Friday, June 10, 2022

George & Martha Washington's Laundry Wash House at Mount Vernon in 18C Virginia

Compiled by Sydney Marenburg 

In the Mount Vernon home of Martha & George Washington. the Laundry or Wash House, enslaved laundresses performed weekly washings for the Washington family, long-term guests, hired white servants, & overseers.

Laundry in the 18C was usually a 3-day, labor-intensive process reserved for household linens, like sheets & tablecloths, & clothing worn closest to the skin: shirts, shifts, & stockings. Many people contributed garments to each laundry load, so clothes & linens often were marked with the owner’s initials or name in ink or cross-stitch. 

At Mount Vernon, as at many other elite 18C houses, the employment contracts of unmarried, white male servants often included the provision of laundry services. (See: Agreement with Burgis Mitchell, 1 May 1762,” 

A married man’s laundry fell to his wife. (See: "George Washington to James Anderson (of Scotland), 7 April 1797,”

George & Martha Washington’s famous hospitality included providing laundry services for Mount Vernon guests staying longer than 1 week (the typical turn-around time of the Wash House.) A constant stream of guests surely created a heavy workload for the enslaved laundresses.

Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, a visiting Polish Nobleman who stayed at the plantation for 2 weeks, noted that the enslaved workers “took care of me, of my linen, of my clothes,” treating him “not as a stranger but as a member of the family.” (See: Ursyn Niemcewicz, Julian, Early Description by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz. June 5, 1978.)

The 1799 probate inventory taken after George Washington’s death recorded the contents of the Wash House. The building contained 9  tubs, 4 pails, 2  small buckets with handles (called piggins), 4 tables, & 2 copper tubs (called boilers) valued at $34.75. (See: P.C Nash, Fairfax County Will Book J, 1801-1806, Fairfax, Virginia: Fairfax County Court Archives, 1810, George Washington.) 

In addition, 8 jars of soap, valued at $25, were stored in the Mansion cellar. When Washington inherited the property in 1761, the Wash House inventory records 9 hand irons.

Although there were no automated laundry appliances, Mount Vernon’s Wash House was equipped with a built-in brick stove that held a copper kettle over a fire. This was a feature of many elite homes in the 18C & was a relative luxury, as laundresses did not have to move the heavy pots of hot water.

Generally, laundry in the 18C was conducted exclusively by women. (See: Mohun, Arwen Palmer. “Laundrymen Construct Their World: Gender and the Transformation of a Domestic Task to an Industrial Process”The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for the History of Technology, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Jan., 1997): 97-120

Woman with Bag of Laundry The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University 

Records from 1759 to 1799 indicate the names of 9 enslaved women & when they were assigned to the Wash House.

Jemima, 1759

Jenny, 1759

Mima, 1787 –1788

Sall, 1786 –1791

Sinah, 1794

Lucy, 1794

Caroline, 1793 –1798

Dolshy, 1786 –1799

Vina, 1798 –1799

Home-care manuals of the 19C instructed that laundry should begin Monday & conclude on Wednesday, leaving Thursday to Saturday free for other work. (See: Leslie, Eliza. Miss Leslie's Lady's House-book: A Manual of Domestic Economy, Containing Approved Directions for Washing, Dress-making, Millinery, Dyeing, Cleaning, etc 1850.  Note: although this source is from a much later period, it is conjectured that the laundry process remained very similar between eras until the widespread use of laundry machines.)

Many of the enslaved women assigned to Mount Vernon’s Wash House were not only doing laundry, but also acted as seamstresses, spinners, & knitters.

Laundresses also needed a wide knowledge of treatments for all sorts of stains on many different fine fabrics. Finer garments made out of wool, silk, & cotton were rarely, if ever, fully washed, but instead spot-treated for stains. 

Laundry was an intense job requiring an incredible amount of physical strength. During the hot Virginia summers, the washhouse would be an almost unbearable temperature due to the constant fires & clouds of billowing steam. Laundresses had to move pounds of clothing, made even heavier with water, from pot to pot & agitate the laundry—all by hand.

The enslaved laundresses began each load by hauling the necessary water & firewood: thirty to fifty gallons of water from the kitchen well to fill copper kettles, & roughly 180 pounds of firewood to feed the boiler that heated water for the first phase of washing. Depending on the volume of laundry, a total of over 100 gallons of water could be necessary. This could entail more than 2 dozen trips back & forth to the well for each day of washing.

Copper kettles, not iron, were used for washing. The water, soap, bleaching agents, & heat would cause iron to leach into the water, potentially ruining delicate linen fabric.

Soap was rubbed over stains & soil, but not added to the water. Items of the highest quality were washed 1st; when the water was cleanest.

Washerwomen agitated the clothes by hand, stirring them in the water or scrubbing them with laundry bats, flat wooden paddles with ridges.

Usually, once cleaned, the clothes would be rinsed in separate water. To keep the fine white fabrics of shirts, shifts, & tablecloths white, sometimes a bluing powder would be added to the water. A bluing powder, made of indigo, would counteract the yellowing of the fabric & make it look whiter. (See: Dunbar, James. Smegmatalogia, or the art of making potashes and soap, and bleaching of linen. By which the industrious farmer is taught to bleach and wash his cloath with the produce of our own country. United Kingdom: the author, 1736.)

To dry, items could be hung over drying racks indoors or spread out on the grass outdoors on warm, dry days.

Once dry, the process of ironing would begin. Ironing required experience & skill: the laundress managed the temperature of at least 3 irons. When one grew too cool, another would be ready for use, hot but not hot enough to burn the fabric.

Finally, the laundry would be folded with the assistance of the housemaids & distributed to the closets of the house & outbuildings.

Much of this research & more are available from George Washington's (1732-1799) home Mount Vernon's website, You can donate to their excellent efforts directly from their website. Please do. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Women doing Laundry in the 15C - 18C

A Laundress on the Beach, The Decameron, Manuscript 5070. 1432. Arsenal, Paris. 

