SOMETIMES HE WAS A STRANGER; SOMETIMES HE WAS THE NEIGHBOR’S SON
SOMETIMES HE BECAME PART OF THE COMMUNITY; SOMETIMES HE DISAPPEARED
AND SOMETIMES SHE WAS THE
We defined ‘hired man’ as one who works for
and lives with a family for a period of time. Here we will look at
the end of the hired man era. This end had three major causes. The
demise of the family farm, the introduction of machinery to replace
farm laborers and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society that created
government programs that took care of these men through various
A couple of events changed the way some rural men earned
money during the first half of the past century. Trucks and improved
year-round roads and the change to four-foot pulpwood at most paper
mills were three. However mechanical loaders didn’t appear
around here until into the 1960s. This meant the pulpwood had to be
lifted off the pile and thrown up on the truck body. On the truck
body, usually a second man picked the pulpwood off the body and piled
it. Both jobs were hard on the back, and both made easier by the
pulp-hook or wood-hook. Most truck owners hired a man; some called
this man a ‘striker,’ to help. If the striker lived with
the trucker’s family, he’d be a hired man.
A-CHS member Merrill Pottle sent along some wonderful memories.
Merrill’s parents were Harold and Evelyn (Flood) Pottle who
lived at his Flood grandparents’ place at 731 Cooper Road in
Alexander. Merrill still owns this place. Harold Pottle came from
Perry. He embraced the new idea of trucking pulp to the mill, but
also clung to the old ways of farming and, at Perry, of weir fishing.
“John, I enjoyed reading the article on hired help from the 1800's.
Some of my earliest memories in the 40's were of my father in the trucking business in Alexander. Anyway, my father usually had 2 trucks, and therefore needed hired help. One of the hired "hands" was a man by the name of Billy Johnson. Billy never had a driver's license, so he wasn't a driver on the truck, but he did the heavy work.”
“Billy was from Baring, never had a permanent home that I know of, so he lived with us most of the time. He stayed in an unfinished bedroom above the back ell. Billy didn’t read, but he was basically kind and gentle, except I think when he drank too much. This use to happen when he occasionally went to Calais or Baring on a weekend.”
“Because Billy spent so much time with us, I always thought he was part of the family. When he went with my father on the truck, they would often learn interesting news as they traveled about. When they came home, Billy always wanted to be the first to rush in and tell my mother. One story was, when somebody was very sick, he ran in to tell my mother that "so-and-so" was in a commode. Well, it took Mother a while to figure that one out.”
“Then, my father would sometimes have Billy count out how many pieces they had of something as they were working, as he got to 99, Billy would say he didn't know what to do, because he couldn't count any further. So, there was always funny stories going around in my house.”
“In later years, Billy could be seen on the streets in Calais. He always seemed to have a few dollars, probably from odd jobs, and a place to stay as far as I knew. I know my mother would always make sure to give him a little something, maybe a present at Christmas.”
William T. Johnson was born in Baring on May 2, 1923 a son of Thomas and Helen (Watters) Johnson. He was killed on October 18, 1995 on North Street in Calais when hit by a pick-up truck. He was survived by brothers Arthur and Lloyd “Dunk’, and sisters Thelma Montgomery, Madeline Doten and Evelyn McCloskey. He is buried in the Baring Cemetery.
Izetta Love was born on June 29, 1898 at Cooper; she died March 13, 1944 at Cooper
William A. Batron was born on April 1, 1886 at Pembroke, died and was buried December 5, 1926 at Cooper
William and Izetta were married on January 8, 1916 at Meddybemps. Their children:
Dorothy was born on December 19, 1917; she married Horace Niles of Cooper on September 30,1935. She died on June 15, 1989
Margaret was born January 21, 1918. (This date cannot be right.) She married William Niles of Cooper October 23, 1934.
Edwin Horace was born April 25, 1920, died May 3, 1988 at Calais, buried at Meddybemps
Donald M. was born August 24, 1923. He died January 15, 1987 and is buried in Cooper. He married Vivian Clarke of Cooper on July 5, 1961 at Calais.
Alden Clinton was born July 15, 1925. He married Isabelle ________. He died at Calais on May 25, 1989.
Two of the Batron brothers became hired men, definitely sons of a neighbor. We all ready have met Eddie in the Cooper Family Diaries. Eddie lived with Sam Cooper and his family during the early 1940s. Soon after that Eddie moved to Meddybemps where he became part of the Robert Gillespie family. He ate his meals at the family table and slept in the ‘chimney’ room. He was with the Gillespies well into the 1960s and likely later working with Robert growing potatoes and blueberries and cutting wood in the winter. (Information from Hilda Gillespie Crosby)
Donald was the hired man at Dale and Margie Crosby’s farm on the North Union Road. Dale was a dairy farmer. Donald ate with the family and slept in the ell chamber except in the summer when he stayed in a tar paper covered cabin under some apple trees out back; it was cooler there. Margie and her son David remember that Donald would disappear occasionally. Donald enjoyed strong drink and would go on a spree into Calais. His brother Eddie would do the same as did a number of the other hired men. Donald left Crosby’s for the last time about the time he married Vivian.
Arthur and Alden mostly worked as day laborers. Arthur was a loner and lived for a time in a camp north of Route 191 between Meddybemps Village and the Commons (the open area where Robert Gillespie lived and farmed. Can anyone tell us where that name came from?) Charlie Muholland from Princeton was another hired man who worked at Cooper’s, Coburn Crosby’s and Dale Crosby’s.
WHO WAS DORIS FLOOD? In the diary created by Corice Cooper, we read about visits from Doris Flood. With this issue we’ll again hear of Doris Flood in Eda Varnum’s dairy. Doris lived across the Cooper Road from the Pottle home where Bill Johnson resided. Connections!
Doris Marion Wood was born at Calais on July 15, 1903 a daughter of Samuel and Clara (McLaughlin) Wood. Two other daughters were born of this pair, Eva and Marguarite. Samuel, a seaman, died young and the girls were farmed out; Doris to Arthur Flood’s home. Arthur’s brother Lincoln lived at 731 Cooper Road, what became the Pottle place. Lincoln’s son Raymond married Doris on June 24, 1924 at Calais. Their children: Russell (1924 – 1984), Bernard (1926), Paul (1928 – 1943) and Maxine (1938). Eva Wood married Wallace Reynolds and Marguarite Wood married Ralph Record.