Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Pioneer Days in St. Joseph County

Here are the rest of Mrs. Elizabeth Lomison Snyder's comments on the early days in St. Joseph County.
"One of the hardships of the young was going to school, as in all new places it takes several years to get school districts started, so for the present purposes they would have a bee and put up a log house, put a window in each side, a door in one end and the building was completed. The furniture consisted of a row of boards for writing desks on each side and slabs for benches, stove and six or eight hickory sticks in the corner seasoning for future use, as at that time they taught only Readin' Ritin' and Rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick. The children often walked two or three miles to school. I have heard my father tell of blazing the trees for the older children to go to school by as there were no laid out roads.

The earliest pioneers found Michigan healthy, my father came at the worst time, for later so much ground was plowed up and the malarial gases set free that the country became very sickly. Every family had fever and ague, sometimes every member of the family being down at once; there were no healthy ones except persons just arrived, but the doctor came every day with free good will and dealt out his portion of calomel. He bled, blistered, purged and salivated his patients, but never cured them.

The subject of sickness brings to us that of death and the grave; how many pioneers lie sleeping in nameless graves we shall never know for the avaricious land owners in a few years plowed over the acres where rested the strangers. Even in Three Rivers a row of thick set houses is standing over one of the earliest cemeteries, whence the bodies have never been removed. Everybody attended funerals forty years ago and there was no expense except for the plank coffin and the white cambric shroud which was the burial robe for man and woman alike. There were no flowers, no hearse, no undertaker; the body was carried in a lumber wagon and was lowered in to the grave with lines taken from the horses. All remained until the grave was filled up, the head and foot plank set into shape; then it seems that all was done by kind friends that could be done for each neighbor had taken part in these sad duties. There were only planks to mark the graves; these soon rotted out and the sleepers beneath passed into oblivion, their friends dead, gone away or worse, indifferent.

The resources in an early day were all that the pioneers could ask, notwithstanding they had an abundance of fever and ague which was a sure sign that any man too lazy would not remain long in the country, which accounts for its rapid progress and prosperity; one of the resources was fruit; they were able to pick from field and swamp – strawberries and blackberries from field and cranberries and huckleberries from the swamp.

As I have mentioned before the women of that day wove, spun, colored and made wearing apparel for the family until the invention of machinery which changed everything and the women were arrayed in calico at 12 ½ cents and delaine at 25 cents per yard. Then the spinning wheel and loom were put aside. But with all the reverses the old pioneer he still forged ahead and we today can hardly realize the trials that beset him.

The Indian watched the oncoming civilization and heard the stroke of the ax as the busy pioneer worked day after day felling the mighty oak to build his home. We look upon the country as it is today – and then think what it was some eighty or more years ago – when the band of men had scarcely touched it and find we now have fine farms, flourishing villages and cities, fine school houses and elegant churches, telephones, electricity, automobiles and our interurban roads. We are amazed when we stop to consider the change time has wrought.

When we think of those brave pioneers who have made it possible for us to enjoy the luxuries of today, let us bow our heads in thankfulness and gratitude to those brave pioneers, our parents and grand parents.”

From the Vicksburg Semi-Weekly Commercial: September 5, 1913

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