Daniel Meader

Daniel Meader was interviewed by Mary Giles on October 29, 1975. He spoke about his life in Westport, the Native American artifacts he discovered, and his farm.

 

I’m Mary Giles, and this afternoon (October 29, 1975), I’m speaking with Mr. Daniel Meader of Westport Harbor. We are going to talk about his life from its beginning – about being born in Lincoln, Rhode Island in a perfectly beautiful home, one that he remembers was reproduced in the St. Louis Exhibition.

 

I lived here ‘til I was 12 years old. It was a real mansion. It was built by Indians for a man who was in love with a girl, who said she wouldn’t marry him unless he had the best house in the country, and he had this house built by the Indians. At that time, he was going with this girl, and when he got it all done, she told him it was too far out in the country, and she wouldn’t marry him. He died of a broken heart.

 

I don’t know how my family got the house. My uncle owned Quncemarket, part of King Philip’s winter quarters. Sakonnet was King Philip’s summer quarters. My uncle owned this land, and he gave it to the state, and it is now ‘Lincoln Woods.’ The state has it for a park now. The rock that Philip stood on when he made his talk to his people is part of that Lincoln Woods.

 

I don’t know anything about King Philip, because that was before my time. All I really know was that they came here. I went to work on a farm here in Westport (Acoaxet), which is now the Acoaxet Club. My sister married the boy who lived on that farm, so when I came down here, I went to work on that farm. I came here on account of my health. In Lincoln, I was working in a stocking factory, and they dye stuff didn’t agree with me, and they told me I wouldn’t live a year, so I came down and went to work on the farm.

 

The mansion had been made into a two family house. On one side my father lived, and he ran a milk business. He was one of the first milkmen in Pawtucket. We peddled it. We picked it up at different farms along the roads. We’d start out at 2:00 a.m., and after it was delivered early in the morning, I went to school. I was about 12 when I left that house. We moved to another farm, and then I came here and worked on a farm over where they had summer boarders. They had 33 – 34 boarders in all, all summer long. They run a four-seated wagon with a pair of horses from there to Fall River, to this New York boat with a load of passengers. Sometimes fifteen came in this wagon from the Fall River boat. I would sleep in the stable with the pair of horses, in the back of the stable with this wagon. I’d meet the passengers coming up from New York for two weeks. Then we’d take the boarders and the freight back.

 

There were other boarding houses here that met people in Fall River. There was a stage that ran to the Harbor. The Howland House had a four-seater that brought back passengers, and so did the Davis house, and sometimes I’d be put on to do that. I’d sleep overnight in the wagon and bring back passengers that came early in the morning.

 

I was in my early twenties.

 

Then, I came and bought this place at 533 River Road. My sister had bought the second house above this, so I bought this one and lived here alone for a year before I was married.

 

My wife came from New London, New Hampshire. I met her when I went to Colby College up in New London. It was called Colby Academy at that time. Well, we were married, and she come here, and when she first come here to live, all we had for water was a whale oil barrel that took the water from the roof to use for dishes and washing. For drinking water, I’d go down to the cistern at the barn and bring back a bucket of water. Well, after we’d been here a while, I put in a cistern and put a filter in the bottom of that, and we’d use that, except for drinking. It was quite a few years afterward I had the water piped from the barn.

 

In the winter, all we had for fires was just a wood stove in the kitchen and one in the dining room. I’d burn seven cords a year. We cut it. The summer people got coal from a two-masted schooner that come to the Charlton house. Some of them had hired the houses, and so there was extra coal, and they gave the coal to the people that worked around here. I got half a load of it and that got me started using coal in one of the fireplaces. This schooner would carry 40 ton of coal and go right up to Admasville with coal. They had a coal bunker there, where people in Westport would come to get coal.

 

The schooner came from Bristol, and also brought in oyster shells. We used to deliver oyster shells. I remember that because when we’d go down to get the shells, we’d pick out some of the oysters that were still good and bring home a pail of oysters.

 

This was before I went to work on the Charlton place. After a while, they fixed their road, carted stone from a place here that had been sold. They used the stones from the old walls. I’d take the big ones from the bottom and put them in the crusher, which stood down at the cross road. Carting this stone to the crusher was the way I got the money to pay for my wife having the baby in the hospital, and I felt pretty good about that. After that, I went to work for Charlton and got $4.00 a day with a team. I had to furnish the team and a tip cart, and I got $4.00 a day – from 7:00 a.m. ‘til 5:30 p.m. Most of the time I run a scoop and took the dirt off the top of the sand and gravel banks. This was so we could make the foundation for the house. In doing this, we uncovered an Indian burial ground. As I’d scoop off, I’d come to black spots, and then we’d come to oyster shells and then to ashes and then to skeletons. They took the skeletons to museums, probably Boston or New York.

