Monday, January 31, 2022

Ben Franklin (1706-1790) On Tofu & Soybeans in 1770

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) c 1767 by David Martin (1736-1798)

 Rae Katherine Eighmey, author of the colonial kitchen odyssey Stirring the Pot With Benjamin Franklin, writes that when he was in North America, “He tromped—literally tromped—from Canada to Florida seeking new and unusual plants, which he would then package up and send to people in England.” And not just anyone, Eighmey says, but “the social folks, and the scientifically inclined people”—the cream of the crop.

The earliest document, known at this time, in which an American mentions tofu is a letter written by Benjamin Franklin (who was then living in London) to John Bartram in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 11, 1770. 

He sent Bartram some soybeans (which he called "Chinese caravances") & with them he sent "Father Navarrete's account of the universal use of a cheese made of them in China, which so excited my curiosity, that I caused enquiry to be made of Mr. [James] Flint, who lived many years there, in what manner the cheese was made, & I send you his answer. I have since learned that some runnings of salt (I suppose runnet) is put into water, when the meal is in it, to turn it to curds...These...are what the Tau-fu is made of."

Spanish missionary & archbishop Domingo Fern├índez Navarrete (1610-1689), was the Dominican who Franklin refers to “Father Navaretta” in his letter from London to Bartram back in Pennsylvania. Navarrete taught theology at the Dominican University of St. Thomas, Manilla, before he left for a mission to China in 1657. Navarrete visiting Asia, “learned about all the ‘strange things people in China eat." The monk's mendicant’s logs, & discoveries were published in Spanish in 1676. Among these was a method for preparing a popular Chinese foodstuff, which Navaretta termed “teu-fu.” 

Navarrate was highly respected by Pope Innocent XI (1611-1689), who wanted to appoint him bishop of the Chinese missions; but, Navarrete refused. In 1676, Navarrete's book, Tratados historicos, politicos, ethicos, y religiosos de la monarchia de China was initially published in Madrid. It was translated into most major European languages. It became particularly popular in England, where Franklin encountered it decades later. On Navarrate's return to Spain in 1677, the Pope, at the suggestion of Charles II, forced him to accept the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo in the West Indies, where he died after a decade working for the welfare of the people, particularly of its slave population. 


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Fences at Courtyards & Private Homes

Green Spring by Benjamin Latrobe, Showing Fences & Walls Surrounding the Court Yard at the Entrance Facade. (The garden was at the rear of the house.)

Yards & Courtyards at Private Dwellings

The term court yard usually referred to a public or private entrance greeting and meeting area. Because most courtyards were built to receive carriages and horses, they usually were located on the road side of coastline houses, not on the water-facing facade. The word yard appeared in the British American colonies in 1647, when a tenant agreed to "maintain the old dwelling house and quartering houses and Tobacco houses in repair, as well as the pales about the yard and gardens."

In Virginia in 1686, a visitor noted of Green Spring, the former home of Governor William Berkeley, that the orchard was "well fenced in with Locust fence, which is as durable as most brick walls, a Garden, a hundred feet square, well pailed in, a Yeard where in is most of the foresaid necessary houses, pallizado'd in with locust Punchens."

In 1687, hungry French visitor Durand of Dauphine in A Huguenot Exile in Virginia, wrote that "There are also many doves, turtle-doves, thrushes, partridges in such numbers that they come into the court-yards; they are smaller than those of Europe, but taste the same."

The 1746 South Carolina Gazette carried a notice about a missing horse, "SRTAY'D or stolen out of my Court -Yard formerly belonging to Mrs. Sarab Frott, a Roan Horse, with a black Bow Main, branded on the mounting shoulder B, shod his Fore Feet, and is brown by ten Name of Firefly."

Peter Kalm noticed on his travels throughout the colonies in 1748,"Mulberry trees are planted on some hillocks near the house, and sometime even in the court yards of the house."


