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Early Colonial Life

Sketches of daily living in Colonial New England


Content Details

Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Melissa Slate
Word Count: 429 (approx.)
Labels: Pioneer  Social Aspect 
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When the first brave souls stepped foot onto the soil of the New World, they had no money, no jobs, and no homes. That is a scary and uncertain fate for anyone. They arrived in a land without any knowledge of the climate, what animals they might encounter, or what plants might serve for food or medicine.

The farmer was the central core of early Colonial living, with no jobs and no money he had to grow everything needed to fill the needs of his family, plus lay back extra for next years seed, and hopefully some additional to use as barter for things that he could not grow. Other than ministers and artisans or in later years merchants there were very few other occupations in Colonial America.

The New England soil was not fertile, so the New England Colonists developed other skills to help them survive such as fishing or shipbuilding. They engaged in trade not only with the Indians, but took shiploads of goods they had raised or retrieved from the forest to the West Indies, England, and Spain, to obtain goods to use in manufacturing and producing materials that could not be grown or made at home.

The New England farmhouse would have been insufferable in the winter months save for the great fireplace that also served as a cooking fire. The houses were barely furnished and not built with comfort in mind.

New England towns were small villages, often with huge stumps sticking up out of the streets. Three essential buildings usually were in close proximity to one another: the church, the tavern, and the blockhouse.

The tavern or "ordinary" as they were often called was the social hub of the community; it served to house travelers, as a place to obtain local gossip, and as a place of refreshment. Taverns were considered so important that if a community did not maintain one they faced a fine by the Courts. The principal drinks were small beer, rum, and eider and were used freely by men, women, and children.

The tavern keeper was a man of great stature within the community; he was often the next in line after the town clerk. Very often, he held other positions such as schoolmaster, song leader in church, council member, land officer, or surveyor. He had to be a man of good moral character and was not allowed to sell strong drink to drunkards.

The blockhouses served as a community gathering place in the event of Indian attack and afforded a place of safety. The blockhouses fell into disuse after the end of King Phillip's War.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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