John Harrower (1733-1777) was a 40 year-old Scottish merchant who set out in 1774, for the American colonies as an indentured servant. Like many of the 40,000 residents of the Scottish Highlands who left after 1760, he faced poverty with little opportunity. After several weeks in London, Harrower signed an indenture to travel to Virginia as a schoolmaster. He sailed with 71 other male indentees from across England and Ireland. With his relatively privileged training, Harrower was fortunate and found a new life on a tidewater plantation. Harrower’s four-year indenture contract was sold to Colonel William Daingerfield of at Belvidera at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Harrower kept a journal of his life at Belvidera.
Harrower served as tutor to the Colonel’s children & those of other nearby planters. Among these was 14 year-old neighbor John Edge, who was deaf and mute. Tradition has it that John was the first deaf person to obtain an education in the new nation of America. John Harrower wrote, “that, after five months, John Edge could write right well, understand the value of each figure and could work at single addition a little.” Harrower’s diary also mentions the quality of Belvedere’s fine strawberries, cherries, melons, honey, cider and toddies. This section begins with his meeting his future master after arriving in Virginia 13 days earlier and staying on board ship as others who had sailed with him were chosen for indenture by local Virginians. He simply waited. These entries reflect his reactions to his new life in the colonies during his first six months.
May, Munday 23d. 1774 This morning a great number of Gentlemen and Ladies driving into Town it being an anuall Fair day & tomorrow the day of the Horse races. At 11 am Mr. Anderson begged [me] to settle as a schoolmaster with a freind of his one Colonel Daingerfield and told me he was to be in Town tomorrow, or perhaps to night, and how soon he came he shou’d aquant me. At same time all the rest of the servants were ordred ashore to a tent at Fredericksbg. and severall of their Indentures were then sold. About 4 pm I was brought to Colonel Daingerfield, when we imediatly agreed and my Indenture for four years was then delivered him and he was to send for me the next day. At same time ordred to get all my dirty Cloaths of every kind, washed at his expence in Town; at night he sent me five shillings on board by Capt. Bowers to keep my pocket.
Tuesday 24th. May 1774 This morning I left the Ship at 6 am having been sixteen weeks and six days on board her. I hade for Breackfast after I came ashore one Chappin sweet milk for which I paid 3 1/2 Cury. At 11 am went to see a horse race about a mille from Toun, where there was a number of Genteel Company as well as others. Here I met with the Colonel again and after some talk with him he gave me cash to pay for washing all my Cloaths and Something over. The reace was gain’d by a Bay Mare, a white boy ridder. There was a gray Mare started with the Bay a black boy ridder but was far distant the last heat.
Wednesday 25th. I Lodged in a Tavern last night and paid 7 1/2 for my Bedd and 7 1/2 for my breackfast. This morning a verry heavy rain untill 11 am. Then I recd. my Linens &ca. all clean washed and packing every thing up I went on board the ship and Bought this Book for which I paid 18d. Str. I also bought a small Divinity book called the Christian Monitor and a spelling book, both at 7 1/2 & an Arithmetick at 1/6d. all for my own Accot.
Thursday 26th. This day at noon the Colonel sent a Black with a cuple of Horses for me and soon after I set out on Horseback and aravied at his seat of Belvidera about 3 pm and after I hade dined the Colonel took me to a neat little house at the upper end of an Avenue of planting at 500 yds. from the Main house, where I was to keep the school, and Lodge myself in it.
This pleace is verry pleasantly situated on the Banks of the River Rappahannock about seven Miles below the Toun of Fredericksburgh, and the school’s right above the Warff so that I can stand in the door and pitch a stone on board of any ship or Boat going up or coming doun the river.
Freiday 27th. This morning about 8 am the Colonel delivered his three sons to my Charge to teach them to read write and figure. His oldest son Edwin 10 years of age, intred into two syllables in the spelling book, Bathourest his second son 6 years of age in the Alphabete and William his third son 4 years of age does not know the letters. He has likeways a Daughter whose name is Hanna Basset...Years of age.
Soon after we were all sent for to breackfast to which we hade tea Bread, Butter & cold meat and there was at table the Colonel, his Lady, his Childreen, the housekeeper and myself. At 11 am the Colonel and his Lady went some where to pay a visite, he upon horseback and she in her Charriot.
At 2 pm I dined with the Housekeeper the Children and a Stranger Lady. At 6 pm I left school, and then I eat plenty of fine straw berries, but they neither drink Tea in the afternoon nor eat any supper here for the most part. My school Houres is from 6 to 8 in the Morning, in the forenoon from 9 to 12 and from 3 to 6 in the afternoon...
14th. June 1774.
"As to my living I eat at their own table, & our witualls are all Dressed in the english taste. We have for breackfast either Coffie or [Chocolate], and warm loaf bread of the best floor, we have also at Table warm loaf bread of Indian corn, which is extreamly good but we use the floor bread always at breackfast.
For Dinner smoack'd bacon or what we cal pork ham is a standing dish either warm or cold. When warm we have greens with it, and when cold we have sparrow grass. We have also either warm roast pigg, Lamb, Ducks, or chickens, green pease or any thing else they fancy.
As for Tea there is none drunk by any in this Government since 1st. June last, nor will they buy a 2d. worth of any kind of east India goods, which is owing to the difference at present betwixt the Parliament of great Brittan and the North Americans about laying a tax on the tea; and I'm afraid if the Parliament do not give it over it will cause a total revolt as all the North Americans are determined to stand by one another, and resolute on it that they will not submit..."
6 Decr. 1774.
"Know that I have not drunk a dish of Tea this six Mos. past, nor have I drunk a dram of plain spirits this seven Mos. past, nor have I tasted broth or any kind of supping mate for the above time unless three or four times some soup; Notwithstanding I want for nothing that I cou'd desire, and am only affraid of getting fatt, tho we seldom eat here but twice a day.
For Breackfast we have always Coffie with plenty of warm loaf bread and fine butter. At 12 oClock when I leave School, I have as much good rum toddie as I chuse to drink, and for Dinner we have plenty of roast & boyld and good strong beer, but seldom eat any supper."