It is natural enough that history should be mixed with myth, to make it interesting to the populace. But it is uttery unnatural that history or myth should not be interesting to the populace. — G. K. Chesterton

Stephen of Philadelphia - James Otis

How We Kept House

While building the clumsy fireplace, I had asked myself many times how it might be possible for mother to do any cooking when it was filled with blazing wood; but I soon had good proof that it would serve her purpose nearly as well as if it had been fashioned properly, with a fair chimney to carry away the smoke. She had brought with her what house-wives call a Dutch oven, which is nothing more than a box of thin iron, with one side wholly open so that the heat may come at whatever is inside, and with a shelf in the middle to hold three or four small pots or pans.

[Illustration] from Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis

Ours was about three feet wide, two feet in depth, with a height of two and one half feet. When the open side of this was set directly in front of the fire, and well into the fireplace that it might be banked around with live embers, that which had been put inside must perforce be cooked, and in a very cleanly manner.

There is little need for me to say that mother had iron pots which might be bung directly over the fire by chains attached to a stout bar of wood laid across the top of the fireplace; but these could be used only for boiling, while the baking must be done in some such contrivance as the oven.

Many of our neighbors, having no such luxuries as we, baked their bread in iron pans set directly among the embers; but this was by no means cleanly, since, as father often said, there was more of ashes than meal when the loaf was cooked.

As for water, we had it in plenty. Within twenty yards of our cave was a spring from which an hundred people might have quenched their thirst every minute in the day without lessening the supply, and in front of us was the river, on the bank of which, when the weather was not too cold, mother and I washed the clothes.

When we first set up housekeeping, father believed we could make shift to eat while sitting on the ground; but before the first meal had come to an end, both he and mother understood that something in the way of a table must be provided.

It would surprise you to know how readily you can make certain things for your comfort or necessities, when forced so to do, or go without. I made legs for a table by driving four stakes firmly into the ground on that portion of our floor of earth opposite the fireplace. From one to the other of these I tied four saplings with small ropes which one of the seamen gave me.

[Illustration] from Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis

Our goods had been put on board the ship in huge wooden boxes, and the boards from one of these made the top of my table, while for chairs we had short, stout logs, so large that they would not readily be overset.


Front Matter

The Name of My City
My Own Name
Why We Went to London
Bound for America
On Board Ship
Unknown Country
The End of the Voyage
Going Ashore
Our First Shelter
A Tedious Task
Our Cave Home Completed
How We Kept House
Savages Come to Town
What the Savages Wore
Game in Plenty
Sea Food
News of the Factor
Arrival of the Amity
Going to Meet the Factor
A Tiresome Journey
Meeting Old Friends
Roasting Turkeys
Turning an Honest Penny
A Place for the City
Building the City
A Bear Hunt
The New Home
Penn's Care for Colonists
The First Baby
How the Indians Live
Indian Utensils and Tools
Canoes of Bark
Making Wampum
The Beehive Huts
Finishing the Cure
Starting a Fire
Cooking Indian Corn
News of Penn's Arrival
Our Humble Preparations
The Welcome to Penn
A Day of Festivities
Penn Joins in the Sports
More Serious Business
What a Bake Oven Is
Baking in the New Oven
Penn Plans to Buy Land
Penn and the Indians
The Price Paid for Land
Gratitude of the Indians
Trapping Wild Turkeys
New Arrivals
Government by the People
The Promise of a School
Dock Creek Bridge
The Nail Business
Buying Iron in New York
No Merrymaking after Dark
Busy Days
Enoch Flower's School
End of Our School Days
Settlement of Germantown
New Laws in Our Own Town
A Division of Opinion
A Matter of History
Boundary Lines
The Governor's Following
A Proud Departure
The Settlement of Chester
Dining in State
Anchored off New Castle
An Uncomfortable Night
A Dull Journey
In Lord Baltimore's City
A Splendid Home
A Question of Duty
Amy of Maryland
The Shops of Maryland
The Result of the Visit
Philadelphia Progresses
Penn Goes Back to London