• Sara Tucker

Everything Was Upset

By Harry H. Cooley


Chapter 4 of Harry's autobiography records his first teaching position, his marriage to Gertrude Small, his job as a teacher of agriculture in Stowe, the outbreak of World War I, his job as a hired man on the farm of Closson Gilbert, and his father's purchase of the Hill farm, which adjoined the property in Randolph—all in a mere 800 words. (He wrote his life story in fewer than 15,000 words.) Korongo will publish Harry's book later this spring.

When, in 1915, one of the faculty at VSA became ill, I was asked to fill in as instructor. I accepted and took a room in the colonial across the street from the agricultural school. Mr. Cook did not recover, and I stayed on as instructor until spring, when the trustees hired a Cornell graduate, Ralph Denman, to fill the position.


I stayed on as teamster on the farm, working with the farm foreman, Mr. Kimball, an elderly employee. The school trustees purchased a pair of heavy horses from the West, and I was given the duty of breaking in a green team, something I had never done but which I enjoyed and was moderately successful. At least they never ran away or got sick and did learn how to work, although they were never well mated and after I left the school soon disappeared.

I worked on the school farm that summer, and through the good offices of Mr. Green obtained a position as agricultural instructor in Stowe High School at a salary of seven hundred dollars per year.


During that time I courted Gertrude Small, who was a clerk in the [Randolph Center] post office and who married me in September of 1916 after I had taught a year at Stowe.

I saved half my salary that year, as I got board in Stowe for $3.50 per week. I not only taught through the school year but stayed in Stowe the following summer as a sort of county agent, assisting farmers in various ways—testing cows, spraying potatoes.


I came home the last week in August, and we were married in Claremont [New Hampshire] on September 5, the wedding anniversary of Gertrude‘s parents.

The house had no central heat, plumbing, or electricity, but we were accustomed to such lacks and had a very happy year.

We went straight to Stowe, expecting to start teaching immediately, but found the school did not open on time due to the epidemic of infantile paralysis. We rented a part of a small house, on the main street in Stowe, owned by one Ida Harris, who reserved rooms in the rear but occupied them only occasionally. At that time the house had no central heat, plumbing, or electricity, but we were accustomed to such lacks and had a very happy year.

During spring vacation, I had an operation for hemorroids at Burlington, which laid me up for ten days.

During that spring [1917] the United States entered World War I, and everything was upset. The agricultural students were excused to work at home, and it appeared that the agricultural course would be discontinued, at least for the duration of the war.

Mr. Gilbert was a fine, intelligent man with the highest civic ideals, but his method of farming involved what I considered ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ practices.

I was anxious to get into farming again and arranged with Mr. Closson Gilbert of Randolph Center to work for (or with) him. I finished my work in Stowe, and we moved our few belongings to the house that stood south of the Gilbert residence and which now stands near the McLean cottage. It is a much traveled structure, having served first as a post office located on the west side of the street in Randolph Center just a little north of the Floyd Store. Then Mr. Gilbert had it moved to his farm a mile south of the Center, where it stood when we lived in it. After the place was sold to Dr. Bloom, he sold it to Dr. McLean, who had it moved to its present location. We settled in our few belongings, and I began work on the Gilbert farm.


Mr. Gilbert was a fine, intelligent man with the highest civic ideals, but his method of farming involved what I considered “penny wise and pound foolish” practices. The only motive power on the farm consisted of three small horses, two very old and a younger one, the colt.

His ambition was to bring more marginal land under cultivation during the war. His farm equipment was very old and meager, and the stable was small and dark. He had some good land and raised good crops by working very hard and long hours. I found he frequently rose at 4 to 4:30 and went to work in the field, leaving me to milk the cows. I helped to harvest the hay but decided it was hopeless to expect to do what he seemed to think was needed without any other help than myself and an occasional day worker.


Meanwhile, on the home farm, Sumner and Father were carrying on a small business. I wanted to get back home with them, and Father bought the small farm adjoining ours on the south side, which was owned by Mr. O. C. Hill. Included in the deal was a small dairy and two horses.


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