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Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and experience life in a typical Brethren farming community? When life was at a much slower pace, without the vibration of noisy over crowded highways, and the word filth referred to something in a barnyard. Here is at least one opportunity to discover what simple family life was like during the 1840-1850's, in and around the small farming community of Boston, Indiana. For some this will be a chance to discover former ways of more simple living and for others it will be a refreshing trip down memory lane, because of stories that grandparents used to tell. Brethren church historian Merle C. Rummel has graciously permitted several chapters of his book, "Four Mile Community" to be place online, so that people in the modern world may discover what life was like in a more simple time, when people knew almost everyone in town. It was truly a time of sheltered existence for many, a time for cultivating a rich heritage of family experiences when the outside world - was still the outside world.
Brethren on the Ohio Frontier
Written by Merle C. Rummel ~ Published April, 1998 ~ Last Updated, April, 1998 ©
This document may be reproduced, only if remaining intact, with full acknowledgement to the author.
or the Brethren, as they floated down the Ohio River on their flatboat, all they could see was forest, the banks on both sides were lined with dense forest. The Indian lived in that forest, and an occasional arching arrow, plunging into the roof or floor of the flatboat, was a ready reminder. It was an overwhelming forest, so thick, so tall. It surrounded a person, even out in the middle of the Ohio River. It is called a climax forest, mostly Beech and Maple, with Oaks, Hickory, Tulip and even some Walnut. They were huge trees covering the sky. Trunks were often 4 or 5 feet through, and the limbs intertwined high overhead, so one walked in the twilight underneath. It was fairly open beneath the tall trees. The sun was virtually shut out and little underbrush grew, except in openings where one of the forest giants had finally fallen and along the rivers and streams. There the shrubs and brush clogged the edge of the forest, and the thorny blackberry vines grew like a wall.
Out in the forest, the forest of the Indian, the accumulated leaves formed a thick humus as they decayed and the resulting soil was fertile and rich, and wet. The streams ran full, deeper then they are now, and steady, constant water where the settler could mill corn or flour. But a miasma lay common over these wet lands, people got sick, they called it "chills and fever", we call it malaria. There too, the white flowering ageratum (white snake root, See footnote) grew prolifically in the moist soil, and cattle ate it, but children and even adults suffered from drinking the milk, they called it "Milk Fever", many died. The ageratum is cousin to the deadly nightshade and the ground cherry.
The hills along the Ohio River are rugged and often precipitous. The streams draining the inland cut deep valleys down to the River and their bottom lands are small, rocky and unfit for cultivation. The fertile Ohio Valley grows wonderful crops, but the River floods nearly every year, often deeply. The Brethren did not consider it to be good farmland. This is why there are few Brethren found along the River, all the way from Pittsburgh to Bullskin Landing above Cincinnati. Here, there was good farmland, inland, above the hills, so the Brethren came here. The Kanawha Trace crossed the Ohio at Gallipolis, most flatboats would pull in there, if only to restock supplies, and get the latest advice and news about down the River. But it was a Frenchie town, and there were swamps even around it. The Flatboats had to run the gauntlet of Three Islands. The Ohio River squeezes into channels between the islands, and the Indians used this to make a try at the settlers as they came through. Just beyond was Massie's Station (now Manchester OH), but even there wasn't that much good farmland until you went Way up Ohio Brush Creek - to John Countryman's settlement. No -their goal was the good lands down on the Obannon.
They had gone west on the trails -Braddock's Army Road, Forbe's Road -past old Fort Necessity, built by young George Washington - to the Monongahela River, to Elder George Wolfe, who built good flatboats, suitable for the trip down the Ohio. And besides, he was a Dunker, too, wasn't he? It was a hazardous trip, there were many dangers - but with careful preparation, and the Lord's Help - they came. It was way out on the frontier, it was even farther than the Boones in Kentucky, it was Ohio Country -the Dream! and they came.
hey came up the river -Little Miami River, (Little -because west of Fort Washington, at Cincinnatus, was one twice as big -the Great Miami River. That river was so large, normally so heavy, that only canoes could go up stream, flatboats had to be pulled -by hand, by ropes on the shore, and there were far too many bushes and trees on the water edge.) They came up the Little Miami to the settlement at New Germany (now Camp Dennison OH), to good farmlands above there. Till they got to the Obannon farmlands, on Obannon Creek, on the Indian Road that went from the Bullskin Landing on the Ohio River to the Great Miami River up north.
