The Poverty Year

In the year 1816, throughout practically the entire United States, there was frost every month and snow fell to quite a depth in New England during June. In one town, a man was lost in a June blizzard while hunting for his sheep and froze to death.

The result of this was that this whole vicinity suffered many hardships from failure of the crops. Breadstuffs commanded almost prohibitive prices throughout this and nearby towns. Most of the farmers lost even their seed for the succeeding season.

Among the few farmers in New England who had a good crop of corn that year was “Squire” Thomas Bellows, of our neighboring town of Walpole, New Hampshire, son of Benjamin Bellows, the second settler in that town. He owned and lived on the place now known as the “Stage Coach Inn,” two miles south of Bellows Falls. He had more corn and other produce than he needed for his own use, and what he had to spare he sold in small quantities at the same price as in years of plenty, to such men as needed it for their families. In many instances he accepted labor of the purchaser in place of the cash that the purchaser often could not command.

One day, a speculator called on Mr. Bellows to inquire his price for corn. He was much surprised to learn that it was no more than in years of plenty, and he quickly said he would take all that Mr. Bellows had to spare. “You cannot have it,” said the worthy citizen. “If you want a bushel for your family, you can have it at my price, but no man can buy of me to speculate in this year of scarcity.”

Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.

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