thumbnail of The Way It Was; 1
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The following program was originally released in 1969. The nearest house was a quarter of a mile away through a thick wood. As I did not talk English speaking only a few words and understanding it as a little conversation with my neighbors was not as interesting to me and I did not seek them as I would have done had they spoken French. In consequence my life was very solitary. My husband would mount his horse directly after breakfast and I would not see him again until near evening that I shed many tears I cannot deny but they were all wiped away and forgotten. As soon as my husband arrived. The way it was presenting eyewitness accounts of historic events. Material for this series was selected from the files and
papers of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Today pioneer women of Wisconsin. The women who lived in Wisconsin in the early and middle parts of the last century had come there for many reasons. To Reese Fisher moved to Green Bay and 18 24 as the 14 year old bride of Henry Baird. Mrs John Kinsey departed from Detroit six years later for the a region of romance she had envisioned as a child. The beautiful Mary Bristol came to Green Bay in 1824. The daughter of the newly appointed Indian agent. Mrs. Robert Murray's family started from Michigan in 1838. But her father was convinced by friends to go to Wisconsin instead. Augusta
Levi came with her husband in 1946 to open a business in lacrosse. And Mary Irwin Mitchell Well she was born in Green Bay in 1924 the first white child born of settlers in Wisconsin. There are hundreds of others that came to Wisconsin in those early years. Wives children teachers missionaries. Some of them left diaries or wrote down their memoirs years later. In them they remembered a life of hard work loneliness and a few simple pleasures and they often recalled the trip that brought them to Wisconsin. It was a bright fine morning in 1838 that we left Boston in the old stagecoach thinking that we were going to Michigan to be farmers on the way. Michigan was given up. Father met some gentleman who he knew getting ready to go to Milwaukee and he was induced to join the company. This day he took us
to Albany. What sort of conveyance we had from there to Schenectady I cannot remember but I think it was the the first old railroad. But at disconnect Today Lee took passage on an Erie canal boat. Look. At the boat to us. And it was a great affair. The passengers could leave the boat at will and walk along the towpath and there was a chance for the children to get a good run. Getting ahead of the tired and sleepy old horses a little false. We picked pieces of quartz from the rocks called little islands. Some of these I kept for you and we came on to Montezuma where we had been told the mosquitoes where they were chained to posts by the side of the can do our disappointment we
saw only ordinary mosquito who was probably too late in the season for that large one. We left Perry Sheen the 27 the May landed at Cameron's landing in LaCrosse the following morning. My husband's family consisted of himself wife children horse call dog two cats whole family hogs and a zip coon hitched to a box of chickens. Most of which he ate up on the voyage on coming out to our place from the landing grass was so high that I could see but little. After straining my eyes I discovered two small houses which we had passed after coming off the boat but which because of our unruly family we had not here before noticed. I found within doors six old bachelors and a dirty house. I could
do nothing but go to work cleaning house. It was a dark rainy evening in the month of September 1830 that we went on board the steamer Henry Clay to take passage for Green Bay. Our arrival at Green Bay was at an unfortunate moment. It was a time of a treaty between the United States government and the nominees. Consequently not only the commissioners of the treaty but traders claimants and idlers in numerable were upon the ground. Most of them congregated in the only hotel the place afforded. This was a tolerably sized house near the riverside and as we entered the long dining room cold and dripping from the open boat we were infinitely amused at the motley assemblage it contained. The landlord sat
indifferent his hands in his pockets exhibiting all the phlegm of a Pennsylvania Dutchman his fat noble spouse was trotting around now stooping to scold him about someone who burned his skin had fallen short in his duty and now laughing good humored Lee until her side show get some witticism addressed to her. She welcomed us very cordially but to our inquiry can you accommodate us. Her reply was not I got twice as many people now as I know what to do with. I had to turn away my own family out of their boarders what with the commissioners and a lot of folks that has come in upon us. What are we to do then. It's too late and stormy to go up to shanty town to seek for lodgings. Well sit you down take your supper. We'll see what we can do. And she actually did contrive to find a little nook in which we were glad to take refuge from the multitudes around us. A slight bored petition separated us from the apartment occupied by general route of New
York. One of the commissioners of the treaty. The steamer in which we came had brought the mail. At that day a rare blessing to the distant settlements. The opening and reading of all the dispatches which the general received about bed time had of course to be gone through with before he could be tired to rest his eyes being weak his secretaries were employed to read the communications. He was a little deaf with all and through the slight division between the two apartments the contents of the letters and his comments upon them were unpleasantly audible as he continually admonished his secretary to raise his voice in vain we cough and hemmed and knocked over sundry pieces of furniture. But they were too deeply interested to hear aught that passed around them and if we had been politicians we should have had all the secrets of the working man's party at our disposal out of which to have made capital.
When there were no hotels or in this for the new settlers on their way or when they were waiting for a new cabin to be built they relied on the hospitality of the older settlers and in turn when they had cabins they would offer food and shelter to the next new arrivals. These new homes are not as elegant or well furnished as the places back East were a source of much work and many memories for the women who kept them. Father had logs cut and haul wood to build our house and then came the reusing of the house. It was a pleasant day. They made 30 or 40 the tables were set out of doors in the shade of the tree. It was boiled half baked. Brown bread and white all the vegetables that could be obtained dried apple custard pies cakes tea coffee.
