Milton in the News – 1886

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | April 1, 2019

In this year, we encounter a West Milton farmer nearly freezing to death, Milton’s notably fine butter, the destruction by fire of Milton’s oldest building, a bi-coastal bigamy scandal, a purported centenarian, an orphan heading west, news of Rev. Doldt’s passing, and an employment opportunity.

“March comes in like a lion, but goes out like a lamb.”

There was no Henry Thurston, as such, but there was a Hananiah C. Thurston, who may well have preferred to go by “Henry.” (Can you blame him?) As his mother, Apphia (Sleeper) Thurston, preferred to go by “Effie.”

SUNBEAMS. Henry Thurston, a West Milton, N.H. farmer, was caught out in the fierce storm of last Friday, and got his horse fast in a snow drift. Before they were released the horse’s ear and side were frozen so that the skin came off, and the man’s face, hands, and legs were frozen so badly that he nearly died ((NY) Sun, [Wednesday,] March 10, 1886).

Benjamin Thurston, a farmer, aged seventy-seven years, headed a Milton household at the time of the Tenth (1880) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Effie Thurston, keeping house, aged seventy years. He shared a three-family dwelling with the households of [his son,] Hananiah Thurston, a farmer & works on shoes, aged forty-four years (and his wife, Caroline Thurston, aged forty years); and [Hananiah’s son,] Charles H. Thurston, works on shoes, aged nineteen years (and his wife, Cora Thurston, keeps house, aged eighteen years, and his child, Herbert Thurston, aged one month (born May).

Hananiah Thurston survived his encounter with the fierce storm of March 1886, and died many years later in Milton, NH, October 27, 1922.

In this Vermont piece on the butter industry, a Milton creamery belonging to E. Whiting & Company is mentioned for its notably fine butter.

No Market for Bad Butter. St. Albans, April 5, 1886. Editor Message: Having spent few days in Boston last week looking up the market in the interest of our creamery here. I thought perhaps a few words in regard to the conditions of the market, etc., might be of interest to some of your readers. Found the market very bare of fine butter. Dealers say that for many years they have not seen the market so well cleaned up and so bare of fine butter as at present. But still there is no activity in the market, for it is heavily supplied with oleomargarine which takes the place of all butter except the best grade. For instance, a customer came in and asked a dealer for a tub of good fine butter for cooking; he showed him a tub of dairy butter that was a little off in flavor, but cost 26 cents in the country; the customer thought the price too high for the quality, and asked the dealer if he would not go out and get him a tub of butterine: so he stepped into the next door and bought a tub of butterine for 11½ cents, and brought it in and compared it with the butter, and it appeared better in every respect; and he took it at 12½ cents and was satisfied. It is a plain case that dairymen have got to take more pains than ever to make a good article, and the buyer has got to discriminate closer in buying than ever before. The demand for creamery butter is steadily increasing and the best marks are sought after at good prices. I had no trouble in placing our make of butter with well-known dealers in northern creamery and dairy butter who are anxious to secure our goods, provided we succeed in making a flue thing – which we are bound to do. We are sparing no pains or expense in fitting up, and shall begin operations the first of May. Whiting's MilkWhile gone I visited several creameries, among them one at Milton, N.H., noted in Boston for its fine butter, run by Mr. E. Whiting & Sons, who have been in the business for several years. At present they are making about 800 lbs per day, which sells in Boston at 35 to 38 cts per lb. Winter dairying is the rule in that section of the state, and they think it strange that Franklin county should be so far behind the times. They think it much more profitable to make butter during that part of the season when it is comparatively high. Think the dairymen of this section would find it greatly to their advantage to turn their attention more to the production of milk in winter. Dealers in Boston report the outlook for the season not very encouraging, but think perhaps that butter will do a little better than last year. And the only alternative for the butter maker is to make the best article possible, and get all he can for it (St. Alban’s Messenger, April 7, 1886).

Whiting’s Milk became ubiquitous all over New England. Their business model favored dairy locations close to railroad lines. Their business “collapsed” finally in 1961 and was taken over by H.P. Hood in the 1970’s.

The Runnell (or Runnells) House burned down on Monday, May 3, 1886. It was said to be Milton’s oldest building.

