Welcome to "Rum Street"

Map of Rum Street about 1850-53.jpg

Map from Thunderstruck Fiddle by Leslie Askwith

Charles Cobb lived on this road, which he called “Rum Street,” from about 1842 through 1854. “Rum Street” is a 1-1/2 mile long road located about one mile from West Woodstock.  Charles dubbed it “Rum Street” because he was troubled by the bad effect drinking rum had on some of his neighbors. The lower part of “Rum Street” is now called Grassy Lane. Grassy Lane branches off “Rum Street” just north of the Vondell Reservoir while “Rum Street” continues on north to the top of the hill. The branch from Grassy Lane north is very steep and so rough as to be nearly impassable by anything other than a good4-wheel drive vehicle.  None of the houses that existed on “Rum Street” in the mid 19th century are still there today; however, the buildings’ cellar holes are marked and there are interpretive panels telling about the former residents who called “Rum Street” home.

 

Mr. Hartwell and Charles Cobb (ISAAC HARTWELL’S HOUSE)

According to Leslie Askwith, author of Thunderstruck Fiddle, this is the site of a house owned by Isaac B. Hartwell where “Lucia and Gaius Cobb lived with their son, Charles Cobb. Charles wrote many of his journals while living here in the late 1840s and early 1850s.  The house was 28 feet square,... with no shed on either side. It contained the great chimney, 12 feet square and 3 fireplaces. The roof needed shingling, and the house needed whitewashing. The following is Charles Cobb’s description of his house.

"Indoors, the white-washing overhead was actually dropping down and looked abominable. I could sweep down a bushel. The kitchen had a bed and table and a large fireplace with a stove just forward of it. Rain leaked through between the door and the stove before it had rained an hour. Its two kitchen windows were minus any glass, nor any cloth sewed on to block the weather. The kitchen ceiling was boards laid across the cross pieces, eight feet from the floor, thus making a garret where we spread butternuts and stored old boots, rags, glass iron, etc. It was very cold in the kitchen in the winter, so about November, we moved into the square room and cooked and slept there until May. Nearly everyone on Rum Street did the same so as to not have to heat the entire house and thus save on wood.

The square room was 14 feet by 14 feet in size and was our only decent room. If I wanted to write, I was obliged to build a fire upstairs in Father’s shop, which contained his shoemaker’s bench, a tool chest, and his desk. Mr. Hartwell’s room was also upstairs. It was decidedly the best in the house. My bedroom was downstairs and had a fireplace and two windows. The ceiling leaked in the west corner after four hours of rain, causing me to move my bed. The real front entry, which we never used, had a table set against the door with a melodeon and books on it. It was also used for a clothes closet, and having a large cupboard on the inner side it answered also for a buttery where we packed away old duds. We had a cellar under the square room, which contained plenty of water, some boards to walk on, the pork barrel, and a lot of other empty old things sot ‘round on benches to look at — boxes and cider barrels sometimes empty and sometimes not.  

The bottom of the cellar was three feet above the road and was equipped with a drain. The chamber floor was covered with dirt, water if it chanced to rain, sawdust, old boxes, chests, barrels and the like. We tucked the sap tubs in the south corner and the corn was spread on the northwest side.  Father put a fire board in the square room to block the chimney. He also put in a stove which we bought a while ago of Chas Raymond. It wasn’t the very tightest or warmest house that ever was. The truth is that it was abominable, all rain, dirt and litter — like Tophet. The house looked from without like the abode of Satan's poverty-strickens.

From Thunderstruck Fiddle by Leslie Askwith