The following are letters written by Ellen D. Witherbee Atwell in 1899 and 1900 to her nephew Tyler Reed Woodbridge of Victor, Colo. She was age 64 at that time. She tells of her family life, traditions, and some facts of history relating to the Witherbee family, handed down by her parents and grandparents, written at Port Henry.
These letters were sent to me from Bill Knowlton of Liverpool in 2002. Ellen Atwell was his great aunt.
This the fourth installment in a series that continues in the Times of Ti the second week of each month.
"The farm was very stoney and hard to cultivate, and all of the help had to be hired, and it made hard work for both Father and Mother, with little return for their labor. Everything was done by hand as machinery for farming had not yet been invented. They mowed the grass with a scythe, threshed the grain with a flail, sowed grain by hand, and used a hoe for exterminating weeds in the fields. Candles and whale oil were now used for lighting purposes. The candles were dipped in the fall to last the season. They prepared sticks long enough to hold a dozen candles, and a frame for holding them. The wick was made double and the sticks ran through. The tallow was melted in hot water and the sticks dipped one after another, then hung in the frame to cool; then the operation was repeated until they had accumulated tallow enough to make them the right size; then they were packed in boxes and economically used.
Wood was plentiful but it was all prepared by the use of an axe only. It made fine chips which fell to my lot to gather. Those which were cut off smoothly were my special treasures, as I liked to have them fit the floor.