Soap, mainly soft soap made from ash lye & animal fat, was used by washerwomen supplied by their masters or employers. Soap was rarely used by the poorest people in medieval times but by the 18C soap was fairly widespread: sometimes kept for finer clothing & for tackling stains, not used for the whole wash. 
1736 Giacomo Ceruti (Italian painter, 1698-1767) The Laundress
1736-75 Richard Houston, after Philippe Mercier Domestik Employment 

A variety of preparations might be used on stained clothing. Chalk, brick dust, & pipe clay were used on greasy stains. Alcohol treated grass stains & kerosene, bloodstains. Milk was thought to remove urine stains & fruit. Urine, due to the ammonia content, was often used for bleaching as were lemon & onion juice.
1740 Pietro Longhi (French-born Italian artist, 1701-1785) The Laundress
1730 Jean Siméon Chardin (French artist, 1699-1779) The Laundress

Shakespeare calls a laundry basket a “buck basket.” The phrase might be related to the back-&-forth action of washing laundry, agitating water, soap, & clothes in a tub, not unlike the motion of a bucking horse. A buck was a tub for soaking or washing. And a small buck was a bucket.
1750s Henry Robert Morland (British artist, 1716-1797) A Lady’s Maid soaping Linen

Silk was cleaned by scourers, who fully cleaned gowns, usually only once a year. Mainly they spot-cleaned them, using salt, chalk, or fuller’s earth & solvents like turpentine, lemon juice, warm milk, or urine. The whole gown was not immersed in water or scrubbed. As a result, silk garments tended to last. They were loosely stitched, because sooner or later they would be taken apart & remodeled. In 1763, one of Martha Washington’s old dresses was sent to London to be retailored in a more contemporary style.
1768 Hubert Robert (French painter, 1733-1808) La Bievre

Washing clothes in the river is still the normal way of doing laundry in many parts of the world. Even in prosperous parts of the world riverside washing went on well into the 19C, or longer in rural areas - even when the river was frozen. Stains might be treated at home before being taken to the river. Women might take tools to the river to help the work: like a washing bat or a board to scrub on. 
1782 Camp Laundry. Robert Sayer & J. Bennett. London
1761 Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French painter, 1725-1805) The Laundress

This painting shows a rather well-dressed washerwoman with her utensils. She sits on two boards laid across the top of a buck. The buck’s unplugged hole drains away lye or dirty water. Behind her is a buck basket. Atop the cabinet are a large boiling copper and two earthenware pots. Two sheets dry on the line. And in the lower-left corner is her battledore, or bat, for hammering wet linen until it released its dirt.
1765 Henry Robert Morland (British artist, 1716-1797) A Lady's Maid Soaping Linen

As a rule, wool was dry-cleaned by people called fullers, who tackled stains on woolens using fuller’s earth, a clay that absorbs grease. They also used fuller’s teasel, a thistle, to rough up the fibers & mechanically shake away the offending dirt.
1770 Illustration from Basedow's Elementary Work

A 1770 inventory of the laundry at Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace in colonial Virginia on the death of Governor Botetourt includes “2 Linnen Baskets, 3 Washing Tubs, 3 Rensing Tubs, 2 pails, 1 Large Iron pot, 1 Large Boyling Copper. ”
1750-80 Mrs Grosvenor Laundry Woman to the Queen  Unknown British Artist

Soaking laundry in lye, cold or hot, was an important way of tackling white & off-white cloth. It was called bucking, & aimed to whiten as well as cleanse. Colored fabrics were seldom used for basic items like sheets & shirts. Ashes & urine were the most important substances for mixing a good "lye" to remove stains & encourage a white color, these acted as de-greasing agents.
1760-70 Nicolo Cavalli (Italian artist, 1730-1832) La Lavandaja

Bucking involved lengthy soaking & was not a weekly wash. Until the idea of a once-a-week wash developed, people tended to have a big laundry session at intervals of several weeks or even months. Many women had agricultural & food preparation duties that would make it impossible for them to "waste" time on hours of laundry work every week. 
1750-80 Miss White Clear Starcher to the Queen Unknown British artist

Starch & bluing were available for better quality linen & clothing. A visitor to England just before 1700 sounded a little surprised at how much soap was used in London: "At London, & in all other Great Britain where they do not burn Wood, they do not make Lye. All their Linnen, coarse & fine, is wash'd with Soap. When you are in a Place where the Linnen can be rinc'd in any large Water, the Stink of the black Soap is almost all clear'd away." M. Misson's Memoirs & Observations in his Travels over England (published in French, 1698)
1774 Henry Robert (British artist c 1716-1797) Laundry Maid (after Moreland)

In most cases, that source was a brigade of servants or slaves who trudged to a nearby well or stream. But in the basement laundry in the colonial Virginia Wren Building at Williamsburg’s College of William & Mary, water was drawn from a well in the center of the room.
1750s Henry Robert Morland (British painter, 1716-1797)  Woman Ironing

Blacksmiths started forging simple flat irons in the late Middle Ages. Plain metal irons were heated by a fire or on a stove. Some were made of stone, like soapstone irons from Italy. Earthenware & terracotta iroms were also used, from the Middle East to France & the Netherlands.

Flat irons were also called sad irons or smoothing irons. Metal handles had to be gripped in a pad or thick rag. Some irons had cool wooden handles. This stayed cool while the metal bases were heated & the idea was widely imitated.  Cool handles stayed even cooler in "asbestos sad irons." The sad in sad iron (or sadiron) is an old word for solid. Goose or tailor's goose was another iron name, & this came from the goose-neck curve in some handles. In Scotland, people spoke of gusing (goosing) irons.

Many 2 irons for an effective system: one in use, & one re-heating. Large households with servants or slaves might have used a special ironing-stove for this purpose. Some were fitted with slots for several irons, & others might have water-jug on top.
1800 Louis Leopold Boily (French painter, 1761-1845) Young Woman Ironing

Box irons, charcoal irons used the base of the iron as a container for putting glowing coals inside it & keep it hot a bit longer.  Notice the hinged lid & the air holes to allow the charcoal to keep smouldering. These are sometimes called ironing boxes, or charcoal box irons, & may come with their own stand.

For centuries charcoal irons have been used in many different countries. When they had a funnel to keep smokey smells away from the cloth, they were sometimes called chimney irons.  Today charcoal irons are manufactured in Asia & also used in much of Africa. 
1750s Henry Robert Morland (British artist, 1716-1797) A Girl Ironing Shirt Sleeves

Some irons were shallower boxes & had fitted "slugs" or "heaters" - slabs of metal - which were heated in the fire & inserted into the base instead of charcoal. It was easier to keep the ironing surface spotlessly clean, away from the fuel, than with flatirons or charcoal irons. 

