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HVVA Newsletters

FROM THE EDITOR: Karen Gross, a long time HVVA member from Breitenheim, Germany, has sent some information on the material culture of Lippe, that has relevance to the Hudson Valley. In the summer of 2000, after the Historic Farm Building Group Conference in The Netherlands, John Stevens, Roger Scheff'and I spent a day in the County of Lippe with Karen and her husband Hans-Georg. In the mormng we visited the Detmold Open Air Museum with its villages and farms of relocated vernacular buildings of the area.

We spent the afternoon with Dr, Heinrich Stiewe looking at some fine examples of Niederdeutsche Hallenhauser (Dutch/Gennan Hall-Houses), among them Dr. Stiewe's family home in Blomberg-Wellentrup.

LiUppe was one of the smallest German territories; the country is only 32 miles across at its widest point. It is part of Nordrhein/Westphalia today. The major cities are Detmold, Lemgo and Bad Salzuflen, The plaines in the northwest are very fertile but about a quarter of the land is wooded and the high plateau in the southwest is a barren heath, suitable only for sheep and wild horses; some of the tools illustrated, were only used in this area.

The following illustrations are from Hauswesen und Tagewerk im Alten Lippe (1982,IiSBN 3-402-05665-8)., by Wilhelm Hansen, a folklorist and director of the Lippishen Landesmuseum=State Museum of Lippe at Detmold, which has an excellent collection of agricultural tools as well as household tools and furnishings, most of them donated by local families. The book shows a great variety of buildings and objects specific to "Old Lippe", although similar tools were in use elsewhere. The information was collected from people who had used the tools and lived in the houses, It is a beautiful book, a monument to Wilhelm Hansen and all those who assisted him.

The following captions, expanded from Wilhelm Hansen's, and additions to the above are by Karen Gross, The editor's comments will follow.

Drawing 74,. #1-5. Sichel = Seckel = sickle The different sizes illustrated were used to cut fodder for small animals. Sickles were only used by women and children, to cut grass, nettles, cabbage and Tiekebauhnen = Feldbohnen = saubohnen = Vicia fava = broad beans or horsebeans which were used for fodder. The fodder was carried home in linen cloths that were made from two sacks, cut apart and sewed together.

#6-8. Shollenhacke = Plaggenhacken = sod hook. These sod hooks were used by shepherds to pull up heather with a thin layer of humus attached. They were used to enrich the poorest fields. This was back-breaking work for the shepherds and sometimes took decades to make even a small plot arable. The government specified which plots of heath could be stripped but the need was so great that farmers sometimes went out by night to strip the heath illegally. The very word Plaggendeuf =Plaggendieb =sod thief was an abusive term for the poor. "What should a poor man do, that has to have sod and hasn't got any? He becomes a sod thief."

#9 Kniesens = Kneuseussen = Knee Scythe = sith, These tools were used to cut Shollenhake = heather for bedding. The sith was held in the right hand by a handle tbat that fit around the lower arm and was swung from the shoulder. The blade was only about two-feet long, but it was stronger than those on a sith used for cutting rye.

#10 Matfkaken = mathook.The mathook was held in the left hand. The pointed iron hook was used to pull the heather forward to cut it.

#11 left. Wiesenbeile = Wiesehogge. These tools were used to even up the edges of the drainage ditches through the meadows.

#11 right Brombeerschneider = Brummernschnur.= blackberry cutter. This tool was used to to cut blackberry hedges. An ordinance for the Pincipality of Lippe for the year 1814 concerning the erection of defensive towers stipulated that anyonewho hadn't got a gun had to take a blackberry'cutter for defense instead.

The farm tools shown in this drawing are from the collection of the State Museum of Lippe and: were collected there in the 1960's. The sith and mathook were acquired through an exchange with a museum in Datteln.

Drawing 106, #1. Schweinehaus = Schwuinehius = pigsties This mid 19th century pigstie is a museum reproduction of an outbuilding. Pigs were not kept in the Hallenhauser = hall-house with the other animals because of the smell. I have heard from people who keep pigs, that they are kept separately because noise and bustle causes failure to thrive.

