Huldah Hurd Wilcox, and her daughter, Huldah Wilcox Ware (the first wife of Benjamin Ware), both spent much of their adult lives in a log house that once stood on a steep hillside, just a few miles from the village of Gilsum, New Hampshire, not far from the famed Vessel Rock. Nothing remains at the site now, except the deep cellar hole that was lined with rocks and the chimney bricks that formed a large corner fireplace in the one-room house.
The hole is located in the deep New Hampshire woods (pictured left) that have grown back and covered the steep hill that men such as Obadiah Wilcox, Jr., and Benjamin Ware struggled to burn and clear in the late 1700’s. WFA members now think of the site of the log house as "Benjamin’s cellar hole.” Two of our New England WFA members first located and visited this site in the spring of 2004 and they and a few other WFA members hiked to the hole in July of 2004.
Huldah Hurd Wilcox’s husband, Obadiah Wilcox, Jr., built the log house in 1773, one-half mile northeast of his father’s home. Unfortunately, Obadiah died December 12, 1776, less than three weeks before the birth of the young couple’s first child, also named Huldah, on December 30, 1776. He was thirty years old. We do not know how Huldah Wilcox and her infant daughter managed to live after Obadiah’s death, but they may have resided with another family.
The lives of these two women, both mother and daughter, were, by our standards today, short and difficult, but not unusual for the time in which they lived. Most couples had large families. The wife cooked, cleaned, gardened, preserved food, and cared for children. The husband farmed, hunted, cut wood, and cared for domestic animals. Farm work was back-breaking: first in the immense effort of cutting and burning trees to clear land, then rock removal, and later the work of plowing, planting, and harvesting. Many people died young because medical treatment was unavailable and known medicines were not very effective. Widows and widowers remarried quickly in order to survive.
Five years after Obadiah’s death, Huldah Hurd Wilcox married a widower, Thomas Redding. He and his three-year-old daughter, Lucy, moved into the her log house and the family lived there until Huldah Wilcox Redding’s death in 1791, at the age of thirty-eight. During their ten years of marriage, Thomas and Huldah’s family expanded to include four more children, Thomas, Jr., Sally, Statira, and Obadiah. After Huldah’s death, Thomas Redding again married quickly, within seven months, to another widow, Pamela Rice, of Keene, who was only two years older than his stepdaughter, Huldah Wilcox.
Thomas Redding then left the Wilcox house, which legally passed to his stepdaughter Huldah Wilcox, and moved to the nearby town of Keene, county seat of Cheshire County. We do not know if Huldah Wilcox moved to Keene with her stepfather, or remained alone in the log house on the hill. Within two years of the Redding family’s move to Keene, however, Huldah met and married the young Benjamin Ware. Benjamin and Huldah Ware then had the advantage of starting out with a house of their own. Huldah Wilcox Ware died March 19, 1811, at age 36, just a week after the death of her second daughter, Maria Ware, age 8, and just three months after the death of her fourth daughter Statira Ware, age 6. All three of them were buried in Vessel Rock Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Cheshire County. Huldah’s worn and crusted gravestone is pictured to the left.