It was the first real dinner given at a raisin before that they had bread cheese crackers or something else for lunch and a jug from which they drank. But no job was had it fathers raising the raising was done by friends and need bears. I could well remember the noise they made as they called out he a hole. We moved into our house before it was quite complete. Part of the roof being put on after we got in. My first recollection of a home is a house a story and a half ice situated on rising ground sloping down to the river. It was built of human logs weather boarded outside and plastered within and furnished comfortably. The only mode of transportation was by sailing vessels and winter setting in early the furniture and carpets did not arrive the first winter so that mother's carpets were colored Indian blankets
for bare floors were not to be endured in those severe winters. As a child I thought a beautiful house a pleasant place for that far away land. Our house was a story and a half log cabin. But I had a very large fireplace in one of the doctors with a good smoke in the fireplace so that the smoke would go up before I heard the door and we were both safe.
At first we were able to secure a manservant but not one who would do housework that was considered to greet the young men we hired shopped the holder for the house prepared for the fire and carried it in. He would also bring in the water take care of the horse and milk the cow. The latter he considered almost at this point. The men would hire out for such work were young and very good Canadians from Montreal and its surrounding. They were known as my life which is synonymous with verdant old roll you. After a time weakest exceeded in getting a little wounded out of about twelve years of age. While there's a deal. But not this whiplash.
The day to day life of a pioneer wife is apt to be filled with endless cycle of cooking washing ironing and sewing some household activities depended on the season of the year. In the autumn after the beef and pork were ready I had to dip and mold more candles. After I had rendered the tallow then the lard had to be rendered and sausage and head cheese were to be made. There were no shops where meat could be chopped nor the feet could foresee. Every fall and spring. Each family had a shoe make a common make shoes for the entire family. And as there was but one shoemaker here we had to wait there when the dressmaker or the when the milliner's. Oh woe to the woman who could not make our own dresses our fashions came from the east. We will not ask to be bought. Some lady would arrive from the east and would be kind enough to lend her dress to
some friend to make one buy that friend would lend her friend and so on and so on until we were all so well. It made no difference to us if another new dress did not appear but two or three years. We never thought of making over a dress for the fashion. Were sometimes living miles from the nearest house. Often left alone while her husband went off on business. The Pioneer wife had time for loneliness and memories of friends back east. Letters from home took on great importance in the fall of 46. My husband and his partner took the contract to carry the mail for the season from Prairie du Sheen to St. Paul. My husband was to bring it up from Birdie she is a partner with to carry it on then to St. Paul on his first trip. I rode with his hired man down to a
point about 8 miles from here. The man was looking for a game while my husband went on with his horses and the meal bag. Coming to a creek which had frozen considerably in the mud he started his horse across the little skin of ice broke and rider a mail bag and horse disappeared. About this time the other man came up looking for my husband. He called and got no answer. Finally his eyes met moccasins sticking out of the creek expecting to find a pair of legs and then maybe pulled them out laid my husband on the bank. Had the man very much frightened didn't know what first. Where to get help. But remember in that he had passed a fancy. He just thought there must be a farmer living near.
He left my husband for a day at the horse in the creek and went two miles back to Philip's place and asked for help and they hurried back. But when they got to the place they found the supposedly dead man on his feet. He had on a very large oil a skin head called a wide awake. That saved him from drowning. Horse was day and haven't broken its neck falling into the creek at the mail bag was recovered the day on which the mail was expected was a gala day. The inhabitants of the village thinking of nothing else and many going out along the trail for several miles to meet the carrier in the winter. The mail was brought by a man once a month from Chicago. The government had not established a mail route and the expenses of the carrier were paid by voluntary subscription of the citizens and the military post fund of Fort
Howard. The carrier walked the distance two hundred miles through a trackless wilderness exposed to dangers of starvation of perishing cold of falling into the hands of savage Indians or becoming a prey to wild beasts. In addition to the mail he had to carry provisions enough to last him during his trip which with the blankets were his bed made no small load and rendered travelling very irksome when the snow was deep. At night he slept on the bare ground or scooped out the snow to form a couch and there lay with the sky above him and the glittering eyes of wild beasts all around him. One of the carriers made a trip with the mail from Green Bay to Detroit nine thousand twenty one and camped one night where Michigan City now stands. He dreamed that he was rolling down the hill when waking suddenly he found that a large black wolf was attempting to make away with his provisions. He is said to have shot the wolf and regained his supplies. There were two kinds of neighbors the pioneer ladies had to get used to the other settlers
and the Indians reactions to the letter generally depended on the lady's own preconceived ideas and how long she'd been living in the territory. About the last week in June we went about a block from our house and picked strawberries. They were very thick on the prairie so we all went including the chickens and pigs plenty of nice berries but the chickens were so expert in choosing the ones I wanted. I want a block farther on where I picked a great pony had nearly filled a two gallon pail when what should I behold but a big Indian purse tired seen. They gave me a startling surprise. I gave a scream and scared all the animals out of the strawberries. Poor fellow merely meant to show me where there were more nice strawberries. But I thought I was going to be scalped on the spot. I left the strawberries and everything behind me ran half an hour all over the prairie. About half a dozen times I got my feet tangled on the
grass and stuck in the sand till at last worn out I had to stop. All the men in the community were looking at me. When I got home a poor Indian had carried my strawberries home for me. My neighbors were picking them over. All had a good deal of fun over my fright. My mother was in great fear of the Indians for some time. One day she saw a canoe filled with Indians landed the foot of the hill and several of the savages came up and asked in their own language for my father. As my mother did not understand them. She was very much frightened. Supposing they intended to harm her. They returned to the canoe and came running up the second time. She thought then they must have gone for their guns or knives and she was in great terror until they came to her with some silver bands which they used
to wear on their arms and slipped them on her wrists as a token of good will. Then they paddled down the river to my father's store three miles off and told him his squaw was afraid of. I remember well when Milwaukee was a wilderness and Indians coming from there to the Green Bay agency on foot clothed in the skins of wild animals. They came for ammunition and blankets and so on and often was I in the council chamber to smoke the pipe of peace with my brothers younger than myself and listen to their speeches. It was a great delight to watch them cook. They would sit on the floor and eat and I was often invited to partake. They called my father their father. Of course I was their sister. A young Indian fell in love with me followed me everywhere.
