Living Section

A look at life in Colonial North Carolina

Is This Real Life?

BY DUSTIN WOOLRIDGE


Ever wondered how everyday home life in Colonial North Carolina compares to yours today? A walk through the Museum of the Waxhaws will certainly enlighten you.

First off, preparing dinner wasn't as simple as going to Harris Teeter, buying groceries, and throwing something in the oven for 20 minutes. In colonial times, all of the vegetables consumed by families had to be grown in a front-yard garden, which required hours of farming and tending each day. Another common garden plant - the lamb's ear - had another major use besides food -- bandages and toilet paper. Then, all of the meat had to be hunted and killed, before being cooked. Cooking involved long hours in the backyard smokehouse amidst sweltering temperatures, and a major kill, such as a deer, could take three or four days to smoke! Not even the small colonial children could escape dinner preparation, as their job was to fetch massive buckets of water from the wellhouse, often involving multiple trips...and your kids complain about taking out the trash!

Nowadays, if you want to escape the day-to-day pressures and stress of home life, perhaps a comfy recliner, a cool drink, and a football game or the latest episode of "Scandal" is on standby. However, if you were living in Waxhaw in the 1700s, there would be no such privacy! A log cabin on the premises of the museum housed a family with seven children - a one-room cabin, that is. The loft area of the cabin was used for storage, and it was also the children's sleeping area in the wintertime. During the warmer months, they would either sleep on the cabin floor or outside on the porch. And if that seems a bit crowded, when there was company (out-of-town relatives, for example), they were given the one bed in the cabin. Since it was a one-room cabin, there was no bathroom; hence the need for an outhouse, or in the middle of the night when you couldn't make it to the outhouse, a chamber pot. The early-morning emptying-out of this small pot was another responsibility for the children...and again, your kids complain about taking out the trash!

Finally, what's nicer than a refreshing shower after a long, hard day? This is another concept that was foreign to the colonial folks. Personal hygiene was not at a premium during this day in age, as the people bathed one to two times A YEAR! Women washed their hair so infrequently that it would become very oily and easily catch fire at home, so they had to wear bonnets.

So the next time you complain about the food you have to eat, how you just can't get any privacy, or how dirty you feel, just consider what life was like back then!