The choicest settlements are along the Ohio, the White, and the Wabash rivers. The state was established in 1816 and, at present, has a population of about a hundred and fifty thousand souls. Slavery is as little permissible as in the state of Ohio and in Illinois. It is claimed that this law is not favorable to the rapid progress of the interior. The state of Ohio has been able to increase its population more easily through the immigration of poor settlers from the Atlantic states. Settlements in the more remote regions, however, require more means, which are almost exclusively in the possession of such persons who, because of their education and their circumstances, are relieved from spending all their time in physical labor, and usually make use of servants or slaves in establishing settlements. As long as the population is sparse, servants are very expensive. I have stayed overnight in houses that were very luxurious in their accoutrements, with costly carpets in all rooms, but one asked in vain for a servant. The landlord was compelled, in spite of his considerable wealth, to care personally for the horses as well as for the guests. Furthermore, his wife and daughters had to perform the most menial household tasks. Their only topic of conversation was that they wished to sell their establishments in order to move to a state where one could keep slaves.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MISSOURI. September 1825. Description of wagon trip to the frontier; establishment of new home in wilderness; food and supplies for the frontier family.
A large freight wagon (or several, according to the needs of the family) is loaded with the household goods in such a manner that a covered space remains free for passengers. In addition to the household goods, tents and provisions are included: smoked pork, beans, peas, rice, flour, cheese, and fruit; also for the first week, bread, and maize for the energetic horses. Thus the journey is begun. Sometimes the owner rides with his wife and children in a special wagon, sometimes in a coach, or he rides on horseback. If he has male slaves, one of these will be the driver. Otherwise he or some other member of the family does it. On the entire trip of perhaps more than 1,200 English miles, there is no thought of stopping at an inn. During the feeding of the horses at noon the kitchen also goes into operation. A stopping place is chosen near a spring or a brook, either in the shade or in the open according to the weather. A fire is quickly lighted and housekeeping proceeds as if they were at home. In the evening, more thought is given to the selection of the next campsite. If something is needed; such as cooking utensils or provisions, they stop near a farm and tents are set up, especially if the weather is bad. Some members of the party tend to the domestic animals (if the journey is not too long even the cattle are taken along), and others are busy with the kitchen. Finally, the lodging for the night is prepared. Everywhere the wagon train stops for the night, the natives are polite and ready to supply what is desired. Household goods are loaned, provisions are sold at low prices, horses are granted places to graze if it is preferred to let them graze in the open. The latter rarely presents any difficulties. Usually it is necessary only to hang a bell around the neck of the leader of the herd and to make his walking more difficult by fastening hobbles to his legs. They are tired and hungry and will not easily leave a good grazing place. Also, a trained dog would easily find their trail. However, there are cases when they take advantage of a moment of freedom to run back home. No distance and no stream will then hold them back, and they know how to find the way back to their old homes even through great forests. In my neighborhood there are two oxen that recently returned from a distance of one hundred English miles, having swum across the Missouri. A horse came back alone from Franklin (a distance of about one hundred twenty English miles)....
As soon as a traveling family has arrived at the site of its new home, it stops at the exact spot where the buildings are to stand. Then an enclosure is erected as a temporary protection for household goods and tents, which are now set up for a longer period of time. Fencing is needed to keep out the cows of neighboring settlements. The young calves are also kept in this enclosure to restrict the movement of the freely grazing cows, which return regularly and, without the slightest attention or care, constantly provide the family with milk and cream. The site for the house is chosen near a good spring or brook. A small building is immediately erected over the spring to protect it from pollution and also to provide a cool place for storing milk, butter, and meat.
The next concern is the building of a dwelling in the manner previously described. The wood for it is not hewn and, in the beginning, only a barnlike structure is planned to provide temporary shelter. A second one is built for the Negroes; then a third to be used as a barn, anti a smaller building to serve as a smokehouse. The tree trunks are felled in the neighborhood and dragged up by horses or oxen. The building itself is erected with the help of neighbors if the family cannot manage it alone. Not more than four or five persons are required to erect such a building. Boards are sawed for doors and floors, or trees are split into planks, for which purpose the ash and hackberry trees (Celtis crassifolia, or lotus tree) are especially suitable. The hearth, together with the chimney, is built very simply of wood, lined below with a stone wall and covered at the top with clay. If the chimney is six inches higher than the top of the roof smoke will not be a bother. The danger of fire depends on the construction of the stone wall and the clay covering.
