Menagerie’s Mailboxes and Old Barns: Pioneer Problems And Present Day Perplexities

Picking up the story of my grandfather’s book, we jump back into the story of settlers in Kansas, just as the Civil War starts. The first part of the book is told here.

My grandfather titled his book Pioneer Problems and Present Day Perplexities. It was written in 1965 for our family, and has never been published. A copy was given to each of his children and grandchildren.

women knitting bwSoon after their little cabins were completed, the civil war broke out and a goodly share of the men were taken into service. During the next few years, those broken families saw some very difficult times. Because the war came so soon after their arrival, they had very little land broken out and no reserves to carry them over. Grandmother used to tell us kids how she and the girls knitted socks and sold them in Manhattan. Manhattan at that time consisted only of tents and little old shacks. Food of any kind was very scarce and hard to get. They had no flour or even wheat so they had to ford the river with an ox team in order to get to Manhattan where they had corn ground into corn meal.

Mother spent much time washing for neighbors, going as far as Carnahan Creek five or six miles away. Of course, there were no schools then but there was a lady that lived on Cedar Creek that taught in her home. Mother told of the girls having a new pair of shoes. They were so proud of them that they would carry them until they got near the teacher’s house before putting them on. They were one buckle shoes just like the men wore. Mother used to tell us that all of her schooling would not amount to more than three months.

cow in the cornThey used to have church meetings quite often around in different homes. One Sunday morning, Grandpa and Grandma went to a neighbor’s a few miles away for the church service. It was in June and Grandpa had a few acres of corn about knee high and left the girls and neighbor children to herd the milk cows with strict orders not to let the cows get to the corn. While playing along the creek, they happened to see a very LARGE fish and naturally they wanted it: so someone went to the cabin for a line and a bent pin while others searched for worms and a little pole. As luck would have it, they caught the fish. They then remembered that they were to carefully guard the cows, so they ran fast to the little patch of corn. However, the cows got there first and the little patch of corn was completely eaten up.

Mother was so thoroughly upset she ran to where the church meeting was being held and whispered through a crack in the cabin wall, telling her father what had happened. He merely told her to go on back and that he would settle with them when he returned. It so happened that the minister returned with them for dinner, but Grandfather was one that made his word good and called the girls together and prepared for their punishment. The good minister, sensing what was about to take place, put his hand on Grandpa’s shoulder and said, “Brother Adkins, you are not going to whip those children. In two or three weeks that corn will grow out and be as good as ever.” Those thankful kids never ceased to love that kind minister!

Mother used to tell us how she would break their colts to ride and work when she was a girl. First, she would girt a pillow on their back and then when they became accustomed to that, she would fold a comfort and do the same with that. Finally, she would get on herself.

Well, the intervening years slipped by and the three girls grew up to be young ladies. I know very little about the romantic days of my parents. In these present days you often hear people get the news and latest gossip by way of the grapevine. I am quite sure they had grapevines in those days which gave good service too. If there was any young bachelor that was needing a housekeeper, he had an almost uncanny way of locating an eligible young lady even though she lived half way across the county. That was something I never could quite understand.

Most young brides suddenly realize that they have slipped into a responsible job. My mother was no exception. I have often wondered how she made out as well as she did. My father always kept two or more hired men. They and the few neighbors were all German and spoke the German language. I think she and the older children picked up enough to get by with, but it must not have been easy.

The Civil War was just over and people were desperately poor. Food, grain, and even most of the men had been drained from the country. It must have been an uphill drag for the next several years; but even that did not stop the old stork from making his regular rounds. Nobody ever had a doctor when babies arrived. There were two midwives in the neighborhood and they had complete charge of that business.

candlelightThis little article would  certainly not be complete if I did not give my mother due credit for the earnest effort she put forth from our early childhood days till we were grown. I am sure we would be a sizable job for both parents. However, Mother never ceased to impress upon us in our everyday life how vitally important it was to build a foundation in our childhood years that would support a life of character and uprightness through the remainder of our lives. Although we always lived a busy life and worked from early until late, I can never remember when she did not take time to read the Bible morning and night and get down on her knees and thank God for our daily blessings. I can remember in the spring of the year when the work was most crowding how restless we boys were to get in the field, but she never failed to take time for the Bible reading, not just a few verses, but always a full chapter.

