May 04 2015

‘Frolics’ on the Case Farm


original Case homeChances are if you lived in Hunterdon County in the late 1700s, you would have attended several “frolics” a year. Frolics were a social custom at that time. The basic premise was if your neighbor helped you with a project on your farm, you fed him a good meal and at a later date returned the favor.

Thanks to letters written by the Capner family and preserved in the Hunterdon County Historical Society archives, we know something about frolics held on the Case-Dvoor Farm in the 1780s. The Case family held a number of frolics at that time, which were written about by Ann Capner. The Capner family lived just east of Mine Brook next to the Cases.

For instance, in August of 1787, the Cases hosted a plowing frolic attended by the Capners and other neighbors, perhaps in preparation for sowing winter wheat. Ann recounted the day [spelling below is sic]:

Neighbor Kase had a plowing frolick the second they have had this year they invited most of their neighbors round 9 teams I believe attended. I likewise was invited to assist Mr. K with one of her sisters-in-law who was invited to a sowing frolic . . . About 5 o’clock we had tea to which we had custard rice pudding bread butter and chess. after tea they began to prepare for another baking pudding and custard was prepared by one [and] the meat by another. nursing came to my share to which I gave preference. the mutton was washed clean put in dishes and plentifully pepper and sale out of the mutton. There was apple sause, onion sause and potatoes to eat. The plowmen came home about dusk those that came fist seated themselves down without waiting for the others. Margaret Kase waited on them with a short pipe stuck in her mouth. as they had done their suppers they took their horses and went home. when they had all done dishes was washed the house swept all things put in place I came home.

In 1788, the Case family held at least three frolics, beginning in January with a dancing frolic held by Philip Cases’s mother, Rachel White. She evidently lived in a house adjoining that of her son Philip. (This would have been the first stone house, built on the east side of the Mine Brook that was demolished in the 1850s.) The dancing frolic was held to “smooth” Rachel’s new wooden floors. When the Capners arrived at the evening party, Mary Capner wrote, “there was two fiddlers [sic] one played while the other mended his fiddle.”

In May, the Cases held a “raising frolic,” presumably to construct a building on the farm, and again served supper to the workers. A few months later, a quilting frolic was held, which proved so popular that most of the activity took place outside.

Ann Capner relates:

Three weeks since Mrs. Case had a quilting frolick [sic.]. I and a few others whent [sic] in the morning to fix the quilt in the frame and card the tow which was bleached for that purpose. The rest was invited for the afternoon, when the quilt was in the frame at Mrs. Wight’s [Rachel White]. We went down to Mrs. Case’s for dinner. Before we had done the people came flocking over the fields and along the road from all quarters. Mrs. Wight’s room was soon full and I suppose a dozen sat with sewing under two large walnut trees by the house door. Mrs. Case had her rooms soon crowded. Mrs. Case says she had a great deal of sewing done besides the quilt . . . The table was set opposite Mrs. Case’s door, which stands open to the public road. There were pies, puddings, custards, cheese and I don’t know what besides. The Flemington ladies were there. Mrs. Adkinson came in a chair [a one-horse carriage]. The rest all walked.

We’re very fortunate the Capner family preserved these letters, and they wound up in the county archives. It offers a charming and intriguing picture of life on the Case Farm just a few years after the end of the American Revolution.


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