New England Notes. The oldest building in Milton, N.H., the RunneIl House, was burned Monday; loss. $500 (Boston Globe, [Wednesday,] May 5, 1886).

No Runnells heads of household have been identified at Milton’s “oldest” period, such as in the 1790, 1800, or 1810 Federal census records. Several Runnells families did reside in neighboring Farmington at early dates, but none are known to been in Milton until at least the 1830s, or thereafter, at which time the Runnells name may have become associated with an already extant “oldest building.”

Paul Runnels headed a Milton household in 1840. Alvah Runnells, a blacksmith, headed a Milton Mills household in 1860.

His son, Samuel Runnells, also a blacksmith, headed a “Milton Mills Village” household in 1880. And Israel Runnells, a felt mill worker, also headed a “Milton Mills Village” household in 1880.

Orin Varney triggered a widely-reported bi-coastal bigamy scandal, which must surely have raised quite a few eyebrows in Milton (and Oakland, CA).

Orin Varney was born in Lebanon, ME, August 15, 1849, son of John B. and Almira S. (Clark) Varney. He married (1st) Annie Leighton. Their daughter, Hattie M. Varney, was born in Milton in 1867. They were divorced in Strafford County Court, December 22, 1870.

He married (2nd) in Milton, August 7, 1871, Annie M. (Hayes) Kimball. (Rev. Ezra Tuttle of Milton’s Free-Will Baptist Church performed the ceremony). She was born in Farmington, NH, June 30, 1836. daughter of Richard R. Hayes. She had married (1st) in Farmington, NH, July 15, 1855, Alvah M. Kimball, who died in Rochester, NH, July 2, 1869. (Alvah M. and Annie M. (Hayes) Kimball had three children).

Orin Varney, works on shoes, aged thirty years (b. NH), headed a Milton (“Milton 3-Ponds Village”) household at the time of the Tenth (1880) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Annie M. Varney, keeping house, aged forty-three years (b. NH); his children, Hattie M. Varney, at school, aged thirteen years (b. NH), and Charles E. Varney, at school, aged nine years (b. NH); his step-son, George A. Kimball, at school, aged fifteen years (b. NH); and his brother, Albion F. Palmer, works on shoes, aged twenty-six years (b. ME).

Annie M. Varney reported that her husband left Milton, in 1882, and went to Boston seeking work. He took up residence there and they gradually became estranged. We next find him in Oakland, CA.

MARRIAGE RECORD. List of Marriage Licenses Recorded During the Week Ending May 21, 1886. March 18. Orin Varney, a native of New Hampshire, aged 35, resident of Oakland, and Pollie Elizabeth Boardman, a native of England, aged 26, resident of Oakland; by Rev. John Eliot Benton (Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA), May 22, 1886).