In the Pennsylvania Gazette of 1753, a house-for-rent ad noted, "To be lett, A large commodious house, 4 rooms on a floor, 3 stories high, with neat court yardgarden and good orchard, conveniently situated on Germantown road, about a mile distant from Philadelphia. "Several months later, this description appeared, "a large commodious brick house, 40 feet square, 3 stories high, four rooms on a floor, a genteel court yardneatly pailin, a brick wash house, necessary house, and pump in the yard, a good garden and orchard."

In an issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette of 1761 was a notice for a "A commodious Country Seat... a new Stone House three Stories high, being 41 Feet front, and 24 Feet deep, with Cellars under the whole; a Court Yardin the Front of the House, a Piazza joining the House, and a new Stone Kitchen, with a Pump before the Door."
Entrance to Court Yard at Mount Clare in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, as in most instances, the court yard was at the public entrance facade of the dwelling. The more private garden facade was usually on the opposite side of the house. Virginia visitor Mary Ambler in 1770, observed at Mount Clare in Baltimore, "There is a Handsome Court Yard on the other side of the House."

In 1777, in his Virginia letter book, George Braxton recorded, "I agreed with Alexander Oliver Gardener to make a Court yard before my Door according to Art."
Courtyard at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

Just outside of Philadelphia in 1785, a country seat went on the market. "An elegant seat for a Summer residence of a genteel family, situated on the main street in Germantown, just beyond the six mile stone. This healthful retreat consists of a spacious house, two stories high, with four rooms on a floor, a piazza in the rear, 36 feet in length and 12 feet wide; a court yard about 80 feet square, neatly gravelled, sodded and surrounded with trees."

In his diary for August 30, 1785, at Mount Vernon, Virginia, George Washington reported that the workers had" Finished gravelling the right hand Walk leading to the front gate from the Court Yard."
1791 Edward Savage. Mount Vernon from the Court Yard Carriage Entrance.

Elbridge Gerry, Jr. visited Mount Vernon, about 14 years after Washington's death noting that, "On one side is an elegant garden, which has a small white house for the gardener, and a row of brick buildings back of it. All these are enclosed by a wall in an oval form, and leaving a large area before the house for the yard."

When artist Robert Edge Pine died, in Philadelphia his property went for sale in 1789. including "an elegant new Brick House 42 feet front by 50 feet deep, completely finished, and well accommodated either for a large family or for a public house; a good pump in the yard; a neat garden in the rear of the house, and a court -yard in front."
The Plantation 1825 Virginia.
Private Yards

In 1753, the South Carolina Gazette reported a dwelling for sale in Prince William Parish which included"a garden at the south front, and yardlately paved in."In the South, especially at urban sites, the yard was often paved with brick, tile, or crushed shells.
18C Thomas Banister House with front yard.

The Moravians who settled in at Salem, North Carolina, wrote in 1772,"The family houses are to fence in their yardsin order better to keep the children at home and not let them run around the streets. Also, if the open building-sites could be fenced in, the cattle could be kept out of town."
Early Houses and Fenced Yards at Old Salem, North Carolina.

New England tutor Philip Fithian Vickers was working at Nomini Hall, Virginia in 1774. He reported, "From the front yard of the Great House."

Henry Wansey toured New England in 1794. He wrote of Worcester, Massachusetts, "most of the houses have a large court before them, full of lilacs and other shrubs, with a seat under them, and a paved walk up the middle." And in Connecticut, he wrote, "I arrived at Newhaven...Many handsome well looking houses, though chiefly built of wood and separated by a court or garden from its neighbour."
1796 Ralph Earl. Detail Houses Fronting on New Milford Green with fenced yards.

Elizabeth Drinker wrote in her diary in 1796 of her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,"Our Garden looks most beautiful, the Trees in full Bloom, the red, and white blossoms intermixt'd with the green leaves, which are just putting out flowers."
Fenced Utility Yard "Well Paled In" at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

Court Yard

Jonathan Schoepf reported on the toilet facilities in 1783, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,"a little court or garden, where usually are the necessaries, and so this often evil-smelling convenience of our European houses is missed here, but space and better arrangement are gained."
Necessary House in Colonial Williamsburg.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Young Ben Franklin (1706-1790) On Vegan Food & Moderation with Women & Wine in 1734

A Young Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Robert Feke's 1748 painting

When Franklin was about 16, he met “with a book written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet,” (Franklin, Autobiography) which he promptly stuck to, more or less, for the next three years, & which he returned to for brief spells throughout his life.  

