Archive for the ‘Farming’ Category

“Farewell unhappy land”

Janet Schaw, a Scotswoman, sailed to North Carolina in 1774 to visit her brother who was a merchant and plantation owner in North Carolina. Previous posts deal with her voyage and an incident with an alligator. Although her sympathies lay with the Loyalists, she was extremely critical of North Carolina society and of the poor state of agriculture in the area, which she believed was due to the indolence of the general population.

. . . [N]ature holds out to them every thing that can contribute to conveniency, or tempt to luxury, yet the inhabitants resist both, and if they can raise as much corn and pork, as to subsist them in the most slovenly manner, they ask no more; and as a very small proportion of their time serves for that purpose, the rest is spent in sauntering thro’ the woods with a gun or sitting under a rustick shade, drinking New England rum made into grog, the most shocking liquor you can imagine. By this manner of living, their blood is spoil’d and rendered thin beyond all proportion, so that it is constantly on the fret like bad small beer, and hence the constant slow fevers that wear down their constitutions, relax their nerves and infeeble the whole frame. Their appearance is in every respect the reverse of that which gives the idea of strength and vigor, and for which the British peasantry are so remarkable. They are tall and lean, with short waists and long limbs, sallow complexions and languid eyes, when not inflamed by spirits. Their feet are flat, their joints loose and their walk uneven. These I speak of are only the peasantry of this country, as hitherto I have seen nothing else, but I make no doubt when I come to see the better sort, they will be far from this description. For tho’ there is a most disgusting equality, yet I hope to find an American Gentleman a very different creature from an American clown. Heaven forefend else.

Schaw was also critical of the actions of the British, the tactics of the patriot Committee of Safety in the area, as well as of the populace who let themselves be easily convinced that they suffered from British rule.

. . . . The inclination of this country is . . . far from being generally for this work [of revolution]. Indolent and inactive, they have no desire to move, even where their own immediate interest calls them. All they are promised is too distant to interest them; they suffer none of those abuses they are told of and feel their liberty invaded only by the oppressive power of the Congress and their Agents, who at this Season are pressing them from their harvest, for they know not what purpose. . . . Three months ago, a very small number had not any thing to apprehend; a few troops landing and a general amnesty published would have secured them all at home. . . . At present the martial law stands thus: An officer or committeeman enters a plantation with his posse. The alternative is proposed. Agree to join us [Whigs] and your persons and properties are safe . . . if you refuse, we are directly to cut up your corn, shoot your pigs, burn your houses, seize your Negroes and perhaps tar and feather yourself. Not to choose the first requires more courage than they are possessed of, and I believe this method has seldom failed with the lower sort.

Upon leaving, she expressed her sadness at the ruination that she was sure would come to both sides.

Farewell unhappy land, for which my heart bleeds in pity. Little does it signify to you who are the conquered or who the victorious; you are devoted to ruin, whoever succeeds. Many years will not make up [for] these few past months of depredation and yet no enemy has landed on their coast. Themselves have ruined themselves; but let me not indulge this melancholy. . . .

Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality, being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal in the Years 1774 to 1776, Evangeline Walker Andrews and Charles McLean Andrews, compilers and editors (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921), Electronic Edition, pages 153, 197-199, 211-212.

posted March 31st, 2014 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Farming,Loyalists,Patriots

The Shakers

Madame du Pin (see previous post), the French aristocrat who, with her husband and children, had fled to the United States in 1794, adjusted amazingly well to life on a farm near Albany. A sect called the Shakers—they worshiped by ecstatic dancing or “shaking”, hence the name Shaking Quakers or Shakers—living nearby in Niskayuna, now Watervliet, interested her, and she arranged to be taken with her husband on a tour of their property.

A nice wagon, loaded with fine vegetables, often passed before our door. It belonged to the Shakers, who were located at a distance of six or seven miles. The driver of the wagon always stopped at our house, and I never failed to talk with him about their manner of life, their customs, and their belief. He urged us to visit their establishment, and we decided to go there some day. It is known that this sect of Quakers belonged to the reformed school of the original Quakers who took refuge in America with Penn.

After the war of 1763, an English woman [Ann Lee] set herself up for a reformer apostle. She made many proselytes in the states of Vermont and Massachusetts. Several families put their property in common and bought land in the then uninhabited parts of the country. … Those of whom I speak were then protected on all sides by a forest several miles deep. This establishment was a branch of their headquarters at Lebanon [New York]. …

We came out in a vast clearing traversed by a pretty stream and surrounded on all sides by woods. In the midst was erected the establishment, composed of a large number of nice wooden houses, a church, schools, and a community house of brick. The Shakers … greeted us with kindness, although with a certain reserve. … We had been advised that nobody would offer us anything, and that our guide would be the only one to speak to us. He first led us to a superb kitchen-garden perfectly cultivated. Everything was in a state of the greatest prosperity, but without the least evidence of elegance. Many men and women were working at the cultivation or the weeding of the garden. The sale of vegetables represented the principal source of revenue to the community.

