Everyday Life on an East Andover Farm in 1902

Excerpts from letters written by Nannie Robie to her brother, Robert Robie

By Rita Norander


Robie Farm on Cilley Hill Road. (Sam Hill Road today). Taken approimately 1895.
L to R: Nannie Robie (my grandmother & author of letters), Samuel (her
father), Abbie (her mother), Robert (recipient of letters), hired hand or
neighbor, Susie (Nannie & Robert’s sister), a hired hand or neighbor.

One of my winter projects this year was to better organize my family pictures, genealogical material, and historical information. While doing so, I re-discovered several interesting, family-related items which I enjoyed reading once again. I hope you will enjoy reading this one, too.


My previous two articles used information relating to my grandfather’s side of the family – the Herseys and the Eastmans. Today’s article is based on material from my grandmother’s side of the family – the Robies and the Kenistons. This article relays information from a series of letters written by my mother’s mother (Nannie Robie) to her brother (Robert Robie) from April 14, 1902 to July 23, 1902. At that time, the Robie family (4 girls and a boy) were living on Cilley Hill Road (Sam Hill Road today). Samuel and Abbie (Keniston) Robie purchased the farm from the Weare family in 1895.

Nannie was 16 years old, and Robert was 23, when she was writing these letters which kept him abreast of family and hometown news. Robert was working as a hired hand, first in Amherst and later in Lakeport. It was common practice in those days for the boys of the family to work for a time on someone else’s farm. They would be using the skills learned from their father on the family farm, while at the same time gaining experience on how other people ran their farms. While working for others, they would receive a salary which they probably didn’t receive while working at home. The letters begin in April, so Robert was most likely helping with the spring chores, such as, preparing the land for planting, mending fences before the animals were turned out for the season, and helping with the milking and care of the animals.


(Some changes – omissions and additions – were made for easier reading. I have included the names of relatives and neighbors who Nannie refers to, as many of these people are mentioned in Ralph Chaffee’s book East Andover And Its People. Maybe some of them were former owners or residents of “your” house!)

April 14, 1902. Dear Brother: Pa went to Franklin Saturday and traded two of the pigs for a young hog with Frank Gilman. We are going to kill the two pigs under the barn on Thursday. The old hog up in the barn had three pigs Friday, and the one under the barn had six this morning. The lamb isn’t doing very well.

Guy and I went with the butter. (Guy Hersey was a hired hand on the Robie farm. He and Nannie would marry in September of 1903, on Nannie’s 18th birthday.) For the Grange supper tomorrow night, Guy has to carry (bring) a half pound of butter, and I have to carry a pie. Is there a Grange in Amherst? How many miles from Manchester are you, and how do you like it? Is their farm close by the village? We went to church yesterday. Are Mr. Odell’s folk church members? I suppose you have been to Milford some with the milk.

Uncle Merrill and Aunt Deborah were here last Tuesday. Oliver Rayno’s folks have another child. True Fifield died a week ago. Rena & her father called here yesterday. Nellie Morey is keeping school over in Webster. (Nellie was my mother’s teacher at Dyers Crossing School from 1914 to 1920.) Mother mended the canvas coat as best she could. We’ll send the coat and shirts on Wednesday or Thursday. Let us know when you get them.

April 15 – I will add a few lines more before I send this. Pa, Guy and Paige (another hired hand or possibly a neighbor) are fencing between us and Ben Swett (Ben’s farm was on Lower Tucker Mountain Road – today’s Valley Road). Pa saw Mrs. Aikens down to Franklin with Topsy (horse) yesterday. The first time she has driven her. We turned out four cows and the young cattle this morning. Ed Morey (road agent & neighbor) is putting dirt in the road by the bridge this afternoon. Guy & Paige sawed up the old logs beside the hen yard yesterday.

April 26, 1902. Dear Brother: Pa went up to New London yesterday and bought some oxen. He got them from Austin Morgan. They are well matched, dark red. We have had a mixed up shower of rain, hail, thunder & lightning. The Grange was going to set out trees today, and the women were going to furnish dinner. I guess it is so rainy they won’t. The May Ball is going to be May 7th. Henry Weare died yesterday morning. Pa and Ma went over to Sanbornton last Tuesday. Out of four settings of eggs, we have gotten 15 chickens.

A part of Warren Daniel’s barn burned last Saturday night. (He was a prominent Franklin mill owner.) It caught from an electric light. Nettie Durgin is going to be married before long (She had been Nannie & Robert’s teacher at Dyers Crossing School). Noble Bolby is studying to be a minister. Aunt Minnie and Aunt Etta were over and took dinner with us Wednesday. We got a letter from Ada (their sister) and she said Will had rather sell the wagon and sleigh, but that he would take them back providing you pay him ten dollars for the use of the wagon. My picture came a week ago last Thursday. It is pretty good. (I have a copy of this picture.) You need not give it away; you can show it to them if you like.

Oh! How is Mrs. Odell’s 16 year old sister? How did they come to get dropped for non payment of dues in the Grange? Are they so poor they couldn’t pay, or did they neglect it? Do you intend to stay more than a month, and is he a good pay master? Write Soon. From Nannie

East Andover, May 2, 1902. Dear Brother: As mother is going up to the village this afternoon, I will write a few lines to let you know we are all well and hope this finds you the same. We had dandelions for dinner today. Old Hannaford is dead, and so is Harry Dickerson’s baby. He died last Sunday night of tonsilitis. The funeral was last Tuesday.

Well! Frank Shaw and Gertie were married Wednesday night over to Tilton. They are spending their honeymoon in Lowell. Scott Kelley got hurt again. He broke his arm this time, so he can’t dress nor feed himself. Mrs. True Fifield is going to have an auction tomorrow afternoon. We have only 9 little pigs left. Colby & Durgin had 3, and Charles Stone had 11. Susie’s (another sister) dog is a good one to drive cows. We made the men folks help us Wednesday, and we regulated (straightened up, maybe?) the kitchen cellar and shed chamber. Are you coming up to the Ball? Please write and let us know if you are.

From your sister, Nannie


The above letters were written while Robert was working at the Odell farm in Amherst. My next article will include material taken from letters Nannie wrote to Robert while he was working in Lakeport.