Star – Clipper Supplement
How the pioneers “Drove Dull Care Away”
In the isolation of the settlement time did not hang heavy, at least with the men. It was seldom a man was found who would admit he was lonesome, homesick or sorry he had come West; the reason was wherever he went he would meet other men, whether to market, to the store or for firewood. Not so for the women. Confined at home by its duties she seldom went out, at least during the long stormy winters, and saw but few of her sex. During the winter the men would often meet at the stores and talk over the public needs: roads, schools and meetings. The subject of public roads was a constant theme and fruitful of dissension. Should stock run at large? would lead to animated discussion, which lead to public debate in the school house at Buckingham. Those farmers who had the most and were becoming engaged in stock raising favored a free range, while the small farmers opposed. Subsequently these interests were reversed, and the fence law triumphed. During the winters there was the singing school or recital that never exhausted resort to pass a pleasant hour. For a few winters there was the lyceum where practiced in oratory those of our citizens who afterwards represented the settlement of the board of supervisors, in the legislature and in Congress. One became a county judge and another a creditable Governor of Iowa. Surely we builded (sic) better than we knew. There was from the first a good feeling prevalent towards ministers, and one of the pleasures anticipated was the donation party at the house of the minister. If he was not a resident but came every second, third or fourth Sabbath the party would be at eh house of an active member of the church. These donation parties were fruitful of good feeling among all and financially beneficial to the pastor and his family. Money was scarce, but there was hay and grain for the cow and ponies; flour, meat, potatoes, butter and honey, together with many little things of value and comfort to the family. The early emigrants to the west contained a large per cent of young people who must at times relax from the stern realities of subduing nature and earning a living, so to this class was open the social dance, and they entered into its enjoyment with their whole heart. We vividly recall one at the house of Mr. Hitchner, a double cabin which stood near where the residence of H. B. Gibbs now stands. It was the night of January 8, 1856, and it was excessively cold, at least thirty degrees below zero. The front room was heated by a fire place on which was piled green, frozen logs which gave out little heat. Fierce blasts came in from between the logs. While standing by the fire place if the face was warm shivers ran down the back. George Klingaman furnished the music, relieved at times by John Scott. Cornelius Gay called, assisted by James Hamilton. A substantial supper was served. The bill of fare included oysters, the first brought to the settlement. They were procured at Cedar Rapids. The social party, without dancing, was much in vogue. Scores would gather weekly at the various homes during the winter and occasionally indulge in the game of snap-and-catch-'em. In the summer there were picnic parties in the timber. Thus our early settlers enjoyed themselves better then perhaps than now.
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