Sunday, October 23, 2011

1656 Account by an Early Settler

Below is an extract from account in 1656, John Hammond, who wishes to clarify the rumours about Virginia.

'The Country is reported to be an unhealthy place, a nest of Rogues, whores, desolute and rooking persons; a place of intolerable labour, bad usage and hard Diet, &c.'

The account doesn't deny these claims, but makes references to how Virginia has changed and is now 'fruitful' and 'replenished'. It's a positive account of the land and the entire extract also makes links to the native Americans who live there, the whole document can be found on the link at the bottom. The extract below details the main comparison which the account makes to England, mostly about the food offered and how 'venison is a tiresome meat'...'Turkey is frequent' we can already see a reference of America's introduction of Turkey,

'The Country is as I said of a temperate nature, the dayes, in summer not so long as in England, in winter longer; it is somewhat hotter in June, July and August then here, but that heat sweetly allayed by a continual breaze of winde, which never failes to cool and refresh the labourer and traveller; the cold seldom approaches sencibly untill about Christmas, (although the last winter was hard and the worst I or any living there knew) and when winter comes, (which is such and no worse then is in England,) it continues two monthes seldom longer, often not so long and in that time although here seldom hardweather keep men from labour, yet there no work is done all winter except dressing their own victuals and making of fires.

The labour servants are put to, is not so hard nor of such continuance as Husbandmen, nor Handecraftmen are kept at in England, I said little or nothing is done in winter time, none ever work before sun rising nor after sun set, in the summer they rest, steep or exercise themselves five houres in the heat of the day, Saturdayes afternoon is alwayes their own, the old Holidayes are observed and the Sabboath spent in good exercises.

The Women are not (as is reported) put into the ground to worke, but occupie such domestique imployments and houswifery as in England, that is dressing victuals, righting up the house, milking, imployed about dayries, washing, sowing, &c. and both men and women have times of recreations, as much or more than in any part of the world besides, yet som wenches that are nasty, beastly and not fit to be so imployed are put into the ground, for reason tells us, they must not at charge be transported and then mantained for nothing, but those that prove so aukward are rather burthensome then servants desirable or usefull.

The Country is fruitfull, apt for all and more then England can or does produce, the usuall diet is such as in England, for

the rivers afford innumerable sortes of choyce fish, (if they will take the paines to make wyers or hier the Natives, who for a small matter will undertake it,) winter and summer, and that in many places sufficient to serve the use of man, and to fatten hoggs, water- fowle of all sortes are (with admiration to be spoken of) plentifull and easie to be killed, yet by many degrees more plentifull in some places then in othersome, Deare all over the Country, and in many places so many, that venison is accounted a tiresom meat, wilde Turkeys are frequent, and so large that I have seen some weigh near threescore pounds; other beasts there are whose flesh is wholsom and savourie, such are unknowne to us; and therefore I will not stuffe my book with superfluous relation of their names; huge Oysters and store in all parts here the salt-water comes.

The Country is exceedingly replenished with Neat cattle, Hoggs, Goats and Tame- fowle, but not many sheep; so that mutton is somwhat scarce, but that defect is supplied with store of Venison, other flesh and fowle; The Country is full of gallant Orchards, and the fruit generally more luscious and delightfull then here, witnesse the Peach and Quince, the latter may be eaten raw savourily, the former differs and as much exceeds ours as the best relished apple we have doth the crabb, and of both most excellent and comfortable drinks are made, Grapes in infinite manners grow wilde, so do Walnuts, Smalnuts, Chesnuts and abundance of excellent fruits, Plums and Berries, not growing or known in England; graine we have, both English and Indian for bread and Bear, and Pease besides English of ten several sorts, all exceeding ours in England, the gallant root of Potatoes are common, and so are all sorts of rootes, herbes and Garden stuffe.'

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