The brank, or scold’s bridle, was unknown in America in its English shape: though from colonial records we learn that scolding women were far too plentiful, and were gagged for that annoying and irritating habit.
We should have scant notion of the gardens of these New England colonists in the seventeenth century were it not for a cheerful traveller named John Josselyn, a man of everyday tastes and much inquisitiveness, and the pleasing literary style which comes from directness, and an absence of self-consciousness.
Sunken gardens should be laid out under the supervision of an intelligent landscape architect; and even then should have a reason for being sunken other than a whim or increase in costliness.
We have very pretty Dutch gardens, so called, in America, but their chief claim to being Dutch is that they are set with bulbs, and have Delft or other earthen pots or boxes for formal plants or shrubs.
Salem houses present to you a serene and dignified front, gracious yet reserved, not thrusting forward their choicest treasures to the eyes of passing strangers; but behind the walls of the houses, enclosed from public view, lie cherished gardens, full of the beauty of life.
There is something inexpressibly sad in the thought of the children who crossed the ocean with the Pilgrims and the fathers of Jamestown, New Amsterdam, and Boston, and the infancy of those born in the first years of colonial life in this strange new world.
It is heartrending to read the entries in many an old family Bible – the records of suffering, distress, and blasted hopes.
In the seventeenth century, the science of medicine had not wholly cut asunder from astrology and necromancy; and the trusting Christian still believed in some occult influences, chiefly planetary, which governed not only his crops but his health and life.
The seventeenth-century baby slept, as his nineteenth-century descendant does, in a cradle. Nothing could be prettier than the old cradles that have survived successive years of use with many generations of babies.
When the first settlers landed on American shores, the difficulties in finding or making shelter must have seemed ironical as well as almost unbearable.
By the year 1670, wooden chimneys and log houses of the Plymouth and Bay colonies were replaced by more sightly houses of two stories, which were frequently built with the second story jutting out a foot or two over the first, and sometimes with the attic story still further extending over the second story.
Few of the early houses in New England were painted, or colored, as it was called, either without or within. Painters do not appear in any of the early lists of workmen.
The first and most natural way of lighting the houses of the American colonists, both in the North and South, was by the pine-knots of the fat pitch-pine, which, of course, were found everywhere in the greatest plenty in the forests.
The study of tavern history often brings to light much evidence of sad domestic changes. Many a cherished and beautiful home, rich in annals of family prosperity and private hospitality, ended its days as a tavern.
The landlord of colonial days may not have been the greatest man in town, but he was certainly the best-known, often the most popular, and ever the most picturesque and cheerful figure.
Every sea-captain who sailed to the West Indies was expected to bring home a turtle on the return voyage for a feast to his expectant friends.
The first meeting-houses were often built in the valleys, in the meadow lands; for the dwelling-houses must be clustered around them, since the colonists were ordered by law to build their new homes within half a mile of the meeting-house.
The men in those old days of the seventeenth century, when in constant dread of attacks by Indians, always rose when the services were ended and left the house before the women and children, thus making sure the safe exit of the latter.
In the early New England meeting-houses the seats were long, narrow, uncomfortable benches, which were made of simple, rough, hand-riven planks placed on legs like milking-stools.
Our Puritan forefathers, though bitterly denouncing all forms and ceremonies, were great respecters of persons; and in nothing was the regard for wealth and position more fully shown than in designating the seat in which each person should sit during public worship.
From the hour when the Puritan baby opened his eyes in bleak New England, he had a Spartan struggle for life.
In the early days of the New England colonies, no more embarrassing or hampering condition, no greater temporal ill, could befall any adult Puritan than to be unmarried.
It is plainly evident that, in a country where land was to be had for the asking, fuel for the cutting, corn for the planting and harvesting, and game and fish for the least expenditure of labor, no man would long serve for another, and any system of reliable service indoors or afield must fail.
It is easy to gain a definite notion of the furnishing of colonial houses from a contemporary and reliable source – the inventories of the estates of the colonists.
The pillory and stocks, the gibbet, and even the whipping-post, have seen many a noble victim, many a martyr. But I cannot think any save the most ignoble criminals ever sat in a ducking-stool.
One of the earliest institutions in every New England community was a pair of stocks. The first public building was a meeting-house, but often before any house of God was builded, the devil got his restraining engine.