My 4th great-grandfather, Ebenezer Hunt, passed away on 11 May 1814 in Byram, Sussex County, New Jersey. He didn’t leave a will but there is an inventory of his estate. The inventory occurred on 28 May 1814 and was preformed by James Conn and Samuel Wright. The total value of the inventory was $431.89 which translates to about $4,938 in today’s dollars. Not bad for just Ebenezer’s personal property. He owned some real estate but I will put that discussion in a later post following how the acreage moved from family member to family member.
Let’s look at all of the items listed in this inventory to see what insights can be gained about what Ebenezer’s life was like. Spelling is as I found it. Brackets/italics are my corrected spelling or explanations.
Livestock – $177.72 (41.1% of total inventory)
- One Mare $50.00
- One Hores $30.00 [horse]
- One red cow $20.00
- One pide cow $20.00 [pied or piebald is a color pattern spotting pattern of large unpigmented, usually white, and normally pigmented patches, generally black]
- One brindle cow $16.00 [brindle is a color pattern of intermingled colors which are more marbled or streaked than roan]
- Two yearling heffers $12.00 [heifer: a young female cow that has not borne a calf]
- Two hogs $9.00
- Three ewes & three lambs $9.00
- One two-year old heffer $6.00 [heifer]
- Two spring calves $3.25
- Wool $2.50
Farm Crops – $44.35 (10.3% of total inventory)
- Five acres of rye $12.00
- Two acres of rye & one of wheat $11.00
- Coal wood $10.00
- Fifty apple trees $6.25
- Half an acre of wheat $3.50
- One Behive & barrel kegg and Vinegar $1.60 [beehive, keg]
Farm Equipment – $21.65 (5% of total inventory)
- One sythe & craddle saddle & yarn $6.50 [scythe]
- One plow & harrow & cutting box $4.00 [harrow: implement consisting of many spikes, tines or discs dragged across the soil]
- shovle & tongs & tramels & crowbar $4.00 [shovel, trammel could be two things: (1) a device, sometimes of leather, more usually of rope, fitted to a horse’s legs, to regulate his motions, and force him to amble or (2) a fireplace hanger for pots, kettles, etc.]
- three axes $2.75
- one cross cut saw $2.50 [a saw with a handle at each end, used by two people for cutting across the grain of timber]
- forks shovle hoes & rake $1.50 [shovel]
- one wheelbarrow $0.40
Wagon and wagon making items – 81.35 (18.8% of total inventory)
- Two waggons half finished $30.00 [wagons]
- One waggon & flax brake $20.50 [wagon, flax break: used to break the inner core or boon of the flax plant into pieces that would readily drop away from the fibers]
- one set of harness & slead $8.00 [sled: a wooden device dragged along the ground, usually behind oxen or horses, and used to move just about anything, crops, rocks, firewood, poles, etc.]
- one lot of tools & one [?] $5.25
- one lot of waggon timber $3.50
- one pair [?] & slead $3.50
- One lot of poplar boards $2.00
- Eight planks $2.00
- Lot of lumber & boging hoe $1.90 [bogging hoe: used to turn soil]
- one lot of old iron and one keg $1.75
- Maple scantling & wash tub $1.55 [scantling: a piece of lumber of small cross section]
- one turning lathe $1.00
- Three maple plank curld $0.40 [curled]
Foodstuff – $6.61 (1% of total inventory)
- one barel of fish $5.00 [barrel]
- one bu potatoes & nine gords $1.61 [bu is bushel, gourds]
Furniture – 53.81 (12.4% of total inventory)
- One bed & bedding stead curtains & lot of yarn $20.00
- One bed & bedding & stead $13.00
- closeline & pail bedstead bed & bedding $7.00
- Bedstead bed and bedding $6.00
- one pair dressers $3.00
- seven chairs & flax wheel & reel $2.25
- one lot queensware books and bookcase $1.75 [Queen’s ware]
- one lot of chest bords $0.55 [boards]
- one cradle & 1 table $0.26
Household – $46.37 (10.7% of total inventory)
- three kettles pan griddiron & griddle $5.50
- one flax wheel $3.50
- one grind stone 2 grass sythes $3.00 [scythes]
- One cupboard $3.00
- One table & knives & forks $3.00
- Perotel [?] & spoons $3.00
- one tub of soap 7 milk pots $2.70
- one pail 1 jar 1 wheel $2.29
- a lot of guns & barrels $2.00
- two pots $2.00
- one lot of tin & one of Tea ware $1.60
- three baskets a craddle and flax & cards $1.50
- one kegg 1 drum 1 fat tub $1.25 [keg]
- one table & Lookingglass & candlestick $1.25
- one pot & kettle & smoothing stones $1.25
- Hemp flax & ton 1 hogshead $1.25
- one lot of eathern ware & glasses $1.15
- Half bu & pail $1.00
- one dough trough $1.00
- Gum & flaxseed $0.75
- two barrels & guns & box $0.75
- Four bags $0.75
- Candle Box & candles quart & pitcher $0.73
- Two pots & box with ton & one with yarn $0.72
- Two baskets & [?] pot $0.50
- one box tobacco $0.50
- Butter bowl laddle & tray $0.30 [ladle]
- Three candlesticks & lanthorn $0.13 [lantern]
The livestock, farm equipment, and farm crops indicated that Ebenezer made his living mainly as a farmer. The mare was his most valuable single possession at $50. Besides working the farm alongside the other horse listed, the ability for Ebenezer to breed the mare made her important. The three cows have a combined value of $56 and he was obviously using them for breeding purposes as evidenced by the two yearling heifers, the 2-year-old heifer, and the two spring calves. Ebenezer wasn’t limited to cows and horses, he also owned hogs and sheep. All in all, at the time of his death, he had 18 animals that could produce items like milk (and therefore butter), wool, bacon, ham, mutton, and beef.
