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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XXII, No. 2, June 1966

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Vol. XXII, No. 2, June 1966

Miriam Whitney White

FROM tales I heard ah a child, I feel well acquainted with an irrepressible old gentleman, the hero of these stories, whom I came to know as “Grandfather Whitney.” He died long before my time.

All anecdotes confirm the fact that Lucius Whitney was an independent thinker, with a chin resembling Daniel Webster and an unswerving determination “the devil, himself, might envy.” Whatever the day or the weather, in church or in the hayfield, he wore a stiff-bosomed white shirt and the current style of stock collar. His clothes seemed to absorb even more austerity from the obdurate disposition of the wearer.

His first wife, Thankful, and his second, Minerva, were both dead. He lived with his son, Homer, and his daughter-in-law, in the house built in 1807 by his ancestors.

There he had his own comfortable bedroom downstairs, heated by a small wood-burning stove and the same furniture to which he had been accustomed for years—a “spool bed,” matching bureau, commode, and a well-filled bookcase. A small curly-maple table beside his captain’s chair held a brass candlestick, his steel rimmed spectacles and the county paper.

Promptly at eight-thirty every evening, except during long, summer evenings, Grandpa took his candle from the clock-shelf in the kitchen and went to his bedroom. All other rooms used oil lamps. In the sitting room was a hanging lamp, which Grandpa declared “is bright enough to ruin your eyes.” He scorned its use. Reaching his room, he removed his high stock collar and flowing tie, preparatory to reading for one hour from his books or the county paper, “in peace and comfort.” It was suspected that he read the Bible nightly, but no one dared mention it. “Pish!” he had often remarked, “the Bible is for wimmin’ folks.”...

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