Colonial Journal

Dear diary,

February 12th, 1636

My name is Charlotte Rothman. I am 14 years old, too tall for a respectable girl, and have curly brown hair. Mother charged me with keeping a diary before we left ('we' being my father, and bothersome younger brother, Aidan). She said it was so that she could read all about our adventures as though they were happening at that very minute. I felt very sorry for her then, because I knew that she would love to be coming with us, although with the new baby this was impossible. Also, I knew that there would probably not be very many adventures written in here worth reading about, especially if I followed her advice and remained the perfect lady everyone thinks I am. Thankfully, everyone is not reading my diary as I plan to write many, many, scandalous and potentially very interesting things in here. After all it is an account of the life of miss Charlotte Rothman. I am still a very interesting person, even though I may not be allowed to be quite as adventurous as I'd like.

I am writing this from the ship that is going to take us to the New World. It is called the Alethea, which I am told means truth in Greek, one of the languages my tutor was teaching me when we were in England. It seems like a very good name for a ship. Though the voyage was not quite the exciting experience I hoped it would be (we did have one storm), but the conditions are quite livable.

Aidan was seasick earlier today. His experience thus far seems to be rather less than enjoyable. Since he never wanted to leave the homeland anyway, he seems to be making himself miserable and I suppose that the vomiting hasn't helped much with his mood either. Hopefully, his attitude will change when we get off the ship and back on to dry land.

It's true that it is not entirely our choice to leave England. Father was a successful architect there but because of "religious differences" (as he likes to put it) with the Church of England, he decided to move the family rather than deal with the religious prosecution and social consequences. My father is quite an obdurate soul so him making a major decision such as this one is definitely a major step for him.

Anyways, right now the Alethea is docked just outside the port of Boston, Massachusetts, and it is killing me that we cannot get off the ship and go exploring right now. I can hear the sounds of the port just outside and see all the people walking around the docks. Oh, there's the captain now. I'll write more later.

- - -

Dear diary,

February 15th, 1636

Our life in Massachusetts is amazing, but very different than anything I had expected. After arriving in Boston and unloading our things from the ship, we took a coach to Newtown, which was (luckily) just a few hours away. We are living in a small house in town that Father bought for us before we came across the Atlantic. We have only one servant, a prim lady named Elizabeth Rose Kipling. It's quite strange not having servants all around to do chores and to help us get ready to go out. Back in England, we lived in a grand two-story house with a half dozen servants, but Father had to let most of them go to raise money to pay for the trip to the New World and to buy us this home.

Ms. Kippling does most of the work around the home so that I can attend school. It was surprisingly difficult to find a school here that would take girls. Father sternly believes that everyone should be educated and I do love him for that, however otherwise stubborn he may be. At last he settled on a small dame school for Aidan and myself. It is to be quite different then the institution I used to attend back home in England. It is taught by a woman, Mrs. Landon, in the front room of her house! Father tells me Mrs. Landon is Protestant, the common religion here; she came to Massachusetts a few years ago with her husband and one child at the time, a rarity for Protestants. It is the puritan practice if that a family should immigrate somewhere they should do so as a family. I am glad this is so or I might have been left at home with Mother and baby Em (we call her that for short after my parents decided on calling her Emily).

My first day of school is tomorrow, so wish me luck!

- - -

Dear diary,

February 17th, 1636

Today was my first day of school in Massachusetts. The teacher, Mrs. Mercy Landon, was very nice. She's also much younger than I thought she would be.

This morning I got up very early so that Ms. Kippling could help me with my hair. In England there were always lots of servants around to help with the beautifying process but in Massachusetts I have been doing these things for myself. I think I may like it better, but this morning I needed Ms. Kippling's help to iron my curly hair straight. By the time we were finished Aidan and Father were ready to go. He walked us to Mrs. Landon's house before hurrying to the home of his newest clients. When we knocked, Mrs. Landon opened the door right away. She wore a long and slightly out of fashion dress but she had a nice smile. She quickly ushered us inside.

