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This Month’s Cover:

Digital Artwork

by Southwoods

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in the towns of Southwick, Westfield, Feeding Hills, Tolland,

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It’s Winter By Phil Pothier .............................................. 3

December 1950 By Clifton J. (Jerry) Noble Sr ............. 4

The Southwick Tragedy By Ross Haseltine ................8

The Christmas my Sister Caught Santa

By Karen Chase Williams ..........................................11

Country Cooking By Mary Kvanstrom .....................12

Of Sugar Maples and Acid Rain

By Walter Fertig ..............................................................12

Rejoicing Requires Re-Choicing By Jeff King ..... 16

Legend of Two-Bit Frances By Jim Putnam II ............. 20

Bulletin Board ............................................................ 22

Classifieds ..................................................................23


It’s Winter!

By Phil Pothier

When the snow squeaks, ‘neath your feet,

It’s winter.

When the wood pile’s nice and neat,

It’s winter.

When your car just will not start,

Even though you’ve done your part,

And it makes you sick at heart,

It’s winter!

When the geese have flown away,

It’s winter!

When it’s dark without much day,

It’s winter!

When you walk you slip and slide,

And you want to stay inside,

When the cold you can’t abide,

It’s winter!

When the fuel bill’s getting high,

It’s winter!

You can’t pay it, but you try,

It’s winter!

When the driveway’s full of ice

And it isn’t very nice,

And to plow it, has a price,

It’s winter!

When a blizzard comes all night,

It’s winter!

When the plumbing’s frozen tight,

It’s winter!

When you face the stormy blast.

When you dream of summer past,

And you fear that you won’t last,

It’s winter!


By Clifton (Jerry) Noble, Sr

Mother Minnie E. Noble (nick-named “Hester” by me) and I had lived in our converted country schoolhouse since April 30, 1949. I carried water from the well I dug on land southeast across Herrick Road. We had no more electricity than other neighbors

on Carrington Road. I was 23. Hester was 62. Since October 1947 I had worked for Massachusetts Department of Public Works, mostly in Louis Johnson’s survey party where I was currently transitman. Our 1949 Plymouth was purchased new. The following facts come from my journal.

Thanksgiving weekend one of our rodmen, E, was in-volved in an accident in Winsted, Connecticut. He was driv-ing a friend’s Ford back from New York state. Friend was hurt and friend’s grandmother hospitalized. It was late on a snowy Saturday. According to E he came round a curve and started down a hill where a car without lights, driven by a woman, was turning around in the middle of the hill. Her car was damaged but neither she nor passengers were seriously injured. A car coming up the hill was not involved in the crash. E has not yet returned to work.

Our other rodman, Bob Tourtelotte, visited E last Tuesday and said he’d been coughing blood.

Both Bob and rodman George Ahern worked Thanksgiving week with Turner’s triangulation party from Boston. Trouble! According to Bob and George, Mr. Turner told them to take off at 11:15 when it snowed Tuesday and meet him Wednes-day morning. Wednesday he bawled them out for not show-ing up the previous afternoon. Our District 2, Supervisor, Jack Tattan, was in Boston and saw that Turner had docked the lads 4 hours. Turner has been triangulating across the Connecticut River at Chicopee on location for the proposed new Route 20 bridge. (The bridge that finally got built carries Mass Pike today.) On his report Turner did not say how com-plete his work was or when he would be back. Monday noon Louis found Bob and George waiting on the Chicopee dike and took them in. Tattan had them write letters explaining their misunderstanding with Turner which might get them their 4 hours pay. (It did.) In 1945 Turner also worked on cor-rections to the city line between Springfield and Chicopee.

Early Monday morning, December 4th, we heard a few cars pass which seemed unusual. When I stepped outside, a car was parked up the road with four men in it. Then I remembered it’s the beginning of deer-hunting week.

