Surnames of Memoirs
The Memoirs of Lois Clarinda Twichell - Blackwell
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Mr. Pease passed away. His case seemed like cholera morbus. It was learned later that three men who took dinner in St. Anthony with Mr. Pease, had been sick in the same way and they thought the water had been polluted. They were nearer to a doctor and got medical aid soon. Mr. Pease was the only one who died. Mother always thought that if Mr. Pease had taken the medicine she had, it would, at least have held the disease in check until the doctor arrived.
We had had plenty of such as it was and my father’s appetite was good and mine seemed ready to make up for the years of ill health before we went west. But poor mother, I felt sorry for her. She had always been used to plenty and what was appetizing, and sometimes her health was poor and it seemed hard to make a meal on such as we had, but she was glad of the chance to get up good meals with plenty to do with.
As the spring(1853) came on the travel increased and there were many callers for meals who were glad of the chance to put down their .25c for a meal, which was the price in those days. If they stayed all night, they had their own blankets and were glad of the chance to spread them down in a large dry comfortable chamber. There were many things I could do too to help my mother who was indeed a busy woman. There were dishes to wipe and knives to scour and sometimes a pail of water to bring from the river. My lessons and piecework went along too, as there was a chance, and the little pig that was growing fast was not neglected and my kitty got its full share of attention. We did not have much milk, but our cow was expected to give more after a while so we at that time only got a quart of milk once a day but the need of more was great.
I did not see any children that winter except on Sunday when father was holding a meeting, which he did when there were any that wanted to come. One Sunday, a family from across the Mississippi came over on a sleigh, driving across the ice, and among them was a girl about 14 years, I think. I could scarcely keep my eyes off her during the meeting. It was a feast for my eyes to see another girl. Little things were a cause for diversion in those days.
One cold morning, one of the boom builders went out to milk the cow. Father was away and he thought it was too cold for mother. He was a young fellow about 18. He soon came in with his pail empty. He said he sat down to milk the cow, but the first thing he knew she landed him across the stable. She did not seem to like strangers. An older man then went out and soon returned with the milk. He said the cow did not like boys and was particular as to how she was approached. (No doubt she was a bit temperamental like many females.)
Well, the winter wore on, and the March sun and wind brought the spring along, though it was late in coming. We did not see bare ground until after the 20th April.This was the spring of 1853. One day we saw a team on the ice on the Mississippi going down to St. Anthony. It was customary to drive on the ice as long as the river was frozen over. In this case, it seemed safe enough as the ice was 2 feet thick. The next day we heard that this team broke through the ice at Coon Rapids where Coon Creek emptied into the Mississippi. The current was more rapid there and the ice had worn away from below. There was another man with him and they got one horse out but the other was drowned and it was with difficulty that Mr. Beatty, the owner of the team was saved. The next day about 10 o’clock he came along on foot. It was the 25th of April. (1853)The ice looked solid on the river and the sun shone brightly, but it was cold in the early morning. About 8 o’clock that morning mother had seen a team of horses with sleigh drive down the western bank or rather, the north bank safely, and up the bank on towards St. Anthony. The ice had broken in the Rum River, but not on the Mississippi. The travel past our place or the most of it crossed the Rum River a little above its mouth where it emptied into the Mississippi. But sometimes teams had crossed a little below the mouth of the Rum River and gone up the north bank of the Mississippi.
Mr. Beatty had come to the house and asked where there was a safe crossing. Mother pointed to the Mississippi and told him where she had seen a team make a safe crossing about 8 o’clock that morning but it was ten now and a bright sun. Mr. Beatty took a long pole and went down to try the ice. He soon returned saying the ices was so porous he could run a long pole through it anywhere, and he would not venture on it.
At this time, the boom on the Rum was finished and the river water was running. The boom was built of logs built up on four sides, as if for a pen, and filled with stones. Before the logs were built up, strong piles were driven into the bed of the river, and the pen, weighted down with big stones, was immovable; then logs placed end to end were fastened together with strong pins, and their ends fastened together and then fastened to the pen in the center. These reached across the river and were fasted to strong posts in the banks, the whole being built to withstand strong pressure when the ice broke up and the logs finally came down. As the logs that formed the stringers were very large and strong, and placed two together, the men would sometimes take a pike pole and cross over Rum River on them. Mother told Mr. Beatty about it but he did not like the look of things. The logs might be slippery. But a young man who was boarding with us was across the river with a canoe.Mr. Beatty hailed him and he came over and rowed him across, then went on his way to Itasca. He had had such an experience two days before being nearly drowned, that he felt nervous about the water.
At the river bank, by our house, had been a long established ferry and a day or two after this the ferryboat was launched. I think it would carry two teams at once. For a good whilemy brother ran the ferryboat. The charge for a team was .25c. Sometimes boat passengers were conveyed across in a canoe, a dugout as it was called, made of a log hollowed out by the skill of the Indians. The Rum River was soon filled with logs coming down from the streams that ran into the Run, and soon the ice in the Mississippi broke up and went crashing down stream, over the St. Anthony Falls and on down to New Orleans.
After a while word reached us thatLake Peppen was clear of ice. That left the river clear to about where Winona now stands. The ice lingered longer in the lake and when we heard that the lake was cleared, we knew that the lower reaches of the river were also clear.
There were exciting times when the logs were coming down. I have seen the Rum River full of logs for three or four miles and so crowded together that you could not see the water. Sometimes the logs would be so crowded that they would be forced up on end and stand there till further crowding caused them to change their positions. Then men from the different lumber camps would come down and camp beside the river and prepare to open the boom and let the logs loose. Then expert drivers with spikes in their boots that stuck in the logs when they jumped on them, and with the pike poles in their hands would strike out among the floating logs and, shoving them one way and another, would gather a number with the mark on them they were seeking, and get them where they could make them into rafts and prepare them to go downstream. The river driver’s job is hard and exciting and often attended with danger.
Sometimes, when the rafts were constructed, they would make camp on the raft. They would have a cook stove and a canopy over it, and so eat and sleep as they floated down stream. Sometimes they floated down stream in large boats called"bateaus" and sometimes they made camp on the bank of the stream, cooking their meals by the campfire and sleeping on beds made of boughs covered with their blankets, and they would sleep comfortably through the night and inhale the good fresh air. The lumbermen are a hardy class of men, courageous and kind to those in need of assistance, and if the liquor is kept away from them, often lay up a goodly share of their winter’s earnings to take home to their families; but too often whiskey is laid before them and their hard earnings are squandered.
As spring advanced the two proprietors, aWoodbury and Shaw, came up to arrange for the building of a boarding house to accommodate the men who were to build the dam, and later, the mills. They boarded at our place for a while as there was no other place to board, and those were busy times. They brought a family with them consisting of a man, his wife, and two children, a girl about my age and a boy younger. This family was to run the boarding house when it was built. There were four of these cabins near our house, connected together. Each had two rooms and a fireplace made of sticks plastered with mud. There had been floors over most of them but all were in a rude shape, but would afford warmth and shelter till the boarding house was finished. It was located a half mile up the Rum River. I hailed the presence of the girl, Eliza Randolph with delight, as I had long been without a chum. While they were living in the cabins, the Governor and his Suite consisting of seven men came up to have a conference with the Indians as they wanted to buy their lands and give them new lands farther west on the Minnesota River. A company of soldiers came up with the Governor and camped on the flat a little up the river and the Indians camped to the south of us below the mouth of the Rum. The Governor’s Suite boarded with us. Fortunately, Mrs. Randolph was a capable woman and a good cook, and she turned to and helped us prepare the meals for the crowd.
