Mary of Plymouth - James Otis

Making Clapboards

It is true indeed that there is very much work to be done. First comes the planting and tending of the crops. Then there is the fishing and the hunting that we may have meat. Lastly is the making of clapboards, which task was begun soon after the seed had been put in the ground, for Governor Bradford believed we should make enough with which to load the first vessel that came to us from England.

It was all we could do, just then, in the way of getting together that which might be sold to the people in the old country, and father said the men of Plymouth must be earning money in some other way than by trying to gather furs, for already were the animals growing more timid and scarce.

It is not easy work, this clapboard-making, and I cannot wonder that the men complain at being forced to continue it day after day. First an oak tree is cut by saws into the length necessary for clapboards, which, so father tells me, should be about four feet long. Then a tool called a "frow" is used to split the trunk of the tree into slabs, or clapboards, making them thin at one edge and half an inch or more thick at the other.

[Illustration] from Mary of Plymouth by James Otis

This "frow" is shaped something like a butcher's cleaver, and a wooden mallet is used to drive it into the log until the splint is forced off.

Our people made many clapboards during the time between planting and harvest, so that we had enormous stacks under the trees ready to put on board the first vessel that should sail for England.


Front Matter

Why This Story was Written
The Leaking Speedwell
Searching for a Home
After the Storm
Wash Day
Finding the Corn
Attacked by the Savages
Building Houses
Miles Standish
The Sick People
The New Home
Master White and the Wolf
Inside of the House
A Chimney Without Bricks
Building the Fire
Master Bradford's Chimney
Scarcity of Food
A Timely Gift
The First Savage Visitor
Squanto's Story
Living in the Wilderness
The Friendly Indians
Grinding the Corn
A Visit From Massasoit
Massasoit's Promise
Massasoit's Visit Returned
The Big House Burned
The Mayflower Leaves Port
Setting the Table
What and How we Eat
Table Rules
A Pilgrim Goes Abroad
Making a Dugout
Governor Carver's Death
Bradford Chosen Governor
Farming in Plymouth
Cooking Indian Corn
The Wedding
Making Maple Syrup
Decorating the House
Trapping Wolves and Pigeons
Elder Brewster
The Visit to Massasoit
Keeping the Sabbath Holy
Making Clapboards
Cooking Pumpkins
A New Oven
Making Spoons and Dishes
The Fort and Meeting-House
The Harvest Festival
How to Play Stoolball
On Christmas Day
When the Fortune Arrived
Possibility of Another Famine
On Short Allowance
A Threatening Message
Pine Knots and Candles
Tallow From Bushes
Wicks for the Candle
Dipping the Candles
When James Runs Away
Evil-Minded Indians
Long Hours of Preaching
John Alden's Tubs
English Visitors
Visiting the Neighbors
Why More Fish are not Taken
How Wampum is Made
Ministering to Massasoit
The Plot Thwarted
The Captain's Indian
Ballots of Corn
Arrival of the Ann
Little James Comes to Port
The New Meeting-House
The Church Service
The Tithingmen
Master Winslow Brings Cows
A Real Oven
Butter and Cheese
Settlement at Wessagussett
The Village at Merrymount
The First School
Too Much Smoke
Schools Comforts
How Children Were Punished
New Villages
Making Ready for a Journey
Clothing for Salem
Food for the Journey
Before Sailing for Salem
Beginning the Journey
The Arrival at Salem
Sight-Seeking in Salem
Back to Plymouth