The Greenfield office called Louis about the dent put in the tailgate door when that fellow skidded into us on Front Street, Chicopee. Settlement is arranged with the fellow’s in-surance company, but can’t be completed till the damage is repaired. So Louis had to chase round for a repair estimate. (The state does not insure its vehicles.)

The weekend December 9th and 10th I’ve been working on our folding puppet theater and just bought new double



December 2010


hinges for the frame.

Tuesday we worked in Gran-ville. The wind was cold and the road busy with hunter traffic and town trucks hauling gravel to South Lane.

At the schoolhouse our gas heater didn’t work. When we lived in Fresno, California, from 1942 to 1945 Hester and I used lit-tle gas heaters like everyone else. However, Fresno temperatures almost never fell below freezing. We replaced the gas unit with a pot-type oil stove for $73.50. This gives more heat and oil is cheaper than gas.

December 15, Friday. Today brought a few inches of snow.

Last Tuesday was the third University Extension class at Northampton High School to prepare for Civil Service ex-ams at the end of this month. E took his own car, his brother and George Ahern. Returning he got pinched for speeding on Riverdale Road. His mother fixed the ticket. So far he’s hit an old lady with a Springfield city car, got stopped for speeding in Agawam and for passing over a double line in Longmeadow, and crashed in Winsted, Connecticut. He brags about speed.

Saturday evening we went up to Kelso’s and talked about Montgomery past and present. Myron Kelso had just joined Montgomery and Russell selectmen to walk the line between the two towns and check the condition of stone bounds. Myron says that the ruined house near Williston’s on Pomeroy Road was the Cagwin place. Cagwins were among first settlers. He also remembered names of teachers who taught in our schoolhouse, such as Edith Wallace and Katherine Bowler, and the popular Betty Smith. Mrs. Bron-son taught here 25 years from the time she was 16. She set out the big maple tree which now shades our front lawn. A Miss Sears is said to be still teaching in Russell. Prayer meet-ings were also held at the schoolhouse.

Saturday the 23rd was hectic. I finished painting our puppet theater and scenery for our first performance of “Willie and the Owl” at the Adventist children’s Christmas party. We managed fairly well although I didn’t have two puppets in on time at the beginning, Hester missed some cues, and Uncle Ralph wasn’t ready to close the curtains at the end. They gave us each a box of chocolates.

May Smith phoned to invite us to meet at Rivards Christmas Eve for a party. When we ar-rived Louis Rivard was playing records like “Isle of Capri” and “When It’s Lamp Lightin’ Time in the Valley” on an old-fash-ion phonograph. Mary Rivard turned up the mantel lamp on the central table. Pretty soon Wil-lis Carrington arrived and Ethel Helms. Her husband, Percy, had an ulcerated tooth so didn’t come. At last May Smith, her husband and three children arrived. She trimmed a great Christmas tree in the corner of the sitting room. I brought Mr. Carrington home with me while I stoked the well house stove and got our box of puppets. These amused everyone at Rivards. We needed to get home before it got late so they insisted on feeding us first. What a supper! Baked beans and coffee, two kinds of salad, two kinds of cake and two kinds of pie. It was an old fashion Christmas.

Wednesday, the 27th, was examination day for E, Bob Tourtelotte, Don Bowen, Tom Cooney and Eddy Hanlon. While the others took exams in Springfield, Louis and I worked on Granville Road by West Parish Filter Beds. Tem-perature didn’t go above 15 degrees all day.

We had a little trouble with poor oil for our new stove but by Thursday, the 28th, we got it operating nicely on Rich-field oil. It was 9 degrees below zero. I bought leather, hunter mittens at Bryan Hardware with a palm-slot for right hand fingers to come out.

On the way home I found (Montgomeryite) Chase stopped on the Route 20 hill up to Russell. He was trying to fix a new fuel pump he’d just bought. Luckily he had the old one with him. I loaned him a wrench. He needed a gasket so I went to the garage and got him one. Then he lost the filter cap and we replaced that. After a trip for gas to prime it the motor started, and he and his wife were on their way. He of-fered me two dollars but I took only a dime for the gasket. I got home late, but was glad I hadn’t passed him by.