Class was being held in the front room of the house. There were about a dozen kids in the room ranging from eight to fourteen. I am fourteen and so I was one of the oldest ones. Aidan tentatively went to go sit next to some boys that were talking together. I sat down on one of the chairs at the back of the room, smoothing out my long skirt as I did so.

Looking around the room, the only girl I saw that was around my age was sitting in the front of the class looking after some of the younger kids. She smiled wanly at me when she saw I was looking at her.

Mrs. Landon reentered the room and clapped her hands. "Right, now that we are all assembled I'd like to introduce to you two new members to our little group. Ms. Charlotte Rothman, and her brother, Mr. Aidan Rothman from England."

All the kids' eyes grew quite large as they turned to look at us.

"What's it like there?"

"Why'd you come here?"

"Is it true they execute people every day?"

Mrs. Landon smiled dimmed. "I'm sure they will have time to answer all your questions later. Now, lets begin with the day's lesson."

The 'day's lesson' consisted of mathematics done on slates, a short discussion on the founder of Massachusetts, and reading. Some of the other older children and I that already know how to read had to help the younger ones. It was actually nice to get out of the house for a while.

After classes I spoke with the girl I spotted earlier. Her name is Mary and she's the oldest of five! Heaven knows having Aidan and now baby Emily is enough for me. Anyways, all of her siblings were born in Massachusetts except for her and her little sister. They were both born in Virginia and came up here with their family.

Ms. Kippling is calling me down for supper. I'll write more later.

- - -

Dear diary,

March 2nd, 1636

Since last entry was so long I will try to make this one a bit shorter, as I have to at least pretend I have a social life, which incidentally, I do. Today was the first time we have gone to church in the New World. The puritan church is very small because, I have mentioned in past entries, most people in Massachusetts are protestant.

I sat with the girls in the front of the church, on the side furthest from the doors. I didn't recognize but a few of them and felt slightly uncomfortable. Father and Aidan were sitting in the men's section on the other side of the church. The lady who sat beside me was very nice. She introduced herself as Mrs. Ellis and pointed out some of the important people, including her husband. She also told me a little bit about the reverend. His name is Thomas Hooker and he's from England too. He knows the governor of Massachusetts but they argue a lot about everything, especially politics and religion. I wasn't sure I believed her, the man looked very mild-mannered to say the least.

He started out with a prayer and then began to speak about Moses and the golden calf. I watched him as he spoke, but in truth I was not really listening. Instead I was thinking about Mary (not Mary the virgin mother, Mary from school). She had been very cold and distant to Aidan and me since she found out that we are Puritan. Religious differences (ah, my father's term but it cannot be helped) are not good reasons to ignore someone who you had been friendly with and turn your back to them when they are trying to talk to you in class. But I digress.

I broke out of my reverie as everyone around me began to get to their feet to sing hymns. I quickly got up to sing as well.

Once church was over we all went to the Sabbath house for a light lunch. I could see Aidan really wanted to start pigging out on the little pastries they had sitting out on the table but remembered his manners and only had one or two. I stayed away from the sweets altogether and stuck with a bagel.

After about an hour or so of socializing we headed back to the church for the afternoon service. It was a bit shorter than the first one, but still lasted in excess of three full hours.

I particularly enjoyed going to church today because everything was so very new and I got to meet a lot of new people. Everyone is very nice here and the reverend is a very interesting person. Aside from the comments about his relationship with the governor of Massachusets, Mrs. Ellis has told me a few other… interesting things about him and I would like to know if they are true. I will have to remember to ask Father later.

- - -

Dear diary,

March 3rd, 1636

Everything Mrs. Ellis told me was true after all. Yesterday during supper I asked Father about Rev. Hooker. He said that the rumors I heard came about because our reverend firmly supports what he believes in. It is Rev. Hooker's firm belief in democracy, a form of goverment my father support's as well, that as caused the dissagrement between Rev. Hooker and Governor Winthrop. Like Rev. Hooker, it is true that my father is disappointed with the lack of "progressive government" (another of his terms) in Massachusetts. The government of Massachusetts is largely a theocracy, something I learned from father on the long boat ride here. And when he ran out of new things to tell us, he just told us the old things over again, so this is probably something I will not forget, although it is not too important. Anyways, having a theocracy is mostly a bad thing for those of us that belong to an uncommon religion.

