Chapter 13: population.
It is supposed that Medford
, during the first ten years of its settlement, was quite populous; but the withdrawal of Mr. Cradock
's men left it small.
Another circumstance which operated unfavorably for the settlement of the town was the few large landholders.
's heirs sold lots of a thousand acres to individuals, who kept possession of them; and thus excluded those enterprising and laborious farmers who were the best settlers in those days.
could fill up only so fast as these few rich owners consented to sell.
This fact explains much of the early history of the settlement.
While it secured the best kind of settlers, when they did come, it prevented that general rush which took place in other districts, where land could be had almost for the asking.
In this, Medford
and these facts explain why the town went so long without public schools and churches.
Surely, in some respects, Medford
had a small beginning; but Governor Dudley
, speaking on the subject, says, “Small things, in the beginning of natural and political bodies, are as remarkable as greater in bodies full grown.”
The following records give the town's population at several epochs :--
had 46 ratable polls; which number, multiplied by five, gives 230 inhabitants.
In 1736, it had 133; which gives 665.
In 1763, it had 104 houses; 147 families; 161 males under sixteen; 150 females under sixteen; 207 males above sixteen; 223 females above sixteen.
Total, 741 inhabitants.
In 1776, it had 967; in 1784, 981; in 1790, 1,029; in 1800, 1,114; in 1810, 1,443; in 1820, 1,474; in 1830, 1,755; in 1840, 2,478; in 1850, 3,749.
In 1854, 1,299 residents in Medford
Manners and customs.
The law-maxim, Consuetudo pro lege servatur,
expresses what we all feel,--that custom is law; and is it not stronger than any statute?
A free people project themselves into their custom and manners as a part of their freedom.
So was it with our Medford
The children of our first settlers, removed from the sight and dread of European
aristocracy and social oppression, grew up as the iron circumstances of a pioneer life moulded them.
Individualism seemed forced upon them; and, if a state organization existed, they felt that it existed by them, and not they by it. An intellectual and moral manliness grew out of this fact.
Some of the customs of our ancestors were inconceivably puerile, some were needlessly severe, and some gloriously noble.
The Puritan idea of religion was woven, like a golden thread, through the entire web of human life; and nothing but their religion would have enabled them to accomplish what they did.
It was the custom in Medford
for the selectmen to appoint a thanksgiving day on hearing of any victory gained by British arms in any quarter of the world.
They ordered a town-fast if a case of smallpox was reported among them, or if the weather was unfavorable, or if sickness prevailed, or if Quakers threatened to come to their plantation.
But there were some physical and social evils which they did not go to God either to prevent or remedy: they took the administration into their own hands.
A Commissioner's Court, composed in part of the selectmen of Medford
, had jurisdiction within the town, and could issue warrants and enforce judgments.
This easy terror proved effective in restraining lawless conduct.
The agency of this judicial and executive power may be seen in our account of crimes and punishments.
We turn to more agreeable customs.
.--Whether it was from jealousy of ministerial rights, or hatred of Episcopal forms, or from considering the nuptial tie as a mere civil bond, or from any other cause, we know not; but the General Court early deprived clergymen of the power of solemnizing marriages, and bestowed it on magistrates.
This legislation was in direct hostility to English usage.
May 29, 1686, the General Court made proclamation, authorizing clergymen to solemnize marriages; but it was a long time before it became common to apply to them.
If a man made “a motion of marriage” to his chosen one, without first gaining the permission of her parents, he was fined severely.
Before they could be legally married, they must be “cried” three times in some public place, each announcement being seven days apart.
were occasions of exuberant jollity.
Pent — up nature leaped forth with an hilarious spring, proportioned to the social duress in which it had been held.
To show how much was thought of these red-letter days in Medford
, there were instances where provisions for them were made in wills.
The entire day was devoted to one; and every form of youthful frolic and maturer joy came in turn.
The house of the bride was open for all the invited guests of both parties; and rural games were all the fashion.
The cake and wine, though abundant, did not prevent the offer of more substantial viands.
A custom like this would be apt to run into extremes; and this became so apparent as to call forth from the ministers of Boston
a “testimony against evil customs” in 1719.
They called them “riotous irregularities.”
.--As the Established Church
of the mother country made a formal service over the remains of its members, it was deemed expedient and Christian
, by the Puritans, not to imitate such examples; and, accordingly, they buried their dead without funeral prayers.
Neither did they read the Scriptures!
What they could have substituted for these simple, rational, and impressive rites, we do not know, but presume it must have been a sermon and a hymn.
The first prayer made by a clergyman at a funeral, which we have heard of, was made by Rev. Mr. Wilson
, of Medfield
, at the funeral of Rev. Mr. Adams
, of Roxbury
, Aug. 19, 1685.
The first one made at a funeral in Boston
was at the interment of Dr. Mayhew
The pomp and circumstance of grief were certainly not forgotten on this side of the Atlantic
At the burial of a rich man, a magistrate, or a minister, there was great parade and much expense.
