Thursday, March 5, 2015

Chapter 1: Tiemann Memoirs

Following Chapter 1 is information about the impact of the Rural Electrification Act on Cavendish, as well as a response to the question of “what happened to Joyce, and the other Tiemann children?” Finally, there is a link to the Prelude, which includes links to all chapters of the Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann.

Chapter 1
Cavendish I had never heard of. It was not on a highway (at least, not my idea of one) but by following directions and with the aid of a road map, I finally arrived in Proctorsville (one of the two villages in the township.) The agent was waiting for me and, it being pretty hot, hospitably treated me to a bottle of cold beer. Then we got in my car and off we went, leaving a fine dust cloud behind. Proceeding along a bewildering network of narrow back roads bordered by fields and woods-passing, on the way, thru Cavendish village-we ascended quite a steep little pitch and I beheld a brick house. My companion said “Here we are” and we got out.

It was practically love at first sight. This farm seemed so much better than I had hoped for that I could hardly believe it possible, unless there was a mistake in the asking price (there wasn’t). A brick dwelling was beyond our expectations, and careful inspection revealed other advantages. It was a nice size for our family. There was a good cool cellar, stone flagged, under the whole main house. The spacious chimneys at either end appeared sound, and there were four fire-places. A constant flow of cold water spurted from a “reducer” in the end of a lead pipe into a barrel standing next the sink in the summer (shed) kitchen, from a reputedly “never failing” spring, and I was pleased with this: it seemed to insure a pure source (as proved true when it was tested later). On the other hand the interior of the house was in bad condition, and there obviously were many repair jobs to be done before redecorating could be undertaken. The outbuildings-woodshed, hog butchering house, horse barn, and cow barn, to the north of the house, and a carriage house across the road-were more than a little ramshackle; but the hewed log frames were substantial and sound and there seemed no reason to doubt their usefulness and adequacy. A good handy man (as I was not, but became in time the hard way) should be able to cope with these matters.-A nice garden was well along; hay waved in the fields; many wooded acres promised an ample fuel supply, and logs; and – perhaps the clinching feature-there were three brooks! My judgment told me that this was by far the most suitable place we were apt to find, so I was ripe to accept the assurances of the agent on subjects I could only guess at.

“Fine brick building,” he pointed out. “Over a hundred years old and it’ll stand another hundred. There’s a telephone now, and the power line will come thru before long. Just look at that barn, -why they’ve tied up twenty cows in there” (later I discovered there were only twelve stanchions) “and” he continued “it is stuffed full of hay every year. You see the carriage house over there, it’s just right for a garage. And all these other buildings-“ etc.

Well, a certain amount of exaggeration should be expected when a man is trying to make a sale, so if the prospect doesn’t add the grain of salt it’s his own fault. But as this turned out, we were more than lucky. We got much of what we wanted at a most reasonable price, - in fact, a bargain even for that time. We acquired a home which we came to love, with good neighbors, in a countryside, which for peace and charm, can scare be surpassed. Of course there were limitations and difficulties but these were a challenge: granted, there were dark moments, but I believe neither Isabel nor I ever thought of quitting.

I told the agent I liked the place but would have to consult my wife; then did some very sober thinking on the drive home. Buying the farm would really be burning our bridges behind us. Even by taking over an existing first mortgage, and adding a second, we would up practically all our cash. We expected a bit more coming from time to time, but we didn’t know when or how much. And we would have to decide what to do with our suburban house,- a real problem, when real-estate could be sold only at give-away prices.  The further I got from Vermont the vaguer became my mental picture of that farm and its attractive brick house. I was filled with doubts.

But then came the suburban area, every little house elbowing its neighbor for room,- attractive enough in a way, but oh, so crowded!-and my mind was made up. Arriving home I described the farm to Isabel as fairly as I could. She may well have been dubious, but she saw it was what I wanted and tried to share my enthusiasm. After discussing all the pros and cons, we decided to take the plunge. So, I wired the agent a precise offer; it was accepted, and the die was cast.

When the occupants of the farm had had time to secure another place to move, I made quick trip up to better get the lay of the land and to do some cleaning. Meantime Isabel was busy packing so that everything would be ready for us to leave as soon as I got back, which as I recollect, was early one morning, having driven during the night. And the next morning we were up at 4 A.M. after working furiously until late the night before; we left at 8:30. I think it was August 7. The Model A was really loaded down, with hardly room for the children- and the dog and the cat-to move. Some of our good neighbors were to oversee the loading of a moving van later that day.

It was a hot, tedious all-day drive, broken by a marvelous dinner at an old inn in Ashfield, Massachusetts. ....The children all were asleep when, at close to midnight, I drew up before a shadowy building and grunted, “this is it.” I’m afraid by now Isabel’s reflections were not very pleasant. It not only had been a trip into the unknown, but a wrong detour had taken us miles out of the way, we had had a flat, and to make things worse, a bridge on the usual approach from Cavendish was being rebuilt so we had had to come by a roundabout back way, the last mile of which plunged down a steep, rough dirt road thru black woods. But perhaps she felt as I did, just glad to have arrived.

