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Henry Reuben Taylor & Gertrude Hammond Family History (1877 - 1952)

Henry Reuben Taylor & Gertrude Hammond Family History (1877 - 1952) - Stories


History of Early Youth and Teenage Years

  • Plymouth, Vermont & Carlisle, Massachusetts

Henry Reuben Taylor was born in the town of Plymouth, county of Windsor, state of Vermont on 03 Oct 1877, as the oldest son of Warren Reuben Taylor and Augusta Bates.  There were two children in the family, himself and his younger sister Stella who never married.  When Henry was in his early teenage years, his Mother Augusta bought and ran the Travellers House Hotel in Sherburne Center, which is pictured in one of the accompanying photos as it looked in 1897.

As described in the Town History of Killington, Vermont, the hotel was build in 1840, enlarged for a tavern in 1863, and run by Benj. Maxham for 18 years.  In 1889 Augusta Bates Taylor, great aunt of Oren Bates and grandmother of Mrs. Florence Taylor Hall owned the hotel.  In 1891, Ida Perkins married Horace Wilson and they lived at and ran the hotel for seven years.  There was no running water, so they drew a barrel of water daily from a spring barrel and watering trough 500 ft. away (at the post office).  Horace bargained with Mrs. Taylor that if she would provide the pipe he would dig the ditch, which he did.  After it was laid, she mentioned to him that it hadn't been covered over.  "That's right, Mrs. Taylor, I only said I'd dig the ditch."  So she had to pay for covering it, much to her dismay.

The Taylors always reserved a room for themselves in the hotel in case they came to Sherburne on business.  They also owned the Michael Smith House next door and occupied it on the 31st of March each year, bringing livestock with them from Plymouth to escape the higher taxes on personal property in effect in that town.  In fact, this led to a lawsuit filed by Plymouth vs. Sherburne to recover lost taxes.  Testimony of Mrs. Wilson clinched the matter concerning their residence in Sherburne, and Plymouth lost the case.  This lawsuit was reputed to have cost $30,000 to pursue, but the actual figure was probably $3,000, and still a grand sum of money in those days.  There was bitterness over this lawsuit, as reported anecdotally by one of Henry’s daughters, Florence Taylor, since the prosecutor who lost the case was a Republican who ran the town of Plymouth at that time.

The Taylor hotel and house were located on farmland, which was the source of the food for both the family and guests who stayed at the hotel.  So as a youth, Henry tended the animals and crops to become familiar with how to earn a living from running a farm.  This was hard labor, since much of the work was done with horses and oxen.  Hay for the cattle and horses was harvested by horse drawn mowers and rakes and pitched by hand into the barns.  Winter heat was obtained by logging trees on the mountainsides, and then cutting the logs by hand, so that the cut pieces could be split by axe to a size to burn in the fireplace.   It was during one of the firewood splitting work sessions that an axe head came loose and penetrated so deep into Henry’s skull that it could not be removed.  For the rest of his life, that axe head remained embedded in his skull.  Most likely due to this skull injury, another injury followed during a heavy logging operation, where he severely injured his spine so badly that he could never walk upright again, giving him an awkward hunchback appearance.  His nickname after that was “Humpy,” and a name he did not like.

Gertrude Hammond was born on 20 May 1881 in the town of West Medford, Middlesex county, Massachusetts.  She was one of 5 children (all daughters) of Thomas Hammond and Susan Lydia Rounds, who was born in Massachusetts in Nov 1857.  Not much is known about Gertrude, except that she grew up in Carlisle, Massachusetts, which is where Henry probably met her during one of the Taylor family business trips to secure equipment and supplies for their hotel and farm.

Baptism of Henry Taylor's Mother, Augusta Bates Taylor

  • Ottauquechee River in Sherburne, Vermont

Madeline Fleming’s “Informal History of the Town of Sherburne” gives the following story about baptismal events in Sherburne, Vermont:

“Opposite the Davis house was a deep spot in the Ottauquechee where river baptisms were held by the Adventists. Ida Wilson recalled one occasion when there was still snow on the ground . . . (where) several sleighs or sleds carrying the (baptismal) witnesses wound along behind the Davis barn toward the creek. One farm sled had been fixed up temporarily with a plank seat, not nailed down, driven by Henry Taylor (father of Florence Taylor Hall, who still lives along the River Road). As they neared the river, for some reason, Henry stood up, perhaps to better guide the horse, and in so doing his rather portly mother (Augusta) upset the delicate balance of the plank seat, raising Henry’s end which went up and tipping Augusta’s end which went down, dumping her into a snow bank, much to the amusement of the witnesses.”

