Volume 1


Fourth Edition Printed by the Clio Press Iowa City, Iowa 1920
Copyright 1917 by Clarence Ray Aurner

Transcribed by Sharon Elijah, submitted April, 2013


An old lady, now ninety years of age, has told of her journey to Iowa in 1838 when she was only twelve years old. Her father lived in Indiana, and nearly a year was spent in getting ready for the long journey. There were forty persons altogether who joined the the men did any work they could. The father of this little girl made boots and shoes for the other emigrants.

pg 57

The outfit for this family was a wagon, two yoke of oxen, and a cow. No one set out on such a long journey by ox wagons and teams with a heavy load. Only the things that they must have were taken. Very often it is said, baggage not needed was thrown away because it could not be carried over bad roads. But this family was very careful to keep the cow which could be led along day by day and at the same time would furnish fresh milk for all. Not all of the families took cows along, and they were glad of course to have any milk not needed by the families that could afford to take one.

At night all camped beside the trail and when a fire had been kindled the mother prepared the bread for the evening meal. This was done before the fire by means of a “reflector” which made the heat fall directly upon the baking loaf. This reflector was used all the way and again after the fire place was built in the log cabin. Some of the emigrants, however, carried the Dutch oven, a kind of flat-bottomed kettle with a tight iron cover.

This train of forty persons with their oxen, their covered wagons, and their cows came across Indiana and Illinois to Bloomington now called Muscatine, on the Mississippi River. At this place was a rope ferry, already described on another page, by which everything was carried over the river. But it took nearly two days for all to cross and none went on until all were safely on the Iowa side of the stream.

Not all of these emigrants were going to the same part of the country, and after a few days’ more travel the family of the twelve-year-old girl, now the old lady of ninety, came to the Iowa River. Again they must cross over; but this time there was no rope ferry, -- only an Indian with his canoe, or “dug out”, made out of a log.

This friendly Indian took the family over one at a time. The little girl, her sister, and her mother each went alone, kneeling in the bottom of the “dug out”, or log canoe, and keeping perfectly still. The big Indian rowed carefully and no accident happened, although the mother was very timid; -- she never felt very brave when Indians were about. The wagon was taken apart and carried over in pieces while the oxen and the cow had to swim. For all of his trouble the father of the family paid the Indian one dollar. But a dollar in those days was worth more than it is now.

Even today the old lady remembers that the Indian was dressed as a warrior. He had a white blanket, bought, perhaps, from the trading house not far away, and in rowing the canoe, he threw the blanket off so his arms might be free.

By the time the family had reached the place where the home was to be made, two months had passed since the start from Indiana. It was late in May when they were ready to plant the first crop, and unless the corn was planted or the seed was sown at once there would be no meal or flour for the next winter. On the place where this first crop was planted the old lady has lived for more than seventy-five years; from girlhood to ninety years of age, on the same Iowa farm. Her home is a real “homestead”, for one family has always kept it from the very first. There are not many homes of that kind left in our State.

When the little girl came to the new home, the region about it was still the hunting ground of the Indians; they did not wish to give it up, for many kinds of game were found there. The warriors were the neighbors of the family and the great Chief Poweshiek was the friend of the young girl. His hundred braves, dressed in their war paint and on their painted ponies, raced past the white man’s home just to please the great chief who was proud of his followers. But this did not mean that they were going to war, nor that they were even unfriendly, for the peace pipe had already been smoked by Poweshiek and the father of the small household. Although the timid mother and the younger sister of this aged lady had no cause to fear these warlike braves, they were so unused to such a sight that it was quite terrifying.

It seems that the old lady was a hungry little girl, and after living for a long, long time on corn cakes and wild honey she was very anxious to have a piece of real wheat bread. It happened one day that an Indian hunting party set out from the village not far away for a long trip to the northwest along the Iowa River. On the way they had to cross a creek near the log cabin of the little girl’s family.

Fortunately for the hungry child, the small stream was full to its banks and the packs had to be removed from the backs of the ponies and be carried over on a log footbridge. The leader of the hunting party was a French half-breed name Cotè. He liked his white bread, and Jinny, his squaw wife it is supposed, had baked enough loaves to last during the hunting trip. If the bread got wet it would be spoiled and so it was left in the care of the settler’s family until the whole party could get across the smaller stream.

Now came the chance of the child who was hungry for white bread. Although her father had forbidden her to touch anything which the Indians had left with him, she loosened the string which tied the bag and pulled out just one of the squaw’s wheat loaves. But just as she began to enjoy her feast behind the log cabin where no one could see, she was caught in the act by her timid sister, who feared the Indians and the half-breed far more than she dreaded hunger. Now what would her father say? Had he not forbidden this very thing? He must know at once! And what would Cotè say? He only said, “Why didn’t you take two?”

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