How Our Ancestors Lived
|One Room Schools||Birthing Babies at Home|
|Mail Service||Cooking and Canning|
|The Family Farm||Canning in Cans and the Tomato Comes of Age|
|From the Commode to the Privy to Indoors!||Grocery Shopping|
|The Telephone||Medicine & the Healing Arts|
|The Automobile||Toys and Games|
|The IceBox - and the IceMan||.|
|The WCTU||Other Pioneer Pages - Related Links|
There are ROSTERS for some of these schools at these pages, if you want to try to find your ancestors here.
I found it interesting that one of the contributors suggested that there was a section (640 acres) reserved in each township for a school. (I'm not sure if this was a Kansas law, Federal law, or just plain practice.) Although I noticed at many of the remembrances above that a school was only in a quarter section and sometimes the land was "donated" by someone. Since a township is basically 6 miles x 6 miles, that school would serve roughly 36 square miles. If the school for every township was exactly in the center of the township (which they weren't), a rough approximation for the area covered by the school would be an area 3-4 miles out in any direction. (Of course, that presumes that every township had a school, which wasn't the case all the time.)
Envelopes weren't used until the mid-1800's. Until then, folks just folded their letters, and wrote the name of the person to pick it up and the name of the post office.
Stamps weren't used until 1847. Until then, if the sender paid, the envelope was marked "paid". If the sender didn't pay, the recipient was asked to pay when he/she picked up their mail at the post office. This changed in 1855, when the government got smart and wanted all mail stamped by the sender. The government had gotten smart and wanted their money up front!
The post office first experimented with the railroad carrying mail in 1831 and let the first rail contract in 1838. The last railroad to carry first class mail was in 1977.
Rural Free Delivery (RFD), the delivery of mail to the farm (instead of having to go to town to pick it up) was started as an experiment, criticized by some, in 1896. And wasn't established permanently until 1902. This act by the Post Office was probably more responsible than any other single influence on the building of good rural roads and bridges in the early 1900's, as the automobile made the delivery of mail to the farm possible.
In the meantime, free delivery of mail in cities had started in the larger cities in 1863 and had spread to only 454 cities by 1890. The rest of the country had to pick up their mail, or the sender pay extra for delivery.
The first time an automobile was used on a mail route was 1901.
The first overland mail to California was in 1858, the Pony Express started in 1860, but was over with by 1862, when the transcontinental telegraph was completed.
Parcels were first allowed to be mailed in 1913 (Parcel Post) leading to an explosion of goods available to rural America and the growth of Montgomery Wards and Sears as sellers by mail into retail giants.
Your tax dollars are paying for this web site, so you may as well use it: The History of the US Post Office. Note before you start clicking on the links there that you can page down and see a time-line history of the Post Office. I found this web site fascinating. Check it out. The first link is to the time line history of events concerning mail.
Marjorie (McBride) Weaver related to me that farms in early 1900's, when she grew up, were kept up better, generally, than many farms we see today. People back then took a real pride in how their farm looked, she related. They were always painted somewhat fresh, had flowers and orchards, and didn't have the commonly seen "junk yard" that is so often seen around farms these days of old junked tractors and other equipment. She related that each farm always had a garden to supplement the dinner table with their crops and farm animal meat, and orchards with fruit, quite often apple and other forms of fruit, again for supplementing the dinner table.
I remember the creamer that my grandfolks had and I remember letting the small herd of cattle my granddad still had in his later years from the barn to the pasture in the morning and then back to the barn that night. I helped to milk the cows in the morning when I was a boy (yes, no machines, all by hand) and saw the buckets of milk carried to the creamer to be separated between milk and cream. From there a portion of milk and cream was set aside for personal use and another set aside for the dairy truck when he came by.
A Remembrance of Life on the Farm
For a description of some day to day life on a farm without any modern conveniences, like no indoor bathroom or utilities, see Remembrances of My Grandparents.
