The Oxen

By John D. Fogg

'Recollections Of A Salt Marsh Farmer'

Edited by Eric N. Small -- 1983

Section 10

In the same era of the gundalow, it was the time of the oxen also. The farmers could raise the steers and keep the best workers for oxen, sell the others for beef. The farm boys would have a good time in breaking the steers to work. Horses were too expensive in those days but they did need one horse for driving and helping with the farm work.

The farmers didn't have enough tillage needed to raise the hay and grain for all their livestock so that is why the salt marsh hay was in such great demand.

The farmers made their own yokes and bows. Most had a shop of their own with a forge and all the tools to go with it, making and repairing broken chains and any iron work. They would congregate at someone's shop on stormy days, winter and summer. There was always plenty of work.

When it came to shoeing the oxen, that was a different story. They would go to a regular blacksmith's shop where they were equipped with a sling to lift the oxen off their feet to be shod. When they did go to have the oxen shod, there would be others to go have theirs done also. This was a help to one another in the shoeing along with helping the blacksmith too.

Now, Sarah E. French from Fremont had four stacks of hay. When they came to haul it, they came with two yoke of oxen. They could not make the trip in one day so would put up for the night at some farm.

Stephen Brown and Perley Ladd have made two trips in one day with his Devon cattle. George R. Gove, another from Kensington, hauled with a yoke of oxen, having a horse on lead. Ralph B. Fish hauled with oxen. George Arthur Evans and boys would haul John Colby Evans, all from Kensington, with oxen. John Thayer, David F., and Warren H. Batchelder from Hampton Falls all used oxen.

I have heard that Charles I. Ackerman, a shoemaker, living at Hampton Falls Hill, as saying that he saw over 100 teams of oxen with sled loads of salt marsh hay come up over the Hill from Brimmer's Lane, Depot Road and Murray Row going towards Kensington and Exeter in one day. John N. Sanborn, John C. Sanborn and George J. Curtis all used oxen too, with lots of others from Hampton Falls and Kensington.

The oxen may have been slow but think of all those stone walls that were built in those old days. There's more to a stone wall than just what you see in driving past. There is the foundation for one thing that you don't see. When it came to hard pulls the oxen were ready and no jumping. Those animals would pull steady and hold the load or whatever it was, even to setting a long heavy stone gate post.