How Hampton Citizens Lived In Colonial Times -- Part 5

Return to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents

- 1776 -- 1976 -

Food And Drink

Wild turkey & haystack

In olden times, deer, wild turkey, pigeons, partridges, quail and other game was plentiful in the woods inland from Hampton. Fish, lobsters, clams and oysters were easily obtained along the seacoast.

Many years earlier, Indians had taught the first settlers to use corn in such dishes as hominy, pone, succotash and pudding. Friendly Indians also taught the white men to eat the native pumpkin, squash and potato. Hampton farmers of 200 years ago were also raising beans, carrots, parsnips, peas and turnips. Huckleberries, grapes, strawberries and blackberries grew wild and orchards provided fruits for making pies, tarts, sauces and preserves. Bread was made from rye, corn meal or wheat and eaten at almost every meal. Preserves and pickles made from cabbage, nasturtium buds, green walnuts, barberries and parsley added variety to the diet. Most homes used honey and maple sugar for sweetening.

The greatest difficulty was in keeping foods fresh, for the Colonists were late in learning how to store ice. Meat and fish were often salted or smoked for later use.

The kitchen

All cooking was done over an open log fire in a huge fireplace, where kettles hung from a large crane. Meat to be roasted was usually hung over the fire with a basting pan beneath it. A Dutch oven, built into the wall at one side of the fireplace, was used for baking.

Almost every family produced nearly everything it ate, although the richer families imported such special foods as sugar, molasses and spices. Sweets and desserts were fairly common. Even ice cream was served toward the end of the Colonial period. At first, water was the only drink, but chocolate, tea and coffee were used later.

Around the fireplace

Fancy tableware of glass, silver and china graced the homes of the rich but the average Hampton home used pewter or wooden plates, cups and spoons. Most of the food was placed in the large wooden bowls. Often, one steaming dish contained the entire meal. Drinks were served in leather or wooden tankards, bottles and pitchers. Homemade tablecloths were fairly common and napkins were necessities because most food was eaten with the fingers. A large saltcellar was commonly the centerpiece for the table.

[Mother always had food to prepare. Pots would be steaming over the fire as the men pause for a puff at their pipes and a tankard of ale.]

David Marston Provided Food
For Large Family

David Marston and his wife, Abigail, had 12 children. They were Isaac, Rachel, Sarah, Molly, James, Abigail, David, Levi, Caleb, Elizabeth, Anna, and little Jonathan, the youngest, who was born in 1769.

Imagine how much work it must have been to raise and prepare enough food for such a big family.

David and his three older boys probably hunted in the woods for deer, rabbits and other game. Getting what they caught ready to eat must have been quite a task, but they probably also saved the hides to make clothing. The younger boys would have had to work hard raising vegetables and helping care for the livestock. They may have fished for food, too.

Abigail and her older girls would have ground grain into meal for making bread. Perhaps they helped with the gardening, but getting the food prepared would have taken a lot of their time.

Feeding cows in winter

The family probably had several milk cows so there would be enough milk and butter for the Marston family.

In this family, even the little children probably helped with the meals. Maybe they shelled peas and husked corn, or helped gather eggs and pick wild berries. One thing is certain. In those days everybody worked hard for the food they ate.

[Even in the coldest weather, dad had to care for the cows. Without them, there would be no meat, milk or butter. ]

The Clothes They Wore

Sheep shearing
The shearing of sheep

The ordinary people of Hampton made their own clothing in the early 1700's. Even later in the century, when material could be purchased at a local store, the spinning wheel was still in use by many mothers. Only the wealthy imported ready-made clothing, or paid other people to make their clothes.

The men raised sheep and sheared their wool. This wool was then washed, combed, carded and spun into yarn on the spinning wheel. Yarn was colored with dye made from berries, leaves and bark before it was woven into cloth by a mother on her loom. Learning to spin and weave was part of every young girl's eduction. Stitching of the woven cloth into shirts, pants and dresses was done with coarse thread and a needle which often was made of bone.

The spinning wheel
The spinning wheel

Spinning and weaving were two of the most important tasks of the colonial housewife. Cloth made at home was known as "homespun" and much of it was linsey-woolsey. This was woven by hand from woolen and linen threads spun from the wool and flax they raised; the linen thread ran one way and the woolen thread the other.

A typical mother would be wearing a gray or brown wool dress with a falling band of linen around the neck and a long, white Holland style apron. Her cap might be made from muslin. A little boy's suit was probably lined with warm linsey-woolsey and his striped socks were knit by his mother or grandmother. They wore leather shoes with wooden heels. Father or a neighbor would have made them from deerskin or cowhide.

Weaving on the loom
Weaving on the loom
Colonial dress depended upon a person's occupation, wealth, and whether he lived in a small town such as Hampton, or in a city. In some places, laws were passed to prevent wearing of fine clothes by people of lower classes. It was felt that by wearing gold braid and silk or lace decorations they were trying to climb beyond their social position. In time, this attitude died out.

A well-dressed Hampton lawyer or merchant of 200 years ago may have stepped out onto the street attired in a green coat, a white vest, brownish-yellow knee breeches, white silk stockings, and pump shoes adorned with huge silver buckles. His breeches are tied at the knees with bows. His hair is frizzled in front, then greased and powdered; he may even have added a false tail of hair behind, tying it with a black ribbon that hangs half-way down his back.

The first umbrellas

First umbrellas came to America from Europe in 1770s. First users were criticized for defying the will of God who made the rain. Wealthy women wore long, full skirts trimmed with fine lace or silk. Because a delicate, white skin was considered beautiful, they wore long gloves and large sunbonnets for protection from the sun. They walked on uncomfortably high heels, carried fancy fans and wore long hair with clusters of ringlets or curls.

Powdered wigs were in vogue
Large, fluffy, powdered wigs were worn by all men who could afford them for more than 100 years. Then, men took to powdering their own hair and braiding it into a pigtail in the back. Heavy grease was used to make the powder stay on the hair.
Return to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents