Seven Sons on the Farm


Jonathan and Sally Brown had seven sons:



Farm Life

J. Bailey Moore’s History of the Town of Candia provides a month by month depiction of what farm life would have been like for boys growing up in Candia from 1800 to 1824, after the farms of the early settlers of the town had become established:

In the early part of the present century the business of farming in our town had reached a good degree of prosperity. A large proportion of the land had been cleared of its forests and vast quantities of boulders of various sizes, that had been lying upon or near the surface, were piled up in great heaps on some barren place. Many of the fields and pastures had been walled in at a vast expenditure of labor; the soil had not become exhausted of its fertilizing qualities; and the farmers of those days, unlike those of a more modern date, were not embarrassed by the difficulty of procuring assistance in cultivating their lands. Many of the people of those times had very large families of children, often ten or a dozen. Children were not then regarded as an encumbrance and a misfortune, but as a blessing and a positive benefit to their parents. They were not indulged in every whim and caprice or allowed to over rule their parents, as is too often the case in these days; but they were taught and compelled to obey their parents and show respect to their elders. Moreover, they were taught to largely depend upon themselves, and when the boys were eight or ten years of age, they made themselves useful upon the farm, and when they had entered upon their, teens they could dexterously handle the axe, the hoe, the shovel and the scythe, to perform more than half as much labor as an average hired hand.1

The Brown Boys’ Experiences

Given that Johnathan and Sally’s sons were born between 1822 and 1838, I would expect that their experiences working on the farm as boys would have been similar to Moore’s descriptions, although probably without the delight and wonder.

Mud Season

fire-woodBy the first of March, as the winter term of the district school closed, the bigger boys were required to assist in chopping the firewood. With the thick, clumsy axes of that period this was no easy task, and sometimes it required two or three hours for a boy a dozen years old to chop a great rock maple log in four sections half through ready for turning. The hands of some of the boys became cracked and sore, inside and out, by the jar made in chopping in the wind, and very queer remedies were prescribed.2


spring-plantingAs the days grow longer and warmer . . . . [t]he boys are set to work picking the rocks or small boulders on the fields, that were laid down to grass the previous year.3

On rainy days, some of the boys must go to the dark, damp cellar and sit for hours by the light of a tallow candle and sprout potatoes; or mount to the garret and shell corn upon the long handle of an old- fashioned frying pan.4

There were no corn planters in those times, and each hill had to be dug out and covered with the hoe. The boys and girls are delighted to be detailed to drop the corn and other seeds, and are scrupulously careful to drop just five kernels of corn in each hill and one pumpkin seed in each alternate hill in every other row.5


summer-sheepOn some warm and pleasant day after the planting has been completed, the sheep must be washed. This was generally done in some swiftly-running stream below a saw or grist mill. The boys were allowed to wash the lambs and their struggles with the frightened creatures in the water afforded some fun to the lookers-on.6


ear-of-cornThe corn in the fields is cut, brought to the house and piled in a huge heap upon the barn floor. From twenty to thirty men and boys gather around the heap, sitting in old chairs and on milking stools or on bunches of corn fodder. An old-fashioned tin lantern with one tallow candle inside is hung by a ring to the long handle of a pitchfork that is stuck horizontally into the side of the hay mow next to the corn to be husked; and then, by the feeble, glimmering light the company sit five or six hours busily stripping the husks from the glossy ears, and telling stories, cracking Jokes, singing songs or talking good sound sense, according as the spirit moves. Once in a while some of them go out of the barn for a short time to straighten out their be numbed and cramped limbs, and to look up with wonder to the sparkling stars through the cool, clear atmosphere and pick out from among them the Great Bear, the North Star, the Pleiades or Cassiopeia.7



When the great storms came in winter and the roads were blocked with snow all the oxen and steers in the highway districts were hitched together to an ox-sled with a log chained in front of the runners. The sled was covered with men and boys, while a few went ahead to shovel through the larger drifts to enable the team to pass along. The weight upon the sled pressed it down into the snow instead of plowing it out as is the custom at the present day.8

Social Commentator or  Curmudgeon?

Note how Moore found it necessary in his introduction to Candia farm life to soundly criticize the permissive parents of the younger generation who no longer had the proper respect for their elders–the younger generation being those growing up in the 1890s. Was Moore making an accurate comparison of prevailing social mores of two different time periods, or was he just being a curmudgeon? I suspect the latter. As the old saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

1J. Bailey Moore, History of the Town of Candia, Rockingham County, N.H., from Its First Settlement to the Present Time (Manchester, N.H.: George W. Browne, 1893), 254.

2Moore, 255.

3Moore, 256.

4Moore, 257.

5Moore, 257.

6Moore, 259.

7Moore, 260-261.

8Moore, 263.


Sally Lived to a Ripe Old Age


Sarah “Sally” Fitts Brown (1801-1898) and her husband Jonathan (1793-1879), whom I’ve written about previously, are my great-great-great-grandparents. I am grateful to whichever one of my relatives saved this newspaper story marking Sally’s ninety-sixth birthday.


