Tuesday, December 19, 2017

1629 A few problems in early New England

A Short and True Description of New England
by the Rev. Francis Higginson, written in 1629 

Printed for Michael Sparke, London, 1630.

Francis Higginson (1588-1630) was an early Puritan minister in Colonial New England, and the first minister of Salem, Massachusetts.

Thus of New England’s commodities, now I will tell you of some discommodities that are here to be found.

First: in the summer season for these three months June, July and August, we are troubled with little flies called mosquitos, being the same they are troubled with in Lincolnshire and the fens, and they are nothing but gnats, which except they be smoked out of their houses are troublesome in the night season.

Secondly: in the winter season for two months space the earth is commonly covered with snow, which is accompanied with sharp biting frosts, something more sharp than is in old England, and therefore we are forced to make great fires.

Thirdly: this country being very full of woods and wildernesses, doth also much abound with snakes and serpents of strange colors and huge greatness. Yea, there are some serpents called rattlesnakes, that have rattles in their tails that will not fly from a man as others will, but will fly upon him and sting him so mortally, that he will die within a quarter of an hour after, except the party stung have about him some of the root of an herb called snake weed to bite on, and then he shall receive no harm. But yet seldom falls it out that any hurt is done by these. About three years since an Indian was stung to death by one of them, but we heard of none since that time.
1603 German ed of Badli Angeli Abbatii's De Admirabili Viperae natura.  First published in 1589.  Dresden's Sächsische Landesbibliothek

Fourthly and lastly: here wants as yet the good company of honest Christians to bring with them horses, kine and sheep to make use of the fruitful land. Great pity it is to see so much good ground for corn and for grass as any is under the heavens, to lie altogether unoccupied, when so many honest men and their families in old England through the populousness thereof, do make very hard shift to live one by the other. Thus you know now what New England is, as also the commodities and discommodities thereof.