- Historic Sites
Day By Day In A Colonial Town
How Hadley, Massachusetts, (incorporated 1661) coped with wolves, drunks, Indians, witches, and the laws of God and man.
December 1983 | Volume 35, Issue 1
The favorite drinks of the early settlers were beer and cider. Beer was the most popular, and almost every household made its own. Brew day was once a week, and into the kettle went not only malt and hops but also dried pumpkins, dried apple parings, and sometimes rye bran and birch twigs. After brewing, the beer was strained through a sieve, and from the emptyings (the settlings in the barrel) yeast was made. Of cider, the average country family drank four or five barrels a year, and innumerable apple trees were planted to supply this demand. At first the apples were pounded by hand in a trough, but cider mills came in around 1700. In winter, when milk was scarce, children were given cider sweetened with molasses and warmed in a pan.
Because the word alehouse had fallen into bad repute, inns or drinking places were called ordinaries and were strictly regulated. Indeed, governmental regulations today would have seemed puny to the Puritans, who believed that well-being could be assured by legislative enactment. The first ordinaries, for example, were not allowed to serve strong drinks, nor even cakes and buns except at weddings and funerals, nor to force meals costing twelve pennies or above on poor people.
This first law was soon repealed, but the strength of liquor continued to be regulated; four bushels of malt, for example, had to be used in making a sixty-three-gallon hogshead of beer under penalty of a stiff fine. Moreover, liquor could be sold only to “governors of families of sober carriage,” as complaints were being made even then of drinking by wild youths.
As an instance of the extraordinary care taken to ensure the respectability of liquor sellers, Judd mentions that, in 1663, the citizens of Hadley voted to appoint a committee of ten to consider the matter of licensing an ordinary, they to report to a committee of seven who were then to report to the town. Owing perhaps to this triple precaution, no one was deemed worthy of a license until 1668. Meantime, two men were fined for selling without a license, so, as a stopgap, Deacon Smith was allowed to sell liquor “to persons in real need.”
The drinks sold in the ordinaries were beer and ale, sack, “strong-water,” which was aqua vitae distilled from wine or grain, and wine of several kinds. “Kill-devil,” as rum was called, was brought from the West Indies late in the seventeenth century and quickly became popular because it was so much cheaper than aqua vitae, selling at only six shillings a gallon. New England rum, distilled from molasses, came in early in the eighteenth century. Other liquors were mum, perry, metheglin, cherry bounce, and a flip made of beer, spirits, and sugar.
Country folk seldom used titles in the early days except for military officers. A few leading members of the community, including the minister, would be called Mister, but it would have been thought quite shocking to use it for a farmer or mechanic. Goodman and Goodwife (or Goody) were the titles for a yeoman (a farmer who owned or occupied land) and his wife. Until about 1720 both the wife and daughter of a Mister were called Mistress (abbreviated to Mrs.) and, for some time after that, Miss and Mrs. were used indiscriminately for married and unmarried females. Middle names came in during the eighteenth century; before then only one given name was used.
During its first half-century Hadley sometimes aided the aged and worthy poor by boarding them out around town; two weeks with one family, then moved on to the next. (A stay so brief might indicate that a fortnight was as long as any one family could tolerate them.) By the next century, when the number of paupers had increased, they were annually put up at vendue and knocked down to the lowest bidder; that is, each pauper was put on the block and auctioned off to the person who would keep him a year for the smallest sum.
The first minister of Hadley had three Negro slaves; a man, woman, and child, valued at sixty pounds. The peak year for slaves was 1754, when the number reached eighteen—a surprisingly large number for a New England village of about five hundred inhabitants. Also, there seems to have been a local slave dealer, says Judd—very reluctantly, as he was an ardent Abolitionist—who bought and sold Negroes, shaving their heads to make them look younger.