Louis Johnson at retirement, Oct. 1, 1969. Ernie Rapisarda, left, C.J. Noble, right.




Young Amasa Holcomb had felt some-thing amiss when he returned to the seem-ingly empty house he shared with his par-ents: Henry and the former Miss Keturah Dibble.

It was about five o’clock when the seven-year-old arrived home after school, Thurs-day, November 17, 1859. Amasa figured his parents were out visiting, so he walked to his uncle’s house and spent the night there.

The following morning, Amasa went back to the house, which still appeared empty. Having heard a faint noise coming from the cellar, he procured a light and went down to investigate. He found his mother weltered in blood as she laid on the floor in a corner op-posite the stairway that led to the kitchen.

On the back of her head, she had five-or-six wounds that oozed a jelly-like substance. Her left eye was blackened and badly bruised. A large, oak scantling, probably from the potato bin, was found near her. It had bloody handprints on one end and pieces of her head on the other. It looked like she crawled all over the dark cellar floor as if searching for a way out.

Keturah was unable to give an intelligible account of what happened to her.

Newspapers across the country dubbed it “The Southwick Tragedy.”

Discrepancies surround the actual amount, but after finding bloody clothes in Henry’s bedroom, Southwick selectmen authorized a reward for his apprehension. Some boys hunting in the woods claimed to have spotted Henry about a mile west of his home headed towards Connecticut.

Henry’s father, Southwick’s famed tele-scope manufacturer, Amasa Holcomb, served in both the upper and lower (leg-islative) houses of the Massachusetts General Court. He was a Methodist minister and a self-taught man with great brilliance. He published a card to his son for distribution on Tuesday, the twenty-second. In it, Amasa entreated Henry to come home immediately. He told him that Keturah is alive and improving and that she asked him to write that she “…wished you to come home.”

The card turned out to be unnecessary because Henry re-turned home on his own accord around nine o’clock Monday evening. Amasa, who just returned from Springfield, found him as he stood in front of his bedroom mirror, adjusting his necktie. Henry denied any guilt but would accept any con-sequence if proved such. He told his father about his where-abouts. Henry may have walked from Southwick to Bristol, Conn. From there, he boarded a train and spent Friday night in New York City. Henry then continued onto Philadelphia. He returned to Southwick via the Canal Railroad from New Haven.

Tuesday morning Amasa called for the constable. He cited poor road conditions and his fatigued horse as causes for the delay in notifying authorities.

The Southwick Time Machine presents:

The Southwick Tragedy

By Ross Haseltine


The constable questioned the two and left Henry in the custody of his father after the pair signed a written decla-ration of voluntary surrender. He did this so the Town of Southwick would not have to pay the reward to the officers who spent countless hours searching for Henry.

Questions surrounding the impropriety of such arrangement occurred to some-one, and an arrest warrant was issued.

Henry paid a visit to his brother then returned to his father’s house for dinner. Henry was arrested around five o’clock as he sat at the dinner table with his parents, sister, and brother. He spent Tuesday night in jail in Westfield.

There was a massive turnout for Hen-ry’s arraignment, held at the town hall in Westfield, the afternoon of November 23. More than two-thirds of Southwick’s male population traveled to Westfield to watch the spectacle unfold.

Paraded into court, Henry showed no emotion as he pleaded not guilty to assault with intent to kill. He waived examination and was bound over to the December session of the newly formed Massa-chusetts Superior Court, established April 5, 1859.

After Henry’s brother Milton, his father, and Sardis Gillett paid his $10,000.00 bail, he was released. Many Southwick residents cried: “Money Triumphs Justice!”

Henry immediately went back to Southwick to care for his wife, who was recovering in his father’s home, where they would both be living.

