From the pages of North Quabbin History: The great load of wood

  • Col. Ephraim Stone Courtesy Narragansett Historical Society

  • Painting of the sled delivering the firewood, attributed to Sarah Goodridge. Photo/Narragansett Historical Society

  • Col. Leonard Stone Courtesy Narragansett Historical Society

  • Sawmill on Otter River between Gardner Road and the road to Templeton railroad station. It is from this mill that the famous load of wood originated. CourtesyNarragansett Historical Society

Published: 1/5/2021 12:04:55 PM
Modified: 1/5/2021 12:04:47 PM

With the holiday now passed, winter quietly settles into the North Quabbin area. Many now wait out the rest of the season with a good book next to a warm fireplace, knowing that there is more wood in a nearby wood pile outside.

In January 1822, a delivery of hardwood in Templeton by Col. Leonard Stone to the First Church parsonage led to what is now known as “the Great Load of Wood.” The original delivery to Rev. Wellington that day was two cords of hardwood, which was delivered by oxen, according to a recollection of Wellington’s grandson, Charles Wellington Stone, published in “The Story of Templeton,” by Elizabeth Lord.

As Col. Leonard was going across the common, his brother, Col. Ephraim Stone, caught sight of him from his general store. Col. Ephraim was surprised at seeing such a large load of wood and called to his brother. “Hello!” he said, “why don’t you take your minister a load of wood while you’re at it?”

“Now look here,” said Col Leonard, “I’ve been sawing out lumber down at the mill, and there’s any quantity of slabs. I’ll give the minister as big a load as you can take.”

Col. Ephraim accepted his brother’s challenge and after gathering some townspeople to help, created a sled 30 feet long with wooden runners. The completed sled was large enough to hold 12 regular cords at one layer. After driving the sled to Col. Leonard’s Mill in Otter River, it was filled with as many slabs as possible then hitched up to 160 oxen, four abreast, who easily pulled the sled.

The sled then went through Baldwinville, as there was not room for the sled to turn in Otter River Bridge. When they got to level ground, they unhitched the sled and went back to the saw mill with regular sleds to bring more slabs of wood to stack higher. This Col. Ephraim and others kept up until there were no more slabs at the mill and 40 cords lay piled up on that sled.

The delivery caused quite a scene. The next morning as the sled continued its journey up Baldwinville Road towards the center, the school children were let out to see the great load of wood go by, with one child even mentioning that it looked as big as a house. The sled lay loaded for quite a while outside the parsonage and the great load of wood is said to have kept Rev. Wellington in slabs for years to come. Once the wood was unloaded, its wooden runners were taken off and used to build a barn at the parsonage .

What used to be Ephraim Stone’s General Store now houses the Narragansett Historical Society. In 1934, the society recreated what the general store may have looked like at the museum. The framed painting of the sled delivering the firewood as well both of the men’s portraits are housed at the society as well. The portraits of the brothers were painted by Sarah Goodridge. Col. Ephraim married Sarah’s sister Eliza “It was always assumed that Sarah painted the pictures but as they are unsigned there is also a possibility the paintings were done by Eliza,” Tanguay said.

As for the great load of wood, Tanguay said, “We have talked about recreating the event for years. It would take a lot of volunteers and wood,” Although there are no plans to recreate the sled, Tanguay added he could envision building a hollow box from slabs and then stacking up wood so it would look like a full load of wood. Such a recreation of the sled, he continued, could be built on a flatbed trailer and used in parades or as a display in front of the society.

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