Day to day Life in Reynoldston NY in he late 19th and early 20th centuries

Comprehensive description of socal history in a mill and logging community in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. Local social history of French Canadian community. Details of social mores and values in the late 19th early 20th Centuries.

Community Life


Community Life  

           Although, Reynoldston never existed as an incorporated village, its three hundred and fifty residents formed a small close knit community of lumberjacks and mill hands, many drawn from large extended families such as the Bordeauxs, the Campbells, the Bombards, the Trushaws, the Moquins and the Trims. These families and about thirty others were the core of what became a relatively small village. Over time through intermarriage many became a very large extended family.  Most were drawn to Reynoldston to work in the mill and logging camps and while the work was hard, the pay was regular and relatively good.  

            On top of a hill across the river from the sawmill, the Reynolds’s Family and the four brothers ran the company that dominated the lives of their employees.  The Reynolds were Republican and Protestant, while their employees tended to be Catholic and vote Democratic.  Those differences, however, were less important than the economic and power disparities between employer and employees and a few men were perceived to be the favorites of the brothers..  The Reynolds family was its own large extended family, many of whom, were part of the Bigelow clan or had married into the family.  Thus the Reynolds Brothers Mill and Logging operation supported its own and formed their own distinct community within Reynoldston itself.   

            Except in jest, actual differences in ancestry were seldom pointed out among the ordinary residents of the community and it is clear that in such a small place with many of the families related to each differences were rarely vocalized.  However this did not mean that everyone’s weaknesses or indiscretions were the latest round on gossip among the neighbors. 

            Reynoldston was not large enough to support a church and the only public building was the one room school house. Later in the early part of the twentieth century the rather infamous
Bordeaux (Dance) Hall brought new life and attention to the community.  The community experienced its own version of the “Roaring Twenties” just a few years ahead of most of America.

             Neighbors were friendly, but kept their distance for fear of being thought “nosey” and perhaps  because of jealousy.  Even though men and especially women often distorted their neighbors remarks and mocked their behaviour behind their backs, most wanted to give an impression of minding their p’s and q’s and not interfering in anybody else’s business. They helped each other with field clearing bees and other groups task and when there was big enough trouble sickness or death, but when the house and barn of Joe – , whom everyone disliked, burned no one made an effort to put it out; most apparently felt Joe deserved his misfortune.  On the other hand even though most people had very little material goods, there are many stories of the generosity of people in the community at various times and especilly at Chirstmas

Mrs. Lillian Bordeaux Prue

Well it was just about  the same as it is now…it was bad.   They all gossiped.  Everybody gossiped.  And that is why everybody had to stay on their toes and mind their p’s and q’s, because your neighbour knew all about what you’d done and what you had and what you didn’t have and oh gosh  yes.  I can remember we had a neighbour.  It was mother’s sister-in-law across the road.   She had a tongue and nobody and she didn’t pick her names she called you by things you couldn’t believe or mention.   

Mrs. Lillian Bordeaux Prue oral history interviews 1970  tape 1 p.1-2

Tom Campbell

(Medicine Shows)  There used to be that used to come up here.   They used to show in the
planning mill up here.   He was a medicine man.  They used to show in the Bordeaux Hall here…Well sometimes he come once a year and then go away for five years.  Well before the show and after the show sell medicine…

          Tom Campbell oral history interviews tape 3 p.1


Entertainment fulfilled a great need in a community where hard work was constant and spectacle or ceremony almost entirely lacking from everyday life. Adults of the first and even the second generation grew up knowing that entertainment, like food and clothing, often relied on their own efforts.  Many men developed talents that are remembered to this day — Albert Bordeaux’s pleasing, long carrying voice, Philias Moquin’s talent with the fiddle and as a story teller, Jim McGovern’s ability to express the frustrations of the Reynolds employees in song. These men carried entertainment in their heads, and the songs they sang and stories they told were taken for granted with no one bothering to record them.  Once a month, even as late as 1900, parents took their small children to Allen Bordeaux’s or Philias Moquin’s house to hear the old men retell fairy tales in Canadian French

Mrs. Moquin
(laughter)  Well he used to tell stories about the “Golden Slippers”  I remember that. His father had books.  It was called 1001 short stories, a thick book…night telling and reading the stories…..A lot of comfort telling those stories. His father learned them in that book and he learned them.   

No, all those stories from his mind. I couldn’t tell you how many he new…..Oh yes, he was intense, my goodness …  Frechette would lock him in that room and all night tell stories. (laughter)   Oh they loved those stories(in French). Yah because people around home would gather at night to hear stories.  They would sit on the floor right by and look at him.   I would get so tired of it.  I heard them and heard them and heard them again.  (laughter)  

Yes he could sing old French songs I can’t remember.  I was so tired of French, I did not learn much French.