Anyone who looks upon such a dwelling with too much contempt is not familiar with the local climate. I have been in some where cleanli ness and good furniture made for a very attractive appearance. Many families desire nothing else, since in other matters they live a life of plenty. The only thing that I have to criticize about the houses is that they usually have no cellar (the hut around the spring takes its place). In the summer a moldy odor rises out of the humus under the rough floor. This rarely offends one's nose but obviously endangers one's health. A floor laid by a carpenter affords perfect protection. Whoever does not want to spend that much on it can take care of the matter himself by removing the humus from the building site, or by burning cut wood from the clearing on the home site.
When the building is completed, which requires scarcely two to three weeks, the family already feels at home and the next step is to make the land arable. They usually begin by fencing in the chosen area in order to use it temporarily as an enclosed pasture for the horses and oxen which they want to keep close for convenience...
Very rarely is the cold said to interrupt outside work for more than two days. Even in January the weather is not always unfavorable for removing the roots of brush. Where horses, cattle, and hogs, not excluding the tenderest calves, can survive the winter without shelter, the climate cannot be too harsh.
It is remarkable how quickly all these domestic animals become accustomed to their homestead. Milk cows are kept near their fenced-in calves. Therefore, when a cow is sold its calf is part of the bargain. Calves are never slaughtered, partly because they grow up without any care or expense. During the first months cows return to their young at temporarily and this seems too inconvenient to a new settler...
At the beginning an acreage of four to five Morgen is sufficient for a small family. A half Morgen may be used for garden vegetables; a second halfMorgen for wheat, although it is usually too late to sow it during the first fall. This leaves three or four Morgen for maize.
In the western regions of America maize is a main product of agriculture. One could call it the wet nurse of the growing population. It serves all domestic animals as food, as it is used for fattening. The flour from it is simply called meal. On the other hand, the ground product of wheat is called flower [sic]. When boiled with milk, it makes a very nutritious healthful, and palatable food. If it is kneaded with the boiled pulp of the pumpkin, ( Concurbita pepo) however, a bread can be baked that I prefer to wheat bread, especially if the dough is fermented by subjecting it to heat for approximately twelve hours. A dough of cornmeal mixed with water or milk and then baked produces a bread that is too dry, but with fatty foods it is quite palatable. The bread is baked in covered iron pots which are placed on a bed of glowing wood coals on the hearth and also covered with them. In most households fresh bread is prepared every day, and in general, the cooking and baking are not very inconvenient because of the constant supply of glowing coals on the spacious hearth. Bread is also made of wheat flour. As well as I remember, the cornmeal is called groats in the Rhine region. There are many varieties of maize here. The most common varieties have white and yellow grains. There are also red, blue, and red-and-blue-speckled ones, and some that are transparent like beautiful pearls. These variations are preserved by propagation. The meal from all of them is the same. The stalks grow very tall, ten to fifteen and even twenty feet.
The garden provides the best European garden produce. Peas and beans flourish beyond all expectation. Only the finer varieties of beans are found. In order to require neither poles nor a special bed they are usually planted in the maize fields where the tall cornstalks serve as support for the vines. Pumpkins, lettuce, and several other things are planted there also. In this fertile soil, without the least fertilization, all these plants grow at the same time just as luxuriously after twenty years as in the first ones. I assure you that there is no exaggeration in this statement and that I have convinced myself many times of its truth. One of my neighbors, by the name of William Hencock [Hancock] , owns a farm on the banks of the Missouri that was started twenty years ago. Every year without interruption these areas have produced the richest harvests which no fertilizer can increase. In fact, the only change is that wheat can now be grown on fields that have been under cultivation for so long, whereas formerly it always fell over. However, some garden produce requires natural fertilizer. The farmer provides this in a very simple manner. He quarters his sheep overnight in the area intended for beds. Every year there is an abundance of cucumbers and melons (watermelons, and others), of course without any care. A good vegetable for the garden is the Bataten (called sweet potato here; the common potatoes are called Irish potatoes). They require a long summer and probably would not develop well in Germany. Prepared in steam they taste like the best chestnuts. I like them very much with coffee in the morning, although so early I can rarely eat the fried meat that is usually served in addition. Like the cucumber, the plant has vines that spread over the ground.
In the second year cotton is raised also; however, north of the Missouri only for family use. On the whole, the American farmer tries to spend no money for food or drink or clothes (with the exception of real finery). Therefore, flax and hemp are cultivated, and a small herd of sheep is kept. The products are all made at home. The spinning wheel is found everywhere, and if there is no loom, the housewife or one of the daughters goes from time to time to a neighbor who owns one. Just as most men are skilled at making shoes, few women find it difficult to make not only their own clothes but also those of the men. The demands of changing fashions are not ignored.
After housekeeping has been organized and the first purchases have been paid for, the whole family lives a carefree and happy life without any cash. And this is the real reason small sums are less important here than in Europe. [In Europe] when the husband brings home a little ready money, the wife immediately needs something, and usually there is no peace and quiet in the home until it has all been spent in the nearest store, usually for tawdry finery...