Brick inserts could be used for a longer-lasting, less intense heat. These are box or slug irons, were also called ironing boxes. In some countries they are called ox-tongue irons after a particular shape of insert. 
 1785 Henry Robert Morland (British artist, 1716-1797) Laundry Maid Ironing

At home, ironing traditional fabrics was a hot, arduous job. Irons had to be kept immaculately clean, sand-papered, & polished. They must be kept away from burning fuel, & be regularly but lightly greased to avoid rusting. Beeswax prevented irons sticking to starched cloth. Constant care was needed over temperature. Experience would help decide when the iron was hot enough, but not so hot that it would scorch the cloth. A well-known test was spitting on the hot metal, but Charles Dickens described someone with a more genteel technique in The Old Curiosity Shop. The ironer held "the iron at an alarmingly short distance from her cheek, to test its temperature..."

The 1770 inventory of the laundry at Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace in colonial Virginia on the death of Governor Botetourt includes owned “5 Flat Irons, 2 Box Irons, with one Heater to each, 2 Iron Stands, 1 pr of Tongs” The ironing would have been done on Botetourt’s “2 pine Tables,” which were probably padded with his “2 Ironing Cloaths,” wool blankets perhaps pinned to tabletops. 

The inventory of the Palace laundry says that Botetourt had “4 Mangle Cloaths, 1 Mangle.” This was a sort of ironing machine that was coming into use in the late 18C. Also called a box mangle, it was a box of stones resting on 2 large cylinders. When it was rolled across carefully folded items of washing that had been tucked inside the clean mangle cloths, many items could be smoothed and ironed at once.
Women washing clothes in a river, spreading them to dry in the fields alongside and hanging them from a rack, Splendor Solis, Harley 3469, fol. 32v. 1582. British Library, London.  

Wash or the Great Wash were names for the irregular "spring cleaning" of laundry. Soaking in lye & bucking in large wooden bucking tubs were similar to processes used in textile manufacturing. So was the next stage - drying & bleaching clothes & fabrics out of doors. Sunshine helped bleach off-white cloth while drying it. Sometimes cloth was sprinkled at intervals with water &/or a dash of lye to lengthen the process & enhance bleaching.

Towns, larger estate houses, & weavers often had an area of mown grass set aside as a bleaching ground, or drying green, where household linens & clothing could be spread on grass in the daylight. Early settlers in North America established communal bleaching areas like those in European towns & villages. Both washing & drying were often public or local group activities.
Pieter de Hooch  (1629–after 1684 ) A Woman & Child in a Bleaching Ground 1657-1659 Betail Private collection

People also dried clothes by spreading them on bushes in Europe & the North American colonies. Outdoor wooden drying frames & clotheslines are seen in a few paintings from the 16C, but most people would have spread laundry out to dry on grass, hedgerows etc. Clothes pins appear to have been rare before the 18C. 

Drying the laundry in sunshine was, among other things, an effective way of bleaching linen & keeping it white. Spreading laundry on grass, bushes or washing lines out of doors meant there was a risk of having it stolen. In Britain. thieves of white clothes & household linen were sometimes called "snow gatherers."

Well-to-do 17C households were advised that box or privet (primp) hedges were good for drying. They could be clipped to have a "smooth & level" surface. "...a border of Primpe, Boxe, Lauandar, Rose-mary, or such like, but Primpe or Boxe is the best, & it was set thicke, at least eightéene inches broad at the bottome & being kept with cliping both smooth & leuell on the toppe & on each side, those borders as they were ornaments so were they also very profitable to the huswife for the drying of linnen cloaths, yarne, & such like: for the nature of Boxe & Primpe being to grow like a hedge, strong & thicke, together, the Gardiner, with his sheares, may kéepe it as broad & plaine as himselfe listeth." See: Gervase Markham, The English Husbandman, 1613
George Moreland 1792 Drying clothes on Branches of Trees 

In his 1745 Directions to Servants, Jonathan Swift suggests that “the place for hanging” laundry “is on young Fruit Trees, especially in Blossom; the Linnen cannot be torn, and the Trees give them a fine Smell.”  ... “When your Linnen is pinned on the Line, or on a Hedge, and it rains, whip it off, although you tear it, &c. ”

London lawyer  Roger North liked hedges better thja tree limbs. He set down his thoughts on buildings, gardens, & housekeeping in a long manuscript called “Cursory Notes of Building,” which he wrote after the completion of building his country house at Rougham, Norfolk, England in 1698.  For the best clothes drying, North wxplained, “Hedges of prim are best; thorn tears linen, and box is of slow growth, and not sweet.” By “prim” he meant privet. 

Janet Schaw, an Englishwoman, liked little or nothing about the washing methods in early America. She observed laundry being done in Wilmington, NC in 1776.  She wrote that “all the cloaths coarse and fine, bed and table linen, lawns, cambricks and muslins, chints, checks, all are promiscuously thrown into a copper with a quantity of water and a large piece of soap.  This is set a boiling, while a Negro wench turns them over with a stick.”..."This operation [boiling] over, they are taken out, squeezed, & thrown over the Pales to dry. They use no calendar; they are however much better smoothed when washed.  Mrs Miller showed them [how to wash linen] by bleaching those of Miss Rutherfurd, my brother & mine, how different a little labour made them appear, & indeed the power of the sun was extremely apparent in the immediate recovery of some bed & table-linen, that has been so ruined by sea-water that I thought them irrecoverably lost." 

Schaw also noted that North Carolinians were the “worst washers of linen I ever saw, and tho’ it be the country of indigo, they never use blue, nor allow the sun to look at them.”  See: 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, eds, Evangeline Walker Andrews and Charles McLean Andrews,  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921)

University of Maryland English Professor Michael Olmert, who integrates art, architecture, & archaeology into his literature & drama classes, says that in England & America, the large country & town houses often  had dedicated laundry outbuildings, or at least a separate room with a large hearth, dedicated to cleaning and repairing clothes and all sorts of fabrics. Its basic elements were a hearth, space to manipulate the vast copper tubs of hot water, dressers or tables for ironing, ropes or racks overhead for drying, & a source of water. 

Professor Olmert tells us that in Calvert County, Maryland, a 1711 house is listed as having an outside laundry, according to a probate inventory from 1715. 

As with the kitchen in America, the laundry moved out of the main house as the 18C wore on. Originally, most people had washed their clothes in the room where they cooked & lived. But in elite households, both operations moved outside to a separate one-room structure, in which laundering & cooking were once again done at the same hearth.