NAUGHTY VARNEY. A Too-Much Married Railroad Engineer. He is Arrested for Bigamy – Tries to Break Away, but is Successfully Lodged in Jail. Qrin Varney, a railroad locomotive engineer, was arrested at Sixteenth street station, this morning by Constable Teague, on the arrival of the Southern overland train, and now languishes in the County jail, charged with bigamy. A complaint, charging Varney with the crime of bigamy, was issued out of Justice Nusbaumer’s Court yesterday afternoon, at the instance of a young woman signing herself Mary Elizabeth Boardman Varney. The complaint recited in substance that Orin Varney did on the 18th day of March, of the present year, commit bigamy willfully, maliciously and feloniously, by marrying the complainant; that he was at that time a married man, and the husband of one Annie M. Varney to whom he was married August 7, 1871, at Milton, in the State of New Hampshire. The complaining Mrs. Varney was formerly Miss Mary Elizabeth Boardman, of this city; her father residing at 1687 Twelfth street, corner of Willow, is an employe in a powder factory near Oakland. VARNEY’S ARREST. The warrant for Engineer Varney’s arrest was placed in Constable Teague’s hands, and that officer was promptly on hand at the arrival of the Southern overland train this morning. When the train drew up at. the Sixteenth street station, Mr. Varney stepped off of the platform of one of the passenger coaches and began to fish in his pockets for the checks for his baggage. Constable Teague somewhat surprised Mr. Varney, by inviting him to take a ride in the officer’s buggy. Varney declined with thanks, but the constable would not be denied the honor, and insisted that the much-married engineer should accompany him. The latter was shown the official authority for his arrest, and he acquiesced at once. On the way to the County jail Varney grew loquacious, and exhibited papers and documents showing that he had been divorced from a prior wife. He affected to make light of the incident of his arrest. Arrived at the jail, Mr. Varney quite suddenly and unexpectedly broke away from the constable, passed through the small gate leading from the jail steps into the Court House yard and ran toward the other gate near the steps on the north side of the Court House. Varney evidently labored under the impression that he was in charge of a reformed policeman, but he reckoned unwisely, for Constable Teague took after him – with the fleetness of a greyhound. Before fifty yards had been traversed by the fleeing bigamist he felt the cold muzzle of a pistol crammed up against his neck, and a command thundered out: “STOP! OR I’LL KILL YOU!” Mr. Varney put on his air-brakes with considerable force at that moment and brought himself to a sudden halt. “Throw up your hands!” was the next command. Varney raised his hands as if he wanted to touch the sunlit sky. “Now you show any more foolishness like that and you will get cold lead in you!” observed Teague, who conducted Varney, now very meek, into the jail. “What did you want to run away for?” asked the Constable. “I – I – that is, I wanted to go show my wife my divorce papers.” The prisoner was searched, and then locked up: It appeared from the divorce papers found in his possession, that he was divorced in 1883 from a wife, but the second figure “8” seemed to have been changed from a “6.” A small sum of money, a memorandum-book and his trunk-checks were taken from him. THE INJURED WIFE’S STORY. From attorney Brown the story of his client, the alleged victim of Varney’s bigamous act, was obtained. It appears that after her marriage to Varney they went to live in Arizona, where he was employed as an engineer on the Southern Pacific, running from Tucson. Some person connected with Wentworth’s shoe factory at Sixteenth street station learned that Varney had a wife living in New Hampshire. Communication was had with her, and she forwarded official documents showing that she was married to Orin Varney in 1871 and had never been divorced. Also, that Varney had been previously married and divorced, and, that wife No. 1 had, after the divorce, died. Wife No. 2, Mrs. Annie M. Varney, is a talented and a highly respected school-marm in Milton, New Hampshire. She was a widow with four children when she married with Varney, who then had two children, one of whom, a daughter, is now married. These facts were communicated to Mrs. Varney No. 3, nee Miss Boardman, and a bogus telegram was also sent, informing her that her mother was dying, and to return home at once. She arrived here two or three weeks since, and then the problem was to get the bigamist here. He was written to relative to accepting the position of engineer in Wentworth’s shoe factory, and it is presumed that he came up intending to accept such position. He is tall, dark complexioned, wears a light mustache, and is 37 years old. An application will be made on behalf of Mrs. Varney No. 3 to annul her marriage with Varney, and he will be prosecuted criminally on the charge of bigamy. Varney was called upon this afternoon by a TRIBUNE reporter, but declined to say anything relative to the cause of his arrest (Oakland Tribune, June 2, 1886).

PACIFIC COAST NOTES. CULLED FROM WESTERN EXCHANGES. Orin Varney, a locomotive engineer at Oakland, Cal., was arrested June 3d, on a charge of bigamy. The complaint is made by his second wife, who, since their marriage, has discovered that Varney had another wife and several children living at Milton, N.H. (Deseret Evening News, June 8, 1886).

Varney was released on $1,000 bail, but did not show up for trial. The sheriff was seeking “strenuously” for him in September 1886. At the time of his son’s 1898 marriage, Orin Varney was said to be an engineer, residing in “Mexico.”

Annie M. (Hayes) Kimball divorced Varney in 1888 and reverted to her first married name. Annie M. Kimball of Milton, NH, appeared as the widow of a veteran in the surviving veterans’ schedule of the Eleventh (1890) Federal Census. (Her first husband, Alvah M. Kimball, had been a 1st Lieutenant in the 15th NH Regiment in 1862-63).

Annie M. Kimball died in Milton, NH (forty-eight years residence), December 10, 1917.

Abigail “Abby” Bean was born in Shapleigh, ME, November 14, 1789, daughter of William and Susan (Gilbert) Bean.

She married in Shapleigh, ME, October 1814, Joseph Remick. He was born in Acton, ME, June 22, 1791, son of Timothy and Ann (Bean) Remick.