If the farmer owns two slaves, he may devote his time merely to supervision without doing any of the work himself and, in this case, the housewife will have little reason to complain about keeping house. Food is abundant. Also beer can easily be brewed since enough hops grow in the forests. The apple and peach orchards found on every farm furnish cider and brandies. Although a very good whiskey can be made from corn, the apple and peach brandies are preferred. I have tasted old corn whiskey that cost thirty cents a gallon (about two Cologne quarts) and it was as good as the best French brandy. Even without slaves, the farmer lives in a manner that surpasses by far that of a European farmer of the same financial status.
For most of the harder work of housekeeping there are ways of making the labor easier. If, for instance, laundry is to be done, a fire is lighted next to a nearby brook and a kettle is hung over it. The bleaching ground cannot be far away either, and it is a matter of course that during the summer a shady place is chosen. If butchering is to be done, there are similar advantages. Usually, animals to be slaughtered, oxen as well as hogs, are shot. The animals are lured to a suitable place with a little feed and very rarely does a shot fail to serve its purpose. In this way a single person can do the entire job, although it is the custom that neighbors help each other in this work.
Finally, I must correct the erroneous opinion that the difficulty of social intercourse is the dark side of the vaunted lot of the American settler. One should dismiss from his mind the idea that the accomplishment of his purpose demands a great degree of isolation from neighbors and consider, at the same time, that a distance of from two to three English miles here is negligible, even for the female sex. No family is so poor that it does not own at least two horses. Everyone strives to make these animals, which are kept at so little expense, his first purchase. Next in line are good saddles, and it is not unusual to spend twenty-four to thirty dollars for a woman's saddle (which would suffice for three saddles on the Atlantic coast, for example, in Baltimore ). Women and girls, old and young, ride (sidesaddle in the English manner) at a rapid or a slow pace without any difficulty, and they last in the saddle as long as the men. Not a week passes in which the housewife does not visit her neighbors on horseback either alone or with a companion. On Sundays, only the weather can be a hindrance. Often the whole family leaves the house without the slightest worry about thieves. Some houses are not even provided with locks, although the kitchen utensils alone are worth more than twenty dollars. Horse racing, cock fights, and target shooting are here, as in North America in general, the most frequent occasions for the gathering of men.
MISSOURI WILDERNESS. June 1826. In the western part of North America the population, in comparison to the amount of fertile, cheap land, is too sparse to permit anyone who either cannot or does not wish to be actively engaged in physical labor to carry on farming on a large scale without slaves. Even if one wants to supply one's own needs, domestic affairs would suffer because of the lack of whites who would have any desire to be hired for this purpose. But one who could decide to hire a slave would probably not hesitate to buy him.
The usual price of a male slave from nineteen to thirty years of age is four to five hundred dollars. The price of a female slave is a third less. Sometimes there is a guarantee against running away; often not it is always advisable to take this into consideration.
One who keeps slaves here has their living quarters near his own house. They do all the work that is done by domestic servants in Germany. It is in the master's self-interest to treat them with considera tion and to make their lot bearable. He encourages young slaves to marry so that they learn to like a regulated life. The children are also slaves and follow the mother if perhaps the father should have another master, which can easily be the case.
It happens in the United States that male and female slaves try to avenge insults and mistreatment not only by running away but also by murdering one or more members of the family. Sometimes they resort to open violence, sometimes to poisoning. Only recently there was a case of the latter about twenty miles from here. A seventeen-year-old Negro girl wanted to poison the entire family. But the dose of arsenic was so large that it caused immediate vomiting and therefore the attempt failed. The public papers recently told of the following incident. A farmer, the father of several children, had a small Negro girl about seven years of age in his home. One day this girl came back from a nearby wood and announced to her master and mistress that their four-year-old child had fallen into the brook. They ran quickly to the place and found the delicate creature already drowned, although the water at that place was not at all deep. They censured the Negro girl severely, saying that she should have helped the child herself instead of running for aid. A year later it happened that a younger child of the family failed to appear for a meal. The mother asked the Negro girl, who was accustomed to playing with the child, where it was, but received such a strange answer that, driven by great anxiety, she got up immediately to look for her. But she searched and called in vain, and then, as if filled with gloomy forebodings, turned fiercely to the Negress and demanded that she should tell her where she had left the child. Thereupon she obtained without difficulty the information that the child was lying in the brook. This indeed proved to be true, and this child also was lying dead at a place in the brook where she could have been saved by merely raising her head. They became more and more suspicious of the Negro girl and soon urgent reasons for a severe cross examination became apparent. As a result she confessed that both children had been choked to death in the water, and that the culprit had committed a similar murder while at her former owner's (who likewise had found a child suffocated in the water).