In addition, he repeats endlessly over the years his recommendation for moderation in eating:  “Be temperate in Wine, in eating, Girls, & Sloth, or the Gout will sieze you & plague you both” (Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1734)

Vegetarianism was rising during the 18C thanks to Britain's move toward Romanticism. The meatless diet was somewhat widespread during the age of Enlightenment, when new humanist ideas began to develop. Several romantic writers promoted vegetarianism because of their compassion for our fellow animals & their deep relationship to Nature. They denounced the consumption of meat as a inhumane & monstrous attack on living beings. They also developed negative ideas about the industrialization & consumerism beginning to dominate their economy. The rising costs of the meat, the agricultural changes & the emerging humanist values encouraged more & more people to follow a vegan diet. Among the romantics, Alexander Pope (1688–1744) & Joseph Ritson (1752–1803) were probably the most persistent & persuasive vegetarians. 

James Sayers (1748–1823), satirical caricature of Vegetarian Joseph Ritson, c 1803. Bodleian Library

Thomas Tryon (1634-1703) was an English merchant who advocated vegetarianism after having heard an inner voice, that he called the “Voice of Wisdom” in 1657. Tryon strongly opposed violence against animals, as his vegetarianism was linked to his belief in spiritual progress. He 1st adopted the diet at the age of 23, saying that he only drank water & ate bread, some vegetables, & cheese.  Tryonadvocated vegetarianism, pacifism and an end to slavery in the Caribbean. His beliefs inspired Benjamin Franklin to adopt the same lifestyle. 

Franklin explained: "When about 16 years of age, I happen’d to meet with a book written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet. I determined to go into it. My brother being yet unmarried, did not keep house, but boarded himself and his apprentices in another family. My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chid for my singularity."

Apparently Franklin hadn't developed a large group of followers in his early years.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Walled & Fenced Yards

Brick-Walled Yard. 1750s Walled Garden & Grounds at Cleve in Virginia. Anne Byrd of Westover (1725-1757) (Mrs. Charles Carter). 

Brick walls usually surrounded public yards at court houses, state houses, hospitals, churches, cemeteries, prisons, and inns. Wooden fences usually surround yards at private dwellings, but some gentry homes also had brick or stone walls.  

A yard is an enclosed division of land usually attached to, or enclosed by a dwelling or public building or outbuildings usually defined by a fence or a wall.  

The term court yard usually referred to a public or private entrance greeting and meeting area. Because most courtyards were built to receive carriages and horses, they usually were located on the road side of coastline houses, not on the water-facing facade.

At private homes in rural settings, defined yards often were attached to service buildings used to house livestock or to store firewood or to outdoor kitchens.  

In Southern towns, yards sometimes were paved with bricks or crushed shells.  In 1753, in South Carolina Gazette, a dwelling for sale ad noted "a garden at the south front, and a yard lately paved in."

Eventually the term yard evolved throughout the 18C into the description of a cultivated area enclosed or attached to a dwelling that might contain flowers, orchard or shade trees, or a lawn intended to be used as a pleasure ground and exercise area. 

In the 18C, the term yard was used to designate practical & often commercial work areas such as, hemp yardswood or timber yards, and even dock & ship yards.

By the last quarter of the 18C, folks referred to the enclosed area, where those incarcerated take exercise, as a prison yard. 

North Carolinian William Martin visiting Richmond, Virginia in 1813, wrote, "every private yard is decorated with the handsomest shade trees which our Country boasts." 

Other yards on larger rural properties were meant for livestock such as cow yards, pig yards, barn yards, poultry yards, chicken yards, turkey yards, & goose yards.  Domestic work yards, especially those used to house animals, were usually separated from kitchen & floral or pleasure gardens by fences or walls.

