Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Oct 16

Farming Them Out: Apprenticeships/Indentured Servitude in Greene County

Posted on October 16, 2015 at 1:04 PM by Elise Kelly

 Today we think of apprenticeship programs as opportunities to learn valuable skills in innovative trades and professions. Individuals are paid and are trained on the job and in the classroom. We also think of traditional crafts and skills that are passed on through generations of families. sfs
"Apprentice" reproduction of painting by Emile Adan via Library of Congress

What preceded our modern concept of apprenticeships was a strict binding to one's master until one's term was completed. If individuals ran away they could be captured and returned to their master. Found in our early deed records, are citations of orphaned children being "farmed out" to serve their "master" till they turned twenty-one.

These children were dependent on their master for food, clothing, and shelter. In 1809, Andrew Reed, Bath Township's first Justice of the Peace (1807) and the guardian of the recently orphaned children -  Moses and Aaron Mercer, decided to "bind" Moses and Aaron to Samuel Casad of Bath Township.

Let's examine what Casad expected from the boys.


                                   Deed Record Vol. 2, Pg. 41

"...they shall keep their sd. [said] masters secrets and obey his lawful commands[,] they shall do no dammage [damage] to their master nor see it done by others with out giving notice to their sd. [said] master..."

                                   Deed Record Vol. 2, Pg. 41
"... they shall not waste their master goods nor lend them unlawfully to any[,] they shall not commit fornication nor contract matrimony during the sd. [said] term at cards or any other unlawful game..."

                                     Deed Record Vol. 2, Pg. 41
".... they shall not play to the damage of their sd. [said] master or others[,] they shall not absent themselves without leave nor haunt tavern but in all things behave themselves as faithful apprentices during said time..."

What did the Master Provide?
Deed Record Vol. 2, Pg. 41
" [said] master Shall Provide for them sufficient meet [meat][,] drink[,] apparel[,] lodging and washing[,] fitting for apprentice during sd.[said] term and to learn them to read[,] write and cypher so as to include the rule of three..."

"Boyd Jones doing his arithmetic lesson..." by Jack Delano, 1941 via Library of Congress
 Using the rule of three - A is to B as C is to D (need to find what D is), children learned to  solve arithmetic problems. An example of a problem could have been, "if 4 yards of cloth cost 12 pennies, what will six yards cost at that rate?"

At the End of Service, What was Guaranteed?

                                     Deed Record Vol. 2, Pg. 41

" the expiration of the sd. [said] term to give them besides their necessary wearing apperrell [apparel][,] a fine suite [suit] of cloaths [clothes] each and a horse saddle and bridle with fifty dollars to each apprentice..."

It seems to be a pretty good deal, considering the boys will learn and acquire skills in a trade; are provided with shelter, food and clothing; and are given additional items at the end of their service. However, the work was labor-intensive and involved long hours. These children did not have a childhood - they were sent to work.

The deed record does not indicate the trade that Moses and Aaron would be learning. But in the following deed, which involves their older brother, Robert, it does reveal what work he would be studying/ performing.

Robert who was bound to James Johnston, also of Bath Township, was expected to learn the "trade and mistery [mystery]" of his master, which included... farming and delivery services. OK, so it's not learning a mysterious tradition like alchemy, but these were essential vocations, especially during this time period.

"The Alchemist" by William Fettes Douglas via Wikimedia Commons

                               Deed Record Vol. 2, Pg. 42
"....Farmer and Courier to learn his trade or mistery [mystery] and after the manner of an apprentice to serve him from the date here."

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: What patriot of the American Revolution served as a silversmith apprentice?
Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: When was Electronic Records Day implemented? - 2011


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