Thursday, June 2, 2016

Geneva (Powers) Wright, Growing Up in Waterford

Geneva (Powers) Wright and her daughter Glenna W. Pasho.

On May 25, 2016, Geneva (Powers) Wright, with her daughter Glenna (Wright) Pasho, told the Waterford Historical Society about growing up in Waterford. These notes (written by Donna Heath and Beth Kanell) are supplemented with added details from Geneva’s written history of the family and from Glenna afterward.

The Powers history in Waterford began at the intersection of Shadow Lake Road and County Road South at the farm purchased by Glenn Gilbert Powers and Eva Belle (Page) Powers on April 19, 1919 according to Geneva Ella (Powers) Wright, the eldest of Glenn’s seven children.  There were three boys and four girls. Glenn and Eva moved from Kirby to the farm in May 1919.

The farm was one of the earliest settled in Waterford; in 1792 when Daniel Pike came from Royalston, Mass., he settled on 125 acres there. Daniel Pike’s companions in his move to Waterford were his brother Nathan, and Jonathan Hutchinson and Luther Knight.* Daniels’s son Luther (who would become known as Deacon Luther Pike) took ownership, marrying Anna Caswell. Their daughter Carolina married Nathan W. Millen, who eventually owned the farm, followed by the Millen daughter Laura Jane (Jennie), who married Frank W. Brown of Bethlehem, NH; Frank Brown became a successful dairyman, in 1886 building a modern barn and in 1904 rebuilding and modernizing the house. Frank and Jennie Brown were the owners who sold the farm to Glenn Powers. In addition to farming, Glenn was a Vermont state representative for Waterford in the 1940s.

Geneva (the first child in the family, born September 22, 1919, at the Littleton NH hospital) went to a small (“one-room”) district elementary school in Waterford, the Woods School, and attended high school in Littleton.  During the first year of high school, she travelled to school in the truck that carried the milk cans.  The truck driver would be either Geneva’s father Glenn or his hired man Percy Kezar. For her other three high school years, she and her sister Theresa stayed with a Littleton family during the week, “self-boarding,” and went home on weekends.  The girls had to provide their own food and firewood at the house where they boarded. It was so cold in the winter there, that the girls were able to keep their perishable food supply in the very cold hallway.  Going home on weekends was a time to do laundry (skirts were below the knee), and to bring back more food, assisted by their mother. Geneva graduated from high school in 1937.

The family raised sheep and sent the wool to Maine to be made into wool blankets.  Glenn raised Jersey cattle.  Milk was kept in milk cans placed in a cooler until being picked up by the milk truck and delivered to creameries in Barnet and Concord and Littleton.  The milk cooler was kept cold with ice from Stiles Pond and from the pond at Pattenville, NH (across the river).  Sawdust was used to pack the ice in the ice shed to preserve it. The family made its own butter. It was packed into wooden butter molds and pressed out, and then wrapped in paper, which Geneva recalls doing.

Although Geneva’s high school years were during the Great Depression, her family did not discuss the Depression and the farm provided much of their needs. They milked cows, sugared, raised sheep and poultry, owned horses, made their own ice cream and sold butter. 

One of Geneva’s chores was to take care of house chores (sweeping, washing dishes) when a “hurricane” baby was born in during Vermont’s devastating Hurricane of 1938; her mother assisted at the birth, and often helped other women as needed.  Today, the baby lives in Gilman.

Geneva married Gilbert Augustus Wright (born March 26, 1912, in Lower Waterford) on March 1, 1938.  In addition to several kinds of work, Gilbert also was a road commissioner for Waterford, Barnet, and Kirby at different times, and later in life served as a lister for Waterford.

Geneva and Gilbert Wright would have three children. Their names now are, daughter Jean Wright Hagan, born 1939; son Merle G. Wright, born 1940; and daughter Glenna W. Pasho, born 1950. When the youngest, Glenna, was 3 years old, Geneva told Gilbert that she wasn’t milking cows any longer, so the family moved to St. Johnsbury, ideal for the children to attend St. Johnsbury Academy. When Glenna was 19 and attending college in New York State, her parents decided to sell the house in St. Johnsbury and move back to an acre of land reserved for them at the home farm.

Glenn’s grandson, Keith, now resides at the farm. 

[*Correction to Pike reference, from Pike descendant Helen Chantal Pike, Aug. 30, 2017: Daniel Pike moved with his 2 sons, Nathan and Luther (and at least 2 daughters). I'm descended from Nathan, the river farmer. Deacon Luther became the hill farmer.]

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