Mary of Plymouth - James Otis

The New Home

It seemed like a very long while before the houses were ready so that we who were well could go on shore to live. I must tell you what our home is like. In Scrooby, when one builds a house, he has the trees sawed into timbers and boards at a mill; but in this new land we had no mills. When a man in England wants to make a chimney, he buys bricks and mortar; but here, as father said, we had plenty of clay and lime, yet could not put them to proper use until tools were brought across the sea with which to work such material into needed form.

[Illustration] from Mary of Plymouth by James Otis

There was plenty of granite and other rock out of which to make cellars and walls; but no one could cut it, and even though it was already shaped, we had no horses with which to haul it. Think for a moment what it must mean not to have cows, sheep, oxen, horses or chickens, and we had none of these for three or four years.

My father built the house we are now living in, almost alone, having but little help from the other men when he had to raise the heavy timbers. First, after clearing away the snow, he dug a hole in the frozen ground, two or three feet deep, making it of the same shape as he had planned the house. Then, having cut down trees for timbers, he stood them upright all around the inside of this hole, leaving here a place for a door, and there another for a window, until the sides and ends of the building were made.

On the inside he filled the hole again with the earth he had taken out at the beginning, pounding it down solid to form a floor, and at the same time to help make the logs more secure in an upright position. Where the floor of earth does not hold the timbers firmly enough, what are called puncheons are fastened to the outside just beneath the roof.

Puncheons are logs that have been split and trimmed with axes until they are something like planks, and you will see very many in our village of Plymouth. Hard work it is indeed to make these puncheon planks; but they were needed to fasten crosswise on the sides and ends of our house, in order to hold the logs more firmly in place.

Across the top of the house, slanting them so much that the water would run off, father placed a layer of logs to make the roof.

[Illustration] from Mary of Plymouth by James Otis

Three puncheons were put across the inside of the roof, being fastened with pegs of wood, for the few nails we have among us are of too much value to be used in house building.

That the roof might prevent the water from running into the house, father stripped bark from hemlock trees, and placed it over the logs two or three layers deep, fastening the whole down with poles cut from young trees.


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