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1932 Stories

The Caroline Wood's Family
By Lois Yates, Dist. 183

In the middlewe stern part of these great United States there used to be a great prairie covered with tall grass. It was here that the Indians and wild animals liked to roam. Then the white man came. Among some of the first settlers in the Middlewest was my grandmother's family, who came from Vermont in the 1850's. They had some relatives in Illinois who wrote to them, telling of the wonderful prairie land which they could buy for a dollar an acre. The parting with their relatives and friends in the East was sad, because they knew that they might never see them again. But finally this family decided to emigrate to the new land, which seemed to offer such great opportunities.

My great-grandparents had a large family and it was quite a task to get them all ready to take West. But, of course, they would not think of leaving one behind. There was Caroline (my grandmother), her father, her mother, and her four younger sisters - Catherine, Emmeline, and the twins, Maria and Sophia, who were nicknamed Rye and Tye. There were three relatives who decided to come West too - my grandmother's Aunt Kate and two great-aunts, who were very cross and made much of the trip very unpleasant for the children.

They came by steamboat through the Great Lakes to Chicago, and the trip wjis filled with wonders for the whole family.

At last they reached Chicago safely and got on a canal boat, which brought them down the Illinois-Michigan canal to Ottawa. Everyone was relieved when Aunt Clarissa and Aunt Melissa stopped at Woodstock, where they had relatives with whom they were going to live. When the family reached Ottawa they had no place to put their household goods, which they had brought along with them. They had to leave them there beside the canal until they could take them to a safer place. Aunt Kate walked three miles to a cousin's farm to tell him that his relatives had arrived, and asking him to come to Ottawa after the rest of the family. He took them to his home for the night, while grandmother's father walked to the home of another relative about fifteen miles northwest of Ottawa. This place was near where the Woods were to build their new home. Great-grandfather stayed with this relative all night, and the next day they brought the household goods out from Ottawa. The whole family came to live here until their own home could be built. Their new home was a one-roomed log cabin, with a fireplace at one end, and packing boxes for chairs and table.

They raised all their own food and had to take their wheat to the mill at Dayton to get it ground into flour. They had to leave it there overnight and come back after the flour the next day. They had eggs, hominy, corn bread, milk, prairie chickens, wild geese, and, on special occasions, fried chicken to eat.

As there were no wire fences in those days, some other way had to be devised for inclosing the fields and keeping the stock in. People living near a grove cut poles and made rail fences, but if there were no woods nearby, deep ditches were dug around the fields. Since the stock could not jump over them they served well as fences. One day a herd of antelope passed through the neighborhood. They jumped the ditches easily.

The children liked to go out in the fields to gather flowers, but they had to watch out for rattlesnakes, which were very numerous in those days. One day they looked out in the yard and saw the chickens flying in all directions. They went out to see what was the matter and saw a rattlesnake curled up ready to strike. As my grandmother's father was away at the time, her mother had to take a hoe and kill it herself. One day a neighbor came into her house and heard the dishes in the cupboard rattling. She looked in and saw a rattlesnake crawling around among the dishes. As she could not get it out she finally killed it in the cupboard.

The school was about one and one-half miles from their home. It was a one-roomed log cabin with logs split in half and set up on legs for seats. They were very rough and uncomfortable. The desks were made in the same way only they were set up higher. Children of all ages and sizes went to this school. On Sundays the schoolhouse was used as a church.

Nearly every person who came to this new country got the ague. When a person had this disease he would tremble from head to foot. There was also a kind of fever which some of the settlers got. Rye and Tye were stricken with this fever and nearly died. The doctor said the only thing that would cure them was to get some blue clay to pack on their heads. Their father started out to find some, and at last he returned with some. The twins were cured.

In spite of these and many other hardships, the early settlers managed to carry on. As time went on they built better houses and fenced their farms, until today log cabins and ditch fences have become things of the past. We should be thankful to those hardy pioneers who laid the foundations for the community in which we live.

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