Mrs. Moquin oral history interview 1970 tape 1 p. 19

Mrs. Lillian Bordeaux Prue

I think most people liked and respected the Reynolds.  They were a very nice family.  I mean they didn’t feel above anybody and they did a lot of good .  Of course they had things different.  Now,I
can remember one thing… at Christmas time there were an awful lot of families, all the way up and I mean very poor families and Christmas time didn’t mean much to them because they never had
anything.  And we used to, the better off families, used to make things…mother used to make popcorn balls and  taffy and we would pick up all the toys that we could fix up.    We would fill a big sled with a box onto it and we would take that way up to the top of the hill to the poorer children and they were so pleased with it.  We gave them donuts…I can remember mother used to make
little donuts and things that we would take up…

                                        Mrs. Lillian Bordeaux Prue oral history interviews 1970 tape 1 p.9

 Editors Comments About The Community

 It was surprising to us during the two years we interviewed more than sixteen individuals and produced 60 tapes from the Reynolds family, mill workers, early settlers families as well as outsiders such as school teachers just how little the stories varied and how many can be varified through newspaper clippings and other shows how consitent the stories are and how truly
fair the residents were in the comments and judgements about each other.                               
W.L & R.H.M

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Housing Styles

Origina ( built in the late 19th Centur) l Mill built and owned house on Reynolds Mill Road 1969

Reynoldston’s houses revealed a great deal about the community. Most of the laborers’ houses lining the Eddy Road were essentially alike; simple gabled structures completely devoid of the ornamentation so common in the era in which they were built – the 1890s and early 1900s. Many were constructed by Reynolds Brothers carpenters and rented to the mill workers and loggers. They were in fact uniform “company houses”, examples of which can be seen in old industrial neighborhoods and mill towns throughout the United States. 

The houses were small, most having only two to three rooms down and two up. As families grew in size, the houses usually did not. Census records may explain why: children were often working (and possibly living away from home) by age 17. So even large families were not all together at the same time.  

At the mill end of Reynoldston, Orson and Newton Reynolds’ houses stood out. Orson’s one-and-a-half story house, probably built in the 1870s, was likely the oldest in the community. Similar houses had been common in New England since at least the 18th century. Throughout the North Country, many farm owners’ houses were very similar to Orson’s, while hired men’s houses tended to look much like laborers’ simple houses along the Eddy Road. 

The most elaborate and modern house ever constructed in Reynoldston belonged to Newton Reynolds. It stood not far from Orson’s house, near the mill. Built about 1900 in the Queen Anne style popular at the time, it boosted a tower from which to view Reynoldston and the surrounding countryside. Inside, there was a special room for Newton’s hunting trophies. The house sent a clear signal of where the wealth in Reynoldston resided. 

The Reynolds houses and Mill, however, proved to be impermanent. While a few of the loggers’ houses are still standing, the mill buildings and Orson and Newton Reynolds’ houses were torn down for the wood, possibly as early as the 1930s.





Family Life in Reynoldston 1880-1970

September 24, 2011

Family Life in Reynoldston 1880-1970                

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Reynoldston School

September 13, 2011

One Room Schoolhouse     Earliest Schooling Mrs. Delia Moquin remembers hearing that when Orson and Phoebe Reynoldst first started the mill that Phoebe taught school to the few children that lived in the community in the same building that later became the company store. *   Only Institution in Reynoldston The Reynoldston school was […]

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Christmas in Reynoldston NY

August 22, 2011

                        Christmas In Reynoldston Christmas in Reynoldston was celebrated in a very modest way during most of its history.   Few people had much money to buy gifts for Christmas.  For many of the men it was one of the few holidays they did not […]

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August 22, 2011

For a Video narrative/skit of the following  short shory CLICK HERE   New Year’s Eve in Reynoldston     By W. Langlois & R.H. McGowan * This story previously published in York State Tradition summer 1970 was based on stories told to us by residents.  It is an fictitious elaboration on a traditional New Year’s Eve event […]

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The Bordeaux Hall

August 21, 2011

The Bordeaux Dance Hall    Around 1906, Ted and Miner Bordeaux, tried to make money by setting up their own business. At this point in its history Reynoldston had not started to lose population; furthermore, in Skerry to the East and in the Bangor to the north family farms provided a decent living for their […]

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Religious Beliefs

August 21, 2011

Religion The people we interviewed for the history of Reynoldston uniformly thought that the majority of the community’s residents were Catholic. The Reynoldses and Trims, however, were Protestant, and there were those who practiced no religion at all. As no church was ever built in Reynoldston, religious instruction rested primarily with the family.  Devout Catholics […]

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Home Life

August 20, 2011

  Home Life   Many of the houses of Reynoldston provided little more than four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. Most families lived in a small company built houses, while the Reynolds family built two large, richly decorated homes, and the poor lived in cabins or log houses. The one and a half story […]

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Social Life

August 20, 2011

Social Life   As with religious life, social life occurred largely within the family. Unrelated people who lived next door to each other  for years, and who even knew some of the details of each others lives, might never enter each others houses.  Class barriers were not prevalent as such, but the extremes of wealth and […]

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