There was plenty of fish in the river and the Indians would bring the fine pike, bass, or pickerel, and offer them at about ten cents each, so we had fine fresh fish all the time. I remember how delicious they were, served in various ways that mother and Mrs. Randolph would decide on, so as to offer a change and variety.Eliza and I had many opportunities to help. There were dishes to wash and knives to scour, and a fresh pail of water was always in order.
The Governor was with us a little less than a week, and on the last day, after the business with the Council was concluded, and the Governor was about to take his leave, the Indian Chiefs and some of the more important members of the Tribe, gathered in our house to hear a speech the Governor was to make to them. They could not understand him, but one of theGovernor’s men, a Mr. Lowery, was an interpreter, and interpreted it to them, and their reply was in turn, interpreted back to him. So the Council was over and the Governor and his suite, together with the soldiers departed for St. Paul. The camp of Indians lingered for quite a while, and often came into the house. One of the Chiefs, Good Thunder, was richly dressed in a broadcloth blanket and leggings, trimmed richly with brightly colored ribbons about an inch wide. Sewed on in patterns. He was a fine looking old Indian, and his wife, had she been a white woman, would have been considered handsome. Her skirt was of broadcloth too, ornamented with ribbon in the same way as her husband’s clothes. She wore a waist, a sort of blouse with a cape of many colored ribbons on it, and the edge was hung with five-cent pieces. Eliza and I were as full of curiosity as most girls, so we counted the number of five cent pieces and decided she had five dollars worth hanging at the edge of her little pink cape.
Governor Ramsey stayed with the family
Many years later, Chief Good Thunder tried to go the way of the white man.
See a photo of the Chief and his wife years later (REB)
The wampum, made of seashells that hung round her neck and down the front of her waist, some of the Governor’s men said was worth about $60.00. Her long hair was wound about with it also. Oh! She was a fine looking squaw in her rich robes. She was a sister, I think, ofYellow Thunder’s wife, who was much older. The two of them often came in together. We had seen them frequently, and bought cranberries and maple sugar from them. In the big wood across the Mississippi there were maple trees and the Indians made considerable maple sugar, and sold it to the whites who were glad to buy it, and when it was melted and cleansed and clarified, it added to the fare of the early pioneers.
The Indians were no trouble, and we always found them honest. The cranberries and maple sugar they always wanted to trade for bread, or"cush", meaning pork. Mother always bought from them, always giving them a square deal. (This honest method of dealing with the Indians stood us in good stead later, when the Indian war and massacre broke out).
As the spring advanced the boarding house was built and finished, andMr. Randolph and his family left the little log cabins and went to their new quarters and I did not see so much of my friend Eliza, but the friendship continued till after we were married. She afterwards became a widow and many years after I heard of her living in Kansas and busy laboring for the salvation of souls. Her name was Mrs. Munsey.
The work continued to keep mother very busy, butter was scarce, and our cow was a disappointment, so my father went to St. Anthony to see what he could do, and came home with a little cow, not two years old, for which he gave $25.00, but she gave a nice quantity of milk for so small a cow and soon after our other cow was giving a fine pail of milt too; so we had two cows and a calf, that was my special care, and it grew and thrived and furnished me with much amusement, as did the pig, now very much larger than when I used to feed it out of a quart dish.
A good garden was made near the house, and gave promise of good returns. The cows roamed at will and it was my duty to see they did not get far away. The prairie flowers came in great abundance and various colors and were a delight to the eye, and furnished us with fine bouquets. My mother was fond of flowers and I believe the abundant flowers often soothed her homesick feelings. The strawberries came then. Large abundant and delicious, and in their season, I could go out with my basked and get enough for tea for half a dozen of us half an hour. So the busy summer passed, filled with its duties, often new and always many. A steamboat plied the Mississippi above St. Anthony as far asSauk Rapids, and perhaps farther. It usually brought land seekers along. Perhaps two or three would land to view the prospects of the new town where the dam for the new mills was being built. They usually found their way to our house and often we had a house full and the work was not light.
The winter brought a cessation of newcomers, and by that time a schoolroom had been fitted up near the boarding house, and aMiss Woodman was the first teacher and she boarded most of the time at my father’s. There were not more than a dozen pupils, but we got along very well during the three-month term. The room was used for Sunday services too. On one occasion, a bright sunny day, I froze both ears going to meeting. We had hardly learned at that time how to properly protect ourselves from the cold, which was much more severe than what we had been accustomed to in New York. I had only half a mile to go and the weather was so bright, I did not dream I could freeze in such a short distance, but I learned in time.
A Minnesota Winter
Photo by Marilee Larkey
In the spring, (1854) my father took up land a mile north of where the village of Anoka was laid out, broke 5 acres, and prepared to build a house on it. He had a good cellar dug and the stone hauled for walling it up. The lumber purchased, and on the ground, and a carpenter, Mr. Pease, came out to build the house, 22 ft. by 30 ft. They got along very well till the frame was up and considerable more done, when more material of some sort was needed.
Mr. Pease proposed that he go to St. Anthony on Sunday, buy the material on Monday, and have it sent up. But father objected to him going on Sunday and wished him to take a weekday. But Mr. Pease said he was anxious to get on with the job. He would not be doing the business on Sunday, only doing the traveling to town, so much against father’s wishes, he went. The materials were purchased and Mr. Pease returned. The next day he went to work as usual, in the morning, father, going to the new place with his yoke of oxen and wagon. Toward noon I went up with dinner for the men. The distance was about 1½ miles from home. I noticed that Mr. Pease ate very little of his dinner and did not seem well. About 4 o’clock he told father he was sick and could work no longer, so father immediately hitched up his wagon and Mr. Pease lay down on it, too sick to sit up. We got home about 5 o’clock and he went immediately to his room. Mother saw that he was very sick and asked him what she could do for him. "Oh", he said, "I want my boots off". Mother stepped to the door and called in a man who was plowing in the garden, and he pulled off Mr. Pease’s boots. They were long legged calfskin boots such as the men wore in those days. Mother wanted to give him a remedy she had for cramps and vomiting. He took one dose and his vomiting ceased, but he seemed afraid to take more, and was in great pain. Father sent to a neighbor about three quarter of a mile away and got him to go to St. Anthony for a Doctor, that being the nearest place that one could be got. The distance was 18 miles. The man went and returned with the doctor about one o’clock in the morning but at 3 o’clock
Mr. Pease had no wife or relatives near. One brother we heard lived forty miles distant. There was no railroad in those days but a man was found who was willing to go and bring the brother if he could find him. He was also to bring a coffin so the burial could be performed when the brother was present. Mr. Pease died early Wednesday morning and the remains were properly prepared and cared for, and placed in an empty room until Friday morning when it became warm and it was thought best to carry the body to a hill away from the house. A child had already been buried there. There the grave was dug and the remains conveyed there, and covered with boughs to protect it from the sun till Friday noon when the man returned with the brother and the coffin. That afternoon the few who were there, gathered about the open grave and my father held a burial service for the one who was far from home in a frontier land with none to moor his untimely end, save one brother, who had not been in contact with him for a long time.
