Hanover High School student writes about Norwich's history

She will be writing weekly posts for 1 year about the history of our wonderful town.

Hello Norwich and Upper Valley residents, I would like to introduce you to Lauren Pidgeon , a Hanover High student from Norwich who is interested in our community’s history.

She is exploring the world of Mary Slack, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who kept a diary here in Norwich in 1865. The Norwich Historical Society has just one year of her diary and Lauren is sharing her research in weekly posts.

I will be posting these for the Norwich Historical Society when I spot one here and there so that the word gets out and about regarding this project. If I should miss one please just go onto the Norwich Historical website and you will find them.

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About the Project

Mary's Siblings' World

Mary writes about many family members in her diary. It became clear that not all of her siblings were living at home. The 1860 census shows that the Slacks were farmers and that there were four children at home, including Mary. Comparing the 1850 census to the 1860, I could see that the two oldest sons had left home and one young daughter had died. By 1865, the year Mary kept her diary, her brother Herbert had already moved out. Mary mentioned him frequently and I wondered about his life. 

Since he was 19 years old at the time Mary wrote the diary, I wondered if he had played any sort of role in the Civil War. I looked on vermontcivilwar.org to see if I could find any young men with the last name Slack and sure enough, Herbert Slack had been in the 16th VT Infantry Co K for one month. He left from Brattleboro with 949 other men on the 23rd of October, 1862 with the intention of staying in the army for 9 months. Herbert and the men took the train down to Washington, D.C and joined the 2nd Brigade which had the job of defending the capital city. For some reason Herbert mustered out of the army after 1 month.

Monday January 9

It has been warmer to day than yesterday. Helped Mother wash this morning before school and then went to school. Received a letter to night from ----. Herbert was married today. 

Vermont State Militia on Main Street, Norwich, 1864

Thursday October 12
Arrived in Manchester this night about 4 oclock and am dreadfull tired. Homer was married this morning at nine oclock. James and I went up to the wedding and then James carried me to the Depot. I wish I could see him to night the Dear fellow!

Friday October 13
Wrote a letter to James and this afternoon went down to the Mills with Herman and Homer and Nett. Don't believe I should like to work there very well. Went over and see Aunt Mary a few minutes this morning. 

Amoskeag Mills, Manchester, NH

Herbert’s marriage certificate reveals that he and his wife Hattie Waterman married in Lebanon. He was a mechanic and she was a domestic, or a maid. I find it interesting that Hattie was living in Lowell, Mass at the time of the marriage. Could she have left her farm in Norwich to work in the mills like so many other young women? In her diary, Mary mentions going to the mills in Manchester to see Herbert and Hattie. Even though they lived in Manchester, they still came back to Norwich for visits. 

Thursday December 21

James, Father, Herbert and Albert Hale are here this evening and have been playing Whist. Quite a house full.

Sadly, Herbert died in July 1866, a little more than a year after his marriage. His death record lists his cause of death as Painter's Cholic. A quick search revealed that it was another name for lead poisoning. Herbert probably got this while working as a machinist in the factory where he worked with lead paint. He's buried in Hillside Cemetery here in Norwich. 

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