Mostly, the Brethren came up the Indian trails, from Bullskin landing. It was farther, but it didn't take much to widen the existing Indian path, to pull a wagon on it. And Bullskin Landing was a perfect place to pull a flatboat in off the river current, sheltered so it could be comfortably unloaded. That's why the Indians used it, that's why their main trails lead to it. So the Brethren came up the Indian trails. John Bowman was already here, his homestead, and those of his sons were flourishing with crops and orchard. He lived up north a ways on the Indian Road near the crossing of the Little Miami. John Ackerman lived over west, nearer the Little Miami, toward New Germany. The good land was along Obannon Creek. David Miller had lived here a while already, his brother, Daniel, had just recently moved in (another brother, Abraham Miller lived up on the Little Miami). These got their lands from the Indian. The Brethren tradition from Morrison's Cove and Brothers Valley came here, the Indian knew they came in peace, that these were Brothers. But they were the only ones, no other white man was permitted to come up into Ohio Country from the River, and many settler families died there. A Brethren Church was meeting here on the Obannon, Brother David Stouder (or maybe it was Stover), an Elder from Kentucky, had come up to start it right.
Then General Wayne defeated the Miami Indians, and, suddenly, things changed -tremendously. The Indians were gone. The Federal Government and State of Virginia claimed these "Bounty lands" now. Those who lived here, who had gotten their lands by treaty with the Indians, were displaced -their cleared homesteads, worked for a decade and more, were given to others. These lands belonged to the Veterans of the Revolution, as pay for their services (bounty). The government would not listen to those who where already here, gave them no chance, just "Sorry!" John Ackerman was gone, the Bowmans had left their homesteads, the Miller Brothers were getting ready to leave, although the family owned bounty lands north of town. Someone else had the script for those lands, and they were pleased to find the land all ready for them, the hard work all done.
That was 1802, the Brethren back east had heard about the settlement on the Obannon, and they were coming from the Pennsylvania Mountains, Penns Valley, near the West Branch of the Susquehanna. They were coming from Morrison's Cove in PA, and from Middletown Valley and the Conococheague in Maryland. Others had already come to Kentucky and they came up from there. These had bought the bounties, from Veterans who had no desire to go west, now they claimed the lands for each, and came themselves. It was a dream come true. It was a long, dangerous trip. It was hard work ahead. Some saw the good lands on top the hills above the Ohio river, and stayed down there, on Bullskin and Ten Mile Creeks, but for most, the dream was on the Obannon, and they came.
ecause when you first came to the Frontier, there was a lot of hard work that HAD to be done! Right Now! First, the ground had to cleared to plant a crop for food. Small trees were cut down and trimmed out. They made brush piles out of the trimmed out tops and brush, laid them around the Large Trees, to be burned come winter. The large trees were girdled, the bark cut through in a ring around the trunk, so the tree would die standing upright, for the sap runs just below the bark layer. They were too big to cut down and too big to use. The tops died, and the sun touched the ground through the dead branches. The settler broke the soil for the first time, planting around the stumps and standing trees. He planted his hills of corn by hand and hoe, and added squash, pumpkin and potatoes to produce food for next winter. At first, you couldn't use a horse plow to break up the soil, there were just too many roots, huge roots. The German mattock was the best, even the English were finding out about it. It was a small axe on one end, and a heavy chopping hoe on the other. It dug up the soil, cut through the roots, and you could plant. The first year a man might clear 5 or 10 or maybe even 20 acres. It made a scanty crop to supply food for a family that first winter, and families were large, but times were hard for everyone. And praise the Lord, there were people already here, who could help some, in emergency.
