Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our Family's Colonial Era, Part XXVI

by Glenn N. Holliman

Christopher Holliman, Sr's. Will, a Further Look...

In the last posting, I published the will of my ancestor, Christopher Holliman, Sr., died 1691.  Christopher left his two married daughters, Anne and Mary, not land, but one ewe each. That may seem unfair to 21st Century standards, but there were probably mitigating circumstances.

1. When they married their neighbor's sons, the Atkinsons, they married men who were expected to support their wives and children, and were expected to inherit land, just as did the Holliman sons.

2. The Atkinsons may very well have been provided doweries, thus in effect receiving their inheritances upon marriage.

3. Symbolically Anne and Mary both received an ewe, a female sheep. Most clothing worn by families in the 1600s of Colonial Virginia was home spun, that is clothes from the spinning of sheep wool. An ewe could become pregnant, and those produce additional sheep and wool for the family. Cotton would not become a cloth of choice until the invention of the cotton gin in the 1790s in Georgia.

The will left everything else including land to the wife, Mary, during her lifetime. At her passing, two sons (but not all four) received the remainder. Hmmmm....perhaps Christopher Sr. was trying to be fair to all, or perhaps he favored two of his sons, Christopher and Richard, over Thomas and William.   Perhaps he had distributed some land earlier to these sons. We will never know.

Mention is made of orchards, an important supplement to the Colonial Virginia diet.  Until English persons were able to plant and harvest apples, the lack of fruit and subsequent vitamins had resulted in malnutrician and many early deaths.

Notice no slaves or indentured servants are mentioned in the Holliman will.  Although African-American slavery existed in the 1690s in Virginia, and the Assembly was passing more and more draconian slave laws, the great increase in importation of Africans would not occur until after 1700.  Tragically by 1790, one out of five Americans (700,000) would be enslaved, an incredible statistic. Virginia and South Carolina had the largest populations of trapped human beings.

Of considerable interest is the importance of the tobacco culture in his will.  The cultivation of tobacco, the cash crop, was critical.  The volume below by husband and wife historians tells the story of Middlesex county, Virginia during the 17th Century.  The Rutmans record that a whole tobacco crop of seeds could be cupped in one hand.  These tiny seeds were placed in dirt hills, three to four feet apart. It was not even necessary to clean the land completely; just girdle the trees.

No more equipment was needed than a hoe.  One laborer would 'crop' two to three acres which produced 1100 to 1200 pounds of cured tobacco.  Corn could be interspersed with the tobacco.  After a few years, when the soil was exhausted, the planter moved to new acres, and allowed hogs and cattle to graze on the abandoned land, allowing time and animal mature to re-nourish the soil.

The Rutmans published this cycle of a typical colonial agriculture year (see below and click to enlarge).  With very little imagination, we can picture our ancestors working this pattern year after year. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes.

In future postings, we shall follow the fortunes of the Holliman children and their descendants....

1 comment:

  1. Glenn, I like this new blog on the Hollimans. There is one minor item, that is probably of no interest to anyone, but, will insert it anyway. With reference of planting tobacco seed in the fields. I have never heard of this before, as the way that my dad and I did this as I was growing up on the farm, would be to scatter the seed in a pre-prepared bed, permit them to sprout, and when they got a certain stage in height, then they could be set into rows, or however you wanted to do it. The seed bed had to be prepared in a particular manner for the best results of the seeds. Usually, we burned a bit of brush, and in the ash-bed remainder, we spread the seed. The potash left by the burning provided good fertilizer for the seed to sprout and grow. Then, seedlings were planted in rows about 36 inches apart, with plants about 24 inches apart on the row. As the plant grew, leaves were pulled from the stalk, and dried to a certain degree, then rolled, or otherwise prepared for use. My dad liked to twist a couple leaves together, let them dry and use them later in a pipe. I tried to smoke this one time - once was enough..!!! Another good use was to use the tobacco, leaves and stalk, to rid the hen house of chicken mites. It did a tremendous job in about two days. The size of a tobacco seed is much smaller than the seed of the mustard plant. About a half a thimble full of seed will sprout more than one man can work for the year.
    Keep up the good work - looking forward to it. joe parker