Helpt mend ye highway

[October 1743] Saturd 8 fair & warm. I was at home all day. I finished Trimming Cask 5. hhds 1 Pipe 1 Terse 1. bb & wee gathred the Last Ld of apples in the orchard behind ye House. I helpt mend ye highway in Stephens Room in the foren. Brother Hartshorn gone to …. Ben went to Mohegan, to bring back the Horse. Sund 9h fair. Mr adams pr all Day. Mond 10. fair. a Trayning Day 1st & 2d Companys. I was at home. I mended ye Highway & adam Towards Mr Chapmans. we worked for Stephen 2 days.


Joshua writes quite frequently in his diary about the highways — there are more references to the highways then there are references to hay! Besides traveling on highways, amongst his jottings he describes laying out highways, measuring highways, the condition of highways, work at the highways and mending highways.  Of the 13 references to mending the highways more than half of them take place in October, so this too was a seasonal labor, an effort to fill in the ruts before the snows of winter began.

Those of us who live in New London today have been seeing a lot of work on the roads as well. The paving blocks shown here were exposed recently in front of the steps to where the Winthrop Mansion used to be (which is also where Winthrop School used to be). Though probably not dating back to Joshua’s time — he most frequently refers to using stones plowed up in his fields and sand for his repair work — these could have been ballast from a ship or cut locally.

Hempstead most frequently writes of mending the highway between his house and the bridge by Chapman’s. In this instance he is not speaking of working on a highway through Stephen’s room; he is using the word “Room” to mean “in place of” or “instead of.” All men were required to work on the roads. Like a tax, one had to work off a certain number of days on an annual basis. Here Hempstead and Adam fill in for Stephen working off a two-day assignment. But this requires some further study — in October of 1754 (when Hempstead would have been 77 years old) he writes, work at Mending the highway a while in adams Room while he went to Mill. One has to assume that Adam, Hempstead’s slave, would have been working on the highway in the first place to fulfill Hempstead’s obligation. [From the Oxford English Dictionary: “b. in one’s room, in one’s place, denoting substitution of one person or thing for another. (In early use with reference to offices or appointments.)”]

Add cooper to the list of jobs that Joshua took on during his life. The casks he’s finishing up at the beginning of this entry adds up to a considerable amount of labor. 1 bb signifies one barrel, a particular sized cask holding 31.5 gallons of liquid, the 5 hhds would be five hogsheads, the size of cask equal to two barrels, 1 Terse,or a tierce holds three barrels, and 1 Pipe, (you guessed it) holds 4 barrels (or two hogsheads). It takes a pretty large container to hold 126 gallons — multiply it out at approximately 8 pounds per gallon and we’re up to a half ton of liquid.

See an index all the Joshua Hempstead Blog postings.