It was a sad event and father and mother thought if he had only waited another day and had not gone to town on the Sunday, he might not have been stricken down. "Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it Holy".
Other carpenters were secured and the work on the house progressed. In June,(1854) it had so far progressed that we moved into it. A floor was laid over one half of it downstairs and the whole of the upper floor was laid, and a bedroom and pantry taken off, and windows and doors put in part of the house. But the stairs and upper part were not completed for some time. Nothing was done faster than it could be paid for, and for a while we had to climb on a chair on to a workbench, and then climb a ladder to the second floor, but we got there just the same.
At this time we had a heifer and four calves. Father had bought two cows that came from theSelkirk settlement at Red River, where Winnipeg now stands. (See Link) There was a great demand for butter for people were coming into the country. There was little accommodation for them and often our unfinished house was well filled with travelers and mother had much to do.
As there were no fences, the cattle would often stray away, and as there was no boy, I spent many hours on the prairies watching the wandering cows, not only to get them home, but as settlers took up land and built their cabins they would try to get in a little crop before they had any fencing done, and we did not want the cattle trespassing on other people’s gardens. We had a good garden of our own and mother raised fine tomato plants in a box and set them out in the garden as soon as we moved to the new house, and we had plenty of ripe tomatoes, and other garden vegetables, and the potatoes were a surprising crop.
The prairies were covered with beautiful flowers all summer, and many were the bouquets gathered and the cornelian stones that I found here and there were real delight to me and I had a collection of many colors, shapes and sizes, some variegated. I found not only flowers and bright cornelians, but health and strength for future years while herding the docile cows and feeding the calves that were very fond of me, for not having other playmates I made pets of them. They all knew their names and would come at my call from as far over the prairie as they could see or hear me. Mother used to say she hoped I would never have worse associates, and I surely never learned any harm from them. I was usually able to keep in sight of the cattle for if they got out of sight it was usually hard to tell where to find them, for the prairies were boundless. Sometimes I would see the tracks of bears in the patches of fresh breaking of the homesteaders, who usually called when they had selected their land, and had about 5 or more acres broken so that it might be ready for crop the next year, for planting, though sometimes a few potatoes might be planted under the sod and yielded considerable return to the settler.
A small cabin about 10’ x 12’ or even smaller was sometimes erected on the breaking and would furnish shelter from the weather until a more commodious dwelling could be erected, but these shacks were far apart and long were the roads from one to the other. I was usually able to find the cattle and bring them home before dark, but as fall approached the feed was not so abundant and they would wander farther away to search for fresh grass beside some slough or perhaps some little creek, or along the river bottoms.
One day they got away out of sight and I could not find them. I brought home the calves and they lay down by the corral. I did not shut them inside for I knew they would not leave. If the cows were there they would have all been shut inside. There were wolves about, we knew, but they had not troubled us since we had gone on to the prairies. We had two men boarding with us, newcomers from the east, who both had guns. About 4 o’clock in the morning we heard the dog bark. Mother thought of wolves at once and told father but he was quite deaf and did not hear as quickly as Mother. But he was soon up and so were the men with their guns. It being fall it was still quite dark and before they got out where they could see the wolves had chased the calves about 40 rods from the house and had got one down and torn open it side, so that it had to be killed. It was a fine calf 6 months old and the wolves got away without a shot being fired. It was quite a loss. Of course the meant was good, but I was unable to eat any of it. She was the best calf of the bunch. I shed many tears over the loss of my Rosie calf. Had the larger cattle been home and all in the corral together, the larger ones would have surrounded the calves and fought off the wolves till help arrived. It was a sore thought to me that my pet had been killed by wolves.(1854)
Mother said if no men had been there and I had run out, the calves would have run to me, and the wolves would not have dared to follow close but the calves were afraid of the strange men and ran from them, and so became the easy prey of the wolves. The next night, the wolves visited a neighbor’s two or three miles away and killed a calf there.
There were many things the pioneers had to contend with whilst making their homes in a new country. We had no well the first year in the new home, and no water nearer than the river half a mile away, so the water for the house use was brought in a barrel and all winter the cattle were driven to the river, a hole was cut in the ice, and the cattle gathered around it to drink. On pleasant days this was not a bad job, but when the mercury was low, it was too much for me alone, so father attended to that job for me. Before another winter, we had a good well, and the water was drawn in buckets hung by a rope adjusted over the wheel. This was very convenient.
Father had the stone drawn, to stone up the cellar which was a good one, the full size of the house, but he could not find a stone mason to do the work, but one day he raced home from town with a stranger whom he had met that day.This stranger had just arrived in the country. Father found he was of the same name as himself, and that he was a stonemason, so father secured him at once to lay up the stonewalls. He was a good workman and the walls were well built. He was a distant relative of father’s and bore the same name, but always went by the name of Tinker Twitchell, though his right name was Moses Twitchell. He said the Twitchells were of English origin. Two brothers by the names of Moses and Aaron came over from England together. Moses settled in Main, and Aaron settled in Massachusetts. He was descended from Moses Twitchell and father descended from Aaron Twitchell. For some reason my father’s father moved to New York. My father’s ancestors dropped the middle T in the name and spelled Twichell while the other branch of the family continued to spell it Twitchell, though by others it was frequently spelled with a T.
The summer passed and the winter was approaching. I was 13 years old that fall, (1854) and still no chance for schooling, but my mother had continued my study at home and taught me as she had time. The winter was cold though bright, but it seemed long, though there was always something to do. I had my studies, some sewing and knitting to do, and corn to shell for the fowls at night, and put near the stove, so it would be warm for them in the morning. The fowls were my care to provide with food and water and see that they were comfortable in every way. This was my special business and I enjoyed caring for them. My black cat Dick was very entertaining and as there were no other children near, the cat and the calves and the dog had a full share of my attention, and with my studies, knitting and sewing, the winter wore away.
In the spring there was plenty to do getting in corn, potatoes and other vegetables, and improving things generally. (1855) Then there were too, the cows and the claves to attend to. Father got a lot of Tamarac poles from the swamp a few miles distant and had them taken to a new sawmill that had been built In Anoka and had them sawed into long light poles. These he nailed on to posts that had been driven into the ground and they made a very tidy looking good fence, and so he was able to keep his cows from wandering and was able to keep them on his own land.
Some time in May, the Rev. Charles Secombe, the Congregational Minister in St. Anthony came up with his wife. He had been in his house when we first came to the country when his first wife was alive. She had since died, as also has his first son. He had gone east after her death and returned with a second wife, a young woman of perhaps 25 years, 15 years younger than himself. He was a quite sedate man, who seldom seemed to smile, and always seemed to be burdened with cares. He was a good man who cared much for his Church. His wife was a lighthearted woman and did not seem possessed of common, or at least, the same sort of sense that her husband had. They wanted to know if father and mother would let me go to St. Anthony. Her sister was coming west to teach school and I could go to school there. Mother hardly knew how to spare me, as I was her only help but she wanted me to have a chance to attend school, and so it was arranged that in a couple of weeks father would take me to St. Anthony to live with them. So when mother had made my scanty wardrobe as presentable as possible, with the limited beans at her disposal, father took me down with his team 16 miles to St. Anthony.