 

There weren’t any arrowheads. We had an idea that the Indians were not native here, that they probably were the enemy, because there was another cemetery over toward Little Compton that had the arrowheads or clubs and everything like that. These were Kind Philip’s Indians – Acoaxet.

 

Acoaxet means ‘Black Swan.’ We had a pair of black swans on the pond down there since I’ve been here. We found them shot dead. In plowing, I used to find many arrowheads. Now, in plowing with a tractor these days, we don’t find the arrowheads.

 

I worked at the Charlton house for two years. At the end of two years, the house was finished.   Then I worked around the house for a while. I worked in the garden and so forth.

 

I was married and had my son, Freeman, and we lived here in this house, and I farmed and worked on the roads. I raised corn and oats for all our own feed and garden food. My wife raised quite a few turkeys. At that time they didn’t fence them in the way they do now. It was harder to raise them then. They’d get the ‘black head,’ but she managed. She enjoyed that and would raise quite a few each year. It kept her outdoors.

 

Turnips, they would cart to Providence. We sold some to Amanda Dick. Steve Howland used to run a wagon to cart turnips to Providence. He used to have the summer boarding house just across from where the golf links is today. Steve Howland also got in contact with some people in Providence, and we gradually started in selling milk. We didn’t make much money doing that. We had to get up at four in the morning and milk, and put it in the spring house to cool. They took three or four cans and these had to be out on the road by six in the morning. That was the beginning of the milk business.

 

We gradually got an ice tank in the milk house we built. Gradually we worked up to more cows and larger cans. AT the end, they drove the milk trucks right up to the barn, so we didn’t have to take the cans out to the road.

 

Just after the hurricane (1938), they put me on the police ‘cause I knew all the people at the Harbor. There had been a lot of looting and they put me on one corner and Charlie Dean on the other (later on he became Chief of Police). We only let the people who lived at the Harbor go through.

 

I was here when the hurricane started, hardly knew there was much danger. I was just nailing up barn doors, etc., when a neighbor came in and asked me if I had a boat. I had one. It was up in the hay mow with a lot of moss on it. They said they needed a boat because a lady had been drowned and they tried to find her and didn’t. As we went down to the shore, we got part way and you couldn’t go any further because of the water. So we went over to the golf links and saw they had a lot of boats and didn’t need my boat at all. We saw there was nothing we could do, so we came back, but the hurricane had done an awful lot of damage. On this side, three people were killed. One was washed up into Adamsville; one in a marsh and one who couldn’t be found for three days, was under a house. A wire had kind of been twisted around her throat and she was fastened to a telephone pole. We had to move our cars because uprooted trees kept us out of the barn.

 

I’ve worked for the Westport Harbor Improvement Association for 45 years. We pick up all the rubbish and garbage and take it to the dump. We do that twice a week and we have the bathhouses to take care of.

 

You ask me how old I am. Well, I’m 87 (1975). I don’t do the work any more. Freeman does most of that.

 

When I first started, we got about four or five cents a quart for milk. Though we get more now, we’re not making any more because grain and all that is costing so much more. At that time, oats weren’t more than thirty-two cents a bushel. Now they are $4.50 a bushel. We raised most of our own feed for the cattle. We had our own Johnny Cake meal ground up at Mr. Gray’s mill. He’s still doing it. Stone ground.

 

You noticed this beautiful wall here. Well the walls were built before my time, of course, but the way I understood it, when they built them, they had a big two wheeled gear that had a windlass on it, and they had fur oxen attached to this gear, and they would drive it over a big rock attached to their gear, which had a chain on each side with a windlass. They raised the rock with this. They would start on one end and keep going. There was an old sea captain who owned this place. He was a whaling captain, Captain Chase. I don’t know anything about him, but I was told that he was probably a captain out of Westport Point. I still have a pair of oars about 22 feet long that must have come out of a whaling boat. They were here when we first came here. Old Mrs. Howland, before she died, told me about Captain Chase owning this house.

 

This house had been owned several times by other people and moved up here. Then nobody much came down here in the winters. All you’d see was the light, ‘Hen and Chickens,’ and ‘Sow and Pigs,’ and years afterwards they put a light on the point.

 

Now, we have about 400 hens. I don’t get much. We get 85 cents for the large and 90 cents for the extra large (eggs) and even that doesn’t mean much. We pay $8.90 for 100 pounds of feed. During the forties, we were paying $2.00 for 100 pounds. In the twenties, we got a dollar an hour for road work.

 

You asked about the differences in color in the arrowheads here.

 

Well the black ones probably came from around Newport; the red ones from up around North Attleboro because of the red rocks there, and the white ones from around Lincoln because of the lime. There are lime kilns there.