The following paper was written by Mrs. Stella Wallace, aged 76, and read by Mrs. Fred E. Ebert at the Woman's Club meeting. Some of the members requested that it be published as some of the younger generation have no idea of the hardships in olden times.
There were three families, each driving their own team. They did their cooking along the road side and slept in their wagons.
When father got here he had 3 cents in money. Of course, the first thing to do was to write a letter back home -- that took the three cents, so they were here in a new country, strange to people and without any money. He said all they could do was to try and get work, and he went to looking for work at once.
He found that Uncle Henry Sanger lived down where Henry Poppe now lives. He owned the farm and was the richest man around at that time. He had some money and could hire help, so father worked for him cradling wheat and mowing and raking hay. The rake was a hand rake about 2 feet long and had wooden teeth about 3 inches apart. If they broke one of the teeth they had to stop and make new teeth.
Charles Kenney lived where Ernest Ebert now lives. He had money to hire help with, so father worked for him cradling wheat for fifty cents a day, and ate mush and milk for dinner. He also worked for other people to earn money so he could have money to get a home.
When he got a little money he entered this land from the government where I now live, for $1.25 an acre. He built a log house of one room, the floor was made out of slabs laid down. When the ends began to turn up they turned them over.
There were two holes cut in the sides for windows, not like we have today, just a hole cut in the log and boards to fit it when it rained. Chairs were a piece of a slab with four sticks nailed on four legs. Table was made the same way.
Mother spun the yarn and knit our stockings. My grandmother wove the cloth to make our clothes, blankets and coverlids.
When father began farming for himself he cradled wheat for other people in the day time and cut his grain by moon light.
In those days electric lights were not thought of. Their light was rags twisted over the side of a dish and let it burn.
Food was not so plentiful as now, but very nourishing, such as pumpkin butter, corn bread and mush and milk. Coffee was made by browning corn and then crack it up fine.
The first corn planter was a small rake 2 feet long with a spring on the bottom.You fastened this on a hoe handle, pushed down on the spring, then turned the hoe over and covered the corn up.
They used this for a long time, then got the spud planter that took two horses and two men; one man dropped the corn, one drove. Then came the planter of today.
A cradle was used first to cut the grain, then a reaper -- it took two men to run it -- one to drive and one to rake the grain off. Next was what they called a self rake, then our binders.
In olden times men thought if they had 12 loads of wood that would last a year. All had to be chopped with an axe -- no saws. They always went way down on the marsh for wood.
Every one helped their neighbor. When butchering time came they went around and four or five families got their butchering done; loaded up their wagons and started for Chicago with horses, taking four or five days. They sold their dressed hogs and bought shoes, barrels of flour and sugar, a bolt of calico, etc. The clothes were all made by hand. No sewing machines.
Now I will tell you how the first post office at Orchard Grove was started. Mr. Warner came from Canada, driving a one horse peddling wagon. When he got here he lived in father's log house until he entered the land where Walter Miller now lives. He built one room at first and put some shelves in one corner and some boxes, and started a little store. Then he was appointed postmaster. He built on another room. Put in some more groceries and bought butter and eggs. He paid 8 cents to 15 cents a pound for butter and 3 cents to 8 cents a dozen for eggs. He kept store for a long time, later built the big store that was on the corner that was later known as Kenney's store, run by Jerry Kenney for a number of years. The post office was kept here until the rural route was started.
There were lots of Indians here in an early day. They lived on the Sam Miller farm now owned by J.C. Kenney. The women were afraid of the Indians. They would say "We won't hurt." Indians were always wanting to trade baskets for articles the white people had.
Across the road from our house was hazel nut brush and small shrubbery. They were full of deer. We could look out and see deer any time.
The first school house around here was west of our Orchard Grove school house, across the road facing the east. The desks were fast on the wall clear around the room, with a board to sit on. I have went to school when there were 66 scholars in winter. We had four months school in winter and three months in summer. Not many went to school in summer, for the older boys and girls had to work. The teacher boarded around a week in a place with the patrons.
The first corn that was planted on the farm where Arthur Miller lives I dropped for three men to cover all day long and got fifty cents a day. Walter Hole lived there then. We did not have dresses like girls do now. My first wool dress was when I was 15 years old. Mother told my sister Sue that we could go to our first party with my brother Harvey, over at Mrs. Jerry Kenney's, and we girls could have new wool dresses to wear. We always had two calico dresses at a time, wore one to school one week and one the next week.
Spelling contests were our fun in those days. Every two weeks some school had one, we would go four or five bob sled loads, always taking our teacher along.
People are talking about milk prices. If they had to work as hard as the older people did for it and get so little, they sure would holler. They did not have modern cow barns; we went out in the field around some hay stack to milk, carried it to the house. Put all the milk in pans, skimmed it night and morning, churned every day. Many times have I counted 100 pans of milk on Mrs. Susan Warner's pantry shelves. She lived up where Dick Woodkee lives. The cows were turned out; went away down on the marsh to pasture as far south as Tom Grant's farm is and as far east as Plum Grove school house. We girls had to walk after them, wander around until we found them. We knew the sound of our cow bell.
The old people worked hard, saved their money and bought farms. Did you ever stop to think how few of the younger people buy their farms? Many of them are handed down from fathers, grandfathers, and uncles.
I was born and raised on this farm, still live here with my granddaughter, Mrs. Fred E. Ebert. My two daughters, Bertha Kenney and Addie Brownell, granddaughter Tossie M. Ebert and three great-grandchildren were all raised on the same farm. My two girls, three grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and myself all went to the same school, "Good Old Orchard Grove."
Go to Orchard Grove, "Pioneer History Index," for further information.
Return to Lowell History.