My life in the parsonage was very different to what I had been accustomed. The house was comfortable and neat for the west at that time. One room was the sitting room and dining room with a pantry and another was the Minister’s study with a small hall that served as a front door to the study. There was also a door connecting with the sitting room. The back door of the sitting room opened into a sink room where there was a pump and a sink, and one washed dishes and could do other coarser kitchen work in it. A small kitchen opened off of this and my little room was off the kitchen, and looked out upon a vegetable garden, that was kept free from weeds, and produced enough to supply, in the summer, the family’s needs. There was a chamber over the main part of the house, containing two rooms. One, the family bedroom and the other for the guest, whoever he might be. The chamber was reached by the stairs that went up between the sitting room and the study. There was a cellar also, the steps leading to it being under the attic stairs. Mr. Secombe kept a cow, and took good care of her, and she furnished them milk and most of their butter.
My business was to do anything I could to leave Mrs. Secombe free to sew or attend to the duties of a pastor’s wife and if I had any spare time, I was to study a little, but life shut in, through the lovely summer days, was rather irksome to me compared with the free life of running outdoors, bring home the cows, feeding the calves, and indulging in other activities on the farm at home.
I knew no one in the village and went nowhere, except to Church on Sundays. Mrs. Secombe was the organist of the church, and I sat alone in the Minister’s pew. Then there was the Sunday School every Sunday afternoon. That was a diversion too.
I remember some that I used to see every Sunday through I did not know their names. There was an old gentleman with two daughters, who always sat in one side of the front pews on the left side of the church. The elder daughter was perhaps 22 years of age or more; the younger one was 16 or 17 years old. The old gentleman was a quiet gentlemanly looking man with hair nearly white, and carefully brushed clothes. The elder girl had dark hair and a clear complexion, and usually wore a silver-gray silk dress. The younger girl wore a pretty blue of some light summer material that was very becoming to her fair hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks. I often thought as I sat there sedately in Church that when I was old enough to earn my own living I would have dresses like theirs. I am afraid that I thought more about the girls and their dresses than I sometimes did about the sermons I listened to. Mr. Secombe was a very earnest preacher. His whole thought of interest was for his people and he earnestly strove to give them things new, and out of the treasure house of Truth.
I fear his people did not always appreciate his efforts for them. He was a gentlemanly, scholarly man, quiet and reserved. He had come to St. Anthony some years before when it was a mission church, and he had organized it, and he and his first wife had borne the hardships of a new place in a new country. Then she died, leaving a little infant son and he soon followed her.
Mr. Secombe’s second wife as a minister’s daughter, and the youngest of a family of three sisters and one brother. She knew little about housework, but was a good pianist, and gave music lessons chiefly as her occupation, and she still did a little in that line. She had a good piano. The minister’s salary was small, and I know that at one time they thought seriously of selling the piano, but did not do so. A little boy came to them whilst I was there, and though he was a nice baby and I liked him, he interfered with my lessons, which became fewer and shorter after his advent. Mrs. Secombe was to give me lessons until her sister, who was a schoolteacher, arrived, but she had little time to teach me.
When her sister did arrive along towards fall, she opened a private school in the basement of the church, and I was to take lessons from her after her other pupils were dismissed for the day, but by that time, I would be too tired to profit by my lessons and was unable, or had no time for needed recreation. I only went for a walk or a holiday once all that summer, and then a sister of a friend of my sister’s called on me, and we went for a walk to view St. Anthony Falls. The Falls are much less now in size and volume of water than in the summer of 1855.
My brother Dwight, who lived near Anoka, came down to St. Anthony once on business and came to see me, and spent an hour with me. He was the only one I met that summer that I had ever know before.
My health was not as good as when I enjoyed the free life at home on the prairie, and I often cried when I went to bed. I was homesick, but I never told anyone, or wrote of it to mother. Mrs. Secombe often spoke to others of how contented I was. I learned whilst there, to put in practice some of the things I had learned from mother. One thing was making the butter. Mrs. Secombe knew little about it and she soon left that to me; also making the biscuits, I had only learned from a recipe; and many other things that she knew very little about.
One afternoon, near night, a new minister came to Mr. Secombe. He was traveling in a covered wagon with his wife and three children being sent by the missionary society to a new field some miles farther into the country. Mrs. Secombe was away at a meeting of the ladies of the church and would be away for supper and Mr. Secombe was to meet her before the tea and bring her home afterwards.
There was no preparation made for any company and the bread was nearly gone. Mr. Secombe asked me if I could get up something for their supper whilst he went to meet his wife. I was young then, less than 14 years; I knew Mrs. Secombe always resorted to pancakes when bread ran out, so I said I would do what I could and got tea for the travelers. The main dish was pancakes but they were tired and seemed glad of rest and refreshments. They had been on the road for three or four days and had another day’s journey before them, and the baby was worrisome. However, they had their tea and Mrs. Secombe came home and all went to bed. They left the next day to continue their journey to the new field. I do not remember where it was nor the minister’s name. I know I though it was pretty hard to go that way with the three children, the oldest hardly 5 years old. But we afterwards heard they got to their destination all right and were successful with the Master’s vineyard.
One thing I learned and that was that it was never safe for a minister’s home to be unprepared for company and remembered my mother’s plane to always have something on hand for the unexpected guest and if necessary, be able to get it ready in a hurry.
The summertime passed away with very little to vary the monotony. I went to church and to Sunday school every Sunday, but had no associates and stayed indoors most of the time. Came the fall and as the baby was often needing care, they thought I could study my lessons and recite them to Miss Talman, the sister, when she came home from school.
Then my mother came down to St. Anthony to sell her butter and buy some things she needed for the house (our chief income was from the cows). Mother came down on the little steamboat that made regular trips up and down the river above St. Anthony. She did her shopping on Saturday and expected to return to Anoka by the steamer. I was overjoyed with seeing her and told mother of the prospect of going home in a few days, but alas for my hopes. One Saturday evening, a messenger came and told mother that it had become too cold and the boat would make no more trips that fall as the ice might prevent it from returning. As a number of people had come down by boat, expecting to return by it, mother knew that the stage that was to take the place of the boat would be crowded with passengers, and so it was not best for me to go with her, but said I could come home on the stage for a week later.
I was much disappointed and shed many tears, much to the surprise of Mrs. Secombe for she had thought me as much contented as if I were home. Another week and I was glad to go home for a week’s holiday and give mother a chance to repair my clothing for winter wear.
How the days hurried by and I soon returned to Mrs. Secombe’s with understanding that I was to go to school, for getting lessons at home and reciting them alone after school would not be to my advantage. Well, I went to school, which was on the next lot to Mrs. Secombe’s, and at recess, both forenoon and afternoon I used to hurry over to the house and give Mrs. Secombe a few minutes help in some way, for her household duties seemed more than she could manage with the baby. I tried this a week or two and on washdays Mrs. Secombe’s sister and I rose about 3 o’clock and got most of the washing done before school time and Mrs. Secombe was then able to finish it.
Then came a chance for a welcome change for me. A girl 17 years old wanted a place in town to work for her board, and go to school. "Oh", I said, "Mrs. Secombe, take her and let me go home, for she is three years older than I and can help you much more, and I want to go home for mother has written me that a school has started in Anoka and I can go to school only a mile away from home". So another week later saw me off for home.
