EDITED BY John C. Parish
Associate Editor of the State Historical Society of Iowa
Copyright 1921 by the State Historical Society of Iowa
(Transcribed by Gayle Harper)
The Blizzard and the Early Cabins, in the PALIMPSEST of
January, convey to the reader of this generation a vivid
impression of the courage, initiative, and self-dependence of
the Iowa pioneers.
My father built 82 years ago the log
house in which one of my brothers, my sister, and I were born
and reared. It was a two story structure, the bed rooms above
were reached by a common rung ladder. The roof was of
clapboards, kept in place by poles secured at the ends by
wooden pins. This roof shed the summer rains but the winter
snow was sifted in by the keen winds, and many a morning I
stepped out of bed into several inches of snow on the floor.
Later on my father had the cabin weather boarded and lathed
and plastered inside. But the original logs are there yet,
sound as ivory. Mr. Boarts, the present owner, a few years ago
had occasion to cut an opening through the side and gave the
pieces of the logs to my brother. They were white oak and
hickory, and he sent me canes made of each kind. The cooking
was done by the fireplace by my mother until finally a stove
was found in Muscatine, and when it was put in operation the
neighbors came to see it as a curiosity and a reminder of
their old Eastern homes.
In those frontier days all
were of equal fortune, all worked and saved. The clothing
fabrics were substantial. My father wore a suit of Indian
tanned buckskin, and later on we had the homemade blue jeans
made into garments by my mother. I would like a suit of it
There was a story told of one of those pioneer
women and her granddaughter, who asked, "Grandma, you were
here in the early days?" "Yes, I was a pioneer." "Well, were
you poor?" "Yes, we were all poor." "Couldn't you have what
you wanted?" "No, I could not." "Did you have no meats?" "No,
nothing but venison, wild turkeys, prairie chickens and
quails." "Did you have no sugar? " "Nothing but maple sugar."
"What did you want that you couldn't get?" "It was New Orleans
molasses and salt mackerel. "
The blizzard of 1856
swept over Johnson County and one settler in Pleasant Valley
froze to death and one in Liberty township had both hands
frozen off. Those were years of adventure, stress, strain, and
trial, yet the pioneers were happy and I do not recall a
single expression of discontent, envy, or repining.
is a pity that the frontiers are all gone.