Andrew and Molly Part 5

JAMESTOWN. Female convicts transported from English prisons arriving in Jamestown, Virginia as indentured servants, although often becoming wives in mass weddings with the male settlers: colored engraving, 19th century.

Female convicts transported from English prisons arriving in Jamestown, Virginia as indentured servants, although often becoming wives in mass weddings with the male settlers: colored engraving, 19th century.

Immediately upon disembarking, Andrew and Molly along with others not already engaged were escorted to warehouse lodgings and given beer and a heartening stew of squash, beans, corn, yams, and meat, their first meat in seven weeks. ¬†The men and women were separated and instructed to choose clothing from a pile of castoffs before bathing and delousing with some herbal concoction whose noxious odor was helpful in warding off mosquitoes.¬†When the men were led off to be locked away for the night, Molly wept and clung to Andrew, fearing she’d never see him again. ¬†She had no faith in the agent’s assurance that they’d be placed together. ¬†Despite her grief, she slept hard in the deep hay that served as bedding for the exhausted women. ¬†For the first night in months, she didn’t fear assault.

The next morning, the colonists gathered just after daybreak to choose among servants. ¬†Molly, along with the other women, ate a hasty breakfast of beer and bread, made a hasty toilet, and prepared for selection, praying Providence would be kind. As the men turned out, Andrew hurried to Molly’s side. ¬†As the selection began, the agent presented the bonded, praising their health, intelligence, and skills, real or concocted on the spot. ¬†Some were labeled distillers, others as cabinet makers, or boat-builders. ¬†True to his word, he proclaimed Andrew and Molly must go to the same master. ¬†To their surprise, they heard the agent confide to Master Wharton that Andrew was a skilled blacksmith and that Molly could weave and spin. ¬†The colonists were legally forbidden to forge their own tools and ironwork, so this would have to be a clandestine operation. ¬†Like most forbidden practices, smithing was made more attractive.


Encouraged to think he was engaging a blacksmith and a woman who could weave and spin, Master Wharton spoke directly to Andrew. ¬†“You look right, enough. ¬†My blacksmith will be soon work free, but might have long enough to teach you some. ¬†Do you think you can pick it up fast? ¬†I’ll not tolerate a slacker. ¬†If you give me your pledge, I’ll take you and your wife. ¬†Should you fail, I’ll sell your bond.”

“I’ll not fail if you take us both, that I swear.” Andrew asserted, looking him in the eye. “My wife never learned weaving nor spinning. ¬†I’d not have you expect that. ¬†She tended the dairy and is skilled at butter and cheese-making, nothing more.”

“I have no need of a weaver, just a housekeeper. ¬†I’ll bond you. ¬†You’ll get lodging, food, and a new suit of clothes now and once a year. ¬†You will work dawn to dusk every day with Sunday for worship and rest. Give me value and we’ll have no trouble.” ¬†Their new master strode off to tend his business, leaving them to wait together.

images downloaded from internet

Andrew and Molly Part 4

img_1742The site of Jamestown Colony was nothing like the home they’d left. ¬†They’d felt pride in their natal¬†farm though they’d belonged to it, not the other way around.¬† Born to its manicured meadows, neat hedgerows, and trim outbuildings, its upkeep had been a part of every day. ¬†Born to thatched stone cottages in the shadow of the imposing barns and carriage house, they’d attended the chapel attached to the mossy, old manor house. ¬†They felt pride of place by virtue of family tradition; it was their work and the work of their fathers before them that stretched behnd them. ¬†They were often in need and sometimes Ill-treated, but they had a tie to the land. ¬†Had not fate intervened, their children would have worked and lived as they had.

Jamestown of 1643 was not a welcoming site. ¬†The vessel had tied to a crude wooden wharf. ¬†At the site of the rough timber fence surrounding the town, they didn’t have to be warned not to rush to disembark. ¬†A rutted, muddy trail led into the fort of nondescript houses. ¬†Blazing sun beat down as men in tattered rags, both black and white, gathered to await their turn unloading cargo from below. ¬†Mosquitoes buzzed around their heads and bore down, appreciative of the new blood. ¬†The humid air was thick with the smell of newly-turned earth, smoke, and manure from the enclosed animals.

Instead of fields of grain butting up to hedgerows, unfamiliar plots of large-leaf tobacco stood in large patches outside the high walls.  Lesser squares of corn , beans, and squash clustered around nearby cabins built close enough that occupants could easily reach the enclosed settlement as needed.  Enormous forests of tall trees pushed up to the farms and fields.

img_1741As they surveyed all that lay before them, the forests were most impressive. ¬†England’s ¬†sparse woodlands could not compare. Though the settlement was raw and unfamiliar, they realized the intimidating forest held the future for those hardy enough to wrest it out. ¬†All they had to do was serve out their next four years to claim their portion, not thinking those same forests were home to indigenous people who’d thrived there for millennia.


Images pulled from internet

Andrew and Molly Part 3

img_1740“What have we gotten into?” ¬†moaned Andrew after three days locked in the hold. ¬†“Why did we Ever do this? ¬†I’ve got to figure a way out.”

“No! ¬†We wouldn’t be here if we had any other choice. ¬†We were starving and near to death. ¬†Things will have to be better in the colony. ¬†We’ll be on a farm again and free with land in four years. ¬†It’s the only way.” ¬†Molly’s optimism was wearing thin, but she held out hope. ¬†“Listen! ¬†We’re moving!” ¬†Sure enough, the chains creaked as the anchor was lifted and they were obviously leaving the harbor. ¬† ¬†An hour or so later, after they were too far to swim for shore, the doors to the hold were thrown open. ¬†The incarcerated rushed for the door and stood on deck for a last, long look at England. ¬†Many wailed as land slipped out of sight, knowing they’d never see home again nor maybe even the new country.

