Jonathan and Sally Brown had seven sons:
J. Bailey Moore’s History of the Town of Candia provides a month by month depiction of what farm life would have been like for boys growing up in Candia from 1800 to 1824, after the farms of the early settlers of the town had become established:
In the early part of the present century the business of farming in our town had reached a good degree of prosperity. A large proportion of the land had been cleared of its forests and vast quantities of boulders of various sizes, that had been lying upon or near the surface, were piled up in great heaps on some barren place. Many of the fields and pastures had been walled in at a vast expenditure of labor; the soil had not become exhausted of its fertilizing qualities; and the farmers of those days, unlike those of a more modern date, were not embarrassed by the difficulty of procuring assistance in cultivating their lands. Many of the people of those times had very large families of children, often ten or a dozen. Children were not then regarded as an encumbrance and a misfortune, but as a blessing and a positive benefit to their parents. They were not indulged in every whim and caprice or allowed to over rule their parents, as is too often the case in these days; but they were taught and compelled to obey their parents and show respect to their elders. Moreover, they were taught to largely depend upon themselves, and when the boys were eight or ten years of age, they made themselves useful upon the farm, and when they had entered upon their, teens they could dexterously handle the axe, the hoe, the shovel and the scythe, to perform more than half as much labor as an average hired hand.1
The Brown Boys’ Experiences
Given that Johnathan and Sally’s sons were born between 1822 and 1838, I would expect that their experiences working on the farm as boys would have been similar to Moore’s descriptions, although probably without the delight and wonder.
By the first of March, as the winter term of the district school closed, the bigger boys were required to assist in chopping the firewood. With the thick, clumsy axes of that period this was no easy task, and sometimes it required two or three hours for a boy a dozen years old to chop a great rock maple log in four sections half through ready for turning. The hands of some of the boys became cracked and sore, inside and out, by the jar made in chopping in the wind, and very queer remedies were prescribed.2
As the days grow longer and warmer . . . . [t]he boys are set to work picking the rocks or small boulders on the fields, that were laid down to grass the previous year.3
On rainy days, some of the boys must go to the dark, damp cellar and sit for hours by the light of a tallow candle and sprout potatoes; or mount to the garret and shell corn upon the long handle of an old- fashioned frying pan.4
There were no corn planters in those times, and each hill had to be dug out and covered with the hoe. The boys and girls are delighted to be detailed to drop the corn and other seeds, and are scrupulously careful to drop just five kernels of corn in each hill and one pumpkin seed in each alternate hill in every other row.5
On some warm and pleasant day after the planting has been completed, the sheep must be washed. This was generally done in some swiftly-running stream below a saw or grist mill. The boys were allowed to wash the lambs and their struggles with the frightened creatures in the water afforded some fun to the lookers-on.6
The corn in the fields is cut, brought to the house and piled in a huge heap upon the barn floor. From twenty to thirty men and boys gather around the heap, sitting in old chairs and on milking stools or on bunches of corn fodder. An old-fashioned tin lantern with one tallow candle inside is hung by a ring to the long handle of a pitchfork that is stuck horizontally into the side of the hay mow next to the corn to be husked; and then, by the feeble, glimmering light the company sit five or six hours busily stripping the husks from the glossy ears, and telling stories, cracking Jokes, singing songs or talking good sound sense, according as the spirit moves. Once in a while some of them go out of the barn for a short time to straighten out their be numbed and cramped limbs, and to look up with wonder to the sparkling stars through the cool, clear atmosphere and pick out from among them the Great Bear, the North Star, the Pleiades or Cassiopeia.7
When the great storms came in winter and the roads were blocked with snow all the oxen and steers in the highway districts were hitched together to an ox-sled with a log chained in front of the runners. The sled was covered with men and boys, while a few went ahead to shovel through the larger drifts to enable the team to pass along. The weight upon the sled pressed it down into the snow instead of plowing it out as is the custom at the present day.8
Social Commentator or Curmudgeon?
Note how Moore found it necessary in his introduction to Candia farm life to soundly criticize the permissive parents of the younger generation who no longer had the proper respect for their elders–the younger generation being those growing up in the 1890s. Was Moore making an accurate comparison of prevailing social mores of two different time periods, or was he just being a curmudgeon? I suspect the latter. As the old saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
1J. Bailey Moore, History of the Town of Candia, Rockingham County, N.H., from Its First Settlement to the Present Time (Manchester, N.H.: George W. Browne, 1893), 254.