anywhere.

I turned north on Rte 18 and by now I was driving into the snow
so there wasn’t much to see ahead of me beyond the headlights.
There were no streetlights either so I drove slower and kept as
close to the center of the road as I could since without streetlights
or houselights to either side there was the possibility I could drift
off the road to my right. In fact, the power was off all the way up
18 through the towns of Whitman and Abington. A drive that
normally takes about 15 minutes took nearly an hour.

South Weymouth hadn’t lost electricity so I thought the worst
was over. Then I reached the parking lot of the apartment
building and found that not only had it not been plowed out yet,
the entrance was also blocked from the snow bank left by the
street plows. I wasn’t sure parking out on the street would be a
good idea, so I backed my car (a Pontiac…nothing better than a
good sized car in a snowstorm!) and gunned it forwards. I made
it through the snow bank into the parking lot and off the street
and then the car stopped about 5 feet in.

After a few more tries to move it further in, I did the sensible
thing. I left it there for the night and went inside to warm up.
Next morning when the contractors finally arrived to plow out
the lot I went and shoveled my car out and moved it to my usual
parking place.

I will admit that in my family I’m one of the few who doesn’t like
the Winter season all that much. My folks had a camper trailer
that they kept in a trailer park up at Holderness N.H. and Dad
owned a snowmobile. By that time I was already an adult and
didn’t care to drive up there so I only took a ride once or twice.
My younger brother Phil had much more experience with it
than I did.

But with all that said, I can’t imagine living someplace without the
change of seasons that we have here in New England. After all, it’s
getting through all that cold and snow that makes us appreciate
the coming of Spring so much!

Friday, February 01, 2013


In light of the present flu epidemic, Heather Wilkinson Rojo over
at Nutfield Genealogy has put together a list of geneablog links 
dealing with the great Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918 and its
effects of the bloggers' ancestors.

Back in 2008 I wrote about how my grandfather, Floyd Earl West Sr
was caught up himself in the midst of the epidemic:

When journalists talk about the possible “bird flu” epidemic, the
historical event they draw parallels to is the Great Influenza
outbreak of 1918. But by the fall of that year there had not been
any large number of cases since the spring.

Then on 8 Sept. 1918 the first case was reported at Camp Devens
in Ayer, Massachusetts. By the end of the month there were
14,000 cases of the illness and over 700 deaths attributed to it.
Camp Devens was placed under quarantine but the whole state
of Massachusetts was already swept by the disease as the
figures on this site shows.

Camp Devens’ hospital surely was not meant to deal with such a
catastrophic event and the accounts I’ve read while horrific must
pale in comparison to what my grandfather must have seen and
experienced. I wonder what he must have thought as he went
about his duties at the hospital. Growing up he must have heard
about the diptheria outbreak that had caused the deaths of six
relatives forty years before. Now he was in the midst of
something much worse where hundreds could die in a single night.
Did he wonder when he himself might begin to show symptoms
and end up a patient himself?

And yet he survived and was given a furlough at the end of
November. From what I’ve read, the epidemic began and
expanded quickly but subsided within a month and a half. By the
end of October it was over for the most part and by November
the authorities must have felt it was safe enough to allow Private
West a furlough to visit home in early December.

I can’t imagine they would have allowed it if he’d been stricken
with the pneumonia during the height of the epidemic, so my
guess is that he came down with it sometime after he returned to
Camp Devens. The Army doctors must have felt the damage to his
lungs was sufficient to keep him from his duty as a hospital
orderly and so my grandfather was given an honorable discharge
on 12Mar 1919.

Some soldiers in World War I saw hell on a battlefield.

Others, such as my grandfather, saw another sort of hell in
hospital wards full of comrades racked with the Spanish Influenza.

I used a variety of sources researching this post. One of them is
“Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army During
World War I” by Carol R. Byerly, (NYU Press, 2005) which you
can preview at GoogleBooks.