By John D. Fogg
'Recollections Of A Salt Marsh Farmer'
Edited by Eric N. Small -- 1983
I'd like to mention some of the mishaps I was aware of (which could all have been prevented). Some occurred on the marsh during my years and some before.
My mother, Sarah G.Fogg, told me a story about John Thayer Batchelder (Wallace Batchelder's grandfather) who had a farm just beyond my grandfather's, John Batchelder. One afternoon he was going down to get a stack of hay. He had a pung with a yoke of oxen and a horse on lead. It seems the hay was stacked on a scoot sled so he had to do was hook up to it. (I've seen some of those sleds with hay stacked on them in my day.) He was on his way down this day with his little boy and hired hand, Oliver Wright, of Seabrook. It was on a low run of tide but it seems that there was a bad storm at sea that no one knew about and the tide coming up. He was on the marsh when the tide started to come up but knowing that the tide was a low run, he didn't think much of it. As the tide kept coming he decided to turn around and go back but before he got near shore the tide was so deep he could not see the path. He stopped. The hired man thought he knew the way and went on but became lost in the river and drowned.John Thayer stayed, standing up in the pung and holding his son all night. He survived as did the oxen, but the horse died.
David Batchelder and Orrin Green owned marsh in Hampton. It seems a Mr. Nudd got a bill through the legislature to construct a canal from the Hampton Landing to the Hampton River to shorten the distance for his fishing vessels, in so doing, making a large area of marshland become an island. After the canal was completed they tried to furnish a way for the farmers to go across. They tried first a bridge just for the winter time. That didn't work; next a ferry and finally they dug the banks off like a dock on both sides; those sloping banks came in the thatch grass so making a nice hard bottom that would not wash or change. The canal would drain dry and during cutting time one could walk across at low tide on a sandy bottom. The path was so sound one could cross with horses and mower. In the winter when they hauled hay home there was a certain time when the tide was right and the weather so cold that the creek would be safe. The ice would allow them to cross when the tide was out or even nearly out and the same with tide coming in.
Orrin Green was on his way down one afternoon to get a stack of hay on that particular marsh when he went past Batchelder's. David saw him and went out to tell him the tide would not be right when he was loaded and ready to cross back. David told him he should not go. The creek should not be any more than half full to be safe. Orrin had come this far and hated to go back. Well, he went down, loaded up (by this time the creek was almost full) got almost across when the horses went in, tipping the cakes of ice. He got them unhitched but that was all. The horses drowned and Orrin Green died but he didn't drown. He was probably kicked by one of the horses.
My Uncle Warren Batchelder was mowing on a marsh near the railroad tracks one time when he had to go to the other side to finish mowing. There was no crossing provided by the railroad exactly where he wanted to cross and thinking he could cross anywhere, he did just that. As he started to cross, the shoe on the mowing machine cutter bar caught under the lip of a rail just as a train was coming around the bend from Hampton. It was the two o'clock express speeding its way at 60 miles through its stations. Uncle Warren sent Perley Fogg up the track to stop the train but they did not see him. He had the horses partly unhitched but it wasn't enough to stop both from from being killed. Miraculously he wasn't hurt. He tried to collect damages for his horses but he had crossed the tracks where there was not a proper crossing.
The next story is about a scythe. I was always told never to lay a scythe down but to hang it up in a tree or in some place around the house. If I was on the marsh, I was always to stand it up by pushing the small end on the scythe snath into the marsh. Well, this day Andy Fogg and Charlie Dalton were mowing near Walton Road Dock where someone had layed a scythe down. The horses stepped on it flipping the scythe up and into the horse's chest. By the time the horse had stopped jumping around he was pretty badly cut. I know where that marsh was - I had mowed the marsh across the river on the west side from where they were cutting. They were using Dalton's horse.
Another time Ralph Fish was mowing near our marsh when the horse stepped into the edge of one of those grassed-over salt ponds and even though the horse fell, they had no trouble getting him up again. John True's horse got into one of those grassedover salt ponds and this time they did have some trouble getting him out. Someone went with a horse and pulled him out but in so doing ruptured the horse so that it died some time later.