Time on deck made the long journey more bearable, except for the miserable days of rain and storms. though it didn’t improve the quality or quantity of the rations. ¬†Fighting and attacks were common in the hold, though few had anything but weavilly biscuits to steal. ¬†Coughing and moaning broke their guarded sleep. ¬†Andrew never left Molly for a moment, knowing she’d be assaulted. ¬†Almost every morning, a cold body or two was pulled from the hold. ¬†The stench became more horrendous as the weeks passed. ¬†Neither suffered from sea-sickness till mid crossing when a storm raged. ¬†Both wretched miserably, not even attempting to make it to the bucket. ¬†Many of the emancipated passed and were slid into the raging sea. ¬†Andrew would have gladly sought death had it not been for Molly.

Finally, the weather cleared and they were able to go above board again, feeling hope for survival.  After seven weeks, a shout rang out. The Jamestown Colony was sighted!

Maybe they’d live after all!

Links to Parts 1 and 2



Andrew and Molly Part 2

img_1702 img_1704After filling their starving bellies with greasy stew and quarts of ale, Andrew and Molly ¬†signed away their next four years, too sated to consider the uncertainty of the life facing them. ¬†In fact, they were signing away the certainty of poverty, degradation, and possible imprisonment had they remained. ¬†In that time, people could not expect to rise above their station. ¬†Having lost the position as farm servants to which they were born, it was unlikely they’d ever find anything more than seasonal farm employment, working mostly at planting or harvest when the workload was heavy. ¬†Starvation would likely have been their eventual lot. ¬†Should they stay in the city, it’s unlikely they’d find work. ¬†Many in their situation drifted into prostitution and crime. ¬†It is likely Molly would have dried of disease, drink, or victimization on the streets and Andrew would have ended up on the gallows or bound over as an involuntary indentured servant. ¬† Their best chance for a better life lay with the choice they’d made.

Once they’d signed, the agent wasted no time escorting ¬†them on board the Elizabeth Ann. ¬†She looked imposing from without, but her charm faded as Mr. Peabody led them deep into the bowels of the ship. ¬†Their quarters in the lowest level were dark, wet, and malodorous. ¬†There was no provision for privacy. ¬†They’d be relieving themselves in the communal slop jar, which would ostensibly be dumped periodically, unless it tipped over first. ¬†Hammocks served for sleeping. ¬†There were no other furnishings. ¬†Restricted below deck until after sailing to avoid defection, they got a measure of beer and weevilly biscuits three times a day. ¬†The smell was horrendous. ¬†After their first exhausted sleep, they awoke to find themselves a part of a growing crowd of voluntary and involuntary holdmates ranging from bonded servants like themselves to young children scooped up off the street all the way prostitutes and hardened criminals who’d barely escaped the gallows. ¬†The strong preyed on the weak. ¬†Their miserable sleep was interrupted by lighting, moaning, and the occasional fight. ¬†Periodically, the door above opened and another unfortunate joined their miserable lot.

In truth, indentured servants were enslaved for the period of their indenture, usually four to seven years, children till the age of twenty-one. ¬†Their bondage could be sold without their consent. ¬†Marriage required the master’s consent. ¬†Should women become pregnant, their period of servitude could be extended due to decreased productivity during the pregnancy. ¬†Children of unwed mothers were born free, but subject to being placed in the care of the church. ¬†Unlike slaves, the indentured could appeal to the courts to contest mistreatment and did receive twenty-five to fifty acres of land, some tools, seed, and clothing upon completing their service. ¬†Like slaves, they were most often ill-treated. ¬†Having come to the colony in this way was no impediment to their future. ¬†Many bonded servants prospered and got a good start to a free life. ¬†It definitely could be a road to a better life.

Andrew and Molly Part 1

img_1700Andrew Wharton was born to be a farm servant like his father and grandfather before him, the line extending back much further than anyone bothered to remember. ¬†His work was not a choice; he was born to work Hampton Grange and expected to die there. ¬†The only surprise was when pretty Molly Peace chose him. ¬†Ecstatic in his luck, he couldn’t believe the rollicking dairy maid favored him above all the hopeful lads pursuing her when he’d done no more than sneak shy peeks at her in Chapel. ¬†The confusion of love and glorious sensuality overwhelmed the young man who’d never contemplated the possibility that life could hold pleasure. Molly saw joy in everything, the sweet breath of the cows she milked, the warmth of the sun on her face, and the sweet sent of the hay she bundled, not seeming to notice the manure in the cow’s tail, the slogging rains, or the sneezing brought on by the hay.

Their life at Hampton Grange offered the couple little beyond a small hovel, milk and cheese from the dairy, a daily ration of bread and beer, the privilege of wood gathering, and scant wages. Once a year, they were due a measure of wool for their own use. Compared to the conditions many experienced, it was adequate under Old Squire John’s management. Left to his gambling heir, it was soon lost to bankruptcy, leaving them adrift.

Andrew and his new wife Molly found themselves standing in the freezing rain wearing all they owned before a pub in Liverpool. After three days’ starving, they were easily persuaded to join an agent for The Virginia Club for food and drink. With no prospects, they were Signed papers of indenture pledging the next four years of their lives in exchange for passage to the Jamestown colony in Virginia. For their volunteer bondage they would receive lodging, food, and clothing, the quality to be determined by their master. They were fortunate in being bound four years. Most were bound seven years. including involuntary prisoners or abductees. At the end of their service, they were entitled to tools, money, and land. Like so many other indentured servants, they could expect years of unrelenting labor and uncertain treatment. In truth, the next few years wouldn’t be greatly different to the life they were accustomed to if they were fortunate enough to be bound to a good master. At least they’d have a start at the end of their time.