Etta Allen Palmer
Etta Allen Palmer was interviewed by Mary Giles on November 4, 1975. She spoke of her life in Westport and her family.
I was born in Fall River in 1895, and my father’s name was William Allen, and my mother was Clara. I am Etta Jane Allen Palmer. I was born of a family of ten children, and we came to Westport Point every summer to live. The big house was down right next to where Amber Columbia lives. It was torn down after my father sold it, after my grandfather passed away. My father had a sick spell, and he had to retire from the city. He had charge of all the streetlights in Fall River; that’s when they had the little gas lamps. And then he bought horses for the City of Fall River, and when he had this breakdown, the doctors told him to get some rest, and he moved down here to Westport for the year, but he wasn’t satisfied living down here in the village, and he heard of this farm being sold up here on Drift Road. It belonged to the Allens years ago, and he thought that one of Daniel Allen’s boys was William Allen, and so he went up and bought the big farm and that’s when we all moved up here. ‘Course come of the older boys had got married and was gone away. There was quite a few of us still. I must have been six or seven; I’m almost 81 now. He hired a man to come to start plowing the fields to show him how to plow and what to plant in the big fields up there, some of them 10 acres, and then he went to work and had hen houses built, three of them, one was for hens and the other two were for broilers. He raised broilers. He got incubators and hatched eggs. Oh! I used to love to watch those little chickens come out of those eggs.
Yes, the house we lived in on Drift Road is still there. I don’t know who lives in it now. When Mother broke down and had to move away, he (father) sold it to a Macomber, and then he sold it to a Ferguson, and I don’t know who owns it now. It’s right on Drift Road overlooking the water. There’s quite a laneway that goes down, and across the road there’s a good ten-acre meadow, and that’s where the Indians lived when Daniel Allen bought it from them. There’s a knoll that comes quite high on the North side, and it was understood that when the Indians sold it to Daniel Allen, the knoll was like a little hill, and that was the Indian’s burying ground. You go right down to a little knoll that sticks out into the water. The Allens agreed that no one would ever disturb it.
But, we heard later that the Historical Society of New Bedford was out a lot digging there, but as long as we were down there, my father would never let anyone touch it. My brother, George, found a lot of arrowheads all through the lower meadows. While he gave some away, he saved some, and after his wife died, the girls broke up his home, and he said he don’t think they knew what it was (the arrowheads). I think that they’d been all over that hill before we got it. We never found anything like mortars or anything. All my father did was plant clover on it to keep things like flowers growing on it. ‘Course we loved it up there, that farm and that meadow and the water. My brother has a book on all the Indians that lived here, and it says they were the ‘Acoaxets.’
My brother’s name is George Allen; he lives at 242 Palmer Street and he’s got the book. He knows all the Indians, where they came from and where they settled. His wife bought him that book years ago, and he loves it.
And so, Eleanor, his daughter (George Allen), went and got the book and looked it up, and it was the Acoaxet Indians. They were over here across the river, on the West River, and they decided to move, so they came across and went up the East River and landed there. He could tell you more if he didn’t get too tired ‘cause he has a pacemaker in too, but he loves to talk to anybody about things like that.
I don’t know whether that lovely field of clover is still there or not. When I was riding with Mabel Crosby the other day, she pointed out some beautiful cedar trees that had grown up in the field where the clover used to be. ‘Course, the Allens bought quite a piece (of land) from the Indians down there, just down from where the Beatties lived’ it’s Eleanor Raposa’s now. It seems that Mr. Beattie gave Ernest quite a strip of that land. But that’s where the Allens started from; they walked up through the woods and notched trees with a hatchet, and he went way up over Mabel’s (Crosby) land from he river, and then he’d come down, it used to be the Potter farm, and then Sam Tripp owned it before he died and he sold it. He notched up as far as Sam Tripp’s, he took in that farm, the big pond and the brook that runs down into the river, and that pond comes from boiling springs there. We used to skate there in the winter. It took in an awful big strip of land. I know he divided it to either two or three of his sons, ‘cause one bought the place where we lived, and my father says he thinks his name was William Allen. And then, there was another son who lived way up South of where Mabel lived. The Hallworths lived there; I think they’re gone. When he went walking and notching trees, there wasn’t any Main Road then. Daniel (or it may have been Humphrey) notched way over West of the Main Road. I should judge that he walked about as far as the Main Road, only the Main Road wasn’t there then. I should judge that that was about as far as he walked. I know he had 18 children. No one ever heard of a Humphrey, but my father used to speak about Daniel Allen, and he named one of his sons, Daniel. He named the oldest son after his father, Eli – the one that built the whaleboats down here for years. The last one he built, was the Kate Cory. Now I’ll tell you, what’s that boy’s name, William Kugler was related to him; his mother or grandmother was a Cory. It must have been his grandmother that married the Reverend Kugler. He was the first minister to have this church down here, and they wanted another whaleboat made, and they went to my grandfather to do it, and he had Mr. Charles Sisson in with him to help him. It was built right down here at Westport Point, right down here at the end of the street. You know, when you go straight down the street to the water, right where the old bridge used to be. You just turn in East right where the Paquachuck is, and he owned that land from there all around to the right where the bridge came in, and he had a big boathouse there. And I have a picture of that. It was my grandfather, Eli Allen, who built that Kate Cory, and when they sold that Inn down there, William Kugler found an iron chest somewhere upstairs in that building, and in it, it told how many barrels of nails were sold to Eli Allen to build the Kate Cory.