At the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia, although entirely demolished, the archaeology of the site discovered a laundry building was made of brick & had a basement with a paved floor. The site also had a catchment for wash water, & the floor had brick drains connected to a drainage system that ran from the Palace down to the garden canal.

In Williamsburg, all that remained of the original Tayloe House laundry was a decayed brick foundation that indicated a large chimney & a brick entrance platform where a door would have been. Although there was no record of what the 16-by-12 foot building looked like above ground, it is clear it was framed, to judge by the narrow 8-3/4 inch width of the old foundation; heavier, brick structures have more substantial roots. The reconstruction was given the simplest of roofs, a typical gable-end A-frame with forty-five-degree slope. Colonial precedent was used for the details of weatherboarding, cornice, windows, & shutters. Mainly, the design was meant to match other Tayloe buildings. The paneled door was copied from a number of existing Tayloe doors: six-paneled, but with the paneling on one side. It is a workaday structure.

A laundry near a kitchen appears in 1770s Williamsburg in colonial Virginia, The ledger of Williamsburg builder Humphrey Harwood shows that October 9, 1777, he was paid 19 shillings for whitewashing the kitchen & laundry of printer Alexander Purdie. On May 14, 1783, Harwood got 12 shillings for repairing the plaster in the kitchen & laundry of Susanna Riddell. Before she died in December 1785, Riddell lived on Francis Street. Her home is gone, but the archaeological report on her kitchen site indicates it had 2 rooms & was likely a kitchen-laundry. Riddell also rented the Everard House in Williamsburg & its brick laundry, a separate building with a massive chimney & attic. On July 13, 1784, Humphrey Harwood got another 7s 6p for whitewashing the Riddell laundry.

The Nicholas-Tyler Laundry & its matching office fronted Francis Street, according to the Frenchman’s Map, the 18C military map detailing Williamsburg’s structures. An 1820 insurance plat shows the building & lists it as “wood, one story, 16 x 36’, valued at $400.” The laundry was pulled down in the mid-19C century & was reconstructed on its original footprint in 1931 & 1940.

Professor Olmert notes that in Williamsburg, Virginia, Wetherburn’s Tavern (& laundry) was a combination kitchen-laundry, servicing an ordinary that catered to overnight guests as well as townies out for a meal, a drink, a chat, & a card game. Wetherburn’s estate inventory says he owned 20 pairs of sheets, 19 pillowcases, 18 tablecloths, 27 napkins, & 17 towels. He also had 12 very busy slaves.

In Annapolis, Maryland, the 1739 Ogle Hall had a “brick kitchen & laundry 16 by 32” feet, according to the United States Direct Tax of 1798. 

In Lunenberg County, Virginia, Cumberland Parish built a 28-by-16-foot kitchen-laundry that must have been a two-room structure, because the vestry book stipulates the kitchen floor is to be tiled, while the laundry floor is “to be layd with Plank." The entry requires the laundry walls to be “lath’d & plastered.” 

An elegant two-room laundry still exists at 1739’s Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County, Virginia, made of brick & plastered throughout.

Olmert's observations are verified beginning in the 1750s up to the Revolution, when colonial American houses with combination kitchens & laundries appeared for sale ads in regional newspapers.

The PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE. September 22, 1757
To be exceeding good large Brick Dwelling house, in the Town of Newcastle, almost opposite to the Court house, a fine Garden and Lot thereto adjoining, with an excellent Laundry , Kitchen, Stable, Chaise house, and other Houses thereto belonging, a large commodious Cellar under the whole House...John Land 

A BEAUTIFUL tract of LAND, situated on Rappahannock river, about half a mile below Port Royal , containing 700 acres, on which is a very good brick house one story high, 4 rooms and 3 closets on the lower floor, and 2 above, a good cellar under it, a portico 52 feet long and 8 wide facing the river, a 12 foot porch on the front side, a good kitchen and laundry with a brick chimney, a garden 200 feet square paled in with sewed pales, poplar rails, and cedar posts

I PURPOSE to reside in the county of Culpeper , as soon as I can sell my habitation and estate in and near Fredericksburg for near its value. I therefore now offer it for sale; and, although the great worth of it is well known, yet it may not be amiss to describe it, that it may be more generally known. The dwelling-house is very pleasantly situated on the main street, in a retired part of the town, and near the river, where a ship may lie close to the shore. There are three very good rooms, a large airy passage, and two large closets, below stairs, and three commodious dry cellars, with stone walls; and up stairs are four good chambers, with three fire-places, and a large closet. The out-houses are, a new built kitchen and laundry under one roof, with two good white limed rooms and fire-placed above stairs, two other common kitchens for servants to lodge in, two diaries, one of them built with freestone, with several steps under ground; there are many other conveniences, such as a smokehouse, hen houses, a well of water, and several yards wood, fowls, &c. a large coach house, with stables at each end, and two other stables and a large stable yard, and cooper's and shoemaker's shop. These improvements are fixed on three lots and a half of ground, consisting of half an acre each; the garden contains an acre of ground, is well paled in with locust posts, and the north west end has a high freestone wall, and is well stocked with fruits and every thing necessary for a family...Roger Dixon

I plantation, handsomely situated on Corotoman river, containing about 400 acres, on which is a large and very commodious dwelling-house, above 50 feet long and 30 wide, with six good rooms and a fireplace to each, five closets, two large passages, and cellars under the whole, in three rooms. There is another house divided into a kitchen and laundry, with lodging rooms above, also a neat dairy and meat house, all new, and handsomely finished, and several outhouses. There are two very good springs, and fish and oysters very convenient, besides good landings, and water for vessels of any burthen...James Waddel

I will dispose of the Tract of LAND whereon I live, containing about 820 Acres, six Miles from Petersburg , mostly very level, good Wheat and Corn Land, as may appear from the present crop of fifty Acres sown in Wheat; it is well timbered with Pine, White and Red Oak, has on it a new Dwelling-House 32 Feet by 18, neatly finished, good Cellars, a new Kitchen and Laundry 36 Feet by 18...Duncan Rose

Publication: THE VIRGINIA GAZETTE. December 8, 1774
THE purchase I lately made of Warner Washington , Esq; consisting of an exceeding good Brick House with five Windows in Front, a very good Kitchen and Laundry , Coach House and Stables (the Latter entirely new) Negro Quarters, &c. together with 2000 Acres of Land, more or less, whereof about 500 Acres adjoin to the House...Jonathn Watson

