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Transcriber's Note:

This e-text was prepared from the reprint edition published in 1974 by
Berkshire Traveller Press. Copyrighted materials from that edition,
including the modern preface and illustrations, are not included.

* * * * *

Home Life in

Written by
in the year 1898

Stockbridge, Massachusetts



_The illustrations for this book are in every case from real articles
and scenes, usually from those still in existence--rare relics of past
days. The pictures are the symbols of years of careful search, patient
investigation, and constant watchfulness. Many a curious article as
nameless and incomprehensible as the totem of an extinct Indian tribe
has been studied, compared, inquired and written about, and finally
triumphantly named and placed in the list of obsolete domestic
appurtenances. From the lofts of woodsheds, under attic eaves, in dairy
cellars, out of old trunks and sea-chests from mouldering warehouses,
have strangely shaped bits and combinations of wood, stuff, and metal
been rescued and recognized. The treasure stores of Deerfield Memorial
Hall, of the Bostonian Society, of the American Antiquarian Society, and
many State Historical Societies have been freely searched; and to the
officers of these societies I give cordial thanks for their co÷peration
and assistance in my work._

_The artistic and correct photographic representation of many of these
objects I owe to Mr. William F. Halliday of Boston, Massachusetts, Mr.
George F. Cook of Richmond, Virginia, and the Misses Allen of Deerfield,
Massachusetts. To many friends, and many strangers, who have secured for
me single articles or single photographs, I here repeat the thanks
already given for their kindness._

_There were two constant obstacles in the path: An article would be
found and a name given by old-time country folk, but no dictionary
contained the word, no printed description of its use or purpose could
be obtained, though a century ago it was in every household. Again, some
curiously shaped utensil or tool might be displayed and its use
indicated; but it was nameless, and it took long inquiry and
deduction,--the faculty of "taking a hint,"--to christen it. It is plain
that different vocations and occupations had not only implements but a
vocabulary of their own, and all have become almost obsolete; to the
various terms, phrases, and names, once in general application and use
in spinning, weaving, and kindred occupations, and now half forgotten,
might be given the descriptive title, a "homespun vocabulary." By
definite explanation of these terms many a good old English word and
phrase has been rescued from disuse._