Southwick was full of gossip. Speculation abounded that Henry was not caring for his wife out of affection, but in-stead, it was in his best interest to keep her alive as evidence for the upcoming trial to prove he had no intent to kill.

Henry still held his position at the Methodist Church and in the church choir. He was dismissed by January 29, 1860, after he came and took his seat in the church choir, and all the other singers got up and left.

Lightning struck on August 15, 1860. It caused a fire that burned the barns and sheds on the Southwick property of Keturah’s brother, Willis Dibble. In addition to the unin-sured outbuildings, the fire claimed a substantial amount of hay, grain, farming tools, and other equipment.

Willis was one of the best-known traveling salesmen in the region. He was in Upstate New York when the fire occurred and likely read about his misfortune in the local newspa-per there. Following the blaze, Willis was temporar-ily committed to the State Lunatic Hospital at Northampton. Having been deemed cured, he was later released. The asylum, which opened in 1858, went through several name changes before it became Northampton State Hospital.

Keturah’s delicate health reportedly caused the postponement of Henry’s trial at least twice. He appeared in front of the Massa-chusetts Superior Court in December of 1860. Henry denied that he fled because he sup-posed his wife to be dead. He told the court that she was “still sensible” when he left. He also stated that she never charged upon him any crime.

When asked why he did it, Henry report-edly answered: “There is a mystery about it that will never be explained.”

Although described by neighbors as a loving, affectionate wife, Keturah was subject to fits of jealous rage for which Henry had no patience. Henry’s niece, 19-year old Miss Emma, a daughter of Milton, visited the couple on the day of the attack. Keturah became enraged and may have accused Henry of having intercourse with the young girl.

After deliberating all night, a hung jury forced the Com-monwealth to withdraw the “intent to kill” charge on the condition that Henry pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of simple assault. His sentence: eighteen months in the House of Corrections, with an expiration date of May 27, 1862.

Henry was not aware that his mother, the former Miss Gillet Kendall (b. June 2, 1787), had fallen ill. She died Feb-


ruary 2, 1861, and Henry’s father secured him a leave of ab-sence to attend her funeral in Southwick, which he did in the company of an officer.

Amasa (b. June 18, 1787) remarried, January 23, 1862. He tied the knot with a possible distant cousin of his, the former Miss Maria Holcomb. Depending on the source, she was born November 13 in either 1803 or 1804. Maria died April 29, 1874, and Amasa followed suit, February 27, 1875.

There were seventy prisoners in the Hamp-den County Jail and House of Corrections in Springfield in July 1861. Thirteen of the pris-oners were female. Most incarcerated men at the time were serving short sentences for drunkenness, with the most severe offense being Henry Holcomb’s. Also jailed at the same time was Israel S. Fox of Westfield, who served forty days for “maliciously driving a horse” that belonged to David S. Rising of Southwick.

Henry was pardoned by Massachusetts Governor John Albion Andrew, in con-junction with the state Governor’s Coun-cil, in either January or February 1862. The move, which restored Henry’s civil rights, took effect April 1, roughly 8-weeks before the end of his sentence.

Keturah (b. December 9, 1821) never fully recovered from the attack. She was sent to the Northampton Lunatic Asy-lum, where she died: March 23, 1884.

Her father, Reuben Dibble Jr. (b. November 25, 1788), was committed to the Worcester Lunatic Asylum. Institutional-ized circa 1850, he died there on May 16, 1857.

The young Vining boys savagely beat Willis Dibble in No-vember 1873.

In an unprovoked attack at the Southwick Hotel (today’s Southwick Inn), they hit him with a chair and their fists. He survived the violent assault but was never the same.

Willis was a member of the Fat Men’s Associa-tion. He weighed in at a hefty 278 pounds at a club event, held August 25, 1874, in Norwalk, Conn.