THE VIRGINIA GAZETTE 3.  January 17, 1777
I HAVE for sale a valuable plantation, on Nottoway river, adjacent to Freeman's bridge, about 500 acres, whereon is a dwelling-house, with two rooms below and two above, with a passage on each floor underpinned and brick chimnies, and a cellar under the whole, a kitchen and laundry , of the whole building underpinned, and a stack of chimnies in the middle...Augustine Claiborne

THE VIRGINIA GAZETTE 3. April 18, 1777
For SALE , EIGHT valuable lots in the town of Fredericksburg , on which are the following improvements, viz. A large and commodious brick dwelling-house, two stories high, with five rooms on a floor, and a good cellar, a kitchen, laundry , wash house, meat house, dairy, joiner's shop, stable, coach house, and granary; also a brick storehouse and warehouse convenient, well situated for trade, being on them in street. Four of those lots are well improved with a good falling garden, &c. , the others are under a good enclosure...Edward Carter

Port Royal. TO BE SOLD...a valuable House on the Market Square in this City, with 4 handsome Rooms below neatly papered, and a Fire Place in each, with 3 Closets, and 6 Rooms above, with dry Cellars under the Whole, a good Kitchen and Laundry , with Closets, a Brick Dairy, Corn House, Smokehouse, Stable, and Coach Houses, with a Flower and Kitchen Garden, well paled in; also a small House adjoining, with 2 Rooms and Fire Places, a good Cellar, and Yard...John Baker

Even the early decades of the 19C saw the kitchen & the laundry combined in an outbuilding in Washington, DC, where the Octagon House had a separate wood-frame laundry built in 1817. Writing in 1870, a family member said the structure was “a two story house for the laundry & servant rooms.”


“Fuller’s earth”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.,

Leed, Drea. “Ye Shall Have It Clene” : Textile Cleaning Techniques in Renaissance Europe. In Robin Netherton and Gale R. Owen-Crocker (Eds), Medieval Clothing and Textiles 2. Woodbridge, UK Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2006.

Markham, Gervase. The English Houswife : Containing the Inward and Outward Vertues Which Ought to Be in a Compleat Woman: As Her Skill in Physick, Surgery, Cookery, Extraction of Oyls, Banquetting Stuff, Ordering of Great Feasts, Preserving of All Sorts of Wines, Conceited Secrets, Distillations, Perfumes, Ordering of Wool, Hemp, Flax: Making Cloth and Dying; the Knowldege of Dayries: Office of Malting; of Oats, Their Excellent Uses in a Family: Af Brewing, Baking and All Other Things Belonging to an Houshold. a Work Generally Approved, and Now the Eighth Time Much Augmented, Purged, and Made Most Profitable and Necessary for All Men, and the General Good of This Nation. London: Printed By I.B. for R. Jackson, 1615. 

Sim, Alison. The Tudor Housewife. The History Press: Stroud, 1996. 

Wheeler, Jo. Renaissance Secrets, Recipes & Formulas. London New York: Victoria and Albert Museum. Harry N. Abrams, 2009. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

18C Women + a Few of their Families & Friends by Henry Benbridge 1743-1812

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Margaret Cantey (Mrs. John Peyre).

Henry Benbridge (1744–1812), early American portrait painter, was born in Philadelphia, the only child of James & Mary (Clark) Benbridge. When he was 7 years old, his widowed mother married Thomas Gordon, a wealthy Scot. The boy's artistic talent was encouraged, as he made decorative designs for his stepfather's drawing-room.
Henry Benbridge (1743-1812) Gordon Family (his stepfather & mother Mary Clark Benbridge Gordon) 1763-65

When he was 21, Benbridge was sent to Italy, where he studied with Pompeo Batoni & Anton Raphael Mengs. From there he journeyed to London before returning to Philadelphia. Like other young Americans he was encouraged by Benjamin West. He wrote, on December 7, 1769, to his stepfather: "Upon my arrival I waited upon Mr. West who received me with a sort of brotherly affection, as did my cousin, Mrs. West." 

He left England in 1770, bearing from West the following note of recommendation to Francis Hopkinson: "By Mr. Benbridge you will receive these few lines. You will find him an Ingenous artist and an agreeable Companion. His merit in the art must procure him great incouragement and much esteem. I deare say it will give you great pleasure to have an ingenous artist resident amongst you."Henry Benbridge (1743-1812) Mrs Charles Coteworth Pinckney Sarah Middleton Benbridge 1773

In Philadelphia, Benbridge married & was admitted to membership in the American Philosophical Society in 1771. Suffering from asthma & the cold of Philadelphia, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he succeeded Jeremiah Theus as the region's popular portrait painter. Around 1800 Benbridge relocated to Norfolk, Virginia, & made frequent visits to his native Philadelphia. At Norfolk he gave Thomas Sully his first lessons in oil painting. Earlier in Charleston, he had instructed Thomas Coram. Sully described his master as "a portly man of good address–gentlemanly in his deportment."
Henry Benbridge (1743-1812) Archibald Bulloch Family 1775

Benbridge, who had certainly seen the lastest opulent fashion trends, as he studied in Italy with Pompeo Batoni & in England with expatriate Benjamin West, had a distrust of the trendy fashionable. In 1770, when his sisters were nearing marrying age, Benbridge wrote his mother from London, that his sisters "should not refuse a good plain honest Country farmer if such a one should offer himself with tolerable good estate, for one of the town who perhaps may have a better taste for dress, but not more merit, if perhaps as much."
1784 Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Rachel Moore (Mrs. William Allston II).

When Benbridge had returned from Europe settling in Charlestown, South Carolina, to make a living painting portraits, he wrote to his sister Betsy in 1773, "Every kind of news here is very dull, the only thing attended to is dress and dissipation, & if I come in for a share of their superfluous Cash, I have no right to find fault with them, as it turns out to my advantage."
1790 Henry Benbridge (743-1812). Mary Boyer (Mrs. Robert Shewell).

In 1785, Benbridge, who loved the simple pleasures of gardening, was still worried about the too fancy dress of his son, Harry, whom Benbridge lovingly called "my little fellow." He wrote to his sister that he felt that his wife was dressing him in "too good things for a boy like him to wair, & likewise too many of them at once; he can't take care of them when he is at play & more common & Strong stuff in my Opinion would answer much better, & not fill his head with foolish notions of dress, which perhaps may be his bane."
1780s Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Elizabeth Allston (Mrs. William H. Gibbes).

