It was always a difficult ordeal planning a move to a new home or community. Moving across the seas and selecting a place in a strange land to build a new home in which to live, as our early ancestors did, was more difficult than we of today can comprehend. We know the early settlers traveled hundreds of miles to find a more favorable dwelling place. Some walked great distances; some had a horse or two to help carry their few belongings, and the rest were persons traveling by horseback carrying small bundles containing what little they owned. Much has been said of these early hardships and trials, but the settlers persisted, and migrated many miles looking for the right place to start new communities. Hopewell Township started its early growth because of the migrations here that started about 1700 to 1710.
THE FORBEARANCE OF MOVING
Just outside of Pennington going northward along Roger’s Road, he tried to walk the animals down the steep hill. Today, (1978) that hill (old North Main Street) shows that it has been cut down several feet as one comes near its intersection with Rt. 31. The load was so heavy that the horses could not hold its weight back. In the ordeal, one of the horses slipped and fell. Soon, it was discovered that it's back was broken. It was a sad ending, but the horse had to be put to death to ease its severe, agonizing pain.
In Pennsylvania Dutch Country, when someone moves it’s called a “flitting.” However, the World Book Dictionary gives the following definition: “Scottish, to remove, transport, or take away to another place.” Some families moved so frequently, the mother often became very exasperated with the whole idea. One used to tell her family that every time she approached their coop the chickens crouched to have their legs tied. It was customary at that time to tether their legs and place them in a box on moving day.
My parents, Ferdinando Blackwell and Jennie B. Cornell, were married in October of 1897. Dad wanted to farm as his father had done before him. So, in February 1898 he attended a farm sale about three miles east of Pennington. It was held on the upper floor of the large barn there. He was the highest bidder, and left that as the next owner of the farm. He raised his family on that property, and died there in 1956 in the 83rd year of his age. He and Mother used to tell us older children about their moving day. Mother’s father, Charles Cornell, had died suddenly in 1894 and she had inherited part of his estate. She wanted her widowed mother to live with her, along with her sister, Aunt Harriet Larue. So there would be four people to settle into the large 14 room house on their new farm.
They chose the day of March 12th to move. It was beautiful weather and a warm breeze suggested that spring had arrived. The neighbors all around the Cornell Farm where mother had grown up were friendly, willing helpers. They all brought their largest farm wagons with teams of heavy horses to pull them. The furniture from grandmother’s side of the big house was carried out and placed in the wagons. The kitchen range was placed in the wagon that was to come first. After much lugging, lifting and carrying, the furniture, etc. were placed on the wagons, and all were ready to start. It took a good hour for each wagon to arrive at its destination. The roads were fairly good as the winter frost was out and the wagons followed closely, one behind the other. Mother went first, driving her horse, Topsy, hitched to grandmother’s wide wagon. Grandmother and Aunt Harriet rode on the seat with her. They were there first and ready to tell the men where they wanted the items placed. Two neighborhood ladies soon arrived to manage the kitchen and get the dinner together. Mince pies had been made the day before, and the meat was partly cooked. After the kitchen range was in place and the stove pipe fitted into the chimney hole, a wood fire was started and kept in constant operation. There was plenty of wood in the woodhouse, because it was included with the sale of the property in those days.
Enoch Armitage Blackwell and his wife had both died without issue, so many of the tools and farm necessities remained in the buildings. Enoch had purchased this farm from his father’s estate in 1854. A few years later he married a Miss Coleman and brought her as his bride to reside in the large house. Now the house was filled with people from the Ewing Township way. All were helping to place the furniture in the rooms where grandmother and mother directed they be placed. The dining room table was set up and stretched out by adding leaves to make room for all the hungry people to sit down to eat. After the meal it was important to get the beds set up and fastened together by the men. Then the women got busy and made the beds so that the four who settled there could get a good night’s rest. The heavy bureaus had been brought to the rooms and mirrors adjusted. Mother’s handsome wedding gifts were probably kept in their wrappings for a number of days. I never heard of anything being broken. The crew of friends and neighbors must have worked with great caution and care, even though they must have had some agonizing moments when carrying heavy pieces up the stairs. The third floor had its share of family treasures, with one bedroom fully furnished. Mother always claimed that house had such big doors that it must have been made for movings. The neighbors and friends all started for home in the late afternoon when they were too tired to continue. Dad explained that all of the necessary things had been done, and thanked them for their hard work on that moving day.
Contributed by: Alice Blackwell Lewis
Curator Emeritus of Hopewell Museum
Author of Hopewell Valley Heritage
This is an excerpt from a story written by Alice Blackwell Lewis that appeared in HVHS Newsletter Volume III, No. III, April 1978
Flitting, Frederick Bacon Barwell, (c1880) oil on canvas
Shortly before 1800, the story goes, a man from the Pennington vicinity started moving a heavy load of farm products to a neighbor’s. He had a crude but heavy farm wagon and a good team of horses. Just outside of Pennington going northward along Roger’s Road, he tried to walk the animals down the steep hill. Today that hill (old North Main Street) shows that it has been cut down several feet as one comes near its intersection with Rt. 31. The load was so heavy that the horses could not hold its weight back. In the ordeal, one of the horses slipped and fell. Soon it was discovered that its back was broken. It was sad ending, but the horse had to be put to death to ease its severe, agonizing pain shortly before 1800, the story goes, a man from the Pennington vicinity started moving a heavy load of farm products to a neighbor’s. He had a crude but heavy farm wagon and a good team of horses.
The late Clarence Eshelman,
once told the writer that his father always said if a family had four movings, the furniture suffered about as much as it would if had been through a house fire. The Eshelman family moved from Pennsylvania to east of Pennington on a farm. This was about 1915. Clarence married a Pennington girl, Maude Horton, and when his family decided to move back to Pennsylvania, he chose to stay in Pennington to start a new life. Clarence was the Chief of Police in Pennington for many years.