How Widow of More Than Century Ago
Accepted the Proposal of a Guilford Man
Looking for Someone Else
A paper written by Mrs. F. B. Shippee and read at the last Catamount Hill reunion in Shelburne, Mass., gives a graphic picture of a sturdy old-time character who lived in Guilford. Extracts from the paper follow:
Paul Davenport was born Aug. 22, 1766, at Mount Holly, Vt. While young he emigrated to Guilford, Vt., and married a Miss Gould of that town. She later died, leaving one daughter, who married Jesse Dunton.
We do not know at what date he and his friend, Nathan Barnes, came to Catamount Hill, but we find him living here as we suppose with his second wife, who was Miss Alice Farnsworth, with one child, born Feb. 22, 1788, when he was 21 years and six months old. I think the first farm he bought was southeast from here. He disposed of it and bought this land where we now are.
Nathan Barnes had settled here, but Paul believing that a public highway would be established here bought it of Barnes and paid 52 pounds 10 shillings for the same, or a little over $250, and Mr. Barnes settled on the mountain west of us known as Mt. Pocumtuck, but during Mr. Barnes' ownership it was known as Barnes' Knob, and later it was called Edson's Knob, as it was owned by Howard Edson.
Paul Davenport was known by his neighbors as a very honest, generous, but a very eccentric man. His latch string always hung out and the hungry felt at liberty to enter his house, go into his buttery, and help themselves to any food they found there, so that he kept open house to all.
He often talked or "preached," as they called it, to himself. He was liable to talk or "preach" upon any subject that came into his mind, and when he commenced speaking he did not allow anything to interrupt his sermonette until he had finished it. Sometimes he would enter a neighbor's house during a discourse; he would not recognize or speak to a person until he finished his talk.
If it was at meal time when he went to a neighbor's, and they were eating at the table, he would walk up to the table and help himself to whatever he wished without asking. Often when at a neighbor's he would say, "Guess I'll lie down on the floor and rest me a little," and suiting the action to the words, would remove his boots and use them as a pillow for his head and would lie down with his feet near the fireplace. Perhaps the people there smiled at such actions, but I think they did not understand that Paul was suffering with a terrible pain in his back.
He cherished a great dislike towards the clergy. Ministers, who probably held themselves above the common people, as they were better educated and better dressed, furnished him many opportunities for a short sermon or monologue.
I think he read the Bible and expressed great sympathy for any one who was oppressed or scandalized by a neighbor, taking the part of the weak and innocent. He usually wore a red woolen cap at home or abroad, both in summer and winter.
He was a firm believer in witchcraft. In those days it was believed that witches caused most of the trouble that people suffered. Almost any illness or ill happening to the family, friends or flock was, they believed, caused by witches. It was believed at that time that steel would keep witches at bay and he slept at night with an axe beneath his head.
And he probably fully believed that the Guilford witch woman threw a witch bridle over Nathan Barnes' head, changed him into a horse and rode him down Green river onto the Meadows and jumped him across the Connecticut river. This idea was entertained by some of Nathan Barnes' descendants, I believe, and probably it was Paul who went and found Barnes at that time and helped him home.
I suppose when Barnes left home for Guilford he was well and strong; when he returned he was lame and ever afterwards limped, so the story runs. I have no record to tell me when Paul's second wife died and do not know the date of his marriage to his third helpmate, but think it must have been as late as 1820 or 1824. Of course his children were well grown by that time, but Paul was growing old and was no doubt suffering with pain in his back.
He learned of a widow Bennet of Dummerston, Vt. As he was a native of Vermont and had lived in Guilford, his mind naturally turned that way. He went to Amasa Shippee and asked the loan of his horse and sleigh to drive to Dummerston and get a wife, and Mr. Shippee kindly lent him his team.
When he arrived there and inquired for widow Bennet he was directed to a certain widow Bennet, but there were two widows by that name and the one on whom he called was not the one who had been recommended to him; but he did not know it. He went into the house and introduced himself. She was washing. He probably told a straightforward story and was so candid and honest in his talk that she was very favorably impressed with his appearance and accepted his offer at once.
She had one daughter but she evidently did not come here at the time of her mother's marriage. I never learned when or where this couple were married, but they started for Catamount Hill before many hours had passed, it may have been the next day after his arrival there, for he said he could not stay for her washing to dry. Perhaps it was hung out that night and partly dried or frozen. It was packed and finished drying here on the hill.
It must have been quite a journey to take by horse and sleigh at that time. I do not know how many days elapsed before Paul returned with his bride. Probably there had been no throwing of rice and confetti on this couple, as there is often today on bride and groom, but old shoes might have been thrown after them, for in ancient times throwing old shoes was supposed to insure prosperity.