Getting to know the other settlers was generally a simple matter. They soon came of visiting. The first call I was a house keeper was from Judge and Mrs duty. They walked up to the judge carrying their baby. Mrs. Doherty afterward said that she could not realize at the time that I could not speak English but thought that I was only bashful or reserved. The other neighbors called in due time. The first call we had was from the lady who had heard that a new family had come out to the prairie to leave. It was Mrs. Stowe all she wanted molestus for but we were glad of our abundant supply of groceries as neighbors would wish to trade but her and things that we wanted for molesting this and other things that we had it was all trading as no one had money. One came for tea is wife was sick and he gave
us two hens and a rooster. This made the beginning of a beautiful flock of hens for us never before or since. Were there ever such hens. And we sat by the hour before their coop feasting our eyes on their beauty. Visiting and being visited was a favorite pastime of course expectations of hospitality could be carried too far. Twin brothers Mozes and their end lived near us. They often came by on air and air came one day to get some Thanks and said he couldn't stay a minute. He put his hat on the pillow beside him and began to talk. He stayed until late time when my mother told him he had better stay all night or go home. So he stayed. It was two days before he finally went home.
Among the events to fill the LA Times of the pioneer women were special trips by boat canoe and on land to various parts of the territory. Often they could claim to be the first white woman to make the trip and there were the more everyday matters of schooling and housekeeping. Sometimes during the week travelling clergy would hold prayer meetings in private homes and of course there was church on Sunday. We went to church in a little log school is now Street services given by clergy from a few miles away. They often walk down to the bridge they might not
usually glad to and that was a right who lived on a farm team and take folks when the roads were bad he would take his dinner at the bar who would sit with them Norrie. We each knew when it was. Not known but we didn't see many social Gad. While these but not much enjoyed by boss satisfied and happy that people in general are today we were all young from a community with few exceptions and as a matter of course dancing took the lead in popular music
dancing girl and sleigh rides made the winters round. We never danced in summer fiddlers were most plentiful in those days and the music if not of the highest order was enjoyed the military had a food band to but the only parties at which they played were those which the officers gave in the very handsome bodies they were to. Our parties were mostly impromptu affair. One gentleman would meet a friend and would propose to go to another friend's house that evening to have a gun. Would be sent to the latter and he in turn would notify his wife. If your house was small she would clear out one room for doubt. I never knew a lady to start any of these parties herself although always ready to join them at these impromptu affair. The neighbors would assemble as soon after supper as possible seven that they would be accompanied by our fiddler and dancing would begin the immediately
had to go. There were other parties for which grade preparations were made. The house if small had to be a range so as to admit the greatest number. There was always a room provided with cradles and the nurse or person to stay with the babies and rock them while the mother's done. The way it was presenting eyewitness accounts of historic events. Today pioneer women of Wisconsin. Material for this series was selected from the files and papers of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Consultant for the series was Doris Platt. Scripts by Beth helper and music by Kent attempt for. Production. Ralph Johnson This is
the national educational radio network.
The Way It Was
Episode Number
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-w950mr7c).
Other Description
"The Way It Was" is a radio program which presents eye witness accounts of notable topics throughout American history. Each episode begins with a description of a specific event, person, or historical topic, followed by several dramatic readings of witness testimonies found in the files and papers of the state historical society of Wisconsin. The program was originally released in 1969, and was re-broadcast from the program library of National Public Radio.
Radio Theater
Local Communities
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-3-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:52
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “The Way It Was; 1,” 1969-02-24, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 12, 2022,
MLA: “The Way It Was; 1.” 1969-02-24. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 12, 2022. <>.
APA: The Way It Was; 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from