Such details, however, must not prejudice anyone against Negroes in general. There is no lack of gruesome deviation from nature among the whites either. I remember, among other things, that several years ago, on the Lower Rhine, a seven-year-old boy twice reduced an entlre village to ashes in revenge for a minor punishment (which some German law professors would attribute good-naturedly to a curious urge to see fire).
MISSOURI. October 1826. Diet and Health of Frontier Women.
The too frequent eating of meat produces unpleasant results espe. cially among members of the feminine sex, because their household tasks demand far less of the exercise necessary for digestion than the men have in their work in forest and fields and during their hunting It is easy enough to understand that men who have been working in the open since five or six o'clock in the morning, or have roamed around hunting, enjoy a breakfast of meat dishes, pork roast, and fowl toward nine o'clock. But that a city woman (with whom the American women can be compared in delicacy of physique and manner of living) can eat the same food without leaving her rooms is rather remarkable. A number of prevalent ailments are due merely to the excessive eating of fatty meat dishes. As soon as the patients restrict themselves to coffee bread, and butter during the morning, they feel better.
Most of the ailments from which the natives suffer are their own fault. They have little relation to the climate. But the manner of living, which is the common one here, would very soon kill half the population in Germany. Children and adults, whether they are healthy or ill, eat and drink, in summer as well as in winter, whatever tastes good to them. To fast in times of illness is considered great folly. It never occurs to anyone to protect himself against colds either. In every season one sees the children run half-naked into the open from their beds or from the heat of the hearth. Some houses are open to the wind on all sides, and the householders do not take the trouble to guard against the penetration of the cold northwest winds by using a little clay. Every day they would rather drag a cartload of wood to the hearth, around which the Whole family gathers.
MISSOURI. March 1827. Financial requirements for emigration; economic prospects for frontier families.
How many men are there in Germany who have funds amounting to four to six thousand Thaler [one thaler is equivalent to slightly over one dollar] without any other prospect than to use them for living expenses! But this sum is more than abundant to provide a happy life for an entire family on the banks of the Missouri, even if eight hundred to a thousand Thaler should be spent for traveling expenses, provided that they did not lack guidance. Such a financial status is very common in Germany among persons who are forced by what is called propriety and decorum to make expenditures that, without providing pleasure for the present veil the future with anxiety. With the above-mentioned sum the immigrant can buy two adult slaves (one male and one female), which cost about twelve hundred Prussian Thaler, and establish himself in such a manner that he can live more happily and, especially in regard to the future lot of numerous descendants, with many less worries than if he possessed six times that amount in Germany. But if he is capable of cultivating his own soil, a thousand Prussian Thaler would more than suffice, except for traveling expenses. I am estimating 150 to 200 Thaler for eighty Morgen of land; 45 to 60 Thaler for clearing and fencing from five to seven Morgen; 120 Thaler for two horses; 26 Thaler for two cows 12 Thaler for two sows; 100 for the buildings; a like amount for goods and chattels. That makes at the highest estimate 618 Thaler. So almost 400 Thaler are left for other, less essential things and for the ability to live without adhering quite so closely to a strict budget. If 200 Thaler more are spent on the dwelling, the immigrant is surely established far more comfortably than is usual for peasants who cultivate their own fields in Germany. A quarter of a mile from me there lives a farmer by the name of Jacob Haun. Seven years ago he began to establish a homestead. Because he possessed scarcely a hundred Thaler, he at first lived on state property and there tried to earn enough for the purchase of 160 Morgen. Then he continued to farm on his own property after the usual fashion and prospered, so that in seven years, without any assistance, he acquired a fortune of three thousand Thaler. Meanwhile his wife bore him five children, and now his household annually consumes over twelve hundred pounds of pork, an oxen weighing five to six hundred pounds, and several dozen roosters and hens. Also, at least ten to twelve deer are killed and a large number of turkeys. (No powder is used for partridges; it is left to the children to catch them in traps.) Who would believe that so much meat could be consumed in one householld of two adults and five children, of whom the oldest is scarcely six years? Some, of course, is contributed to hospitality. But most of it is due to the extravagant use of an article of food that is almost cheaper here than the most common vegetables in Germany.
There is much complaint in Europe about the decrease in the number of marriages, and superficial moralizers therefore declaim about immorality without considering that need is the true cause of this phenomenon, whereas immorality is merely the result, even the inevitable result. Only a thoughtless person can indulge in propagation without considering the future of his children. Among the low class of people, marriages have not decreased, although their morals are worse than ever. This is a deplorable, unnatural situation in our poor fatherland, which will never change automatically. The only charitable aid is the general promotion of emigration. There is no more sacred duty for the states of Germany now than to provide efficient guidance for these emigrations.