Joseph and Abigail “Abby” (Bean) Remick resided in Acton, ME, in 1850 (she was 61); Somersworth, NH, in 1860 (she was 70); and Milton, NH, in 1870 (she was 81). He died in Milton, NH, August 29, 1870, aged seventy-nine years.

Despite the following newspaper items, she would have been ninety-five years of age had she lived to November 14, 1886.

GENERAL AND PERSONAL. Mrs. Abigail Remick, of West Milton, N.H., will be 105 years old if she lives until December 21. She lives with her son, Timothy Remick, aged 84 (Nebraska State Journal, August 8, 1886).

Yankee Notions. Mrs. Abigail Remick of West Milton, N.H., will be 105 years old if she lives until December 21. Her hearing is very good and her sight fair. She can tell interesting stories of the stirring scenes of 1812, when she accompanied her husband to the defence of Fort Constitution in Portsmouth harbor (Boston Globe, August 21, 1886).

Timothy Remick, a painter, aged fifty-one years (b. ME), headed a Milton household at the time of the Tenth (1880) Federal Census. His household included his mother, Abby Remick, keeping house, aged ninety-two years (b. ME).

Dies at the Age of 102 Years. Milton, N.H., August 23. Mrs. Ruth [SIC] Remick, aged 102 years, died Saturday evening. She was in remarkably good health up to a few days of her death. She leaves a son and daughter, aged 81 and 79 respectively (Boston Globe, August 24, 1886).

Abigail (Bean) Remick died in Milton, NH, August 19, 1886, aged one hundred and one years (per her Milton death certificate), but actually aged ninety-four years.

It proved difficult to expand much upon the following story. There is nothing to indicate the age or birthplace of the absent John Wendell. The unnamed Wendell son would have been born about 1870-71, but not in Milton, although he had unnamed relatives here, at least at first.

William Jenness, a farmer, aged sixty-five years (b. NH), headed a Rochester household at the time of the Tenth (1880) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Joanna Jenness, keeping house, aged sixty-seven years (b. NH), and his servant, Clarence Wendell, at school, aged nine years (b. Unknown).

PERSONAL AND GENERAL. TWELVE years ago John Wendell went West, leaving his three-year old boy with relatives in Milton, N.H. Nothing being heard of Wendell, the boy was finally sent to the almshouse until he was twelve years old, when he was bound out to a farmer. A few weeks ago a letter was sent from Lincoln, Ill., to Milton, saying that Wendell had died there, leaving $25,000 to be divided between a daughter; by a second marriage and his son in New Hampshire. On Monday the boy started West to look after his legacy (Pittsburgh Daily Post, [Saturday,] September 11, 1886).

There are (or were) two places called Lincoln, Ill., and the Eleventh (1890) Federal Census has not survived.

Rev. James Doldt had been minister of the Milton Congregational Church between 1848 and 1870. He left Milton for Canterbury, NH, where he was minister until 1886. He retired from the Canterbury pulpit due to illness and went to live with his daughter in Orange, NJ.

NEW HAMPSHIRE NEWS. Rev. James Doldt of Canterbury died on Sunday at Orange, N.J., whither he went a few days ago for the benefit of his health. He was born in Groton, Mass., Sept. 30, 1809, was graduated from Gilmanton theological seminary in 1841, and was ordained to the Congregational ministry, Sept. 21, 1843. His first settlement was in Wolfboro, N.H., and afterwards he was in Effingham, Milton and Canterbury, where he was pastor of the Congregational church until his resignation a few weeks ago (Vermont Journal (Windsor, VT), [Saturday,] November 6, 1886).

Advertisements of this period often sought employees that “understood” processes, rather than ones that had “experience” of them.

FEMALE HELP WANTED. WANTED – Immediately, a woman that understands both rough and finish hosiery mending. Address, stating terms, Riverside Mfg. Co., Milton Mills, N.H. (Boston Globe, November 11, 1886).

Previous in sequence: Milton in the News – 1885; next in sequence: Milton in the News – 1887


Find a Grave. (2016, August 23). Alvah Mansur Kimball. Retrieved from

US Congress. (1891). United States Congressional Serial Set, Volume 2885. Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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