Many Packersfield settlers struggled and failed. Benjamin Pierce moved here from Gardner, Massachusetts with his wife, Azubah (Richardson), and their three-year-old son, Benjamin. It was 1794; Benjamin was 26 and Azubah, 22. They bought 100 acres of land from the Packer family in 1797, but probably built the home here the year they arrived. Their daughter, Betsey, was born in Packersfield in January 1795. Other children followed: Asenah (1799) and Azubah (1801.) The property cost them $266 and they reduced their investment two months later by selling, perhaps their best ten-acre piece of farmland, to neighbor, Robert Sheldon, for $43. A year and a half later a thirty-one acre piece was sold to Thaddeus Barker for $400. Barker built himself a house (B-4-4) and a furniture mill (B-4-7) on the property.
Life must have been hard for the young family with four small children pioneering on the remaining 59 acres of moderate and steep slopes. There was one decent site with a few acres of relatively flat land. On this they built a modest, twenty foot square house and somewhat larger barn. The tax rolls record no tillage or pasture, but there was a modest amount. They grew wheat, rye, oats and flax. Sheep provided wool. Benjamin died on June 4th 1801. Benjamin and Azubah’s youngest daughter was born six weeks later.
We know something of their circumstances from the inventory of Benjamin’s estate. They had a house ,a barn and a well. Livestock consisted of a three-year-old colt, two cows, nine sheep, eight lambs and two pigs. Their household inventory was very modest, its composition reflecting their life and that of other small farmers in town. Benjamin had an axe, a sickle, a fork and a rake, Azubah a loom and a churn. Their estate also reflected their economic struggle. Their total estate was valued at about $650 most of that ($455) in the value of the farm itself. Josiah Melville, owner of the store in the village held notes totaling $142.33 with interest of $58.57 more. They had smaller debts as well.
The court authorized the sale of real estate to settle the debts, but sales of more than half of the farm only just paid those obligations. Azubah and her children were left with twenty-three acres, their house and contents. The picture is one of a family with a farm of modest size and quality struggling just to get by and doing so only by borrowing heavily. In 1804 the small family returned to Gardner – perhaps to her parents’ home.
Two years later Azubah married Joel Brooks, six-months a widower, with seven children of his own. The couple added two more making thirteen children between them. In 1823 Azuba and her son, Benjamin, sold the remainder of the farm to Nathan Taft, for $200 ending her ties with that long ago, hard life. The buildings were probably in disrepair by then. Azubah died in Gardner in 1841 and is buried there. The burial place of her husband, Benjamin, is unknown.