My brother, George, says he thinks they’ve got it (the iron chest) over at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford. That’s what grandfather always did, always built whaling boats. That was the last one built. Have you heard how the whaling boats went out? Well, they couldn’t go through the big harbor down here, because it was so narrow. Horseneck Beach was an island, and up there at the ‘Let’ there was a big gapway opened, and that’s where the whaleboats used to go in and out.
Too bad Cousin William Brightman isn’t here; he remembered it. William Brightman was my fahter’s cousin. Cousin William’s mother was my grandmother Allen, Julia Brightman. She married Eli Allen and that’s where my sister, Julia, got her name. You know Julia (Etta Palmer’s sister who was granddaughter of Eli Allen’s wife, Julia). She’s Julia Mosher – she goes up to the Friends Church. They come all the way from East Bridgewater. She once lived in the same house you (Mary Giles) live in now. We used to go there a lot. For school, I’d stop to change my clothes and up the lane with Mabel to go there.
There used to be a cabin or something as you go up that lane (to Mabel’s from the river). There’s a chimney there, and we used to call it the chimney lot. It’s been known like that for quite a few years, and my father said that at one time, there was an enormous big fireplace that had been built with quite a chimney, and it stood there for quite a while. It was not all gone by the time we moved there, going up toward Mabel’s on your left hand side, West of the Drift Road. Where they’d (the houses?) burnt down, there was an enormous pit of charcoal. My father sent us up there to get a bag of that. He said that it was just as good as any that was (available).
There was a path worn from there, south a little ways, to a big boiling spring. Oh! I wish I could get up there. I could show you the house we lived in when I was a little girl. I don’t know whether Eleanor Beattie, I still call her that, ‘cause I helped take care of her when she was a little girl, and I helped take care of her mother, Eleanor Raposa, I don’t know whether she could tell you more, because it was her grandfather that bought the place. They were the ones that built those great big wide walls that go up and down the road there. We used to run up and down ‘em. Them walls are beautiful.
I’ve had a couple of falls and hit my head, and since then, I don’t seem to remember, as I should. I had one this summer (1975). I have Dr. Kirkaldy. He said it was a slight concussion. I couldn’t do without him. I was one of his first patients; everybody loves him.
What did we have to eat on the farm when I was a child? Oh, dear! We have everything there on the farm. Oh my, I can’t really tell you. I know I never cared for wild animal. We had chickens and pigs, and of course, we raised the cows there, and we had our own milk. I don’t think we ever butchered the cows; when they got old, he’d sell them.
Of course, with my horse, when she got old and couldn’t go too good, I said to him (father). ‘Don’t ever sell Eva ‘cause someone might mistreat her.’ He had Mr. Hitt, Charles Hitt, come up and put her to sleep, and she was buried right there in one of the meadows. I don’t know where. I got her when I was younger than 15 – 16. I used to drive her all around. My family never bought a car. We always had horses and wagons.
My father died quite a time ago, up at East Bridgewater. My mother’s health broke down; she couldn’t breath or anything down here, and they advised her to move inland, and of course, we was most all away from home but Juila. She got married to Harwood Mosher and Howard bought a big farm, and they all went up there. My mother and father both died up there.
When I got married, February 12, 1914, Etta Allen of Westport married Frederick W. Palmer of Westport. We were married by Edward W. Macomber, right in the house where Dr. Kirkaldy lives now.
My husband always lived here. He was born at Westport Point, way down in the village, about two-thirds of the way down to the wharf. Well, just above Berth Johnson’s, there’s a lane that goes in there. My Great Aunt Christina Allen called it Thanksgiving Lane. And where Bertha lives, right next to it, coming up this way, is where her sister and her folks used to live in that big house, and there’s a lane in there that goes right down towards the water, and in there is a house, and I lived in the old end when I first got married. I went in there; on the other side they built on to it and Aunt ‘Janie’ lived on the old side, and that’s where I went in to live, and then when that was sold, I came up here. You see, Grandfather Palmer had bought this big house and land, and then he divided it. Mr. Cote wanted half of it, the other side of it. This farm goes just down to the brook. There’s a big meadow here that my boys plant in the summer, and then down below there’s quite a slope that goes way down to the brook, and that’s where we own, as far as the brook. We used to slide down this hill. My husband bought this that fall, just after we moved here.