The house having been closed for several warm days, upon throwing open the front door we were greeted by a musty, sour-milk odor which was not inviting. Using our flashlights (there no electricity, of course) we unloaded such things as we needed that night; then got the kids to the privy (a seven-holer) off the shed, and bedded them down on mattresses and pillows on the kitchen floor. (This was the original old kitchen in the house, not the summer kitchen in the shed.) For ourselves, a couple of army cots were very welcome....and that ended a long, long day.

After five or six hours of sound sleep, everyone’s outlook on life was much more cheerful in the light of a brisk, dew-sparking morn. Opened to the breeze, the house soon aired out. While I did the few chores required by a cow and a horse both of which were enjoying abundant pasture, the rest of the family got breakfast, of necessity simple due to scarcity of supplies. We were lucky to have plenty of milk, even tho not used to it warm from the cow. My wife made her first acquaintance with the wood-burning range, for which Wyeth brought in fuel from the wood-shed-inconveniently located at the other end of the house. This was quite a different proposition from cooking with gas, but was mastered in due course and served us well for several years. A tank ___ to the side of the stove supplied hot water, -after a fashion: it had to be dipped out. We depended a good deal on keeles, which heated faster.- Now, the dishes having been washed we had time to plan the arrangement of the furniture (for which was actually was too much space.) Then to our relief-we had wondered if he would be able to find the place-shortly before noon the big moving van containing all our worldly goods came rolling down the hill.

The van driver was most cooperative in helping to put things where we wanted them, even upstairs. His reaction amused us: he was curious to know if we intended to liver year-round. Of course we told him “yes” whereupon he turned to Isabel, almost with a bow and said simply, “Lady, you got guts.”

So we settled down in our new home and called it Windy Hill. I know that our friends did not expect us to stick it out for very long, but we surprised them. Now it is thirty-three summer later, and I am writing at my table by the sunny south window of the living room-what was the old kitchen-in the small embrasure next to the chimney. Apples are commencing to redden, and a chipmunk is very busy securing holly-hick seeds, which he does by leaping up a tall stem, bearing it down with his weight and then biting the pods apart. Sometimes he is thwarted and gets a tumble but he is persistent.-Not but that we found it a struggle. The hard fact is that we never did succeed in producing quite enough from the farm to get by, without some supplementary projects. The uncertainties, even more than the actual needs, were especially difficult for my wife. Farming is by no means the pastoral idly pictured by some back-to-the-earth writers in the early flush of their enthusiasm,-especially those with money. You can do anything if you have money. Never the less, as a way of life, hard as it often is, it is so superior to the existence of suburban dwellers that I never could face the thought of changing back.

I hope the house is pleased with the things done in attempting to make it more livable, while keeping or replacing its original charm. It has witnessed much happiness and also sadness, added to what must have gone before in the cycle of living. It stood vacant and forlorn for most of the five years of the war when first I and then also Wyeth were in the Army and Isabel took the girls so they could be nearer schools and manage better than on a farm with no men-folk... We were very glad to come home.

Electricity Comes to Cavendish
By the 1930’s, 90% of urban dwellers had electricity compared to 10 % of those living rurally. Private utility companies, who supplied electric power to most of the nation’s consumers, argued that it was too expensive to string electric lights to isolated rural farmsteads. The Roosevelt Administration believed that if private enterprise could not supply electric power to the people, then it was the duty of the government to do so. Rural electrification was based on the belief that affordable electricity would improve the standard of living and the economic competitiveness of the family farm. In 1935 the Rural Electric Administration (REA) was created to bring electricity to rural areas. Many groups opposed the federal government's involvement in developing and distributing electric power, especially utility companies, who believed that the government was unfairly competing with private enterprise. Learn about Vermont and Electrification at Turning on the Lights: Electricity Comes to Rural Vermont. 

In 1905, the Claremont Power Company began construction of the Cavendish Hydro Station on the Black River. The dam was built in 1907 and the hydro plant became operational the same year. Electric light poles went up in Cavendish village and Whitesville in December of 1909 and the Town Hall had electric installed in 1910 at a cost of $45.50. The town’s electric bill was $4.50 in 1916, roughly $103 in 2015 dollars. During WWI, the mills in Proctorsville and Cavendish worked long into the night thanks to electricity.

Local farmers, such as Alfred Kingsbury (Chubb Hill) used his own poles and paid for the wiring from Don Belknap’s farm (Route 131 and Chubb Hill), where the Gay Brothers line ended. By January 21, 1922, Ellen was able to write in her diary, “we are enjoying brilliant light this evening. It is perfectly grand!” The wiring cost $340. In today’s dollars, they would have paid $4,614.80

Tiemann installed electric wiring in Windy Hill around 1947, after his return from the war. The power line had finally come to his road. Cavendish Center was the last main section of the town to have electricity. Several people felt felt wartime restrictions on electrical materials had delayed the power lines going through the Center. Most of the houses along the Center Road did not have electricity until 1948.

What happened to Joyce and the other Tiemann Children?
Joyce is in her late 80s and has retired to W. Lebanon, NH. Her brother, referred to as Wyeth in the Memories, goes by Philip and is 90 living in Augusta, ME with his daughter.

Ann Tiemann Farrar lived in Andover, VT and died August 2014. She was 87. Even though Ann worked in New York City for about three years, when she returned to help on the family farm, Windy Hill, she met her future husband Francis Putnam Farrar at the Proctorsville Grange. 

• Prelude: Includes links to all the chapters of the Memoirs that have been published to date. 

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