“At another time, Augusta herself was officially baptized by water instead of snow in another spot where the Ottauquechee River follows the River Road opposite the cemetery. Mrs. Ida Wilson, who was asked to be a supporting witness when Mrs Taylor was immersed by Elder Davis of the Adventist Church, related the event to Mrs. Fleming as follows: ‘There were many interested spectators lined up on the cemetery bank near where the Ottauquechee comes almost to the road. Mrs. Taylor was a heavy person and proved a weighty armful as the Elder Davis lowered her into the water. She realized that the cold water would take her breath away and make her gasp. She could be heard in more than a stage whisper pleading, “Just a minute; just a minute,” until she could ready herself for the cold dip.’

Mrs. Wilson’s father was an Adventist minister and she questioned him about the wisdom of baptizing people in the wintertime. But he assured her that he had performed many such baptisms and never heard of anyone suffering any ill effects from such a praiseworthy ceremony.”

Where and How Henry and Gertrude Met and Married

  • Sherburne, Vermont & Burlington, Vermont

The circumstances of how Henry happened to meet Gertrude and how their courtship and engagement occurred are not known. Henry was a handsome man, but he was disabled and disfigured from his accidents earlier in his youth. It is likely that Henry’s mother Augusta or Father Warren Reuben had some influence in how the two came to meet each other.

Henry and Augusta wed in Burlington, Vermont on 16 Sep 1907, just a few weeks before his 30th birthday, which would be considered a late marriage by the standards of those days. Gertrude was age 26 at the time, which was also later than normal for those times. The young family moved to the town of Sherburne, Vermont, where Henry purchased farm land that was next to his Mother Augusta’s property, and bordering on a swampy riverbed channel that he planned to drain to claim more fertile acreage suitable for farming.

The house where the family lived was built in 1869, and is pictured in the photo attached. It was a large 3 story building and was lit by kerosene lamps in the early years, and then later by light bulbs strung from a long cord running through the house, all energized from a single electrical outlet.

A picture of the front of the home taken in July 2005 shows granddaughter Amie Taylor Dronsejko (daughter of Warren born 1919) and great granddaughter Mary Katherine Taylor (daughter of Warren Jr born 1945).  The side view of the home shows these two with Amie’s husband, Frank Dronsejko.

Eight Children of Henry and Gertrude

  • Sherburne, Vermont

Between the years of 1908 to 1924, the young couple had eight children, the seventh of whom, Ruth Rebecca, was stillborn. The large family supported itself by dairy farming, cultivating food crops, haying, logging, raising hogs for slaughter, and raising and breeding chickens and pigs.

The first child born to the young couple the year after they were married was a son George, born in 1908 (married Isabel Perry). A son Gardener was born two years later in 1910 (married Dora Coccarelli), followed by three daughters: Susan born in 1912 (married Maurice Prior), Florence born in 1915 (married Herman Hall -- Oscar), and Grace born in 1916 (married Rev. Melvin McGaughey). Two more sons then followed, Warren born in 1919 (married Amelia Grace Wargoski), and James born in 1924 (married Barbara Powley). This made a total of seven children. All seven children married as indicated, and most were able to have children of their own. The direct offspring from those seven number about eighteen in the second generation.

In a picture of this section, Henry's Mother, Augusta Bates Taylor, appears with all seven children in the family.  She is age 75 in this photo and is holding the newborn child, James Taylor.  Names and ages of all children are listed in the photo.

Henry and Gertrude Latter Years

  • Sherburne, Vermont

When the last son James was born in 1924, Gertrude was 43 years old and Henry was age 47. All seven children worked together on the family farm to raise their own food with their dairy farming, home gardening, chicken ranching, pig farming, and hog farming business. The years were happy industrious years of very hard farm labor, but the family of dirt farmers was literally “dirt-poor.” There were several years in the mid 1930s when the family could not pay their property taxes levied by the town. So for one year, the boys stayed home from school to work and earn extra money by logging, so as to pay off the several years of property taxes that were in arrears.

Then one day in the late spring of 1934, Gertrude became sick and stayed that way for over a week. She delayed seeing the doctor. The family had little money and was busy with planting and cultivating the new spring crops, picking wild strawberries, and bringing in the first wagons of new mown hay. Unfortunately, Gertrude was unaware that her sickness was due to acute peritonitis from a burst appendix. Gertrude died on 08 June 1934 from complications of appendicitis at age 53.

