The following are letters written by Ellen D. Witherbee Atwell in 1899 and 1900 to her nephew Tyler Reed Woodbridge of Victor, Colo. She was age 64 at that time. She tells of her family life, traditions, and some facts of history relating to the Witherbee family, handed down by her parents and grandparents, written at Port Henry. The nephew typed these up in 1900 and inserted some comments.
These letters were sent to me from Bill Knowlton of Liverpool in 2002. Ellen Atwell was his great aunt.
The skein was put on "swifts" and wound from that onto "bobbins" by using a quill wheel. In warping the web they used "raddles," "harness,","reeds," "treadles" and two big beams were also part of the loom. On one of the beams in front the cloth was wound as it was woven. The yarn was wound onto quills and placed in the shuttle and the warp was so arranged that when you put one foot on the treadle it made one half of the threads go down and the other half up every other one. After throwing the shuttle through they press on the other foot and then a swinging beam pressed the threads together.
I never understood the process of warping. My pleasantest recollection of the loom was when I used it as a school house. It was in a cold unfinished room and I left the other children and bundled myself up in shawls and blankets and taught school with imaginary scholars, using "The History of Pisaro in Peru" as my text book. I evidently enjoyed my own company. I sometimes made scholars by dressing up pillows in children's clothes and could make them appear quite real by penciling the face on the pillow case.
Our school house was a cold barn like structure of only one room. There were benches on three sides, the back part where the older children sat being raised a step for each row of seats. In the center of the room was an immense airtight stove which had a capacity for taking in huge sticks of wood - a hot fire was kept up to warm the children on the back seats, while the younger ones near the fire were nearly roasted.
A certain amount of knowledge was necessary to obtain a certificate to teach and much stress was laid upon moral character and one's ability to govern the school. Beach rods were used on the boys to enforce discipline and a ruler for the girls. This severe punishment had the effect of making the scholars worse instead of better and, strange to say, boys seemed to think it rather manly to receive the punishment and were rather proud of it. Any disobedience, even whispering, was sufficient cause to order the victim to take off his coat and receive his punishment which often produced large welts on his body.
Every child between the ages of five and twenty-one drew public money but not sufficient to pay the expenses of the school, so every parent had to pay something for every child. To make the burden less, the teacher was obliged to board around from house to house, a certain time being apportioned to each scholar.
Joan Daby is town of Moriah historian.