History and Research
At the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, we strive to present a typical Pennsylvania farm from the period 1760-1790. To accomplish this, we rely on primary documents detailing both the history of our particular site but also similar farms in southeastern Pennsylvania. Although we do not interpret our farm as the "Pratt Farm," we have been able to use the actual records of our site to shape how we interpret colonial farm life.
Wills and Testaments
Wills are valuable to historians to document many things, including property boundaries, family members, some biographical information about the people of the time, and more.
The Will of Joseph Pratt I
The Will of Joseph Pratt II
The Will of Joseph Pratt III
Estate inventories are essential to understanding the importance of objects, whether decorative, agricultural, or sentimental, to the people we study.
Estate Inventory of Joseph Pratt I
Estate Inventory of Joseph Pratt II
Estate Inventory of Joseph Pratt III
Enslavement and Labor Records
Many large farms in Pennsylvania used forced labor and bonded labor, though it was less prevalent in Pennsylvania (primarily due to the wheat-based economy, which required less year-round labor than southern cotton and tobacco plantations.) Pennsylvania farmers shifted through the 18th century from using indentured servants to enslaved individuals, and often both at the same time. While indentured servants were typically bound for 4-7 years, an enslaved man or woman could never achieve freedom except by being manumitted or by escape. Though Pennsylvania was founded in 1682, it wasn't until 1780 that the colony officially abolished slavery by "gradual emancipation." Gradual emancipation contained many loopholes that allowed slavery to continue in specific ways--by 1790 there were still 3,737 enslaved men and women in Pennsylvania. It wasn't until 1847 that slavery became officially illegal in the state.
CLICK HERE to view the manumission record of Susannah Cuff, who was enslaved by Joseph Pratt II until 1775.
Diaries give us a glimpse into the daily lives of the people we study. Things such as weather, crop yields, interactions with neighbors and more can be found in diaries of the time period.
Diary of Benjamin Hawley, Chester County farmer, January 1775
Diary of Benjamin Hawley, Chester County farmer, February 1775
Diary of Benjamin Hawley, Chester County farmer, March 1775
Diary of Benjamin Hawley, Chester County farmer, April 1775
Are your students studying primary documents? Here are a few activity worksheets for understanding what wills and estate inventories tell us about historical people.
Questions for Analyzing the Will and Inventory of Joseph Pratt I
Questions for Analyzing the Will and Inventory of Joseph Pratt II
Questions for Analyzing the Will and Inventory of Joseph Pratt III
TEACHERS: Answer keys are available to the question sheets listed above. Just email us at email@example.com and we'll send them to you!