Then the cabin had to be built, it was all a man could do, even with the neighbors help. They sited it near accessible water, a spring or dug well. Sometimes a second cabin was built, facing the first, with the roof covering both cabins, crossing the "dogtrot" in between. The longest maneuverable log would be 20 feet. That was the long side of the cabin. The short side would depend on how much space the settler needed, how big a family he had. The height was enough to stand, and enough more to make a loft for the children. Those small trees made the cabin logs. They were a foot, to foot and a half thick. A man would square them off with an adze (a type of axe that cut flat, like a big chisel). The Yellow Popular or Tulip Tree was naturally straight and would lay tight together with only a minimum of chinking, the local clay made good chinking to stuff in between the logs. They were thick enough to give decent protection against the cold and with chinking kept the winds out. The ends were cut to overlap with special angle cuts, so they would lock together and hold fast. The angles were shaped so water would drain out and not rot the wood. The logs of the gables for the loft were cut short to give the slope, and to allow cross poles to hold the gables steady and to make a kind of rafter for the shingles. The peak was locked with a "ridge pole". The roof was covered with big clap-board shingles, rived out of oak or ash. They were 4 foot long, six inches wide or more, and an inch thick. They were held down with cross poles. They kept out most of the rain, partly because the roof sloped enough so the water ran off quickly. In time they warped badly and let in considerable air, but at first they were reasonably tighter. Clay and flat stone built the chimney and a fireplace in one end of the cabin. The fireplace often covered half of the wall of the cabin. It could burn a "cord-length" piece of wood -4 feet. It provided the heat and the light inside the cabin. Hanging out of the chimney was a "lug pole", a forerunner of the fireplace crane, on which pots could be hung above the fire for cooking.
The actual construction was a neighborly thing that would take three or four days. It took several men together to cut the logs and roll them to the cabin site. Or a man with grown sons might already have the logs cut and adzed square before the neighbors came to help put up the cabin. The logs were raised into place with hand spikes and skid poles. The higher it went the more work it took, and accidents did happen. If the family were large, the log walls were raised higher, a loft gave sleeping space to the children, especially the boys. Some cabins had an outside ladder to the loft, others an inside ladder up the wall. The children, climbing the ladder at night, was called "cooning it to bed". The door and windows would be cut out of the logs after the cabin was up. A hole would be augered through the logs and the opening sawed out with a crosscut saw. Hewed lumber three or four inches thick, was fastened by wood pins to the opening in the cabin logs to make a framed doorway or window. Large clapboards would be pegged to split cross poles to make a door. It would swing on a hinge made of a pointed pole, with corresponding holes augered into the logs top and bottom. A latch bar on the inside closed it shut, but the latch-thong was allowed to hang outside through a hole in the door during the day so the latch could be raised and the door opened. At night it would be drawn inside, to prohibit entry by unwanted guests. This is the basis of the saying, "the latch string is always out!" Inside above the doorway hung the rifle, on two wood hooks, or a deer's antler rack. Most families could afford to bring glass panes out with them from the east, carefully packed, enough for maybe 3 small four-paned windows. Glass in those days was to let light in, while it kept the wind out. It was not clear and you could not really see out of it. A piece of paper, or some hog guts, heavily larded, was a translucent substitute, if glass was unavailable. Heavy wooden shutters, made of clapboards, like the doors, would protect the window from night or storm damage. The floor might originally be tamped clay, covered with white sand, but a puncheon floor of split logs smoothed off was a quick improvement.
Much of the furniture would be homemade. An upright post in the floor, connected by poles to two walls at a corner made a bed, or covered by clapboards made a table. A split log with sticks for legs made a stool or bench, and if a little larger, would make a table. Pots and kettles were opposite the window, often hung from pegs on the wall. The "dutch oven" with short legs, and a lipped lid (to hold hot ashes on top of the cooking food) was a necessity.
A wooden chest, for storage of clothing and bedding stood against a wall, and provided seating as necessary. The family might have brought with them a few good chairs, from back east, ladder chairs, maybe even cane bottomed. A carved wood shovel and a pair of metal tongs stood by the fireplace. Every cabin had its spinning-wheels: the large wheel for wool, the small wheel for flax and linen. And in the corner stood the loom - necessary for the family clothing. Linsey-woolsey was the common frontier garb.
Once the cabin was built, the settler himself proceeded on property improvements. A shed would shelter his horses or even a cow. Eventually this would be succeeded by a barn. Another shed sheltered the chickens, ducks and geese. The ashes from the fireplace would be gathered into a type of bin, or hopper close to the house where water from the roof could be run into, and through it. A split log made a trough with one end open. Clapboards shaped it into a funnel and covered it. When full, water running through made lye, and when boiled with bear or hog grease in an iron kettle made a soft soap or lye soap for the frontier. Somewhere close a well would be dug if a spring was not available. Whichever was available, it would be walled up to protect the water from dirt and wild animals, and the children from falling in. An outhouse would be built, since indoor running water and our modern facilities were not of that day. A picket fence would protect the garden, and another the chicken yard. A rail fence or snake fence would now close off a field or several. Winter storage could be simply a barrel buried in the ground, covered with straw, to a buried covered cellar. With new buildings and improved living, the original frontier cabin was now becoming a settled farm.
