« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
were preliminary to other festival customs which the townsfolk had been taught to cherish as sacredly as the constitutional liberty which was the heritage from their English ancestors. After due publication of the approaching marriage either in a town or council meeting, or "on a training day at the head of the company," or by a writing under a magistrate's hand set in some public place,' as generously as circumstances would permit, provision was made for the attendance of the numerous friends at the house of the bride and the celebration of the wedding ceremonies, which always constituted important events in the social life of the period. During many of the earlier generations marriage being regarded in the light of the law as chiefly a civil contract, although of the most sacred and binding character (divorces being exceedingly uncommon), it was celebrated by the justice of the peace, but finally the minister of the gospel was recognized as a sufficient authority in tying the knot. For many years a large share of the marriage services in Glocester were performed by Richard Steere, Esq., and many by Jonah and Samuel Steere, Esqs., while Thomas Steere, Esq., often officiated in Smithfield. Some ludicrous anecdotes are related of grooms in an impecunious condition who brought for marriage fees such useful articles as a peck of potatoes, etc.
It seems a settled fact that the Steeres as a rule married later in life than most of the inhabitants. In other families the men married quite uniformly at the age of majority, and the females were more often married under twentyone. But in the case of one hundred and thirty-six Steeres whose marriage dates are definitely given, only ten females married under twenty-one, while of both males and females, thirteen married at majority, thirty-six marrying between twenty-two and twenty-five, forty-nine between twenty-five and thirty, twenty between thirty and thirty-five, five between thirty-five and forty, and two between forty-five and fifty. Of these one hundred and thirty-six, twenty-one married at the age of twenty-five, and seventy-six at the age of twenty-five and over. About two thirds of the whole married at the age of twenty-five and over.
The females had their own special gatherings characteristic of the period in which they lived. These included quilting parties and spinning matches, the latter of which were of ancient date and long-continued observance, and excited much general interest, particularly after the Revolutionary War, on account of the desire to promote the manufacture of domestic goods. It is narrated that "in 1789, to celebrate the adoption of the federal constitution, and to encourage manufacturing in Rhode Island, forty-eight patriotic ladies assembled
* Staples's A nnals of Providence, p. 116. be lawful after a fortnight, if no exception come in
Extract from Wilkinson MSS.: 3d Nov. 1655. within a fortnight's time: that in extraordinary cases
"Ordd pub" of marriage shall be under the hand Persons may in Shorter time procure & purchase a
of a Magistrate set upon some eminent tree in the Town Meeting where there may be Publication."
Town Street, after which publication marriage shall 1 Book, 119. at the court-house in East Greenwich with their own wheels, their own flax, and for their own use spun in one day from sunrise to sunset. One lady spun seven skeins and one knot, — that being the most spun by any one of the company. The amount of knowledge gathered at such seasons respecting all the affairs of the state and country was not small, and contributed much to relieve the sameness of the daily routine of life. In all such gatherings the Steeres of olden time, though not officious, were behind none in performing an acceptable part. Whilst they were industrious and frugal, they were never wanting in hospitable feeling, and always enjoyed social life that was seasoned with quaint humor and well-fitting anecdote.
In the colonial days dress had not come to be so generally, as at present, a fine art, nor were men and women willing to be slaves to a law of constantly changing fashion. Hon. John Treadwell, in 1802, gave a sketch of Connecticut habits of dress which equally applies to the Rhode Island style. "Our ancestors here, of both sexes, have, till of late, clad themselves in simple apparel, suited to their moderate circumstances and agricultural state. The men have been content with two suits of clothes, called the every-day clothes and the Sabbath-day clothes. The former were usually of two sorts, those for labor and those for common society." Says Judge Durfee of the early Providence settlers, "You would see the plain, home-spun inhabitants, — not such as tailors and milliners make, but such as God made, — real men and women, with the bloom of health on their cheeks and elasticity and vigor in every joint and limb."