On smaller properties, homeowners often divided the land closer to the rear of the house into yards. These often included a woodyard or a stackyard for storing wood for heating.  

Some properties included a fenced family yard, which served as a safe, protected barrier against potential domestic & wild animal intrusion. In his Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs, John Beale Bordley wrote that the family yard should be planted in clean, closely cut grass & that its margins alone should be allowed to contain purely decorative flowers. 

Bordely explained that the well often stood near the family yard & wood yard. Sheep houses & pigsties commonly had their own individually fenced yards, & many poultry houses, or coops, had a distinct poultry yard often covered with fresh sand & gravel. Sections devoted to animals usually had watering troughs within their yards. 

The women in the family & female servants did the washing & ironing in washhouses, which were usually within or near a separately fenced area where the wash was hung on lines or spread across shrubs to dry. Contemporaries called these areas “bleach yards.”

Often colonials & early Americans would simply refer to their yards. Occasionally writers, especially visitors from England or the Continent, would leave the term yard off of a description of a court yard, simply referring to a court. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Fences for Gardens, Yards, & Fields in Early America

1787 Ludwig Gottfried von Redeken. Farmer working in his field near the Moravian settlement of Salem, North Carolina.

In early America, just as it had been for centuries, a fence was a structural barrier built of wood, or other materials, used to define, separate, & enclose areas like fields, pastures, yards, & gardens.  Fences were mandated by the local & colonial governments in many of the British American colonies in the 17C & 18C.

Some of the earliest legislation in the colonies were directives for fencing in cultivated grounds & other spaces requiring protection from animal & human intruders. Land in early America was often refered to as "well-fenced," "under a good fence," & "within fence."

In 1623, the Virginia General Assembly declared "that every freeman shall fence in a quarter of an acre of ground before Whitsuntide next to make a garden."
Jonathan Welch Edes (American artist, 1750-c 1793-1803) Overmantle Captain David Thacher’s home in Yarmouth on Cape Cod. Showing men drying cod on racks with the entire operation surrounded by fences.

An act of the Virginia General Assembly of 1705, intended to protect the gardens from stray pigs, horses & cattle, required the owners of every lot on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, to "inclose the said lots, or half acres, with a wall, pales, or post and rails, within six months after the building, which the law requires to be erected thereupon, shall be finished."  The minimum height of the fence was set at 4 & one-half feet & but many were built higher. 
1796 Ralph Earl (American artist, 1751-1801) Houses on New Milford Green, CT

In 1706, the act of the Virginia legislature authorizing the building of the Governor's Palace allocated 635 pounds for the construction of the garden with these instructions, "that a Court-Yard, of dimensions proportionable to the said house, be laid out, levelled and encompassed with a brick wall 4 feet high with the balustrades of wood thereupon, on the said land, and that a Garden of the length of 254 foot and the breadth of 144 foot from out to out, adjoining to the said house, to be laid out and levelled and enclosed with a brick wall, 4 feet high, with ballsutrades of wood upon the said wall, and that handsome gates be made to the said court-yard and garden."
1787-1791 Edward Savage (American artist, 1761-1817) The East Front of Mount Vernon

By 1776, the wooden fences portions of the fences & walls around the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg needed attention. The Virginia Council Journal reported "Repairing Fodder Houses & paling round Garden."  The "General appoints 25 men to repair fences of park."

Also receiving attention were the wooden fences around the pasture near the Governor's Palace in 1777, "Repairing the pailing and railing Round the Pasture." In order to complete the fence repair the workmen needed "60 foot of plank, 250 nails."
1787-1791 Edward Savage (American artist, 1761-1817) Mount Vernon Detail A View from The Northeast

Many fences were built by slave & indentured servant laborers. 
Gottlieb Mittelberger traveled to Pennsylvania from Germany in 1750, on a ship primarily filled with poorer immigrants who would become indentured servants upon arriving in Philadelphia.
1800 Francis Guy (English-born American painter, 1760–1820) On the Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, where fences run down to the water & protect those on the pier from falling into it.