Mourning-scarfs, black crapes, pendulous hatbands, common gloves, and gold rings
, were gratuities to the chief mourners.
The officers accompanying the funeral procession bore staffs or halberts, robed in mourning.
The dead body was carried, not by hired men, but by the near friends of the deceased; and the funeral train was often stopped to allow fresh bearers to take their turn.
When a female was buried, females walked first; when a male, the men. At the grave, the coffin was opened, to allow the last look.
On the return to the house, a repast was served; and there were eating and drinking on the largest scale.
In a town near Medford
, the funeral of a clergyman took place in 1774; and the record of charges runs thus: “For twelve gold rings
, £ 8; Lisbon
wine, West India
rum, £ 5. 16s. 8d.; lemons, sugar, pipes, and tobacco, £ 3. 8s. 6d.; gloves, £ 40. 1s. 6d.; death's-head and cross-bones, 15s.”
The funeral of Captain Sprague
(1703) cost £ 147. 16s.
“ The Grand American Continental Congress,” assembled at Philadelphia
, 1774, agreed with regard to funerals thus: “On the death of any relation or friend, none of us, or any of our families, will go into any further mourning-dress than a black crape or ribbon on the arm or hat, for gentlemen; and black ribbon and necklace, for ladies; and we will discountenance the giving of gloves and scarfs at funerals.”
This resolve suddenly changed the New-England
customs; and the new customs then introduced continue to hold their place.
.--These were too fashionable in the mother country to be popular here.
There were some holidays, of American origin, which were celebrated with enthusiasm.
Election-day was hailed with drums, guns, and drinking.
Commencement-day at Cambridge College was a great festival, uniting the church and the state; and each one of the whole community seemed personally interested in it. Small detachments of boys from Medford
went under the care of trusty slaves.
says, “The people were as cheerful among their friends as the English
are at Christmas.”
Ordination-days came not very often; but, when they did, the occasion demanded great outlays in food and drinks; and, in the evening, there were what the ministers called “unbecoming actions,” --probably blindman's-buff, and such other tolerable frolic as took place at huskings.
Pope-day, though of English origin, was noticed by our ancestors; and the 5th of November brought the gunpowder-plot, sermons, and carousing, into the same twenty-four hours. It was the season for bonfires, and for replenishing the mind with hatred of the Catholics.
Of the European
holidays which our fathers rejected, there was Christmas
If any one observed it, he was fined five shillings! Increase Mather
(1687), in his “Testimony against several Profane and Superstitious Customs now practised by some in New England
,” says Candlemas-day had “superstition written on its forehead.”
“Shrove Tuesday was the heathen's shrove-tide, when the pagan Romans
made little cakes as a sacrifice to their gods, and the heathen Greeks
made pancakes to their idols.”
Drinking healths, and making New-Year's gifts, were discouraged, as paganish customs.
The drama was thus forbidden: “Baptized persons are under obligation to renounce all the pomps of Satan, and therefore to abhor and abandon stage-plays, which have a principal part in the pomps of the Devil.”
For equally valid reasons, May-day was anathematized; and when, in Charlestown
, they thought of erecting a May-pole, Mr. Mather
, in 1686, said, “It is an abominable shame, that any persons, in a land of such light and purity as New England
has been, should have the face to speak or think of practising so vile a piece of heathenism.”
Dancing was dangerous because “the daughter of Herodias danced John the Baptist's head
But Mr. Mather
says, in 1685, that, within “the last year, promiscuous dancing was openly practised, and too much
countenanced, in this town.”
He further says, “I can remember the time, when, for many years, not so much as one of these superstitious customs was known to be practised in this land.
Ask such of the old standers if it were not so. Alas!
that so many of the present generation have so early corrupted their doings!
Methinks I hear the Lord
speaking to New England
as once to Israel: ‘I planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed.
How art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me!’
It is very clear, from these facts, that the minds of our fathers were magnetized by predilections which could not tolerate innovation.
We would now descend to particulars and personalities, and speak minutely of some of the domestic customs of our ancestors.
We will begin with--
.--The costume of our early settlers had the peculiarities of their day. There was then, as now, a rage for something new; but the range in variety was very small.
Nevertheless, female extravagance had gone so far, that an interdict of legislation was called for to arrest the destructive expenditures; and, Sept. 3, 1634, the General Court said,--
The court hath ordered, that no person, either man or woman, shall hereafter make or buy any apparel, either woollen, silk, or linen, with any lace on it, silver, gold, silk, or thread, under the penalty of forfeiture of said clothes.
Also all gold or silver girdles, hatbands, belts, ruffs, beaver-hats, are prohibited.
Also immoderate great sleeves, slashed apparel, immoderate great rayles, long wings, &c.
It took only five years for the modistes
of this centre of transatlantic fashion to change the forms so as to make another legislative interference necessary.