One who was born in 1762* in his later years wrote respecting the state of society in his early life, in and about Providence: "Manners and fashions were very plain. The dress in general was meant to be durable. Men mostly with wash-leather breeches; cloth for most purposes generally manufactured in their families; laborers of almost every description with leather aprons; the best dress of the most opulent was of English manufacture, in a plain style. Some who were a little flashy would wear a cocked hat, a wig, or a powdered head, their hair clubbed or queued; sometimes would buy or borrow some for the purpose of giving the club or queue the better appearance. Women of the same neighborhood would visit each other with a clean checked apron, a striped loose gown, a handkerchief over the shoulders, and a sun-bonnet; then pleasantly sit down and divert themselves over a dish of bohea tea and a piece of bread and butter. A few who considered themselves somewhat superior would wear a silk or calico gown, with long ruffle cuffs, a lawn apron, a little roll over the head, resembling a crupper to a saddle, with the hair smoothly combed over it, a flat chip hat, with a crown about one inch deep, all covered with a thin silk, some black, some white, others red, green," etc. ..." In my youngest days
* See Mr. Samuel Thurber's letter in Staples's History of Providence, p. 600.
there were but few carriages besides carts, consequently when women wanted to go abroad it was very common for them to go on horseback, sitting on a pillion behind a man. Women would often be at market on horseback, with a pair of panniers, selling butter, cheese, eggs," etc.
Fire-arms were serviceable not only for military exploits but in the pursuit of game. Men, and even women in cases of necessity, were ready to fire upon the bears or other wild beasts which at times made their appearance quite near the dwelling-houses.
Occasionally the grave fathers with their boys indulged in sports of the wild woods. The last bear killed in the neighborhood of Harmony, Glocester, was started by the Nehemiah Tinkham place, on a hill near the great rock, since called "the Bear rock." The hunters and their dogs followed him till he ran upon Waterman Neck. David Burlingame met the animal on his way coming down and shot him. He proved to be a fine large white-headed bear weighing four hundred pounds. This trophy was taken to " Uncle " Jonah Steere's and there divided among the hunters. In early times a fox chase was sometimes indulged in, by the aid of a pack of hounds. A common amusement during the revolutionary period was shooting at pigeons at stands set up about the cove at Providence. These were very plenty and had been captured in nets and brought to market in panniers* Rev. C. C. Beaman, in his history of Scituate.t gives a description of a famous squirrel hunt that took place in 1784, "on a wager between the towns of Glocester and Scituate, as to which should kill the greatest number. They were to hunt for ten successive days and then bring in the spoils and make the award. Judges were mutually appointed, consisting of a committee of fifteen. Ten gallons of rum and the expense of a dinner for the committee was to be the forfeit of the losing party." The contest resulted in a victory for the town of Scituate.
The Steere family at large never seemed to acquire any particular taste for military pursuits, those who gained titles of this description being mostly confined to the descendants of Lieut. John Steere, the oldest son of the first settler. Gen. Wm. H. P. Steere, in the sixth generation from Lieut. John Steere, distinguished himself in the War of the Rebellion as a military officer for his coolness, bravery, and skill in several campaigns. All the males of suitable age, however, were obliged to present themselves on the occasion of muster or general training or else be subject to a fine. This regulation was rigorously enforced from an early period in the settlement, except in the case of the Quakers, who were allowed exemption from this duty to the state by reason of their conscientious scruples on the subject of war. It was positively needful that every precaution should be taken against danger from the savages who surrounded them, and that all should be accustomed to the management and care
of fire-arms. In 1640 a law was made providing that the " traine bands" should exercise eight times a year, and two general musters were to be held each year. "No man was allowed to go two miles from town, or to attend any public meeting, under penalty of five shillings fine, without carrying a gun or sword." *
In 1654 it was by the Providence Town Council " Ordered that those ffarmes which are one mile off the towne alone, shall have liberty to have one man at home on trayning days." John Sayles, clerk of the band, was " authorized to order the matter of taking the ffines from the absent Souldiers which are listed in the Clark's book." General training days were beneficial for the exercises of military drill and the enforcement of discipline among the train bands, and were of great service in preparing the colony for the active part it afterwards took in carrying on the war for independence. At the same time they afforded seasons of great amusement to the inhabitants, a large proportion of whom came together to inspect the full ranks of militiamen, and to indulge in a good deal of hilarity. When the dangers of war were over, they became something of a farce. The old taverns, called " ordinaries," where the town meetings, town councils, and political gatherings were held, and always resorted to by the inhabitants, as the common centres of news and business, were crowded at the seasons of general muster, and though kept in an orderly manner by some of the most respectable and influential men of the colony, were doubtless at times sources of grief to some of the wives and mothers. These inns, planted at intervals along the principal roads, serving in the earliest times for many valuable public uses in a settlement where there were as yet no reading rooms, libraries, markets, or club rooms, became in later years, when intercourse with Massachusetts and Connecticut was more fully established, famous resting-places for entertainment to travellers on the great thoroughfares from east to west. The prominent innholders of an early date, and whose taverns were in existence when John Steere first made his appearance in Providence in the year 1660, were Roger Mowry t and Richard Pray, who were licensed in 1655 "to keep public houses of entertainment for strangers and providing for horse and man." Mary Pray, the widow of Richard, received a license as innholder in 1680.t John Whipple had been licensed in 1674, and his license was renewed in 1680. His house stood a little way up Constitution Hill, a little north of Star Street on the east side of the "Towne St.," since called North Main Street. The town council meetings were most frequently held there. This house was standing as late as the beginning of this century.
