Correspondence 1654-1658

Education and Child-Life,
page 6 of 17

The conveyance was so low that a fall was attended with little danger, yet with much disgrace, for an universal laugh from all sides assailed the fallen charioteer. This laugh was from a very full chorus, for the constant and rapid succession of this procession, where every one had a brother, lover, or kinsman, brought all the young people in town to the porticos, where they used to sit wrapt in furs till ten or eleven at night, engrossed by this delectable spectacle. I have known an Albanian, after residing some years in Britain, and becoming a polished fine gentleman, join the sport and slide down with the rest.”

Mrs. Grant tells of another interesting and unusual custom of the children of Albany:

“The children of the town were divided into companies, as they called them, from five to six years of age, until they became marriageable. How those companies first originated, or what were their exact regulations, I cannot say; though I, belonging to none, occasionally mixed with several, yet always as a stranger, notwithstanding that I spoke their current language fluently. Every company contained as many boys as girls. But I do not know that there was any limited number; only this I recollect, that a boy and girl of each company, who were older, cleverer, or had some other preeminence among the rest were called heads of the company, and as such were obeyed by the others .... Children of different ages in the same family belonged to different companies. Each company at a certain time of the year went in a body to gather a particular kind of berries to the hill. It was a sort of annual festival attended with religious punctuality. Every company had a uniform for this purpose; that is to say, very pretty light baskets made by the Indians, with lids and handles, which hung over one arm, and were adorned with various colors. Every child was permitted to entertain the whole company on its birthday, and once besides, during winter and spring. The master and mistress of the family always were bound to go from home on these occasions, while some old domestic was left to attend and watch over them, with an ample provision of tea, chocolate, preserved and dried fruits, nuts and cakes of various kinds, to which was added cider or a syllabub; for these young friends met at four and amused themselves with the utmost gayety and freedom in any way their fancy dictated.”

From all the hints and facts which I have obtained, through letters, diaries, church and court records, of child-life in any of the colonies or provinces among English, German, Swedish, or Dutch settlers, I am sure these Albany young folk were the most favored of their time. I find no signs of such freedom in any other town.


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