The first town meeting was held Baptist meetinghouse in spring of 1796. Named after Providence Rhode Island, the first settlers were Seth Kellogg and Nathanial Wells. About 1814 a store, tavern ,and distillery were built at Hagadorns Mills. In 1797 the first blacksmith shop opened. The town had an excellent water supply and heavy forests. Industry included chairs with rush seats, wooden pails, tubs, wooden rakes measures, lumber, scythe snaths. (A snath is the long, wooden shaft to which the scythe blade mounts) wooden brush blocks which would be sent on to correctional institutions where inmates would insert the bristles, and a casket factory.
The Baptist and Society of friends meeting house were the earliest churches Baptists organized in about 1790. When the great famine occurred in Ireland in 1860 a large influx of families came to settle there. The history of Providence is scarce it’s neighboring settlement of Fish House acquiring most of the growth and notoriety.
Early settler David Barker built a sizable residence along the river in 1796. Originally meant as an inn it had 26 rooms and 8 fireplaces. Torn down in the early 1900’s, before the flood ,the wood was used to build a barn that still stands today.
The valley and surrounding hills were abundant with maple trees. The Native American Indians had been making sugar from the sweet sap of the maple tree for many years as early as 1609. There are many Indian legends about how maple sugar was first discovered.
One Iroquois legend tells how a Chief had thrown his tomahawk into a maple tree one late winter evening. After he removed it the following morning, the weather turned sunny and warm. Sap began to flow from the cut in the tree, and drip down into a container which was at the base of the tree. The Chief’s squaw used the sap to boil the meat for dinner. As the water in the sap boiled away, a wonderful, sweet maple taste was left with the meat.
Native Americans may have also discovered the sweetness of the maple tree by eating “sapsicles,” the icicles of frozen maple sap that form from the end of a broken twig. As the ice forms, some of the water evaporates, leaving a sweet treat hanging from the tree.
As winter started to turn into spring, and the days got longer and warmer, the Native American Indians would move their whole families into a spot in the forest where there were plentiful sugar maple trees. There they would establish “sugar camps” for the month or so that the maple sap would flow. The most common early method of collecting this sweet sap was to make V shaped slashes in the tree trunk, and collect the sap in a vessel of some sort. Not having metal pots in which to boil the sap, the Native Americans boiled away the water from their sap by dropping hot rocks in the containers made of hollowed out logs, of birch bark, or of clay.
In the early days maple sap was boiled down and made into maple sugar, instead of the more common maple syrup as there was no easy way to store syrup. There were three types of maple sugar made by the Northeastern American Indians: Grain sugar, a coarse granulated sugar similar to the consistency of brown sugar. Cake or block sugar which was sugar poured into wooden molds to become hard cakes or blocks and wax sugar, which was made by boiling syrup extra thick and pouring it over snow. This wax sugar is what we know today as “sugar on snow” or “Jack wax”
The Native Americans used their maple sugar as gifts, for trading, to mix with grains and berries and bear fat. During the heat of summer a special treat was a drink made of maple sugar dissolved in water.
Early settlers gathered their sap in wooden buckets. The sap was then boiled down in a series of large iron kettles hanging over a long open fire. As the syrup got thicker in one kettle it was ladled into the next one and fresh sap was then added to the first kettle. In this way, they always had the last kettle full of nearly completed syrup or sugar. When it was finally thickened enough, the liquid sugar was stirred until it began to crystallize, then poured of into wooden molds. These blocks of maple sugar could be broken up or shaved later in the year when needed. As early as 1790 it was suggested that slashing the trees was not good for their health, and that a better way was to drill a half inch hole in the tree and insert a “spill” or spile to allow the sap to run out. Spiles were made of sumac in which the centers could be removed the sap would then drip out through the hollow tube or “spile”, and into a container.
Town of Providence – Barker House-David Barker built one of the first places in Providence in 1796. Originally built as an Inn, it had 26 rooms and 8 fireplaces. When the house was torn down in the early 1900’s, the wood was used to build a barn, which is still standing on Southline Road
Town of Edinburg – Maple syrup making was an early spring venture for many farmers. Leon VanAvery and Walter Edwards at Emer Shepard’s Sugar House.
by Lorraine Frasier