• Arnold's Hist, of R. I., vol. I, p. 141. the old City Tavern, part of the ' Dexter Donation.'
t It is believed that Roger Mowry built the " Sam- The property, in the hands of various owners, was uel Whipple" or "Abbott" house, where he resided dedicated to the same purposes during one hundred and kept probably the first authorized inn in the and sixty years." Dorr's Planting and Growth of town. See Holbrook's North End Land Marks. Providence.
% "The house of Mary Pray stood on the site of
As the inhabitants of the town increased and they settled at further distances from the centre, the necessity for houses of entertainment, where farmers and traders could be accommodated, increased. The old Turpin Tavern, founded by William Turpin, who had been the first school-master in the settlement, stood back some seventy feet in the rear of 626 North Main Street' This landlord was licensed in 1687 and bought this estate in 1693. Meetings of the General Assembly and the courts were frequently held in this house, and the son, William Turpin, Jr., in 1709, at his father's decease, succeeded to the possession of the homestead and the occupation of his father, maintaining an inn till his death in 1744. "His house was, apparently, the largest structure in the town, until the building of the present State House." t The inn of Eponatus Olney t was near the corner of Dexter Lane (afterwards called Olney's Lane) and North Main Street, and was largely patronized by those travelling from and toward Boston. His son James who married Hallelujah Brown inherited the property, and their son Joseph Olney succeeded to the tavern about 1748.§ Opposite this Olney Tavern the stocks were set up, where incorrigible persons were subjected to the public gaze. As John Steere the elder owned, as late as 1717, a lot on Olney Street, he doubtless often stopped at this "ordinary," on his way to and from his residence at Winnekeague. No stage-coach yet rumbled along the highway, no post rider carried the mail; the roads were rough and stony, and intercourse with the other colonies was infrequent, yet all the more was the meagre news that was passed along from the mouth of some adventurous trader cherished with a special interest that can hardly be conceived of in this day of railroads and telegraphs and telephones and daily mails and newspapers.
There were public gatherings inevitable and sad which produced a profound impression upon the primitive communities, where so many families were bound together by the ties of kin. In early colonial times very little, if any, religious ceremony was connected with funerals, but these were times for the manifestation of the tenderest and heartiest sympathy by communities in behalf of those who were in affliction.
The prejudice which had led the early settlers to object to funeral services by ministers on account of the erroneous practices of the Romish priesthood, in later times gave way to a more enlightened view, but the customs swung to the other extreme, and clergymen were expected to preach lengthy funeral sermons, and eulogies on the departed were always in order, besides a service at the grave. A large number of the attendants upon a funeral would return with the procession to the house and partake of a substantial dinner, the minister always
* A Holbrook's North End Land Marks, in the United States Navy, and was one of those
t Dorr's Planting and Growth of Providence. who first adopted and raised to the breeze the Amer
t His homestead in 1656. ican flag. § His son Joseph Olney, born 1737, died 1814, was