Mary of Plymouth - James Otis

How to Play Stoolball

I know not if my friend Hannah has seen the game of stoolball as it is played in our village of Plymouth, because those among us who take part in it use no sticks nor bats, but strike the ball only with their hands. Of course we have no real stools here as yet, because of the labor necessary to make them, when a block of wood serves equally well on which to sit; but the lads who play the game take a short piece of puncheon board, and, boring three holes in it, put therein sticks to serve as legs.

These they place upon the ground behind them, and he who throws the ball strives to hit the stool rather than the player, who is allowed only to use his hands in warding it off. Whosesoever stool has been hit must himself take the ball, throwing it, and continuing at such service until he succeeds in striking anther's stool.

Sarah and I had believed that at this festival time, in the new meeting-house to praise the Lord for his wondrous goodness; but Master Bradford believed it would not be seemly to mix religious services with worldly sports, therefore it was not until the next Sabbath Day that we heard lessons of the Bible explained from that reading desk built of puncheons and short lengths of tree trunks.

[Illustration] from Mary of Plymouth by James Otis

Perhaps it was because Governor Bradford allowed the men and boys to play at games during the time of thanksgiving, that they came to believe such sports would be permitted on Christmas, even though the elders of our colony had decided no attention should be paid to the day because of its being a Pagan festivity.


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