Story of Massena Paine Thurston

Written by Fern Thurston Himebaugh (granddaughter)





Spring rode upon the winds and brushed the earth.  Golden sunshine mingled with the blue white of the passing winter, had painted the hillside green.  Trees, tall weathered oaks, awoke and sighed.  Buds swelled and burst.  Birds fluttered home on every wispy cloud.  The crackling of a dead leaf was hushed by the newborn moss beneath, as both were pressed into the damp warm earth by the dainty foot of a small brown cow as she paused a moment to munch a bit of the new grass; the tinkling of her bell caused the birds to pause in their song to listen to this new mono-melody.  Close upon her heels followed her sister kine.  After them a rider; he paused, his eager eyes gazing upon the scene before and about him.  A second rider came along the freshly-tracked trail and paused also - - "Father," said the first, slowly, his deep young voice tinged with a slight Eastern accent: "Father, I should like to build our home here."  The old man smiled and nodded.  He understood; not for himself alone, but for his father also would the young man build a home with a fire-place, and peace, and comfort, and prosperity.  A chirp - timidly - from the bush; a whistle from the brush; a burst of wild, hilarious, joyous music –the song of birds –a melody of welcome, followed the strangers, Thurston and son, down the trail towards the glow of the western sky.


A year rolled by, as all years do, and spring came again.  But the sun stared in surprise as its long yellow rays melted the winter snows and fell on the roof of a new log cabin.  At its gate stood a boulder marked 1834.


A crash in the woods near the clearing –a great oak had fallen beneath the chopper’s ax.  And so on thru the long weeks –until a barn and out buildings grew. Fences of oaken rails sprang up to encircle the great farm.  Brown cattle grazed on long summer grass and clover. 

Later wild ducks flying southward in the still autumn days heard a song and a whistle from the lips of a lithe young man as he bent diligently over his task -chopping -chopping -chopping wood for his winter fires.  Lingering birds peered curiously as he seated himself upon a log and pulled from his pocket a little worn brown book, "The Iliad" with many pale leaves, and he read from them, as the breeze lifted the damp dark locks from his moist brow.


"Ah, dearest friend!  in whom the gods had join’d

The mildest manners with the bravest mind;

Yet was it ne'er my fate, from thee to find

A deed ungentle or a word unkind."


His face grew thoughtful and he pondered.  And ‘twas thus the old man driving the tired team home from a long journey to town often found him.  Time passed on and the young man pondered more than ever as he worked –pondered over the lines, read a thousand times before, but never with the meaning now lent by the bare-windowed cabin, lonely now since a new made mound on the clearing marked the last resting place of his beloved companion, his father.


Because the cabin was lonely, when the work was done and the icy blasts came from the Great Lakes and snow fell in swirling eddies, young Massena dressed himself with care and made a social call.  The neighborhood was full of young folks, and as he was genial and witty, our hero made many acquaintances and found many friends among whom was a young girl, Olive Washburn.  And because she was lively and friendly and comely and capable, he asked her to become his wife; and because he was young and handsome and friendly and popular and prosperous, she consented.


Massena was happy planning this and that for his home.  Nothing should be too good.  He thought of goods for curtains –they should be linen; he would buy dainty chinaware and put up shelves for it.  In his spare time he made a rocking chair out of hard wood.  He thought of the orchard he would plant and a garden, too.  Then he would sit by the fire and visualize his home-coming in the evening, after a long day in the field: supper-warm and steaming would be ready, and a cheery companion by the fireplace in long winter evenings.


One Sunday he called at the Washburn home as usual.  It was a jolly place to go for a lonely bachelor; many young brothers and sisters made it like a party always –dancing and games filled many pleasant hours.  This time he opened the door carefully, and stealthily entered the room, hoping to surprise Olive.  But the surprise was his.