It is not surprising that Benbridge painted many of his female clients in dignified classical gowns looking serious, thoughtful, & restrained.

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Lady of the Middleton Family. 1780s

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812) Enoch Edwards Family 1779

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812) Mrs Benjamin Simons 1771-76

Henry Bendridge (1743-1812). The Hartley Family. 1787

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Sarah White (Mrs. Isaac Chanler). 1770s

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812 The Tannant Family 1770s

Attributed to Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Rebecca Lloyd (Mrs Edward Davies) 1770s

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812) Mary Bryan Morel and Her Children c 17773

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812) Allegorical Portrait of Sarah Flagg c 1774

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Mrs. Mumford Milner (Elizabeth Brewton) b 1786

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812) Rebecca Gordon (his half sister) 1770s

Henry Benbridge (1743-1812) Elizabeth Ann Timothy Mrs William Williamson c 1775-85

1770s Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Charlotte Pepper (Mrs. James Gignilliat).

Saturday, July 17, 2021

18C Women Planning Meals in Colonial America


"Most New Englanders had a simple diet, their soil and climates allowing limited varieties of fruits and vegetables. In 1728 the Boston News Letter estimates the food needs of a middle-class 'genteel' family. Breakfast was bread an milk. Dinner consisted of pudding, followed by bread, meat, roots, pickles, vinegar, salt and cheese. Supper was the same as breakfast. Each famly also needed raisins, currants, suet, flour, eggs, cranberries, apples, and, where there were children, food for 'intermeal eatings.' Small beer was the beverage, and molasses for brewing and flavoring was needed. Butter, spices, sugar, and sweetmeats were luxuries, as were coffee, tea, chocolate, and alcoholic beverages other than beer."---A History of Food and Drink in America, Richard J. Hooker [Bobbs-Merrill Company:Indianapolis IN] 1981(p. 67)

"English settlers in teh seventeenth century ate three meals a day, as they had in England...For most people, breakfast consisted of bread, cornmeal mush and milk, or bread and milk together, and tea. Even the gentry might eat modestly in the morning, although they could afford meat or fish...Dinner, as elsewhere in the colonies, was a midday, through the wealthy were like to do as their peers in England did, and have it England's gentry had a great variety of food on te table...An everyday meal might feature only one or two meats with a pudding, tarts, and vegetables...The different betweeen the more prosperous households and more modest ones might be in the quality and quantity of the meat served...Supper was a smaller meal, often similar to breakfast: bread, cheese, mush or hasty pudding, or warmed-over meat from the noon meal. Supper among the gentry was also a sociable meal, and might have warm food, meat or shellfish, such as oysters, in season."---Food in Colonial and Federal America, Sandra L. Oliver [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2005(p. 157)

"Breakfast. The Colonial American breakfast was far from the juice, eggs and bacon of today. The stoic early settlers rose early and went straight to the chores that demanded their attention. In frontier outposts and on farms, families drank cider or beer and gulped down a bowl of porridge that had been cooking slowly all night over the embers...In the towns, the usual mug of alcoholic beverage consumed upon rising was followed by cornmeal mush and molasses with more cider or beer. By the nineteenth century, breakfast was served as late a 9 or 10 o'clock. Here might be found coffee, tea or chocolate, wafers, muffins, toasts, and a butter dish and knife...The southern poor ate cold turkey washed down with ever-present cider. The size of breakfasts grew in direct proportion to growth of wealth. Breads, cold meats and, especially in the Northeast, fruit pies and pasties joined the breakfast menus. Families in the Middle Colonies added special items such as scrapple (cornmeal and headcheese) and dutch sweetcakes wich were fried in deep fat. It was among the Southern planters that breakfast became a leisurely and delightful meal, though it was not served until early chores were attended to and orders for the day given...Breads were eaten at all times of the day but particularly at breakfast."---A Cooking Legacy, Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanahan [Walker & Company:New York] 1975 (p. 14)

"Dinner. Early afternoon was the appointed hour for dinner in Colonial America. Throughout the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth century it was served in the "hall" or "common room." ..While dinner among the affluent merchants in the North took place shortly after noon, the Southern planters enjoyed their dinner as late as bubbling stews were carried into the fields to feed the slaves and laborers...In the early settlements, poor families ate from trenchers filled from a common stew pot, with a bowl of coars salt the only table adornment. The earliest trenchers in America, as in the Middle Ages, were probably made from slabs of stale bread which were either eaten with the meal or thrown after use to the domestic animals. The stews often included pork, sweet corn and cabbage, or other vegetables and roots which were available...A typical comfortably fixed family in the late 1700s probably served two courses for dinner. The first course included several meats plus meat puddings and/or deep meat pies containing fruits and spices, pancakes and fritters, and the ever-present side dishes of sauces, pickles and catsups...Soups seem to have been served before of in conjunction with the first course. Desserts appeared with the second course. An assortment of fresh, cooked, or dried fruits, custards, tarts and sweetmeats was usually available. "Sallats," (salads) though more popular at supper, sometimes were served at dinner and occasionally provided decoration in the center of the table...Cakes were of many varieties: pound, gingerbread, spice and cheese."---A Cooking Legacy (p. 24-28)

"Supper. What is there to say about a meal that probably did not even exist for many settlers during the eary days of the Colonies and later seemed more like a bedtime snack made up of leftovers?...In the eighteenth century supper was a brief meal and, especially in the South, light and late. It generally consisted of leftovers from dinner, or of gruel (a mixture made from boiling water with oats, "Indian," (corn meal) or some other meal). One Massachusetts diary of 1797 describes roast potatoes, prepared with salt but no butter. Ale, cider, or some variety of beer was always served. In the richer merchant society and in Southern plantation life, eggs and egg dishes were special delicacies and were prepared as side dishes at either dinner or supper...Supper took on added importance as the nineteeth century wore on. This heretofore casual meal became more important as dinner was served earlier in the day."---A Cooking Legacy (p. 79-81)

Colonial Era Cookbooks

1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell (London) 

1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)

1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)

1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)

1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)

Helpful Secondary Sources

America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps Hawthorn; 1972

Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown   Rutland, Vt., C. E. Tuttle Co 1996 

Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown  ABC-CLIO  Westport, United States

Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver

Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink) New York : Macmillan Co., ©1926.