Her untimely death put a great strain on the youngest children -- James age 10 and Warren age 15. Florence was teaching elementary school nearby in the town of Wilmington at the time, and she became the substitute mother for the two young boys. Henry was still able to be around the home. However, disability from the axe-head buried in his skull and his hunchback condition limited his activity.

Henry had so many severe injuries that brought him near death during these days while he tried to help out with the farming work, that he was reputed to have “nine lives.” His son Warren (born 1919) recounts some of them. “He fell off a load of hay one time and landed square on his head and broke his neck. He had to stay in bed for a long time after that. He got struck by lightning one time. They pulled a load of hay into the barn. And a thunderstorm was there, and they had just barely gotten it in. And he sat down in the hay, on the ground, with his legs spread apart. A bolt of lightning came down and struck right between his legs and burned a hole right into the hay. And he had to drag himself home about three quarters of a mile on his hands and knees, dragging himself. And he recovered from that. He broke his arm one time in the woods. We always had to cut wood to keep warm in the winter.”

Henry had many grand children in the local Sherburne Killington Vermont area, and in latter years enjoyed passing time visiting with his grand children, teaching them Vermont hay farmer wisdom with his wry humor, playing games and telling stories, and helping them with their light farm chores and gardening work. One day in the spring of 1952, he was feeling head pains, supposedly due to his skull injury. He went to visit the Burlington Hospital to alleviate the pain, but he never returned home alive. During that routine hospital visit, he died on 25 May 1952 at age 76. Cause of death was a blood clot to the brain. His daughter Grace (born 1916) was a nurse at the same hospital and called the Warren Taylor family in the town of Chittenden to inform them of his untimely death.

Memories of Grandpa Henry Reuben Taylor in 1950, 2 years before his death, are the following as recounted by his daughter in law Amelia Wargoski who wed his son Warren (born 1919): “Grandpa Taylor used to love to come and stay with us. Before, while we were building this house, we were living in the Nutter (family) house across the Otter Creek River tributary. We rented that house, and Grandpa Taylor used to find every excuse he could to come to stay with us while we were there. He loved my cooking, and he loved my baking. Always looking for an excuse to stay with us. And he was a pleasure to have. His stories he would repeat over and over, because he would forget that he had already told me a particular story. He was a sweetheart. He had white hair, and he grew a beard. The older you get, the harder it is to shave. Especially in those days, with a straight razor where you used a leather strap to sharpen it. So when they got to the point where their hand shook too much, and they couldn’t shave, then they grew a beard. And he looked just like Santa Clause. Every year, the Rutland Herald Newspaper would send a reporter out to take a picture of him.”

There are only a few pictures of Henry, which are after age 60, and none of Gertrude that are known, either earlier or later. The picture attached is one of Henry with a few of his grand children taken in 1944 when he was 67 years old.

Prize Winning Essay about Henry Reuben Taylor, “Story of an Average Vermonter”

  • Proctor, Vermont

One of the grand daughters of Henry, Amie Lou Taylor (offspring of Henry’s son Warren born 1919), submitted an essay for her Proctor, Vermont High School English class.  The title was:  “The Story of an Average Vermonter.”  This essay of memorable recollections of Henry Reuben Taylor’s life won first prize as the best in her class, for which Amie was awarded a gold watch.  Here below is the essay that Amie submitted:

“Frustrated cantankerous old fellow” (1) and “the cocky old goat” (2) were used to describe him.  He wasn’t the sort of fellow that one reads about in the newspapers.  He was an honest, homey man who lived his life in a quiet but typical Vermont manner.

He was born in 1876 and was schooled in Plymouth, Vermont, where he was a classmate of Calvin Coolidge.  At 29, he married Gertrude Hammond and soon moved to Sherburne.  He purchased a farm there adjoining the farm that he one day hoped to inherit from his mother.  He borrowed the $1400 to buy the house from John Davis in 1907 and paid at a 6% interest rate.  At the conclusion of the repayment of the loan, all the family gathered on the front lawn with Mr. Davis to witness the burning of the mortgage. (3)

He had a particular reason for choosing the farm that he bought.  The fields were flooded in the spring due to a natural barrier located on the Bates farm (his mothers).  He realized that someday he would own both farms and be able to alleviate the condition, gaining many extra acres of valuable flat growing lands.  His second youngest son, Warren, tells of contributing his entire life savings of 65 dollars earned from trapping, to aid in paying for tools, including a shovel, to dig out the area.  Every spare moment was employed down at the river bank with a shovel, digging drainage ditches with limited success.  Although this was a lifetime goal, it was never fully realized. (4)