#2-3 Schweinetrog = Schwuinetroug = Krippen = pig trough. These troughs were made of sandstone with a Folgen = wooden flap door. Wooden pig troughs did not last long because the pigs: pushed and shoved them around. They were summoned for feeding by flapping the door loudly. It was the first maid's job to feed them first thing in the morning.

#4-5 Heuraufen = Hilten = Reuben = hayrack with Sandsteinkrippen = sandstone manger. This hayrack was for cattle and horse stables. The rods or sticks are set close together in the racks so that the animals can only pull out as much as they can chew. That keeps hay from falling on the floor and getting trampled. Pig sties were tightly closed because of the smell, cow and horse stables located in the side aisles of the Niederdeutschen Hallenhauser were relatively open and the door or window to the living quarters were also often left open. The first maid fed the cows, the hired man took care of the horses.

#6 Stosseisen = Steuruisern = masher. The masher is a cross-shaped, very sharp iron and used to cut up turnips and fodder beets, Sometimes these were cooked as well.

#7 Holzkeule = Pumpel = pestle. The pestle was used to mash cooked fodder in the Staanne, = large wooden mortar.

#8 Futterbottich mit verlangerter Griffdaube = Stanne = Fewwerstanne = mortar. These mortars had a very heavy bottoms because they were used to mash the fodder wiith the sharp bladed masher.carry, chopped fodder of beets and turnips to the cattle. It was mixed and shaken into the mangers. The rims above the openings in the basket serve as handles. When milking cows were fed barley groats in the evening, they licked the mangers clean.

#9-&-11 Futterkorbe = Fewwerkorf = willow baskets. These baskets were made to
#10 shallow basket. These were used to carry chicken feed.

#12 Huhnernest = Honnernest = hens' nest. These sheltered the layers. The hens' nest usually hung on a post in the deele, the large work room in the center aisle of the Niederdeutchen Hallenhauser (Dutch/German hall-house)

The illustrations and Karen Gross's captions help us better understand the working lives of impoverished German herdsmen and farmers, conditions that persisted in places like Lippe into the modem era and why the hope of owning a farm with rich soil in the Ne'wWorld, brought so many Germans to the Hudson Valley in 1710. They brought many ideas with them, they left a few at home.

Going back over the illustrations with an eye to what we know of the material culture of the Hudson Valley, I will start with Drawing l74. #1-5. the sickle. This tool originated in the stone age with the development of grain farming. Sickles in the Hudson Valley are associated with grain harvesting. Early examples are of a very light and sophisticated manufacture. The blades are sometimes a foot-and-a-half long.

#6-8. The shollenhake was, no doubt, a tool left behind and forgotten.

#9. The sith was an important tool for harvesting grain in the Hudson Valley. It was brought to The Valley both from Germany and The Netherlands. It remained in use in the Mohawk, Schoharie and Hudson Valleys, in some places, into the first-half of the 19th century. The introduction of the cradle scythe in the 1740's, the most efficient grain harvest hand tool before mechanization, eventually replaced the sith and the sickle.

#10. The mathook. illustrated here, is almost identical to one that has survived on an Ulster County farm. It differs only in the curved slit in the handle. The blade of the sith is inserted into this slit and the two tools are thus connected when carrying them to the field. It is not found on New World examples.

A sith that has survived on this same Hudson Valley farm is almost identical to #9. One difference is the blade. The Lippe example has a thin wide blade that was labor intensive to make and the work of a specialist. These were imported into The Valley from Europe in the 1 7th century. They were considered essential for grain farming. Eventually the blades were made in The Hudson Valley but from what has survived they are relatively narrow and thick.

#11 left. The weisenbeile is a tool not known of in the Hudson Valley.

#11 right The blackberry cutter has a type of blade often found on farms in the Hudson Valley but no specific use is associated with them.

