Old Times In Schuyler 

Work of the Pioneer Woman
By Howard F. Dyson, 1918

In considering the home life of early settlers, the pioneer woman should most surely be extolled, for her life was one of hardship and self-denial, and building a home in the undeveloped west meant many privations to her that did not affect the stonger sex. In the long, wearisome journey from the eastern states, only the most essential household furnishings were brought along, and while some of the settlers could boast of a bureau and bedstead, in the majority of early homes even these necessities were provided for on the spot. Cooking stoves were unknown, and all the baking and cooking was done in the big fireplace that was built in one end of the cabin. Here the venison and fowl were roasted on a spit, and hoecakes were baked on the hearth, and while the daily diet may have been monotonous, the appetite of the pioneer needed no coaxing, and cornbread and side meat were relished as a daily fare.

In addition to her regular household duties, the pioneer mother had to “break” the water for washing, for no one enjoyed the luxury of a cistern; also make her own soap, and dip or mold the candles, and during the summer and fall she dried the fruit for winter use and rendered out the lard at butchering time. The women also brought with them from the eastern settlements their spinning wheels, with which yarn was made, and it was not long until rude looms were improvised to weave cloth. Not every cabin, however, in which spinning was done, had a loom. But there was always someone in each settlement, who, besides doing her own weaving, did work for others. Nearly all the clothes worn by the men and women were home-made. The men and boys wore butternut-colored jeans, and linsey-woolsey was a popular fabric for both sexes. Deer hides were also tanned, and served the men for wearing apparel, and the coon-skin caps were much in vogue. During the summer season footwear was generally discarded entirely, or buckskin moccasins worn, and the settlers served as their own shoemakers. After the county became more populous, the settlements were visited regularly by itinerate shoemakers, who boarded with the settler while he worked up the family stock of cow-hide into footwear.

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Copyright © by Judi Gilker 2006