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The Journal of John Harrower

John Harrower was a Scottish merchant who, after failing to find profitable work in Scotland or England, set out in 1774 for the American colonies as an indentured servant. Upon his arrival in Virginia, Harrower’s four-year indenture contract was sold to Colonel William Daingerfield. Harrower went to live at Belvidera, Daingerfield’s plantation in Fredericksburg, where he served as tutor to the Colonel’s children and the children of other local planters. He kept a journal of his life at Belvidera, providing insight into the daily activities of an eighteenth-century plantation. Harrower sent letters to his wife in Scotland which he also copied into his journal. In the following excerpts from these letters, Harrower describes the meals he shared with the Daingerfield family and also alludes to some of the political events taking place in the colonies at the time.


"Belvidera 14th. June 1774.

". . . As to my living I eat at their own table, & our witualls are all Dressed in the english taste. We have for breackfast either Coffie or [Chocolate], and warm loaf bread of the best floor, we have also at Table warm loaf bread of Indian corn, which is extreamly good but we use the floor bread always at breackfast. For Dinner smoack'd bacon or what we cal pork ham is a standing dish either warm or cold. When warm we have greens with it, and when cold we have sparrow grass. We have also either warm roast pigg, Lamb, Ducks, or chickens, green pease or any thing else they fancy. As for Tea there is none drunk by any in this Government since 1st. June last, nor will they buy a 2d. worth of any kind of east India goods, which is owing to the difference at present betwixt the Parliament of great Brittan and the North Americans about laying a tax on the tea; and I'm afraid if the Parliament do not give it over it will cause a total revolt as all the North Americans are determined to stand by one another, and resolute on it that they will not submit."

"Belvidera 6th. Decr. 1774.

". . . Know that I have not drunk a dish of Tea this six Mos. past, nor have I drunk a dram of plain spirits this seven Mos. past, nor have I tasted broth or any kind of supping mate for the above time unless three or four times some soup; Notwithstanding I want for nothing that I cou'd desire, and am only affraid of getting fatt, tho we seldom eat here but twice a day. For Breackfast we have always Coffie with plenty of warm loaf bread and fine butter. At 12 oClock when I leave School, I have as much good rum toddie as I chuse to drink, and for Dinner we have plenty of roast & boyld and good strong beer, but seldom eat any supper."


Source: John Harrower, The Journal of John Harrower, ed. Edward Miles Riley. Williamsburg, Va: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1963. pp. 56, 73.


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