The very early settlers of Bartlett
1780 to 1800 Page 4
The George family came to Bartlett from the very nearby Albany Intervale, moving there from Conway in 1800.
While they did not arrive in Bartlett until 1815, their story up until that point is an interesting tale.
In the book PASSACONAWAY IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS, the author, Charles Edward Beals, Jr, describes this picture as "The Historic George House". It was later to be the residence of R.P. Colbath. Today it is the Historic Russell Colbath House.
SOURCE: PASSACONAWAY IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS Charles Edward Beal Published in 1916
During the year 1800, Austin George, with a large family (fourteen children) drove up from Conway to the Passaconway intervale, known as Great Valley,and built a large barn of hewed and split white pine from top to bottom. No labor was wasted, for the timber grew upon the very ground which the settler wished to clear. The men chose rift trees, split the boards, shingles and planks and smoothed them with an adze. A log-house was built and finished in the same way. One or two neighbors came with this family, but made no preparations for permanent settlement, and, after two or three years, went back to Conway. Mr. George's oldest son brought his bride from Conway to live with the family. Doubtless owing to the hardship of pioneer life, sickness came to the family. A daughter, nineteen years of age, died of consumption. The nearest neighbors were ten miles way. The poor mother was forced to make all the funeral preparations with her own hands. Friends arrived later and the customary burial rites were observed.
The father, Austin George, was a scholar and a great reader. He taught his children geography, grammar, arithmetic and history, and in later years some of these frontier children became among the best school teachers In the country.
So cold was the climate that corn and wheat were out of the question; in fact, the only vegetables they could raise were those which frost could not kill, such as cabbages, turnips, onions, and potatoes. Although the soil is unusually fertile and free from stones, so very short is the season between frosts (for ice often forms here in July and August) that only the fast growing vegetables and those that can survive the frosts can be relied upon. The girls and boys reaped abundant crops of hay, while the father cultivated the garden. The mother, by hand, wove the clothes for the numerous members. The entire family had to turn to and toil from daylight to dark in order to eke out their meager existence. There were no drones in these early families.
Times grew harder and harder in the George home. The cattle died of the "Burton Ail," (see side bar) no remedy at this time being known. A hurricane swept through the very center of the valley, tearing up trees by the roots. Everything in its path, which was a half mile in width, was laid level with the ground. The hurricane crossed the valley from northwest to southeast.
In 1814, the family decided to abandon the place. Two sons had left and enlisted in the war against England, one of whom was killed at the Battle of Bridgewater in July, 1814. In October of the same year, the oldest son moved his family away. The now aged father decided to stay long enough to feed his stock the supply of hay on hand, while his family lived on the produce they had raised, as it was impossible to move these supplies through the forest and Mr. George had nothing with which to buy more. Until March, 1815, he remained, when, taking his family, which now consisted of a wife, three sons and three daughters, he moved to Bartlett.
Mr. George felt very sad over abandoning his home in the intervale, and, although he lived twenty-four years longer, he never could bring himself to visit the spot again and see the, abandoned home. Thus Mr. George derived no benefit from the years of toil and hardship which he had put in here.
For ten years the old George homestead was left to transient hunters, trappers and perhaps bandits. Yet its occupancy by the Georges had proved that, despite Chocorua's curse and the rigorous climate, human beings could exist here.
In March, 1824, nine years after Mr. George had left, Mr. Amzi Russell, who had married the granddaughter of Austin George, moved into the old house and the settlement was begun in earnest; and never afterwards, up to the present, although time and again sorely tested, has it been entirely abandoned. The building was in a very dilapidated condition, having been used by rough men from time to time. The beautiful white-pine finishing had been ripped off by these vandals, who used the wood as fuel with which to cook their venison and keep themselves warm. The Russells had every reason to believe that the house had been used as a meeting-place by men who came from different parts of the country and who seemed well acquainted with the place. Evidently it had been a rendezvous for brigands who met here by agreement to divide their plunder or bury their treasure. A horse was discovered in the month of March by some of the Russells who were hunting.
The family worked industriously on their farm and existed on what "garden truck" they could raise, which fare was supplemented by a plentiful supply of game. In 1833 the Russell brothers built a mill at the lower end of the intervale. Here they sawed lumber for the valley and made trips to Portland to haul lumber to market. At Portland they could procure supplies for their families. On these trips they would also bring back goods for the traders at Conway, and this helped to pay expenses. They managed to subsist by such activities and by farming. Happily and contentedly they lived, and made what improvements they could in addition to their regular tasks.
