The best known and most popular resident of Mason’s Corner was Deacon Abraham Mason. He was a retired farmer on the shady side of fifty. He had married young and worked very hard, his labors being rewarded with pecuniary success. When a little over fifty, he gave up active farm work and devoted his time to buying and selling real estate, and to church and town affairs, in both of which he was greatly interested. His house stood about halfway down a somewhat steep hill, the road over which, at the top, made a sharp turn. It was this turn which had received the appellation of Mason’s Corner and from which the village eventually had taken its name.
Mrs. Sophia Mason, the Deacon’s wife, was a little less than fifty years of age. She was a comely, bright-faced, bright-eyed, and energetic woman, who had been both a loving wife and a valued helpmeet to her husband. Their only living child was a daughter named Huldah Ann, about nineteen years of age, and considered by many to be the prettiest and smartest girl in Mason’s Corner. The only other resident in Deacon Mason’s house was Hiram Maxwell, a young man about thirty years of age. He had been a farm hand, but had enlisted in 1861, and served through the war. On his return home he was hired by Deacon Mason to do such chores as required a man’s strength, for the Deacon’s business took him away from home a great deal. Hiram was not exactly what would be called a pronounced stutterer or stammerer; but when he was excited or had a matter of more than ordinary importance to communicate, a sort of lingual paralysis seemed to overtake him and interfered materially with the vocal expression of his thoughts and ideas. Type would be inadequate to express the facial contortions and what might be termed the chromatic scales of vocal expression in which he often indulged, and they are, therefore, left for full comprehension to those of inventive and vivid imaginative powers. This fact should not be lost sight of in following the fortunes of this brave soldier, honest lover, good husband, and successful business man.
The Pettengill homestead was situated on the other side of the road, southwest from Deacon Mason’s house. Ezekiel’s grandfather had left three sons, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the latter being Ezekiel’s father. Abraham had died when he was a young man, and Jacob had been dead about five years. Uncle Ike was in his seventy-sixth year, and was Ezekiel’s only living near relative, with the exception of his sister Alice, who had left home soon after her father’s death and was now employed as bookkeeper in a large dry goods store in Boston.
Ezekiel was about twenty-eight years of age, being seven years older than his sister. He was a hardy, strong-willed, self-reliant young fellow. He loved farming and had resolved to make a better living out of it than his father had ever done. A strong incentive to win success proceeded from the fact that he had long been in love with “Huldy Ann,” the Deacon’s daughter, and he had every reason to believe that his affection was returned, although no formal engagement existed between them, and marriage had never been spoken of by them or the young lady’s parents.