For the new settler, wild game provided a major part of the food supply. In the earliest days, the buffalo, or bison, still roamed the country. The winter of 1800 had 3 months of ice covering the ground. The wolves decimated the buffalo and they were seen only occasionally in the succeeding years. Venison was a good source of meat. The deer were stalked at dawn and twilight, or by a bright torch at night, maybe from a boat, called "shining their eyes". They were bled, gutted and hung up, then a pack horse was brought to take them home. Again, the winter of 1817, the "year that had no summer", trapped the deer, and while it made easy food provision for settlers during that hard year, so many were killed that it was no longer a reliable food source for the future years. Possom, coon, squirrel, wild turkey, pheasant, wild pigeon and ducks were continuing food. Wild turkeys roosted in the beech woods. They were fat from December to February. When scairt by dogs, they would fly into a tree where they were stalked, or they might be shot at roost at daylight. They would weigh 12 to 15 lbs. Pigeons would roost at night and were hunted by torch and club. They made a tasty meat dish. Rabbits were not shot, they were caught in the deep snow, and in a couple days their meat would freeze and could be kept for a while. From the wild around were many edible plants, "greens" and roots that the settler's wife scrounged and even stored for winter. Lambsquarter, Mullin and Cattail Roots, even the lowly nettle were edible and a tasteful changed to winter fare.
Some plants gave natural medicines well in advance of medical knowledge. Many a woman had her loft hung roundabout with drying "weeds" like dock, mullein, sage, tansy, fennel, boneset, poke root, mint, catnip, pennyroyal, wormwood, calomel, horehound, plants which stopped a winter cough, or brought down a fever. Some plants were preserved for their flavoring properties. Onion, garlic, mustard, sage and red pepper can season food when salt is run out and nowhere available.
aybe the first winter, maybe not till the second, after the majestic trees were thoroughly dead and after the crops were all harvested and away, then the brush, the dead tops of the smaller trees piled up against the trunks of the girdled trees were set on fire. It was called "niggering". Fire would do what a man could not take time to do. Fire brought the great trees down and fire cleaned them up. The ashes were plowed back into the soil, it was richer still. After the trees were down, then you could try to plow. It was work, hard work, tearing up a man's insides as the plow hooked on roots, jerked the team to a stop, and slammed the plow handles against a man's ribs. Then it took an ax to cut the root at the stump, and maybe the yoke of oxen to get it pulled out of the ground and over to the growing pile of brush.
Money was a problem on the frontier. Most local trade was by barter. Many a doctor or midwife received payment in chickens or a ham. It was normal to consider that it would be 5 years before the farm would yield a surplus. But the land office still wanted payment and there were taxes. While a man might own a quarter, half or even whole section (640 Acres - one mile on a side), most of it was still in forest. A man could only do so much work, and for one man, that usually meant that he had 40 acres that he was tilling. The 40 acres raised all his food, and the extra hay for the cows, horses and sheep. Some of his land might be cleared, used as pasture. The rest of his land was woods, still forest, used for fence poles, logs for building and firewood . Hogs were allowed to run wild in the woods. Beech mast, acorns and other nuts or seeds, made good food for them and they would root through the woods after mast, seeds and roots. The slop trough was the frontier garbage disposal and fattened the hogs, too. The hog was not as fat as we like today, but a ham is a ham, and bacon is bacon, and while the "wild" hog was a lean hog, the meat was redder and better for a man, even if it did tend to be tough and stringy, and it made lard. The hog protected itself against most forest predators, including the wolf, but not the bear, better than other domesticated animals like the cow or horse. Hog butchering was a late fall activity, since the winter cold would preserve the meat better than any method the frontier provided. Some of the hams and sides might be barreled and shipped by wagon to Cincinnati to send down the River to New Orleans by flatboat. Venison hams brought 25 cents and deer skins brought a dollar in Cincinnati in 1820.