Not many days after Paul left home to find a wife, just before nightfall one day, Androus, who was chopping in the yard saw Paul driving towards his home. He was standing up; a woman was sitting in the sleigh. Androus went into the house and requested his sister Elvira to get ready, saying that they would go over there. They dressed themselves in their best clothes, and hastened over to welcome the newly wedded pair and other friends were there also.
Elvira, with others there, prepared a supper of potatoes and fried pork. I might draw quite a fine picture of this wedding supper, which doubtless was excellent, although served in the primitive style of those days. When the story was told me, I did not make as many inquiries relative to it as I would now. They probably had "rye Indian" bread, perhaps cider apple sauce in a gourd dipper graced the feast, and they may have made and baked a rye or Indian Johnny-cake on a cabbage leaf at the huge fireplace, for they had no stoves at that time.
I have been told that they used wooden plates at Paul's house, but in those days everyone at the table did not have a plate. The meat was placed on a platter in the center of the table. The older ones say, while the younger ones stood around the table and dipped their bread and potato into the platter of meat. They called that "sopping in."
When that delicious supper was finished and all were fed, they cleared the table, washed the dishes, swept the crumbs into the fire, set back the table and had a jolly kitchen dance. They had no harp, viol or piano, but the music was furnished by singing.
I suppose it was a kind Providence that led Paul to go to the "wrong" Mrs. Bennet as some said, but she proved to be the right one, an excellent woman, cheerful and a true helpmate, and I have heard they had a very happy home, but Paul suffered much with pain in his back. In driving in a team he often stood up. Some people smiled and thought it was because he was eccentric, but probably he was in less pain standing.
One day Dr. Stearns, I think from Adamsville, was on Catamount Hill on some town business, not medical, compiling statistics I believe, and he called at Paul's and he told the doctor about his painful back. The doctor examined it and said, "You have a tumor on your back, and I can cut it out."
He had no surgical instruments with him, nothing but a dull, ordinary jack-knife, but Paul removed some of his clothing and laid down on the kitchen table and held onto the sides and without any anaesthetic endured the pain of the removal of that painful tumor with a dull jack-knife. It was a harsh and painful operation and one who was present said it was unfeeling and seemed like the butchering of an animal. It did not bring any relief to poor Paul.
Later on he went to Ashfield to Dr. Knowlton. He was a superior doctor for those days, probably 50 years ahead of his time. His treatment relieved Paul and he was expecting to get entirely cured of his trouble. Dr. Knowlton had a school of medicine and fitted students for practice. Paul was treated by one of these students in the absence of the doctor. The external medicine, which was poison, he gave him internally, and as a consequence he died. His death was very sudden and was a great shock to his wife and children.
He was about 66 years old, was much liked and respected by the neighbors and was called "Uncle" Paul generally. He was of slight build, probably a fast runner when young, an athlete of no mean capacity. He could jump high and touch his feet together three times before reaching the ground. He died Aug. 3, 1832, mourned and lamented by his wife, children and friends.
Dr. Charles Knowlton and Dr. Roswell Shepard were in practice in Ashfield, Massachusetts about the same time, the latter for a few years only. They were in partnership for a time about 1830-1833.
Mary King was known as Polly, or Molly. She married first, John Bennet on December 8, 1791 in Northampton, Hampshire, Massachusetts. Known as Polly Bennet, she married Paul Davenport, on April 15, 1824 in Dummerston, Vermont. Molly Davenport's third husband was Haywood Edson. They were married December 9, 1837 in Montague, Franklin County, Massachusetts.
The historian Fanny Bowen, Mrs. Nathan F. Shippee, presented this paper to the Catamount Hill Association in Shelburne, Massachusetts.
Compiled by Corrine "Kim" Davenport
Paul Davenport was the second of nine children born to Abigail Clark and Elijah Davenport, the first seven probably born in Pelham, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. When Paul was about 13 years old, his parents and children, along with his grandparents (at least it is believed the grandparents accompanied them) moved to Guilford, Cumberland Co., New York (now Windham County, Vermont); other members of his grandparents' family had moved to Windham County, Vermont several years earlier.
About 1785, Paul married Sarah Gould, the daughter of Esther Wilder and Stephen Gould. Sarah was only about fifteen years old when she was married; she died shortly after marriage. Soon after Sarah's death, Paul married Alice Farnsworth who was about three years his senior. Alice's and Paul's first child, Thomas Gould Davenport, was born February 22, 1788. Daughter Sarah was born on October 20, 1790.
