In 1902 Delmar Small was fifteen. In that year his father Abial began the rehabilitation of the old farm on Pine Tree Road that had grown wild since Abial’s grandfather John Knight had died in 1869. Delmar and Abial demolished the old buildings on the west side of the road and rebuilt the greenhouse there where Abial’s mother had Mary had raised her flowers. On the east side of the road they built a new modern two-story farm house with running water in the kitchen and central heat. Connected to the big house was a single story wing that led to the backhouse and barn.
When the house was finished in 1905, Delmar moved in and continued to develop the land in his spare time. He had become a skillful carpenter working with his father and taught himself stone masonry. It was these trades that provided him with income. In 1909 Delmar Small was a farmer, carpenter, plumber, mason and all around handy fellow.
Delmar Rhoades Small 1904-5
By 1909 Genie Dustin, Miles Dustin’s daughter, had grown into a beautiful young woman. Genie’s physical attractiveness and her fun loving nature caused her father Miles considerable anxiety. There was always a small cloud of young men hanging around the place. He was afraid she would marry early and not well. Genie though showed no inclination to rush into serious romance, although she enjoyed the attention of a string of casual boyfriends.
Following the death of her mother Annie in April of 1909 and her graduation from high school in June of that year, Genie left her home in Rochester, NH to spend the summer at her grandparent’s house in West Gardiner, Maine. She had lived in the nearby town of Litchfield until moving to Rochester at the age of 15 so was acquainted with people in the area. Her grandfather Leander Spear was a stone cutter, still active at the age of seventy-four. Her grandmother Hattie, known as Grammy Spear, had served as mother figure to Genie since her mother’s serious illness in 1906.
In the summer of 1909 Leander Spear was adding a fireplace to his house in West Gardiner. At his age he had achieved enough wisdom to hire someone to do the heavy lifting. In this instance he contacted a young man from Litchfield, Delmar Small, who had a reputation for reliability and hard work.
On the morning of June 23, 1909 Delmar arrived at the Spear place.
“Come on in,” Leander said. “Let me show you what I’ve got in mind.”
He took Delmar to the parlor and pointed out the place on the west wall of the house where the planned fireplace would go. It was to be faced with polished granite cut by Leander. Delmar would do the necessary carpentry and help handle the heavy stones. They were discussing the project and measuring the wall when Leander’s wife Hattie called out, “Miles and Genie are here.”
Everybody gathered in the dooryard to greet Miles and Genie Dustin and bring Genie’s luggage into the house. Miles spotted Delmar and said, “Well Delmar Small… It is Delmar isn’t it.”
“Yes indeed Mr. Dustin.”
“I haven’t seen you since you were what, about fourteen?”
“That would be right. That’s when I graduated from the brick schoolhouse.”
Leander spoke up, saying, “Miles, I swear you know everybody in five towns around here.”
“Delmar was one of my prize students back at the Longfellow School at Potter’s Corner. Delmar, let me introduce Genie, my daughter she would have been about eight years old last time you saw her at school.”
Delmar turned to the girl standing by the Model T in the driveway. She dropped a little curtsey and smiled at Delmar. He said, “Ahhhh…”. Than swallowed and finally got out a “Pleased to meet you Genie.”
There was a bustle of activity as Genie was moved into the house. Leander and Delmar showed Miles, a designer and builder, their plans for the fireplace, then Miles left to return to Rochester, New Hampshire.
Delmar and Leander began work by building a small enclosure around the place where the fireplace would go so as to keep the construction clutter isolated from the parlor. They chatted as they worked. “Genie seemed to make quite an impression on you when you met.” Leander said.
“I am not often tongue tied,” Delmar said. “She is a striking girl. Would it be alright for me to ask her out to a play or something sometime?”
“Oh, you can ask her but you may have to stand in line. Genie is a popular girl in Maine and New Hampshire.”
So Delmar took his place among Genie’s suitors. He stood about five foot five and might have weighed 120 pounds. He did not think himself handsome but he had a quick wit and a cheery nature.
She found several reasons to refuse him at first and when he asked her to the minstrel show being put on by the community players Genie intended to make a polite refusal but was surprised to hear herself say that she would be pleased to go. Something in her responded to twinkle in Delmar’s eyes when he looked at her.
At the show they sat near the front and before the curtain went up, Delmar excused himself. Genie didn’t know what to make of that but when the curtain was lifted she saw why. Delmar was the opening act. He sat on a stool on the stage and spoke.
“Hello folks. I’m are glad to see so many friends and neighbors here tonight. I see Arthur Verrill is with us. Art and I shared an adventure one time when old Mr. Dennis asked us to clean a nest of raccoons out from under his house. You probably remember him. He is gone now of course.”
“The Dennis house had no cellar, just a crawl space where the coons lived during the day and would find a way into the house at night to forage for scraps of food and get into Mr. Dennis’ groceries. We got there one Saturday morning and found Mr. Dennis had gone to town but he didn’t have to be home for us to do the job.”
“Now some of you may know that Mr. Dennis was a little odd. He kept a goat named Chester hitched out in the yard with a length of light chain. Mr. Dennis claimed he was named in honor of the president. He may have been under the impression that Chester Arthur was still president. Anyway, he called Chester his watch goat… as opposed to a watch dog I imagine.”
