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MO Bicentennial Minutes: Property in John Whittenburgh’s Estate Inventory – Part 2

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Images, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Top, left: cooper’s adz; center: broadax; right: mattock. Bottom, left: use of a scythe and cradle; left center: Dutch scythes; right center: froe or frow; right: auger and gimlet.

We continue our look at unfamiliar items in the estate of John Whittenburgh. An enslaved man probably made barrels at the farm, because a barrel auger, or drill, drawing knife, and cooper’s adz were in the estate. The latter was a short-handled tool with a sharply curved back tipped with a cutting blade and rectangular front. It was used to cut a bevel, called the chime, on the inside top of the assembled barrel staves. The short handle allowed work inside the barrel. Workers used a mattock to chop in soil or to remove roots and small trees. A grubbing hoe had similar use in chopping out small trees and their roots.

Broad axes were for squaring up logs. One face was straight, allowing cutting a straight surface between a series of perpendicular cuts in the log. An auger and gimlet drilled small holes without splitting wood, and consisted of a worm or screw on the drilling end, with a cross handle at the other end.

Farming tools included a fan and screen, used to separate grain from chaff. Harvesters used a curve-handled scythe and cradle to cut and hold wheat, flax, and other crops for binding clumps to dry. A Dutch scythe was similar, but had a straight or short handle and blade for cutting only.

A froe cleaves wood by splitting it along the grain, often to produce shingles. The Whittenburgh household likely produced corn whiskey or other distilled spirits, because a still, cap, flake stand, and brass cock were inventoried.

Finally, a yoke (or pair) of oxen were the tractors of the day. The animals and the harnessing gear were all in the estate inventory.

Bill Eddleman was born in Cape Girardeau, and is an 8th-generation Cape Countian. His first Missouri ancestor came to the state in 1802. He attended SEMO for two years before transferring to the University of Missouri to study Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. He stayed at Mizzou to earn a master of science in Fisheries and Wildlife, and continued studies in Wildlife Ecology at Oklahoma State University.
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