It was December now. (1855) I had been with Mrs. Secombe six months and was so glad to be home with mother and able to help her with the work and attend school at Anoka. I had to walk a mile to school, and the weather was sometimes pretty cold, but I only missed one day and then it was 35 below zero (F) and father was afraid I would freeze. There were a number of girls about my own age, 14 to 17, and some youths about the same age and we certainly had an interesting time.
Our teacher, a Mr. Smiley, was a good one, and we were much interested in our studies, and sometimes we had amusing spelling matches and our compositions gave us a stimulus to compose. We had some mirth provoking discussions for some of the girls were from New York and some from the State of Maine. One day we were divided on which State had produced the greater number of great men. The Maine people were a little conceited over their State generally and the girls were loud in their boasts. When asked what great men Maine had given the world – "Why, Neil Daw!" they said. Of course he was a great man. At that time Neil Daw was a famous temperance man and did much for that movement, and Maine had, I think, become a prohibition state under his leadership. Well, we New York girls said that New York was the Empire State of the Union and could boast of more than one great man. Finally we agreed to leave it to our teacher to decide. When we asked him which State had produced the most eminent men, he replied without hesitation "New York of course". The New York girls were elated but not so the Maine girls. But the verdict was accepted as beyond dispute. So the winter hurried along but school exercises were varied by recitations, dialogues and compositions, and our recesses were jubilant with merrymaking.
There were some pupils by the name of Robins. I remember a conundrum propounded by one of the number. "Why does recess resemble the spring?" and the answer was, "Because we hear the voices of Robins". The witty sallies of the crowd that attended that first school of Anoka were often mirth provoking.
With the coming of summer, we dispersed in different directions and to different occupations. Mine to the farm to help with the care of the cows and the calves and chickens, and churn the golden butter. We churned every day during the summer. Many a ramble did I have over the prairies and many of the days were delightsome.
An interesting event was the marriage of my sisterAlmeda, the only sister I had then. She came up from Winona where she had been teaching. She was a slight fair-haired, blue-eyed young woman of 25. Her fiancé came with her. He was about the same age with dark hair and was over six feet tall, a great contrast to my sister of whom he seemed very fond and she was very proud of her stalwart companion. They arrived Thursday evening May 8th and Father married them Saturday afternoon May 10th. Sunday they attended Church in the schoolroom. There was no church building at that time. Then they went to my brother Dwight’s who lived 3 or 4 miles West of Anoka, returning by stage for St. Paul and then by steamer for Winona where Mr. Smith was engaged in the furniture business with his brother, Andrew Smith. I saw no more of my sister for a year and a half.
There were three weddings at my father’s that summer. As a minister, he was often needed to tie the nuptial knot in that country where ministers were few and far between.
In the fall a place was found for me to work for my board and go to school in St. Paul. A friend of my sister lived there and was about to be married. She was married soon after I arrived there. She was keeping house for her father and brother and onDec. 1st, 1856, she was married to a Mr. Irvine and went to live across the road in a new two-story brick house that her husband had built. She took her father and myself to her new home and left her brother to occupy the old house in his bachelor loneliness.
He was about 40, a fine, amiable man and was the city surveyor. I spent a year with Mrs. Irvine and part of the time attended public school and part of the time a private school taught by aMiss Ogden in the basement of the Presbyterian Church. To attend that school I used to cross the ground of the Capitol Buildings every day.
St. Paul was a new town built on a hilly site but it is much changed now. I attended my first party that winter in St. Paul. It was given by one of the schoolmates, and I thought it a grand affair. It was in a fine house and there was plenty of room to play games and music was indulged in. The lunch was delicious and, best of all; the guests were all picked up and returned to their homes in a sleigh.
In the summer a niece of Mrs. Irvine’s from Milwaukee came to spend a few weeks with her aunt whilst convalescing from a fever. She brought a guitar with her and was quite entertaining and we had many a merry time together, but there was one incident that summer that I remember with anything but pleasure. It happened the day before the closing of the summer school term.
Mr. Irvine’s house was built on a side hill and had a front that was passed by the street leading on down the hill. A cellar, pantry and bedroom opened from the lower side and were well back against the hill. The windows opened on a yard at the side of the hill.
One night a severe storm arose, the water ran so rapidly off the higher land, the streets, that the pipes could not carry it off and it filled the ditch under the sidewalk past the house and folded Mr. Irvine’s front ward, around the side yard, and burst into the window of the cellar, pantry, and bedroom which Miss Williams occupied with me. All this happened in less time than it takes to write it for the storm was so violent and rapid. Miss Williams and I gathered our clothes and sprang for the stairs that were by our room, which led to he hall. Mr. Irvine soon had the dining room and kitchen doors open so the fold passed out into the yard and down the lower street. There was not much sleep for us that night but the storm soon passed and the morning dawned bright and clear. But, oh the plight of the lower rooms of the house was better imagined than described. The floors were covered with mud and water; everything in the cellar that was not on the table or shelves had been submerged and we heard that a number of the other housed had been deluged by the young Noah, asMr. Halstead, Mrs. Irvine’s brother, called it.
There were no closing exercises at school the next day. All hands were too busy clearing away the debris that the flood had left behind and it was days before we felt we had removed the last traces of the flood and recovered from its effects. One thing Mrs. Irvine congratulated herself on was that the housecleaning was done in that part of the house.
Some time later, I went home to Mother for a couple of weeks and came back with the prospect of remaining for some time with Mrs. Irvine. About this time my sister wrote asking me to go to Winona and live with her and attend school there. I was undecided as to what to do. I wrote to Mother and she left it up to me to choose between staying in St. Paul and going to Winona; but the thought of being with my sister, and in a new place had charms for me and I finally decided to go to Winona, leaving Mrs. Irvine and her small son. I never saw the place again but heard from them from time to time. When the Civil War broke out, Mr. Irvine became an officer in the army of the North and was rather conspicuous for his successful activities in the Army.
I remember all the Irvines with gratitude and respect. My school days were pleasant, my teachers, kind and helpful. While at the Irvines, I worked for my board as was common for country girls who attended school in town. My duty was to rise at the tapping of a cane on the floor above, prepare breakfast for the family. In the winter, breakfast consisted of hash prepared for the night before, cold meats and vegetables, and buckwheat pancakes that had been set the night before. Pancakes were almost a national dish among Americans at that time. It was my job to bake the pancakes, while the others ate them, as pancakes were always served not. When Mrs. Irvine was through she took my place and serve me. After breakfast, Mr. Irvine held family prayer. Then there was the washing of the breakfast dishes, the tidying of the kitchen, straightening up of my room, and perhaps prepare the vegetables for dinner. Returning home from school after 4 o’clock, I always found the dinner dishes piled up in the sink awaiting washing before supper. Then there was the supper dishes to dispose of and breakfast to prepare. Then my lessons for school or a letter to write home to Mother.