Life was hard in those days.  He did many things to sustain his family’s existence.  One summer, he raised 100 hogs and sold them to the Albany (NY) packing company.  Milk from his cows was sold to the Crowley Cheese factory, and the cream that wasn’t picked up by a Boston firm was churned into butter and peddled weekly in Rutland. (5)  Another year, his wife was in charge of the raising of 1200 hens. (6)  He also resorted to more traditional methods of making money.  He maple sugared every spring, cut and sold logs, had a herd of 20 to 30 cows, and raised vegetables, both for selling and family consumption.

Even with limitless industry on behalf of every member of the family, they were always very poor.

“We were always broke.  Never had anything.  We wore hand-me-down clothes and lived in rags.  It was amazing even that we got a hold of enough to keep us going.  But we were happy – as happy as we could be.” (7)

For several years, taxes couldn’t be paid, so he kept his last two boys home a year between grammar school and high school.  During these two years, he finally got caught up on his taxes.

He was rather restrained in his dealings with the town’s people.  He wasn’t the type that mingled. (8)  This attitude might have been attributable to his physical stature, which was a mere five feet and hunchbacked.  The townspeople called him “Humpy” behind his back. (9)

He was, however, well enough thought of around the town so that he held numerous offices.  From 1919 to 1935, he held town positions varying from school director to grand juror, auditor, and agent. (10)

As the years advanced, so did the size of the family.  By 1925, he had four sons and three daughters.  In 1934, tragedy struck the family in the form of his wife’s death.  This placed an increased burden upon his family’s already strained existence.  Her hard work and cheerful disposition had always been a light in the dark, and things were much altered by her demise.

He was always too busy to neighbor.  In fact, his neighbors remember him only for his antics.  One relates how he used to lock up any of her livestock in his barn if it wandered across the boundary.  “Then he would come over and pound on the door,” she said.  She went on to say that one time he came over with one of his sons and asked if he could cut a few hemlocks.  Not knowing why he wanted them, she somewhat dubiously acquiesced.  By the end of the day, he had fashioned her a nice new gate because he felt that it might help to keep her cows from escaping.  She guessed there was some truth in poet Robert Frost’s saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.” (11)

Another neighbor should remember his Yankee shrewdness.  Upon arriving at his pasture one morning, our typical Vermonter noticed a new calf was missing, but he mentioned it to no one, not even to members of the family.   Well, at the town meeting the next year, a neighbor came up to him and asked, “Hey Humpy, did you ever find out what happened to that calf of yours?”  He looked him right in the eye and said, “Why yes, I did.  You took it.”  “How’d you know?” was the somewhat taken aback answer.  The immediate response was, “I never told anyone about it, so the only ones who knew were the person who did it and me.” (12)

One time, he had a misunderstanding with the church people and temporarily refrained from attending services.  Some farmers came to him and asked if they could conduct a horse drawing contest on his property Sunday mornings.  They offered him five dollars for the right, and he agreed.  However, as the church was experiencing monetary problems, he contributed the money to the church coffers.  A while later, when the church was more financially prosperous, a group of citizens drew up a petition asking him for discontinuance of the horse drawing.  His reply was, “The money is just as good, whether from under the devil’s belly or over his back,” but the horse drawings were stopped. (13)

Medical facilities were poor, and many times he was on the brink of death.  On one occasion, he fell on his head off a wagon of hay, breaking his neck.  This injury disabled him for five or six months.  He experienced the harsh diseases of small pox, diphtheria, and scarlet fever.  An acute case of appendicitis called his eldest son home, causing him to miss his high school graduation.  The head of an axe lay buried in his head too, but was unable to kill him.  The will of the Vermonter was able to overcome all sorts of death warrants.  Relatives often referred to him as, “a man of nine lives.” (14)

He had a reputation as a smart man.  After a while, no one would play checkers with him because he beat all comers.   His sons used to challenge him to games of chess, but they never beat him.  When he could find no one against whom to play, he would engage in ceaseless games of solitaire.  He had a fantastic mind for figuring.  He could do the most complex algebraic problems in his head.  While most people had to have a piece of paper, a pencil, and an hour, he needed only a little chore to keep his hands busy and a few minutes of thought to correctly solve the problem.  Word problems are still circulating through the family which he did mentally, which puzzles presented hours of calculations to others. (15)

Perhaps the most famous word puzzle, passed down through two generations of family, that he loved to pose to confound people is this one:

“The combined ages of a ship and its boiler are 49 years.  If the ship is twice as old as the boiler was, when the ship was as old as the boiler is, how old is each one?” (15b)

The horse power provided by real living horses was most common to him.  Roads were rolled for sleighs rather than plowed for cars.  Many were the days when he borrowed a team of oxen from a friend in Plymouth and snaked logs from the woods.