Mittelberger observed the working conditions for German immigrant, indentured servants in Pennsylvania & wrote of them upon his return to his homeland. He noted, "Work mostly consists in cutting wood, felling oak-trees, rooting out, or as they say there, clearing large tracts of forest. Such forests, being cleared, are then laid out for fields and meadows. From the best hewn wood, fences are made around the new fields; for there all meadows, orchards and fruit-fields, are surrounded and fenced in with planks made of thickly-split wood, laid one above the other, as in zigzag lines, and within such enclosures, horses, cattle, and sheep, are permitted to graze."
1803 Charles Fraser (1782-1860). Utility fence depicted in A Bason & Storehouse Belonging to the Santee Canal.

Most gardeners could not afford brick walls & chose traditional paling---a picket fence--to protect their kitchen gardens. Occasionally Virginians denoted property lines with rail fences constructed in a zig-zag form. One traveler wrote in 1777, “the New Englanders have a saying, when a man is in his liquor, he is making Virginia fences.”
1800 Felice Corne (1752–1845) Ezekiel Hersey Derby Farm near Salem, Massachusetts. Here is a combination of wooden fences & stone walls.

In Baltimore, Maryland in 1797, fenced gardens divided into quadrants but not terraced & with few other embellishments appeared at 13 Baltimore homes. At least one of these kitchen gardens had a stone wall surrounding its four beds. 
1800 Francis Guy (1760-1820). Bolton From the South Garden Facade falling toward the harbor.  This view of Bolton shows the rectangular fenced kitchen gardens at the bottom of the more formal green terraces.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. Garden Facade of Mt Deposit. Baltimore Home of David Harris (1752-1809)

Few paintings of the garden facades of Baltimore's country homes exist, but thanks to some inventive furniture makers, several chairback paintings of a variety of entrance facade fences remain.
1800 Francis Guy (1760-1820). Imporved Entrance Facade of Bolton.

Most of Baltimore's country seats had fences defining the entrance & garden areas of the property. Fences close to the house were usually painted white.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. Entrance Facade of Grace Hill Home of Hugh McCurdy from 1790-1805 in Baltimore.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. From the North Entrance Facade of Bolton, Home of George Grundy (1775-1825) Baltimore.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. Rose Hill. Home of William Gibson (1735-1832) Baltimore Lanvale Street at Eutaw Place.
1804 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. St. Paul's Chairity School. Baltimore.
1805 Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. Woodville. Baltimore Home of Jeremiah Yellott .

Some of the homes dotting the hills above Baltimore's harbor did not have fences on the entrance facade of the home, exhibiting a more natural grounds approach toward their landscaping. Fenced kitchen gardens usually were tucked away at the rear of the house.
1805 Francis Guy (1760-1820).  Bolton in Baltimore from the extended South Garden Facade.  Here, the garden area at the bottom of the formal falling garden terraces had been fenced with a curved picket fencing.

French traveler Moreau St. Mery wrote of the country seats around New York City, when he was there in 1793.  "I have spoken frequently of "pretty" country houses in this description; but when one hears this expression, he must not think that it has the same sense here as it has in Europe, particularly in France.

"In America, a very pretty country house corresponds only to a place moderately kept up on the outskirts of a large French city, and even then one will find in the former neither the good taste which embellishes the European house nor the comforts which make living in it a pleasure.


In America almost everything is sacrificed to the outside view. To accomplish this the fences of the houses are sometimes varied by these six combinations:
1. Planks are laid vertically and close together.
2. Planks are laid the same way, with a space between them.
3. Little narrow boards are laid across without joining.
4. Vertically placed laths are joined.
5. Vertically placed laths are not joined.
6. Laths are placed vertically, but passing alternately on the outside and the inside of cross members.

"Further elegance is obtained by using different shades of paint on lattices and partitions. Doors are handled in the same way." 
1800 Michele Felice Corne (1752–1845) New England Country Seat with rather intricate entrance fencing.