Christmas came and Santa Claus presented me with a pair of new shoes and a lovely book by T.S. Arthur. Mr. Halstead was a great reader and his son-in-law provided him with books and sometimes Mr. Irvine read aloud, interesting passages while his wife and I listened. Mrs. Irvine’s brother sometimes drifted in and was a pleasant addition to the family circle. In the summer when Mrs. Irvine’s niece was there, she and I used to accompany Mr. Halstead to the Anglican Church, which the old gentleman always attended, but his daughter did not like him to go alone, so we accompanied him and guided his footsteps over the sometimes rough, uneven streets. Hr. Halstead was an Englishman by birth and he never forgot his native country. Mr. And Mrs. Irvine attended the Presbyterian Church and it was there I went to Sunday School.
And so, on to Winona. There was no railroad down the river at this time, all traffic being by steamer.It was the fall of 1857. I did not write my sister that I was coming. We had a pleasant trip down the river and when the steamer landed and I had made enquiries for my sister’s home, a kindly gentleman gave orders to the bus driver and in a few minutes I was set down at my sister’s door much to my sister’s glad surprise, for she had decided that I was not coming.
Life was very pleasant for me that winter. My sister lived in a large house that belonged to her husband’s brother, and he and his family consisting of his wife, who was an invalid, and three children, a hired woman, a feeble old man who was the wife’s father and the holster who looked after the horses, all lived there together. My sister and all these as well as a music teacher, who was giving lessons to the young folk, and myself, made up quite a houseful. Twelve of us sitting down to the table at each meal.
L.D.Smith’s children did not attend the Public School. He built a small house of two rooms near the larger one and my sister taught his three children and his youngest brother, who lived nearby. My sister employed a strong woman to do the kitchen work and everyone was kept busy, each having his own particular work to do. Mine was to sweep and put the sitting room in order every morning after breakfast, which we had at 7 o’clock every morning. I also had to practice at least half an hour before going to school, which was half a mile distant. The school was held in what had once been a boarding house for Winona was young then and people had come in so rapidly that schools were need faster than buildings could be erected. We had a full room and an excellent teacher,Mr. Tanner, a quiet, scholarly Christian man, whose influence over his pupils was always for the good. There were quite a number of young men from 17 to 20 years of age and girls of near the same age as myself (16) and we had some lovely times at recess. There was snow enough to have lots of fun and we were allowed our liberty as long as there was no fighting. That was understood. The smaller children were taught in a separate room by the teacher’s wife.
Among the youths who attended, was oneThomas Towbridge, a fine fellow aged 18 years, who disdained anything that was underhanded and was very observant of the rules and all respected him, the girls at least. There was another, Will Tucker, who was also well liked, but did not have the confidence of the pupils generally as did Tommy. Somehow, I do not know how these two disagreed to such an extent that one day at recess, they came to blows. The rest of the pupils were astonished for fighting was very much against the rules. How could our quiet teacher deal with it? The recess was over and, with an air of expectancy, the pupils filed into the classroom. There was a few moments of silence, then our teacher spoke in a quiet manner of the painful incident, that he very much regretted and for those who, in a moment of provocation, so forgot themselves as to be led into an infraction of the rules that he had hoped all respected.
There was silence in the room for a moment when up jumped Tommy Towbridge and apologized to the teacher and his schoolmates and confessed his error of having been guilty of the offence of fighting. All felt it was like Tommy to accept the responsibility, but what of Will? He was not to be outdone and was soon apologizing for his share in the affray. Then in a voice that was not free from emotion, Mr. Tanner gave a few words of advice that was not lost on the pupils and there was moisture in his eyes as the work of the school resumed. Many were the thoughts of approval that with tact and kindliness the affair had been relegated to the past.
The young folk were a lively crowd and many were the pleasant hours we spent together. My brother-in-law and sister Celia, about my age, and his brother Andrew had a sister-in-law named Jessie, both pleasant girls, and they often came over to my sister’s house in the evenings and the visits were sometimes prolonged into a walk together, when Celia and Jessie would start for home and I would go with them part way as girls will often do. But my brother-in-law, though always very kind, thought there was getting to be rather too much of that sort of thing but he did not complain. One evening after we had gone a little way beyond my sister’s schoolhouse, we heard a groaning which seemed to come from a dark fence corner. We started and suddenly we heard it again. Was it a drunken man, or someone in distress? Thoroughly frightened, we ran back to my sister’s house and reported the unusual sound. David had to see the girl’s home for none of us would go without protection. That little affair put a stop to our nocturnal meetings for a time at least. Afterwards, we heard that the whole thing had been planned to teach us a lesson, that was more effective than many words of reproof would have been.
My sister was very fond of the young people, many of whom she had taught, forshe was the first schoolteacher in Winona. (Almeda) She was ever ready for anything that would add to their happiness and please me. She was a dear, unselfish sister.
On Thanksgiving Day, late in November, a sleighing party of about 10 of us was going for a pleasant drive and she invited us all home for supper when we should return. We came in with sharpened appetites and what a bountiful supper we had. I always remember those mince pies, so good and in such generous portions. After supper, games and music were indulged in for a time before scattering to the different homes. Our time was always pretty well filled for we had lessons to learn and we were trying to prepare ourselves for teaching in the spring, and with that in view, we felt the necessity of studying hard and with our music practice, and going to a meeting occasionally, and with lectures to attend, the winter passed quickly.
I had a painful experience that winter for I sat for the first time in a dentist chair and lost, not only a tooth, but part of a jaw or casing of the roots that was so badly cracked that I had to go twice and, under the influence of chloroform, had the broken pieces extracted. This had to be done before my mouth would heal.
On one occasion before going out, I had to make a dress from some pretty, light print, but the cutter was at the door to take me to the dentist’s office. I hastily laid my work in my room and never saw it again. The music teacher was out and so was my sister and there was no one in the lower part of the house except the girl in the kitchen. We could only guess what had become of my print. We made no charge but she offered to leave soon afterward. The next girl my sister had could not read but, as she wanted to learn, I spent a little time each evening teaching primary work and as she was anxious to learn, she made good progress.
As spring approached, I took a cold and was quite ill, but my sisterAlmeda a grand nurse and a great believer in the water cure treatment, used it on me with complete success and in a few days I was around again and able to be interviewed by two trustees who called in the latter part of April to secure a teacher for their school. After some preliminaries and a form of questioning to find out if I was capable of filling the position, they appeared to be satisfied and I agreed to accept their offer, which would give me about two dollars a week after paying my board, which was about $1.50 per week. It was a new district and the houses were mostly board or log shanties and not convenient for boarding a teacher. There was only one house within a mile of the school that was large enough and could accommodate the teacher. The school was to begin the first of May and continue to October with a week’s holiday in August.
I heard after, that when the trustees called and were introduced to the young girl as the prospective teacher, they were quite set back and thought the little girl would hardly do. However, as I answered their questions satisfactorily, they concluded I might try it anyway and the matter was settled. As I had never been able to earn anything before and was hoping for a chance to earn my own living, I was in high spirits at the prospect.
My father was only a poor missionary with a very meager salary. We had gone to Minnesota with nothing but our household goods, then we went to our farm after taking boarders for a couple of years and a great start with 2 or 3 cows. My mother, who was a good manager and a great worker contrived to keep the house, which was built, but not finished, and pay the wages of a mired man whom they were sometimes obliged to keep. My ambition was independence; to be dependant on no one for what I needed I thought was most desirable.