I. Homes of the Colonists 1

II. The Light of Other Days 32

III. The Kitchen Fireside 52

IV. The Serving of Meals 76

V. Food from Forest and Sea 108

VI. Indian Corn 126

VII. Meat and Drink 142

VIII. Flax Culture and Spinning 166

IX. Wool Culture and Spinning, with a Postscript on Cotton 187

X. Hand-Weaving 212

XI. Girls' Occupations 252

XII. Dress of the Colonists 281

XIII. Jack-knife Industries 300

XIV. Travel, Transportation, and Taverns 325

XV. Sunday in the Colonies 364

XVI. Colonial Neighborliness 388

XVII. Old-time Flower Gardens 421

Home Life in Colonial Days



When the first settlers landed on American shores, the difficulties in
finding or making shelter must have seemed ironical as well as almost
unbearable. The colonists found a land magnificent with forest trees of
every size and variety, but they had no sawmills, and few saws to cut
boards; there was plenty of clay and ample limestone on every side, yet
they could have no brick and no mortar; grand boulders of granite and
rock were everywhere, yet there was not a single facility for cutting,
drawing, or using stone. These homeless men, so sorely in need of
immediate shelter, were baffled by pioneer conditions, and had to turn
to many poor expedients, and be satisfied with rude covering. In
Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and, possibly, other states, some
reverted to an ancient form of shelter: they became cave-dwellers; caves
were dug in the side of a hill, and lived in till the settlers could
have time to chop down and cut up trees for log houses. Cornelis Van
Tienhoven, Secretary of the Province of New Netherland, gives a
description of these cave-dwellings, and says that "the wealthy and
principal men in New England lived in this fashion for two reasons:
first, not to waste time building; second, not to discourage poorer
laboring people." It is to be doubted whether wealthy men ever lived in
them in New England, but Johnson, in his _Wonder-working Providence_,
written in 1645, tells of the occasional use of these "smoaky homes."
They were speedily abandoned, and no records remain of permanent
cave-homes in New England. In Pennsylvania caves were used by newcomers
as homes for a long time, certainly half a century. They generally were
formed by digging into the ground about four feet in depth on the banks
or low cliffs near the river front. The walls were then built up of sods
or earth laid on poles or brush; thus half only of the chamber was
really under ground. If dug into a side hill, the earth formed at least
two walls. The roofs were layers of tree limbs covered over with sod, or
bark, or rushes and bark. The chimneys were laid of cobblestone or
sticks of wood mortared with clay and grass. The settlers were thankful
even for these poor shelters, and declared that they found them
comfortable. By 1685 many families were still living in caves in
Pennsylvania, for the Governor's Council then ordered the caves to be
destroyed and filled in. Sometimes the settler used the cave for a
cellar for the wooden house which he built over it.

These cave-dwellings were perhaps the poorest houses ever known by any
Americans, yet pioneers, or poor, or degraded folk have used them for
homes in America until far more recent days. In one of these miserable
habitations of earth and sod in the town of Rutland, Massachusetts, were
passed some of the early years of the girlhood of Madame Jumel, whose
beautiful house on Washington Heights, New York, still stands to show
the contrasts that can come in a single life.

The homes of the Indians were copied by the English, being ready
adaptations of natural and plentiful resources. Wigwams in the South
were of plaited rush or grass mats; of deerskins pinned on a frame; of
tree boughs rudely piled into a cover, and in the far South, of layers
of palmetto leaves. In the mild climate of the Middle and Southern
states a "half-faced camp," of the Indian form, with one open side,
which served for windows and door, and where the fire was built, made a
good temporary home. In such for a time, in his youth, lived Abraham
Lincoln. Bark wigwams were the most easily made of all; they could be
quickly pinned together on a light frame. In 1626 there were thirty
home-buildings of Europeans on the island of Manhattan, now New York,
and all but one of them were of bark.

Though the settler had no sawmills, brick kilns, or stone-cutters, he
had one noble friend,--a firm rock to stand upon,--his broad-axe. With
his axe, and his own strong and willing arms, he could take a long step
in advance in architecture; he could build a log cabin. These good,
comfortable, and substantial houses have ever been built by American
pioneers, not only in colonial days, but in our Western and Southern
states to the present time. A typical one like many now standing and
occupied in the mountains of North Carolina is here shown. Round logs
were halved together at the corners, and roofed with logs, or with bark
and thatch on poles; this made a comfortable shelter, especially when
the cracks between the logs were "chinked" with wedges of wood, and
"daubed" with clay. Many cabins had at first no chinking or daubing; one
settler while sleeping was scratched on the head by the sharp teeth of a
hungry wolf, who thrust his nose into the space between the logs of the
cabin. Doors were hung on wooden hinges or straps of hide.

A favorite form of a log house for a settler to build in his first "cut
down" in the virgin forest, was to dig a square trench about two feet
deep, of dimensions as large as he wished the ground floor of his house,
then to set upright all around this trench (leaving a space for a
fireplace, window, and door), a closely placed row of logs all the same
length, usually fourteen feet long for a single story; if there was a
loft, eighteen feet long. The earth was filled in solidly around these
logs, and kept them firmly upright; a horizontal band of puncheons,
which were split logs smoothed off on the face with the axe, was
sometimes pinned around within the log walls, to keep them from caving
in. Over this was placed a bark roof, made of squares of chestnut bark,
or shingles of overlapping birch-bark. A bark or log shutter was hung at
the window, and a bark door hung on withe hinges, or, if very luxurious,
on leather straps, completed the quickly made home.

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