There were predators on the frontier, animals, not only the Indians. The rattlesnake and copper head were constant dangers in their respective territories. The wolf was not such a danger to man as to his livestock. Bears ate young pigs. The hunter would loose his dogs, follow and when they chased the bear up a tree he would come for the kill. Bear meat was wild but edible. Bear fat usually made several gallons of grease. The bear skin made a good robe, especially for the children up in the cold loft. The black or brown panther, called "painter" or "lion", would follow his prey overhead in the trees. His blood-curdling yowl terrified the young. His cry sounded like a baby or small child. His pelt made a glorious robe or rug. The coon (raccoon) raided the corn and could not be endured. He still is hunted at night by "coondogs". His meat is edible but fatty, and his skin brought 50 cents in frontier days.
As time passed the garden and farm produced more, was more self sufficiency. According to the way it was cooked, corn made corn meal, johnnycake, cornpone, corn bread and corn fritters. Corn mush was just corn meal cooked in water. When stiff it could be fried, maybe eated with honey or syrup. When hot mush was eated with milk it was called "hasty pudding". Johnnycake was a corn dough baked on a smooth board, corn pone was raised some with yeast and baked in a dutch oven. Corn and beans became succotosh. There was the lye soaked corn, called hominy. Beans just naturally dried themselves if left out in the field. When harvested they could be kept all winter. When the brush pile was burned in early March, cabbage, tobacco and pepper seed were started in the warm ashes, covered against the frost, then transplanted to the garden. Winnigstadt cabbages were for summer use, but Drumhead Cabbage would store for winter buried in the barrel. Boiled cabbage was cooked with fat to give it seasoning. Chopped up cabbage, in the crock, was covered from the flies, and allowed to ferment into saurkraut. Then lard would seal the crock from the air and preserve the food till winter's lean season came. Of course, there was always some to eat now. Potatoes would keep in free air, but usually by February they would give out from rot and wrinkles. Pumpkin and squash could be cut into strips and dried in the loft. Turnips would keep in the barrel, just like potatoes, (but use a different barrel).
The inner bark of the Sassafras root made a good tea, normally used as a spring tonic, it "thinned the blood": Sassyfras tea and 'lassas cookies, a spring treat, that was good for you, it thinned the sluggish winter blood and built your iron. The new leaves of Blackberry or Wild Raspberry made a tea that tasted of horehound. Spicewood and inner bark of the Sycamore made drinks. Blackstrap molasses boiled with crushed oats in water made a solid quenching drink. But coffee seems to be something that people must have, even if it is not available. The frontier found many coffee substitutes: bread coffee, crust coffee, meal coffee, potatoe coffee and later, wheat and flour coffee. These were roasted to give an appropriate flavor. One major drink on the frontier was cider, hard cider. A normal family might use as much as a hundred gallons of hard cider. It was used all year around. A mixture of regular and crab apples made a good hard cider. Realizing that hard cider soon turns to vinegar, the question was how these people had hard cider available all year around. It was discovered that the hard cider of these early days was a low alcohol fermented apple cider. It was prepared using the same equipments as for the various fruit wines. Gabrial Kerns, a deacon, had a distillery at his mill, for whiskey. The early Dunkers accepted the temperate use of alcoholic beverages, they called before council any one who imbibed in excess. Wines and beers were acceptable. Whiskey kept many an injury from becoming infested. Drinking it was something else, yes, the Brethren did process their corn products into whiskey, as did many of their frontier neighbors.
Then there were deserts. In the spring, when the maple bush was tapped for syrup, during the cook off, the skimmings, or even a little syrup, would be thrown onto the snow, which the children avidly grabbed for candy. Maple syrup would also be cooked down into a cake of sugar. Honey or maple syrup would make a good custard, or with boiled wheat it made "firmities". Everyone loved to find a "bee tree", even those who suffered most from the bee stings. Occasionally a person could salvage a whole tub of honey from just one bee tree. Some youth became expert in following a bee flight back into the forest, to the hollow tree where it hived.
Apples and peaches make good pies, everyone likes apple pie. The History of Warren Co OH says that the first settlers of 1805, found abandoned homesteads, with Bearing Apple Trees. It takes 10-15 years for the old Standard Apples to begin bearing. This seems to be where the Bowmans had their homesteads, they must have come about 1790 because there were apple trees bearing fruit when they arrived in 1805.