“A team of oxen could snake a bigger log than a team of horses.  They would just lean against the yoke, chewing their cud.  You could holler at them and whip them and they wouldn’t move a bit faster.” (16)

A little later, he got a Model T truck which he used to peddle his butter in Rutland.  The weekly Rutland trip took place on dirt roads, winding up through Sherburne Pass.  It was a tough drive occupying an entire day for the round trip.  The journey was utilized not only for vending purposes but also for buying all the supplies which would be needed for the coming week.

With the automobile age came the electric age.  Kerosene lamps had always provided light, but now with the changing times, electricity too came to his house – one electrical outlet.  He couldn’t afford to have the house wired, so one outlet provided all the electricity, via miles of lamp cord throughout the entire 3?story house.  (17)

Yet he was old fashioned in some ways.   He was dead against smoking and drinking, except for medicinal purposes.  In fact, he kept a bottle with him justfor such purposes, used only for sickness. (18)

An individualist was one thing that he always was.  In a state where a Democrat was an oddity in those times, he was a Democrat. (19)  This tendency dated back to the days when his father was imprisoned for debt.  His family fought the case and $30,000 later emerged victorious.  The prosecutor was the Republican who ran the town of Plymouth.  The money that went to fight the case was to have been destined for his college education and so his enmity toward the Republicans is quite understandable. (20)

He had a dry sense of humor, like many Vermonters.  A favorite pastime of his as he got older would be to sit in his rocker by the fireside and compete with his sons in a story telling contest.  He would start out by relating a mildly fantastic or funny story, and each person competing would try to out do the previous one.  Those listening to the contest would usually be besides themselves with laughter, but those participating would never crack a smile. (21)  His humor went beyond the bounds of the family too.  Many times he would ask a cashier in the A&P Grocery Store if she had seen Ann Page around. (22)

Our character is not unusual.  He is just a representation of an age in a particular era and area.  He was a Vermonter by heredity, by birth, by action, and by choice.  He was an average Vermonter.  He was Henry Reuben Taylor – my grandfather!

(1)               Mr. David Edgar (home Sherburne, VT), interviewed by Amie L. Taylor 11:30 AM 26 Feb 1966.

(2)               Mrs Hazel Taylor (home Sherburne, VT), interviewed by Amie L. Taylor 1:30 PM 26 Feb 1966.

(3)               Mrs Florence Taylor Hall (home Sherburne, VT), interviewed by Amie L. Taylor 11:00 AM 26 Feb 1966.

(4)               Mr. Warren Taylor (Pittsford, VT), interviewed by Amie L. Taylor 8:00 AM 16 Feb 1966.

(5)               Ibid

(6)               Mrs David Edgar (home Sherburne, VT), interviewed by Amie L. Taylor 11:30 AM 26 Feb 1966.

(7)               Warren Taylor, op. cit.

(8)               Mrs Hazel Taylor, op. cit.

(9)               Mrs. David Edgar, op. cit.

(10)          Walton’s Vermont Yearbook, 1919-1921; 1927-1935

(11)          Mrs David Edgar, op. cit.

(12)          Warren Taylor, op. cit.

(13)          Mrs Florence Taylor Hall, op. cit.

(14)          Warren Taylor, op. cit.

(15)          Mrs Amelia Wargoski Taylor (home Chittenden, VT), interviewed by Amie L. Taylor 10:30 AM 20 Mar 1966.

(15b)   Warren Taylor, Jr.;  remark inserted 16 May 2008.

(16)          Warren Taylor, op. cit.

(17)          Warren Taylor, op. cit.

(18)          Mrs Hazel Taylor, op. cit.

(19)          The Rutland Herald, 21 May 1948, under picture.

(20)          Mrs Florence Taylor Hall, op. cit.

(21)          Mrs Amelia Wargoski Taylor, op. cit.

(22)          Mrs Hazel Taylor, op. cit.