Hope Historical Society

Meeting of September 18th 2012

Revised Draft Minutes

President Donovan Bowley called the monthly meeting to order at 9:39 AM at the Hope Historical Home. Also present were: Bob Appleby, Joe Berry, Gwen Brodis, Nancy Ford, Bill Jones, Ann Leadbetter, Barbara Ludwig, Jane Mitchell, Chris Pearse, Francina Pearse, and William Pearse (speaker).

Secretary Bill Jones presented draft minutes of the June and July non-meetings and of the August meeting. They were approved.

Gwen Brodis reported income since August 20th from bottle redemption ($88.02), donations ($50) and interest ($0.01). The checking account balance, which was 794.90 on August 20th, was not $922.03. The report was received.

On behalf of the Building Committee, Gwen asked for men volunteers to sweep down the entire place, especially the barn, including the space where the thresher used to be.
Ideas for future programs should be given to Ann Leadbetter, chair of Program Committee. Next May is completely set.

For the Website Committee, Bob Appleby reported that, over the past year, DAILY hits had now stabilized at about 200.

Donovan announced that the Frank Grassow bean thresher had been given to Searsmont Historical as voted and is now in a Searsmont barn, having been moved there by Ed Dodge and others on an auto wrecker.

For Archives, Donovan reported that he and Gwen Brodis have discovered a very fragile 1814 tax valuation that gives an extraordinary amount of information about Hope at that time. It needs preservation. It is being transcribed. At that time, the proprietors, notably Joseph Pierce, owned lots they had not sold. Families, land use and possessions are detailed. The amount of money the 196 families had "at interest" is reported. None.

For the Town's Cemetery Committee, Chair Francina Pearse reported on the clean up of Morey Hill Cemetery being done by our recent speaker, Bill Macomber, with help from volunteers like the Hope Volunteer Firemen and Joe Berry - cutting brush, cleaning stones, un-earthing covered stones and re-setting them. There is no room for more burials because the apparently-empty spaces are full of buried stones. The Town appropriated $1900 for this work. Much was accomplished with this money. Mr. Macomber stayed at Eric & Janice Campbells. Janice has photo-documented the work. It will resume next year if the Town appropriates more money.

Donovan reported collecting, from Royce Miller's book, the information on pre-1844 burials in Appleton's Pine Grove Cemetery. Before that date, Pine Grove and most of today's Appleton was in Hope. All 88 such burials were from Hope. Once we get permission from Royce Miller, this information will be put on www.hopehist.com, probably leading to a new upsurge of hits.

Old Business: none

New Business: none
* * *

The meeting went from labor to refreshments at 10:07 and returned to labor at 10:15. Ann Leadbetter introduced William Pearse who presented an extremely interesting talk on Hope apple-growing from the 1920s to the near-present. A vigorous discussion followed. William's remarks were written out. The audio of the talk will be available on www.hopehist.com before you get these minutes and the written version should be too. What follows cannot begin to do justice to the original.

What we know as Pearse's dairy farm used to be an apple farm. The farm has been in the same family since the house was built in 1794 and today's cows too can trace their lineage back to 1794 cows. Most of the intervening 218 years the farm has been a mixed one, but before the specialization was milk, it was apples.

Apples too go back, no doubt, to 1794. Our pioneers brought them to the New World. Everybody grew some. Probably the Pearses started to concentrate on apples and develop them as their cash crop in the 1890s and 1900s. Evidence of earlier apple-growing is in what William refers to as the wild apple orchard behind the Walden [check] place.

The turn-of-the century plantings, ca. 250 trees, were in two orchards. The big orchard was largely Northern Spies and Kings. The little orchard had St. Lawrence, Ben Davises, Baldwins, Noghead [check], Wolf River, Macintosh, Fameuse (Snow Apple), Red & Yellow Gravenstein and Verneshkin [check]. What became John Pearse's place had an orchard too with Golden Russets that kept (without refrigeration!) until April or even June. (They had individual pear, cherry or peach trees, but these were never commercial.)

The agricultural calendar started with pruning in early spring. That was much as it is today, except that the only power was arm power. The hand saws had big teeth. All pollination was natural. No bees were kept or rented. By the 1920s, pests were controlled by spraying with a 100-gal. rig with a wooden tank and 100 ft. of hose powered by a 2.5 HP gas engine. Spraying was done mornings after the dew had dried when there was no wind. The sprayer was hauled by a jigger, a 2-horse wagon with a low bed. Sprays were arsenate of lead, blue vitriol (copper sulphate) and the like, "organic" and quite lethal.

Date of picking very much depended on the variety. Pickers picked into half bushel baskets hung in the tree with a metal hook. These were later largely replaced with picking baskets with shoulder straps and an open bottom (so the apples could be emptied into barrels) tied off. Pickers looked like 8-9-month pregnant women. 12-16' A-frame ladders were mainly made at home, using ash for rungs and popple for poles, but sometimes bought. Still, though some were 20', they were never long enough. This was before dwarfs and semi-dwarfs. To get at the apples on the sunny tops of trees, pickers put smaller ladders up in the trees or used pickers - poles with wire cages on the end. The Pearses had a 10-footer with a wood pole and a lighter 14-footer with a bamboo pole. As with to-hand picking, the picker used a twisting motion.

Apples went from basket into barrels on the jigger wagon, then to the barn. There they were capped, pressing the header into place with a hand screw, and moved to the basement. When it was full, extras were stored at Uncle Reuben Barrett's. There was no refrigeration or controlled-atmosphere storage.

The 2 bu. 3 peck barrels had wooden hoops, a softwood bottom and a hardwood header. They were made by someone in Searsmont (though, earlier, barrels had been made in Hope as evidenced by the stave mills). They were hauled from Searsmont piled high in hay wagons and stacked beside the barn. William and siblings John and Flora used to play in tunnels made with empty barrels.

When there were orders to fill, barrels were opened. They would find the good apples and repack them, being especially careful to put good ones at the top. Shipping barrels were lined with newspapers. Each barrel had a printed tag to identify the source and the purchaser's name. A full barrel weighed 140-160 lbs.

Barrels were then trucked to the steamship wharf on Sea Street in Camden for shipment to Boston Market, initially by horse-drawn wagon (or sleigh in winter), later by Model T. The wagon/sleigh could haul 8-9 barrels; the Model T, 6-7. William remembers the Model T's not being able to get up the Camden cemetery hill and his father Ralph's having to carry three barrels up the hill. At the wharf, stevedores moved them down the gangplank to the Boston boat. Many were re-shipped to New York or Europe. The Pearses never saw the Boston merchants to whom they sold and did not have written contracts. The Boston merchants apparently had no representatives in Camden. The Pearses had the labels printed. Payment would come later by mail. We don't know how the price was fixed or whether the seller knew what it was when he parted with his apples.

After the devastating winter of 1933/4, production declined. William estimates that ¾ of the trees died. Some less cold-hardy varieties, like Ben Davises and Baldwins, were wiped out completely. Others, like Northern Spy, largely survived. After the 1933/4 winter, the Pearses left apples for dairy. They were not part of the post-1934 major apple re-planting in Hope encouraged by the New Deal and USDA extension agent Ralph (Pop) Wentworth.

Respectfully submitted,

Bill Jones, Secretary