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Early Social Life in Humboldt County
I have often feared that our oft repeated recitals of our trials and tribulations, annoyance by flies and mosquitoes, our sufferings by blizzards and intense cold, our perils from rattlesnakes and Indians might cause our listeners who did not share our hardships to either doubt our veracity, or think we were greater martyrs that we really were.
So while I admit that all these things were endured, in fact the "half has not been told" that some of the early settlers suffered. I will try to recall some of our pleasures and privileges which were among our most cherished moments.
When we came to Iowa there were several settlers in this vicinity, and it was a great encouragement to us to visit their homes, made comfortable and attractive by neatness and industry though lacking in almost everything that eastern people thought indispensible.
We gazed with wonder and delight at the vast expanse of prairie with its countless variety of wild flowers, the innumerable flocks of birds the flew fearlessly about not having learned to dread the hunter, at the prairie fires by night so grand and beautiful when not too near and so exciting when they were.
It was to us a new world, fresh from the hands of the Creator and a goodly heritage it seemed. Our first housekeeping in the tiny cabin seemed child's play, but as cares and duties multiplied it was nothing but play, as any old settler's wife can testify.
I am to tell you of our pleasures. I suppose the young folks of the present day wonder what we did for society. Well, we met our friends and neighbors and enjoyed their company none the less because it required a little effort to get together.
The men had great sport in hunting and fishing, as game and fish were abundant and excellent. At county fairs they had trials of strength and skill in diverse games. The met in agricultural meetings and had lyceums where, if my memory serves me right, the speeches were not inferior to those of the present day. The women's share in these meetings was to listen, wonder and admire, and we acted our part well.
Occasionally we used to spend the day visiting, and what visits they were! A hearty welcome always awaited the guest, as women are social creatures and cannot be really happy without opportunities for gossip, but there was not much available, as they lived too far apart to watch each other closely, besides they were all too busy providing for their families to need watching.
We contented ourselves in that line with sharp criticisms of the other neighbor's way of doing things if it was not just like ours, and a few speculations as to the old bachelors' matrimonial prospects which naturally interest us as we pitied their forlorn condition, which by the way, they mad haste to change as soon as possible.
We had the brilliant sayings and doings of our respective infants to discuss and our last letters from the east to relate. There was time to admire the various ingenious substitutes for furniture every family learned by necessity to make, to tell of some triumph in preparing some toothsome dish from our very limited resources, or to sympathize with each other over our failures in making the old clothes look as well as new, owing to the perversity of the barks we tried to color with, or lack of skill in making over.
And the dinner—how good it tasted!—no matter of what it consisted. It was always the best the house afforded and seasoned with the grace of true hospitality. We would always go home cheered and encouraged, wiser by learning some new method of work by our neighbor's example, and ready to take up our burden with a lighter heart next day.
Our church privileges were sadly missed at first and perhaps I may be pardoned for telling of my first attendance at public worship. We had been here about three months when the settlers were notified that there would be a meeting held in the log school house south of us. A preacher of the "Society of Friends" from New York was visiting relatives here, and would present.
I was very anxious to go, and as our brother was the fortunate possessor of a horse, but no vehicle, we borrowed the horse and I rode while husband dutifully walked by the side as guard and guide.
The settlers were nearly all present when we got there. I had seen but few of them before, and during the silent part of the services I could not resist scrutinizing the congregation. As I noted their kindly, intelligent faces and reverent demeanor I felt that they would prove friends in deed as well as in name, as in truth they did.
We did not have the comfortable church or the excellent pastor we are now favored with, but as compensation we had more unity of feeling. All . . . met and worshipped whenever the opportunity offered. Surely we had much to enjoy and be thankful for.