Pioneer Cabin

Project One:  Letters from the Black Swamp

This book will be an anthology of early pioneer accounts; below is an excerpt from a  chapter about pioneer women. 

Keeping Fire Burning Was Important Responsibility As There Were No Matches To Relight The Hearth Logs

There were no wood, coal or gas ranges in those days, but there was a fire-place with a wide, deep hearth and a chimney that would draw, built large enough for the sweep to pass through.  A log, a foot in diameter, approximately, was placed at the back and a pair of andirons in front of the back log, on which was piled the wood, usually about three feet in length.  A long iron crane swung from one end of the fireplace, and long hooks or chains held the pot while it boiled.  There were no matches and one of the greatest anxieties of the good housewife was to prevent the fire from going out.  If it did cease to burn she was compelled to visit one of the neighbors perhaps a mile or more away for a shovelful of living coals with which to kindle the fire. 


    One of the signs of neatness in a house keeper was the way she kept the hearth cleaned, using the broom and wing and a few of her many duties were to dip candle, put down pork and beef in a barrel, make sausage for the year, put down lard by the jar, preserved fruit by the gallon, boiled cider by the keg; to provide dried beef and smoked ham, to spin all the yarn for the men’s clothes, to weave it into cloth, and to send it to the dyers to be dyed, fluffed and pressed.  Beside all these duties, the housewife had a multitude of others not herein mentioned.  There were “ornamental requirements,” watching the rising generations and keeping them from getting impaired or devoured by the wolves.


Author’s note:  There is much more to the story that will appear in the book.

Here is another excerpt from the book:

A boyhood memoir from James Roe.

        Horses and carriages were as much in our life as automobiles are today.  Most every home had a barn at the back and the family owned a gentle driving horse and two seated surrey, or, if of sporting aim, a fast trotter and light buggy.  Run-aways were the traffic hazard and they were frequent and dangerous.  We would flee to safety and watch a wild-eyed sweating horse race by dragging an overturned buggy.  Or a big team of workhorses galloping till they either hit something or ran themselves out.  Across the corner of Wilson Street lived Mr. and Mrs. G. E. Cook who had a specially fractious black horse that panicked the neighborhood with its habit of breaking loose and dashing madly up the street.

        Gramp drove through the county every day buying cattle and must have kept his rig somewhere else; there was no horse in our barn.  Excepting one summer when the Gene Newmans, down the street, were away for the season and left us their potbellied sorrel and carriage.  We thought we would have a fine summer of buggy rides and picnics.  But it didn’t work out.  We found we did not care for that kind of entertainment and the fat mare stood in the barn all summer.

        On the corner north of us lived the Oberist family with a harem-scarem boy, Robert, named after his famous grandfather, Bob Patterson, colorful editor of the early Bryan Democrat, a wiry Kentucky colonel sort of man with a tobacco-stained white mustache.  One day there was another runaway.  I am not sure whether I actually saw the accident or just heard all about it.  Anyway, I can still see the picture of the Patterson riding horse racing through our alley, saddle empty and Robert’s head bumping along the ground, his foot caught in a stirrup.  The boy wasn’t quite killed but he limped all his life.

Author’s note: This memoir includes a nice hand drawn map of the world he inhabited as a young boy in Bryan, Ohio.

More to come later...


All images © 2010 GLStrout

Website © 2010 George L. Strout

© George L. Strout 2011