Accordingly, on the 9th of September, 1639, the General Court forbade lace to be sold or used; and they say,--
Hereafter, no garment shall be made with short sleeves, whereby the nakedness of the arm may be discovered in the wearing thereof; and, hereafter, no person whatsoever shall make any garment for women, or any of their sex, with sleeves more than half an ell wide in the widest place thereof; and so proportionable for bigger or smaller persons.
In this forbidding of bare necks and naked arms (the very opposite of the dress à la sausage
), there was neither studied humility nor conspicuous poverty, but the recommendation
of clothes typical of true Puritan
ideas,--clothes that would not patronize coughs, consumptions, pride, or taxes.
As the royal family and the nobility led the English
nation in habits of dress, they would not be so implicitly followed on this side of the water.
As faithful disciples turn their faces to Jerusalem
, so modern fashionists turn their eyes to Paris
; for France
is subjugating the world to millinery.
Thus it was not
with our Pilgrim ancestors.
They dared to think for themselves; and they dared to make laws against the customs and costumes of their native land.
The single fact that our Colonial Legislature took up the subject of dress,--female dress, too
,--is a proof of their clear ideas and consistent characters.
What body of men had ever before dared thus to legislate on such a subject?
It is very evident to us, therefore, what kind of dress the Medford
ladies had not; and we can conceive the dumb wonder and inexpressible blushing which the appearance of one of our expose celebrities would cause among them at an evening party.
It is wonderful how the highest civilization brings us back to Eden
The common every-day dress of our ancestors was very plain, strong, and comfortable; but their Sunday suits were expensive, elaborate, and ornamental.
The men, in their Sunday attire, wore broad-brimmed hats, turned up into three corners, with loops at the side, showing full bush-wigs beneath them; long coats, the very opposite of the swallowtails, having large pocket-folds and cuffs, and without collars, the buttons either plated or of pure silver, and of the size of half a dollar; vests, also without collars, but very long, having graceful pendulous lappet-pockets; shirts, with bosom and wrist ruffles, and with gold
buckles at the wrist, united by a link; the neckcloths or scarfs of fine linen, or figured stuff, or embroidered, the ends hanging loosely.
Small-clothes were in fashion, and only reached a little below the knees, where they were ornamented with silver buckles of liberal size; the legs were covered with gray stockings, and the feet with shoes, ornamented with straps and silver buckles; boots were sometimes worn, having broad white tops; gloves, on great occasions; and mittens, in the winter.
A gentleman, with his cocked — up hat and white bush-wig; his chocolate-colored coat, buff vest, and small-clothes; his brown stockings and black shoes; his ruffles, buckles, and buttons,--presented an imposing figure, and
showed a man who would probably demean himself with dignity and intelligence.
The best dress of the rich was very costly: The scarlet coat, wadded skirts, full sleeves, cuffs reaching to the elbows, wristbands fringed with lace; embroidered bands, tassels, gold buttons; vests fringed with lace; and small-clothes with puffs, points, buckles, &c.; a sword hanging by the side.
The visiting-dress of the ladies was more costly, complicated, and ornamental than their husbands or brothers wore.
But with them we have little to do in this brief notice, and therefore leave to others the description of their coiffures, which were so high as to bring their faces almost into the middle of their bodies; their black silk and satin bonnets; their gowns, so extremely long-waisted; their tight sleeves, which were sometimes very short, with an immense frill at the elbow; their spreading hoops and long trails; their high-heeled shoes; and their rich brocades, flounces, spangles, embroidered aprons, &c. Their dress on the sabbath was simple, secure, and modest: A cheap straw bonnet, with only one bow without, and no ornament but the face within; a calico dress, of sober colors, high up in the neck, with a simple white muslin collar just peeping round the top; a neat little shawl, and a stout pair of shoes,--these presented to the eye the Puritan
costume of our ancestral and pious mothers.
They were happy, some may think, in being free from the more than royal tyranny of those modern mistresses of shears and needles, who distort and crucify nature to furnish that variety which caprice must have, and whose new fashions finally penetrate the abodes of our northern subterranean Esquimaux, and the huts of the South-Sea islanders.
It is certainly to be hoped that these kaleidoscope changes of our day may do something for artistic beauty, and something for feeding the poor artisans; and thus be some compensation for converting females into manikins to show off satins and embroideries.
We look with anxiety for the time when old things shall become new; when hoops and pattens, silk cloaks and top-knots, tunics and scarlet belts, sacks and ruffle cuffs, small-clothes and silver buckles, embroidered vests and neck-ties
, powdered hair and long cues, shall drive out the tiptoe modes of modern days, and reign again supreme.
The best dwelling-houses of our Medford
ancestors were two stories high in front, slanting off to one story in the rear.
There was one strong chimney in the centre of the building; and the windows were glazed with diamond-glass.
It was deemed of primary importance that the dwelling should face the south.
A very few specimens of this style of architecture remain unaltered among us.
The first houses of the farmers in this plantation were loghuts of one story, with thatched roof, having lofts inside, like our barns.
The fireplaces were made of rough stones, and the upper half of the chimneys with short sticks, crossing each other, and plastered inside with clay.
