The home life of colonial New England was unique. Its like has appeared nowhere else in human history. Mostwise it was beautiful as well. In it religion was central and supreme. The General Court of Plymouth very early passed the following order: "Noe dwelling-howse shal be builte above halfe a myle from the meeting-howse in any newe plantacion without leave from the Court, except mylle-howses and ffermehowses." In laying out a village the meeting-house, as the hub to which everything was to be referred, was located first of all. The minister's lot commonly adjoined. Then a sufficiency of land was parcelled off to each freeholder whereon to erect his dwelling. Massachusetts from the first, and Plymouth beginning somewhat later, also made eminent provision for schools--all in the interest of religion.
The earliest residences were necessarily of logs, shaped and fitted more or less rudely according to the skill of the builder or the time and means at his disposal. There was usually one large room below, which served as kitchen, dining-room, sitting-room, and parlor, and on the same floor with this one or two lodging-rooms. An unfinished attic constituted the dormitory for the rising generation. A huge Stone chimney, terminating below in a still more capacious fireplace, that would admit logs from four to eight feet in length, conveyed away the smoke, and with it much of the heat. This involved no loss, as wood was a drug. Communicating with the chimney was the great stone baking-oven, whence came the bouncing loaves of corn-bread, duly "brown," the rich-colored "pompion" pies, and the loin of venison, beef, or pork.
Over these bounties--and such they were heartily esteemed, however meagre--often as the family drew around the table, its head offered thanks to the heavenly Giver. Each morning, after they had eaten, he read a goodly portion of God's Word, never less than a chapter, and then, not kneeling but standing, led his household in reverent and believing prayer for protection, guidance, stimulus in good, and for every needed grace. What purity, what love of rectitude, what strength of will did not the builders of America carry forth from that family altar! He who would understand the richest side and the deepest moving forces of our national life and development must not overlook those New England fireside scenes.