Audrey Mae SpencerSpencer Historical CemeteryHenry Straight / William Spencer Family Cemetery
Vaughn Historical CemeterySpencers of East Greenwich, RI
Colonial life
3 April 2004

Heather: Did you help your parents when they worked on the farm?


William J.B. Spencer with the horses, carriage, and plow with Audrey Mae Spencer behind the plow



Audrey: I would follow Grandpa (William J.B. Spencer) along in the furrow (dirt flapped over) after the horse carriage plow. I was so small that I could follow (walk) in the furrow. I could only follow in the furrow at the beginning because after that, the harrow, an iron piece of rake that scrapes the dirt into little pieces (was used). (After the harrow was used) if I stepped on the dirt, I would sink in four to five inches, so I didn’t walk in it.

(There were many steps to prepare the land.) The land was then smoothed (smoothed it over) and then Grandpa would pull along a little feeder and the seeds would bury themselves. Grandpa would go over the rows with a board to flatten out the land. Going over the land a couple more times to sprinkle dirt over the rows as well as the rain and the sunshine in a few weeks, (resulting with) little green things would come up and then long stalks of corn.

I waited and knew when the (ear of) corn would be yellow and I would pull out the biggest (ear of) corn and sneak and hide and eat it (uncooked) because I loved corn. Grandma (MaryJane [née Vaughn] Spencer) wanted me to wait for it (ear of corn) to be bigger, because (by picking it early)I was wasting one-half of it. I loved corn!

3 April 2004

Heather: How and where would you go when you left the farm as a child?

Mary Jane Vaughn Spencer and daughter Edith Anna

Audrey: Grandma (MaryJane Vaughn Spencer) would go out to the field and call “Come, Prince” and Prince would come right away. Grandma would put the harness on the horse and hitch him to the wagon. Grandma and I would ride to Arctic, where the Bedard sisters owned a store. Grandma would always have long talks with the Bedard sisters as they must have been good friends.

Grandma was very brave. When we would hear all the cows bellowing out in the barn, she would light the lantern for me to carry, and Grandma would take her cudgel, a big stick as she called it and go out to the barn. The dog, Ned, always went with us. There was never anyone there. It was just a cow stepping on another cow that caused the ruckus.

A tramp or beggar could come along and go into the barn and sleep in the hay. Each beggar had his own nick (mark) on the gate, so the farmer would know who was in there. They would go along unless the farmer needed help and then the farmer would hire him.

If hired, Grandma cooked three meals a day for the hired hands. Grandma was always there for anyone that needed (help). If people were on the farm, they could eat at Grandma’s. Grandma was sharp enough to know who deserved a meal. It was only those men who were workers who deserved a meal. Grandma was so sweet and gentle, but yet so strong and brave! She’d light the lantern. Ned was barking. She was strong and brave!

(There was a student that graduated [1960 from J. F. Deering High School] with Heather whose last name was Bedard.  Mother and I met his brother at Alpine Nursing Home when the brother was visiting his parent at Alpine. Mother told him that she knew the Bedard sisters in Arctic when she was a child.  Bedard said that there used to be a street in Arctic that was called Bedard, but they did not know how that name originated and he did not know anything about the Bedard sisters who mother had met.  The street most likely was named after the Bedard sisters (family) that owned the store in Arctic.)
17 April 2004

Heather: What was the story that Dad told about how the road in R.I. came to be?

Audrey: Yes, getting around Arctic was like a jig saw puzzle. The Indians path (became) the cow path (and then) were widened to form the street. The Indians and then the cows went the simple and flat way. They didn’t go over rocks and hills.

8 May 2004

Heather: How did Grandma (MaryJane Vaughn Spencer) do all the washing as those overalls must have gotten really dirty?

Audrey: After a while, Grandma got a wooden washing machine. Then Grandma got a tin washing machine right away (as soon as they were for sale). (She would) carry pails of water and fill it (washing machine) with hot water. She had to push and pull. Then she got an electric one where she didn’t have to push and pull.

8 May 2004

Heather: How did Grandma [MaryJane (née Vaughn Spencer] prepare the meals, especially in the cold winters or the hot summers when there was no electricity on the farm?


MaryJane Vaughn Spencer

Audrey: We Yankees, we never ate anything bad. We had vegetables from the land. We had plain food from the ground.

Grandma had a can of milk that hung down the well. The can had a cover and a handle and hung down the well. The milk was nice and cold as it hung in the well. Grandma would reach down and pull it (milk container) up. She would reach it and put (pour) milk in her pitcher. Then, she would put the pitcher of cold milk on the table (as we sat down to the table). We had cold milk.

We would hang the ham on a hook in the cellar. As you go down the cellar, about two steps down, you could reach over to the top shelf for butter. Everybody put milk in the well in a can with a lid and handle, and put everything else in the cellar.

It wasn’t easy with the snow. We had the cows in the barn. They would run out and get right back in.

Mother would pay me a penny to take a swallow of milk. Mother would peel a raw potato and dip it in vinegar. The vinegar was in a saucer. I loved vinegar and raw potato. Nobody else liked it, but me. Mother had a hard time to get me to eat anything good. I was a skinny little thing. Every winter I was in bed. I had all those childhood diseases. I would lie in bed and look out the window and wait for the green grass and I’d know it was spring.

School was a mile from my house and when I went there, I had to walk. I think the name of the School was Middle Road School. I would walk through the field. Edith went to a different place in Washington. Ed went to school, but when he went to Anthony, he was happy to get out of that school and go to work.

(Looking out the window at Alpine Nursing Home) here is a nice yellow bird. Here’s two, they are so pretty. Grandma always shook the tablecloth out the window for the birds. Birds would come for the crumbs.

5 June 2004

Heather: Hello, Mother. Tell me more about life on the farm.

Audrey: They hung a can with a lid and handle down the well which was the only cold place in the summers. In the winter, we had a bench on the outside of the window sill. We set the can and food on the shelf outside the window. We just open the window and get food or can of milk.

Later we had a wooden ice box. The bottom half of the ice box was shelves for food and top of box goes up (lifts up) and put ice in the top.