| America First|
|by Lawton B. Evans|
|Collection of one hundred action-packed stories, covering the range of American history, from the first visit of Leif the Lucky to the exploits of Sergeant York in World War I. In relating the long, thrilling story of the trials and triumphs of the pioneers and patriots, the author aims to gratify the love of children for the dramatic and picturesque, to satisfy them with stories that are true, and to make them familiar with the great characters in the history of their own country. Ages 8-12 |
SUNDAY IN THE COLONIES
 ALL the Colonists were strict in the observance of worship. Sunday was a severe day, and everybody had to be on
his best behavior. The first building used for church purposes was the fort, to which every one marched in a
body, the men fully armed to protect the congregation from the Indians. Before the fort was finished, the
people worshiped under trees, or in tents, or anywhere they could find a place. Many of the earliest
meeting-houses were log huts, with mud between the cracks, and with thatched roofs.
These early churches had oiled paper in the windows. When glass was brought over, it was set in by nails, for
there was no putty. Neither was there any paint, so the outside of every house was left to turn gray with the
weather, or to become moss-covered from the dampness of the grove in which it were usually placed.
Rewards were paid for the killing of wolves, and any one who brought a wolf's head, nailed it to the outside
wall of the church, and wrote his name under it. You can imagine what a grim sight the bloody trophies made.
All sorts of notices were posted on the church doors, so that everybody
 might see them—announcements of town meetings, of proposed marriages, of cattle sales, of rules against
trading with the Indians; in fact the church door took the place of the newspaper of to-day for spreading the
news. It was the only means of advertisement.
In front of the church stood a row of hitching-posts and stepping stones, for nearly everybody rode to
meeting. On the green, in front or to one side, were often placed the pillory, stock, and whipping-post.
There were many ways of calling the people to church, such as beating a drum, ringing a bell, or blowing a
shell. Many of the churches had a drummer, who went up and down the streets, or else stood in the belfry and
drummed. After the signal was given, a man went the rounds of the village, and looked in all the houses, to
see that everybody who was able had gone to church. Woe betide the man who was late, or the boy who had
skipped away to the woods!
The inside of a Colonial church was simple enough. Overhead, the rafters usually opened to the thatch or
clapboard roof; the floors were of earth, or rough boards; and the pews or benches had straight backs and were
hard. The pulpit was usually a high desk, reached by a staircase or
 ladder, with a sounding board over it. There was no heat in these early churches, for a heating stove was
unknown. The chill of the building,—dark and closed all the week, and damp from the shadowed
grove,—was hard for every one to stand. To keep from suffering during the long service, the women put
their feet in bags, made of fur and filled with wool. Dogs were allowed so that their masters might put their
feet under them. In fact, churches appointed dog whippers to control the dogs or to drive them out if they
became noisy and unbearable. Some of the women and children had foot stoves, which were little metal boxes on
legs, with small holes in the top and sides, and with hot coals inside.
The services were very long, no matter how cold it was. The snow might be falling and the wind blowing, but
the people had to wrap up in their furs, snuggle down in the benches, and listen to a sermon two or three
hours long. Sometimes a single prayer lasted an hour, while the people knelt on the bare floor. When a church
was dedicated, the sermon generally lasted three or four hours. We might well wonder what the preacher could
find to say, that it took so long a time to say it!
There was a tithing-man, whose duty it was to
 maintain order, and also to keep everybody awake. The men sat on one side of the church, the women sat on the
other, while the boys and girls were made to sit near the pulpit. Up in the loft were places for the negroes
and the Indians. The tithing-man kept close watch for sleepers. He had a long stick, with a rabbit's foot on
one end and a rabbit's tail on the other. If a man nodded, or a boy made a noise, the tithing-man struck him a
sharp blow on the head. If an old lady closed her eyes, the tithing-man gently tickled her nose with the
rabbit's tail. He was generally kept pretty busy toward the end of a long sermon!
During the noon intermission, in the winter time, the half frozen congregation went to the nearest house or
tavern to get warm, and to eat a simple Sunday meal. In summertime, they sat on the green and talked in low,
solemn tones. After two hours' intermission, the congregation assembled again, and the dreary service was
resumed. The singing was very doleful. There were few books, so the deacon or leader gave out the hymn, a line
or two at a time. Often, the singing of these psalms or hymns lasted a half-hour, during which the people
stood. Altogether, we can easily see that a Sunday service, morning and afternoon, would last seven hours.
 In all the Colonies, Sunday was strictly observed. Any unseemly conduct was punished by whipping or by fire.
It was forbidden to fish, shoot, sail, row a boat, or do any kind of work on that day. Horses were used only
to drive or ride to church. There was little or no cooking, but everybody ate cold food on the Lord's Day. No
one was allowed to use tobacco near any meeting-house. The Sabbath began at sunset, on Saturday, and lasted
until sunset, on Sunday.
After the Colonists grew better off, they built larger and better churches, sometimes of stone, or brick, and
often beautiful in their stately architecture. Many of these churches are preserved at the present day, with
their high pulpits, and their big, stiff back benches, or box pews, for the whole family. In all of them,
however, the same severity of worship was observed, for it was thought thereby to make a God-fearing and
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