Some historians love their subjects so that they tend to give credence to some rather dubious facts. Ernest Butterfield was such an historian. His love for his hometown of Weathersfield sometimes clouded his vision.
A story found among his papers was based on one that had been handed down for generations in the Haskell family: ¿A band of soldiers one day stopped at a house on Camp Hill to enquire the way. The lady of the house was making cookies and she offered some to the soldiers, and the leader pronounced them very fine. It was later learned that the leader was George Washington and the cookie rule (that means recipe) has always been known as the Washington Cookie.¿
Although the person who handed on the story to historian Butterfield ¿hadn¿t put much stock in it¿ and didn¿t have the recipe for the cookies, Ernest Butterfield wanted to believe it and was ready with what he felt was a plausible explanation. This is what he once wrote: ¿In the first year of the Revolutionary War, Washington was in command in Boston and used every effort to drive [Gen.] Howe from the city. He was successful because he was able to secure the cannon from the forts on Lake Champlain. Part of the cannon came down the Crown Point Road which passes through Weathersfield near Camp Hill. It is entirely possible that while the siege of Boston was going on (wrote Mr. Butterfield) George Washington may have gone (with a stop-off for cookies in Weathersfield) to the Lake forts and made his own plans for the use of the cannon.¿
Although now there are no houses on Camp Hill, according to Mr. Butterfield¿s research, by 1775, the Newton family owned extensively on both sides of Camp Hill. At the foot of the hill there is a cellar hole where an early Newton house stood. How old was that house? And just how did a housewife in 1775 make cookies?
In the Rev. Dan Foster House, the museum of the Weathersfield Historical Society, about 1/2 mile down the road, there is an old kitchen with a beehive oven. The Goldsmith family who owned this house from 1833 until 1916 always claimed that the old beehive oven in the house dated back ¿to pre-Revolutionary times.¿
It is probably too much to think that George Washington had the good sense to stop for cookies at the future headquarters of the Weathersfield Historical Society. The Society has recently published a cookbook and one of the recipes is for ¿George Washington¿s Favorite Cookies.¿ I contributed the recipe which I found in another cookbook. The cookies have lots of molasses, a popular ingredient in food in the Revolutionary period.
Although I don¿t believe the old story, it¿s a nice piece of fiction and the cookies are awfully good.
This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.
–Edith Hunter is a writer and historian who lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont.