Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917

Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917
William Richardson, Alice Josephine Richardson Dakin, Robert Worthington Richardson, Harry Bogart Richardson

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thoughts on the contents of the testimony in John CARLSON vs Eric HELSTEN

Back on 26 July, I posted on my G+ page that I was trying to transcribe the document that I have posted here in my last few blog posts.
On the 27th, I commented on the first part, based on Eric's testimony:

 Finished transcribing the document. There were whole chunks of it that I couldn’t make out. It sounds like John was an orphan from Sweden that Eric took in when he was 14 going on 15 in 1858. He was given clothes, shoes, boots and room and board in trade for work. I think he might have left after 2 years and gone to live with a different family. It sounds like Eric didn’t think he was always truthful. At some point he was injured and I suspect this suit was about the injury and his lameness. Did it happen in a sledding accident with William (Eric’s son) or did it happen at work? Fascinating. Now I wonder how the court suit was settled.

Once I sent Chris the document and she spent time trying to transcribe the testimony (her transcription was very close to mine), she had her own comments:  

    The intrigue of this "deposition" escalates as I finish - for now - the attempt at translating the 145 year-old handwritten in pencil faded pages into a coherent narrative.  Three of us have now tried our best to decipher the barely visible words on brittle paper.  There are still omissions and probably many errors, but the intent of the writer is becoming more understandable with each attempt at transcribing.
    My guess is that the sentences and words are choppy because of multiple factors.  English was a second language for both Eric Helsten and John Carlson.  Mrs. Helsten was Irish.  I believe Dr. St. John was quite old at this time, and William, son of Eric, was quite young when the accident in question happened.  In addition, it appears that much of the recorded dialogue is answers to questions - and the questions themselves are not written down.  There are many responses of "same as before" as if they are answering a question that had been previously asked in another session and they all respond "same as before".
    A final observation is that possibly there were two injuries or accidents or that John originally came to Eric lame to some extent.  I just get the feeling as I read and re-read that there is so much more missing than what we have here.
    If I had to say what I think happened I would probably say it went something like this.  John was a small orphaned boy who went to work for Eric.  He had nothing when he came to their door and they gave him clothing and shelter in exchange for John working in Eric's tannery on the river.  John had problems - he was not always truthful and he ran away on more than one occasion, but always went back.  When sledding on the hill, probably near Eric's dam on the river, John slipped and went over the dam hurting his ankle or foot.  Eric, also a shoemaker, had a special boot made for John with a brace of some sort which John did not want to wear.  There were arguments over John's visits to the doctor and his behavior about the injury.  Maybe he could work - maybe he could not.  At some point John goes to Rufus Beeman's house, a Gaylordsville neighbor, and lives there 4 years.  It is unclear whether or not John continued to work for Eric in the tannery, however my family records would indicate he did fulfill the 7 year apprenticeship with Eric Helsten.
    Why John is suing Eric is a major puzzle.  It would seem it would have been Eric suing John!  The search for answers continues!!

I would add a further comment.  I think Eric had sent to NY for an apprentice as he had done before; and I think he was expecting someone to arrive, but instead, or in addition, John arrived.  From the description of his arrived, it sounds like John was more of a child than someone ready to learn a trade.  He needed clean clothes immediately upon arrival, he wet his bed, he was reluctant to learn English, he wanted to play with Eric's son William.  Eric and Mary took him in, tried to provide for him, teach him the language and give him work.  

Who knows whether it was a successful apprenticeship.  We do know that they took in an orphan who probably had nowhere else to go and did give him work and a home.  If Eric was solely making the decision about taking in this person who arrived at his door as a business manner, looking at just who would be a good apprentice, John probably would not have gotten the job.

We do know John did become an adult, with a limp, who made his way in the world in Indiana after leaving Connecticut.   I don't think he worked as a tanner there.

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