From the way he was speaking about these matters, I could tell Father obviously has a lot of respect for Rev. Hooker. However, I sat there thinking that believing firmly in something could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. What if the thing that you believe in is wrong, but you believe in it so firmly that you can't see any other side to the argument?

I asked Ms. Kippling about the above this morning. She told me that I think too much and she is probably right. After all, it's not a woman's place in life to question the decisions of others or to become too deeply enraptured with philosophical ideas. I shall have to try to remember this.

- - -

Dear diary,

March 31st, 1636

I cannot believe it! Father says we are actually leaving Massachusetts. When he announced it last night at diner I was so shocked I nearly fell out of my chair (which would not have been very ladylike, unless of course I had fainted also) and Aidan's mouth fell open so wide I'm sure I could have easily stuffed an apple in there like those roasted pigs you sometimes see at town fairs. I have yet to attend one in Massachusetts and it seems I will not get the chance, as we will be leaving just next week, and as far as I know, there are no celebrations or social events planned from between now to next Thursday.

I have no idea how I am going to be able to say goodbye to everyone in such a short amount of time. It seems as though we only just arrived in Massachusetts. My only big regret about this whole thing is that I have not yet had the time to make any friends. Some of the girls from church have started being friendlier to me but most of the families that we know are not coming with us to the new colony. And did I mention we are going to Connecticut? I was not exactly sure where that was and so I looked it up in one of father's books. He buys new books for himself and for Aidan and I very often which is the only reason why I was able to find one that had a map of the New World in it. As you can tell from it's name the New World is very new and so not a lot of maps have been made and been printed into books yet. This is because drawing a good map can take a very long time, and so can writing and publishing a good book, and getting the book shipped to where ever it is that it needs to be sold. Generally, this is not such a bad thing when it comes to getting books since there are so many of them and you can never possibly read them all, unless of course the book in question is an atlas.

But anyway, back to Connecticut. It is located some ways south of here. Father said Rev. Hooker planned to travel to make a new settlement 100 miles away. I suppose I will get to have some adventures after all.

- - -

Dear diary,

July 14th, 1636

I haven't written in the longest time. Everything has been so crazy in the last few months I haven't had any time to write. We set out for Connecticut on the 8th of April and arrived last week. I was so tired I went straight to sleep when Rev. Hooker decided that we had arrived at the place that he wanted to begin his new settlement. Father went off to a meeting with all the other men as Aidan and I slept.

The voyage was exhausting; walking everyday and carrying all most all of the few things we chose to bring with us. I was really shocked at the number of things we finally ended up leaving behind. We had to sell most of the furniture and clothes we brought with us including the china and all but one of my mother's dresses. Father wrote to her the day after he told us about his decision, but there wasn't enough time for us to get her reply before we had to leave. It might be sometime before we can start sending out and receiving mail regularly here. It was also a thousand times harder to say goodbye to everyone than I thought it would be, and I even wrote in here how upset I was about that.

Still the changes (and the trip) haven't been all bad. The scouting group actually met some Indians on the trail. One of the Indians had had dealings with some of the settlers that were already here, and so knew a little bit of Dutch and was able to communicate pretty well with a couple of the guys in the party. The Indians actually agreed to trade with us. This was a massive stroke of good fortune since we probably would have run out of food within a few more weeks. It must have been amazing to get to take with them. I actually saw some of them when they came to exchange goods with us. Their appearance and manner were very surprising. I had expected the natives to be wearing hardly any clothing at all and to be very harsh and primitive. However, they wore beautiful beaded costumes and jewelry and seemed very considerate. I would have loved to go talk to them, but alas I speak only English and French, and very little at that.

