HISTORY OF THE WELD FAMILY by Hatty Avery
(Read at the Weld Reunion of 1909)
Our earliest ancestor of whom we have any certain knowledge was David Weld who was born in the town of Charlton, Worcester Co., Mass. Feb 15 1773. His grandfather was a native of Wales and one of the early Puritan settlers of Mass.
When a small boy David Weld was bound out to a farmer who was a hard master as may be seen from the following incident.
One day when cold, bare-footed and otherwise scantly clothed, he was riding the horse while his master plowed. "Are your feet cold?" asked his master. "If they are put them in your pocket."
This must have been the proverbial 'last straw,' for the boy ran away and not even when he grew up did he return to his old home. All that he remembered about his family is that he had a sister Betsey.
He was a shoemaker by trade and nothing was known of him after his running away until his marriage at the age of thirty-two to Hannah Foster of Dutchess Co. New York State on the 15th of Dec 1805.
Hannah Foster was born Jan 16 1787 and was therefore eighteen years of age at the time of their marriage. I find no mention of her family except that her parting words to her brothers were, 'I have no greater joy than to see my kindred walking in the truth.' These words were probably spoken when she with her husband and three children; Maria, Harvey and Matilda moved to Middletown Township near Halcottsville, Delaware Co. New York in the year 1810. Quoting from a sketch given by Aunt Fanny Shepard, the youngest daughter, at the reunion in 1892 we have the following account of the journey and the subsequent home.
Trunks and satchels were not easily obtained so our mother packed her childrens' dainty clothes and other necessary articles in a pillow case. Traveling then over hills and mountains was so slow and tiresome, motive power being by means of oxen. Stopping for the night at a tavern the pillowcase together with its precious contents was stolen. Money being scarce the lost articles could not be replaced, hence thorns were used instead of buttons and pins, six brass pins were all she had to use that season.
We of today think ourselves deprived of many things but this is nothing compared with the hardships of the pioneers. Our father fed his stock on browse, limbs and twigs of beech and maple trees. He cut firewood during the day and made boots and shoes at night in order to buy food, while our dear mother, besides keeping house, spun wool and flax and clothed her family. The hum of the spinning wheel could oft times be heard into the wee hours of the morning.
With God's blessing on their united labor they added to their small log cabin a good sized one, built a milk house of stone, barns and sheds of logs. When they decided to move to Steuben Co. about twenty years later they ranked with the well to do farmers of that section.
As is well known Delaware County is in a region of boulders. One at the Weld home near the buildings was of such size that sheep took shelter neath its overhanging sides, while the newly made linen cloth was spread on the top to bleach.
The reason for moving to Steuben Co. seems to have been because the land upon which they lived could not be purchased and their landlord was a man of moods. Their house was of a vast estate, probably of the Patroon system established by the early Dutch settlers along the navigable streams. The Weld home was situated on the east branch of the Delaware River, somewhere between Halcottsville and Kelly Corners. Sometimes after making a long tedious journey to pay the rent in products of the land and home the landlord would refuse to see them, giving as an excuse that he didn't feel well, thus another trip was necessary.
They decided to avoid these hardships in the future by going where land could be purchased. So in 1829 David Weld with some of the older sons and daughters came to Steuben Co., bought the Weld homestead (present) and made ready for the occupancy the following year. They came by way of Prattsburg, N.Y. spending the last night at a tavern in that place. Among the other guests was a man and his wife also seeking a new home. The husband wished to settle near Prattsburg but the wife urged that they go farther west, saying that they could not worse themselves. The Welds could not have felt that they were coming to a very promising country.
At this time the family consisted of thirteen children. The oldest daughter Julia Maria was married in 1830 to an Old School Baptist preacher Elder Isaac Hewitt and remained in Middletown Township, Delaware Co. The second daughter Matilda also remained in Del Co. and married Eber Hill at Middletown but they later came to Rikers Hollow, Steuben County. The third daughter Huldah remained and married Foster Roberts in 1834 and lived near the old Weld homestead in Middletown Township.
When the family first settled at Rikers Hollow the house was of log and was located near the present home of John Drake, husband of Ella Weld, she a daughter of Warren and Catherine Weld. The next year a larger log house was erected near the creek and the oldest son Harvey was married to Mary Degolia of Prattsburg in the autumn of 1831 and went to keeping house. In 1832 the youngest child was born, completing the family of seven sons and seven daughters.
More land was purchased until the farm comprised about five hundred acres. About 1840 the frame house, still standing, was built. The cost of building was about $1,000.00 the house being of old colonial design and measuring thirty by sixty feet. It however has been altered, as we are told of the large kitchen with huge brown square rafters where yarn was hung to dry after spinning. In the fall one would see strings of apples and pumpkin hanging from the rafters to dry.
Then too there were two great fireplaces, one in the kitchen of course and another in the living room. In connection with the one in the living room there was one above it in the east bedroom. They were of stone floor with a stone to raise and dump the ashes into a bin in the cellar below. After a time the fire-places were removed and the closet [built] where the future grand children were spanked [and] put into until such time as they showed better behavior.
In the early times, the hillsides which were thickly wooded, furnished a retreat for many deer.
At the rear of the house was a large stone oven used in the summertime for the weekly baking. We are indebted to Aunt Fanny Shepard for the account of a little incident connected with it. The oven had been heated and swept clean for the baking when a sudden thunder storm came up. The house-cat became frightened and rushed into the oven, this being her favorite shelter. It is needless to say that she left about as quickly as she entered the oven. Later she was found neath the currant bushes with paws and tail sadly burned. While we are speaking of the cat the dog should not be slighted. A medium sized yellow shaggy dog called Ranger, who I am told had a voice like no other dog of that time or of any time since.
It was on the level fields by the creek that a company of militia, of which both the sons Harvey and Warren were at different times captain, had their training. Sometimes the men ate in the long spinning room up stairs and at other times they ate picnic fashion in the fields. The food being gingerbread hard boiled eggs and sweet cider, a hill neighbor Oliver Brownell brought from his wagon as remembered by some of the older grandchildren.
David Weld was a man of medium stature, scanty locks and deep blue eyes,
clean shaven. He was slow of speech and of few words but to those who knew him
those few words meant much.
Hannah Weld was short and thick set, with hazel eyes and a fair complexion. Both she and David were devout Christians and it was their custom to gather the family in daily worship. One of the daughters in speaking of them said "Our father and mother left us no engraved emblems or royal blood however they have bequeathed us a richer grander Christian life and Christian education."
David Weld died Jan 18, 1853 being nearly eighty years old. His wife survived him twelve years, dying at the age of 78.