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Life in Pioneer Times, page 2

    The above description only applies to the earliest times, before the buzzing of the saw-mill was heard within our borders. The furniture comported admirably with the house itself, and hence, if not elegant, was in perfect taste. The tables had four legs, and were rudely made from a puncheon. Their seats were stools, having three or four legs. The bedstead was in keeping with the rest, and was often so contrived as to permit it to be drawn up and fastened to the wall during the day, thus affording more room for the family. The entire furniture was simple, and was framed with no other tools than an ax and auger. Each man was his own carpenter, and some displayed considerable ingenuity in the construction of implements of agriculture and utensils and furniture for the kitchen and house. Knives and forks they sometimes had and sometimes had not. The common table knife was the jack-knife or butcher knife. Horse collars were sometimes made of the plaited husk of the maize, sewed together. They were easy on the neck of the horse, and, if tug traces were used, would last for a long time. Horses were not used very much, however, as oxen were almost exclusively employed. In some instances carts and wagons were constructed or repaired by the self-reliant settler, and the wonderful creaking of the untarred axles could be heard at a great distance.

    The women corresponded well with the virtuous women spoken of in the last chapter of Proverbs, for they "sought wool and flax and worked willingly with their hands." They did not, it is true, make for themselves coverings of tapestry," nor could it be said of them that their "clothing was silk and purple;" but they "rose while it was yet night and gave meat to their household," and they "girded their loins with strength and strengthened their arms." "They looked well to the ways of their household and ate not the bread of idleness." They laid "their hands to the spindle and to the distaff," and "strength and honor were in their clothing." In these days of furbelows and flounces, of lace and velvet trimmings, when from twenty to thirty yards are required by one fair damsel for a dress, it is refreshing to know that the ladies of that ancient time considered eight yards an extravagant amount to put into one dress. The dress was usually made plain, with four widths in the skirt and two front ones cut gored. The waist was made very short, and across the shoulders behind was a draw string. The sleeves were enormously large and tapered from shoulder to wrist, and the most fashionable - for fashion, like love, rules alike the "court and grove" - were padded so as to resemble a holster at the upper part, and were known as "mutton legs" or "sheep shank sleeves." The sleeve was kept in shape often by a heavily starched lining. Those who could afford it used feathers, which gave the sleeve the appearance of an inflated balloon from elbow up, and were known as '' pillow sleeves." Many bows and ribbons were worn, but scarcely any jewelry. The tow-dress was superseded by the cotton gown . Around the neck, instead of a lace collar or elegant ribbon, there was arranged a copperas colored neckerchief. In going to church or other public gathering, in summer weather, they sometimes walked barefooted till near their destination, when they put on their shoes or moccasins. They were contented and even happy without any of the elegant articles of apparel now used by ladies, and considered necessary articles of dress. Ruffles, fine laces, silk hats, kid gloves, false curls, rings, combs and jewels were nearly unknown, nor did the lack of them vex their souls. Many of them were grown before they ever saw the interior of a dry goods store. They were reared in simplicity, lived in simplicity and were happy in simplicity. It may be interesting to speak more specifically regarding cookery and diet. Wild meat was plentiful. The settlers generally brought some food with them to last till a crop could he raised. Small patches of Indian corn were grown, which, in the earliest days of the settlement, was beaten in a mortar. The meal was made into a coarse but wholesome bread, on which the teeth could not be very tightly shut on account of the grit it contained.

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The Lives of Our Ancestors


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