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Pioneer Life In Western Pennsylvania

Pioneer Life In Western Pennsylvania

J. E. WRIGHT
DORIS S. CORBETT
ILLUSTRATIONS BY CLARENCE McWILLIAMS
Copyright Date: 1940
https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt9qh4zh
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qh4zh
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  • Book Info
    Pioneer Life In Western Pennsylvania
    Book Description:

    A fascinating look at life during pioneer times in western Pennsylvania. Describes the hardship, danger and drudgery of day-to-day life on the frontier. Topics include cabin raising, crop harvests, tanning, weaving, disease, religion, and superstition. Also follows the progression from pioneer life to industrial society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7362-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. I The Way of the Frontier
    (pp. 1-11)

    FROM a sky as blue as the chicory in the grass, sunlight fell across a clearing and reached golden fingers back among the trees. The clearing itself, its leaf-molded surface, was marked with fresh-cut stumps and littered with yellow flakes and chips that the ax had cut from the trunks piled roughly to one side—trunks not yet trimmed of their branches and freshly pointed from the blows of the ax.

    On one of the stumps in the clearing sat a man and his wife. The sleeve of his linsey hunting shirt was ripped, his brown leggings were half hidden...

  2. II First Footprints
    (pp. 12-25)

    ON NO map showing the country before 1700 is the section that we know today as western Pennsylvania definitely outlined. This country around the headwaters of the Ohio River, then called the Ohio or the western country, was to the white man an unlimited and unexplored region. When the forerunners of settlement first came through the gaps in the Allegheny Mountains made by the Juniata River and descended the last slope of Laurel Hill, they knew they had passed beyond the western limits of settled country and had entered the upper Ohio Valley, but just where the western boundaries of...

  3. III How the Settler Got His Land
    (pp. 26-40)

    THE territory now included in Pennsylvania had been granted by King Charles II of England to William Penn in 1681 and had been owned ever since by Penn or his heirs, although the people of the colony governed themselves. From the first the Penns had made every effort to induce settlers to come to Pennsylvania. They came by thousands directly from Europe—from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and France—after voyages of from four to twelve weeks, during which a diet of hard biscuits, salt beef, pork with beans, and potatoes was common ship’s fare. From the eastern ports they...

  4. IV The Cabin in the Clearing
    (pp. 41-53)

    WHERE his ax had laid low century-old oaks and ash trees clustered with red berries, so that ten or a dozen of the fallen trees left a clearing of half an acre, there the frontiersman might begin the raising of his wilderness home. Or he might choose a section of bottom land near a river, where the ground was already clear and he could begin work on his cabin immediately. Many an immigrant, worn with climbing over the mountain trails, stopped perhaps at some hill point along a creek where there were no trees, not knowing the land was poor....

  5. V Linsey and Buckskin: Venison and Pone
    (pp. 54-63)

    FRONTIER dress was as much the product of environment as were the log cabin and the food of the settlers. These people whose bodies became gaunt and sinewy from privation, exposure, constant toil, and rough diet would ill have worn the fine fabrics and styles that prevailed in the fashionable world of the East. Plain, coarse enough to resist hard wear, and practical enough for protection, the clothing of the frontier men and women was perfectly adapted to its time and place. As with their cabins, their dress was the result of the materials and methods immediately available.

    The men...

  6. VI Truck Patch and Cornfield
    (pp. 64-73)

    AS IN all young communities, agriculture was the chief industry on the western Pennsylvania frontier. Upon it depended all classes of people: millers, innkeepers, the soldiers in the forts, carpenters, ministers, lawyers, and doctors. Many a settler had only a bag of seed corn with which to start his crops; a little later he could trade pelts at the fort or at the government store, or could barter a day’s rail splitting with a neighbor, for additional seeds. For the first summer an acre of corn and a half acre truck patch was as much as he could manage with...

  7. VII Butcher, Baker, Candlestick-maker
    (pp. 74-83)

    WHEN the cabin was built and furnished, the grain reaped and stacked, the pioneer turned his attention to other needs. Grinding grain; spinning and weaving cloth, which then had to be dyed and made into clothing; tanning leather for shoes and breeches; coopering buckets, tubs, and tankards; mending pots and pans; making plowshares, candle holders, and griddles—all these things were generally done by one family for itself. A pioneer family was a complete little world, supplying its every demand by its own efforts. In such practices lay the beginnings of the industrial empire of western Pennsylvania, which today satisfies...

  8. VIII Growing Up on the Frontier
    (pp. 84-100)

    I KNOW of no scene in civilized life more primitive than such a cabin hearth as that of my mother.” wrote Dr. Daniel Drake in recalling what must have been a typical day in the life of a frontier child. He continues:

    “In the morning, a buckeye backlog and hickory forestick resting on stone andirons, with a Johnny-cake on a clean ash board, set before it to bake, a frying pan with its long handle resting on a split-bottomed turner’s chair, sending out its peculiar music, and the tea kettle swung from a wooden ‘lug pole’; with myself setting the...

