In this chapter, we see Jennie heading out to see her father working at the almshouse. The tradition of the almshouse comes from the United Kingdom. You may recall a reference A Christmas Carol when Scrooge asks solicitors for a charity whether there were no workhouses or poorhouses. These are all similar to each other. For more on almshouses, you may wish to study the history from the UK here.
We also meet James A. Wade, the son of Captain Wade and Mary Kuhn (recall from Chapter 1 that Captain Wade was criminally charged for this affair or forcible encounter). You can find more history on young James here.
Recall from the video posted with Chapter 1 (go to 17 minutes in) that the younger James spent time in almshouse, presumably because Captain Wade and Mary Ann could not afford to keep him. He was then “bonded out” to Samuel Foulk in town. Being bonded out means that the county paid the family of Samuel Foulk to take young James and that James would then “work” for the family and earn his upkeep (not unlike our foster system today, honestly). (You may recall another period piece—Anne of Green Gables. In this case, Anne was adopted, but the principle motivator of the original adoption was the same for both parties originally—the orphanage or almshouse unloaded a mouth to feed, and the family got a farm laborer who, it turns out, wasn’t a boy.) James was seven when he was bonded out to Samuel. Who was Samuel Foulk? Like Charles W. Hoffman, he was a carriage maker in town with a number of businesses.
Samuel owned a property on Baltimore Street, right across the street from where the Wades originally lived before their move to Breckenridge Street. He also owned a sizable farm on the northwest side of town, and it’s likely that James would have started working there as a child before moving into an apprenticeship.
As the 1850 Census records indicate, Samuel and Catherine Foulk had many children. It is highly like that the Foulks and Wades were friendly with each other and that the Foulks sourced some of their business’s tailoring and sewing needs from the Wades. Evidence in later years (and covered in later chapters) will show that James maintained an affectionate relationship with Jennie and with his foster siblings throughout their lives. This was not always the case in bonded-out situations—the system was often rife with abuse, and the children in such care were frequently defenseless.
The action then carries us along to McAllister’s Mill. You can find an excellent history of the family and the mill here. The tour the kids receive from Mr. McAllister briefly touches on the operations of a 19th-century grist mill. This explanatory video gives far more information.