The houses always fronted the south, like sun-dials, so that the mid-day sun might “shine square.”
Let us look at a family thus conditioned.
They have chosen a spot near the Mystic River
, where the highest tides cannot annoy them; and their house seems thrust into the thickest wood.
No yard in front, no wall behind, no path, no gate,--all open as an unfenced forest: there seems not even an outlet into the civilized world.
The young undergrowth of wood is springing up beneath the windows; the wild sumachs and blackberry vines are breaking into the cellar; the sturdy pitch-pines are rubbing and crackling against the thatch-poles; the golden-rod is intertwining itself among the white birch and dark hazel; while a centenarian oak and a towering walnut stand near enough to promise shade and take the lightning.
Here each member of the family in the log-hut can run up a pleasant acquaintance with a blooming beech-tree or a tapering cedar, with a graceful “dressed elm” or a glossy-leaved chestnut.
“ He who loves to hold communion with Nature's beautiful forms” will not need other society here.
The wind labors and roars in the forest; the susurum murmurs its Aeolian music through the pines; the tide goes and comes like a faithful messenger; and the sun, moon, and stars seem to belong to that little world.
Add to all these the frolic and movements of animals.
How social were they with the early comers!
eyes, for the first time, could watch the racing of the American
weazel, that agile hunter of the woods; the dodging of the gray squirrel in the nut-tree; the undisturbed meal of the woodchuck in the clover; the patient labor of the beaver in building his house; and the craft of the fox, as he barks in the moonlight to start his game.
There was something to engage attention even in the
They had a morning, noon, and evening song; for the little frogs would send forth their gentle peep through hours of darkness; while great ones, at mid-day, would grumble out their hoarse password, and throw back their sentinel echoes round the shores of their Stygian pools.
There is a vast and unaccountable friendliness in birds.
They would take to men as companions, if men would only let them.
Our ancestors in Medford
were in a district which naturally collected birds from ocean and forest, from upland and meadow.
At their doors, they had the useful cock and hen, the brilliant mallard-duck, and the sentinel white goose.
At early dawn, those notes of chanticleer — calling upon every sleeper to rise, and take a draught of undiluted morning air from the fountain of the day — those notes are so clear and powerful and strange that we should go a hundred miles to hear them, if the bird had never been domesticated.
The inmates of the log-hut listen to this noble creature, speaking to them with the authority of a major-general on parade.
They love this faithful bird, this once wild Indian pheasant; and they cherish him with the affection of a friend.
And is he not truly a wonderful bird?
Wherever he is, he has good health, strong lungs, and spirits like a young lover.
All climates agree with him; and the poets of all times have sung his praises.
Our fathers wisely guarded him and his family as a secret treasure.
And was there ennui
in the log-hut on the banks of the Mystic
If so, the birds alone could have dissipated it. The oriole, the robin, and the thrush, the swallow, the humming-bird, and the wren, were enough to put all despondency to flight.
How could they be sad, who saw the sandpipers coming in flocks, and heard the plovers whistling on the hill?
How could they be sad, who could hear the blue-jay screaming in the thicket, or the kingfisher rattling by the river's side?
What human heart could despond, when it witnessed the lark soaring towards heaven in his spiral flight, as if to carry his prayer of faith to the very throne of mercy?
In every bird, there is something to please and to instruct man. In those unbroken solitudes of Nature, our forefathers had the privilege of witnessing the marvellous contrasts exhibited by the feathered tribes.
With what wonder must they have watched the wild-goose, of which it may almost be said, that he breaks his fast at Baffin's Bay
, takes his lunch in Medford Pond, and plumes himself at nightfall in a southern
How different from him the laughing-loon, catching minnows in the shallows of a creek!
Mark the majestic sailing of the eagle through the deep of air; and contrast this with the bittern, driving his post in the meadow.
Then there is the owl, Nature's watchman, waiting for the dawning of his day, which is sundown.
Listen to his midnight love-note, which seems discord and sighs hooted at the moon; and see him shoot through a tangled forest in the dark, as if every tree and twig made way for him!
And, last of all, give an ear the whippoorwill, as he sings with clear and healthy note his matins and vespers.
Group together all these joys and teachings of animated nature, each so friendly to man, and all so abundant and so lofty, and how could the witnesses of them be weary or sorrowful?
We believe they were not; but, on the contrary, they joined the general chorus with loving and devoted hearts, making the whole earth an altar of thanksgiving, and the whole heavens the witness of their joy.
Daily and domestic habits.
We may get the truest ideas of these by watching, through two days, all the plans and movements of that family in the log-hut on the banks of the Mystic
We will take Saturday and Sunday.
Let us look closely.
The father is a strong man of forty-six, with a true Puritan
heart; and his wife is seven years his junior, with good health and without anxiety.
Their first child is a son, eighteen years old; the next is a daughter of sixteen; then come three boys, their ages fourteen, eleven, and eight; and the youngest child is a daughter, aged six.
