With this bitter cold we’ve been experiencing across the Midwest and East Coast, I couldn’t help but think about what it must have been like for our pioneer ancestors, particularly for those who established residence where no Europeans had lived previously. Consider Samuel Dayton, particularly at Matinecock, or later when constructing his farm house on Dayton’s Neck “at South,” where it is believed Sam was the first European settler in the area.
It was common practice for Puritans to dig out temporary, one-room mud shelters covered with “thatch” for roofs and to live under these conditions until more permanent structures could be built. It seems like this practice of first living in one’s basement was more common when I was a child in the 1960’s, but maybe I just don’t notice them here in the Midwest, where they would be more prone to flooding.
The crude Puritan cellars could not have provided the most favorable conditions against winters during the “little ice age” in America that supposedly lasted into the late 1700’s. Apparently, “Doyton’s sellar” (as it was called in the Oyster Bay Town Record) had been abandoned, the reference indicating that Sam had probably not had sufficient time to prepare a place for his family before the death of his wife Medlin.