On November 24, 1790 Paul, yeoman of Guilford, sold Stephen Gould land in Guilford which was part of 100 acre lot No. 85 for 36 pounds. It was probably about this time the family moved to Colrain, Massachusetts, where Sarah's aunt Susannah Farnsworth and her husband Ebenezer Houghton had settled in 1780.
Paul bought a farm from his friend Nathan Barnes. The deed, written in 1793, described it as, "The north half of lot No. 96 and of lot No. 93 in the third division of lots in Colrain". The price was fifty-two pounds, ten shillings.
Freeman L. Davenport, son of Paul's son Levi, wrote, "Paul built a house of round logs in the wilderness on this place, some twenty feet southeast of the house which Levi Davenport occupied for many years; he also built a barn of logs on a flat rock some thirty rods southeast of his house, the rock serving as a threshing floor." ("The Origin and Growth of the Catamount Hill Association" page 53).
Four more sons were born to Paul and Alice---Zacheus, Elijah, Paul, and Daniel. Daniel, known as the "Prophet," married Patty Barnes, daughter of Paul's friend Nathan who moved to Colrain from Guilford with Paul. The Catamount Hill Association book relates, "Daniel was famous in his time, as an expounder of the Scriptures".
Two more daughters, Alice in 1800 and Phebe in 1802, were born, and in 1804 son Levi was born, the ninth and last child born to Alice and Paul. In 1802 their eight-year-old son Elijah died. Phebe died in 1815 when she was thirteen years old.
Alice died October 1, 1823. Freeman L. Davenport continued with the story of Paul's life, "After his wife Alice died, he was in want of a housekeeper, so (on April 15, 1824 in Dummerston, Windham County, Vermont) married a widow, Molly Bennett (Mary King, widow of John Bennett) who lived in Vermont.
Paul came to his death by poisoning, August 3, 1832. Five years later Paul's widow, Molly, married Howard Edson in Ashfield, Franklin County. Youngest son Levi married distant cousin Susan Davenport, daughter of Jason and granddaughter of Joseph Davenport.
Levi inherited Paul's farm and built a new home. Levi's son Freeman related, "He was shrewd, and a good calculator; not a hard worker, but always looking after the little details about the farm. He acquired quite a competency. Much of it was made by raising sheep and lambs. He increased the size of his farm by buying more land, until he had over three hundred acres."
Stories have been handed down of the alleged uncanny performance of a woman who, probably late in the eighteenth century, bore the reputation, on the Guilford and Leyden borders, of being "a witch". It is not known for sure whether the Guilford witch, known as "Old Mother Honeywell," was, as supposed, a member of the Noyes kindred.
She was a product of the super-religiosity of that border region, where the dwellers on adjoining farms---Denison, Packer Billings, Belden Noyes---were holding meetings in barns and schoolhouses, where deluded souls saw as visions the mirage in the fog and mist of Weatherhead Hollow, and a mile or two away the followers of William Dorrell received the doctrine of their false prophet.
The stories have a familiar ring but probably all witches belonged to a union and had to follow a general pattern in their activities.
The first tale is about some householder who bought a pair of sheepshears and laid them on a closet shelf, done up in paper. A few days later he took them down to show to a friend and found them rusty and apparently old. No one could account for it, and he put them back in the closet, thinking he had been cheated. A day or so later another friend, who had heard the rumour of these strange doings, dropped in to offer sympathy. The shears were taken down again---all bright and new. Mother Honeywell!
Another tale was the load of hay which was halted unaccountably. The oxen couldn't move it. It was discovered that a mouse had her shoulder under the hind wheel. Mouse removed. No more trouble. Of course Mother Honeywell suffered about that time from a lame shoulder!
Another story concerned the time that someone shot a white owl one night, and Mother Honeywell fell down stairs and received severe injury at the same moment. "You may imagine the thrill I got", writes the lady who recalled this tradition, "the only time I ever went into the old Noyes' 'mansion' in the southern part of Guilford to find a stuffed white owl on the mantel."
Official History of Guilford, Vermont 1678-1961; with Genealogies and Biographical Sketches. Edited by Broad Brook Grange No. 151. Published by the Town of Guilford and Broad Brook Grange No. 151, 1961. Pages 156-7. (Stories from Packer Corners have been chosen from the research done by J. C. L. Clark of Lancaster, Mass. The autobiography of Nathan Noyes furnished much material.).
John Calvin Lawrence Clark attended Harvard College 1892-1897 and was for years Town Clerk of Lancaster, Massachusetts. In Brattleboro, J. C. L. Clark is best known for "The Famous Dr. Stearns: A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Samuel Stearns with a Bibliography, the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, October 1935" [Worcester, Massachusetts: Published by the Society, 1936 reprint].