|'The Blind Milkman' Graces Dudley Calendar|
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Ed Patenaude So I’ve Heard
Dudley’s 275th anniversary calendar, published by the Dudley Historical Commission, has a photo of George Prince, “The Blind Milkman of Dudley Hill,” gracing October 2007.
The circa-1910 print shows a bearded gentleman pulling a small, iron-wheeled handcart containing cans of milk. The picture might be fodder for a future historical commission meeting, but I couldn’t contain myself, approaching commission Secretary Michael T. Branniff at the recent Dudley Grange Apple Festival at the grange’s Dudley Hill hall and grounds.
Mr. Branniff promised information and delivered a copy of Mr. Prince’s obituary within days. George Prince died at 77 years of age. The death notice says his eyesight had been poor from boyhood, and he became totally blind when he was about 30. Mr. Prince continued to peddle milk in Webster, probably for a Dudley dairy, managing a four-mile route with “the aid of an intelligent black horse.” The horse knew the way and made the appropriate stops. Milkman Prince had a mind’s-eye take on customers’ milk boxes.
It appears that Mr. Prince lost his eyesight before moving to Dudley Hill. His obituary says he lived with Lemuel Healy at the Black Tavern for about 10 years, doing chores and errands, and lived later with A.J. Whiting for 15 years, (on the opposite corner to Dudley Hill and Tanyard Roads), delivering milk to customers on The Hill with a little handcart. Another paragraph says, “So long as he was able, George delighted to take long walks, and always found his way without difficulty, unless the wind blew hard or deep snow covered the road.”
He was often accompanied by “Johnny,” a pug dog belonging to Bertha E. Whiting, the report says. Miss Whiting was the Dudley correspondent for The Evening Gazette through the 1940s.
The notice says Mr. Prince was buried at “New Boston in the Prince lot.” New Boston no longer exists in name; it was the Thompson village known now as Fabyan. His obituary ended with a list of floral tributes, what they were and who sent them.
Mike Branniff added another report, “a real corker,” for good measure. Published in August 1864, the lead says: “We are happy to announce that the Chabunagungamaugg monster ... has been captured by two intrepid ... sons of Webster, Dr. J.G. Hart and J.B. Bigelow.”
Stories about a 15-foot sea serpent in Webster Lake had gained circulation that summer, according to the story. The men spied a dark object halfway across the lake, moving toward Union Point, says the report. They rowed out before realizing the oars and two jack knives were all they had to defend themselves with.
“On he came, his black head elevated just above the surface of the water, every few seconds opening toward them a terrible mouth.”
Finally, the monster jumped into their boat. “It proved to be Lyman Sheldon’s great Newfoundland dog.”
Mr. Branniff surely uncovered “a preposterous” line, as one might define “corker.” Still, the report concluded: “We shall set this incident down as a complete solution of the sea-serpent scare.”
Julian “Peewee” Kaczynski, the longtime Webster barber now of Cooperstown, N.Y., read about the recent pumpkins-style river race in Rutland, Mass., through the T&G online, calling it to the attention of Rosemarie, his life partner.
Cooperstown has a “floating gourds” race of its own on Otesaga Lake, Mrs. Kaczynski said in a note to this corner. It’s all pumpkins, with a special event for kids. “Some clean out the sides of the pumpkins and others the tops,” wrote Rosemarie, providing photographs to illustrate the art.
“We miss Webster and all of our friends,” Mrs. Kaczynski said, adding, “We’ve made friends here over the years, too.” Julian and Rosemarie were drawn to Cooperstown because their daughter and son-in-law, Juli and Dwayne Sharrett, run Cooperstown Beaver Valley Cabins & Campsites. It’
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