Here we see the stoic reminder of an age when rural America, particularly in the New England areas depicted in the painting on the right, were the homesteads of early men and women of Puritan descent– emigres and their descendants of the Great Revolution in England– which saw the execution of the English King Charles I during the English Civil War and eventual restoration of Royalists under Charles II. During this and succeeding times the Puritans, who eventually came to settle in the New England area, sought and pursued their beliefs, which called for a greater reformation from Roman Catholic teachings and practices that the Church of England generally embraced. Generally speaking however, the Puritans were members of the Church of England. It is commonly assumed that these people were not part of the Church of England, however this is not historical fact.
While relations with the local natives were initially good, inadvertently native Americans were introduced to diseases from the influx of colonists, and between the diseases and inevitable wars between the early settlers and local populations of Indians, their populations declined. You can read more about that here:http://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-thanksgiving-2017-11
The rural New England diet came from an indian introduced plants–corn,along with beans, squash and pumpkins–these were the main staples of plantings in the New England areas, while diets in Northern New England, due to a shorter growing season, consisted of game from hunting, fishing and gathering wild berries and nuts. Personally I can’t imagine a diet of berries and nuts in general, but I did have a half-Japanese roommate at one time whose diet consisted of rice, nuts, fruits and vegetables. So it can be done–but he was very skinny!
In truth, farming the New England land was extremely difficult. The growing season was generally short while the soil was rocky. With enough land however, it was possible to make a living, which in the colonial era provided a young man after accumulating land, with the finances to marry. Women married between the ages of twenty-two to twenty-three, men married at approximately 27 years of age. If you are looking for an accurate portrayal of this era I suggest checking this website out: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/before-1776-life-in-the-american-colonies.html.
But back to the life of rural New Englanders! It is a topic of special interest to me, because my father was a New England farmer–although a very bad one at that–in New Hampshire. He lived in a house, probably over 150 years old (that would be about 1800) that was by modern means, rough! There was no central heating in the house and the well he dug provided water–when it had water. The well filled very slowly when dry, so you had to be frugal with water consumption!
What impressed me most about living in the country farm house was how warm the wool blankets could keep you on a cold night! No complaints! You’d probably freeze to death even with four blankets layered in those rooms these days, but it doesn’t get as cold these days; back then, bedrooms could get to extreme temperatures–so cold in fact that the pee pots that were used back in those days froze with their contents in the night. Point of fact: you can’t even buy blankets like that these days. I think the secret is the weave,the wool was probably woven so tightly that no air escaped.
My father described life to me on his dairy farm: everyday he rose at 5 AM to work in the barn. The cows were fed and then milked. This was all done by hand! My mother used to wash the cows every day in the summer heat–and then put them out to pasture for the day. But since there wasn’t enough well water, every day they had to drive a water truck to a local place and fill it with water. In the night it was the same feed, routine, plus shoveling manure every day– and this was seven days a week–no days off! It was a twelve hour work day which by modern standards was absolutely grueling.
The mystery was why a Harvard scientist and his parents would buy a farm in the first place? Well the answer is this: in the 1850’s, the American dream was to own a farm, America being a rural society back then. My grandfather, having been born in 1880 or so, probably remembered this and so it was his dream to retire to the farm as well–which is how the place came to be bought. But even with this extremely difficult existence, they thought they were in heaven on the farm! They thought of retirement as a chance to work in the countryside, while today of course, the opportunity to work after retirement is something one might do from necessity rather than a kind of retirement plan…and then the prices of milk dropped so it become difficult to make money. If you’d like to read more about dairy farming, check this out:
Times have changed!