The yeoman and the gentleman farmer
There were two types of prosperous farmers in the Thirteen Colonies. The first and larger group were the yeomen, or independent farmers. They were the ones who participated in local political meetings. They were similar to Canadian farmers, but tended to be a little richer because they did not have to pay dues to a seigneur.
The second and smaller group were large landowners. They had come with enough money and the right contacts to acquire large tracts of land. They did not work the land themselves, but hired workers or purchased slaves to farm their large estates.
These gentlemen farmers had lots of free time and led very active social lives. They enhanced the town’s cultural life with parties, balls, theatre plays, etc. Their children were educated in the few colonial colleges and universities (Harvard, Yale, William and Mary) or in English schools. Gentleman farmers formed the political and social elite of the Thirteen Colonies; much like the seigneurs did in New France.
Author: Léon Robichaud
See also – Traces of the past: