The Poltis Family

A hammer striking hot iron on an anvil.
A living historian demonstrates blacksmith techniques.

NPS/Tim Ervin

Martin Poltis’s name appears in a 1772 inventory, where he is described as a servant, with 1 ½ years to serve and a value of 12 pounds. He was a blacksmith and a regular subject of comment in the marginal notes of the company timebook in 1774-75. There the clerk notes that he ‘began to work’ in 1774, apparently as a free man. Poltis was frequently noted as being drunk and sick the next day, and he ran away on one occasion. His skill and importance to the work of the furnace probably gave him permission to show more personality than would have been tolerated from others. He worked back and forth between the furnace and Captain Ridgely’s ‘home house’ for the next year.

Martin Poltis married during this time, and his accounts list more food and less rum and whiskey. In 1786, a ‘List of Hirelings’ notes his four young children, one of whom worked alongside his father by 1791, earning 20 shillings a month to supplement his father’s 50 shillings, along with his own rations of bacon and corn. This supplemental income lasted well into the seventeen nineties. By 1793 Mrs. Poltis was spinning and sewing and providing considerable extra income for the family. She made two shirts and thirty-two pairs of trousers for the company and spun stocking yarn for Mrs. Ridgely in 1792, and in the winter of 1793-1794 produced forty-one jackets and fifty-seven pairs of breeches and trousers. Simultaneously she raised and sold chickens. By 1796, this family no longer appears on the Ridgely records.

Last updated: July 10, 2020

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