“When Art and I showed up that goat began to bleat and carry on but we walked way out around him because we had heard that he was vicious and Mr. Dennis used to unhook his chain sometime and sic him on salesmen and other disreputable folks. We found where the coons had pulled open a space between a couple of the boards enclosing the crawl space so we opened that up enough to let ourselves in by crawling on our bellies.”
“There wasn’t much light but we could see that the nest of coons was only one animal that had grown fat on the Dennis larder so we made a plan that I would go outside and pull off a board on the other side of the house and drive the coon into the sack that Art was holding.”
“About the time we had that figured out, Chester with his lunging about broke his chain. Well, Art and I were half in and half out of the crawl space when we heard the thunder of hooves coming up behind us. In a moment of panic we chose to scoot in under the house rather than to back out and run for it.”
“That goat hit the hole we vacated and began pawing at the dirt and before we could to anything he slipped through and was under the house with us. Well I am not very big and Art is long but thin so we were scooting around under the house avoiding the goat. Luckily there wasn’t room for the goat to stand up so he had to make do with kind of a splay footed crouch so we were all pretty evenly matched for speed.”
“Then there was the coon… Remember the coon? He jumped at Art and bit a hole in the toe of his boot and hung on. Well Art was kicking and hollering, the goat was bleating and trying to kill somebody and I had about as much excitement as I wanted. I waved my hat at the goat to get his attention and when he rushed me I ducked to one side and he hit the wall and knocked another board off. With two openings we finally got out of there and left the coon, the goat and one of Art’s boots there while we legged it for home.”
When the laughter died down Delmar said, “But that’s not what I came to talk about. I am going to recite a couple poems by John Godfrey Saxe - “The Fiddler and the Ass” and “God Bless the Man Who First Invented Sleep”. So Delmar did that and the audience was quite appreciative. When he finished, he rejoined Genie in the audience and that was their first date. Genie still enjoyed playing the field so they only went out three times that summer.
Also in 1909 Delmar had an adventure that was to have a lasting effect on his life and the lives of some of his descendants.
In 1908 there was an itinerant preacher holding evangelical services in a tent on the Litchfield fair grounds. He drew a crowd from all around the area, including a man from Orr’s Island in the town of Harpswell named Lewis Wilson. At the camp meeting Lewis met a Litchfield woman named Alice Ridley. Alice was acquainted with Delmar Small and when Lewis and Alice married in 1909, she asked him to transport her furnishings from Litchfield to Orr’s Island.
Delmar hitched up his team to his big wagon and drove the load down through Bowdoin, Topsham, Brunswick and Great Island. The approach to the bridge from Great Island to Orr’s Island was impossibly steep. His horses had the good sense to refuse at the top of the rise. He turned the team around at the top of the hill and backed them down so they couldn’t see where they were going.
There was no way to turn around at the foot of the hill so he had to back them across the bridge and turn around on the Orr’s Island side. Eventually he made his way to the Wilson household and delivered the load. Delmar fell in love with the Orr’s Island. The scenery was spectacular, the air smelled of spruce trees and salt and the folks were friendly. He would spend at least part of each summer there for the rest of his life.
Genie returned to Litchfield for the summer of 1910 and found time for three dates with Delmar that year. In 1911 they went out a few more times. In 1912 Genie remained in Rochester for the summer.
Delmar thought it was time for desperate measures. He set about improving his house, adding several touches that he thought would appeal to a wife. This activity occupied him until about April of 1913. When the house was ready he traveled to Rochester, NH with the aim of making Genie his wife.
First he talked with Genie’s father Miles. After reflecting on the long string of not quite acceptable boyfriends Miles said it would be alright with him but Delmar had better talk to Genie. So he did… with great conviction and persistence. Against all odds, Genie agreed to marry the little farmer from Litchfield. On August 20, 1913 Genie and Delmar were married. They honeymooned at Orr’s Island Maine, adjacent to Great Island, known in colonial times as Sebascodegan Island.
Genie had very little experience in housekeeping but Delmar was the most agreeable sort of man and loved to make Genie happy so their marriage worked out with him handling most of the cooking, laundry, floor sweeping and dishwashing, and Genie supervising the business end of the farm.
By the end of 1923 Genie and Delmar had five children:
Chester Calvert Small 7/29/1914, Litchfield, ME
Granville Dustin Small 11/7/1915, Litchfield, ME
Freda Mavis Small 10/19/1919, Litchfield, ME
Hilda Cecile Small 12/26/1921, Litchfield, ME
Leo Rhoades Small 7/16/1923, Litchfield, ME
Delmar and Genie with baby Chester
The children grew up on the farm and attended grammar school nearly across the road from the farm. For high school they attended Litchfield Academy which served both Litchfield and Bowdoin, the next town to the south.
On December 25, 1939 Freda Mavis Small was married to Benjamin Everett Jones. On November 6, 1940 their first child James Delmar Jones, James for James E. Wagg and Delmar for Delmar R. Small, was born at his grandfather Small’s farm in Litchfield, ME.