Chandler Farm at Walpole, Mass

son of Alfred Dupont Chandler and Mary Merrill Poor

Chandler Farm at Walpole, Mass

Postby Roger Chandler » 2009-03-25 08:08:48

(an article about) The Moses Smith Farm, circa 1745

Box Seven
Ithan, Pa.
August 11, 1938

My Dear Mr. Bruce,

Your good letter of July 12 has followed me into up-state New York where I am spending a few weeks and now on its heels comes the news that the Youth Hostel in the old Chandler farm is to be closed September first. That may change the complexion of things a bit but if a write-up of the place were to help to bring it again into appreciative hands it will not be in vain.

The north slope of the hill now part of the State Prison Colony was from the earliest days covered with beech forest and was the best place for locating a swarm of wild bees and the best place to look for a swarm of tame ones that had gotten away. Hence the name "Honeypot" for the locality. Before the swamp road was made connecting Walpole and Wrentham this land was much more accessible from Pondville and it was from Pondville that Moses Smith strayed in search of honey shortly after 1740. What lead him so far beyond the beeches into the mixed maple, oak, ash and pine? We don't know. We do know that the map makers of 1740 left the place bare, but the map makers of 1750 marked his house in the present location and so 1745 seems to be a fair guess at its date. Here where the level fields rewarded his axe Moses Smith built his home and raised his thirteen children. His second wife, Remember Smith, who lived to make her mark on Jonathan Wood's deed a hundred years later was perhaps not born when the house was built.

In the Autumn when other work slacked off, Moses dug his cellar, the part now under the living room, and laid up the huge stones he found in digging as part of the cellar wall. Then when the first snow made hauling possible, lime for the plaster was brought in. Perhaps he had found the good sand in the corner of Winter Street perhaps he had to go further. In the last warm days the plaster was mixed in the bottom of the cellar hole and covered well with brush and left til it should be needed in the spring.

That winter must have been a busy one for Moses. Straight white oaks must have been twenty-two feet in the clear to make the twelve by twelve inch sill and plates and five oak trees must yield at least eighteen inches of good wood to make the shoulders of the corner posts. Five, to put one on each side of the front door. The one that now stands beside the fire place in the living room was taken from the casing between the front door and the dining room.

Most carefully must the summer beam, the one that was to be exposed across the living room ceiling, be split. After it has been brought to size wedges are driven along the one face so that it shall crack with a veritical crack after it is in place. You see the old builders had noticed that when it checked vertically the beam never sagged but if the crack were horizontal the beam would not stay in place. One glance at that beam today will show it to be just as true as it was two hundred years ago.

All mortises and tenons must be made and the pin holes bored while the oak is green. After it has seasoned none of the tools of that day would touch that hard wood.

The axe brought all the larger timbers to size and shape but when they were done the saw pit could be set and up and in good winter weather clear pine can be ripped into boards for wall and floors and some of ther oak tops were ripped into roofers and under flooring. Did he rip his own shingles from the swamp cedars or buy them from the mill at South Walpole? We don't know. The best of the clear pine was piled aside for finishing and paneling.

Then in the spring came "Raising Day". Every able bodied man in the neighborhood was there for this was to be fast work. Moses would owe each one of them a day's work in return that season so he was careful to have everything done in advance that the could. Every mortise that could be joined on the ground was together and each beam and pile of wood as near its place as possible. Man power arrived as early as they could see to work, frames were swung up, tenons joined, pins driven, rafters laid and then men swarmed over the house boarding in the sides and laying the roofers to get the house braced and covered while the weather lasted. That night when darkness drove the neighbors homeward the house was up and shingled and the frame of the barn stood like a skeleton against the sunset. And Moses could finish his home at his leisure.

At first it was only a "Half House". It just consisted of the chimney and the part to the east. You entered the same little hall, the living room was square and behind it were a little bedroom with its fireplace and the buttery in the north east corner with a door to the wood shed and a ladder to the loft. A trap door under the east window led you down to the cellar. Moses must have been a good workman for his house was well finished. The clear pine of the veritcal panels was shaped with a loving hand. Such lumber was none too plenty even then and to make it go as far as he could the boards were not cut into parallel edges but were wider at one end as the other (just) as the trees grow. Then if the angle became too great the next board would be turned other end up bringing the edge back to vertical again. The panels were finished one at a time, the male rabbit being on both edges on one board and the female one on both edges of the next board.

In this house Moses lived and prospered. There is no evidence of fire anywhere. But about a hundred yards west of the barn is evidence of a house that stood so long ago that even evidence of fire has been wiped away. Perhaps Moses built here first, we don't know.

For thirty years Moses lived and prospered here a good and loyal subject of the King. Too good perhaps for he refused to join the "Rebels of '76" and found life much safer in Halifax. He never returned but Remember who was then married to him did not go. She stayed and joined the new country and incidentally seems to saved saved the property for herself and her children.

