Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hattie, Josiah, Sophia, and Abigail

This is part of the series, The House on High Street. The entire series is indexed here

I wanted to know more about our antique home, so I went to our local library where I found the most amazing book. It had been published in 1900, and the library was lucky enough to have three copies, all bound in fine red calfskin. Here is the incredible thing about that book--each copy was handwritten, and each illustration was an original watercolor done right there on the page. If you compared the three copies, you could see that the illustrations differed a bit from copy to copy. I always felt honored to handle it. 

The book* was called Candia; A Brief History with Notices of the Early Families. Each copy was written and illustrated by Thomas Lang. In it I found information about our house. It had been, as the brass plaque by the front door indicated, built "around" 1770 by Dr. Timothy Kelley. All the families that lived in it from that time through the 1800s were listed. By checking under each of those family names, in turn, I was able to piece together an idea of many of the people--the Josiahs and the Hatties and the Abigails, Freemans, and Sophias--who had walked those old floors before us. 

After Dr. Kelley moved away from town in the early 1800s, the Peter Lane family, which eventually included nine children, lived there. I used to walk from room to room, picturing how the Lanes might have set up their sleeping arrangements. Perhaps, as one of our children decided to do for a while, some of them even slept up in the attic, alternately roasting and freezing. 

Josiah Shannon, who lived in the house after the Lanes and a Sargent family (names still common in the town in the 21st century), was a deacon at the Congregational Church just up the hill from 1820 until his death in 1859. His family was known for its "sterling patriotism, as manifested by their long service in the Continental armies." 

Around the middle of the 1800s a minister, the Reverend E.N. Hidden, lived in the house with his family. His two daughters must have been accomplished young ladies, as he bought them the first "pianoforte"  in the town. He had it shipped up from Boston and placed in their drawing room--our Pretty Room.

*Many thanks to Smyth Public Library librarian, Jon Godfrey, for providing copies of pages from the "library use only" book.


Judy said...

Were your daughters not afraid to sleep in the attic after the episode with the clothing you experienced up there? Did the dog ever go back up there? If that house could talk I bet we would all love to hear the stories it would tell!!

clairz said...

That dog never did go back up in the attic.

It was one of the boys who made his room up there for a while--during the part of adolescence where they want to be far, far away from everyone else. Not even the thought of ghosts could deter him, and the attic offered a huge space with a great view.

Actually, after the first summer things were very peaceful in that house.