Friday, February 14, 2014

Early Life of the Irish Immigrants 1682 - 1750

"On their first arrival from Ireland, and before their own homes could be provided,  immigrant Friends did not want for food and shelter in that era of simple kindliness and free-hearted hospitality the old settlers were ever ready with open door to receive the newcomers and to assist and counsel them in choosing a location. The great body of these Friends brought only small capital with them, but they were young and vigorous and the favorable opportunities offered here enabled the most of them to begin a fairly comfortable settlement. Men with families usually brought their household goods with them, purchasing in the Colony, horses, cattle, and such other necessaries that could be bought to better advantage on this side of the water.

Locks in ordinary use were unknown the doors were hung- on wooden hinges or straps of hide and were opened by strings, which on being pulled from the outside raised heavy wooden latches within, to which they were made fast, and intrusion was prevented when the inmates pulled the latch-strings in at the outer doors. From this common practice originated the ancient saying descriptive of generous hospitality,the latch-string is always out."

A stone chimney of immense size, capable of Equipment of receiving a whole cord stick on the hearth, was built into one end of the house. The great fire-place was used for cooking and heating. Here were to be found frying-pans, chafing-dishes, and The Hearth spits, and suspended over the andirons by pot- hooks from an iron bar or crane, were the pots and kettles, which were so highly prized by the settlers that they were frequently bequeathed by will. George Harlan, of Kennett, in his will of 1714, devised to his son Aaron a "great brass kettle."

Extracts from the inventory of George Harlan, of Kennett, made Oct.29, 1714:

wearing apparrell, 1 Bed 1 Bolster 2 pillows; pillow Cases; 2 of Sheets ; 1 Rug and 1 blanket ; 1 Bedstead ; 1 Chest ; 1 Table ; 1 Couch ; I old wanning pan ; two Chests ; 6 pieces of pewter ; 1 Brass Skillet ; 1 frying pan ; 3 floats 3 pails 1 Churn 1 wooden bottle; I Gun ;2 Cows 1 black 1 Red ; 1 Stone horse ; 1 Dark brown meare Called Midge; this years horse Colt ; 1 Black Ridgelin (?) ; I Dark Brown mare with a bay yearling ; saws, augers, planes, axes, etc ; one old Bed tick and Bolster ; one Bay mare about 15 years old in the woods ; one Brown Bay Horse Colt about I year old ; 1 bay horse one bay mare ; one Sorril Colt ; 1 Grey Mare and Colt Total value of estate £, 270. 8. 2.

From the articles of this list we can well picture the appointments of a New Garden dinner table in 1714. The rough home-made board with its supporting trestles was covered with snowy cloth — board-cloth — and napkins of linen, spun, woven, and bleached by the good house-wife, doubtless, in her old home in Ireland. The dishes were mostly of wood with some few pieces of pewter, always kept bright and shining. The center-piece was the salt-cellar, which in many colonial homes divided the guests, seated "above the salt," from those of lesser note, placed "below the salt." Large shallow pewter platters were heaped high with meats and vegetables. Wooden trenchers served as plates, and wooden noggins as drinking cups ; and mustard cup, wooden tankards for water or liquor, and pewter porringers likewise graced the board. There were no covered dishes, saucers, glass or china, although earthenware was to be found on some tables. Knives were used, but forks did not come into general use until later, so that the hands had to be constantly employed for holding the food, and on that account napkins were a necessity.

The wife and daughters were even more fully occupied than the men. They not only attended to a score or more of domestic duties — cooking, washing, dairying, candle-making, soap-making, spinning, knitting, and weeding the garden — but also frequently assisted the men in the work of the field ; and in truth they might say with the old adage, Man works from sun to sun, But woman's work is never done. The women devoted much time to the home-spun industries, picking, carding, and spinning wool, and swingling*, hatcheling** and spinning flax ; and from their own homespun they manufactured the clothing of the family. The large stores of linen that were produced by this industry were folded away with lavender in wooden chests, and were a source of much pride to the colonial house- wife. Beautiful specimens of the linen made by the Irish Friends are still treasured as heirlooms in the families of descendants, and attest that the ancient skill in the handicraft for which Ireland is famous was not forgotten in the foster land. The produce of the farm was carried to Philadelphia, Chester, and New Castle, on horseback, and sold or exchanged for articles to be found at shops, fairs, and markets. Parke writes,in 1725: "There is 2 fairs yearly; 2 markets weekly in Philadelphia; also 2 fairs yearly in Chester; Likewise in New Castle.


The early settlers were much annoyed by certain of the wild animals that preyed on their flocks and herds. Foxes and wolves were the most persistently destructive, but black bears also frequently stole into the farm yard and carried off fine porkers. The Irish Friends, as well as other members of the Society, were eminently a sociable people, and despite the hard travelling visited each other continually. All the events of community — harvests, huskings, raisings, vendues,*** meetings, weddings, funerals — brought the widely scattered neighbors together. On such occasions a spirit of sincere and hearty good-will and neighborliness generally prevailed, and in time of distress and need there was never lack of help and sympathy. George Harlan settled at first about where the village of Centreville. New Castle Co., Delaware, now is, and the early meet ings were held at his home. Later he removed farther up Brandywine Creek, and purchased 474 acres of land in Kennett,now Pennsbury, Township, Chester County. While living here he had for his neighbors over the creek, in a great bend, a settlement of Indians. After they had gone away he obtained, in 1701, a warrant for 200 acres of land in the bend of the creek, granted in regard of the great trouble and charge he has bore in fencing and maintaining the same for the said Indians while living thereon." He died in 1714, and was buried by the side of his wife at Centre Meeting House.

Extracted From:
"Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania, 1682-1750 : with their early history in Ireland"  by ALBERT COOK MYERS


  *Swingling to clean (flax or hemp) by beating and scraping with a swingle.
 **hatcheling - A comb for separating flax fibers
 ***Vendue - a public auction
A Wooden Trencher (Plate)
Spinning Flax


A Noggin  (Cup)

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