#12 The heather or hay scythe in the illustration has a straight handle and one fixed grip. There are some early American illustrations that show scythes with straight handles but surviving examples have curved handles. This seems to be associated with the design of the American scythe blade where the tang is flush with the blade and the curve of the handle is necessary to make the blade level with the ground. On European blades the tang is angled up allowing for a straight handle. This angle difference is also seen on Old and Ne.w World siths. It seems to be a very distinct difference in the material cultures of The Old and New Worlds that has no clear explanation.

Drawing 106. #1 The pigstie, illustrated here, has a very Germanic one storey timber frame, elements of which can be found in Pennsylvania timber framing, like the long angled braces joined to the sills and plates, This is not found in the Hudson Valley. The building has a dekbalk construction, with the beams resting on the posts rather than ankerbalk or H-bent construction which distinguishes Hudson Valley Dutch timber framing where the beam is mortised through the posts. On the end wall of the pig sty, the curved studs/braces look almost like the English cruck frame. There are also examples of flared posts in the framing of some north German houses and these may account for .the flared posts sometimes found in Schoharie Valley Dutch/Palatine barns.

#2-3. Pig trough, The drawing illustrates the inside of the pig stie. This. arrangement for pigs with a stone trough and flap door was common in the Hudson Valley. The door was opened to fill the trough and closed to keep the pigs out of the human's area of the sty. Its floor plan is similar to those used in the Hudson Valley.

#4-5 The hay rack The drawing illustrates two views of the rack. There are a few surviving examples of racks of this type used for cattle and horses stabled in the side aisles of Hudson Valley Dutch barns and there is evidence of their use in the majority of Dutch barns here. At some point it was thought unhealthy to keep the hay in a rack above the horses head because of dust and they were almost all removed redesigned. I am not familiar with their use in Holland so that this may be a German addition to the material culture of the Hudson Valley.

#6-8 The masher, pestle, and mortar. Aside from the masher with its metal blades, this was a tool well known to the Native Americans of the Hudson Valley who grew corn (maize). The tool was also known to African slaves, but like the white men who owned them, they were new to corn.

#9-11 Willow baskets Baskets in the Hudson valley were made from various materials. The woven winnowing baskets, used to winnow the threshed grain, are similar to these Lippe examples but what fragile things people used in the pioneer years of the settlement in their survival are speculation.

#12 Hens' nest Hall-houses are known, through builders' contracts, to have existed in the Hudson Valley in the early 17th century. If one of these were ever to be attempted here, some huhnernesten in the deele would seem correct.

Karen writes from Breitenheim that she will be sending some information on sharpening sith blades in Old Lippe.

Peter Sinclair, Editor,
West Hurley, Ulster County, NY .

One aspect that is often missing from the histories of Dutchess County are the contributions of black slaves and farm laborers who left little of themselves in the official records. This has been addressed in a brand new book by William P. Mc Dermott, Dutchess County's Plain Folks. Enduring uncertainty, inequality. and uneven prosperity. 1725-1875. (ISBN 0-9754601-0-2) It is a very scholarly and well written account that innumerates and interprets the unsteady and ever changing rural economy of the mid Hudson Valley and the lives of the common people it effected.

One extraordinary life of suffering and success that McDermott has extracted from the scattered record was Elizabeth Flagler Allen (1688-1755). Known as Widow Anna Elizabetha Schultz in 1710 when she arrived here with the 2,000 other homeless Palatine Germans who had survived the trip. In March 1711, living in one of the "camps", Elizabeth remarried a widower of the journey, Zacharias Flagler. In -1715 they purchased 22-aicres of raw land near Poughkeepsie. In 1720 she became a widow again with four Flagler children. By 1724 she was re married to John Allen who evidently had some money and they moved with their children to a larger farm where they established a mill. John died in 1734 but Elizabeth went on to become a successful businesswoman buying up real estate along the Wappenger Creek and fighting a number of court cases to keep it.

The book can be purchased directly from the publisher with a $21.95 check, postage is included. Kerleen Press, 2229 Salt Point Turnpike, Clinton Corners, NY 12514.

February 2005 Newsletter, Part Three

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