New Yorker John Nicholson suggested a few practical, utilitarian fence designs in The Farmer's Assistant in 1820, "Log-fences are often made on new-cleared lands...White-pine log-fences are very good, and will last 20 years without any essential repairing. Clear white-pine timber may, however, be split into rails, which are very durable. All kinds of wood will last much longer in rails, when the bark is peeled off.
1780 Unknown Artist. The End of the Hunt.

"What are called worm-fences are made with most ease, but require more timber than some other kinds. If, therefore, timber be scarce, post-and-rail fences...ought to be prefered, where good durable posts can be had.
1796 Ralph Earl (American artist, 1751-1801) Ruggles Homestead

"If the posts are too small to have holes made through them, the rails may be flated at the ends and fastened to the posts with spikes.. or with wooden pins well secured.
1816. Charles Willson Peale. Belfield Farm in Pennsylvania.

Utility fences, when painted, were usually reddish in color. More formal fences were usually painted white.
1800 An Overmantle from the Gardiner Gilman House in Exeter, New Hampshire.  This painting shows a combination of wooden fencing & stone walls.

"Post-and-rail fences...arc very good where the soil is dry, and the same may be observed of board fences; but, where the soil is wet, the posts will be thrown out by the frosts. In all cases, the posts ought to be set at least 2 feet in the ground.
Francis Guy (English-born American painter, 1760–1820) Summer View of Brooklyn, NY.  The most unusual thing about these utilitarian town fences is that the artist painted them in the summer & in the winter with and without folks working around them.

"Red-cedar is best for posts. Locust, chesnut, butternut, and black-walnut are also good. Good oak will also last pretty well. Burning the ends of the posts which go into the ground, so as to make them black, will make them last longer...

1817-20 Francis Guy (English-born American painter, 1760–1820) Winter Scene in Brooklyn, NY

"It is advisable to have a close high fence round your kitchen and fruit-gardens. This, in the first place, renders every thing within it secure from Pillagers; and also serves to keep out fowls. Another, benefit consists in keeping off the strong cold winds of the Spring, which are very injurious to the young plants, and also to the fruit, which is then about puting forth."

1817 Francis Guy (English-born American painter, 1760–1820) Winter Scene in Brooklyn, NY  How the fence was used in the winter.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Wood Fences in 17C & 18C Virginia - The Brush Fence


 The Brush Fence

The quickest and most economical fence to construct had as its components the by-products of land clearing. The fieldstone walls which characterized much of the New England landscape represent one fencing variety of the type. In other areas, including Virginia, stumps, brush, logs, deadwood, or combinations thereof were massed into tangled barriers. While the stone wall of New England remained a useful form for centuries. Its wooden equivalent, however, proved neither as durable nor effective and its use was most likely confined to the early stages of settlement or other temporary situations.

In the 17C & 18C Atlantic British American colonial coast, fences were built for mainly practical reasons. In the southern colonies, livestock of all kinds was accommodated in the woods surrounding the cultivated fields. As the animals could be branded or otherwise marked for owner identification & cleared land was often limited, crops came to be enclosed & livestock was thus fenced out. But, in New England & parts of the middle colonies, livestock was customarily fenced in.  By no means restricted to agricultural use, fences also defined & protected all types of rural & urban spaces, such as churchyards, gardens, & workyards, throughout the colonies.

These fences were common in the Chesapeake & in Tidewater Virginia. Fencing was sometimes achieved by the use of masonry walls, but native stone is a scarce resource in the Tidewater region, though brick was used to build some churchyard walls & to enclose certain buildings there. The majority of Virginia fences were constructed of wood. All fence types co-existed during the colonial period; the historical record offers no indication that one type completely supplanted another.

Text from: Partitioning the Landscape: The Fence in Eighteenth-Century Virginia
Vanessa E. Patrick. December 6, 1983. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - 0134

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Wood Fences in 17C & 18C Virginia - The Wattle Fence

Wattle Fence Landauer Twelve Brother's House manuscript 15C

What might be called a systematized brush fence, that is, the wattle fence, was known in medieval Europe. Wattle construction, also called hurdle-or wickerwork, was well established in 17C England as a method for infilling the walls of timber-framed buildings. 