During the winter there had been much religious interest among the young people and a series of protracted meetings had been held by the different churches. My sister was very anxious that I should decide for Christ. I was not indifferent but halted, the inconsistency of some professed Christians, I gave as the reason. I knew the way but hesitated. I knew that at home many prayers were offered up for me and I could not write to my mother that I refused the offer of salvation so full and free. I knew I was not safe in a world so full of temptation. I needed one to be over me, a guide and protector. My schoolmates were, as many of them choosing the better part and rejoicing in a newfound hope. I dared not refuse any longer and wrote home to Mother of my decision and later became a member of the Congregational Church. TheRev. David Burt was the Pastor. Their tears of thanksgiving that I was numbered among the saved and the Lord has never forsaken me.
In May I went to my school. It was inUtica, about 16 miles from Winona toward Rochester. Part of the road was very good but part of it was through a district more or less wooded and was very rough. I rode in a stage and as it bumped over the road, some of it corduroy, I was bounced up and down and from side to side. I thought sometimes that if the stage were not closed in, I certainly would have landed on the roadside. As it was, I only received bumps and bruises that were sore for more than one day. But the rough road gave way to smooth travel over the prairie and I was soon at the end of my journey. My boarding house was the home of Mr. Warner. They had a comfortable, roomy house. Mr. Warner had a good farm and seemed possessed of a good share of the world’s goods. He was a slim quiet man over 40 years of age. His wife was about my age; quite lively and good looking with dark hair and dark, laughing eyes, clear complexion and very cheerful disposition. They had for help a young widow, who did the housework and Mr. Warner had a hired man or two. All were pleasant and agreeable.
The schoolhouse was an unfinished building and could only be used in the summer time, as it was too cold for winter. There had been a teacher for a few weeks the summer before. There were about 20 pupils from 5 to 15 years of age who, judging by their names, were different nationalities. They were generally intelligent and not adverse to study. There was one bright little girl, the youngest, but alas, she was deaf and dumb. She had a book for the dumb and learned the alphabet and was quick to learn many things by the use of signs. The school was about three quarters of a mile from where I boarded but I often cut across the fields thereby considerably shortening the distance. There were only 8 or 9 families in the district. These I visited several times at each home. At each home I was always hospitably received but their houses were nearly all one or two roomed log or board shanties with meager accommodation, but all looked forward to better things in the future.
There was a religious service in the little schoolhouse when every three weeks an old gentleman came our way and gave us a service. He had two other appointments and the distance to travel was great. There was no Sunday School but the children gathered every Sunday afternoon and we had a lesson from the Bible. There were no helpers and we formed one class. Sometimes the mothers of the children seemed to enjoy coming and I was glad of the occupation and hoped it was not all in vain. We had a few days holiday in the summer and I was at my sister’s for a while and much enjoyed the change.
There was not much excitement in the district. They were mostly quiet folk. One young couple slipped away quietly and were married, but beyond immediate relatives, no one seemed to mind.
The prairies had scattered oaks over it here and there. They were crooked and gnarled, of the burr-oak variety. One stood not far from the schoolhouse and, during a thunderstorm, it was struck by lightning. The children were frightened but it would not do for the teacher to appear so. The shower was soon over, the sun shone out and all was calm and bright again. As the summer advanced and the grass grew long in the fields I found the long way round to school by road in the morning was best. If I went through the fields I needed to take a dry skirt and stockings and change them at the schoolhouse for the dews were heavy and it would be past school time before the fields were dry. There were many wild flowers and my desk always had an abundance of them supplied by the children. It was there that I learned to ride horseback. There was a pony that was seldom used but was quiet and I was privileged to ride it whenever I liked to o to the field and climb up on his bare back. He was very docile and did not object and I had many a canter on him around the pasture.
While there I made the acquaintance of oneLottie McCormick, a very pleasant and pretty girl who lived with her sister but whose home was in Ohio to which she returned in September. She was engaged to a young man who worked in the neighbourhood. He was a handsome fellow but we feared he was not worthy of Lottie for he was suspected of drinking. When she returned to her home he went to his home in New York and learned from a letter I received from Lottie that she never saw him again. Perhaps it was well that she never did. She afterwards married someone near her own home.
Before the end of my school term a baby boy came to the home of the Warners and was very welcome. They named him Chester Richard Warner. School closed in October with a little program and special exercises by the scholars, interesting to the parents who all came to see what their children could do. Altogether the summer had been interesting and profitable to me. I visited the district to see Mrs. Warner some months afterward and I found the baby Chester had grown up to be a beautiful, dark-eyed boy, the pride and joy of his parents.
The following winter to school again inWinona. A Mr. Thomas was the principal and Mr. Clark had the junior room. A Mr. Winter had a room in another building for the primary class. The school was large and three of the children attending Mr. Thomas’ class were detailed to teach three of the classed from the junior room. The grammar and geography classes were assigned to certain pupils and to me was assigned the mental arithmetic class. Thanks to my stepmother, ( Almina ) REB I was particularly good at that subject.
I was 17(1858) before my schooling closed and, whereas I had always thought myself a child, I found I must deport myself as a young woman as was expected of me. It was a busy winter. Our studies and meetings and social gatherings filled up the time and we were never at a loss for something to do. I gave up my music for I had no voice for singing and my ear was not acute, though I had taken up two quarters on the piano, I felt it would be wasted time to continue. I could not dream of having an instrument of my own and I knew I must fit myself for teaching and decided to continue those studies that would qualify me soonest for the position. Mr. Thomas urged me to take French but I did not as I would not likely be called upon to take that subject in rural schools where I would most likely be. But I think I made a mistake. One should always endeavour to learn everything they have the opportunity to. Our social circle was rather large and about once in two weeks there was a surprise party at the home of one of the scholars. We usually gathered about
8 o’clock. Schoolboys and girls had far too much studying to do to spend more time in amusement. These surprise parties did not cater to the appetites as no refreshments were served. Sometimes boys and girls would bring along a shower of candies of nuts that helped to entertain the crowd. The last surprise party was at my sister’s and she found out they were coming and prepared refreshments, which were partaken of as we stood along the table in the dining room. This was the last party of the season. Some were leaving school, others leaving the town, and their other affairs demanded their attention.
My father ( Royal Twichell ) REB thought I had better come home in the spring as I had been away from home nearly a year and a half and there might be schools nearer home, but most of all he thought a summer at home with Mother on the farm would benefit me. I had a good chance to take a village school about six miles from Winona with better wages than I had received the summer before and would like to have taken it but the call home was very strong. There were those who would have liked to retain me in Winona but one was too old and one was too young, only 17, and I would not think of changing my state of freedom for marriage, at least before 21, and long engagements I could not think of. So I bid adieu to Winona and all its attractions, where I had spent so many happy hours, and to my dear sisterAlmeda and her husband and her baby boy Ernest, about three months old. About the 1st of June, I took passage on a steamer up the river. There was still no railroad in those parts. I hoped some day to return and resume my studies but I never did. This was the year 1859.
Arriving at St. Paul I took the stage for Anoka where I was met by the hired man with a wagon and a yoke of oxen. Horses were still scarce and those who drove oxen usually walked. The hired man asked me if I would ride after oxen and I said it would not be the first time. Of course, I could have walked but his asking me to ride was sort of a challenge and though the distance was only one and a half miles, I climbed into the wagon and thus I finished the last lap of my homeward journey.
