Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  The Ways of the Men of Maine

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Ways of the Men of Maine

By John Josselyn (fl. 1630–1675)

[From An Account of Two Voyages to New England. 1675.]

THE PEOPLE in the province of Maine may be divided into magistrates, husbandmen or planters, and fishermen; of the magistrates some be royalists, the rest perverse spirits, the like are the planters and fishers, of which some be planters and fishers both, others mere fishers.

Handicraftsmen there are but few, the Tumelor or cooper, smiths and carpenters are best welcome amongst them, shopkeepers there are none, being supplied by the Massachusetts merchant with all things they stand in need of, keeping here and there fair magazines stored with English goods, but they set excessive prices on them, if they do not gain cent per cent, they cry out that they are losers. Hence English shoes are sold for eight and nine shillings a pair, worsted stockings of three shillings six pence a pair, for seven and eight shillings a pair; dowlas that is sold in England for one or two and twenty pence an ell, for four shillings a yard, serges of two shillings or three shillings a yard, for six and seven shillings a yard, and so all sorts of commodities both for planters and fishermen….

The planters are or should be restless painstakers, providing for their cattle, planting and sowing of corn, fencing their grounds, cutting and bringing home fuel, cleaving of claw-board and pipe-staves, fishing for fresh water fish and fowling takes up most of their time, if not all; the diligent hand maketh rich, but if they be of a dronish disposition as some are, they become wretchedly poor and miserable, scarce able to free themselves and family from importunate famine, especially in the winter for want of bread.

They have a custom of taking tobacco, sleeping at noon, sitting long at meals, sometimes four times in a day, and now and then drinking a dram of the bottle extraordinarily: the smoking of tobacco, if moderately used refresheth the weary much, and so doth sleep.

  • A traveller five hours doth crave
  • To sleep, a student seven will have,
  • And nine sleeps every idle knave.
  • The physician allows but three draughts at a meal, the first for need, the second for pleasure, and the third for sleep; but little observed by them, unless they have no other liquor to drink but water. In some places where the springs are frozen up, or at least the way to their springs made unpassable by reason of the snow and the like, they dress their meat in aqua cælestis, i.e., melted snow. At other times it is very well cooked, and they feed upon (generally) as good flesh, beef, pork, mutton, fowl and fish as any is in the whole world besides.

    Their servants, which are for the most part English, when they are out of their time, will not work under half a crown a day, although it be for to make hay, and for less I do not see how they can, by reason of the dearness of clothing. If they hire them by the year, they pay them fourteen or fifteen pound, yea, twenty pound at the year’s end in corn, cattle and fish: some of these prove excellent fowlers, bringing in as many as will maintain their master’s house; besides the profit that accrues by their feathers. They use (when it is to be had) a great round shot, called Barstable shot (which is best for fowl), made of a lead blacker than our common lead; to six pound of shot they allow one pound of powder; cannon powder is esteemed best.

    The fishermen take yearly upon the coasts many hundred kentles of cod, hake, haddock, pollack, etc., which they split, salt and dry at their stages, making three voyages in a year. When they share their fish (which is at the end of every voyage) they separate the best from the worst, the first they call merchantable fish, being sound, full grown fish and well made up, which is known when it is clear like a Lanthorn horn and without spots; the second sort they call refuse fish—that is, such as is salt burnt, spotted, rotten, and carelessly ordered: these they put off to the Massachusetts merchants; the merchantable for thirty and two and thirty rials a kentle (a kentle is an hundred and twelve pound weight); the refuse for nine shillings and ten shillings a kentle.

    The merchant sends the merchantable fish to Lisbon, Bilbao, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Toulon, Rochelle, Rouen, and other cities of France, to the Canaries with claw-board and pipe-staves which is there and at the Caribs a prime commodity: the refuse fish they put off at the Carib Islands, Barbadoes, Jamaica, etc., who feed their negroes with it.

    To every shallop belong four fishermen, a master or steersman, a midshipman, and a foremastman, and a shoreman who washes it out of the salt, and dries it upon hurdles pitched upon stakes breast high and tends their cookery; these often get in one voyage eight or nine pound a man for their shares, but it doth some of them little good, for the merchant to increase his gains by putting off his commodity in the midst of their voyages, and at the end thereof comes in with a walking tavern, a bark laden with the legitimate blood of the rich grape, which they bring from Fayal, Madeira, Canaries, with brandy, rum, the Barbadoes strong water, and tobacco. Coming ashore he gives them a Taster or two, which so charms them, that for no persuasions that their employers can use will they go out to sea, although fair and seasonable weather, for two or three days—nay, sometimes a whole week—till they are wearied with drinking, taking ashore two or three hogsheads of wine and rum to drink off when the merchant is gone. If a man of quality chance to come where they are roistering and gulling in wine with a dear felicity, he must be sociable and rollypooly with them, taking off their liberal cups as freely, or else be gone, which is best for him…. When the day of payment comes, they may justly complain of their costly sin of drunkenness, for their shares will do no more than pay the reckoning; if they save a kentle or two to buy shoes and stockings, shirts and waistcoats with, ’t is well, otherwise they must enter into the merchant’s books for such things as they stand in need of, becoming thereby the merchant’s slaves, and when it riseth to a big sum are constrained to mortgage their plantation, if they have any; the merchant when the time is expired is sure to seize upon their plantation and stock of cattle, turning them out of house and home, poor creatures, to look out for a new habitation in some remote place, where they begin the world again. The lavish planters have the same fate, partaking with them in the like bad husbandry; of these the merchant buys beef, pork, pease, wheat and Indian-corn, and sells it again many times to the fishermen. Of the same nature are the people in the Duke’s province, who not long before I left the country petitioned the governor and magistrates in the Massachusetts to take them into their government. Birds of a feather will rally together.