A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Mary Jemison on The Revolution from the Native American Viewpoint

 Mary Jemison captured by Native Americans from the 1856 printing of The Life of Mary Jemison, Deh-He-Wa-Mis

Mary Jemison (Deh-he-wä-mis) (1743–1833) was probably about 15 years old, when she was captured & adopted by Seneca Indians during the French and Indian War. Mary Jemison recounts her experience of the American War for Independence from a Native American perspective. The Senecas, after first pledging to remain neutral, were persuaded to take the side of the British at the council of Oswego. The resulting conflagration, in which the Senecas faced the advancing colonial army of General Sullivan, pitted Indian against Indian and would prove to have a catastrophic impact on Jemison's adopted tribe.  

Thus, at peace amongst themselves, and with the neighboring whites, though there were none at that time very near, our Indians lived quietly and peaceably at home, till a little before the breaking out of the revolutionary war, when they were sent for, together with the Chiefs and members of the Six Nations generally, by the people of the States, to go to the German Flats, and there hold a general council, in order that the people of the states might ascertain, in good season, who they should esteem and treat as enemies, and who as friends, in the great war which was then upon the point of breaking out between them and the King of England.

Our Indians obeyed the call, and the council was holden at which the pipe of peace was smoked, and a treaty made, in which the Six Nations solemnly agreed that if a war should eventually break out, they would not take up arms on either side; but that they would observe a strict neutrality. With that the people of the states were satisfied, as they had not asked their assistance, nor did not wish it. The Indians returned to their homes well pleased that they could live on neutral ground, surrounded by the din of war, without being engaged in it.

About a year passed off, and we, as usual, were enjoying ourselves in the employments of peaceable times, when a messenger arrived from the British Commissioners, requesting all the Indians of our tribe to attend a general council which was soon to be held at Oswego. The council convened, and being opened, the British Commissioners informed the Chiefs that the object of calling a council of the Six Nations, was, to engage their assistance in subduing the rebels, the people of the states, who had risen up against the good King, their master, and were about to rob him of a great part of his possessions and wealth, and added that they would amply reward them for all their services.

The Chiefs then arose, and informed the Commissioners of the nature and extent of the treaty which they had entered into with the people of the states, the year before, and that they should not violate it by taking up the hatchet against them.

The Commissioners continued their entreaties without success, till they addressed their avarice, by telling our people that the people of the states were few in number, and easily subdued; and that on the account of their disobedience to the King, they justly merited all the punishment that it was possible for White men and Indians to inflict upon them; and added, that the King was rich and powerful, both in money and subjects: That his rum was as plenty as the water in lake Ontario: that his men were as numerous as the sands upon the lake shore: and that the Indians, if they would assist in the war, and persevere in their friendship to the King, till it was closed, should never want for money or goods.

Upon this the Chiefs concluded a treaty with the British Commissioners, in which they agreed to take up arms against the rebels, and continue in the service of his Majesty till they were subdued, in consideration of certain conditions which were stipulated in the treaty to be performed by the British government and its agents.

As soon as the treaty was finished, the Commissioners made a present to each Indian of a suit of clothes, a brass kettle, a gun and tomahawk, a scalping knife, a quantity of powder and lead, a piece of gold, and promised a bounty on every scalp that should be brought in. Thus richly clad and equipped, they returned home, after an absence of about two weeks, full of the fire of war, and anxious to encounter their enemies. Many of the kettles which the Indians received at that time are now in use on the Genesee Flats.

Hired to commit depredations upon the whites, who had given them no offence, they waited impatiently to commence their labor, till sometime in the spring of 1776, when a convenient opportunity offered for them to make an attack. At that time, a party of our Indians were at Cau-te-ga, who shot a man that was looking after his horse, for the sole purpose, as I was informed by my Indian brother, who was present, of commencing hostilities.

In May following, our Indians were in their first battle with the Americans; but at what place I am unable to determine. While they were absent at that time, my daughter Nancy was born....

Previous to the battle at Fort Stanwix, the British sent for the Indians to come and see them whip the rebels; and, at the same time stated that they did not wish to have them fight, but wanted to have them just sit down, smoke their pipes, and look on. Our Indians went, to a man; but contrary to their expectation, instead of smoking and looking on, they were obliged to fight for their lives, and in the end of the battle were completely beaten, with a great loss in killed and wounded. Our Indians alone had thirty-six killed, and a great number wounded. Our town exhibited a scene of real sorrow and distress, when our warriors returned and recounted their misfortunes, and stated the real loss they had sustained in the engagement. The mourning was excessive, and was expressed by the most doleful yells, shrieks, and bowlings, and by inimitable gesticulations.

During the revolution, my house was the home of Col's Butler and Brandt, whenever they chanced to come into our neighborhood as they passed to and from Fort Niagara, which was the seat of their military operations. Many and many a night I have pounded samp for them from sun-set till sun-rise, and furnished them with necessary provision and clean clothing for their journey.

For four or five years we sustained no loss in the war, except in the few who had been killed in distant battles; and our tribe, because of the remoteness of its situation from the enemy, felt secure from an attack. At length, in the fall of 1779, intelligence was received that a large and powerful army of the rebels, under the command of General Sullivan, was making rapid progress towards our settlement, burning and destroying the huts and corn-fields; killing the cattle, hogs and horses, and cutting down the fruit trees belonging to the Indians throughout the country.

Our Indians immediately became alarmed, and suffered every thing but death from fear that they should be taken by surprize, and totally destroyed at a single blow. But in order to prevent so great a catastrophe, they sent out a few spies who were to keep themselves at a short distance in front of the invading army, in order to watch its operations, and give information of its advances and success.

Sullivan arrived at Canandaigua Lake, and had finished his work of destruction there, and it was ascertained that he was about to march to our flats, when our Indians resolved to give him battle on the way and prevent, if possible, the distresses to which they knew we should be subjected, if he should succeed in reaching our town. Accordingly they sent all their women and children into the woods a little west of Little Beard's Town, in order that we might make a good retreat if it should be necessary, and then, well armed, set out to face the conquering enemy. The place which they fixed upon for their battle ground lay between Honeoy Creek and the head of Connessius Lake.

