Andrew and Molly Part 11

img_1866Image pulled from internet

Master Wharton bought the indenture of Benjamin White, a recently arrived bondsman, in anticipation of Bartles and Aggie’s completed contract. ¬†As soon as their cabin was complete, the older couple moved over, though they’d continue to work another month for Master Wharton. ¬†The young couple moved into the house, looking forward to the comfort of the fireplace the next winter. ¬† They took their precious bed-linens but left their furniture in the barn-room. ¬†Aggie passed her old bedding on to Benjamin since she and Molly had made all new for Aggie’s new home. ¬†Molly had proudly presented Aggie with toweling of her own making, the first gift she’d ever been able to give anyone. ¬†Aggie and Bartles would go to their new home on twenty-five acres with a cow, horse, plow, bed-linens, seed for their first crop, and a suit of clothes each, their entitlement for completing their indenture.

Bartles, Benjamin, and Andrew planned to work on Bartles’s barn roof as long as the light lasted one August evening. ¬†Aggie and Molly served Master Wharton’s dinner and did needlework as they waited for their men. ¬†As the light faded they strolled over to the unfinished barn to see what progress they’d made.

“You must be looking forward to be working for yourself,” Molly said companiably. ¬†“I’ll miss working by your side, but am glad to see you ready to move to your own place.”

“The four years have been long , it’s true. But if we’d stayed in England, we’d never have come to all this. ¬†I never thought to have my own house and land. ¬†In three years, you will move to your own place.”

“That will be a fine day.” Molly agreed.

The men were nowhere in sight when they entered the clearing, not answering when the women called out.  Rounding the house, they found Bartles unconscious with his bloody body lying amid scattered tools. His bare skull showed through clotted blood where a wide strip bare of scalp.  There was no sign of the other two men.

Aggie perceived instantly that the men had been attacked by the Native Americans indigenous to the area. The colonists had a long history of difficulties with the neighbors they considered savages. In 1622, three-hundred-forty colonists were massacred, nearly ending the settlement. Colonists had long felt God intended the land for them, a concept the natives had difficulty embracing. As a result of many lies and betrayals, hostilities often erupted to rupture the friable peace.

The three bondsmen had fallen victim, two missing and one clinging to life.

Andrew and Molly Part 10

I finally got Part 10 up after a long absence.

Aggie lived up to Molly’s first impression, a terse and demanding taskmaster. ¬†She worked Molly hard, setting her to bread-making, sausage making, ironing, washing and ironing. Then came the spinning and weaving. ¬†No wonder Master Wharton hadn’t been concerned, knowing he had an expert in house. From the wool not needed by the house, Aggie¬†told the master sold her blankets and yarn for good prices, earnings they shared. When Molly looked discouraged at her tasks, Aggie was quick to remind her “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” ¬†It seemed Aggie begrudged her even a breath of fresh air at the back door. ¬†Aggie was kind enough to give her a blanket and some mattress ticking for their lodgings in the barn, for which Molly was very grateful. Nights buried up only in the hay would have been very uncomfortable. ¬†Covers over and under hay proved a great boon. ¬†Aggie also gave her some of her fine homespun for drawers and petticoats. Molly was trying hard to like her, but found it hard going when Aggie abraided her for clumsiness or ignorance at her new tasks. Molly found little in the dour woman to recommend her beyond her gifts.¬† Despite her taciturn nature, Aggie began to share a few bits of their life before coming to Jamestown.¬† Learning they‚Äôd lost three children to a fever in one week made Molly more understanding of her distance and¬†left her feel more warmly toward Aggie, though she never broached a personal remark, expecting a rebuff.¬† Master Wharton never interfered in the running of the house, only advising if there would be a guest for dinner or an order for weaving.

With good food, both Molly and Andrew filled out. ¬†With the hard work of timbering and farming, Andrew’s muscles bulged. ¬†He enjoyed the days working with the voluable ¬†Bartles. ¬†Master Wharton sometimes joined them at their tasks, swinging an ax or harvesting tobacco. In the late afternoons, they spent a couple of hours at the forge. ¬†After a few tries, Andrew was turning out the precious nails and learning to shoe horses. Should they finish early enough, Bartles helped Andrew a bit with the room he was constructing in the barn. Andrew used some of the first lumber to build a rope-bed for himself and Molly. ¬†The straw-stuffed ticking and blanket finished off a fine bed, soon to be joined by a table, chairs, and chest. ¬†They often took their suppers and Sunday meals in their snug room. Aggie helped Molly weave a second blanket before the cold winds of winter moved in, which Molly appreciated despite her resentment.

Andrew and Molly had their Sundays to themselves attending church and socializing with others of their class, soon learning they were in a good situation.  Many indentured servants were poorly fed and abused, not living long enough to work out heir time.  Should an unmarried bondswoman fall pregnant, she could be punished with up to thirty lashes or levied a fine of the equivalent of thirty-seven dollars, as well as have up to two hundred forty days service could be added to her time for lost work and the master could petition to have her child placed out for care.  Quite often, women were raped then punished should they become pregnant.  Should an English bondswoman give birth to a mulatto child, the punishment could be greater.

Andrew and Molly practiced withdrawal during sex, fearing pregnancy, despite the Biblical injunction against it.¬† Their time already looked far too long for them to chance increasing it by having a child.¬† Despite these precautions, a few months in, Molly’s courses were several days late.¬† She kept her worry to herself, not wanting to trouble Andrew unnecessarily.¬† One Saturday, her anxiety came to a head when she and Aggie went to the post to deliver some weaving and saw a young girl publicly flogged¬† for the crime of pregnancy out of wedlock.¬† Molly wept at the cruelty.¬† When she could not be consoled, Aggie guessed the reason for her distress.¬† “Are you breeding?”¬† Molly dropped her eyes, not answering.¬† “I’ll make you a tea that will fix you right up.¬† You’ll drink a cup a day and these things won’t trouble you.¬† Our lives are not our own.”¬†

Gratefully, Molly drank her tea and bled the next day.¬† Every day thereafter, she had a cup of Aggie’s tea and had no more scares.¬† She felt closer to Aggie after that,¬†knowing¬†she was softer than her crusty exterior belied.

