MUSCATINE COUNTY IOWA|
Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 251 & 252
submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, Aug. 27, 2007
OLD SETTLER’S EXERCISES AT COURT SQUARE.
(handwritten date – July 4, 1888)
The court square was the Old Settlers’ headquarters and it was thronged as there were large numbers in the city. Nearly 100 families are said to have eaten dinner on the tables. 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, the grand stand was taken possession of by the City Cornet Band and they gave a delightful concert of half an hour’s duration. The seat’s that were shaded soon rapidly filled – in fact all shaded space was occupied – and much that was in the heat of the sun was filled with people who protected themselves with umbrellas.
At 1:30 President Walton, Chaplain Robbins, Vice President R. M. Burnett, and speakers T. S. Parvin, G. W. Van Horne and H. J. Lauder took seats on the grand stand. President Walton called the assemblage to order and called on Dr. A. B. Robbins to open the exercises with prayer, which that gentleman did, speaking as follows:
Oh! God (our Father, our Savior, our helper)! We thank thee as we gather to celebrate our early settlement in this community and also the birthday anniversary of our national existence, that Thu are the God of all the nations on this broad earth. We thank Thee that Thou hast made of one blood all nations of men. We thank Thee for the open Bible which makes known to us the great object of the existence of each and all men in the world.
We thank Thee for our country, so fair a land, so goodly a heritage. We thank Thee for the flag of our country, the one flag of a united nation. We thank Thee for common schools and Christian colleges and other institutions of education. We thank Thee for the deliverance given from foreign foes and internal rebellion. We thank Thee for the removal of the disgrace and curse of slavery; for the rapid advance in intelligence and morality of the freedmen. We thank Thee for the assurance that in answer to the prayers of thy people Thou wilt save us from any and every foe to our prosperity and usefulness among the nations. We thank Thee for the beautiful home and river, and forest and prairie given us here.
We pray that the God of our fathers and our defenders will continue to be our God; that righteousness and peace and brotherly kindness and patriotism may increasingly abound; that all Christian and moral, patriotic and decent men may be united against the one great remaining foe to our land, and even the world, the liquor traffic and habit. Grant that truth may triumph over falsehood, intelligence over ignorance, justice and mercy over wrong and greed, and may that triumph come speedily.
May God’s special blessing descend upon the comparatively few old, old settlers remaining.
May the celebrations of the day be marred by no fearful accidents. May that God who can turn hearts of men even as the rivers of waters are turned, incline us to live to his honor and praise. In the name of Jesus, amen.
President Walton then stepped forward and in a good loud and strong tone of voice delivered the following address which was given the most careful and interested attention:
PRESIDENT WALTON’S ADDRESS.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: We have met to-day to celebrate two noted events – the birthday of our nation and the fiftieth birthday of our State. By an act of Congress passed June 12th, 1838, Iowa became a territory on the following 4th day of July. At that time Iowa’s geographical area was immense. It extended almost as far west as imagination could reach, and as far north as the British possessions. The inhabited area was small – a narrow strip not more than 20 miles wide along the west bank of the Mississippi river. The inhabitants were largely a class of farmers, just commencing in this new territory.
We know of no better way to celebrate our semi-centennial than to talk about them, their homes and their domestic habits. They all lived in log cabins – say, 16x20 feet in size – with a large chimney built on the outside of one end; it projected out about 4 or 5 feet, was 6 or 7 feet wide, enclosed with logs up 4 or 5 feet and topped out with sticks plastered with mud. When this chimney became a little old, it required constant watching and frequent repairing. It was no uncommon thing while sitting by the fire on a cold winter evening to see sparks of fire dropping down. This required a cup of water to be thrown up the inside of the chimney, to wet it out; one of the last things before going to bed was to look up the chimney and see if it was all right. The breast log, or the first one over and in front of the fire, was the most exposed and usually caught fire first, and had to be continually watched and frequently redaubed with mud.
These large fire places, frequently 4 or 5 feet wide, required something of a fire to make an impression on a room in cold weather. So after supper we usually made our evening fire. It consisted of a back log from 12 to 24 inches in diameter, with a top log about one-half as large and a front log two-thirds its size, laid on andirons, between the front and back log. The fire was built with smaller wood, to be replenished as fast as it burned out. This fire if made of green wood, which was most frequently the case, lasted for 24 hours, supplying heat and coals for cooking.
