The pioneers coming to Appanoose County beginning in May 1, 1843 came with high hopes to establish a new life on their own piece of land. Many of them came as young couples, healthy and strong, often with several young children and plans for many more in the future. Family sizes were very large in those days.

The affluent pioneer would have come with a wagon, drawn by horses or oxen and he would have come with some livestock, cattle, sheep or hogs, and some chickens. He would have a gun, shot and powder for hunting wild game. He would have an initial supply of food including flour and coffee. He would have a good knife to be able to dress and cook fish and wild game and to butcher some of his stock for the winter meat supply.

He would have some basic tools such as an axe, wedge, saw, shovel and hoe. There would be an iron caldron, frying pan and coffee pot for cooking. There should be sewing implements for the woman and young girls of the family. Hopefully there would be some furniture and extra clothing. Most would carry a family Bible. After staking out their claims, the pioneers had the monumental task of making it habitable.

.The first task of the new arrival would be to contrive shelter, usually a two-room log cabin with a fireplace to warm both rooms. To build a log cabin, the settler would go out into the big timber and pick out tall straight trees. He would cut them down and hew them into logs for a cabin. He cut the logs into the desired length and hauled them to the site. On the appointed day, the few neighbors who were available would assemble and have a “house raising”. Each end of every log was notched to let the logs lie together. The next day, the owner would chink up the spaces to keep out the wind, rain and cold.

The roof was made by laying straight logs and covering with clapboards, made from the finest oaks in the vicinity. Clap boards were made by sawing a log into four foot blocks and splitting them with a cleaving tool called a froe. These clapboards were held in place by weight poles. Sod or long grasses might be added to keep out the wind and the rain and to give the roof better drainage.

The chimney was a stone or brick column built from the ground up. The fireplace was usually large enough to hold firewood up to 8 feet long. The more rapidly the settler could burn up wood, the quicker he had his farm cleared and ready for cultivation. For a window, a hole was cut out of the wall logs and the hole closed by greased paper or glass, if available. The door was cut in and had wooden latches opened by a latchstring. The floors were slabs of logs. Some of the children might have to sleep in the loft, which they reached by climbing a ladder nailed to the wall, and up through the scuttle hole.

If the family came with livestock, they would need to build a rail fence as soon as possible and had to provide some shelter or protection from wild animals. Wolves were especially difficult to guard against. Most of the settlers brought a good watch dog to fight them off and to alert the men with their barking.

The livestock and the horses needed adequate forage. At first the early settlers might take a wagon down into Missouri to buy corn, usually available because Missouri had been settled 25 years earlier than Iowa. All the livestock also had to have access to water. They might have to be driven to a nearby stream.

The pioneers would also clear a portion of their land from trees and brush so they could get some seed into the ground. Only a few acres of corn could be planted the first year. They merely chopped a hole in the sod and dropped in the seed. Later, when breaking large areas of the tough sod with a plow, they had to use five yoke of oxen.

Children of pioneer days worked hard, even laboring in the fields. They planted corn by hand and tended it with a hoe. In the summer, They shocked grain. They helped to shear sheep of their wool. The girls often carded the wool, spun it into yarn and used the yarn to knit socks, stockings and mittens. Most of the knitting was done after supper by the dim light of a grease lamp or tallow candle, which they had molded.

Soap-making was done a couple of times a year. They obtained the lye by pouring water very slowly though the wood ashes in the ash hopper, shaped with a tiny hole at the bottom. The water would leach into lye, which they dipped out with gourd dippers. Through the year they kept all the grease from cooking, hog killing etc. To make soap, they put the lye into the big, iron kettle and build a fire under it. They added grease and let it boil up the lye until it got thick. After it cooled they would cut it up into bars of soft, yellow soap.

Cooking was done at the fireplace. Usually there was a hinged crane fastened to the fireplace wall so as to be moved about and used to hang an iron kettle on. Potatoes, beans, cabbage etc. were boiled in the kettle. Potatoes were also baked, placing them on the hearth and covering them with ashes. Three-legged iron ovens with iron lids were sometimes used to bake light bread, biscuits, and corn pones by setting them over embers and covering them with embers too, so as to bake on top. Eventually the family might purchase a four-lid cook stove with an oven and a warming chamber. Most pioneers, through all of their hardships, led a good life.

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