On a June morning in 1645, the sun was rising over the Snow farm at the southern end (now Orleans) of Nauset Plantation. Like the other six founding families from Plymouth, they had survived their first winter on the Outer Cape, sustained by the previous year’s crops and the milk, butter, cheese and meat from their livestock and chickens. Hunting and fishing supplemented the diet of their growing family, now totaling 11 people. They would have three more children in the next five years.
The Snows’ lives were typical of the early Nauset settlers. They likely sheltered in a 20-foot-square, timber-framed cabin with rough-hewn siding, the cracks daubed with clay to reduce drafts. It had a stone fireplace topped by a wood chimney also lined with clay. The steep roof was thatched and tiny windows were covered with oiled paper. A more refined home would come later.
Constance Hopkins Snow, 39, arose that morning and got dressed in her simple, home-made clothes including a petticoat under a loose gown with sleeves, stockings, cap, apron and shoes. Husband Nicholas, 46, had put on a long-sleeved flannel shirt, trousers ending below the knee, a long vest and a hat. He often skipped stockings and shoes when working in warm weather. Their five boys and four girls, aged 1 to 17 years, also were awake and dressing in their siblings’ hand-me-down clothes to begin daily chores.
Usually the family made breakfast of toasted bread with milk, if available, or cheese. Afterward, Nicholas and his sons went to work in the fields, or occasionally dug for clams, fished for lobsters, and went hunting for duck, turkey or deer. Constance and the older daughters also tended the crops while keeping an eye on the youngsters. Children had the tasks of feeding farm animals, milking cows and goats, and helping with their parents’ work.
When it was time for the main, mid-day meal, the women prepared a broth of beans and herbs, called porridge, followed by an Indian pudding with sauce and a dish of boiled pork or beef with turnips and a few potatoes. Then it was back to work for everyone until evening supper, a repeat of the breakfast menu.
After supper, Nicholas might have enjoyed a pipe of tobacco, although smoking was taboo and had to be hidden from church officials. Constance likely spent the evening spinning wool from the family sheep into thread, or sewing clothes. The children, when chores were done, played games like “I Espy,” “Thread-the-Needle” or marbles. All retired early for the next day of hard work.
Sundays were different. Breakfast was more sumptuous with pancakes, doughnuts, or brown toast. Then, everyone attended church regardless of age. The Snows had a shorter distance to walk than most to the meeting house at the north end of Town Cove. Services lasted about two hours, with a short break in the middle. The family then returned home to dine on roast fowl, beef rib or stew pie, and spent the rest of the Sabbath in quiet observance. Travel, amusement or other secular activities were forbidden in the settlement
# # #