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Farm Life

     The Hancock family worked together to survive on the farm. The primary production was their food, feed for their livestock, and any other crop that could be sold, including timber or firewood from the woods, and oysters, crabs, and fish from the pond, Bodkin Creek, and adjacent marshes. Fur bearing animals, particularly muskrats, fox, opossums, and an occasional mink or otter, were trapped during winter months for additional cash.

     Farms in this area after the 1830s were operated as produce farms growing fresh fruits and vegetables for the Baltimore market. The fresh produce was shipped daily during the harvest season, usually on oyster boats that returned during the summer harvest to transport the produce to market. Francis Hancock’s estate inventory had a schooner and smaller sailboats listed; and Francis’s son John Hancock’s estate inventory listed a market boat and sails in 1853.

     Life expectancy was much less than today. Most men did not reach 60 years, if women reached maturity, many did not survive first childbirth. Most families accepted the death of children. The primary goal was completion of the first year, there were frequent deaths of children during their first summer, usually due to “summer complaint”; fever, infection and diseases probably due to lack of proper hygiene. Another milestone was the teen years, the family cemetery and Family Bible list one or more teen deaths for every generation. Most were attributed to infections or various diseases if any cause could be determined. The biological law “survival of the fittest” prevailed at that time. Medical knowledge was limited and available doctors were in the city, not accessible to farm families. Home remedies and parental experience and knowledge were all that was available to most farm families to protect their children.

     The older members of the family often spoke of the grape arbor over the bricks at the kitchen door. Split locust posts with split chestnut rails similar to fence rails placed along the posts to support Concord grape vines. These were grown on most of the surrounding farms for jelly and jams. Many of the neighboring farms regularly made wine. Hancock family members in the 1900s were opposed to alcoholic drinks, with several being members of the “Women’s Christian Temperance League”.