Saturday, December 11, 2010

How the Ironmaster, Samuel Forbes Ran His Marriage

It seems that in every young man's life eventually comes the thoughts of romance and marriage, so be it with Samuel Forbes who later in his life became known as Squire Forbes the Ironmaster that teamed up with Ethan Allen and John Hazeltine to build the second blast furnace in Connecticut in the town of Salisbury. Although he had already worked for some time in his father's bloomery forge Sam finally reached the point in life where he thought he should be married. The object of his affections was a one Lucy Pierce the daughter of Amos Pierce and a great strapping lass was she.

When he broached the subject of marriage to her father he wouldn't hear anything of it considering Samuel to be a wastrel, so not being one to take no for an answer they eloped to Poughkeepsie New York writing on a single horse. Can't you just imagine the headlines on the “Canaan Post-Dispatch” the following morning, “Heiress Elopes with Ne’r do Well!” Meanwhile the poor horse was all tuckered out from carrying them all away from Canaan to Poughkeepsie a distance around 40 miles that included climbing some rather respectable mountains.

Once the happy couple returned from their wedding and told her father and Amos they were married no doubt Amos Pierce took his hat off, threw it on the ground and stomped on it he was so mad as he bit his cigar in two. It didn't do any good however because the deed had already been done.

Lucy Forbes was supposed to be as much of a Titan as her husband Samuel, so you could just about imagine this coy couple writing off to Poughkeepsie on the same long-suffering horse. When they got back from Poughkeepsie you could just about imagine the horror saying, “Thank goodness that's over!”

Now all I had to be done was designed who was going to rule the roost in the new Forbes house. Being a man of action Samuel Forbes took a long rope and through one end of the rope over the roof of his barn, and told his new bride Lucy that whoever could pull the other over the roof of the barn to the other side would be the ruler of the Forbes household.

He actually said, “And now my sweet, do you draw down on your end and I will draw down on the other end, whichever draws the other over the roof is to rule this roost!”

With that, they each took a hold of the rope on opposite sides of the barn and started pulling. After several hours of this labor of love neither of them could pull the other over the roof of the barn. In the end they both gave up and decided that was how Forbes household was to be run.

Samuel Lucy Adams only had one child a girl named Abigail, but they went on to found an iron dynasty in northwestern Connecticut that lasted for over 150 years with some of their descendents still living at the old homestead in East Canaan, Connecticut.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ethan Allen and his Partners sell the Salisbury Iron Furnace

One thing that can be said about Ethan Allen is that he never did anything in half way measures. A good example of this is how his marriage went, his wife was five years older then he was, and having a sharp tongue she was always on Ethan’s case. Ethan like many other men took to drowning his sorrows in a brown bottle, so much so his friends were beside themselves with his drinking. Like good friends they decided to do something about Ethan’s nocturnal habits like drinking all night.

They decided the best way to cure Ethan was by scaring the Devil out of him by disguising themselves as ghosts and come leaping out of the bushes to scare Ethan. With that decision they dressed themselves up in ghost suits with their wives bedsheets.

Now can’t you just imagine some of the town fathers dressed up in percales! Well, at least you couldn’t accuse them of belonging to the Klu Klux Klan that came along more then 100 years later. Besides that they had a different agenda, namely to make Ethan stop drinking so much, so one dark night in the wee hours in the morning they all got on their percales, and laid in wait for Ethan on the road leading from Salisbury to Lakeville. This road is now Rt. 44, but in those days it was little more then dirt track.

About half way between Salisbury and Lakeville that was known in those days as Furnace Village the road passed through a low, swampy area that was perfect for the “ghosts” to accost Ethan. He had spent the night at the local inn, and had fallen asleep in his saddle while his horse took him home.

As he rode sound asleep in the saddle his friends leaped from the fog that had settled over the swamp a whooping and hollering, and making ghostly noises they succeeded in waking Ethan. He looked out at these apparitions with bleary eyes and declared, “If you are angels of the Lord you are welcome to my soul, but if you are angels of the Devil go tell your master I am married to his sister!”

What happened when he sold his share of the Iron Furnace made the official notices of the Town of Salisbury where the records still are there in the town hall for all to see. The buyers of the furnace were two brothers from Hartford named Caldwell. After all the papers were signed and notarized one of the Caldwell brothers went off drinking with Ethan that lasted all afternoon, and into the evening. Finally they got into a fistfight in the middle of Salisbury. Thereupon Ethan Allen took off all his clothes, and made a good job of the battle with the Caldwell Brother.

That is how Ethan Allen sold the furnace; Squire Forbes retired to East Canaan. Ethan and his family removed to Westfield, Massachusetts where he stayed for a few months before going to New Connecticut as Vermont was known in those days.

In turn the Caldwell Brothers sold the furnace to Richard Smith an English merchant who also owned the “finery” for making steel that was located in the Robertsville section of Colebrook. The steel made there was the beginning of the steel industry in the future United States. The same steel was the Colonists secret weapon in the coming Revolutionary War providing the steel cutters used to bore out the more then 850 cannon cast by the furnace Ethan Allen built. Ethan Allen is rightly one of the great hero’s of the Revolutionary War for which he shall always be remembered, but even without Ft. Ticonderoga Allen would be remembered as a pioneer of American Industry.