Their manner of cooking would be considered quite novel at this time. Cooking stoves were not in general use. We brought the first one in our neighborhood. It was an odd looking thing, with fire in the bottom, oven above and two boiling holes on the top. We brought it all the way from New England; it was worth the cost of its long trip to us.
But to return to the cooking. Those large fire places with their great hearths frequently 4 by 6 feet were needed for that purpose if nothing else. The utensils for cooking usually consisted of two iron kettles; one for boiling vegetables and one for heating water, an iron teakettle for making coffee, a frying pan, and two bake kettles, sometimes called “Dutch ovens” – one for baking bread, and one for roasting meat. This was a first class outfit. The bake kettle is about the only article that has gone entirely out of use, hence I will venture a description. It was made of cast-iron, about 15 inches in diameter and 7 inches deep, with legs 4 inches high; its cover had a rim or projections that extended up about 1 ½ inches above the top at the outer edge to keep coals of fire from dropping off while in use.
The most common diet was corn bread and bacon. The bacon was cut in slices and fried in the pan. The corn bread was made about after this formula; -- the meal was not bolted but had to be sifted, the housewife would take, say a teaspoon about even full of salt, the same quantity of saleratus, one or two table spoonfuls of lard, pour on boiling water after the lard is melted; stir in about two quarts of meal, making the dough a proper consistency by adding warm water. She would then set the bake kettle over a heap of live coals; when warm, would grease and put in the dough, put on the lid and cover it with coals. The time occupied in baking depended much on the fire. If the housewife got a little tired of cornbread and she could get flour, an article not always to be had, she usually baked what is known as salt rising bread. Its formula I never knew.
Meat was baked and roasted in the same manner. It was certainly a very palateable way of cooking meat. During the process of cooking the lid had frequently to be removed. This was done with an iron hook kept for the…
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…purpose. During the cooking hour the housewife could be seen stooping over her work, holding her dress back with one hand and lifting her pots and kettles with the other – a third hand to have kept her face from burning and the smoke out of her eyes would have been acceptable.
While to cooking utensils have very much changed, the dishes have not. The furniture consisted of a table, 2 or 3 split bottom chairs; if the family were a little forehanded they had some wooden bottomed chairs that were called “Windsor chairs” – one long bench that could be used for a lounge and a few short ones in case of company. On the right side of the big chimney stood a wooden bench with a water bucket. Under the bench the kettles were stored. On the left of the fire place the dish cupboard or shelves were located. Over the fire place, out of they way of the children, hung the all-important rifle. Across in the rear of the room stood the beds.
The first crop raised was usually corn. The hog was one of the most important domestic animals. He was expected to live in the woods in the summer and to get very fat in the autumn on mast (acorns and nuts). Their means for slaughtering hogs were frequently primitive. An empty whisky barrel could usually be had; if not a wood trough was used for scalding. A 10-gallon iron kettle was commonly used for heating, although we frequently had to heat rock for that purpose – 6 or 8 rocks, say 6 inches in diameter, heated red hot and thrown in a barrel of water would heat it enough for scalding. The meat was usually salted in a pile in a corner of the cabin, if one could be spared, and frequently hung up in the loft (the common name for attic) to smoke, thus economizing the smoke that missed the housewife’s eyes during cooking time.
The farmer kept one or more cows and always raised the calves. One half of the milk was its allowance, which must be secured while milking. The calf being the most expert milker would usually exhaust its side of the udder first, which was generally followed with a tremendous “but,” very much to the disgust of its parent, which would either kick or step up, to the annoyance of the milk maid. She, however, being on the alert for such a contingency, usually milked in a tin cup and poured it in the bucket that was setting at a safe distance. I said the milkmaid. The women always did the milking. It was considered feminine for a man to cook or milk. I lived on a farm in my younger days and of course never learned those arts. The young men usually went a “sparking” on Sunday evening; if they were on hand at milking time they carried the bucket, turned the calves out, and put them up, but never offered to help milk.
Customs have changed now; the men do the milking and I presume the women will soon do the voting.
During the long winter evenings the large fires made abundance of light for our social purposes – for sewing or reading. The grease light was the most common in use. This came nearer the old Roman lamp than anything in use in modern days. A first class grease lamp was made with an iron cup, 3 or 4 inches across, an inch deep, with a handle on one side expending up 6 or 8 inches, to hang it up by, and a nose on the opposite side in which the wick was inserted. When lighted the heat melted the grease that supplied the wick. This lamp required considerable attention but it made a very good light. As a substitute a tea-saucer with a strip of cloth for a wick was used.