Of hired men or women, they had none.
Extra help came from what they called “change work.”
Let us first mark the cares and labors of the farmer and his boys.
Saturday was a busy day with them; although one day's or one year's experience was almost exactly like another's.
To rise early was not considered worthy of any remark; while not rising early would have been deemed a crime.
To be up before daylight was a matter of course with every family.
The father was expected to move first; to strike a light with flint and steel; to kindle a fire under the kettle in which the water for the porrdge was to be boiled.
he calls the boys, who soon appear, and after them the mother and daughter.
One wooden wash-basin, in the sink, served each in turn for morning ablutions; and one roller sufficed for wiping all faces.
Their dress is suited to their work.
The father wears an old cocked — up hat, or a thick cotton cap; no cravat, but a low shirt-collar
; a short frock of strongest warp; a pair of old leather breeches; and leggins, which were confined above the knee, and tied over the shoe with a string round the middle of the foot.
The boys had cotton caps on their heads, or the remnants of old felt-hats; short jackets, of the coarsest fabric; leather breeches, and leggins.
By earliest dawn, the father and his three eldest sons are in the cow-yard, milking.
This over, the youngest son drives the cows to pasture, and hastens back to the next duties.
The hogs have received their allowance of buttermilk.
The morning's milk has been strained and set for cream, or heated to begin a cheese.
Then come the reading of the Sacred Scriptures
and the family prayers.
Immediately afterwards follows the breakfast, which in winter is by candle-light, and in summer by dawn-light.
The breakfast, commenced by “asking a blessing” and closed by “returning thanks,” consists of pea-porridge, dealt out, before sitting down, in small wooden bowls.
A small central dish has in it some salted shad and smoked alewives; or peradventure some fresh eels, which the boys caught from the river the evening before.
With these, brown bread and beer are served; and here ended the usual variety.
Sometimes the children were regaled with samp and milk, and the father with boiled salt pork.
From the breakfast-table, the father and sons repair to the field, and are at work by six o'clock. With their tools, they have taken the family-gun, not so much from fear of Indians
, as the hope of securing some valuable game.
Sometimes a fine deer crosses their field, on his way to the river; and, if they are so fortunate as to take him, it makes a feast-week at home; for every part is eaten.
Salted and smoked, it was deemed a very savory dish.
By half-past 8 o'clock, our laborers in the field are ready for the usual lunch, which consists of smoked shad, bread and cheese, and cider.
Thus sustained till a quarter before twelve, they hear the dinner-horn announcing — what the boys had been expecting with impatience — dinner.
All hands break off and start for home, and are ready to sit down at the table just as the sun is square on the window-ledge, and the sand in the hour-glass
is out. A blessing craved, they begin with the Indian
pudding, and relish it with a little molasses.
Next come a piece of broiled salt pork, or black broth, fried eggs, brown bread, cabbage, and cider.
They denominated their dinner “boiled victuals;” and their plates, “wooden trenchers.”
Potatoes did not come into use till 1733; tea and coffee, till 1700.
Turnips, carrots, and parsnips were cultivated.
Dinner despatched in fifteen minutes, the time till one o'clock was called “nooning,” when each laborer was free to sleep or play.
Nooning over, they repair to the fields, and find that a fox or wolf has killed a sheep, and eaten his dinner.
The father takes his gun and hastens in search, telling the boys “to keep at their work, and, if they see the fox, to whistle with all their might.”
The fox, that took great pains to be there when the owner was away, now takes great pains to be away when the owner is there.
A drink of good beer all round, at three o'clock, is the only relief in the afternoon's toil, which ends at five; at which hour the youngest son drives home the cows, and the milking is finished at six.
The hogs and sheep are now called to their enclosures near the barn, where the faithful dog will guard them from their night-prowling enemies.
All things being safe, supper is ready.
The father takes a slice of cold broiled pork, the usual brown bread, and a mug of beer, while the boys are regaled with milk porridge or hasty-pudding.
In their season, they had water-melons and musk-melons; and, for extra occasions, a little cherry wine.
Sometimes they had boiled Indian corn, mixed with kidney-beans.
Into bean and pea porridge they put a slice of salted venison.
They had also succatash, which is corn and beans boiled together.
The meat of the shag-bark was dried and pounded, and then put into their porridge to thicken it. The barley fire-cake was served at breakfast.
They parched corn, and pounded it, and made it into a nokake
. Baked pumpkins were common.
The extra dish, for company, was a cake made of strawberries and parched corn.
The same religious exercises as were offered at dinner are now repeated.
At seven o'clock a neighbor calls, not to ask the news, for there is hone, but to propose a change of work for next Tuesday.
This is agreed to; and, as our ancestors made up in hearty welcome what they wanted in luxuries, a mug of cider is drunk, by way of entertainment; and half-past 7 finds the neighbor gone, and the household ready for family prayers.