The duties of the past week have been unending. Every time I thought I might be finished with a task and able to talk a break from the endless monotony of tasks there was always something else to be done. In an effort to keep from boring you, I will give a brief summary of the things we have accomplished since arriving at Hartford. On the first day the men set out to choose the locations of our community buildings, including the church, trading post, and the locations of each plot of land. Father was an important consultant in all of these decisions due to his profession as architect. While they were making these decisions most everyone else spent the time catching up on sleep. And then it was all hands on deck for the start of construction. Or at any rate, all men and boys to construction, all women to food preparation and the watching of the youngest children. At first I was assigned to food preparation but when they saw how dismal I was at cooking (this was immediately after I nearly caught the head chef on fire trying to cook a simple meal of smoked trout) they allowed me to help take care of the children with some of the younger girls instead.

However, as soon as father found out about this, an event which I believe occurred on the second day after our arrival, he sent me back to the cooking group. He told me that as the only woman in our family here in the New World it was my job to provide as much experience as possible to homemaking skills. Before, I had never bothered with learning all that much about cooking or any other "homemaking" skill for that matter, assuming that there would always be servants around to do those sort of things.

The women in charge of cooking grumbled a lot and assigned me to dishwashing duty in the creek.

After the men finished work on the church and such they began working on the individual houses. Father decided we are to move in with Mr. Ellis, an older gentleman and his wife, the woman who first told me about Rev. Hooker. I didn't ask of course but I can guess they are probably about in there fifties. We first met them at church and Father and Mr. Ellis have become good friends since then.

Father wants me to help with the construction of the house and I told him I would be there in a minute. My job is to help with the hammering and actual building. The main part of the job, the cutting of logs to use as timber, is being done by Father and Aidan. It's Father's guess that it will take about four months of work to finish it. Four more month of sleeping in tents! Oye vey!

- - -

Dear diary,

November 1st, 1636

Today marks the completion of our new house. It was a very exciting event as all of the neighbors came over to eat lunch followed by pie. It was especially nice for me since I made all of the food for the celebration mostly by myself. My cooking has improved so much since we first arrived in Connecticut! Whatever skills I now have, I owe to Ms. Ellis' patient expertise.

Our guests came over this afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Truman who have five children already and are planning a sixth, the Jones' with the eight-year-old twins, Mr. Carross with his seven-year-old daughter, Catherine and fifteen-year-old son, Mark. He smiled at me as he stepped over the threshold after his father and I wished I'd thought to change into a nicer dress.

Dinner consisted of baked potato, turkey, asparagus, and some biscuits we'd been saving for such an occasion. Conversation at the table was light. The adults were talking about an addition to the church and the twins and Aidan were chatting animatedly about something while Catherine listened. Mark and I sat down at the other end of the table. He was very charming and handsome, so naturally I was very shy around him at first. However, because was also very nice and witty it was difficult not to be more… well, me. By the end of the afternoon he had me laughing and joking with him. Father gave me a wise look from the other end of the table and I made a face back at him when Mark wasn't looking. He's very kind and I know I'd love to get to know him, but I am sure he doesn't think of me in that way. Still, I hope to have an opportunity to speak with him again sometime soon.

- - -

Dear diary,

November 19th, 1636

A terrible thing has just happened! I was outside in the garden with Ms. Ellis when Aidan came running out of the house. He'd just gotten back from fishing in the river with some of the older boys and so he was soaking wet.

"Something is wrong with Mr. Ellis," he told me, his eyes wide.

Mrs. Ellis straightened up quickly and the two of us hurried inside.

Mr. Ellis had taken a nap that afternoon and never woke up. It was very hard on Mrs. Ellis since she cared about him very much. It was hard on all of us. Over the course of the voyage and the past four months I really got to know and respect him, almost like an adopted grandfather.

The funeral was this morning. Mrs. Ellis did not care to wait and the preparations were fairly simple. Henry Ellis was laid to rest behind the little church he helped to build. Rev. Hooker said a few words over his body. He spoke about Mr. Ellis' love of life and his appreciation for hard work. Rev. Hooker also talked at length about how he was an example to all who knew him. This was true.

