Colony Bay TV

Next Episode II

May 13, 2011 James Riley

To better understand the life of the common New Hampshire farmer/patriot of the 1770s, we draw heavily on the journals of Samuel Lane and Matthew Patten.   Matthew’s Patten’s “day book” really isnt a diary or a journal in the sense most of us understand.  It’s really a terse record of how he spends his time and where he spends his money.   On that score, neither Patten, nor the rest of his neighbors, had much “money” in the way of coin or paper currency.  Without a central treasury, our colonial ancestors spent a lot of time trading for what they needed, and when they didn’t have something to conclude an even transaction, they extended credit to each other.    Sometimes, this credit went on literally for years, until you had something your neighbor wanted and you could settle the old debt, which might occasion a new line of credit to your neighbor, if the trade wasn’t even.  

On the drama and comedy front, I’ve often thought that the permanent departure of a family to a far-away destination might occasion a rapid flurry of debt collection, since trades of this sort were probably difficult to conclude and if everyone was calling their debt in at the same time, someone was bound to be loudly disatisfied with their settlement.   I’ve read quite a bit of Patten’s journal for the period and I haven’t seen such an event chronicled, but I don’t think conjecture would be unreasonable, given the premise.   

In the modern era, money makes us strangers.  We don’t really have to buy things from our neighbors, and we certainly don’t have to produce anything, other than cash, that can be used for trade.   Most of us, in fact, scrupulously avoid doing business with friends, since an economic transaction can bruise sensibilities.  The century old violin that you think is worth $2,000 may produce an insulting offer of $75 from a friend who needs a trainer-fiddle for his fifth grader.     The wall-papering job your friend’s nephew describes as “first rate” may make you miserable everytime you walk in your living room.   You can get everything you need, in our age, from strangers — and that way you can yell at them as much as you want and make sure they do their job.

On the other hand, if you were forced into these economic relationships, by virtue of the system itself, my sense is that it might make you more reliable, more aware of how your work was perceived by your neighbors, and, if nothing else, it would force you to get to know your neighbors.   I was a child of the mid 20th century, and I can still remember one of my mother’s friends saying “kids, always guard your good name.  Your parents guarded it.  Now it’s up to you to keep it untarnished.”   I don’t recall hearing any parental lecture of that sort in the last few decades, but in the 18th century, in the small towns of New England, it wasn’t a relic.   Your name kept you alive, and connected to your community.  Sometimes we wonder why we have no collective spirit anymore, no ability to lock arms.  Well, I know one reason:

We don’t have to barter for anything anymore.

So now we review what Matthew Patten was up to.  You can read the actual account here, but here are a few of the  highlights from the Spring and early Summer of 1770:

  • April 3:  Spent all day trying to “bring about an accomodation” between Joseph Scobey and his son.
  • April 5:  (Thursday) A Province wide fast was held. 
  • April 6:   Had his horse shoed.   “Drawed the Warts” for the surveyors of highways
  • April 7:  Surveying
  • April 10: Went to Lieutenant Moor’s for a trial between Mr. Houston and Patten’s brother.  Court ruled against his brother.
  • April 11:  Went to Atkinson to to divide 80 acres off a farm and record it.
  • April 12:  Helped divide a widow’s estate.  Took a deposition.
  • April 13-16:  Surveying and dividing farms
  • April 17:  Jean McFarland came to the house to spin
  • April 18:  Went to the Scobey’s to divide estate between he and  his son (see April 3)
  • April 20:  Sold 1580 feet of white oak plank to Lieut. Daniel Moore
  • April 21:  Sewed 2 bushel of rye in the field
  • April 23:  William Kennedy came to the house to make shoes.
  • April 24:  Vendued (auctioned?) John Gordon’s farm to Nathaniel Clark — a weaver from Londonderry for 32 pounds, 9 shillings
  • April 25:  borrowed money, bought corn, Robert Alexander’s would not take pay for it on account of “being his friend on Turrill’s afair about land.”  Bought a dozen fish hooks and an ounce of snuff and 10 ounces of tobacco and paper.
  • April 27:  Jean McFarland (the spinner) left the house
  • May 1:  Made a pulley to weave fustine and Hannah McFarland and “Susey” put it in the loom
  • May 4:  Sewed 3/4 bushel of flax seed
  • May 7:  Kennedy there making shoes again
  • May 8:  Went fishing, his sons planted potatoes
  • May 9: Lodged at John Burns in Monson and visited with many officials from Boston
  • May 11:  traveled to Hollis, purchased sole leather
  • May 12:  Purchased 2 bushels of Rye, had it ground at Liet Caldwell’s Mill
  • May 13:  Sabbath.   “met the Corps (sic) of Alexander Orr’s wife at the little meadow
  • May 14: Layed up a log fence with his sons
  • May 15:  finished fence, went to Colonel Goffe’s fora  meeting of the proprietors of Dartmouth college
  • May 16:  borrowed his brothers 4 oxen to plow fields
  • May 18:  purchased Rye and potatoes
  • May 19:  plowing and harrowing
  • May 21: re-built a plow, furrowed the oldland
  • May 22:  finished plow, finished breaking up (plowing)
  • May 23: began planting corn
  • May 25:  fished.  Got 20 shad and 64 elwives
  • May 26:  fished:  2 shad, 13 elwives
  • May 28: Purchased 4 bushels of rye, borrowed 43 threads of twine from his brother’s wife
  • May 29:  Kennedy comes by to make shoes again;  repaired a fishing net
  • May 30: fishing, (12 shad);  Went to “Russes” with Capt Stark (John?) and addressed his controversy with Liet. McNeal.  Went home with Stark and lodged there.
  • May 31: legal business, returned home at 2 in the morning
  • June 1: fishing, Susanna borrowed a horse to ride to Londonderry and Chester
  • June 2:  made a horse shoe, altered a roadway
  • June 4:  fishing, settled some debts
  • June 5:  did “no great work”  feeling weary.  IT rained.  
  • June 6:  set the “bridge rate” with Captain Barron and Thomas McLaughlin
  • June 7:  made cloth shoes for his wife and lasts (shoe forms) for his daughters
  • June 8:  Cow calved and gave a heifer.   Received news that his brother’s appealed case was victorious against Mr. Houston.
  • June 9:  purchased three hoes from Mrs. Godfrey
  • June 13:  Mill too damp to work; purchased rye & snuff
  • June 15:  fished;  10 lbs of Salmon;  the boys hoed the corn
  • June 16:  purchase a pig from Joseph Scobey
  • June 18:  fishing, bull calf born
  • June 19:  put a new stock on a gun
  • June 20:  went to a bridge raising:  (Piscataquog bridge)
  • June 20-21: Legal work
  • June 22:  Mae a coffin for Joseph MOor’s “Corps”
  • June 23:  attended Joseph MOor’s funeral, got a bushel of salt
  • June 26:  butchered a calf; weighted 42.5 lbs of veal.   Purchased Indian corn.
  • June 27: Met with Capt Barron and Ensn McLauglin; discussed pay for minister and Province rates.  Purchased a gallon of molasses
  • June 28:  viewed the new bridge; continued rate discussion
  • June 29:  surveying
  • June 30:  finished copying “lists and Warts” and took them to the constable

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