Wednesday, May 18, 2011

1828 Life on a Farm in Ohio

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Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans. Written during her stay in America, 1827-1831

1828 Life on a Farm in Ohio. Spring 1828.

We visited one farm which interested us particularly from its wild and lonely situation, and from the entire dependence of the inhabitants upon their own resources. It was a partial clearing in the very heart of the forest.

The house was built on the side of a hill, so steep that a high ladder was necessary to enter the front door, while the back one opened against the hillside; at the foot of this sudden eminence ran a clear stream, whose bed had been deepened into a little reservoir, just opposite the house.

A noble field of Indian-corn stretched away into the forest on one side, and a few half-cleared acres, with a shed or two upon them, occupied the other, giving accommodation to cows, horses, pigs, and chickens innumerable. Immediately before the house was a small potato garden, with a few peach and apple trees.

The house was built of logs, and consisted of two rooms, besides a little shanty or lean-to, that was used as a kitchen. Both rooms were comfortably furnished with good beds, drawers, &c.

The farmer's wife, and a young woman who looked like her sister, were spinning, and three little children were playing about. The woman told me that they spun and wove all the cotton and woollen garments of the family, and knit all the stockings; her husband, though not a shoemaker by trade, made all the shoes.

She manufactured all the soap and candles they used, and prepared her sugar from the sugar-trees on their farm. All she wanted with money, she said, was to buy coffee, tea, and whiskey, and she could "get enough any day by sending a batch of butter and chicken to market."

They used no wheat, nor sold any of their corn, which, though it appeared a very large quantity, was not more than they required to make their bread and cakes of various kinds, and to feed all their live stock during the winter.

She did not look in health, and said they had all had ague in "the fall;" but she seemed contented, and proud of her independence; though it was in somewhat a mournful accent that she said, "'Tis strange to us to see company: I expect the sun may rise and set a hundred times before I shall see another human that does not belong to the family."
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