Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Hebron Historical Society

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by Donna J. McCalla

If ever you want a concise history of Hebron in the early 20th century, all you have to do is study the town’s Annual Report.

Dorothy Ganter Giglio, Elton Buell’s granddaughter, recently donated 14 such annual reports to the Hebron Historical Society, dating from 1909 to 1941. The 1909-1910 Annual Report is particularly fascinating. In it we see how much Hebron has changed… and yet, how much Hebron values have not changed.

In 1910, Edwin T. Smith was serving his second stint as First Selectman. Daniel W. White was still the Town Clerk and W. S. Hewitt was still Town Treasurer, positions these men held for years. Hebron, it appears, took responsibility for the schools, transporting students, care of the sick and poor, maintenance of roads, and reimbursement to farmers for livestock killed by fox and wild dogs. The town was a major employer of its residents, as evidenced by the detailed ledger; every dime spent is carefully documented.

For us in the 21st century, reading the Annual Report is at times funny and at other times thought-provoking.

Particularly hilarious are the references to “tramps.” There are several entries for lodging tramps at the cost of 50 cents each, not only in this report but in other annual reports. J. E. Dingwell appears to have been Hebron’s primary “tramp-keeper.” On January 28, 1910, he was paid $1.50 “for keeping three tramps.” On February 15, he received a dollar “for keeping two tramps”. The issue of “keeping tramps” would become more burdensome over time. (Happily, the Annual Report of 1912-1913 reports Hebron finally invested $5.55 for 26 ½ hours of labor and $2.20 for 221 feet of lumber for a “Building to keep tramps in.” Problem solved, for less than $10!)

Also comedic are the reimbursements to residents for damages to their livestock by wild dogs and fox. D. Brown must have felt that he struck gold when the town reimbursed him $10 “for damage done by dog killing a goose.”

Forget today’s bright orange snow plows. Local residents, such as R. K. Jones, Paul Jones, Rufus Rathbun, and Clinton Buck were paid to “open roads” and “shovel snow” during the winter months. Indeed, L. W. Phelps and his crew of six men shoveled snow for a total of 109 ½ hours – and were paid $16.43 for their efforts.

Dr. Cyrus H. Pendleton was paid $25.25 to serve as Town Health Officer, a position he held for years. In 1910, he reported that the most serious health problem in Hebron that year had been the 53 cases of measles between January and March, “a few of them severe, with two deaths. The two dying were both adults, one over seventy years old.” In addition, there was one case of scarlet fever “almost too mild for diagnosis”, five cases of diphtheria (isolated to two families), and “one solitary case of whooping cough.” Pendleton closed his report by noting that “the ice supply of the town has been in all cases from sources believed to be uncontaminated. Milk producers have, I think, been fairly careful to produce uncontaminated milk.”

Hebron also provided medical care to its residents who could not afford it. There are numerous entries for payments to Dr. Pendleton for his “medical attendance and medicine.” G. R. Woodworth was a particular benefactor of the good doctor’s care, for which Pendleton received $169.15 from the town.

Construction on the Town Records Building began December 11, 1909, and the materials and labor required were extensively detailed. The building required 20,000 bricks, at a cost of $150; 85,800 pounds of cement were used to lay the brick. The Mosler safe cost $90, and a 48-drawer file case and roller shelf case cost $125. We learn from the Annual Report that the roof consists of 250 feet of pine lumber and 4,200 slates, as well as 65 pounds of nails. The total cost of roof materials was $62.21. The names and hours of every worker on the Records Building were carefully documented. In the end, the total cost of the building (materials, labor, and miscellaneous costs) was $1,734.94. But with “Gifts Received” and the sale of materials not used, “Total cost to the Town” was only $1,341.41.

Hebron showed special concern for those residents in need, and helped out in many ways. There are numerous entries of “butter for poor” and “potatoes for the poor” (Paul Coates was a major supplier of these potatoes), and First Selectman Smith was paid anywhere from 50 cents to $1.80 on numerous occasions for “time spent on acct. of poor.” There are also several entries labeled “goods for poor;” primarily this was wood for heating. S. A. Holbrook was a notable recipient of the community’s support. Noble Lord received $22.24 for furnishing goods to the family; E. G. Lord received $12.85 “for milk, potatoes, turnips, and chickens furnished S. A. Holbrook, July 1 to Jan. 1;” and L. W. Phelps was paid $36.87 to provide the family with “8 ¼ cords of wood, sawed and split.” Adelle White, a long time teacher at Burrows Hill School, was paid a total of $13.65 to provide milk and butter to the G. R. Woodworth family, the same Mr. Woodworth who received town-paid medical care from Dr. Pendleton.

Page after page records payment to local residents for work on the roads. The number of hours spent, as well as the total number of employees, was carefully documented. Almost all of the longtime families (Jones, Rathbuns, Porters, and Gillettes, to name a few) are recognized for their work on the roads, but what is more interesting is the constant reference to the teams of oxen utilized. No wonder the Brehant blacksmith shop was so busy! It was one of only a few smithies in the area that shoed oxen.

Dr. Charles Edgar Pratt, Superintendent of Schools, also provides exquisite detail regarding the 10 remaining school districts in his annual report to the town. Teachers were paid anywhere from $7 to $10 per week. The famous Susan Pendleton took over for Alice Slater at the Turnerville School for 9 weeks, and was paid $9.75 per week. Alas, Pratt noted that Pendleton “would not agree to return” for the FY 1910-11 school year.

Teachers were also reimbursed for any “extras” they provided (Daisy White received 15 cents for crayons and 45 cents for a broom at Gilead Hill School.) Other costs were detailed: Karl Links was paid $16.30 for building 163 fires at the Hebron Center School, and E. E. Foote was paid $12 for providing 4 cords of wood for the White School. Teacher Florence E. Smith was paid not only regular wages of $7 per week for teaching at the Jones Street School, but also $3.75 per week for transporting students – the modern day equivalent of a school bus! Tuition at Bacon Academy for the three students who attended (Daniel Horton, Sidney Hewitt and Philip Clark) was $30 each. In summary, Dr. Pratt notes that the total “Cost per pupil” was $25.54 per year after state reimbursement.

Through these Annual Reports, we learn much about Hebron history, and how our community functioned as a highly integral, highly interdependent unit. Each Annual Report is worthy of a book.