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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

More Pioneer Living

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 26, 2008

Last week, I wrote about pioneer life in our area based on 1891 newspaper articles that discussed life in 1820.

 

Readers were fascinated with the information, so I checked Doyle's "20th Century History of Steubenville and Jefferson County" for additional information.

 

I am partial to Joseph Doyle and his works, as he had a great command of writing, and he was a member of the Library Board in the early 1900s.

 

In his chapter on "Pioneer Settlers," Doyle states that people arriving in the Ohio country were met with a thick forest that extended right to the river's edge.

 

The Ohio River was the "highway" into the frontier, and vines and vegetation had grown down the river's bank to the water.

 

Travel was difficult through the undergrowth of the summer months.

 

Trails established by Native Americans, and natural trails along waterways were the common ways of entering the frontier.

 

The woods were full of wildlife, ranging from snakes to squirrels to possums and deer.

 

The skies were full of every variety of birds.

 

Doyle lists wild strawberries, serviceberries, black raspberries, gooseberries, plums, grapes, cherries, crab apples and nuts as some of the fruits of the land.

 

The homes of early pioneers were furnished with household furniture made using the skills of the pioneers, with a couple scarce pieces brought to the frontier from the East.

 

Pewter spoons and dishes, as well as wooden bowls, made up the kitchenware of the early home.

 

Pewter was practical, and wooden bowls could be made by hand on the long, winter evenings.

 

Gourds and squashes could be dried and made into various instruments for the early homes.

 

"Hog and hominy" was the leading food of the day supplemented with corn pone, mush, and milk.

 

Skins harvested from the wildlife were used for clothing, with flax harvested into early cloth.

 

Goods from the harvest were traded for salt, tea, and coffee in the eastern markets.

 

Entertainment on the frontier involved gatherings of friends and neighbors in an area with running, jumping, and wrestling contests highlighting a day's activities.

 

Churches on the early frontier consisted of "circuit riders" that would hold worship services in various homes.

 

Tent meetings were common in warm weather until church buildings became more commonplace by the 1840s.

 

Early churches assumed the role of "keeping justice" on the frontier until government agencies and a formal court system evolved.

 

It is difficult for us today to identify with life two centuries ago.

 

It is important for us to understand the rigors of pioneer life; the next time our lawn mower won't start.