Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pioneer Days in St. Joseph County

A few years ago my mom (my genealogy partner in crime) copied a long article from the Vicksburg Semi-Weekly Commercial that was published in 1913. It described a family reunion of the Krader, Fisher and Hutchinson families who lived in the northern part of St. Joseph county. If you've ever heard of Fisher Lake then you have heard of the family. In the article, one descendent of the original settlers in the area described life in the early days. I found it quite interesting and I hope you will too.

Mrs. Elizabeth Lomison Snyder, as written in the article, said
“We deplore the neglect of our parents and grandparents in not leaving for the rising generation a history of their pioneer days, days of danger, privation and misfortune; days of toil, days when they were buoyed up with hope and nerved with vigor to build for themselves and their loved ones homes amidst this beautiful scenery, while yet the whoop of Indian and the howl of wolf resounded on every side. “When the brave pioneers left their eastern home of plenty and comfort and started for the wild western country to take up government land to make homes for themselves this beautiful township was indeed “the happy hunting ground” of the Indian; our rivers and lakes the avenue of travel for hunter and trapper.”

“It was known by the settlers that the Indians were to yield up their possessions within two years, which had put the land under squatter sovereignty. Under the treaty of Chicago the Indians agreed to surrender up their possessions within the time stated. This treaty was made and confirmed in September, 1833. Squatters commenced to locate the claims in the eastern part of the reservation, but no claim was located in the western portion in Park township until later on in the fall of 1834. Park was settled later than the surrounding country because of the Indian Reservation. This trespassing on the land of the Indians by settlers was regarded by the Indians as a violation of the treaty of Chicago and caused deep apprehension of danger to those located there.

“John Lomison came to Michigan in the spring of 1836 from Danville, Penn. with his wife. . . and two small children. . . with them were two other families. . . They darve [sic] through with teams and covered wagons and were six weeks on the way. On this journey they encountered all of the hardships of the early pioneers such as the swamps of Ohio, crossing the Maumee river which was flooded at that time, and sleeping out at night in tents or wagons. My father, at once after reaching Michigan. . . went into the wilderness of Park township took up government land, felled trees to build his cabin to which he afterward brought his family and there my mother shared with him the toil and privation and loneliness of pioneer life. My father took up land one mile north of this place and went through all the hardships of the pioneer as there was little that could be bought with money. There were many Indians about at that time and I remember hearing my mother tell that she never refused them anything they wanted; when they came to exchange fish and game for bread, flour or salt pork, she gave them the last she had if need be, rather then incur their displeasure.

I have often heard my father tell of the severe winters they had when the country was new, snow usually fell in October or November to the depth of two or three feet and remained until January, then came a thaw which entirely removed the snow; after this it would fall again to the depth of two or three feet and remained on the ground until April. I also remember hearing my father tell of going to town meeting in sleds the first of April.
In those days anything was fashionable that was comfortable; people manufactured their own clothing largely from wool and flax grown on their own farms. I well remember my mother's old spinning wheel and the miles she walked back and forth every day. She converted the carded rolls of wool into yarn which was knit into stockings for the family.

But do not think for one moment that the early settler's life was all toil and privation; one of their chief pleasures in social life as the sun was going down in the west was the old fashioned winter evening visit, when a lumber wagon or bob sleigh brought to your door a load of women and children. They remained until midnight and during the evening a hearty meal was served of pan cakes, sausages, preserves and dough nuts and coffee, and the time spent in telling stories and singing songs.

The article is a little long so I'll stop here and post the rest in a later blog post.

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