A moment in local history: Home construction in 1853, by Alan F. Rumrill | Local

Otis Hutchins was born in Westmoreland in 1781. He remained in the town and, in addition to operating his family farm, he became a schoolteacher. He served as principal of the Chesterfield Academy and Kimball Union Academy, had a private school in Westmoreland, and taught in the public schools. Hutchins was one of the most respected educators in the history of the town.

For nearly 40 years, from 1818 to 1857, Hutchins kept an account book of his daily expenditures. This ledger recorded his farm accounts, school accounts and expenses for hired labor. It also contained an interesting detailed accounting of expenses for a new home that Hutchins had built in 1853, when he was 72 years of age.

In May of 1852, he began to pay to have the lumber for the new house cut in the local sawmill. It was not until early in 1853, however, that construction actually began. More lumber preparation occurred in January and February. Construction began in earnest in March and continued through April and beyond. The accounting eventually concludes with the cost of doors, banisters and painting.

The cost for labor on his new home was $435.70, including $27 for the foundation, $25 for construction of the chimneys and $350 for carpentry work. The cost for materials was $521.30, including $281 for lumber and shingles, $46 for 836 pounds of nails and $17 for 3,100 bricks. He also paid $2 for 12 bushels of hair to make horsehair plaster. Hair from the tail and mane of horses was mixed into the plaster. The hair was long and strong and gave added strength to the plaster. Other materials for the house added $175 to the total cost.

Otis Hutchins passed away 13 years later and was buried in the Canoe Meadow Cemetery near his home. His new house, however, which cost him a total of $957 to build in 1853, still stands in Westmoreland almost 170 years later.

Alan F. Rumrill is executive director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County, which has been collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the region since 1927. It’s on Main Street. To learn more about its public programs and collections, visit hsccnh.org.

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