Or What in the World Were the Garretsons Doing December 7th 1788?
The history books said James Garretson and Benjamin Ogle were down in The Bottom “stacking” hay when they were attacked by Indians. This made me curious, because as a former farmer’s wife, I know that hay is cut and baled in the hot summer months–not December. (You don’t even want to know how hot a hay loft is in July.)
I learned that in the olden days, farmers stacked or “stooked” their hay into big cone-shaped structures right out in the hay field where they stayed until needed. This is much like the way modern farmers handle the big round hay bales today. (The Heal farmers did only “square” bales.)
The short answer is that James and Benjamin were bringing one such haystack into the fort for their livestock when they were attacked.
An internet search led me to Henry and Kathleen Woods’ very cool site which has excellent photographs of the whole process. They were able to photograph Romanian farmers who still make hay the same way early Americans did. It’s a lot of hard work, both to build the haystack and then to take it down and transport it by wagon to the animals.
Here’s what a completed haystack looked like along with some of the haymakers’ tools of the trade. The haystack has to be made properly or the hay will rot and be worse than useless as feed.
In the summer, the hay would have been cut with a scythe. Then it must be allowed to dry before it can be made into a “stook.” This might require raking and turning the hay several times to ensure thorough drying.
Notice the pole in the picture above. It’s used to stabilize the haystack. The poles below will form the centers of a whole row of haystacks.
The dried hay is forked into a pile around the pole. The woman is tromping it down to compact it.
When the stack is completed, the hay is “combed” to make the exterior of the pile as water resistant as possible, much like an old fashioned thatched roof.
James Garretson and Benjamin Ogle were transporting one of these hay stacks back to the Garrison Blockhouse Fort when they were attacked by Indians. Here’s what the wagon may have looked like that day in 1788.
The men are levering a haystack onto a wagon. It must be expertly done to keep the hay from falling off. They know how to fold the hay just so to keep it together.
They keep the hay in place by having someone ride on top (This is what James Garretson was probably doing.) and by weighing it all down with wooden beams. The Romanians also use a chain around the wagon, but I’m not sure if early Americans did or not. Here, the workers are just about set to take the hay up to the barn for the livestock.
For other cool photos of general old fashioned way farming method go HERE.
All photos courtesy of Kathleen Woods. Purchase Henry and Kathleen’s book The Color of Hay to enjoy their whole photographic journey through Europe.
It would be so nice of you to share!