His larger farm equipment includes a wagon, a plow, a harrow, sleds, and a bogging hoe. Smaller implements include shovels, rakes, hoes, forks, a crowbar, a wheelbarrow, scythes, and axes.
The crops Ebenezer was growing at the time of his death included seven acres of rye, one and a half acres of wheat, and apples. The apples would have been very important food source during the winter since they do very well in cold storage. I would speculate that he also grew flax since there is a flax break, hemp flax, cards, a reel, and a flax wheel listed in the inventory.
I believe Ebenezer was also a skilled wagon maker. He had one finished wagon which was probably used in the day-to-day operations of his farm. In the inventory were two half-finished wagons worth $30, a lot of wagon timber, maple scantling, poplar boards, planks, a cutting box, a turning lathe, and tools. He most likely used the cross cut saw to harvest the timber on his farm to cut into boards and planks for making wagons and furniture. Timber growing on his farm would have included maple, poplar, oak, walnut, cedar, and spruce.
I would also speculate that his wife, Elizabeth, tended a small vegetable garden that she used to supplement the family’s diet. A bushel of potatoes and nine gourds (both also being cold storage hardy) were listed in the inventory. The vegetables would have been used in cooking along with the barrel of fish that was listed. I know, I know, the fish weren’t grown in the garden but were most likely caught fresh, cured, salted and packed in the barrel for use later.
Another important item that should be noted was the beehive. It served a number of different functions. Foremost, the bees living in it would have been essential to the pollination of the apple blossoms, insuring a good harvest of apples for Ebenezer and his family. The hive itself would have provided honey for consumption and use as a sweetener. The wax from the honeycombs would have been used to make candles. Listed in the inventory were a candle box, four candlesticks, and candles.
Turning to look from the outside of Ebenezer’s farm to the inside of his house shows that he was fairly well off. The family had four beds in the house along with the accompaning bedding. The bed curtains were important in the winter to keep whoever was sleeping in the bed snug and protected from drafts blowing through the house. In the summer, the curtains kept the bugs to a minimum. There was a dresser, a book case and a cradle also listed. The bookcase and books would imply that someone in the house could read and write. They also had a table and seven chairs.
Wife Elizabeth would have used the cooking equipment which included three kettles, a pan, a gridiron (used to broil meat), a griddle, two pots, a butter bowl, a drum, a fat tub, a pot, another kettle (most likely a tea kettle), two more pots, a ladle, and a dough trough. Cooking back then was an all day affair. Cast irons stoves had yet to be invented so the fireplace served as both a heat source and a cooking area. The fire had to be stoked, prodded and tended, the firewood cut and brought in to the house, the meals prepared and hung over the fire to cook. Additionally, the water for cooking had to be toted into the house from wherever the nearest water source was. It would have been unbelievably hot in the summer and always, no matter what the season, hard work.
Some items in the inventory indicate the higher status of the Hunt family. Ebenezer owned two sets of dishes. One fancy set, the Queen’s Ware, and one for everyday use, the earthen ware and glasses. One lot of tin and one lot of tea ware were also in the household. Tea was the standard drink back then, unlike the popularity of coffee in today’s time. Another telling item was the looking glass. This is an item that not every household would be able to afford. As mentioned before, there were bed curtains which is the mark of a wealthier family.
Based on the inventory of his personal property, it would seem that Ebenezer lead a somewhat comfortable life as a hard-working farmer with enough carpentry skills to supplement his income as a wagon maker. It was worth the effort to transcribe and translate the old handwriting to get a feel for Ebenezer’s farm and household.
 New Jersey Department of State, estate inventory 1424S (1814), Ebenezer Hunt; New Jersey State Archives, Trenton.