See/Change: Seven Miles to Farmington
Create Your Own Adventure
Who are you in the painting?
Inns during this time served a similar purpose to modern day hotels, they offered meals, shelter, and rest to various audiences. An innkeeper, along with his wife, would oversee the maintenance of the inn and its guests, and would be very busy with tasks throughout the day. For example, an innkeeper needs to keep track of who is arriving and leaving, who has paid and who has not, making sure there was enough lighting and heat during the night (houses did not have electricity yet, so this would mean having a supply of firewood, candles, and oil lamps.) Without the innkeeper, the inn would not be able to function.
Dogs were not simply companions and friends during the 1800s, they were workers too! Depending on the breed, dogs could help hunt, herd animals, protect the household, and search for things. While having dogs as just pets was starting to become more mainstream at this time, a farm almost certainly needed dogs to help with the animals. Without a dog to corral animals, to track down prey for dinner, or to protect the farm animals like chickens and hens from predators such as wolves, life at the farm (and in this case, the inn) would be much more difficult.
A farmhand tended to the animals and the farm and required a lot of physical labor. Steering the oxen, cleaning the animals, providing enough food and water for the animals (especially important in the winter when the grass if covered in snow), and likely chopping wood were just some of the roles of a farmhand. Depending on the size of the farm and the number of animals, there could be multiple or many farmhands to work daily on just one farm. Since light was needed to work on the farm, a farmhand’s and farmer’s working hours were usually sunrise to sunset, and some farmers still work the same way today!
There are many people traveling and arriving at the inn, many of them with different purposes. An inn guest could vary from a farmer ushering his cattle and stopping for the night to a newly married couple who are traveling together. Since travel was not nearly as fast in this time period as it is now, it was necessary to stop at inns to give yourself, and whatever animals or people you may be traveling with, a rest for the night. An inn guest would usually just be staying for a short time, and then continue their journey elsewhere a day or two later.
How did you get to the inn?
Traveling by sleigh was a preferred method for travel during the snowy months. While a horse and buggy would usually be used on the roads when there was not snow, a horse drawn sleigh was effective in transporting passengers and cargo during winter. Most inn travelers would have likely traveled by sleigh. The sleighs would have jingling bells to warn people that it was approaching.
Walking long distances in a cold and snowy New England winter was not safe and not practical for most travelers. Those who traveled by foot would either be locals that lived nearby or people who lived inside the inn. A permanent worker at the inn, for example, might have had a house very close and simply walked to the inn.
Traveling over the water was made popular by the construction of canals in the first half of the 1800s along with the use of steamboats. Although canals would soon be replaced by railroads and trains, they were a viable source of transportation and travel while still in use. Someone who traveled by boat would likely have not been a direct local in the area, but could have been from some other part of the state.
While horse-drawn carriages and sleighs were more popular at this point in time, some people, likely individuals, may have traveled on horseback. Inns sometimes acted as stations for horse riders to rest or switch out their horses. Horse riding allowed the horse to move faster as well, as carriage horses usually only moved at a trot due to the extra weight. The speed of horseback riding was probably best shown at the time by the Pony Express, the mail delivery system that relied on many horses and riders.
How are you spending your day?
Chopping wood for the fireplace was an important task to accomplish, especially during the winter. Firewood was essential in keeping the inn, guests, and animals warm. The fires in the kitchen would have been essential for cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the family, farm hands, and guests. While the guests were almost certainly not chopping firewood, a farmhand or maybe even the innkeeper would chop the wood for the inn.
Another important aspect of maintaining the inn and farm was taking care of the animals. Many of the animals such as the horses did not have grass in the winter, and would need to be fed and groomed in order to keep them healthy. Without the animals, the farm could lose valuable food and resources.
Since many visitors to the inn were likely staying for a short period of time, they would likely spend their day traveling to their next destination. Depending on the destination, this travel could take the entire day, or several days. A horse and carriage for instance, the popular mode of transportation at the time, could typically only travel around 5-10 miles per hour. The sign on the tree lets travelers know that the town of Farmington was still seven miles away to help them decide whether to stop at this inn for the night.
While probably very cold outside, a New England winter is very nice to look at and admire. Artists like George Durrie were likely to see the beauty in a winter scene, using his observations to inform his winter paintings. Guests who were not working or traveling would have the leisure time to admire the landscape and surrounding area. Of course, it was probably even more enjoyable during the warm spring and summer, when the trees and plants were lively.
What or who do you see during your day?
If you work at the inn, are eating in the kitchen, or are the innkeeper, you will likely see the cook throughout the day. Most likely the wife or daughter of the innkeeper, the cook was busy all day preparing the meals. The cook had the challenge of making meals at a time of year when fresh vegetables and eggs are not available. Only preserved food (smoked meat or meat packed in salt, etc.) would be available for most meals.
Any traveler is sure to run into other guests at the inn! The many sleighs seen in the painting show that guests seemed to enjoy communicating and interacting with one another, or perhaps even running into friends. The guests are what make the inn lively and exciting, even during the winter months.
Since the inn is part of the surrounding farm, it would be hard to miss the animals if you were a guest or worker. Even when not farming, animals like the dogs and horses were still outside and active, helping keep the inn running smoothly for the guests. Imagine the sounds of the neighing horses or barking dogs.
Farmington is only seven miles away! The inn is sure to get guests and visitors from the town and houses nearby, who likely interact with the guests from far away as well. Even at this time period, seven miles was a relatively close trip in decent weather, which would make visiting the town convenient and fun for guests at the inn.