Wish You All a Merry Christmas

December 23, 2014 · Collections ·
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Horse drinking from a watering trough, Harwinton. Photograph on postcard, published by Newman Hungerford, 1906. The Connecticut Historical Society, 2000.179.183

“All are well. Wish you all a Merry Xmas, Mother,” reads the scribbled message on the postcard, which is postmarked “December 24, 1906.” An additional stamped message reads “GREETINGS FROM HARWINTON.” Rather than a Christmas scene, the photograph on the card shows a horse drinking from a watering trough on a dirt road. The card was sent by Mrs.Henry Scovill Frisbie, who lived in Harwinton, to her daughter, Mrs. Darius C. Beach, who lived in Thomaston. Mrs. Frisbie, the former Sarah Ann Batterton, had been born in 1826 in Danville, Kentucky.   She and Henry were married in Danville in 1847, but by the time their daughter Mary was born, they were living in Connecticut. The 1870 Federal Census shows them living in Harwinton with Mary and two other daughters. Henry’s occupation is given as farmer. Mary married Darius Beach in 1874 and went to live in Thomaston. In 1900, Darius’s occupation is listed as laborer. The couple had two daughters. Henry Frisbie had died in 1903, so Sarah was a widow when she sent her Christmas greetings to her daughter. She was eighty years old and was probably living with her daughter Martha and her family. Mary was fifty-seven. Her older daughter Ada had married Eugene House in 1902. Her younger daughter, Vera, was just seventeen and may have still been living at home at home with Mary and Darius. By 1910, however, she had gone to live with Ada and Eugene in Glastonbury.

These were ordinary people but they lived through extraordinary times. In 1847, when Sarah and Henry got married, the Mexican War was going on. The California Gold Rush was still two years in the future. During the Civil War, Sarah’s hometown, Danville, Kentucky was occupied by Union troops, and Darius was a Civil War veteran when he married Mary. By 1906, they would have seen the invention of the telegraph, the telephone, the electric light bulb, the phonograph, the automobile, and the airplane. It’s hard to say how much these modern conveniences would have impacted the life of a farmer’s widow or a laborer’s wife in rural Litchfield County, but utility poles line the dirt road in the postcard on which Sarah wrote her Christmas message. We think we’ve seen a lot of changes in our lives, but so did Sarah and Henry and Mary and Decius.

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New Lead Mine Brook Bridge, Harwinton. Photograph on postcard, published by Newman Hungerford, ca. 1905. The Connecticut Historical Society, 2000.179.189

The postcard was published by Newman Hungerford, a noted collector of stamps and coins who would later be a major donor to the Connecticut Historical Society.   Like the Frisbies, Hungerford lived in Harwinton, and he probably knew Sarah and Henry and perhaps even Mary and Decius. Harwinton was, after all, a very small town.   Another postcard published by Hungerford about the same time shows “The New Lead Mine Brook Bridge.” Once again, utility poles are prominent features of this otherwise rural landscape. In 1923, the bridge would collapse under the weight of a heavily loaded truck. Sarah Frisbie had died in 1917; her daughter Mary died just four years later in 1921, and her sister Martha died in 1923, the year the bridge collapsed. Decius was an old man of eighty-three, still living in Thomaston. He would die in 1925. He is buried in Glastonbury, so presumably he had left Harwinton and was living with his daughter Ada and her husband at the time of his death.

 

Don’t you wonder how Sarah’s postcard came to be in the graphics collection at the Connecticut Historical Society?

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