Wattle Fence From the Theatrum of Casanatense 14C Sage 

Composed of thin, vertical staves about which were woven flexible withes, wattle was finished with mud, clay, & sometimes plaster in its architectural context. Without this earthen covering & with staves or stakes driven into the ground, the wattle fence provided an effective windbreak & more or less defied the invasion or escape of small animals. Availability of materials coupled with familiarity & simplicity of construction suggest the use of wattle-and-daub infill in 17C Virginia. 

The wattle fence also seems to have made an early appearance. Archaeological investigation of Wolstenholmetown, one of the Martin's Hundred sites in James City County, revealed a curving line of small post holes defining what was probably a domestic yard protected by a wattle fence.

At the Clifts Plantation site in Westmoreland County, Virginia, wattle fences appear to have been constructed in conjunction with ditches about 1705. Archaeological findings suggest that such an arrangement enclosed the rectangular gardens, kitchen yard, & possible orchard adjacent to the main house. At the very end of the 18C, just such a combination fence was specified by George Washington in a letter to his farm manager: "When the Angle of Wood, adjoining the present Cornfield at Mansion house is cleared let all the Poles which are of a proper size for a wattled fence, either in whole, or by being split in two, be preserved; as my intention is, when I come home, to have a neat fence of that kind, on a ditch from the White gates along the road to the turn of it, as Allisons stakes will run to the present-fence."

As late as 1850, The American Agriculturist reported that the wattle fence was a common Virginia type & supplied instructions for assembling a "cedar-brush fence … first, throw up a ridge of earth about a foot above the level, & in this drive stakes on a line two to three feet apart, three & a half to four feet high, & then wattle in the cedar limbs, beating them down with a maul as compactly as possible." 

In the same journal, it was noted that the use of banking, as well as ditching, was an important aspect of fencing in the "low lands" of Gloucester & neighboring counties & along the Rappahannock River. Washington's pole variety of wattle fence also endured into the 19C; the placement of its stakes was observed to be 8 to 10 feet apart. Praised for its durability, especially when constructed with stakes of the cedar or chestnut then abundant in Tidewater, the wattle fence was said to survive for about twenty years with relatively little maintenance.

That wattle fence construction required less labor than other types is suggested by the comments of Landon Carter of Richmond County: "I fancy I must put a Watle fence round my new corn fields for I see what with idleness & sickness I can't get rails ready nor all in place."

Philip Vickers Fithian viewed the wattle fence with greater equanimity & wrote an account of fence building at Nomini Hall, Westmoreland County, in 1774: "I walked to see the Negroes make a fence; they drive into the Ground Chestnut stakes about two feet apart in a straight Row, & then twist in the Boughs of Savin which grows in great plenty here …"

In the 17C & 18C Atlantic British American colonial coast, fences were built for mainly practical reasons. In the southern colonies, livestock of all kinds was accommodated in the woods surrounding the cultivated fields. As the animals could be branded or otherwise marked for owner identification & cleared land was often limited, crops came to be enclosed & livestock was thus fenced out. 

But, in New England & parts of the middle colonies, livestock was customarily fenced in.  By no means restricted to agricultural use, fences also defined & protected all types of rural & urban spaces, such as churchyards, gardens, & work-yards, throughout the colonies.

These fences were common in the Chesapeake & in Tidewater Virginia. Fencing was sometimes achieved by the use of masonry walls, but native stone is a scarce resource in the Tidewater region, though brick was used to build some churchyard walls & to enclose certain buildings there. The majority of Virginia fences were constructed of wood. All fence types co-existed during the colonial period; the historical record offers no indication that one type completely supplanted another.

Text from: Partitioning the Landscape: The Fence in Eighteenth-Century Virginia by Vanessa E. Patrick. December 6, 1983. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - 0134