In compliance with a new Massachusetts state law, Willis received notification, March 3, 1880, that he would be sent back to the Northampton In-sane Asylum following bouts of insanity.

The next day, he watched from his bedroom window as officers approached. Willis (b. July 2, 1818) took a razor and cut his throat from ear to ear. It took about ten minutes for him to bleed out and die.

The Dibble family suffered another loss when Willis’ son, John (b. February 10, 1852), died of consumption, May 2.

Henry and Keturah’s son, Amasa (b. October 7, 1852), became a prominent resident of Southwick, where he lived his entire life. He was active in local affairs, having moder-ated town meetings for twenty years. He had held various positions of trust in town, including that of the Dickinson Grammar School (originally Southwick Academy; est. 1827) and the Methodist church (ca. 1820).

Amasa was married to his first wife, September 13, 1876, until her death, June 14, 1887. He remarried, November 30, 1888.

There was little fanfare when Henry Holcomb (b. March 5, 1823) died of heart disease in Southwick, May 4, 1897. He was buried, between Keturah and his son’s first wife, in Southwick Cemetery.

Amasa had fallen ill during the summer of 1921. He spent about three weeks in Noble Hospital. Having died there, August 17, his body was removed to the undertaking rooms of Lambson Furniture Company. A large number of mourn-ers turned out for Amasa’s funeral. He was buried next to his second wife in New Southwick Cemetery.

Lester Vining (b. November 27, 1852), one of the brothers who attacked Willis Dibble, was murdered, April 13, 1938, by his daughter in the kitchen of their Southwick home.


Christmas always catches me by surprise. Suddenly it seems, somewhere, right after the middle of August, I am ambushed by December and a memory of the Christmas my little sister caught Santa Claus.

We were an Army family moving from post to post when I was growing up. We had no certain address, but we were the luckiest of families. We were welcomed home by loving relatives in Valdosta and Savannah, Georgia, for wonderful summers to swim and picnic. On the Fourth of July, my Big Mommy, (my beloved grandmother) would give us lighted sparklers to hold so that we could write on the night sky with sparks standing on the front porch of our grandparents’ Victorian home at 106 East Adair Street.

And for Christmas? For Christmas, when my dad had leave, we went home to Idaho, where it snowed in great blanketing drifts of white, and Santa Claus actually came on Christmas Eve.

For years you could just ask my little sister, Bunny. She would tell you that Santa was quite real. She actually caught him in front of the fireplace one Christmas Eve.

Our Idaho family, my cousins, Rickie, and Joan, Aunt Betty and Uncle Norman lived on a vast wheat ranch in Northern Idaho, land first farmed by my grandfather, George Chase, and later by Uncle Norman.

My Uncle Norman was perhaps the kindest man I have ever known. And while anyone would have forgiven him if he had ignored the children and just rested after the hard work of harvest each year, instead as soon as harvest was past, Uncle Norman began preparing for the children’s Christmas.

The year our family returned from Okinawa to spend Christmas in Idaho, I had just turned 13, nearly grown in

my opinion. My sister, Bunny, was only six, tiny, with long blond braided hair.

Christmas Eve, the children were sent to bed upstairs with strict instructions to stay there, and because I was the oldest, I was responsible for keeping them there. But my heart leaped, too, when I heard the sound of hoofbeats on the roof of the ranch, the unmistakable sound of sleigh bells ringing and a jolly, but somehow familiar, laugh from outside.

Those sounds summoned my sister to action. She leaped out of bed and began to run much faster than I could run. Down the stairs she flew, braids flying behind her.

I am not quite sure what happened next. I do know I ran as fast as I could but when I caught up with her in front of the fireplace, she was alone.

“I had him!” she shouted!! Breathless but joyous, “I had him, but he got away.” In her hands, my sister held a red velvet jacket, but that was all. Still, I knew she was telling the truth. The living room was ablaze with a lighted Christmas tree surrounded by millions of presents.

