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Historical Materials

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Salt Marsh Hay / English Hay

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From the days of the earliest English settlements on Cape Ann through Fitz Henry Lane’s lifetime, subsistence farmers harvested hay during the summer and autumn months and stored it away to feed livestock during the winter. They also sold it to others in the community for cash or bartered it for other goods and services. Two types of hay were harvested: English hay, meaning hay that was cultivated, and salt marsh hay which was cut from tidal areas where it grew naturally. Many farmers dealt in both. Hay was transported either in wagons drawn by horses or oxen, or by gundalows, flat bottom work boats which could easily maneuver in shallow marsh areas. One example of a family who engaged in haying was the Ellerys who lived at Gloucester’s old Town Green. An account book which Benjamin Ellery (1744–1825) kept is preserved in the archives of the Cape Ann Museum. It reveals that Ellery dealt in both cultivated and natural hay as well as other commodities. He also owned a gundilow, oxen and wagons, all of which he used for his own purposes and made available to others on a barter basis. The practice of haying died out on Cape Ann as automobiles and trucks came into use during the first quarter of the twentieth century and livestock disappeared from the area.

– Martha Oaks (April, 2015)

Related tables: Annisquam River »  //  Gundalow / Scow »  //  Town / Public Landings »  //  White-Ellery House »

Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester
Fitz Henry Lane
Oil on canvas
22 x 36 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Roger W. Babson, 1937 (779.02)

Detail showing a flat-bottomed gundalow loaded with marsh hay and being propelled by men with long sweeps.

Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. (accessed September 26, 2023).
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