Life in Early America

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It’s the seventeenth century in early America. I’m Peter Fuller, me and my family of four have come overseas from London, England to start a new life in the colony of Massachusetts. Back in London we were just your average middle class family who worked very hard to make money. We were not poor but we were far from wealthy. I worked as a shopkeeper and my wife was a school teacher. While we were content with our lives in England we wanted a chance to start over and have a chance to get wealthy quickly. We aren’t very young so we want to enjoy life and give our children a chance to be well off once my wife and I are gone. I have two children, one is a six-year-old boy named Jonathan and the other a four-year-old little girl named Adeline. When my family first arrived here, the area was quite different from London but we found the surrounding community to be a little similar to home. There were lots of other middle class families who were in their thirties and forties, and there were lots of farmers. When we first arrived we were amazed at how rich the land was but we soon learned that it required a great deal of work to farm it. Only people with an incredible work ethic and persistency could take on the task of farming the land here. One of the toughest parts of farming was clearing the land, this task proved to be almost as difficult as actually farming the land itself. In our area each farmer had their own private plots of land; as you can imagine there were often disputes about who owned what land. So we marked our territory with a post and rail fence. Making that post and rail fence required one to be handy with an ax and to be somewhat physically strong. Once we had the land cleared and tilled it was time to begin planting crops. This was a pretty arduous task to we needed as many hands as possible. My wife and my oldest son helped with the planting of crops and harvesting them. One of our main crops was tobacco, this was a crop that was very high in demand and was pretty easy to grow because our land was perfect for it. Tobacco became our cash crop, we used the money we earned from this to purchase horses and oxen. Another crop we planted was corn, this was a very important crop because it was very nourishing and pretty easy to grow. Also, it was very resistant to most diseases and it took at most 50 days out of the year to plant and harvest. Some of the other crops we grew included: turnips, onions, peas, and carrots. Everyday we spent a total of 4-5 hours working on the land and sometimes more when we were planting or harvesting. In the beginning you could imagine we ran into some problems that we had never encountered back in England. One of the major problems the we encountered were pests and wild animals. Everything from gnats, tobacco flies, black bears, wolves, and even worms would show up on our fields often. These pests could easily wipe out entire crops if not promptly taken care of. One other thing that we had to be careful of was the by-product of growing tobacco. After three or four years the process of growing tobacco wore out the land; so you had to be very diligent about fertilizing the land after harvesting every year. Growing the tobacco plant was by far the most arduous crop to grow; it took a great deal of work and consumed lots of time. The entire season for the tobacco plant lasted from February to late November. This left very little free time to do other things that did not have to do with farming. When it was time to sell the crop we really had no control over the price. It was all up to how much in demand tobacco was at the time. If we were lucky and got a high price the money would usually go towards paying off debts or some material things for the wife or me. While farming was a big part of surviving it would all be of no use without proper shelter. We obviously needed something that protected our family from the harshness of Mother Nature, especially during the winter; we also...
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