After the funeral there was a short reception at which we talked and ate pastries and bagels and such. I will say that I did do all the cooking and I didn't hear a single complaint about the food, although I did think the pastries dough was too soft and did taste a bit sour.

I saw Mark there. He waved at me but did not approach. I am almost starting to wish he liked me.

- - -

Dear diary,

December 5th, 1636

I don't know if I can do justice to the events that conspired here today. I shall try to put it down. First I will tell you about all the things that have gone on since the death of Mr. Ellis. To keep herself busy, Mrs. Ellis has devoted her spare time to quilt making; Ms. Truman has begun to show signs of pregnancy; and a trade route has been set up. This means we can send and receive mail now! We have written to Mother about our new location. As I mentioned, she is aware of the move to Connecticut, but not a way to get in touch with us. I cannot wait to hear back from her and get news of baby Emily!

Today was the marriage ceremony of Connor Brookes and Eliza Bauer. The exchange of vows happened this morning in the church. I finally got a chance to wear Mother's dress. The service was very nice. Afterward, we all went to the reception outside the church. There was dancing and music and food. I stood chatting with some of the other girls when Mark sidled over and joined the conversation. I was no good after that, I could hardly breathe. And then he asked me to dance. I can't remember most of it but I assume I probably stepped on his feet a lot. Then we went over to the edge of the festivities to talk. At the end of the afternoon, he kissed my cheek before leaving with his family. I'm so confused! I was sure he didn't think anything of me. Aidan made fun of me all the way home but I wasn't listening. I've been useless all night since then!

- - -

Dear diary,

January 22nd, 1637

I laughed when I read the above entry. That was written about a month and a half ago and I am much changed since then. Mark has been coming over almost every day to visit me at my house. He remains the intelligent, charming, caring person he was when I first met him. It is easier to be myself around him, even the parts that other people may not like. I still don't think I'm completely over my butterflies every time I see him, but I am getting more practiced at not acting like it.

But enough about me. You know the quilt that I said Ms. Ellis has been working on? It is finally finished. Today all the girls of the settlement had a quilting bee to finish it up. It the most fun I have had since coming to Connecticut. They all brought quilting frames and helped with the work. Ms. Mallorie had a half finished quilt that she brought over as well. Also, most of the girls brought scraps to trade with the others. We all got very interested in deciding which scraps would go together to make the best quilt. I helped to teach some of the younger ones how to do simple needlepoint and Ms. Ellis remarked how much of a lady I am becoming! Surprisingly, it made me feel very good.

Thinking back on it I was growing up to be a lady back in England too, albeit one who knew almost nothing about practical skills. Their society's definition of a lady is a woman who comes from a rich family, is coy and attractive, and manages a working household. It's also measured by things like the number of times a day you need to be revived after fainting and how many pairs of shoes you own. To think that is the kind of person I might have become is a frightening notion.

After the quilts were finished and we had played a few games, teaching each other sewing tricks and snacking on the little pastries I have finally perfected, Mark came over to walk his sister home. He stayed for a few extra minutes to talk to Father while Catherine was helping Ms. Ellis and I clean up the living room. When I came outside I found Mark sitting on one of the built in benches on the porch. He flashed his dazzling smile at me and patted the seat next to him. I came in and sat down, pressing my body close to his.

"Can I ask you something?" he whispered.

I grinned back at him, completely clueless as to what was about to happen. "What?" I whispered back conspiratorially.

He scooted over to face me. "Charlotte," he began, "I know there's been a lot of changes for us both lately, you especially, coming to the New World and then having to make an new life here. But I want to propose one more."

I smiled encouragingly for him to continue. With trembling fingers he reached into his pocket and drew out his hand, closed tightly around an object I couldn't see.

"Charlotte you are the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. Will you marry me?"

I couldn't breathe.

"Yes!" I gasped. "Oh yes."

And he kissed me. It was only then that I noticed father, Ms. Ellis, and Catherine watching from the window. They were all grinning, except for Catherine, who looked rather revolved (ah, but that's seven year olds for you). Curses! How embarrassing.

I didn't care though. I was in love.