The frontier lady brought with her flowers from back home. Hollyhocks, marigolds, verbenias and bachelor buttons bloom around the house. Many a cabin site still retains the white rose bush and red rose bush on either side of the old front door, entirely innocent of the significance from English history and the War of the Roses and the Royal Stuart Family. The trumpet vine or honeysuckle grew on a pole trellis at the door. The morning glory grew so proliferously, that today it is often considered only a weed. The various gourds were grown on vines for their novelty and also for the variety of their use: dippers, bowls, cups, cans, containers of all kinds. Seeds were preserved for next year's planting. You didn't eat your seed crop, no matter how lean the winter became. Seed swapping didn't just happen between the housewife. A good seed corn was prized and traded for share. The weather was closely watched and records kept. The right time to plant was important, to avoid excessive weeding of the crop or particular insect larva as well as to assure proper growin0g temperature. The moon and the stars gave signs for planting various crops and many read the "almanac" to determine when the time was right.
"Man works from sun to sun, Woman's work is never done". The man and boys on the frontier had plenty of work to do. There were the crops to plant and harvest. There were endless weeds that must be hoed out. The horses and cattle need tending morning and night.
The snake fences need built or repaired, new buildings built, or roofs tightened up. The forest provided lumber and firewood, work normally done in the wintertime so the snow could help skid the timbers out. There was constant clearning of forest land, until the farm had sufficient fields, all the farmer and his sons could work. The German Brethren used both the Axe, and the Mattock (or Grubbing Hoe -which the English people did not know). In season there were special jobs, like driving the herd of hogs to market. Man's work started as soon as it was light enough to see, and went till it was too dark to be able to see to do the work. Then the men came home.
But for the women and girls, work started even earlier, food was ready before it was light outdoors, so the men could eat before they left to work. Food was prepared and ready for them to carry with them to eat during the day. While the men were out working, the woman had endless chores to do. Feed the chickens, hoe the garden, cook dinner for those at home, get supper ready for when the men returned home. Then there was flax and wool to ready for the spinning wheel to make thread, then for the loom to make cloth.
The cloth made shirts and pants for the men, and dresses and shawls for the women. There were underclothes to make, and endless socks to knit. Deer hide or bear skins could make good robes or rugs, or even jackets and coats, but someone had to do it. Wood ashes had to be carried outdoors, even if there wasn't a ash rack. And lye had to be cooked into the lard to make soap. Apples needed to be peeled and cored before they could be cooked into apple butter. After the harvest there was still the preservation of the food. And mostly it devolved on the woman. As if this wasn't enough, there always seemed to be another baby. Yes, the younger girls could watch him (or her) during the day. Feeding time was another matter, that invariably was something only mother could handle. It might be delayed with a pacifier, a "sugar nipple" made of maple sugar wrapped in a piece of cloth and sucked. Those days didn't have throwaway pampers, except as dry grass or moss lined the inside of the cloth diaper, and a dirty diaper was just exactly that. Even the wash wasn't easy like today. The big iron kettle sat over the open fire for boiling water. Lye soap was peeled into the water and the clothes were stirred by a stick and beaten by hand until they got clean. Baby's diapers, yes, but the dresses and shirts and pants for the whole family, every week had its wash day. After wash day was done and the clothes were dry, came ironing day. Another day was cooking day, bread for the week. By night all the women were tired, but they still weren't done. The men came home, expecting supper to be ready, and it was, nourishing food even if not fancy. Then after the meal there were still dishes to clean up. Even after the family was in bed, the baby always demanded attention, and the 2 and 3 year olds weren't that big yet. Big sister really helped, but mother had it all. The best frontier families had large families, with boys to help on the farm, and girls to help in the house. Yes, the cabin was only 20 feet long and maybe 15 feet wide, but there easily were 12 or 16 children in it. Many was the home that the fair young bride had died and now, mother was the second or even third wife, often with her previous children too. "Man works from sun to sun, but woman's work is never done."
The frontier life was a time of hard work that sometimes never seemed to show much result. It seemed like the work never stopped.