A strange young lady, tall and fair looked up from the happy group surrounding her and while light young laughter greeted his ear, his eyes looked deep into a pair of starry blue ones whose light seemed to stir his very soul.  Who was she?  Someone called to him and as from a distance he heard a voice saying, "Massena, this is Lavina our younger sister.  She is home for a visit."  He muttered a conventional something and paused to regain his breath.  He was quite without his usual gayety and self assurance.  It was many months before he could recall the events of that evening –in fact he never did recall quite all of them.  Thru out the hours his eyes followed Lavina.  From the moment he had first looked into her eyes he knew that she was the one for whom he had chosen his home-site, the one for whom he had built the cabin and carved the rocker.  The day ended all too soon to be followed by a sleepless night.  He had learned that the home where Lavina was staying near Mendon contained not only young people but Eligible young men; young men who were not engaged to her older sister.  The green-eyed monster of jealousy raised its head and leered at Massena.  Somehow he must manage to remove either Lavina or the eligible young men and –his distressing engagement.  Days passed and more days.  He thought and schemed and planned and thought.  Oh sluggard brain –swift and sure in the choice of the home site, steady and orderly in managing the home stead, keen and farsighted in barter and trade.  He could quote Homer by the hour, Shakespeare he knew by heart, a ready wit and repartee had made him a prized companion then –enter the woman –and while his head floated among rosy clouds, his brain became suddenly drearily dead.  His feet were heavy, and his heart was lead.  The song on his lips became entangled in a sigh.  He was helpless, he was hopeless, he was in love with Lavina.  Olive was his promised wife and he was gentleman.  Flimsy, transparent errands took him often near Mendon and often and more often Lavina accompanied him home to visit her parents or to enjoy a party or two.


Each month had brought new families and more young people into the neighborhood.  Strenuous days of labor were followed by evenings filled with gaiety and laughter as they gathered at one place or another and here, one could usually find the young Massena dancing attendance near the fair Lavina, while the puzzled and now often lonely Olive grew cold and distant.  A manner all unnoticed by the love blind young Pioneer.  The eternal triangle, as old as the ages, in a country so new to youth.


One evening as Olive sat alone on a bench by the window, her small hands twisting and untwisting a dainty scrap that was her handkerchief, her fine face clouded by a bewildered frown, she was startled by a 1ow voice saying, "Art thee a lonely stranger too?"  She looked up quickly.  Before her, his mild eyes studying her with a quizzical expression stood a young man somberly dressed, holding his broad brimmed black hat in his hands.  The firelight shown on his brown curly hair; the soft Quaker voice and the quiet homeliness of his face, warmed her heart.  She smiled and concerned glances were cast at the couple across the room.  And late that night after the guests had departed, she was startled by the thought that she had entirely forgotten to say goodnight to Massena.  However, this failed to worry her many minutes, and smiling she fell asleep still trying the sound of "Thee" and "Thou" with her vocabulary.  The triangle was dissolved into a perfect square.  All is fair in love and war, and the young Quaker Emmer Weaver found Olive very fair.  Massena was becoming desperate and so, quick to grasp an honorable way out of his engagement to Olive, he let no grass grow under his feet in promoting the friendship of these two.  He made it very easy for the blushing girl to tell him that her affection for him was "as a sister" and "Can'st thou not consider thyself free, Massena?"  The four became fast friends and at the early wedding of Lavina and Massena no eyes were brighter and no congratulations more sincere than those of Olive and Emmer.  Later they made themselves a home on the acres joining the Thurston fields on the south.  The years sped by and a rambling white farm home stands surrounded by whispering pines, the third frame house to mark the spot where the little log cabin was built.  A mature man and woman stand in the doorway watching a trio coming down the country road.  A stout, low statured man, Lavina's father whose eyes have grown dim with the years is being led by their younger son and their still younger grand-daughter.  As the little girl carefully leads the old man around a muddy puddle, the shrill voice of the young Patroculus pipes up "Just lead him right thru it, Roxy, that's the way I do it."  The old man chuckles and the two in the door way turn to each other with contented smiles, as hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder they look down the happy years on the trail of life's setting sun:--