At length a scouting party from Sullivan's army arrived at the spot selected, when the Indians arose from their ambush with all the fierceness and terror that it was possible for them to exercise, and directly put the party upon a retreat. Two Oneida Indians were all the prisoners that were taken in that skirmish. One of them was a pilot of Gen. Sullivan, and had been very active in the war, rendering to the people of the states essential services. At the commencement of the revolution he had a brother older than himself, who resolved to join the British service, and endeavored by all the art that he was capable of using to persuade his brother to accompany him; but his arguments proved abortive. This went to the British, and that joined the American army. At this critical juncture they met, one in the capacity of a conqueror, the other in that of a prisoner; and as an Indian seldom forgets a countenance that he has seen, they recognized each other at sight. Envy and revenge glared in the features of the conquering savage, as he advanced to his brother (the prisoner) in all the haughtiness of Indian pride, heightened by a sense of power, and addressed him in the following manner:

"Brother, you have merited death! The hatchet or the war-club shall finish your career! When I begged of you to follow me in the fortunes of war, you was deaf to my cries you spurned my entreaties !

"Brother! you have merited death and shall have your deserts! When the rebels raised their hatchets to fight their good master, you sharpened your knife, you brightened your rifle and led on our foes to the fields of our fathers! You have merited death and shall die by our hands! When those rebels had drove us from the fields of our fathers to seek out new homes, it was you who could dare to step forth as their pilot, and conduct them even to the doors of our wigwams, to butcher our children and put us to death! No crime can be greater! But though you have merited death and shall die on this spot, my hands shall not be stained in the blood of a brother! Who will strike?"

Little Beard, who was standing by, as soon as the speech was ended, struck the prisoner on the head with his tomahawk, and despatched him at once!

Little Beard then informed the other Indian prisoner that as they were at war with the whites only, and not with the Indians, they would spare his life, and after a while give him his liberty in an honorable manner. The Oneida warrior, however, was jealous of Little Beard's fidelity; and suspecting that he should soon fall by his hands, watched for a favorable opportunity to make his escape; which he soon effected. Two Indians were leading him, one on each side, when he made a violent effort, threw them upon the ground, and run for his life towards where the main body of the American army was encamped. The Indians pursued him without success; but in their absence they fell in with a small detachment of Sullivan's men, with whom they had a short but severe skirmish, in which they killed a number of the enemy, took Capt. or Lieut. William Boyd and one private, prisoners, and brought them to Little Beard's Town, where they were soon after put to death in the most shocking and cruel manner. Little Beard, in this, as in all other scenes of cruelty that happened at his town, was master of ceremonies, and principal actor. Poor Boyd was stripped of his clothing, and then tied to a sapling, where the Indians menaced his life by throwing their tomahawks at the tree, directly over his head, brandishing their scalping knives around him in the most frightful manner, and accompanying their ceremonies with terrific shouts of joy. Having punished him sufficiently in this way, they made a small opening in his abdomen, took out an intestine, which they tied to the sapling, and then unbound him from the tree, and drove him round it till he had drawn out the whole of his intestines. He was then beheaded, his head was stuck upon a pole, and his body left on the ground unburied. Thus ended the life of poor William Boyd, who, it was said, had every appearance of being an active and enterprizing officer, of the first talents. The other prisoner was (if I remember distinctly) only beheaded and left near Boyd.

This tragedy being finished, our Indians again held a short council on the expediency of giving Sullivan battle, if he should continue to advance, and finally came to the conclusion that they were not strong enough to drive him, nor to prevent his taking possession of their fields: but that if it was possible they would escape with their own lives, preserve their families, and leave their possessions to be overrun by the invading army.

The women and children were then sent on still further towards Buffalo, to a large creek that was called by the Indians Catawba, accompanied by a part of the Indians, while the remainder secreted themselves in the woods back of Beard's Town, to watch the movements of the army.

At that time I had three children who went with me on foot, one who rode on horse back, and one whom I carried on my back.

Our corn was good that year; a part of which we had gathered and secured for winter.

In one or two days after the skirmish at Connissius lake, Sullivan and his army arrived at Genesee river, where they destroyed every article of the food kind that they could lay their hands on. A part of our corn they burnt, and threw the remainder into the river. They burnt our houses, killed what few cattle and horses they could find, destroyed our fruit trees, and left nothing but the bare soil and timber. But the Indians had eloped and were not to be found.

Having crossed and recrossed the river, and finished the work of destruction, the army marched off to the east. Our Indians saw them move off, but suspecting that it was Sullivan's intention to watch our return, and then to take us by surprize, resolved that the main body of our tribe should hunt where we then were, till Sullivan had gone so far that there would be no danger of his returning to molest us.

This being agreed to, we hunted continually till the Indians concluded that there could be no risk in our once more taking possession of our lands. Accordingly we all returned; but what were our feelings when we found that there was not a mouthful of any kind of sustenance left, not even enough to keep a child one day from perishing with hunger.

The weather by this time had become cold and stormy; and as we were destitute of houses and food too, I immediately resolved to take my children and look out for myself, without delay. With this intention I took two of my little ones on my back, bade the other three follow, and the same night arrived on the Gardow flats, where I have ever since resided.

At that time, two negroes, who had run away from their masters sometime before, were the only X inhabitants of those flats. They lived in a small cabin and had planted and raised a large field of corn, which they had not yet harvested. As they were in want of help to secure their crop, I hired to them to husk corn till the whole was harvested.

I have laughed a thousand times to myself when I have thought of the good old negro, who hired me, who fearing that I should get taken or injured by the Indians, stood by me constantly when I was husking, with a loaded gun in his hand, in order to keep off the enemy, and thereby lost as much labor of his own as he received from me, by paying good wages. I, however, was not displeased with his attention; for I knew that I should need all the corn that I could earn, even if I should husk the whole. I husked enough for them, to gain for myself, at every tenth string, one hundred strings "of ears, which were equal to twenty-five bushels of shelled corn. This seasonable supply made my family comfortable for samp and cakes through the succeeding winter, which was the most severe that I have witnessed since my remembrance. The snow fell about five feet deep, and remained so for a long time, and the weather was extremely cold; so much so indeed, that almost all the game upon which the Indians depended for subsistence, perished, and reduced them almost to a state of starvation through that and three or four succeeding years. When the snow melted in the spring, deer were found dead upon the ground in vast numbers; and other animals, of every description, perished from the cold also, and were found dead, in multitudes. Many of our people barely escaped with their lives, and some actually died of hunger and freezing.

See: James E. Seaver, The Life of Mary Jemison: The White Woman of the Genesee. 1824. New York.