Sally didn’t make it to 100, however:



“Ninety-Sixth Birthday” incorrectly states that Sally moved to Dracut, Massachusetts upon her marriage and lived there for three years before living the rest of her life in Billerica, Massachusetts. In fact, she lived in Candia, New Hampshire until her husband died and she was advanced in years. According to census records, she lived with her son George and his family in Dracut for three years before moving to Billerica to stay with her eldest son Alfred until her death.

The obituary misspells Sally’s maiden name as “Fitz.” It should be “Fitts.”

Meet Jonathan Brown


Jonathan & Sally Brown

Jonathan Brown was born July 19, 1793 in Candia, New Hampshire to Nathan Brown (1759-1834) and Ann Brown [Currier] (1760-1833). He married Sarah “Sally” Fitts (1801-1898) on March 6, 1822. Jonathan and Sally had seven sons, whom I’ll introduce in upcoming posts. Both Jonathan and Sally are buried in Holbrook Cemetery in Candia next to the Congregational Church, on what is today Route 27.

Sources don’t provide much of a sense of Jonathan as a person. In R. Bailey Moore’s History of Candia, he is mentioned on two lists of residents who lived beyond the age of seventy. On the original deed documenting the purchase of his farm, he is listed as a Country Gentleman (i.e., a farmer).

Moore’s book has a number of other mentions of Jonathan Brown. However, because the family tree is showing so many Jonathan Browns and I don’t yet have the descendants of my progenitor’s other sons identified, I have flagged Moore’s other mentions of Jonathan for further research to confirm exactly which Jonathan he was referring to.

It would seem, then, that Jonathan worked (and expanded) the Candia farm to provide a comfortable home for Sally and a place for their sons to grow and prosper, which they did, except for two. One died at age eighteen; the other died in an insane asylum. They are buried with their parents in Holbrook Cemetery in Candia.



History of Candia


I find one of the best things about the Internet is having full-text access to obscure books that have been digitized for no discernible reason except that the copyright has expired. Case in point for A History of the Town of Candia, Rockingham County, New Hampshire, From Its First Settlement to the Present Time, the present time being 1893.

A History of Candia was written by a gentleman named  J. Bailey Moore (no relation to the Moores I’ll be researching, as far as I know). His health was apparently failing when he took on the task of writing the town’s history–which indeed proved so arduous that he died before he could finish it: his preface to the book leaves off in the middle of a sentence. The publisher then informs the reader of the author’s death:


Can’t you just picture Mr. Moore slumped over dead at his desk, pen in hand, the literary version of dying in the traces?

I’ll share what my mother and I learned about Jonathan Brown and his seven sons from A History of Candia. Then, I think I ‘ll need to follow the trail of this intriguing tidbit left by Mr. Moore in his preface:


Who could resist a series of “spicy articles”? Not I!

Tombstone Tuesday – Red Herring!


This framed photograph was in The Family Archives, so I naturally assumed the tombstone belongs to a particularly important link in my family’s chain of lineage. Upon close inspection, the name Grace Berry was visible. However, the surname Berry was not one I had encountered in family records before, such as Gunn, Dalrymple, White, and Fitts.

My husband and I then had a friendly Google search competition to see who could find information about Grace Berry first. He won when he found Record # 6600201 on


Someone in my mother’s family must have visited Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, taken a picture of the gravestone for its historical significance and had it framed for home decor, like hanging a print of the Battle of Lexington in the dining room.

Mystery Solved?

Not quite. Not to be outdone, I dove into my go-to search engine, Google Books, and came up with the real story of the tombstone in question:1

The date of the first interment is unknown, although probably occurring around 1660, and there is some doubt as to the identity of the oldest stone. Apparently it is that erected to the memory of Grace Berry, wife of Thomas Berry, who, according to the inscription, died May 17, 1625, or five years before Boston was settled. The stone is of old Welsh slate, well preserved and with the carving quite distinct; the edges are ornamented with curves and at the top are carved two cherubs and the angel of death. There is also cut a shield, without quartering of arms. The marks of British bullets are visible, this stone, like many others on the hill, having been a target for the British soldiers during the siege of Boston.

It has generally been held that the true date on the Grace Berry stone is 1695, a boyish freak of Mr. George Darracott having led him to change the figure 9 with his jack-knife into the figure 2; in the same fashion the date on the stone of John Thwing in King’s Chapel Ground was altered from 1690 to 1620. In like manner the dates upon the stones of John White and of Joanna, the six-months-old daughter of William and Anne Copp, has been altered to 1625, and that of Abigail Everden’s death to 1626. Like vandalism is evident in the old Charles town burying-ground.

There is little likelihood that the trouble would be taken, in the early days of perilous travelling, to transport the remains of a person of no particular note over the long journey from Plymouth to Boston, and at a date 35 years after interment. Beyond this, moreover, the fact is that Grace Berry, who was the daughter of Major John Jayman, a rope-maker, was living in the flesh with her husband, Thomas Berry, in their house near the Ship Tavern, at the junction of Ship (North) and Clark streets, very many years after her reputed death in 1625.

The Upshot?

In genealogy, as in life, it doesn’t pay to make unwarranted assumptions. I’m not related to Grace Berry.

1John Norton, Historical Sketch of Copp’s Hill Burying-Ground with Descriptions and Quaint Epitaphs (Boston: Hull Street, 1907), Digitized Book, Google Books.