The Scriptures are read in
turn,--the Old Testament in the morning, and the New
Eight o'clock records the entire family in bed, except one of the boys, who has an inquisitive mind, and has borrowed a book on witchcraft; and he is allowed to sit up till nine, and read by the light of a pitch-pine knot, stuck into a hole in the chimney-corner.
This simple round of needful duties must be daily repeated through the six months of warm weather, and a yet more simple routine for the remainder of the year.
Now let us see how the mother and daughters get through that Saturday in the log-hut on the banks of the Mystic
Their house — which had two covered rooms below, a kitchen that went up to the roof, and two lofts as attic chambers — required very little care; and the beds could be made in an incredibly short time.
The first duty of the morning was cooking the breakfast; and, after the water was boiling, it needed but thirty minutes to complete the process.
The daughter sat the table, whose furniture consisted of wooden plates, pewter spoons, two knives and forks, the father's dish of smoked shad, the boys' bowls of pea-porridge, a plate of brown bread, and a mug of cider.
To wash up and clear off the whole, after breakfast, needed but fifteen minutes of brisk application by the two daughters.
The lunch prepared for the men has gone with them to the field; and now the cheese must be made, and it must be made with care.
This takes till eight o'clock; and hard work it is,--the “turning” of the cheeses harder still.
Saturday is baking-day; and the three females are busy in preparing for the event.
The oven had its opening on the outside of the house, behind the chimney, and was double the size of modern ones.
One brings wood to heat the oven; another gets the Indian
meal and rye; a third brings a pail of water.
Here are beans to be picked over, pork to be cut, and dough to be kneaded.
The kitchen is busy; all hands are at work; and the baking for seven days cannot be prepared in less than three hours. Eleven o'clock has unexpectedly come, and it demands that dinner should be thought of; and all other business is supended to provide for that.
At the fixed moment, the elder daughter blows the horn; and the laborers from the field are anon at their dinner.
No washing up of dinner-things to-day till after the batch is set in. The oven is soon cleared of fire, swept, and dusted; and then go into the hottest part the large oval lumps of brown-bread dough, because they require the strongest heat.
comes the huge stone pot of beans, with its top covered by a thick slice of pork; and beside it the Indian
pudding, in a broad, deep, earthen bowl.
The oven's mouth is stopped with a piece of plank, and the crevices are plastered up with clay.
Two o'clock witnesses all things in trim order; and the mother is ready to do a little weaving, the elder daughter a little mending, and the child steals out for a little play with her pet lamb.
A female neighbor has just come through the woods to invite her friends to a “quilting,” which is to begin at one o'clock next Wednesday.
The joy of such an event makes the bright eyes of the daughter laugh at every corner.
The whole heavens, to her, are now spangled with rainbows.
To refuse such an invitation is unheard of. The visitor has left; and the girl of sixteen is plying her mother with questions about who will be at the quilting, not daring to ask about one whom she most hopes may drop in during the evening.
So engrossed have become the minds of the mother and daughter, that they have half forgotten that supper must be had. They now hasten to their work, and have all things ready in due season.
As soon as the brothers enter the house, the sister announces the great quilting-party; and the fond father smiles at the exuberant joy of that darling creature, who is just budding into womanhood.
Earlier than usual is all labor and worldly care to cease; for it is Saturday night. The sabbath is at hand; and therefore they would shake off the dust of earth from their sandals, and prepare their hearts for that day which God has prepared for them.
Every thing is ready.
The sun goes down; and their sabbath has begun.
The family soon gather about their domestic altar; and the pious father reads the Sacred Scriptures
, and then offers his Saturday-evening prayer.
It is not long before the weary inmates of that house begin to think of rest.
The weekly ablutions, required on this evening, are gone through by all the younger members of the circle; after which they all retire,--the father to count up the gains of the week, the mother to plan for the good of her children, the boys to travel in the land of nod, and the daughter to guess whom she will meet at the quilting.
Here let us say a word about the mother's duties, which were as important, and oftentimes more onerous, than the father's. Sick or well, the cooking and washing must be done; and “hired help” could not be had. Moreover, the butter and cheese must be made, the cloth must be woven,
the stockings must be knit, and the weekly mending must be done.
To clothe and feed the several laborers, and then to receive and take care of many products of the farm, belonged to the mother and daughter.
The toil of the females was as unremitted as the alternation of morning and evening; and no day in the year could bring them a vacation.
How much may be said of the part that woman played, or rather worked
, in the grand drama of our first settlements!
What would our Pilgrim Fathers
have been without our Pilgrim Mothers?
Shaggy barbarians of the woods.
Woman dared to follow where man dared to lead; and she brought with her the humanizing amenities of social life, and the sanctifying power of true religion.
She came to this wilderness with a brave heart and a Christian faith, that she might share the perils and brighten the hopes of her husband; and, when here, “she looked well to the ways of her household, and ate not the bread of idleness.”
Man may be said to have the calloused hand, the sinewy arm, and the lion soul; but did it not require some courage in the mother to stay at home all day alone in the log-hut, when the bears and wolves and Indians might be nearer to her than her protector?
