Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Malone: Poverty at its roots

Descendant of the Puritan Faith
Malone, no shock to anyone living here for long, had never been prosperous. In the early years, no one had money. Literally. To purchase goods, people bartered. Only one man appeared to own any cold cash—Obadiah T. Hosford. He had two silver dollars that he clinked in his pockets. This had to be quite the status symbol since several histories had noted it.

Hosford ran the Hosford House for thirty years. Seaver said this boarding house was just south of where the railroad crossed Elm—so I believe that was up by Raymond Street. In addition to money, Hosford was said to have been the owner of the second horse in town.

Because of the poverty and isolation, “a common spirit of helpfulness seemed to pervade all hearts” (Seaver, Historical Sketches 26). This time period saw life here “all grim earnest, almost unintermittent toil, privation and poverty without much pauperism” (Seaver 26). In 1825 with a population in Malone itself of about 2,719, only one in every one thousand was a pauper, leaving a total of about eight in the whole county (Seaver 39). The poor at this time were always cared for and our own need caused us to give to one another.

Our communal spirit and concern for one another was seen in things like work bees. Since no one could hire labor nor do it oneself, we worked. Usually for booze. (see my blogs on bootlegging).

Rum and whiskey was freely provided from local distilleries. The most infamous of our five distilleries, “Whiskey Hollow,” was located by the electric plant on Lower Park Street. This brewery lasted the longest of all in the town, and according to Seaver, at one time rivaled the town in importance (411).

Despite our predilection for liquor, which was a puritanical allowance, and old-timer said, As I remember Malone, it was the most perfect representation of the ideal puritanical village” (Seaver 37). This could be taken almost literally since most of the town were members of the First Congregational Church—a denomination descended from the Puritans. In the earlier years, it was fashionable to be a church member.

And if you are aghast at the paucity of entertainment today, the only amusements tolerated, at least according to one private letter, was church, prayer meeting and singing school (Seaver 37). 

Do you know more about Malone's beginnings? Anything to add? Corrections needed? Feedback is always welcomed.
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