A Typical Quarter Section Homestead Farm was 145 Football Fields and a Typical Township had approximately 100 Farms
See the web page: What is a Quarter Section? to describe townships, sections how they are numbered, and other related topics and links
My grandmother had no electricity or gas in their farm home in the 1950's. She cooked on one of those "prairie ranges" you see in antique stores nowadays. The range used either corncobs or coal. To turn on high, you put a lot of fuel in, to turn on low, you let the fire burn down a bit. Yet, Grandmother Taylor cooked for family reunions on that stove for dozens of people at a time and everything turned out perfect - cooked from scratch - pies, cakes, chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, you name it. After Mom determined how many chickens she needed for dinner, she would tell Dad how many chickens she needed. I'll never forget the experience of seeing Dad grabbing the chickens by the head and throwing it around his head in a big circle - called "wringing it's neck".
See the Heritage Page of the Kraft Foods web site for when various foodstuffs were introduced to us. Comments on the origins of Jell-O, instant coffee, baking powder, Log Cabin syrup, and many other foods are covered here.
(PS: Did you know you can find recipes on the internet? The world wide web is a world wide cookbook! Just type the name of some favorite food into a search engine and start surfin'. Chances are you'll find several pages with recipes for that dish. Try meatloaf, Jell-O, apple pie, chocolate cake, etc. For example, put "meatloaf" into a search engine and see what you get.) Then, again, if you want a site with everything you wanted to know about recipes, visit the Cyber Kitchen Page.
Matches were around in the 1830's, but were dangerous and poisonous. The Diamond Match Company invented the "safety match", where the phosphorus wasn't poisonous, and the striking surface was on the outside of the matchbook, around the turn of the century.
For recollections of various ways of preserving and cooking foods, see the Walton Old-Timers site for more details.
I've already discussed my grandmother's great cooking abilities, but I should talk about one specialty that is fast becoming a lost art - canning and making jellies. I was never around when she canned to see what she did (although my mother canned prairie plums), but she used to send me to the cellar to fetch the creamiest homemade plum butter, most delicious apricot preserves, or jellies, you've ever tasted. I can't remember if the cellar was separate from the house or was under the house, but I do remember it was just a hole dug into the ground - the walls were dirt. It was always cool down there. This was their way of "preserving" the foods available from the fruit trees and plants on the farm.
If you want to get involved in this lost art, Home Canning On-Line is your web site. Recipes, tips, a forum for home-canners, and more!
Mrs. E. E. McCammon, wife of the Methodist pastor at Waterville, relates that her grandfather, Robert McMahan, who lived in Loudonville, Ashland County, in 1850, had the idea of canning tomatoes to send to California where food of all kinds, and especially fresh things, was very scarce and expensive during the gold rush. Those who went to the Pacific coast in 1849 and the succeeding years were there to dig gold and not to waste time growing fruits and vegetables.
During the summer of 1850, a total of 999 quarts of tomatoes was canned in the McMahan home. Mrs. McMahan and the maids doing most of the work, while a tinsmith was kept at the house to make the cans and solder them. Though he searched far and wide, Mr. McMahan could not find enough tomatoes to make the 1,000th can. The tomato was only slowly gaining fever then as a food known as the "love apple". It had long been considered poisonous.
The McMahan's canned tomatoes, along with barrels of sauerkraut and pickles, and shipped them by rail across Panama, then by boat to San Francisco, where McMahan had a friend who agreed to handle the business at that end.
Although Mr. McMahan paid the freight and all expenses, Mrs. McCammon relates, her grandfather never received a cent for his products - but the "friend" came home to Ohio soon after in apparent affluence.
A few of the canned tomatoes were kept by the McMahan family for home use and as a curiosity. The last can was used, in 1860, for the wedding breakfast of the daughter, Mary Emily, at her marriage to Samuel Case.
In 1850 housewives were just beginning to can. Prior to that the housewives knew nothing of the art - they always dried or preserved fruits and vegetables.
About 1842, in the excavation of a kitchen in Pompeii, figs were found which had been preserved in airtight jars since 79 A.D. The figs had been sealed hot, led to the conclusion of scientists that the wide use of the process in homes and gave impetus to the development of modern canning industry, it is said."
From the Oct 17, 1929 issue of the Ashland Times
Copyright 1997-2001 by Norris M. Taylor, Jr.