Introduction and Indexes Biography Lessons Plantation Community Lessons Colony into Commonwealth Lessons
Making a Nation Lessons
The Plantation Community
Lesson Ten



I. From dawn until dark, Gunston Hall was an active place. It took a lot of people to run a 5,500-acre plantation with a large house, many farm animals, orchards, and fields of tobacco and wheat.

Many of the workers at Gunston Hall were slaves. Slaves were brought to America against their will from Africa or the West Indies. Mr. Mason was one of the largest plantation owners in the area. According to records, he owned 78 slaves in 1787.

Some slaves were assigned to do farming or household tasks. Some slaves performed skilled jobs like shoemaking. A few slaves were supervisors. In exchange for work, Mr. Mason provided the slaves with food, clothes, and shelter.

II. Indentured servants, who came from Great Britain or Europe, also were a part of the Gunston Hall community. Mr. Mason paid their passage to America and gave them food, clothing, and a place to live. The servants paid off their indenture by working for free or for a small wage for four to seven years. Carpenter William Buckland, who worked on the plantation house, was an indentured servant.

There were also some paid workers on the plantation. The coachman and the housekeeper received a wage. Mr. Mason employed overseers to manage the field slaves.

III. Sometimes, Mr. Mason went outside the Gunston Hall community for goods and services. Some specialty items, like hats, wigs, or silver teaspoons, were made by tradespeople in towns and cities. Other items, like silk and spices, had to be imported from Great Britain or the West Indies. Can you think of other goods and services that probably were not available at Gunston Hall?


(as a class)

Have an Eighteenth-Century Job Fair! You and a partner must choose one of the 18th-century jobs listed on this page. Find out all you can about that job -- tools used, clothes worn, and so on. Create a (job) table to tell other people how your person spends his/her workday. At your table include pictures you've drawn of your person at work and possibly objects that he/she produced. Share your knowledge about your 18th-century job with classmates who "visit" your table.

18th-Century Jobs

Blacksmith - makes objects out of iron.

Carpenter - builds and repairs wooden structures.

Coachman - drives a carriage.

Cook - prepares food.

Cooper - makes wooden barrels and other containers.

Gardener - tends a plot of land with flowers, vegetables, or fruit.

Housemaid - carries out housekeeping tasks.

Laborer - plants and harvests the crops; does other manual labor.

Manservant - takes care of a master's personal needs.

Milliner - sells fine imported clothing and house- hold items; also, makes or sells women's hats.

Shoemaker - makes and repairs shoes.

Silversmith - makes and repairs objects of silver.

Stabler - takes care of horses, cows, and other animals kept in a stable.

Waiter - serves the food in the plantation house.

Wigmaker - makes wigs; also is a barber.


If you lived in the 18th century, which of these jobs would you have wanted? Take a class vote.

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Gunston Hall Plantation
Mason Neck, Virginia 22079
703.550.9480 fax

Public Hours: 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day

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