Again an old axiom "Idle hands are the Devil's Workshop!" Everyone worked hard, for the whole week. Even the nearest neighbor was seldom seen, because he was working too. There were times that work could be shared and that made it seem easier, with the companionship of another person. All the neighbors got together for a house raising, or a barn raising. Neighbors or family groups shared in the harvest, hay making, or cutting the grain. The women brought food, and prepared it all together. The girls tended the little children, but they shared their time and it was not at all like at home. The young boys found plenty of mischief to get into, and even a fistfight or two to prove the pecking order. The men had work, no easier than at home, but not alone.
There were those who provided needed services to the community. Frederick Weaver had his farm, he was a minister in the church, he was also a blacksmith. He lived just outside the little town of Goshen on the Indian Road. Several miles south, at the Charlestown settlement, along the Indian Road, Gabrial Karns, a deacon, was a blacksmith, with his sons, but he also had a mill on Obannon Creek, as well as a whiskey still. Daniel Maugans was a farmer, but he was a tanner, and would prepare the skins of the wild animals that people brought to him. He made leather for shoes, also. Philip Stoner was a man of prodigious strength. He was the champion for the whole of Clermont County, in fisticuffs. He was Brethren, from the Conococheague.
Every week had the Sabboth Day. That was "go to meeting day". No work was done, except what couldn't be not done. Cows had to be milked and the livestock fed, but there was no cooking on the Sabboth, it was already done the day before. The horses were harnessed to the spring wagon or surrey. Everyone was in their "go to meeting clothes" whether extra, or just clean. Food was packed in a hamper or basket. There was a meeting, at one house or another, according to whose time it was and everyone was there. Maybe it was two hours away, clear up at Sniders or Cramers or clear down at Gabrial Karns, commonly the meeting was at Brother Fredrick Weavers. Maybe Brother John Garber would preach, or Brother Daniel Miller, or Brother Jacob Garver, or Brother Mathias Maugans, or maybe three or others if the Lord led them. Maybe Brother Abraham Houser would come up from Olive Branch, down on the Bullskin. Some were better than others, and those times the crowd might be quite large. If too many came it might move outdoors, to the barn, or even under a tree. The young boys usually managed to slip out of sight, and many a young man, to his parents dismay, gathered with the others outside the door. They could see the girls inside, and the girls were well aware of being observed. They knew better than to make much noise, but sometimes a bottle got passed around, and they knew that some of those sermons were directed at their sinning souls. After the service was over, this might be a Sunday when everyone stayed to eat. It would be late by then, well into the afternoon. Once grace was said, the little children were served first, then the ministers, then the men, then it was whoevers turn. Usually the women waited to last, maybe because someone had to feed the little children, or just because someone had to be last. There would always be some fellow off sparkin' some particular girl, and some parent always managed to keep an eye on a daughter, just so they didn't get too far off by themselves. It was still a time of fellowship and good will, and gossip and getting the latest news. If one wasn't kin to most of the people there, you were still kin of kin. Go to meeting Sunday was a big event to any Frontier Community. It was even more grand than politics.
Maybe that was because politics was only for the men. The women didn't involve themselves in dirty politics. They had plenty to say about the events and people. but that was at home, to their man. Then he had to go to the polls or to a political rally. Maybe a younger son, or several would tag along with dad. Some young men would strike off on their own, but only after the chores were done for the day. But the Brethren even then, did not involve themselves too much with electioneering and all that went with it. America in that day was still close to its beginning. The election of a neighbor to office was a very intense action, due considerable deliberation and consideration comparing him to the capabilities of his opponent. Ones own choice then became a matter to champion. America was a representative democracy. There was no such thing as direct election. The election was for your representative, who then carried your vote to the state level. There he voted for the national candidates. You listened to his statements to determine if that were your own opinion, if his party representations were what you wanted. Then you voted for him. You watched his vote and you sure enough let him know if he was not representing what you desired. There was much in electioneering that was counter to the Christian beliefs of the Brethren. Liquor was always present, with the coarse language and bullish aggressiveness that can accompany it. As differing opinions were strongly expressed, the strong feelings invariably resulted in fighting. Always some would end up in enemy camps and the disruption could last a lifetime.