Two years after we were married, Raymond was born, and a year and a half after that, Frederick. He’s the Police Chief. And then there was Albert; he’s about two years younger than Billy (Frederick). I have the three boys, that’s all. Raymond and Billy were born in the Union Hospital in Fall River. I had the flu when Albert was born, and mother insisted that I wasn’t going to no hospital, and she had them bring me up to the farm, and she was there and she had some nurse there and the doctor, Dr. Wordell from Adamsville. I pulled out of it, and when poor little Albert was born, they told me it was a boy and I said, ‘I don’t want it. I don’t want no part of it.’ I wanted a girl the whole three times, and then they told me I’d have to name him, and I didn’t even want to name him. I didn’t want him, and my older sister, Myrtle said, ‘Well, I’ll name him; I wish he were mine. I’m going to name him after Albert, the one that died,’ my brother, he’d just died, I think. Losing him (brother) and having the flu, and everything was why I was the way I was. Albert, well, I wouldn’t part with him for all the money in the world.
Raymond works over at the shipyard. He got relieved from this case he’s on now (jury duty). I can’t afford to live on $12.00 a day (the pay for jury duty). He lives up at the end of Sanford Road, and he goes fishing and he comes here and cooks my dinner at night. He’s very fond of spaghetti and meatballs.
Many a night I just have the water on. We don’t have hot water here (1975); we just have water from the cistern. All we have for plumbing is a faucet from the cistern and the well. Our well water we have to get from the well outside. No bathroom. If I want to take a bath, I get my tub. I can’t do it now; I have to have the nurse come and do it. She gets the water from the well in two pails. I have a regular big round tin bath (tub), but Raymond usually goes home for a bath ‘cause he’s got a bathtub, but we’ve never got to it to put one in.
At the farm, we had a dry well, and then we drove one into that, and that’s how he got water enough for all his hens. And he put a pipe through and put set tubs in for my mother. He did put a pump in for the water to come in the house so she wouldn’t have to draw water.
I can remember Uncle Edward Schyler Smith, the one the folks bought the farm from. He used to come to Fall River in the fall. He’s the one that owned your (Giles) place before Mabel’s (Crosby) folks bought it. I think he married one of the Allens. He had a great big long white beard. After he sold it to Joe Ball, he moved up to where Howard Benson lived with his nephew. That’s just before you get to Perry’s stand on the other side of the road.
I had homemade dolls, and we ice skated at the point at what we used to call Potter’s farm.
The climate has changed terrible. I’ve seen it (snow) in great big drifts, and we didn’t have snowplows, and everybody had to get out and do the shoveling. This was in the middle of February. And I can remember that my husband would sail all the way up the river with iceboats, all the way up the river. They raced up the river.
Oh boy! We used to have wonderful times, clam bakes, home baked corn and potatoes, and my mother’s folks might come from Fall River. Not too many carriages, toward the end, there would be cars, and father made a long table under the maple trees, and father kept it all mowed so nice. I remember walking up with Mabel, and she let me help milk the cows with her. There was only one cow she let me milk and that was Daisy.
After we moved up here, my husband took a notion he wanted to have a cow. Many a night he went out fishing and lobstering and it was pretty late when he got home. So I’d have to go down into the lane, bring the cow up and milk her, so she wouldn’t have to suffer ‘til he got home. He just went lobstering in the summer. He’d gone (lobstering) all his life. He’d just go in the summer – don’t matter what the weather was. He didn’t stay overnight; he’d always come home.
In the winter, he’d just not do much, except make new lobster pots, knit the nets and he’d taught me how to knit. He’d do that all winter. We used to sit and knit.
One year, he was out, and there’d come up a terrific fog. Raymond was out too, and he was with his brother, Henry and Fred, and towards night, I got the lantern and went down towards the wharf and made him a wave with the lantern. I was worried. Oh, it was terrible. And, Will Head and George Manchester, and a lot of the others were there, and I said, ‘What’s their change of getting in tonight?’ And they said, he’d better stay out there and anchor in somewhere, then run on home, and I said ‘If he anchors out there in fog like this, he’ll never make it to come back,’ and I was pretty upset. I said, ‘He’ll never make it.’ Well, it got to be around 2:00 o’clock when Al Lees (Senior) down here at the wharf called me and said, ‘They’ve made it. They’ve got to the Harbor Wharf.’ He said he didn’t know how they’done it. He said that he was going right over there with his truck, if he could make it, to get some of their lobsters. They had over a thousand pounds and the wells wouldn’t hold them all and they were dying. They left the boat right out at the Harbor Wharf and Raymond went into a house to call over here to them to come for the lobsters. Mr. Lees put the lobsters in crates in the water, and the next morning he took them to Fall River to sell.