All these years since, whenever Christmas catches me by surprise sometime in mid-summer, it comes filled with memories especially of that Christmas Eve in Idaho, and my sister’s voice:

“I have him! I have him. Hurry, Karen! Please hurry.”



my Sister Caught


By Karen Chase Williams


Dec. 1987 & 89

Cook raisins and dates with water and then mix in the 1 T. flour and 2/3 c. sugar. Stir while it thickens.

Roll mixture (adding flour until stiff) and cut out. Put about 1 /2 t. of filling on top of cookie. Then place an-other cookie on top of filling and press edges together.

Bake at 350° for about 12 to 15 minutes.

1-1/2 c. sugar

1 egg

1/2 c. milk

Pinch of salt


1 c. raisins and dates

1 T. flour

1 t. soda

1 c. shortening

About 3-1/2 c. flour

1 t. vanilla

1 c. hot water

2/3 c. sugar



Fruit-Filled Cookies

Cream shortening. Add molasses and egg and beat well.

Add dry ingredients. Beat until smooth.

Roll into small balls (3/4 teaspoon) and dip in sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes in a 375° oven.

3/4 c. shortening

1 c. sugar

4 T. rnolasses

1 egg

2 c. flour

2 t. baking soda

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. cloves

1 t. ginger



Old Fashioned

Ginger Snaps

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Beat well. Add flour, baking soda,. and cream of tartar. Beat thor-oughly. Chill 1 hour.

Form into small· balls on greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly and put nut in center. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 5 dozen small cookies.

1 c. butter

1-1/2 c. confectioners sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 t. vanilla

2-1 /2 c. flour

1 t. soda

1 t. cream of tartar pieces of nuts



Bonbon Cookies



O ut of all the many tree species native to New England, few rival the sugar maple in beauty and in economic and ecological importance. To wildlife, such as porcupines, rabbits, deer and countless birds and insects, the tree is a major source of food and shelter. For man, the sugar maple is one of the most valuable of all the hardwoods. Its timber is hard, heavy and du-rable, making maple wood suitable for fine furniture, millwork and flooring as well as crates, boxes, dowels, spools, bowling balls and pool cues. Commercially, the tree is also significant for the sugary sap it yields. In an industry worth millions to the economy of the northern U.S. and Canada, this sap is collected and converted to mouth-watering maple syrup and candy.

The sugar maple’s chief claim to fame, however, is its hand-some foliage. The maple is pleasing to the eye, both in summer

when its dense crown provides welcome shade or in the fall when it explodes into fiery gold, red and orange. Little wonder that the sugar maple has long been maintained extensively in woodlands and along city streets of the northeast.

The sugar maple has always been such a common element of the landscape that its long term survival is often taken for granted. But in recent years, disturbing reports from the field indicate that all is not well with the maple. Increasingly large numbers of trees are dying off throughout the northeast, vic-tims of a little-under-stood malady called maple decline. Bota-nists fear that unless the decline is controlled soon, the sugar maple could go the way of the American chestnut and elm.

Hardest hit by maple decline are urban trees and those of highland forests of northern New England and Canada. In set-tled areas, dying trees are not only unsightly, they are costly to remove and present a hazard in the form of falling branches. To northern areas, the loss of productive sugar maples has been a serious blow to the maple syrup industry.

Wherever maple decline has set in, the results have been similar. Afflicted trees are characterized by thinned out crowns, dead twigs and branches and peeling bark. Often the leaves take on their fall coloration prematurely and drop in late summer rather than in autumn. The maple tree progressively weakens and dies within one to two years .

In both urban and rural trees scientists believe the condi-tion of maple decline comes about due to root damage. Trees with impaired roots cannot channel enough moisture from the soil to the uppermost limbs and leaves. Without an adequate water supply, leaves cannot produce enough food through pho-

Of Sugar Maples


Acid Rain

By Walter Fertig