  9. IX Jigging It Off
    (pp. 101-116)

    THERE came a late spring day on the frontier when a man and his wife, hoeing barefoot in their truck patch, raised their heads to listen to a strange sound. Somewhere back in the woods an ax was being swung against the trunk of an oak tree. Some one, not knowing how near he was to a cabin, was clearing a space for his own. A neighbor had arrived on the border.

    Before the harvest was gathered enough cabins had been built within a day’s tramp of one another to make a neighborly settlement. It had even been given a...

  10. X “Indians in the Valley!”
    (pp. 117-128)

    TIME after time during the forty-year period after the beginning of the French and Indian War in 1754 fear and panic gripped the settlements. Bands of Indians swooped down on unprotected cabins to ravage and kill, to burn crops and cabins, to scalp, tomahawk, or take captives. Frantic, the settlers called for aid from the East. After Braddock’s tragic defeat near Fort Duquesne in 1755 the provincial government took action; up to this time the assembly had been controlled by the peace-loving Quakers, but they finally withdrew from the assembly and left it in the control of those who favored...

  11. XI Yarbs, Doctors, and Charms
    (pp. 129-139)

    THE rugged, out-of-door life and simple diet of the early western Pennsylvania settlers might, to our modern view, be considered a perfect prescription for good health. But this mode of living was not an unmixed blessing. Their knowledge of hygiene and of the prevention and cure of disease was very limited. What they did know of these things was more through instinct than science. They were subject to the effects of exposure. A settler returning from the winter woods to his cabin, wet, tired, and hungry, would sit before the fire to dry his clothes or lie down to sleep...

  12. XII The Log Church
    (pp. 140-157)

    THE first Christian religious services in the western Pennsylvania wilderness, so far as our records show, were the Roman Catholic mass and prayers said by Fathers Vernet and Queret, who accompanied the Baron de Longueuil on his expedition into the region in 1739, and those said by the Jesuit Father Bonnecamps a decade later, when Céloron’s royal expedition floated down the Allegheny River. In 1754, shortly after the French had captured and re-christened Fort Duquesne, the Recollet Father Denys Baron celebrated mass on the site of Pittsburgh and dedicated a chapel to “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin of the...

  13. XIII Frontier Justice
    (pp. 158-174)

    IN THE process of settlement it was not long until the frontier family had to learn to live not as a self-sufficing farm community but with neighbors in a much more complex community life. Concern of the individual for his own safety and welfare and for those of his family broadened with advancing settlement to concern for the safety and welfare of larger groups—the neighborhood, the church, and the school—and for the administration of justice in county and township.

    A frontier code of living developed, one that the pioneer himself followed and that he forced on his fellows;...

  14. XIV From Indian Trail to Turnpike
    (pp. 175-199)

    IN THE summer of 1784 a family of five—father, mother, and three children—with a servant boy of fourteen, left Philadelphia and took the road to the West in typical pioneer fashion.

    “We were provided with three horses, on one of which my mother rode carrying her infant, with all the table furniture and cooking utensils. On another were packed the stores of provisions, the plough irons, and other agricultural tools. The third horse was rigged out with a pack saddle, and two large creels, made of hickory withes in the fashion of a crate, one over each side,...

  15. XV Life in the Towns
    (pp. 200-219)

    PITTSBURGH is a fine Country Town … possesses tolerable good & cheap markets, dear stores & bad society the Inhabitants being so much Engrossed with political discussions that those of oppisite sentiments can hardly think or speak well of each other—its a place by no means so enticeing as Philadª & a person comeing from thence should do it under the conviction of making money & bettering his circumstances, but not of Enjoying the pleasure either of a country or city life.”

    Thus was Pittsburgh described in a letter written by John Thaw in 1804, and that description would also apply in general,...

  16. XVI The First Factories
    (pp. 220-231)

    AS INDUSTRIES expanded beyond the household, the aspect of the country and of towns changed rapidly. The frontier, in passing, had prepared the way for the growth of industry in shops and factories throughout the region. Early settlers had located coal and iron veins, had learned where salt could be found and where the best stone could be quarried. They had found good soil for bricks and pottery, and sand for making glass. Brickmaking developed rapidly in the 1790’s; it was probably the first industry established in Pittsburgh, for there had been brickmakers with General Stanwix in 1759. And in...

  17. XVII The Road to the Past
    (pp. 232-240)

    THE past is always with us. We may never think or care at all about it, but there it is for good or bad, guiding and controlling us in every thought and act. Since time began men and women had wondered about the past, told tales about it, tales of courage and heroism that stir and move us, and they have tried for many reasons and by many means to recapture it.

    To discover the truth about the past takes long and careful searching. Much useless, tasteless, and harmful material obscures the road that the reader or student must follow...