This seems to be a very good stopping point in the story. I have tears in my eyes as I think about this great grandmother of mine, painted so vividly in my grandfather’s words. My own legacy to my family will not stand such a test of time, and I honor and admire this strong woman who faced life with a Bible and her faith and family, and not much else.

We may not leave a heritage on Earth

Of famous name or wealth or noble birth;

For life, in prearranging destiny

Has ruled that many men shall humble be.

But greater gifts than these have we to give,

To scatter far and wide the while we live:

The gifts of love and faith and kindly deeds

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12 Responses to Menagerie’s Mailboxes and Old Barns: Pioneer Problems And Present Day Perplexities

  1. hocuspocus13 says:

    Reblogged this on hocuspocus13.


  2. nyetneetot says:

    Thank you Menagerie.


  3. ZurichMike says:

    Lovely! When I read such stories here, I feel that my life has been underwhelming compared to theirs.


  4. Cyber says:

    Thank you, that was quite interesting.

    I had a great-great-something grandfather that fought for the Union in the Civil War. He was wounded in a battle in South Carolina, one the Confederates won, and they were taking prisoners to Andersonville – the notorious POW camp in Georgia. Actually it was more like a death camp. My relative just had a leg wound but they were taking prisoners with worse wounds on the chance they would recover and fight again.

    Why didn’t they take my relative. Well, he was grimy and an albino. They thought he was an old man when in reality he was in his mid-20’s. They even joked about how the Union must be getting desperate. He made it back to the Union camp and eventually made it back to raise a family – luckily for me.


  5. stella says:

    Our “foremothers” amaze me. The strength and tenacity – like that of your great grandmother – are rare qualities in our country today. This woman should always be remembered and celebrated, and your grandfather (and you too) has done, and are doing, just that! Thanks for sharing your family story, Menagerie.


  6. Great stories and great writing. If people want to see what living was like before (or after) modern day conveniences (electricity, central air, microwaves, tv, running water, cars) check out what the pioneers, like these people, dealt with. Having cows eat some of your corn, like in this story, was a major issue – possibly, a life or death issue. It kind of puts things, for example a yard needing to be mowed or a car needing an oil change or bills needing to be paid, into perspective.

    “Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
    And grow forever and forever.
    Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
    And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying ,dying”
    … Alfred Lord Tennyson


  7. Cyrano says:

    Your grandfather’s writings were exceptionally well done, Menagerie! Thanks for sharing, and reminding us of whence we sprung. We are OF this land.


  8. rashomon says:

    Menagerie, what a wonderful gift your grandfather bestowed upon you! Our ancestors went through trials and hardships that truly put our travails today into a new perspective. You should continue your grandfather’s story with your own experiences for the enjoyment of future generations.


  9. Stormy says:

    Such amazing stories, and what a blessing that book is!


  10. WeeWeed says:

    “The Civil War was just over and people were desperately poor. Food, grain, and even most of the men had been drained from the country.” And most livestock, as well. The land and what little was left was confiscated from the conquered south and left those that moved west with very damlittle to move. That they survived the first few years afterward is a testament to their faith and fortitude.
    A few twigs of one of my family branches witnessed the illustrious Sherman’s march through Atlanta and removed themselves to Arkansas, never to lay eyes on Georgia again. Lotza stories from that branch! None complimentary of Yankees, may I add, including my ggg (however many)-grandfather’s stay in some prison after Spotsylvania. Thank you, Menagerie!! An excellent story!


  11. hoosiergranny says:

    Wonderful story, Menagerie. For a few years around 1990, we lived in Spring Hill, KS, near Olathe. One of my coworkers told stories of her family who had lived in KS since before the Civil War. Her stories were fascinating, just as your grandfather’s book is. We loved Kansas but moved back to Indiana to be closer to family.

    Please keep in mind, while your great grandparents lived in trying time, so do we. Your writing is so engaging, bless your descendents with the tales of your parent’s and your time. They will likely find it as engaging as you find your great grandfather’s book. I look forward to your next installment.


  12. ctdar says:

    The most simple and basic things put one’s life in perspective, no matter the century.
    Thanks Menagerie for sharing.


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