A project of Genealogy Trails
(Character, Hardships, Routes Followed, Settlements, Food, Education, Customs, Work, Dress)
(From the Book Pioneer History Of Indiana published in 1907)
as soon as they could raise a patch of corn all
this was done away with and the meal made from the corn with
beetles, seasoned with the rich bear grease and made into bread
was used, and these hardy people prospered and grew fat on it.
They were perfectly healthy and the children raised in this way
made the strongest men and women. Dyspepsia and kindred stomach
troubles were not known. There was but little opportunity of
obtaining an education yet they were students of nature and every
day learned useful lessons that stood them in need for self
protection and the protection of their families.
In a few years after the first settlers came there were, in most cases, those about the forts or blockhouses who could teach the young people the first principles of education and in after years these people improved the information thus gained by reading the few books that were in the country and many of them became learned in all things needed at that time. The young people were married at a much earlier period in life than the young people of this day. A boy at that time, sixteen or seventeen years old was counted on to do a man's work and to do his part in hunting or in scouting for Indians. The six or eight years now taken to secure an education by our young people to prepare them to be competent to do their part in the great battle of life was spent by our grand and great grandfathers and mothers preparing this country so that such great attainments could be secured by the present generation. The difficulties in commencing housekeeping then were not so great as now. They did not have to wait until they had saved money enough to build a fine house and furnish it with the luxuries of life before they got married, thus spending eight or ten years of the best period of their lives and often failing in their expectations. They were contented to commence life as their mothers and fathers had before them with nothing but what they could manufacture and devise from the cabin down to all their furniture and dress.
Instead of spending their time lamenting their sad fortune, they were happy in their love for each other and for the great blessing of perfect health which they enjoyed,
The possessions of these people worried them not at all for neither of them had anything but a small wardrobe of common, warm clothes. They had the great book of nature before them and were happy studying its changing scenes. Neither did they worry about dress makers for they all make their own clothing from shoe pacs and moccasins to the hats or bonnets which they wore. There was no change of fashion to keep up with and they did not worry about what this or that one had for they all dressed alike and employed their time about more useful things than learning the different styles of making dresses and clothing. They enjoyed life as they found it and loved the simple amusements that all engaged in at that date. Many could go on the puncheon floor and dance for hours without fatigue. They had free use of their bodies. not being encumbered with tight belts that hindered them from breathing and did not know what a corset was, that garment which at this date holds the body of its victims as if in the grip of a vise. Thus they could use every part of their body as freely as nature intended it to be used. In raising their children these hardy women furnished all the food they needed in infancy from their own breasts. thus laying the
foundations for strong men and women to take their places.
The clothing of the men and boys was in keeping with their daily life and made for the most part of deer skins. When this was well dressed it made comfortable and serviceable shirts. leggings and coats. Sometimes the women made their petticoats of this very useful and serviceable material. The deer, elk and buffalo skins furnished the
material from which all footwear was made.
In an early day there were many scattered herds of buffalo in all sections of Indiana but no such innumerable droves as the later hunters were used to see on the great western prairies. The buffalo skin was covered with a shaggy coat of kinky wool. Sometimes this was sheared and when mixed with a small portion of the wild nettle fiber, to give it strength, it was carded and spun the same as sheep's wool wits. Later on, from this coarse thread they wove a cloth using the nettle thread for chain that made strong and comfortable clothing. The buffalo hair was mixed with the fur and hair of other animals, usually the long hair of the bear; then was carded and spun. They knit this into warm, serviceable stockings but without the fiber of the nettle as it was too short to have the needed strength to hold together.
In most cases the first settlers were young men just married, who, with their young wives, their axes and their rifles and such other property as they possessed, came boldly into this then dense wilderness. If they were so fortunate as to find any before them, they would stop a few days and select a place to make their home. They then cut the logs for their cabin and with the help of their new found friends would carry the logs and put them up, covering the cabin with boards made with their axes for frows and putting weight poles on to hold the boards in place. Cracks between the logs were stopped by wedging in pieces of timber and then filling it all full of mud. A hole of the proper size was cut in the side for a door and often the only door shutter was a bear skin. For a fire place and chimney they cut out three or four logs the width wanted, at the end of the cabin and built a three sided crib on the outside, joining it to the building. Layer upon layer of mud were then put on the inside of the crib making the jambs and back wall as high as needed to be out of danger of the fire, letting the smoke take care of itself
The floor and carpet were of mother earth. For a bedstead they would drive a fork into the ground far enough from the side and end of the cabin, then put a pole in the fork and into a crack between the logs and another pole the other way from the fork and to a crack in the logs, thus making the end and side rails of the bedstead. After this they put other poles length ways as close as they wanted and piled fine brush over this, covering the brush with skins of animals. At this time the proverbial blue figured cover lid made by their good mothers in their old North or South Carolina, Tennessee or Kentucky homes would come into use with such other bed clothing as they were fortunate enough to have brought with them. The deficiency, if any, was supplied by bear and deer skins.
They made a table in the corner in the same way as the bed was made only it had for a top thick boards made level with an ax. For seats the back log was used until it was wanted for its place to form the back of the fire, when its mate was put in and used for a seat until it was wanted. If they were fortunate enough to own an auger, three legged stools were made.
Many of the first settlers for a few years lived in what was called in that day, a half faced camp, made by putting two large forks in the ground the proper distance from a large fallen tree to make a twelve or fourteen foot pen then putting a pole from fork to fork and other poles from that one to the log as closely as they were wanted and then piling brush on this. They then rolled logs up to the two sides as high as they wanted them leaving the outer end open usually facing the south. Large fires were made at this open end during cold weather, the occupants lying with their feet to it and their heads toward the large log. Usually these camps were made in the dry season and by the time the rainy season cane on they would have plenty of skins to cover them and line the sides, thus keeping the rain and cold out and drying the skins at the same time.
These brave people did the best they could to have the comforts of life but they had very little to do with. There was not a nail in a hundred miles of them. The settlers young wife, his cabin, rifle, ax and possibly a horse were all his earthly possessions, but he was rich in good health, determination and pluck. With his ax he cleared a few acres for corn and vegetables, with his rifle he could have plenty of the choicest meats and skins of bear, deer, beaver, otter and rae on to exchange for salt, ammunition and a few necessities of life, when he could get his furs to market probably seventy five miles away.
About what was going on in the outside world he knew nothing and cared less for he had a world of his own around him, fresh and crude as nature could make it. Probably he had not more than two neighbors and they three to five miles away, the only means of communication between them being made on foot over a path running around fallen tree tops and over logs, a blaze made on a tree or sapling now and then keeping them in the right direction. He had severed all connection with his old home and the outside world bidding adieu to mother and friends and to the early associations that are so dear to all. With all this sacrifice he was. happy and contented and determined to face the great battle of life and to win. Nature's volumes were ever open before him and he studied well. learning the things needful for his protection. He was threatened with danger from the lurking savages who ever watched for an opportunity to destroy him and his home and in many cases did kill and capture the whole family, but still others came to fill their places.
When two or three had settled in the same place they built forts and in dangerous times moved their families into them remaining there much of the time during the summer and fall months. While the women were there their husbands and fathers were in the wilderness watching the slipping enemy, sometimes killing one and again several of them, It got so that the Indians dreaded them and came less frequently. The pioneers determined to drive them away so that the danger to their families would cease. Finally they hunted the Indians in bands and in many battles defeated them. They met them on their own grounds, defeating and driving them out of this region and on the ruins of their savage wigwams this beautiful country has been made.
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