The patient moral force of Christian woman cannot be over-stated; and our Pilgrim Mothers have never been over-praised.
Their coming here emancipated them.
Escaping from the duress of semi-feudal caste in Europe
, they sprang upward to their natural place,--the equal and companion of man. Nowhere had the like of this been seen in the world before; and nowhere else is now to be seen this new type of woman.
These missionaries of Heaven's love shaped the character and the happy and holy homes of New England
; and these homes were the primal causes of our country's intelligence and virtue, which, in their turn, became the causes of our present prosperity and ultimate independence.
A man honors himself when he honors his mother,--a mother who lived on earth as if she were living in heaven,--that mother
Whom God created in a smile of grace,
And left the smile that made her in her face.
We have seen how the farmer's family, in the log-hut on the banks of the Mystic
, passed their Saturday: let us now see what they do on the following Sunday
The only manual labor allowed was that of imperious necessity: any thing further was thought to violate the jealous sanctity of the
The iron strictness with which Sunday must be kept, made every Puritan
look on that occasion as if two fast-days had met in one.
The hour of rising was remarkably late; and nothing like hurry was seen in the house.
Nature found a relief in this.
When the milking was over, and “the chores done,” the quiet breakfast gathers the sober family around the table, where the usual provisions are spread, and where, at the end of the meal, the mother surprises her sons with a fresh-baked apple-pie, smoking from a two-quart earthen dish.
This argument, addressed to the stomach, the children readily comprehend; and each one takes his slice in his hand, and, without winking, proceeds to business.
Breakfast being finished, the morning worship is now to be offered.
The father takes the family Bible; calls his little daughter to look over him as he reads; and then, in slow and reverent tone, reads two or three chapters from the New Testament.
Careful not to kneel and not to sit, the family all stand up while the father, in extemporaneous prayer, thanks the Giver of every good for his bounties, confesses his sins with humility and penitence, asks for pardon through a divine Redeemer, supplicates for the new heart and new life of the gospel, and prays for the heavenly guidance.
In these general expressions, he does not forget to thank God especially for the religious freedom enjoyed in America
, and to implore that Popery, Episcopacy, and all other heresies, may be for ever kept out of his true church here.
There is now an hour before it will be necessary to start for meeting; and this hour is occupied by the children in committing to memory a few verses from the Bible
, or a hymn from Sternhold
, or a page from the Catechism.
The mother spends the hour in teaching her little daughter some Christian history, or telling her the story of Joseph from the Old Testament.
The father hears the other children say their lessons, and acts as the superintendent of this first and best of Sunday schools.
The hour has now arrived for the whole family to leave for the meeting-house; and, whether it be in this plantation or the next, there is no apology available for absence from public worship.
God's command, and the penalties of the statute-law, decide this case without equivocation.
If the weather be fair, the children walk, be the distance one mile or three.
Each one is dressed in the full Sunday attire, and feels it of paramount importance not to tear or soil it. They all keep together.
The father mounts
his horse, and then takes his wife upon a pillion behind him. If it be rainy, the oxen are hitched to the cart, and chairs and logs make seats within it; and thus the family go together.
If the father be one of the appointed “watchers,” then he must take his gun and ammunition, and be ready to repel any savage attack.
Public worship began at eleven o'clock; and the morning service was a glass and a half long; that is, it ended at half-past 12. The half-hour of intermission was spent in and around the meeting-house; and friends met there that could not get within speaking distance at any other time.
The young folks were apt to huddle up together, and did not always talk about religion.
The services of the afternoon were concluded at half-past 2; and our family on the banks of the Mystic
have reached home in one hour afterwards.
The pillion, for safe keeping, is put under the bed, the saddle hung up in the barn, and the horse turned out to pasture.
The family are now ready for a meal, which unites dinner and supper; and forth from the oven come that pot of beans with its coronal pork, and that Indian pudding, all perfectly done, having been in prison about twenty-four hours. Grace being said, the pudding is the first dish; and it is a delicious dish too. The color of the pudding is a deep, rich amber; and the juice or jelly is abundant.
Hunger is the best sauce; but it does not need that to make this savory.
Two plates-full apiece scarcely satisfy the young folks.
The beans come next; and this strong and hearty food is eaten with a relish; though it will taste better to-morrow, when no pudding precedes it. When the dinner seems to be over, the mother opens the table-drawer; and lo!
a nice apple-pie!
Appetite comes again at the sight of new delicacies; and it takes no logic to convince the children that a slice of that pie will do them good.
During the dinner, they have talked about those they saw at meeting, and each narrated what news he had found.
The father had heard how much money was sunk by Mr. Cradock
in his fishing speculation; and the reading boy had brought home J. Janeway's Address to citizens of London, after the great fire of 1666,
The first act after Sunday dinner was to take off the Sunday clothes.
Each one does this; and then the mother assembles her children around her, each seated on his block; and she hears them repeat the Catechism, and then endeavors to impress their minds with the truths which the sermons of the day have set forth.