We used to go once a week in the truck to collect rent from the tenements we owned, and get any groceries we needed. Then there was a store here owned by the Tripp boys, and they sold it to John Fish.
I know when I got my horse, ‘Eva,’ I was 15 or 16, and I’d go as far as Lincoln Park and leave my horse there in a stable that was run by Mr. Lawrence, and he used to run the stagecoach through here and he had two for quite a while. The mail came through to Fall River and at Lincoln Park on the way to New Bedford. They’d leave mail off for Westport and then he’d stop different places with it. I suppose at Central Village and Westport, ‘til he got to the Point.
I remember Mr. Lawrence. I remember that after I’d say to him, ‘I wish you still had that stagecoach.’ There never was a bus up and down Main Road. They were going to start a streetcar, but they only got a little ways on the Horseneck; the tracks were there for a long time, but they never finished it.
I could drive my horse up to Route 6, and then get on the trolley and take it to Fall River, and then I’d walk up the hill to Locust Street, that’s where we lived, right by the park there, ‘Ruggles Park.’ We lived right up through there, and I’d go up and collect rent for my mother, and I’d go up and pick up a few things in town ‘cause she’d done an awful lot of sewing and knitting, and then I’d come all the way back to the park and he’d hitch up my horse for me and then I’d come all the way back to the farm.
My mother made most of my clothes, but the men would buy their clothes. She’d buy a bolt of cloth, Julia could tell you. When she’d make Julia and Doris and I, they was all the same kind, the same make. She had a pattern and she’d put it down and cut them out. ‘Course we were different sizes, but we all had the same, always a ‘plant.’ She was great for ‘plant’ dresses. And she’s knit a lot. She taught us all to knit. I don’t know about Julia, but she taught me, and for Christmas, we’d make little knitted neckties for the boys and aprons for the girls. Then, she taught us how to make the ‘wristlet’ arm elastics that they wore then, and then we’d make the stockings.
And the boys would have to make something for us. I want to show you what my brother, George made me when I was about 12 or 13 years old. My brother, George made that cross. He went up in the woods and cut a stick, whittled it all down and made the cross for me and stained it.
My husband, Frederick W. Palmer, was born in February 1886.
We took my sister, Myrtie’s son and brought him up, never any partiality. He works at Frank Brayton’s garage at Adamsville, and he comes here Sundays and has dinner with me.
The Allen lot is in the cemetery here, one says ‘Eli Allen’ and the other says ‘Julia Allen.’
When I taught Sunday School at the Point, they gave me my Bible.
I went to school up above the Drift Road. There used to be a watering trough there. We kept warm with wood stoves. Mabel (Crosby) went there too. There was a boiling spring for water. Mr. Tripp used to take us all up in a bus, and Annie Hallworth went with us. Mr. Hallworth had two or three girls.
I have eight great grandchildren.
Maude Brownell lives where I grew up with our family. Maude’s mother and father lived on the first floor, and we lived on the second floor when I was a little thing. The great big house was Mr. Sheldon’s.
My husband and I were with Dr. House in New Bedford. My husband had Parkinson’s disease.
Edna Tripp on Drift Road was another friend. We’d come down here summers before we moved to the farm. We’d come down to the church here. One of my sisters was married here, she married a Gifford.
In the evenings at home, there was a fire in the fireplace in the parlor, and my mother would play the organ and my father could play the violin, and we sang songs and played, mostly our music. We all loved it. All our evenings were musical evenings.
After that little school, Mabel stopped, and I came down here to the Point School in the 9th grade. Then I went to high school at the Milton Earle.
When I was 16 or 17, I worked for $3.00 a week, and my father had plans for me to go to Moses Brown. I worked for the Crippens, and I saved my money, but I told my father that I didn’t want to go to Moses Brown, and I got my way.
My mother and I took the trolley in to New Bedford and we went looking around the Star Store. I said I just wanted to see women’s coats.
She (mother) was born about Civil War time.
My father went off to college to study to be a chemist. He gave lessons in chemistry to all the young doctors back from college. He taught them that they could make gas cheaper than the oil for the lights. His lab was in the basement, and he was experimenting and the house blew up. I can remember the doctors going down taking lessons in chemistry.
Ann’s mother of ‘Fred and Ann’s’ (Annie Robbins) was the one they called “Little Orphan Annie.’