Many a neighbor had himself fought in the Revolution. They carried the fervor of their new country to this new land. It was very personal to them, and as a result to those about them. The Fourth of July was their celebration. It was a gala affair, the biggest event of the year. There was a hog and maybe a couple deer roasting on spits over the fires. Families brought in covered dishes and their own utensils, food was on an open table. There were shooting matches, for a turkey, maybe even for a ham. There were tomahawk throwing contests, Knife throwing contests, and sometimes even an archery shooting contest. Some of the watching Indians could be encouraged to show their skill, if it be better than the wild frontiersman. The Declaration of Independence would be read. There were speeches by important people, and by those veterans who had "fought there". Toasts were drunk to the nation, and to popular leaders past and current. There was liquor passed around, and it didn't take liquid refreshment to make one want to fire one's gun in the air to add to the glee of celebration. Typically, a peddler would be present to show his wares, and sell his goods. The young boys went crazy running from one event to another as a sudden roar attracted their attention from what was currently being watched, the girls weren't far behind, they were just a little more demure and trying to quell their excitement to act like young ladies (little girls didn't even care). But for many of the Brethren, the Fourth brought remembrances of hurt and persecution, it was not their celebration.
The Old Indian Road was the first pathway. It was really only an Indian footpath, used so frequently for many years, that it was trodden bare. Daniel Boone had run down it, after running the gantlet at Old Chillicothe, he kept on running. He escaped. The British from Fort Detroit had marched down it to the Dark and Bloody Land -to the frontier forts in Kaintuck, only years before. The main road was over east, at Stonelick Creek, but a much used branch of the road came right up through the Obannon Community and went on up to the Great Miami River, at the Ford, then up the west side of the little town of Dayton and the Brethren up there. It hadn't taken much work to make either road wide enough to pull a wagon up them. The Bowmans had moved up there, to the west side of Dayton, on the Great Miami, Old Elder Jacob Miller, from Virginy, lived up there, and the Millers here were talking of going too. Brother Garver had gone up the Old Indian Road, the main road, to a place he called Donnel's Creek, where he said he's going to move.
He said that the land up there is nice and soft, not heavy clay like on the Obannon. That had caught a lot of interest. This was the frontier. Then the frontier became lands some miles north, then even more distant lands. Then it hardly frontier at all, and there was a growing port city a days walk away. It was still the deep forest, with only enclaves opened in it, where a man had cleared out his fields, but the trees grew all around. Life was hard, but things were better than at first. A man can feel proud, when he sees what his work has accomplished, when his family has food to eat and a dry sheltered place to sleep, when he knows that God has blessed him.
Thompson, Charles N. -- Sons of the Wilderness, John and William Conner, 2ed, 1988, Conner Prairie Press. p.142-3 (The general mercantile store of John Conner in the frontier town of Indianapolis, 1823) "as was customary, every kind of merchandise was carried for which there was demand. This embraced dry goods of all sorts, cotton, silk, wool, and linen; personal articles such as combs, umbrellas, parasols, and shawls; cutlery, queensware, hardware, tinware, saddlery, schoolbooks, groceries, shoes, etc. it was customary to keep in stock whisky, the usual price for which was twenty-five cents a gallon, if bought by the barrel. ...`An empty whisky barrel was set up on end in front of the counter, with a hole in the upper head for the drainage of the glasses. On this barrel was set a half gallon bottle filled with whisky, a bowl of maple sugar, and a pitcher of water and often in winter a tumbler of ground ginger...' The whiskey was not aged in wood and the fiery stuff aroused the tempers of the customers. Animosities thus heightened provoked scuffles and brawls that were complacently accepted by the town's inhabitants as ordinary happenings, ... he frankly urged his customers through the newspaper columns to settle their accounts `as frequent settlements should take place for the purpose of remaining long friends.' The added statement that `cash will not be refused' can be understood only when it is recalled that trade and barter were still the common mode of exchange and the currency had been so debased and discredited that indiscriminate acceptance of it was not general."
Footnote: Wigginton, Eliot & Bennett, Margie Foxfire 9, Anchor Press, 1986, Doubleday, p. 77 Milk sickness is poisoning by milk from cows that have eaten White Snakeroot. ...The sickness has been called pucking [sic] fever, sick stomach, the slows and the trembles. ...In man, the symptoms are loss of appetite, listlessness, weakness, vague pains, muscle stiffness, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, severe constipation, bad breath and finally coma. Recovery is slow and may never be complete. More often an attack is fatal.