During this last exercise,
the youngest daughter has fallen asleep, the youngest boy has tried to catch flies, and the rest of her audience have paid some heed.
It is now time to close the religious exercises of the Sabbath by reading the Sacred Scriptures
and joining in family prayer.
This service has the truth and fervor of humble worshippers.
Piety and love are laid on the altar; and the concluding Amen testifies to a sabbath spent in the fear of God and the love of man. The father and sons now repair to the barn, and the milking is soon finished.
By this time the sun has set; and, as if conscience had set with it, any secular pursuit now seems half allowable.
The wood for to-morrow's washing is carried in; the great kettle is filled with water; the kindlings are put in the corner; and every thing is ready for the earliest start.
The mother and daughters, who have not dared to wash the breakfast or dinner things while the sun was up, now begin that operation; and then get all the clothes together which must be washed, and put them in soak.
The great kettle is now hung on; and it almost seems as if Monday morning had arrived.
The eldest son knows it has not, and knows there is a Sunday evening yet to come; and, full of silent thoughts and tender emotions, he slips out, in full dress, at seven o'clock, to “drop in” accidentally at neighbor A.'s, whose blooming daughter of seventeen he likes to look at. If he can get her to go and help him sing at Mr.
B.'s for an hour with some of the Sunday choir, why, then what?
Any visiting on Sunday evening, except for courting or practising singing by the choir, being positively forbidden, it somehow always happened that the choir would meet on Sunday evening; and there was sure to be a remarkably full attendance!
Thus the “singing-school” was the Newport
Recreation of some sort every human being must have, if he would thrive.
He claims it as Nature's law. Our Puritan Fathers needed recreation to lubricate the joints of life.
While they have been singing at Mr.
B.'s, the log-hut on the banks of the Mystic
has not been without its music.
The parents have led, and the children followed, in some of the good old psalm-tunes which have come down from former generations.
At half-past 8 o'clock, the candle is put out; and the day of worship and rest has ended to the farmer's family,--except to the eldest son, who, at half-past 9, opens that door which is never fastened, and quietly steals to bed without disturbing the sleepers.
His mother heard him, but did not speak.
We are sure this is but a rough sketch of the manners and life of the early settlers in Medford
; but we hope it may suffice to show those salient traits of industry and economy, of truthfulness and devotion, for which they were so clearly distinguished.
We must look through their eyes to see them aright.
They were content if they could gain a comfortable subsistence, and have the opportunity of worshipping God according to the dictates of their own consciences.
Their condition, their dwellings, their dress, their facilities, their relationships,--how different from ours!
, March 12, 1631, writes thus: “Having yet no table, nor other room to write in than by the fireside, upon my knee, in this sharp winter, &c.”
If the deputy-governor had no more accommodations than these, what must have been the deprivations of the rest of the people?
For many of our modern superfluities they had no names in their vocabulary.
So late as our day, we have seen aged persons who have assured us that they never tasted tea or coffee until they were over twenty-one years of age. In 1666, tea, in England
, was sixty shillings sterling a pound, and was not used much in America
It was nearly the same with coffee.
Any cooking which required sugar was too expensive for our early ancestors; and the Sunday suit of clothes went through a whole life.
music, they had the volunteer solo from the cradle; for instrumental
, they had the sputter of the churn, the scraping of the wool-cards, the whiz of the spinning-wheel, and the jerk-rattle of the weaving-loom.
Their sofa was the “settle,” and their spring-seat was the soft side of an oaken plank; their carpets were clean white sand; their ceilings, rough boards and rafters; and their parlor was at once kitchen, bedroom, and hall.
We have seen what their clothing was; and it was the product of their own looms and knitting-needles.
The men were not encumbered with suspenders, or dickies, or umbrellas; nor were the women sighing after diamonds, operaglasses, or Cologne
How expensive, vexatious, and useless would have been long female dresses bedraggled every moment in the grass!
Fashion, which is the labor of little minds, and not the repose of great ones, had not become the fickle tyrant we now see it. They aimed at health; and the children who were born weak and feeble could not be kept alive, as they are by modern skill: hence the robustness of those who survived.
We come, then, to the conclusion, that moderate labor, simple diet, sufficient sleep, regular habits, and
mental peace, each helped to prolong life and secure contentment.
Yes, we say contentment;
for, if any one should think these humble annals descriptive only of ennui
or thraldom or stupidity, we must call it a hasty and false conclusion.
When the human mind really desires improvement, it converts rocks and trees, animals and men, trials and joys, into books of philosophy and bibles of truth.
By a chemistry which it cannot explain, the hungry and thirsty soul turns every thing into educational meaning and moral nutriment.
All that is thus gained are reliable facts and available knowledge, which will stand the test of life and experience, while rainbow theories fade and vanish with the dissolving cloud.
Our fathers had strong common sense; and, while they were devoted to a Puritan faith and an exclusive church, they did not lose their humanity; but the very necessities of their condition brought them to the most practical results, and to the soundest philosophy of life.