In January, 1917, my grandfather, who was 20, left his home in Central Maine and went to work on a farm in Massachusetts. I’m not sure why he went there, except that America was only three months away from entering World War I. Times were tight financially, and rumors of sabotage—some of them true—were rampant.
|None of the buildings from this large and prosperous farm survive.
Some of the few things left from the original farm are the stone pillars
at the entrance and bits of stone walls. This photo was taken on our
Sister Weekend visit in 2007.
Grandpa, whose name was Oral D. Page, Sr., went alone in January. Perhaps there was a family connection. Perhaps the owner of World’s End had visited Grandpa’s hometown of Belgrade, Maine, where a lot of people from other states had summer lakeside cottages. At any rate, Grandpa’s parents, younger brother, and several cousins soon followed him to World’s End.
The farm was large and prosperous. It is situated in Hingham, Mass., on the edge of Cape Cod. Some of its fields were on an island, but this had in earlier times been joined to the mainland by a causeway. World’s End sold poultry, fruit, hay, and row crops, presumably to buyers in the nearby towns and Boston.
|This barn, like all the other buildings of World's End
Farm, is now gone. Only the stone pillars near the
entrance and remnants of the old pump house can be
seen today. Photo by Oral D. Page Sr., 1918
My three sisters and I were able to visit World’s End in 2007. The farm is now a 248-acre public park, maintained by the Trustees of Reservations. We took the trustees a copy of Grandpa’s diary from his time there, as well as copies of several photos he took at World’s End in 1917.
|My 3 sisters and I got a truck tour of World's End and saw the
beautiful park that was once a farm.
When he arrived there, Grandpa was put in charge of the poultry barn, but he took part in many other farm chores as well. Here are a few of the many activities he mentions in his journal: cutting ice and storing it in an ice house; feeding the poultry; setting up poultry brooders; cleaning barns and brooders; butchering; candling eggs (testing them by holding them up to a light); sorting apples; digging clams; hauling supplies; planting potatoes, corn, beans; weeding gardens and pulling witch grass; raking leaves; splitting wood; spreading lime; hauling manure; mowing, raking, and harvesting hay; mowing roadsides; hoeing potatoes and cultivating crops; picking strawberries, cherries, beans, plums, and other crops; digging potatoes; filling a silo with corn; shingling roofs.
But it wasn’t all work and no play. Some of the fun times included: sledding, skating on the meadow, dancing, swimming, going to the movies, listening to a Victrola, playing cards and other games, attending a high school play, going to the beach, riding a roller coaster, attending a camp meeting, and going to a fair. In the winter of 1917-18, Grandpa and some of the other young men made weekly trips to nearby Cohasset to take dancing lessons. Among others, they learned the onestep and the foxtrot.
What did one give a young man of the farming class for Christmas in 1917? Grandpa’s presents that year included a fountain pen, stationary, necktie, shaving mug, chocolates, garters and arm elastics. Sounds about right.
|This photo was probably taken
Oct. 22, 1918. We believe it is the
day Grandpa's cousin Harry Wyman
climbed the flagpole in a cornfield
at World's End. The pole was reportedly
the mast of an old sailing ship. Photo by
Oral D. Page Sr., 1918
In March, he and his father went to the shipyard in Portsmouth to work on building ships for the Navy. Grandpa apparently didn’t stay long, but his father
On Aug. 5, 1918, Grandpa learned that his cousin, Alvah Wyman, “went to war.” The last entry in his 1918 diary was made on Sept. 6. In the back of the little book are several addresses of soldiers and other friends.
In front of the next year’s diary, 1919, we find: Oct. 12, 1918. My induction papers were made out today.
Grandpa was sent for training to Lewiston, Maine, where a girls’ school had been taken over for an army camp. Grandpa never made it to the European theater, as the flu epidemic struck the camp. On Nov. 11, 1918, the war came to an end.
Many soldiers went overseas to help with peacekeeping chores, but most of those at the camp in Lewiston were sick. Grandpa records:
Dec. 7. Turner was taken with influenza.
Dec. 8. We were all examined for our discharge.
Dec. 9. I was taken sick with influenza. Six of us in the same room.
Dec. 13. I got up and dressed. Am still pretty weak.
Dec. 14. Got my discharge and came home.
Back at home in Belgrade, all was not well. Grandpa’s younger brother became ill just days later:
Dec. 18. Roscoe was taken with influenza. We had the Dr. He inoculated Ma.
Dec. 19. I was taken sick again. Dr. was afraid of rheumatic fever.
Dec. 20. Ma was taken with influenza. Pa came home (from the shipyard).
All the family members eventually recovered from their bouts with influenza. However, several people in the community died from it, including a cousin, Myron Hersom, who had been with them at World’s End.
I hope you enjoyed our trip to World's End. Leave a comment and enter the drawing for one of my New England books: Maine Brides, White Mountain Brides, or my book set in 1915, The Crimson Cipher.
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than fifty published novels. A history major, she’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com .