We visited the schools for the boys and girls, the immense community stables, the dairies, and the factories in which they produced the butter and cheese. Everywhere we remarked upon the order and the absolute silence. The children, boys and girls alike, were clothed in a costume of the same form and the same color. The women of all ages wore the same kind of garments of gray wool, well kept and very neat. Through the windows we could see the looms of the weavers, and the pieces of cloth which they were dyeing, also the workshops of the tailors and dress-makers. But not a word or a song was to be heard anywhere. …

Having … visited all parts of the establishment, we took leave of our kind guide and entered our wagon to return home. …

This description appears on page 311 of In the Words of Women. Recollections of the Revolution and the Empire From the French of the “Journal D’une Femme de Cinquante Ans”. was written about 1843 and first published in 1906, edited and translated by Walter Geer (New York: Brentano’s, 1920), p. 214 ff. The photograph of the headstone of Mother Ann Lee comes from this SITE.

posted December 10th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Farming,New York,Religion,Shakers

I wore moccasins or slippers of buffalo skin

When the French Revolution took a radical turn in 1793, many aristocrats fled to escape the guillotine. Comte de La Tour du Pin de Gouvernet, his wife Henriette-Lucie, and their two children journeyed to Albany, New York in 1794, at the invitation of General Philip Schuyler. They leased a farm in the area, purchased tools and animals, as well as several slaves. From Madame du Pin’s journal (on which she based her memoir begun in 1820 but not published until 1906), we learn of the life they led in reduced circumstances. She proved to be a capable farm manager. It was her intention to “fit in” as she noted in her journal.

The day that we took possession of our farm, I adopted the costume worn by the women on the neighboring places, that is to say, a skirt of blue and black striped wool, a little camisole of light brown cloth, a handkerchief of the same color, with my hair parted … and caught up with a comb. In winter I wore gray or blue woolen stockings, with moccasins or slippers of buffalo skin; in summer, cotton stockings, and shoes. I never put on a dress or a corset, except to go into the city [Albany]. Among the effects which I had brought to America were two or three riding-costumes. These I used to transform myself into a dame élégante, when I wished to pay a visit to the Schuylers or Van Rensselaers.

This from a woman who had once been a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette! Life on the farm assumed a routine that, for Henriette-Lucie, was not unpleasant.

We took our déjeuner at eight o’clock, and our dinner at one o’clock. In the evening at nine ‘clock we had tea, with slices of bread, our excellent butter and some fine Stilton cheese which Monsieur Talleyrand sent us.

Look for future posts about Henriette-Lucie’s life in America.

Journal entries are from In the Words of Women, page 309. Image is on the front cover of Memoirs: Madame de la Tour du Pin Laughing and Dancing Our Way to the Precipice published in 1999.

posted October 8th, 2012 by Janet, comments (1), CATEGORIES: Daily life,de La Tour du Pin, Henriette-Lucy Dillon Gouvernet,Farming,France,French Revolution

“… I am Director General of the Vegatible Tribe”

Anne Hulton accompanied her brother Henry to Boston in 1767, along with his wife and year-old son, when he was named Commissioner of Customs by King George III. It was a dangerous time for agents of the crown, and she wrote richly detailed letters describing instances when the family was forced to flee the city by what Hulton called the “Sons of Voilence.”

But there were peaceful stretches, too, when Hulton’s focus was on cultivating a garden. “We are Farmers,” she writes.

I have studied Gardening here, & by my observation, & experience, have acquired a little Skill, so that I am Director General of the Vegatible Tribe. Tho’ our Farmer is a good common Gardener, yet many things we require, wch are not used to be raised here. We put in the Green house last fall 500 heads of the finest Celery that ever was seen here. I have never seen a Artichoke or Broccoli in this Country, but shall attempt to raise these now…. I have been told that it’s only of late years that Greens or Cabbages have been raised in this Country at all or in any plenty. All Greens or roots are calld by the name of Sause here. As to fruits, Apricots & Necterans are rarieties indeed, but Peaches, Strawberries, & Gooseberries grow wild, yet these, compared with those cultivated in Gardens in Old Engld are in Size as crabs to Apples, & of little value, we have these in Garden cultivated besides currance & rasberries but all scarse wth us, the Birds devouring ’em when ripe.

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women Chapter 1, page 13.

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