Monday, January 4, 2010

e"D"ith, Delbert, and Pat of Dorchester the family before D Acres

This is a brief history of the events that led to the formation of D Acres

In 1997 Edith Gray lost her drivers license in an examination at age 89. She had lost her husband and daughter about ten years prior. Her rural New Hampshire independence was threatened because she was dependent on the single passenger transportation system.
In 1948 Edith & Delbert Gray, along with their daughter Patricia moved to Dorchester, New Hampshire. Delbert was bred on a dairy farm in the Northern Kingdom and had worked in the woods to pay for a college degree in accounting. Edith was from the urban coastline of the city New Bedford, though of immigrant parents so used to thrifty, simple living and Pat was a newcomer to rural living.
In the early 1800s Dorchester was an agrarian community focused on wool and forest resources. There were 10 schoolhouses and 7 sawmills. The Eliot family, pioneers of this era built the Red Barn and the Gray House in the 1830s. They are buried in the Cheever Cemetery off Hearse House Road. The land in New Hampshire was scoured by the glacial erosion and melting during the last planetary ice age. The soil is mineral rich though lacking organic material compared to our neighbors in the Upper Connecticut River Valley. The thin soil left by the glaciers was degraded further by the deforestation and over grazing of the early 1800s.
As the west expanded, land in the new territories with its rich prairie soil was inexpensive and abundant. Through tax subsidization for troops and the enlistment of its youth, The Civil War drained the town of its treasury and human capital. The decline of the wool market eliminated sheep as a viable primary commodity for the region. The industrial revolution pulled the people to the urban areas as the mills offered steady wages. By the 1940s there were only 90 residents.
Edith Gray had immigrated from England with her family as a baby to settle in New Bedford Massachusetts before World War I. She left Massachusetts for Hartford where she soon met Delbert Gray. The Gray family succeeded in the densely populated east coast continuing to subscribe to agricultural sustainable practices such as completing home repairs themselves, raising mink and teaching decorative arts.
The writings of M.C Kains including the classic Five Acres and Independence inspired them to seek a rural alternative to the pace afforded in the city.
The Gray family bought the Eliot property in Dorchester as a traveling respite for the visits to Delbert’s family in the Mt. Mansfield area. Advertised in a hunting magazine, the property of 200 acres “more or less” was bought for 900 dollars. When rural electrification arrived in Dorchester in 1948 the dilapidated barn and cape house became the full time accommodations for the family. Edith said she cried of loneliness the first year. Then she got involved in the community serving on various “lady’s” committees plus civic organizations like the School Board, Supervisor of the Checklist, Etc.
Delbert Gray had been a successful accountant in cosmopolitan Connecticut before he returned to the Appalachian hills of his youth. Delbert tried various schemes to subsidize the farm enterprise such as selling insurance.. Del finally became an accountant for the State of NH to subsidize his farm and became very involved in civic organizations like the Plymouth State Fair Committee. He was a Dorchester Town Selectman and Tax Collector. Delbert spent his spare time working in the gardens, and with poultry, oxen, pigs and horses. He built furniture and upgraded his home while maintaining farm structures. Blacksmithing and maple sugaring became two of his favorite hobbies.
Edith began her art career with a class in decorating chairs in 1938. She became accomplished in numerous mediums within the American Decorative traditions including gold leaf, mother of pearl, reverse on glass and velvet painting, sewn and braided fabric and was a member of the League of NH Craftsmen. She taught adult classes all over the north country for the League and ultimately in her backroom studio until just months before she past away.
Patricia Gray followed in her mothers footsteps and was an accomplished artist She graduated from the University of New Hampshire as an Occupational Therapist and moved to Connecticut where she predeceased her parents. Delbert and Edith then decided to pass the property to the son of Edith’s brother, Bill Trought. Bill had been a frequent visitor to the NH farm throughout his youth and with his wife Betty had developed a regular habit of visiting the farm in all seasons with their children to enjoy the beauty and recreational activities found in NH. Both health professionals with advanced degrees they had settles in Greenville, North Carolina. Bill and Betty Trought had considered retirement to the woods of New Hampshire and the gift of the property was one step closer to that reality.
The Trought family had enjoyed consistent visits to Dorchester throughout the seasons for many years. Edith dated her studio by her memories of me in a kiddie pool in the foundation. In his eighties Delbert felt his ability to travel would only deteriorate so a cruise down the Mississippi was organized. Delbert Gray past away in 1987. Following his death, Edith continued the rituals of the seasons at the homestead with assistance from long time neighbors who helped with maintaining the garden and the house. At local gatherings and trips to town she enjoyed the flair of costume jewelry and notoriety of being an elderly eccentric “painter”. The farm outbuildings gathered dust and cobwebs sinking into the landscape. In her late 80s, Edith’s vision and dexterity began to limit her artistic expression and mobility. When she lost her license she had driven through a flashing red light with a license examiner in the front seat.

posted from the DAcres Farm by Josh Trought 1/2010

1 comment:

wstrought said...

My Aunt Edith was variously known as Edie, Dee, and, by me, as either Aunt Edie or Auntie Dee (I still do know what I was actually saying, but she responded anyway. So for me the "D" in D Acres represents Dee, Delbert and Dorchester.

Bill Trought

PS> I was outvoted on naming the farm D-cubed Acres.