The prosperity that so expanded the little new country after 1812 seems to have penetrated to Honeypot for we find the house being enlarged about this time. The pointed screw had not yet reached it (as construction anchor) but timbers are now sawed and plaster and chair rail take the place of pine panels. Wise Moses provided for the expansion when he built and the dining room fireplace has stood all this time waiting. But not entirely idle for a curious vent in the brickwork made this flue serve as a ventilator for the lower part of the brick oven. A "Best Room", now the dining room, stood at the left of the front door and behind it was another bedroom, the first room that did not have a fireplace. The lower door of the best room corner cupboard swinging to the right shows that the passage way to the present kitchen was not there then.

But Remember Smith must have been growing old and perhaps the ease and comforts of city life in the 1830's were drawing her children from the farm for the place passed into the hands of Jonothan Woods, a cattle man. To him we owe the shed running south from the corner of the barn to store the second cutting of the hay and make winter shelter for his barnyard and he also built the kitchen "L" which was for him the summer kitchen, milk house, cheese room and had the great built-in kettle for cooking the food for the hogs. He also dug a cellar under the cheese room reached by stairs under the present second storey run. This cellar was for milk storage.

In 1861, ignoring the unpleasantness that existed between some of the states, young Lowell Mann, of the family so long prominent in Franklin and Norfork, got married, bought the Jonothan Woods farm and came here to live. The house must have been much to his liking for he made few changes. The recent invention of stoves was making for much more comfort on the farm and the "old fashioned" fireplaces were neatly bricked up and a cook stove appeared in the winter kitchen, living room to you, and a parlor stove in the best room. When little Maria became old enough to have her own opinions the ground floor bed rooms did not suit her and her room was boarded off in the west end of the attic.

One horse stall, seven cow stanchions and a calf pen satisfied Lowell Mann for a barn arrangement, his pig pen stood at about the middle of the present waggon shed. These did not represent enough work for one of Lowell Mann's energy and he was always busy developing the other resourses of the farm. Moses Smith's apple orchard was getting old so Lowell set out sixty or more trees in four acres west of Winter Street. These prospered but the low price for culls and drops did not satisfy his idea of efficeincy so he built a cider mill which later became the garage and then a dormitory for the Youth Hostel. The shed at the west side, it was then only half its present size, held the tread mill horse power, next on the floor stood the cutter and beyond it the press. Waggons loaded with the cider apples drove up the slope behind the mill half a storey above the main floor was the apple bin. The cider ran down into the cellar below the apple bin where a line of casks against each wall held it till sold. Himself a strong temperance man Lowell Mann often looked askance at some of the ramifications of his business. More to his liking was the "hoop poles", the strips used by coopers for holding the staves of barrels. This made profitable use of the short winter days and long winter evenings. In the fall his mind always turned to the ten acre lot on the Stop River now taken by the Prison Colony, where the cranberries were a good source of profit. The best years' yield brought him ten barrels at seven dollars a barrel. It was to make the dykes for flooding his cranberries that he dug the pit in the field behind the house.

Lowell Mann passed on, full of years and virtue, and the place continued the home of his three children, slightly under the thumb of the rather dominant sister Rhonda, but they in turn felt the passing years and in 1919 were glad to sell to a returning soldier. Again the place was modernized. The bricks were taken from the fireplaces, a cellar put under the whole house, hot water heat run to every room and when the old well refused to supply three bedrooms, a new one was driven three hundred feet deep. Inside partitions came down. Three little bed-rooms made the down stairs bed room and bath, the summer kitchen took in the buttery, etc. and became the living room and corner windows make the upstairs bedrooms and bath rooms possible. The barn rose up three feet to make the barn cellar storage for waggons and to get the animals above the manure pit and the concrete floor was laid in the tie-up. Changing market conditions made poultry the best cash crop and the hen house grew. The cider mill became the garage and the many little sheds between the garage and the house were replaced by the long wood and wagon shed.

Then in 1933 came the Youth Hostel. Everything must be turned into living quarters, beds and more beds. But no great remodeling. There the house stands, one of the finest examples of the New England farm house of two hundred years ago. Preserved by a series of miracles, it has never had a destructive fire, it has escaped the neglect of poverty and the ravages of wealth have fortunately come with loving hands. It is already a museum place, lets hope the next two hundred years will treat it as well.

T.P. Chandler

Recopied from"Once Told Tales of Walpole, Twenty-one essays by local authors-from the collection of the Walpole Historical Society, 33 West Street, Walpole, Massachusetts. Edited by Eliazabeth M. Cottrell and Karl H. West, Jr. Copyright 1998

Roger Chandler Jr,'s Notes:
1. The "returning soldier" is the author, Theopholis Parsons Chandler, a calvery officer resigning his commission after WWI and our grandfather. Together with Sarah C. Chandler (Sarah Gilroy Chase) his wife and benafactor, they made this farm their part-time home until their paths seperated.
2. The word inside parenthesis and a few commas were added by RMC Jr for clarity.
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