A Settler's Year: Pioneer Life through the Seasons
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"This is a book with great meaning for those of us who grew up on farms, and a book to be shared with young people eager to know more about pioneer life." --Jerry Apps, author of "Old Farm: A History" and "Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist's Memoir"
"A Settler's Year" provides a rare glimpse into the lives of early immigrants to the upper Midwest. Evocative photographs taken at Old World Wisconsin, the country's largest outdoor museum of rural life, lushly illustrate stories woven by historian, novelist, and poet Kathleen Ernst and compelling firsthand accounts left by the settlers themselves.
In this beautiful book, readers will discover the challenges and triumphs found in the seasonal rhythms of rural life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As they turn the pages--traveling from sprawling farm to tidy crossroads village, and from cramped and smoky cabins to gracious, well-furnished homes--they'll experience the back-straining chores, cherished folk traditions, annual celebrations, and indomitable spirit that comprised pioneer life.
At its heart "A Settler's Year" is about people dreaming of, searching for, and creating new homes in a new land. This moving book transports us back to the pioneer era and inspires us to explore the stories found on our own family trees.
responsible for feeding a threshing crew breakfast, a midmorning lunch, dinner, and a late-afternoon meal. Exhausted cooks and field hands often ate in silence . . . . . . but the shared meals had a social element, too. Children were kept busy washing dishes, carrying snacks and water to the crew in the field, tending to oxen and horses . . . and perhaps dreaming of working their own farm one day. AUTUMN “I wandered along the road; the country, glowing with sunshine, opened before me like an
looking for work on the docks or in a brewery, tannery, or butcher shop—some settled into urban life for good. Most people, however, took a deep breath, squared their shoulders, and plunged into Wisconsin’s prairies and woodlands. In 1850, less than 10 percent of Wisconsin’s population were urban dwellers.3 Also traveling from the Eastern seaboard were Yankees—men and women of English descent, many third- or fourth-generation Americans. Perhaps restless, perhaps adventurous, perhaps already
planted winter wheat or rye to ensure an early spring crop. Early seedlings developed root systems quickly and were better able to choke out weeds. Men also cleared timber, enlarging their fields . . . . . . and ensuring a supply of firewood for the coming months of bitter cold. Many of the season’s chores—corn huskings, apple parings, wood cuttings—were shared with neighbors. Women treasured time with friends, knowing that visits might become more difficult when winter weather settled in.
parties. Storekeepers sold coffee and hardware, but they also shared vital news. Men often spent hours around a stove in the general store, catching up with neighbors, sharing tobacco, playing checkers. “In what better way can farmers spend the long winter evenings than by meeting together in these little classic halls to discourse topics which belong to their vocation.” (Wisconsin Farmer and Northwest Cultivator, October 1850) Meetings at schools and farmers’ club halls were educational and
Wisconsin Collection, http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu. Hollister, Uriah S. Letter and reminiscences, 1839 and ca. 1912. University of Wisconsin Digital Collections/State of Wisconsin Collections, http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu. Honajager, Frederick O. “Experiences of a Waukesha County Pioneer Farmer Boy.” Waukesha Freeman, May 11, 1921. (WLHBA) Huey, Mrs. Thomas. Address, 1924 (transcriptions). University of Wisconsin Digital Collections/State of Wisconsin Collections,