Landscape and Material Life in Franklin County, Massachusetts, 1770-1860

The Little Brown House on The Albany Road

was often at his brother's house, and that he haunted the home of the hero listening eagerly to his door-stone tales. Nor can we doubt that here was born the spirit of research which seized upon the wide awake boy, and that in this primary school he began the study of the "Art of War." In his "Antiquarian Researches" General Hoyt does full justice to the heroism of his aged mentor, and many a vivid scene of Indian warfare therein pictured was doubtless in language heard from one who could say, "All of this I saw and part of which I was;" and the old warrior could have asked no better medium for a history of his deeds. These stories which our three steadfast friends had heard rehearsed a hundred times in the earlier days, the oven, the window and the fireplace now heard repeated to a new circle of listeners, gathered in the old kitchen; for John Hawks, the newcomer, had all these tales by heart, and took due pride in recounting the deeds of his grandsire. But the times had changed; blessed peace flooded the land, and the stories fell on comparatively listless ears. Epaphras and his coterie had no successors here. The hearthstone was no longer presided over by Mars, Clio or Urania. With the passing of the shadow, the heroic days of the little brown house vanished for aye.

But the shifting scene had not left the hearthstone desolate. On the ruins of the temple of Mars, the genius of music now established an altar. The first offering upon this was the babe, Charles, the first born of John and Emily, his wife, who in due time became a devotee of Apollo. He was a teacher of sacred music, a long time leader of the village choir, and, perhaps, through a strain inherited from the hero of Fort Massachusetts, he was also a lover of martial music, organizing and leading the village military band.

Charles Hitchcock, son of Deacon Justin and brother of President Edward, born on the adjacent lot, was the next occupant of the little brown house, with the additions of his "Aunt Spiddy's porch" and "Aunt Spiddy's bed room." Charles was a man of versatile tastes, with strong salient points in his make-up. His regular occupation was farming, but in common with his "Uncle Ep" he had a taste for local history. He was overflowing with stories and anecdotes relating to former generations of his townspeople which he had accumulated, the greater part of which are now, alas! lost forever. The Antiquary must not be held accountable for the loss of this inside view of the society of old Deerfield, for at the date of Deacon Hitchcock's death he had not been invested with the robes of the "Oldest Inhabitant." He had, however, heard enough from the lips of the Deacon to become aware that here was a rich storehouse of local lore; he had called the attention of Professor James K. Hosmer to the fact, and had arranged for an interview in the little brown house, when Mr. Hosmer was to take down Deacon Hitchcock's stories in writing. This movement proved too late; on the very day appointed, Deacon Hitchcock was called to a bed of sickness from which he never rose. This circumstance is told as a much needed warning to many who might profit by it. There are Hitchcocks and Hosmers of various grades in every community.

Taking the warning to myself, I proceed to make a record, that of all the salient points in the character of the new owner of the little brown house, Deacon Hitchcock's love for music was the most notable. That was unmistakable. To this the oven, the window and the fireplace will cheerfully and unanimously testify. For it was still before the days of the iron stove and tin oven that the singing master entertained at all hours of the day and untimely hours of the night his friend the minister, a musical composer and writer of hymns. Here it was that new theories were

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This page was last updated on 11 Feb 2006