Until 2015 I believed that the yokes shown here were only found in Europe. Reading the following article about hoop yokes I realized my mistake. Once again memories of one’s youth during the late 18th century have gave me new insights. In the 18th century, and throughout history, water carrier was a necessary job. Yokes were used in this process to make hauling water easier. Boston in this remembrance¬† used servants for this purpose, and a type of hoop I had only seen in Europe.

“In accordance with a custom then prevalent but now obsolete, the services of the young apprentice were required at the house a portion of each morning and evening. Fires were to be made, wood was to be cut, and water to be brought. The last named appears to have been the heaviest labor, and to have made the most lasting impression. He says ” the water in all the wells between where the Arcade now¬†stands and the great bridge was brackish, and the water for tea and washing was brought from the east side of the river from a pump on the Fenner estate, north of the ” granite block” and the old ” Coffee House.”

Some of the families had rain water cisterns for their chief supply ; but these were few, and it fell to the lot of the boys, some of whom were negroes, for slavery was then in fashion, to go with two pails and a hoop, across the bridge for a supply. This was the hardest service. I had yet experienced. There were so many families to be supplied, that we frequently met four or five boys at the pump at the same time, and we proceeded in procession with our pails across the bridge. On the evening before washing day the process was so often repeated that the labor was exhausting.

I was one of the smallest boys, and never very stout ; and while I am writing this, I seem to feel the same stretch of the joints of the elbows and shoulders, and sympathy in the back, which I then experienced. The next year,. 1771, the water-logs were laid from Field’s fountain to Weybosset bridge, to the great joy of all the boys on Weybosset Point. A few years after, as more buildings began to be erected, a contract was made with Amos Atwell to sink a fountain near Rawson’s tanyard, and lay the pipes through a narrow valley, to a place where Aborn street now is These pipes were after extended to the old long wharf.”¬†

The Life and Recollections of John Howland: Late President of the Rhode Island Historical Society

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