That summer was a busy one. Father had gone to a mission field to gather the scattered settlers, organize a church and help build a meetinghouse, as they were commonly called then. These were unpretentious buildings without a spire, but the worshippers who worded hard and sacrificed often to secure a house of worship were devout and more regular in their attendance than is often the case where conditions are more favourable.
All summer we attended to the butter and cheese making. Every day a new cheese was put in the press, ready to come out when the next day’s cheese was ready to go in. About 10:00 A.M. was the usual time of going to press. We rose early and the milking was done and the cows out to pasture and the calves fed, the rennet in the milk before 7 o’clock. My mother was very systematic and the sun in the summertime never caught her napping, if it had, we would never have been able to accomplish what we did. Mother never made cheese on Sunday, but would run up the curd on Saturday night and make a small cheese, putting in the press until Monday morning, or placing it in a receptacle that we could lower into the well. It would wait there until the cheese was run off Monday morning and then, added to that, would make a larger cheese than usual. The average size of the daily cheese was about 28 to 30 lbs. The night’s milk was cooled and kept till the next morning when both were run together. We only saved enough milk to make what butter we wanted. The rest went into cheese. There was a great deal of work about it but it was profitable. Mother made and cured her cheese in the summer and fall, sent it down by the wagonload to St. Paul, and there she sold it. I did not care very much about this work but it was interesting and I learned many things that summer.
I did not go out much among the young people of Anoka. The household duties kept both mother and me pretty well at home but I attended church and Sunday School regularly, and the companionship found there was a great blessing. In the Fall I took a school for the winter a few miles from home and my father returned from his mission work. He could no longer stand to be out in the cold weather as he was then well over 60 years old and felt that home was his place and his stock needed his personal attention.
I had a school of over 20 enrolled and some were young men and women older than myself. I boarded over half a mile from the schoolhouse, which was an upper room in a large house occupied by a man and his wife. Some of the pupils came long distances with an ox team and every morning they picked me up at the door and gave me a ride to school. My room was also used on Sunday for gospel services by the Baptist minister.
The days came and went with little variation except the special school exercises of compositions and recitations on Fridays, and occasionally a spelling match. There were some good spellers among the pupils and much interest was taken and competition ran high as the time for final tests approached. There seems to be less interest taken in that department now than there used to be. At that time the spelling match was quite an event.
One wedding, to which I was invited, took place in the neighbourhood and, as there was considerable opposition to it by some of the young man’s friends, it occasioned much neighbourhood talk, but as usual in many cases, after they were quietly married and settled down to everyday life, little more was said.
Toward spring a bright little blossom in the sunshine of home dropped like a lily and faded away leaving lonely hearts on earth, but it went to bloom in Paradise where naught would ever sail its perfection or harm its innocence, and the lifeless form was laid to rest beneath the shadow of a tree where the birds would sing and the flowers would bloom and the summer breezes play.
During the winter I made the acquaintance of a young man who came occasionally to his sisters, though most of the time he was employed in Anoka. He seemed quiet reserved and gentlemanly in manner. As our acquaintance grew he evinced a liking for my society and, hearing only good reports of him, seeing nothing objectionable in him, I did not discourage him. I was 18 then but still thought it better to wait 2 or 3 years before marriage, but made the mistake of an engagement without consulting my parents and, when I told them, found they did not look on the young man as favourably as other people did; thought he lacked energy which, to them was a serious objection. However, he decided to go to a distant part of the State for the summer and we parted, to meet again in the fall. I had considered him a Christian and he was, by profession, but before he left I heard him remark that he doubted the inspiration of the whole of the Bible. This was a great blow to my confidence in him but I said nothing to him on the subject before he left.
He went his way and I was engaged to teach a school in a Quaker settlement of 16 or 18 miles from home but we agreed to correspond during the summer. I found a pleasant school among the Quakers and a strong friendship grew between me and one family in particular. The younger portion attended school while, in the older sister, I found a friend and counselor, and many were the happy times we spent together. Her father was a quiet, dignified old gentleman and commanded much respect; and the mother was a cheery, motherly woman with whitening hair beneath her Quaker cap, and her kerchief was ever snowy white, and was a pleasant sight. They lived not far from an evergreen swamp and many evergreens had been planted about the yard, and they had a fine flower garden in which were many specimens to be found as well as the homely blossoms that everyone loves. The dairy house was built over a spring of running water and many were the dishes of cream that found their way to their hospitable board. The old gentleman used to say he could not do without cream when eating blueberry pie.
As Anoka was their nearest town, though only a small one, they went there occasionally to market and to the stores, always passing my father’s place. As my father’s place was all prairie, mother used to say she wished there were a few trees. I mentioned Mother’s longing for trees and one day the old gentleman took up a number, mostly evergreens, and put them in his one horse wagon and I got a ride home with the trees, and Mother and I planted them out very carefully; and very carefully did she water and tend the young shoots. They grew and thrived and 60 years later I visited the place and they had grown broad and tall and threw a welcome shadow over the front yard of the house, which was still in good repair and the owner said he was very glad of those trees and only wished there were more.
My friend Charity, the older daughter, and I had many pleasant times together. Sometimes we went for a horseback ride and sometimes for a pleasant walk. Occasionally, I heard from my boy friend but all the time I felt that I could not give him an answer that would please him for how could I link my life with anyone who disbelieved any part of the Holy Writ? He came back in the fall and then I told him. It was not pleasant, but I could not do otherwise for how otherwise could I expect God’s blessing. We parted, though not unkindly, and later I accepted a school on the edge of a wood over 50 miles from home. He called and bade me goodbye ‘ere I left. I was then past 19. (1860)
What a wonderful ride that was. I never forgot it. I was to go with the mail carrier who `took the mail every Tuesday from Anoka. On the Sunday before we had an unusual storm for winter in Minnesota. Rain fell, then snow and sleet which froze as it fell and on Monday the mail carrier, an old acquaintance told my father he would have to start Monday afternoon and go 15 miles to a little town on the way and spend the night as the road would be in such a condition that we would not be able to make the whole fifty miles in one day as he usually did. The storm had ceased in the forenoon of Monday and we started out, reaching St. Francis before dark. The next morning was bright, the sun shone and the prairies seemed one unbroken plain of dazzling whiteness. There was frozen crust on the top of the snow, which the horse’s hooves broke through but on we went over an untrodden road. There were few travelers on the road in that sparsely settled region and none had been out since the storm.
About 7 o’clock the driver stopped to deliver mail at a house where a post office was kept. Later, about 1 o’clock, a lumberman’s cookhouse appeared and here we stopped for dinner. There was no one here but the cook as the men had their dinner and gone back to their work in the woods. The dinner was good and our appetites keen from our ride in the frosty air. It was my first taste of lumbermen’s baked beans of which I had often heard. They were very fine.
Well, we started on and traveled several miles over a road that led where there were occasionally trees until we reached the pinewoods proper. We had then 15 miles to go over a winter cut road none too wide for sleighs and here the branches, heavily laden with ice, bent and dropped until they hung low over the road and could catch in the harness of the horses. Sometimes a limb so low the driver had to get out and clear the trail of low-boughed limbs. Once we struck a log and the driver fell out, but the horses stopped at the word.
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