Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Stuff I'm Made Of...


 On March 17, 1903, the Steamer North Star stopped at Bonita Landing in Douglas County, on the east side of the Columbia River.  James and Emma Reed, and their 4 daughters, Zella (3), Ida (9), Georgia (11) & Henrietta (14) disembarked.  James had sold his profitable farm in Troy Grove Illinois and moved his family and all their possessions to Washington State, what must have seemed like the ends of the earth, under the promise of good farmland, a wagon and a team of horses.  

When they got there, it was so muddy, they had to camp at the landing for a couple of weeks until the road was dry enough for the team to make it up to the top of the hill where their property was.  It was so windy that their tent only lasted a few days and James proceeded to excavate and build a log bunker, buried half underground to protect them from the elements.  The bunker, its logs chinked with mud and the remains of their canvas tent served as their home for several years, furnished only with a stove, table and bunk beds.  

Times were tough and sometimes, the family ate cornmeal mush 3 meals a day.  James finally was able to get a cow, and get a garden planted and he traveled about the countryside selling vegetables and cream.  

This story, from the book “Pioneer in Pigtails” tells of the hard life of the pioneer families that came to North Central Washington around the turn of the 20th century. The oldest daughter listed above, Henrietta was my paternal grandmother.  Several years later, Henrietta, or as her family called her, Dot, would meet and marry another homesteader, Pete Thomsen.  They built their home just east of Mud Springs, a home which, because my grandpa was afraid of spiders, had something unusual for the times, an indoor toilet.  That is the home where my father and his brother and sister were born and where my three sisters and I had full reign while we were growing up, because our house was only a couple hundred feet away.  

So, that’s the “stuff” I’m made of.  My grandma had passed by the time the Pioneer in Pigtails book was written. She definitely was hardier stock than I am... I never thought to ask her about the trip and her early days, but after reading the story, I realized why they always had a cellar full of jars of home canned food and why her garden, which she tended daily,  – even in to her 60’s and 70’s - was almost a quarter of an acre (although toward the end of her gardening days, it was more flowers than food - it also explained why she would cook one chicken when our family of 6 came to dinner).  

To say I'm grateful for all the advancements of the 20th century would be an understatement. 

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms, grandmoms, furkid moms and "dad" moms out there! 

5 comments:

Michelle said...

Wonderful history and what a privilege to know it like you do!

Katnip Lounge said...

Wow. And I'm whining about working 12 hours today...

Happy Mother's Day wishes from all of us at the Katnip Lounge!

schoonoverfarm said...

Our ancestors were very tough women. It is admirable that you reminded us to remember them too. Happy Mothers Day!

Franna said...

Thanks, Tina. I have pioneer stock, too. My mother's father's family came to Washington and homesteaded in Auburn/Stuck. It was a hard life, indeed, though making it in Central Washington had to be harder than in Stuck!

Lilylou said...

Wow, what a great story, Tina! My mom's parents came from Norway and Sweden to Spokane about the turn of the century, where my mom was born in 1910.

My dad's folks moved to the Oregon Slope in the early part of the century and lived in whatever they could find that would accommodate 7 children.

I don't pretend to be as tough as they were, and I admire them a great deal.