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

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.