Rainy day desk work

Monday I begin teaching a JA chair class at Pete Galbert’s in New Hampshire, so most of my shop-time lately has been in preparation for that. But I spent some time here at the desk sorting more photos of my furniture archive. It’s not complete by any means, lots got away before getting photographed. When I filed the recent photos of the joined chest I counted 33 folders marked “chest” – but one of them has 17 chests in it. So that’s close to 50 chests – with I-don’t-know-how-many that got away. I then looked at more of my collection of period writings – court records, letters, probate inventories – I was looking for descriptors for chests. One of my favorites was an English inventory from 1602   “a joined chest next in bigness to the biggest…”

In our house, this one is the “yarn chest”

Some records from Yorkshire cite a “Panneld chest” (as opposed to a board chest) a “Plaine chest” (could be un-decorated, or a board chest) a “longe chest” – just that – longer than usual. 

is this a “plain” chest? a “paneled” chest?

Typical references are to “smale chestes” (small chests), and “Great chest” – not magnificent, but large, and of course a “Joyned chest” followed by another “Playne chest.” One of the New England records I copied was about work someone did to disassemble a chest to move it into a house – 

“[Salem, Mass; June 1673] Richard Rowland, aged about fifty-five years, and Mary, his wife, aged about forty-six years, deposed that Erasmus James did one day’s work at said [James] Smith’s house, which was to “take abroad” a great chest that would not go into his door and put it together again, etc. Sworn, 21:2:1673”

I interpret “take abroad” to mean “take apart.” And that got me browsing through lots of court records I copied – these have great details sometimes – I always lump these under a category “when things go wrong…” – this one mentions what might be a tool chest (a work-chest belonging to a joiner) but more likely a chest made of joiners’-work – a clumsy way of saying a joined chest.

[Salem, Nov 1673] Execution, for possession to foreclose mortgage, dated June 5, 1673, upon the house, shop and ground of Abraham Allen, in Marblehead, to be delivered to Mr William Browne, sr., of Salem, according to mortgage, also to satisfy judgement granted said Browne at Salem court, 25;4:1672, signed by Hilliard Veren for the court; and served by Henry Skerry, marshal of Salem, by attachment of the house, shop, land and a joiner’s work chest of Allin’s, which were delivered by turf and twig, also the chest given to Nathaniel Myhill, by order of said Browne. 

Transporting large bulky (and heavy) finished pieces is a bit of a nuisance – imagine it in 1600s New England. This next case is lengthy & convoluted – 

[Salem, Nov 1674] Writ of replevin, dated Nov 18, 1674, for a steer of Samuel Simons now detained by Robert Aimes, signed by Thomas Leaver, clerk, and served by Jeremiah Elsworth, constable of Rowley.

Samuel Simons’ bill of cost, £3-8

Robert Andors, aged about twenty-eight years, deposed that Edman Bredges hired him to carry a parcel of corn and a cupboard to Salem for him in the middle of September last and deponent asked him if the cupboard were made. Bridges said it was and that he had already paid Samuel Simonds for it in a good pied steer which was at John Commens’s. Further that the deponent brought the cupboard to Salem. Sworn, Nov 24, 1674, before Samuel Symonds.

Willam Smith, aged about forty years, deposed that Goody Bridges asked her husband how he paid for the ox and said she hoped he had not put away the steer he bought of John Lettilhaell, which was at John Cominses house and that said Simons was to pay for him in “joynery work.” Sworn, Nov 23, 1674

 John Pabody, aged about thirty-two years, deposed that he was at Edmond Bredges’ shop when Bridges and Simons were making a bargain about the boards of the shop, and Simons said if he had the boards that said Bridges should not deprive him of the steer, etc. Sworn in court.

John How, aged about thirty-three years, deposed that he saw Robert Ames drive the steer, etc. 

[Salem, Nov 1674]  Zachaeus Curtious, jr., testified that he and Walter Farfeeld being at Mr Gedney’s sometime in October with Samuel Symonds, heard the said Symonds own that the bargain he had made with Edmond Bridges, jr., about some joinery work which he was to do for him, was to be paid in a steer of the work was done by Sept 1. Further that Symonds said the work had not done because his man had gone away and had stayed longer then he ordered him, etc. Sworn, Mar 26, 1674…

Seems that  Samuel Symonds agreed to do some joinery work, a cupboard, in exchange for a steer. Lots of people involved – Robert Andors to move the cupboard from Rowley to Salem – Bridges paid for the cupboard with a steer that was at John Commens’ – and he, Bridges, had bought it, the steer, from John Lettilhall. Not only all that – but Symonds was late with the work (I can relate to that) – because his man was gone – I gather this man was working for him in some capacity. The court records had no more than this – so that little snippet is as much as we get. 

The papers of the Winthrop family have great details sometimes as well. A letter from John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony to his son in Connecticut:

John Winthrop to John Winthrop, Jr

28th of the 1 mo: 1636

“…you shall receive of mr Hodges the key of one of his Chests where the seeds are, the key of the other cant be found, so you must break it open, there is in one of them a rundlett of honey…”  

Another from the Winthrop Papers, not about a chest but about workmen riving stock for pipe staves: (a pipe is a large barrel, splitting & riving staves for these was a common employment)

Hugh Peter and Emmanuel Downing to John Winthrop

Salem 13-11-40

“Wee are bold to intreat your furtherance in counsell and other helpe for the suppressing pipe staff rivers and clabords in our towne; because wee have 2 or 3 ships building. wee desire that within 2 or 3 miles neere any river they may not fell great timber fit for shipping; for they may as well cut it further of it being so portable, and ship-timber being so heavy. your letter to Mr Endecott by this bearer will helpe us very much…These men cut downe but halfe of the tree for their use, & the rest lyes rotting & spoyles our Comons, with many more inconveniencyes then wee nam…”

quarters into eighths

5 thoughts on “Rainy day desk work

  1. I enjoy all of your posts, but this one in particular. Makes the people from long ago seem like neighbors with similar goings on.

  2. That is a.great comment about loosing the key and breaking open the chest. Have you seen that before?

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