In our neighborhood (now in Sweetland township) there were one or two molds for making candles. They were usually traveling from one house to another, dispensing all the light they could, but at best they were slow processes and never fully took the place of the grease light. The tallow dip was a Yankee invention. My grandmother made the first in our neighborhood; the neighboring women came in to see how it was done; they took great interest in watching their stalactite growth, and went home and adopted that way for making candles.
In Iowa in 1838, the common match of to-day was not introduced. A common way for lighting candles or lamps was by holding up a coal of fire and blowing the breath on it until a flame appeared; then inserting the wick, the candle would be lighted. A small light dry stick, called a lighting stick, was frequently kept for that purpose, used as we use paper-lighters. The fire was not allowed to go out in the winter, and not in the summer, if it could be easily prevented. If such an accident did occur, it was not easily re-lighted. The most common way was to take some flax or hemp tow, sprinkle some gun powder through it in the tow; it would become ignited by the powder, and could be easily blown to a blaze.
Of those farmers and others that lived in this county or in Iowa and have since become citizens of this county and are yet living I have prepared a “Roll of Honor,” which I will now read with the date of their arrival:
1833 1834 1835 Hon. Err Thornton. Mrs. Laura Nye Patterson Dr. Chas Drury John McGrew M. P. Pace L. D. Palmer. Mrs Jacob Kiser. 1836 C. A. Warfield, L. L. McGrew, Stephen Edington, W. P. Wright, Mrs. McGrew, Mrs. J. I. Schofield, William Gordon, W. A. Drury, Mrs. Rachel Briggs, John Holliday, Joseph Edington, Mrs. Mahala Briles, Vincint Chambers, Mrs. Martha Truit, Mrs. Jane Reynolds Simpson, William Chambers, Peter Hesser, & Mrs. Marian Miller (who Anderson Chambers, John Thomas, was born in this county in 1836) John Chambers, Sarah Hubbard, Mrs. M. P. Pace, Samuel Holliday, 1837 Mrs. W. A. Drury, S. C. Hastings, Tobe Brown. Mrs. M. Couch, W. G. Holmes, Jacob Hesser, Mrs. F. Thurston, H. H. Hine, Elizabeth Hesser, Mrs. A. Ogilvie, Myron Ward, C. A. Hesser, Mrs. Henry Funk, Isaiah Davis, Mr. George Baumgardner, Mrs. John Sherfey, Aristarchus Cone, Mrs. Luther Kiser Colbert, Mrs. Beaumont, Henry Blanchard, Sam S. Haslet, Mrs. Luke Sells, Joseph Bridgman, John Love, Mrs. A. T. Banks, T. L. Husted, Mrs. Dr. Fitch, Asa Gregg, Adam Funk, Mrs. Newcomb. Mrs. Asa Gregg, John H. Headly, A. O. Warfield, W. A. Clark, 1838 S. W. Stewart, William Morford, George Lucas, Alonzo Brockway, Mrs. James Hawley, Jesse Lucas, J. P. Walton, Samuel Storms, Remembrance Morford. H. W. Moore, A. M. Winn, Peter Jackson (handwritten).
This list comprises 76 (77) names in all.
President Walton then introduced Prof. T. S. Parvin, now Grand Secertary of the Iowa Masons, with headquarters at Cedar Rapids to speak on
Mr. Parvin commenced by saying that it was with strange and conflicting emotions that I stand before you today.
In the history of the world at large, 50 years is a short time. But in the history of our own State it seems to be more than an ordinary life time. Passing through Muscatine county 50 years ago Mr. P. could recognize every face and call every one by name. To-day he had looked at the upturned faces in the crowd and could recognize but few and could call scarcely a single name. Within the last 50 years Iowa has grown from a small beginning into what it is to-day – “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” The speaker had never seen in Iowa “the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread.”
The early days were days of beginnings and small things. The people then laid the foundations on which others have builded.
When the speaker first arrived in Muscatine he had met an old woman and had said “well, you have a fine country here.” “Yyes” he said snappishly “it is a fine country for men and horses but a poor one for women and oxen.” The application of the above can be seen in the fact that nowadays it takes the former longer and requires more labor to open up the grounds for crops and attend to them in the beginning than it does to harvest them. You, who have come in at the 11th hour, are not required to spend the time or labor that those who first came.
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