Monthly Archiv: October, 2014



Molly figures that if she and Elijah can be married from the Congregational Meeting in Yarmouth, the opinion of Mother Merrick and Rockford won’t matter – the deed will be done. She scurries over to the house of Pastor Hastings, minister of the Yarmouth Church of the Standing Order, Congregational, to see if he will help. This is where we learn how the church operates, in respect to sinners:

“You would join our congregation?”

“Yes indeed.”

“Well.” He coughed. “I’m delighted to hear it.  And naturally I would be happy to instruct you, baptize you and, I hope, find you worthy of membership. We do not practice public confession so very much these days, But I think in your case it would be quite appropriate; the congregation would hardly accept you otherwise.    Then, after your confession, I’ll instruct and baptize you.  When the time is right, you will be admitted to full membership.  I think the congregation will be willing to accept that, having been convinced of your repentance.”

“You will have to explain to me what you mean, sir, by confession. Of what do I repent that will so please your congregation?”

He looked stunned.“You can hardly expect my flock to accept the illegitimate daughter of a whore!”

jonathan edwards

(This is Jonathan Edwards, who was the first to take personal aim at his congregation, challenging them to look into their own hearts instead of listening to him drone on and on, reading from a text he’d written as was the practice at the time.)

Bastardy and fornication were constant subjects in the annals of early American church history. In time, though, people became lacidaisical until the Great Awakening, when they joined with the preacher (evangelist) as he spoke to them about sin and repentence, rolling on the ground and moaning and fainting and seeing visions. Jonathan Edwards, a mystic, softened them up so that by the time George Whitfield arrived, Americans were ready for their religion to be an emotional experience rather than an encounter with theology.

pgeorge-whitefieldWhitfield preached for many years, up and down the east coast of America and in England, as well. He started the new trend of addressing audiences wherever he found them (or where they found him) so he didn’t have to worry about being invited to speak from a church’s pulpit. He was a great friend of Benjamin Franklin, who did not share his views, (Franklin being a Deist) but apparently could hold his own with the great scientist and politician. Franklin figured out the radius of the circle that figuratively surrounded Whitfield when he spoke, and calculated the preacher had a range of five miles. Thousands of people at a time heard him in the cities, and without fail, they were totally enchanted with him.

Or, at least, many were. As is usually the case, when under attack the wagons will circle; Congregationalism became vigilant in the pursuit of its own purity, returning to the practices that had dominated it from the start. Its ministers had the respect and reverence they’d been accustomed in the good ol’ days. The “New Lights” (Methodists) had made inroads by the time Elijah interviewed Pastor Simmonds on the subject of his cousin, Tony Gray marrying Olive Snow; you may remember Pastor Simmonds is nervous about the possibility that Snow would leave Rockford’s Church and attend a New Light establishment in the South Precinct. The writing was on the wall, of course, but in an isolated place like Cape Cod, it would have been easy to miss it. And Simmonds did.


HOW DID SHE KNOW? (This is the House)

Mistress Warden, as we know, was a Quaker, yet she taught Molly “fancy” stitches. More often than I like to confess, I have made assumptions about details, especially in the first editions of my books, when I didn’t have the internet for an instant check. The one I’m thinking about just now is Mrs. Warden’s teaching Molly to do fancy embroidery. Quakers, of course, were and are all about being plain. How would Mrs. Warden have learned “fancy” stitches to teach? To find this out, we have to take a look at the history of the sampler.

Early on, they were simply pieces of linen with examples of stitches and patterns, like a primer. The needleworker could refer to them if she were looking for ideas, or had forgotten the sequence of loops and ties and what-not on a certain flower or decoration.

Early on, making a sampler as we know these was part of going to school. The girls embroidered the numbers one to ten and the alphabet in upper and lower case, an aid in the process of learning to read and, perhaps to cipher. All girls needed to know basic cross stitch, so they would be able to mark their linens when they were married. Early on, they were black and white, most likely because if you wanted thread to have color, you had to dye it yourself, and neither the Puritans nor the Quakers bothered. This example, one of the earliest we have, does have some decoration, but no color.


Many girls never made a second, more elaborate sampler. This was the privilege of girls continuing their education, and many of them got no further schooling.  But ongoing education of women was important to the Quakers; females were as much a witness to God’s love as any male. The sampler would have been used not only as an aid to reading, but also writing (which was not taught to Puritan maidens) and even geometry of a rudimentary sort. The stitches became more elaborate, colors were the rule, and plenty of fancy stitches, too.


That, of course, didn’t meant the fanciness was used by Quaker maidens to decorate clothing. Heaven forbid! But Molly was a different case, and in her wisdom, Mrs. Warden knew that worldly lures were sometimes necessary if you were out in that world. She’s one of my favorite characters. Perhaps she comes from Philadelphia, where the Quakers were known to have one foot in the meeting house and the other in the counting house. Not exactly worldly, but not cloistered, either.



Mrs. Warden taught Molly the household arts of cloth production. The colonists had become proficient at this long before the Revolution because trade was so restricted. As I understand it, cloth production was actually against the law, because you were supposed to buy everything from England. But the supply wasn’t always at the ready, nor was there money with which to purchase anything, (colonists had to use the barter system because England didn’t want them to have coinage, which might contribute to their functioning independently.) So spinning did take place, thus weaving happened, too.

Now, weaving is an ancient art and traditionally had been accomplished by men, members of a guild. But with cloth scarce, looms somehow became available and  began to appear in the keeping room where yarn produced by the Goodwife was ready to be woven. Wool was the material of choice, or flax, which could be grown almost anywhere. (I don’t think much cotton was actually grown in the south, because the Virginia planters were wealthy enough to buy their cloth and until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, it wasn’t worth trying to process it except in very small batches.) As far as I know, it didn’t grow in the north at all and wasn’t worth buying in order to spin, because of the difficulty in getting it ready for the wheel. So wool was the material of choice.

Mrs. Warden spinning wheel
According to Wikipedia, numerous types of spinning wheels exist, including the great wheel also known as walking wheel or wool wheel for rapid long draw spinning of woolen-spun yarns; the flax wheel, which is a double-drive wheel used with a distaff for spinning linen. We, of course, are interested in the Great Wheel, because that’s the kind Molly was taught to use.

colonial loom

It was kept in the attic, and the loom she was taught to use was most likely stored there, too, able to be reassembled when the need arose, as it did when Molly had finally accumulated enough yarn to weave.The loom, as you see, is large. My mother-in-law had one, and I can remember being in awe of it. The keeping room must have been pretty crowded when everyone was snowed in and Mrs. Warden, Molly and Isaac all hung out by its fire together! No wonder he could watch her without his mother knowing.

Then there is fulling, which is pretty clearly described in chapter 3. At the mill itself, a wheel on the same shaft as the waterwheel had projecting cams which lifted heavy wooden hammers. These hammers or fulling stocks fell on to the cloth placed in a trough with water and the cleansing agent.


That’s all I need to know, and it’s probably more than you, the reader, ever needed to know! There was, of course, the problem of sharing the flow of water with the grist mill, but that whole issue is discussed sufficiently, I think, in chapter 3 also.

Of course, there’s no need to discuss what happened once Molly had finished her weaving and her cloth was ready to be fulled and Isaac took her to the mill…