Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Can You Just Imagine?

Below is a land record (double click on it to enlarge) for William's father, Abraham Miller from 1749!! Wouldn't you give anything to know what the land around Elkton looked like back then! How did our ancestors live, dress and travel? What did they eat? We will never know for sure, but this entry from another famliy history site (not related) gives us a flavor of what it might have been like:

Life on the eastern shore in the late 1700s was very basic, as described by a writer in the Chestertown Transcript:
Farm implements were of the rudest kind. We used wooden plows, with an old saw for the land side, and the mold board covered with a gar skin. Corn was worked with the fluke harrow and hoe. ... The smaller products of the farm were taken to town every Wednesday and Saturday, where they were exposed in the market for sale until 9 A.M. If not disposed of by that time, they were exchanged with the merchants for their goods. Clothing was of the simplest kind, and very often homespun, though there were at the time several woolen mills in Kent. Shoes were made at the farmers' houses by an itinerant shoemaker, whose avocation was called by the euphonious name of "whipping the cat." Roads were generally very poor, and laid out without regard to straight lines. If a mudhole was in the middle of the road, they drove around it and made a new road. Horseback was the favorite method of traveling. On Sunday the families would generally pile in an ox-cart and go that way to church. There were a few gigs, but they, like coaches, were costly, and were only used by the very rich.There were several kinds of amusements indulged in by the men, one of which was horse racing. The distance run was generally a quarter of a mile, and the stakes a gallon of whiskey. The very best whiskey cost fifty cents per gallon. Husking matches were common in the winter. The husking was generally done by the negroes, while the white folks had a good time in the house. The huskers were always provided with a good supper; plenty of roast pig, corn-bread and whiskey. Once a year there was a day appointed for a squirrel hunt, generally in June, when the young squirrels were tender and eating fit for the Gods,
" (picture and article from VanderFord Family.com).

This land deal involved Abraham buying a large tract of land near the Head of the Elk [River]. He was probably around 39 years old. He and his wife, Rosannah (or Susannah?) would have had several children by now (we know William was born in 1732). They seem to have been fairly well situated financially in order to buy this much land. They had been living in NewCastle County, Delaware [why does the deed say "in the Territories of Pensylvania [sic]?...we'll leave that question for another posting], and were now moving to Cecil County, Maryland, though this was a move of only 5 or 10 miles. Someday perhaps one of our members will travel to this part of the country, pinpoint this area and take pictures, though we can be sure it won't look even remotely the same! We are lucky to now have these land records at our fingertips to help give us a more complete picture of what our ancestors' lives were really like.

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