Andrew and Bartles spent their mornings laboring over the money crop, tobacco.  When John Rolfe had introduced tobacco to England, colonists had gone wild over tobacco, devoting all their efforts and land to its cultivation.  They’d nearly starved after refusing to plant food crops needed to make the colony self-sufficient, till a law was enacting requiring them to plant food crops to be added to public larder.  In addition to tobacco, they grew corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, yams, and several other vegetables.  They raised, cows, pigs, goats, and sheep as well as availing themselves of game and fish to enrich their diet.  In the afternoons, they cleared timber, always leaving some time for blacksmithing.  Soon Andrew was turning out the priceless nails, latches, hinges, and horseshoes colonists were desperate for.  Bartles confided his own share from the sales would soon be sufficient to set himself a forge and smith when he worked his time out.  Andrew should have skill enough by the time he left to take over.  They always saved a little time back to work on the room Andrew was framing up in the barn for himself and Molly, even knocking together a table, benches and rope bed.  They took their meals alone in their home on Sundays. 

Though Jamestown was not established on the principles of religious freedom, it was assumed colonists would attend Anglican services, the established English religion.  Andrew and Molly eagerly attended, using the opportunity to mingle with other indentured servants, learning they were fortunate in their master.  Starting out as a bondsman was no impediment to moving up socially once a servant worked out their time, but they wouldn’t have expected to socialize in the homes of colonists.  Unfortunately, disease was rampant and conditions so harsh, that almost half died before working out their time.

Unlike slaves who had also been transported to Jamestown, indentured servants did have rights and could appeal to the legal system, though it was most often relatives who appealed successfully on their behalf.  They had no say in who indentured them, could be beaten, and earned no wages nor could they marry without the master’s consent. 

Though they weren’t free, they had a good master and the last year of Bartles and Aggie’s service passed quickly.  The two would be soon moving to twenty-five acres where Bartles and Andrew had built a cabin with an outbuilding that would serve as a blacksmith shop and barn.  The barn and smithy were much more commodious than the cabin, since they were necessary for their livelihood.  The twelve by twelve foot cabin could be expanded at any time.  For the present, it was tight and sufficient to their simple needs with its fireplace stretching half-way across one end, its rope bed, a table with benches, and a chest for linens.  A couple of shelves held a few crocks and pots.  It would be easy enough to add rooms with the rich store of available timber.


Andrew and Molly Part 6

img_1746“Come with me.” ¬†Master Wharton led them across a dusty street to a store fronted by a long verandah. ¬†“Caleb Reeves, I am back to do my trading. ¬†I left off two smoked hams, a side of bacon, a bushel of yams, five pounds of nails, and that bale of tobacco over there with your man on my way in this morning. I am ready to settle up and I’ll take one hundred pounds of flour, two pounds tea, a pound of salt, a pack of needles, six spools of blue thread, and twelve yards on of blue Linsey-Woolley. ¬†My goods ought to cover it, by my reckoning.”

“Master Wharton, that won’t cover all you ordered. ¬†I’ll take all the nails you can bring me. ¬†Your hams and tobacco are good. ¬†I don’t get that much call for bacon or yams, but I’ll take them as a favor to you, anyway. ¬†The way I figure it, I’ll need seven pounds of nails to settle your order.” ¬†Caleb Reeves studied Master Wharton expectantly.

Wharton stared him down. ¬†“Have you found another source for nails, then? I can get my price¬†elsewhere if you don’t want to do business. ¬†There will probably be a ship in from England this summer with all the nails you need. ¬†You can pay the English price instead of mine.” ¬†Reeves winced. ¬†The law forbade manufacture of iron products in the colonies, so with the tariff, the English price was far too dear. ¬†It was good to have a source who was willing to take the risk.

“No need for that. ¬†You are beggaring me, but I’ll take your trade. ¬†Pearson, measure up his twelve yards of the blue. ¬†No, make it fourteen. ¬†I’ll not be known as a miser. ” ¬†Pearson carefully measured fourteen yards of the blue reserved for indentured servants, the same blue of his rough garments.

Master Wharton addressed Molly. ¬†“Woman, do you knit? ¬†If you are to have stockings, you’ll make them”

She addressed him. ¬†“I knit well, sir. ¬†I can make all the stockings the house needs.”

“That’s good. ¬†Reeves, give her enough black yarn for two pair for me and two pair of blue for them. ¬†That should outfit them as required.”

“Thank you, Sir.” ¬†Andrew told him.

“You needn’t thank me. ¬†It’s my duty and your due, no more and no less.” ¬†Turning to Reeves he instructed him without introducing the two men, ¬†“This is my new bondsman. ¬†If I send him with an order, fill it, but keep careful count. ¬†I’ll not be swindled by any man.”

“”I always take care in my accounts.” ¬†Reeves appeared offended.

Master Wharton addressed Andrew. ¬†“Load the flour behind my saddle. ¬†You will carry the rest. ¬†My farm is a half mile on the right. ¬†I’ll go ahead. ¬†You won’t be trying to escape. ¬†There’s nowhere to go. ¬†If you run, the Indians will get you if the swamps don’t ” ¬†With this, he urged his horse home, leaving the two to make their way with his parcels.





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 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