Music of the Colonial and Revolutionary Era

Food in Colonial and Federal America

Customs and Fashions in Old New England

a visit. Naturally all the chirurgeons eked out and augmented their scanty fees by compounding and selling their own medicines, and dosed often and dosed deeply, since by their doses they lived. In many communities a bone-setter had to be paid a salary by the town in order to keep him, so few and slight were his private emoluments, even as a physic-monger.

The science of nursing the sick was, in early days, unknown; there were but few who made a profession of nursing, and those few were deeply to be dreaded. In taking care of the sick, as in other kindnesses, the neighborly instinct, ever so keen, so living in New England, showed no lagging part. For it is plain to any student of early colonial days, that, if the chief foundation of the New England commonwealth was religion, the second certainly was neighborliness. There was a constant exchange of kindly and loving attentions between families and, individuals. It showed itself in all the petty details of daily life, in assistance in housework and in the field, in house-raising. Did a man build a barn, his neighbors flocked to drive a pin, to lay a stone, to stand forever in the edifice as token of their friendly goodwill. The most eminent, as well as the poorest neighbors, thus assisted. In nothing was this neighborly feeling more constantly shown than in the friendly custom of visiting and watching with the sick; and it was the only available assistance. Men and women in this care and attention took equal part. As in all other neighborly duties, good Judge Sewall was never remiss in the sick-room. He was generous with his gifts and generous with his time, even to those humble in the community. Such entries as this abound in his diary: "Oct. 26th 1702. Visited languishing Mr. Sam Whiting. I gave him 2 Balls of Chockalett and a pound of Figgs." And when Mr. Bayley lay ill of a fever, he prayed with him and took care of him through many a long night, and wrote:

"When I came away call'd his wife into the Next Chamber and gave her Two Five Shilling Bits. She very modestly and kindly accepted them and said I had done too much already. I told her if the State of my family would have born it I ought to have watched with Mr. Bayley as much as that came to."

To others he gave China oranges, dishes of marmalet, Meers Cakes, Banberry Cakes; and even to well-to-do people gave gifts of money, sometimes specifying for what purpose he wished the gift to be applied.

The universal custom of praying at inordinate length and frequency with sick persons was of more doubtful benefit, though of equally kind intent. One cannot but be amazed to find how many persons—ministers, elders, deacons, and laymen were allowed to enter the sick-room and pray by the bedside of the invalid, thus indeed giving him, as Sewall said, "a lift Heavenward." Sometimes a succession of prayers filled the entire day.

Judge Sewall's friendly prayers and visits were not always welcome. After visiting sick Mr. Brattle the Judge writes, but without any resentment, "he plainly told me that frequent visits were prejudicial to him, it provok'd him to speak more than his strength would bear, would have me come seldom." And on September 20, 1690, he met with this reception:

"Mr. Moody and I went before the others came to neighbor Hurd who lay dying where also Mr. Allen came in. Nurse Hurd told her husband who was there and what he had to say; whether he desir'd them to pray with him; He said with some earnestness, Hold your tongue, which was repeated three times to his wives repeated entreaties; once he said Let me alone or Be quiet (whether that made a fourth or was one of the three do not remember) and, My Spirits are gon. At last Mr. Moody took him up pretty roundly and told him he might with some labour have given a pertinent answer. When we were ready to come away Mr. Moody bid him put forth a little Breath to ask prayer, and said twits the last time had to speak to him; At last ask'd him, doe you desire prayer, shall I pray with you. He answered, Ay for Gods sake and thank'd Mr. Moody when had done. His former carriage was very startling and amazing to us. About one at night he died. About 11 o'clock I supposed to hear neighbor Mason at prayer with him just as my wife and I were going to bed."

One cannot but feel a thrill of sympathy for poor, dying Hurd on that hot September night, fairly hectored by pious, loud-voiced neighbors into eternity; and can well believe that many a colonial invalid who lived through mithridate and rubila, through sweating and blood-letting, died of the kindly and godly-intentioned praying of his neighbors.

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