The First Gould Farm Thanksgiving
The following excerpt was adapted from the book Brother Will by Rose L. McKee and is read aloud at the Gould Farm community Thanksgiving meal each year.
An agent in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, took Will Gould to see several places in the vicinity, including the former Shaker property in Tyringham, which was afterward bought by the playwright Sidney Howard. This was very beautiful, but Will decided that it was too remote and isolated. Finally, he saw a deserted farm near Monterey village, nine miles outside of Great Barrington. The original house had been built in 1800, but in recent years, a rather poorly constructed extension had been added, so the whole building could serve as a boarding house. It was in very poor condition, with a tar-paper roof and worn paint. The farming land was below average, and apart from the charm of the countryside, the only advantage Will could see was that it was cheap. The price was forty-five hundred dollars. Will said, “If I were alone and could take two or three men out into that wilderness with me, I might do something with it; but it is no place for women-folk.”
However, he could not quite seem to let the subject drop. He took his old friend, Mr. Steele, to see the place. Mr. Steele looked around, saw the wallpaper hanging in festoons, the broken windows, the dismal old furniture, and the bare ground that bore no resemblance to lawns. He said to Will, “If you come here, I’ll never speak to you again.”
Nevertheless, in October, Will took Aunt Julia and me to Monterey to look things over, still wondering whether or not he was right to discard the place as impossible. The fall color was at its height. We went down the brook and looked across it at the dark green pines and the flaming maples. Aunt Julia, who had the wisdom of experience, said, “I can see how in the summertime this might be a paradise.” I was delighted with the location, and I knew what Will could do with the old building.
Back at the house, Will went down to the cellar, stuck his pocket-knife in the timbers, and found them sound, so the die was cast, and we drove home to make our plans.
Taking two of his young men with him, in a farm wagon drawn by a thirty-year-old horse, Will made another trip to examine the whole property—one hundred and five acres—and to see about a supply of wood. While they were there, one of the local people said to Will, with considerable pleasure, “I suppose you know that this place you’ve bought is infested with rattlesnakes. The boarders left because of the snakes crawling around on the lawn.” Will believed the story and was greatly distressed by it, but when he came home, we all laughed him out of it. There were other fables told to Will, some by the real estate agent who said that a stage went by the front door twice a day and that there was an orchard of fine ox-heart cherry trees. No one was ever able to find one of these! He claimed that the distance from the village—actually two miles—was only half a mile. Afterwards, we learned that he had offered a fifty-dollar bribe to one of the village people; if he would help sell Will the farm. After this man met Will, he went to the agent and backed out, saying, “I won’t lie to that man for any fifty dollars!”
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 1913, Brother Will drove his little black horse across the country from Winsted to Monterey, with a load of household goods. The rest of the family (Agnes Gould, Mother Goodyear, Eleanor, Aunt Clara, Aunt Julia, the three Gould sisters, and little Rosalind) arrived by train, a veritable band of New England pioneers braced for hardship.
I shall never forget that first Thanksgiving dinner. Our feast consisted of a few vegetables, which made us think of the verse from the Book of Proverbs, “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”