Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Abell's Corners, 1907

Copy of a vintage photo of the Branch farmhouse on Young Road.
photo circa 1887
My late mother gave me an enlarged copy of this in the 1990's.
Sister C. may have used a 35 mm camera to take a photo of the old photo and the info written on the back.
Jay Branch is the young boy standing with sister Anna.
The following story was published in the July 4, 1907 issue of the
Ticonderoga Sentinel.
I suspect that the boy 'Jay' in the tale was Jay Branch pictured above with younger sister, Anna.
Since he was age 21 at time of publication I imagine that the author recalled an incident from about a decade earlier.
I am less certain of the identity of "Charlie"--possibly Charles Blackmer, 10 years older than Jay.
The style of writing is one I enjoy and use when I have the 'bones' of a good family story.
The correspondant for the Abell's Corners area of Orwell, Vermont is un-named, though the gossipy columns retain this particular flavor throughout the early 1900's.

Caught in a Terrific Thunderstorm

Two of the Corner boys, by the names of Jay and Charlie, went over to the Wilder Hill driving the old family horse [also] Charlie.  The boys were busy making a woven wire fence, when old Charlie began to stamp his feet, for a distant roar was heard. The boys kept busy at work, not minding what was coming on them. The wind began to blow and the clouds began to gather in the far west.
All at once Charlie shouted, "That is thunder, Jay!"
"No, that is the roaring from the cave, " Jay answered.
The old horse was uneasy and tried to pull away.  All at once a terrible crash came and a large tree was torn to smithereens within three rods of where the boys were at work.  All at once another smash came.
Jay yelled, "Charlie, the old horse has broken away and is coming down the mountain side."
Charlie yelled back, "Be ready to pile into the wagon when he comes along"
By this time the rain came down in torrents.  The wind blew, the thunder roared, and the lightning flashed fire, and it was pitch dark.
But the old horse was sure-footed and down the mountain he went with both boys under the seat and the wagon box full of water and hailstones.
Jay yelled, "Charlie, we will freeze stiff!"
"No, we won't," Charlie answered, "Only a bath, that is all."
But in the meantime, they had struck the highway.  Now a mad race began through the hailstones as large as  teacups, and balls of fire [that] shot through the air. Both boys lay still as death and old Charlie plunged ahead at a fearful rate.  He had caught his second wind, for he jumped Lemon Fair bridge slick and clean.
Here two wheels left the wagon.  When the Sudbury corner was reached the two boys were still alive. Down the home stretch the old horse shot with the wagon box full of ice and the two lads chilled through.
Here old Charlie had kicked free from the wagon and a great gust drove the stable door open as the old horse shot into his stall.
Soon the boys had got into gear and they made a wild dash for their homes with chunks of ice dropping from their ears and eye-winckers.
We shall always remember how sad they looked and they will remember their thunderstorm ride from the cave on Wilder Hill.

My great-grandparents bought the Branch Farm in 1913, moving there from Hague, New York. My maternal grandparents lived there after their marriage in 1914; my mother was born and raised there.  My sister C. and I lived there until our parents built the little house next door in 1949.
A second story was added to the house circa 1926, providing 4 upstairs bedrooms.
In the pantry of the farmhouse were three childish hand prints pressed into the plaster of the south wall.  Under the prints were the names, Jay, May, and Anna, the children of Issac Tenney Branch and his wife, Emma Moffitt Branch.
My Uncle Bill found the handprints while stripping old wallpaper and lath in the pantry and left them visible for posterity.
The same Abell's Corner column which featured the above story, mentioned
"A heavy thunderstorm struck the Corners on Sunday the 23rd [June] and about one half mile north of the Corners the wind blew down a hay barn of Glenn Phelps."
Glenn Phelps married May Branch, twin sister of Jay.
Jay Branch, age about 22 in the summer of 1907, seems to have taken over the running of the Branch Farm on Young Road, as suggested by this item:
"Jay Branch has got his new side delivery rake at home.  He is expecting the agent to set his hay loader up any day."

Since the purchase of the Branch Farm by my g-grandparents a century ago [1913] 4 generations of my family have grown up with the familiar view of Wilder Hill to the east/south-east.
We've heard the stories of the old road, the cellar holes, the old families, Wilders, Goulds, and maybe others who lived there.
We've searched for the landmarks.
If some have found them, they were luckier than I.

Photo Credit: Cathy Alger


  1. A wonderful adventure story from the past. It reminds me of some of the tales I have heard about my grandparents' families in Eamers Corner, Cornwall, Ontario. So important to pass these stories on...

  2. How I envy you all these wonderful snippets of information - and the photos to accompany them. your folks were obviously very good at recording the minutiae of daily life.

    I bet those boys were scared witless when the old horse raced home with them like that!

  3. Love the story with the old horse saving the day. Great photograph, too.