Brief History of the Day House
Winthrop S. Bagg
Published by the Ramapogue Historical Society
of West Springfield, Massachusetts
Among the towns of the Connecticut Valley, so rich in historical wealth, none surpass West Springfield in those things which pertain to tradition and the preservation of articles connected with the early days.
"Beautiful for situation," with river frontage of five miles on the east and three and one-half on the south, and about eleven thousand acres of meadow, plain and forest, she is to-day, because of forethought, and wisely laid foundations, a most attractive town, one to which her wandering children return with glad hearts, and in which her citizens just take pride.
The records show that in the Fall of 1635, the year before the settlement of Springfield, John Cable and John Woodcock from the Plymouth Colony located their camp in the dangerous meadows of the Agawam, but, warned by friendly Indians that these meadows were flooded each Spring, they returned to the east shore and made their permanent camp there. So situated geographically that she was traversed by stage-lines and west as well as north and south, she was thus in touch with the events of the outside world, and had the honor to be seen by many notables of the day. Boating was also a factor in the early days, and the town became famous for its river storehouses, and on the easterly end of the common ship building was carried on 100 years ago, the freight boats "Trial," "West Springfield," and "Hampshire" being launched from this point.
The geographical center of the town is a spot on the Champion farm in Amostown, and from the earliest days of town history there have been six prominent outlying districts: "Paucatuck," Indian name, meaning clear water, later called Tatham, "Ashleyville," the northerly portion of the town, "Shad Lane," now known as Merrick, Mittineague, meaning "swift water," "Riverdale," and "Amostown." In all of these districts are old residences which have become landmarks, but dating back of all stands the old Day House, the subject of this sketch, a mute witness to many stirring events of early days. This house was built in 1754 by Josiah Day (a brick in the east wall beam the date of its erection), and was occupied by the Days for almost 150 years. It is located beside the beautiful old common, on which stood the First church and schoolhouse, and where was held the muster of former days. On October 30 and 31, 1777, the Hessians from Burgoyne's captured army on their march from Saratoga to Boston camped in front of the house. This historical event is commemorated by the placing of a bowlder with a tablet on the spot; it being given and dedicated in 1904 by George Washington Chapter S. A. R. of Springfield. Doubtless the brick for this and other old houses in town of the same material were burned within its borders, though some have thought they may have been imported.
Josiah Day, who was descended in the fourth generation from Robert Day, who emigrated to America in April, 1634, was one of the four men chosen to petition the Great and General Court "to set off the inhabitants on ye west side of ye great river," and bought the land on which the house now stands in 1746 of Joseph Woodbridge, for the sum of 550 pounds, old tenor.
The place was known as the "Joseph Barnard house-lot." When Josiah Day died in 1770 he willed the property to his youngest son, Aaron, who, with his wife, Eunice, made it their home in 1775. The wife died in 1818, and he in 1827, leaving three children, Eunice, Aaron and Gad. Aaron, with his wife, Anne Ely, came there in 1810 to take care of the old people, and it was then the wooden part was added, to give more room for the larger family. Aaron Day was a farmer, a man of even disposition and dignified bearing. His advice was often asked because of his sound judgment and more than average education. He filled numerous town offices and was first and foremost in matters concerning the church. One of his failings, if it can be called such. was his kind-heartedness, for he lost money by loans and signing notes for friends.
West Sitting Room
His family consisted of six children: Lucinda, Lydia, Anne, Eunice, Amanda and Josiah. Lucinda, the eldest, spent nearly the whole of her life in the old home, where she died in 1897, being 87 years old. Josiah, the youngest, left home when a young man, and died in 1882. Anne (named for her mother), died in the south. Amanda and Eunice married in early womanhood and Lydia later in life.
In 1847, Eunice, whose husband, Rev. Isaac Bliss, for many years a missionary to Turkey, had died, returned to the old home, and Lydia, not long after the death of her husband, Charles H. Oakes, returned also, and died
connected with the affair, and as the case could not be proved against him the matter was allowed to drop.
The real facts in the case concerning the light in the front window, which was put there with such regularity that it led to stories about returning lovers, etc., are probably these: When the street was raised it became necessary to step down on approaching the house, and Miss Lucinda, with characteristic thoughtfulness, placed the light there to prevent her callers from making a false step. Thus a romance is spoiled.
At the breaking up of the household the property was bought by a company of people interested in historical matters, who were incorporated in 1903 under the name of Ramapogue Historical Society. The Indian meaning of the word Ramapogue is uncertain, but the name was originally applied to the local thoroughfare now known as Elm Street, and here the question naturally presents itself, why was the name ever changed?
Spacious Fireplace and Oven
The society intends to preserve the structure and add to the collection of relics, which is already large, and make it a center for historical and social work. A number of interesting articles were left in the house by the last occupants, and friends of the society have been generous in valuable loans
and gifts. All visitors are charmed by the mammoth fireplace and its ancient equipment, in the long north room, which was the combined kitchen and dining room. This room was not plastered until recent years, and until 1825 had no paint on the wood-work, clay from the river being used to cleanse the beams. There are two other large fireplaces in the house.
The lighting, though by electricity, by the use of ingenious fixtures, has been done in such a way as to carry out a quaint idea, the effect being that of illumination by candles and lanterns. In memory of other days, a light is placed in the front window, where it was so regularly placed by one of the family. In the chambers are three cradles, one famous for its age, having been imported from England, and in the possession of the Day family for more than 200 years, and is known as the "William Pynchon cradle." Another is noted for having rocked all the Day children, and also Aaron and his brothers and sisters, while the third cradled the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lathrop.
In the lower southeast room can be seen the marks on the wall where Shay's rebels, who took formal possession of the house in 1787, stood their guns, and on the floor in this room are the axe marks where the men cut up pork stolen from the family barrel.
The woodbine which adorns the front of the house was planted by the daughter, Amanda, in her early girlhood, and from the rosebush, that until within recent years grew by the door, Grandma Day was in the habit of picking blossoms for the children as they went to and from the school, which stood nearly opposite on the common.
At the old house a cordial welcome was always extended to the traveler, and many distinguished persons have enjoyed its hospitality.
The original front door, which was in two sections, and which was replaced about 75 years ago, showed marks said to be made by Indian tomahawks.
Dr. Joseph Lathrop, for 64 years pastor of the old First Church, was a frequent visitor, a certain chair which is numbered among the relics being kept for his especial use, and which in his absence was the resting place of the family Bible.
Many a parish conference was held here, and within these walls many plans for public improvement were considered. Thus from this house has always emanated an influence for good.
Ye house remains, although ye hoste
Is numbered with ye deade,
Ye vacant rooms no longer knowe
Ye sound of dailie treade.
Ye straight-backed chairs in solitude
Their lonely vigils keepe,
And all ye embers on ye hearth
Have long since gone to sleepe.
Ye rose which graced ye ancient door
No longer nestles there,
Ye walls no longer echo to
Ye sound of fervent prayer.
From cellar stones to attic peake
A solemn stillness reigns,
And onlie in our memorie
Ye happy home remaines.
D. P. LUDINGTON.
MASE S. SOUTHWORTH.
HENRY S. HYDE.
ROBERT DAY WHITE.
GRACE B. PHELON REGAL.
F. H. SIBLEY.
FLORENCE D. EUSTIS.
CARRIE J. ELDRED.
ETTA CLARK SMITH.
WINTHROP S. BAGG.