Austin George had fourteen children, the first three of whom are buried in the Russell Cemetery in the Albany Intervale. Daniel George, a son of the pioneer, had a daughter, Eliza Morse George, who married Amzi Russell, son of Thomas Russell. Mrs. Russell lived to be over ninety years old. She kept a manuscript from which were taken not a few of the facts here recorded. The children of Amzi and Eliza Morse (George) Russell were Martha George Russell, who married Celon Russell Swett; Thirza Russell, who married Andrew J. Lord; Mary Russell, who died young; Ruth Priscilla Russell, who married Thomas Alden Colbath and lives in the historic old George homestead, and who for many years was Postmistress; and Flora Emma Russell, who never married. To Mrs. Colbath the present writer is deeply indebted for access to the Russell Manuscript and for letters supplementing the account given in said manuscript. Mrs. Colbath, as her acquaintances can testify, is a woman of superior intellectual ability and moral excellence, and scores of people, in many states, take pride in calling her their friend.
The reason for writing so particularly about the George family is that not only have very reliable records been kept of the hardships endured, which hardships were typical of those necessarily endured by all the early families, but because Mr. George's long stay laid the foundation for a permanent settlement in the Albany Intervale.
Old Jack of Passaconway - Expert trapper and guide. circa 1840
Chocorua's Curse and Burton Ail Disease: "May the Great Spirit curse you when he speaks in the clouds and his words are fire! May lightning blast your crops! Wind and fire destroy your homes! The Evil One breathe death on your cattle! May panthers howl and the wolves fatten on your bones!"
Such, the legend tells us, were his final words.
For long years thereafter, the area's small colony of hardy pioneers is said to have experienced a succession of devastating reverses of the kind Chocorua had named. According to one writer, "The tomahawk and scalping-knife were busy among them; the winds tore up trees, and hurled them at their dwellings; their crops were blasted, their cattle died and sickness came upon their strongest men." Wolf and bear raids on livestock were also blamed on Chocorua's curse.
It is a matter of record that cattle in the town of Burton at the mountain's base did regularly sicken and die of a strange disease, which settlers attributed to Chocorua's malediction. The disease was known as "Burton's Ail," and in 1833 townspeople went so far as to change the town's name to Albany, in hopes of disassociating it from its reputation as a killer of cattle. (Fruitlessly, it would seem, since Benjamin G. Willey, writing his "Incidents in White Mountain History" more than 20 years later, reported that "to this day, say the inhabitants, a malignant disease has carried off the cattle that they have attempted rearing around this mountain."
Ultimately, it was discovered that high concentrations of muriate of lime in the local water supply were responsible for the suffering and death of Albany's cattle. A simple antidote consisting of carbonate of lime administered in the form of soapsuds or alternatively, meadow mud, put an end to the problem. The cattle ailed no more, and the superstition died.
Gilly - Fox - Willey
Late in the year 1777: Paul Jilly, Daniel Fox, Captain Samuel Willey, from Lee came and settled in Upper Bartlett. Sources say they located to the farthest end of town, which at that time would have been in the Chadbourne bequest.
There seems to be little mention among local historical authors concerning Mr Jilly or Mr. Fox, other than shortly after their arrival their horses departed on their own for home in Lee. They never made it home becoming lost in the forests and it being winter, starved to death. The horses remains were found in the Spring.
Jilly and Fox may have simply lived lives of quiet desperation...or perhaps contentment...performing no achievements of particular interest, like the majority of people. However a map dated 100 years later shows no mention of their names or next generation names in the location they settled.
Captain Willey was the first to leave after his horse "took-off" for home in Lee shortly after their arrival. The Captain moved to Conway where he purchased a tract which he farmed. He lived there until his death in 1844 at age 91, the last of the remaining original inhabitants of that town.
Captain Willey had a son, Samuel Willey Jr, who in the autumn of 1825 moved himself and his family into what would later become famous as The Willey House. It had been built earlier by a Mr. Henry Hill who operated it for a time as an Inn. It had been abandoned for several years when the Willey's moved in and they set about making improvements and added a barn,
All was fine until in August of 1826 the well recounted event occurred known later as the Willey Slide, which devastated the family and ironically the event helped make the area famous as the story was reported in all the major city newspapers. If you don't know the story it can be found easily with a google search.
The site became an historic site and drew many people from far away to visit the site. The mountain at which their house was located was named Mt. Willey in their honor.
Incidents in White Mountain history - by Rev. Benjamin G. Willey
"The History of Carroll County", 1889, Georgia Drew Merrill
Bartlett NH - In the Valley of the Saco - Aileen Carroll - 1990
Lucy Crawford's History of the White Mountains - circa 1860
REPRESENTATIVE CITIZENS OF The State of New Hampshire • BOSTON -
NEW ENGLAND HISTORICAL PUBLISHING COMPANY 15 COURT SQUARE 1902