Pioneer Life in Ohio

Pioneer Food & Medicines New-Comers The Strong Survive

Pioneer Food and Medicines

The following is taken from a Schroer family history, written by Anna E. Schroer, and is a description of farm life in Auglaize County in the mid 1800's.

An apple orchard of fifteen to twenty trees was considered a must for each farmer. Apples were mostly used for eating out of hand as a snack any time of day. They were stewed or baked or used for making cider to drink or for making vinegar. 'Dried apples' were made and mostly eaten by the children of the family.

Bushels of apples were used to make the year's supply of 20 to 25 or more gallons of apple butter, the making of which meant gathering 20 to 30 bushels of good cider apples. These were then taken to the cider mill, where the apples were put through a grinder, then into a large press, yielding about 50 gallons of cider. This was then kept until the next morning, when very early it was put into 30 to 50 gallon copper kettles to be cooked down to half its amount or less. Then one or two bushels of peeled and quartered apples, prepared by a group of friends and neighbors the night before, were added to the still-cooking cider. Now with a long-handled 'stirrer' began the long hours of constant stirring so as to avoid scorching the bottom. This continued until the apple butter did not drip from the 'stirrer' when it was lifted above the now very slowly cooking apple butter. It was then that the fire was raked away from under the kettle, the butter then laddled into clean heated stone crocks or glass jars. It would keep for a year or more without sealing, when tightly covered with a tied paper over the top of the crock after it was cold. It was now usually almost midnight and time for bed since the kettles had been kept boiling since 4 a.m. that morning. But now another item had been added to the year's supply of food. This process was usually repeated two or three times a year.

The kettle was used only for making apple butter was of the finest shiny copper. It was hung over a sturdy 10 to 12 foot cleanly-shaven pole. It was supported on each end by two forked props, and held by a tripod of heavy iron. The 'stirrer' was made of ash wood, a board 20 inches or more long, and about five inches wide at the top tapering to six or seven inches in width at the bottom. This board has five or six inch-wide holes in the wide end and a larger hold in the top for the seven to eight foot handle necessary for the person stirring to keep a safe distance from the fire. The kettle and the 'stirrer' were very carefully stored to keep the sides and bottom from being bumped and forming small hollowed places in the bottom or sides of the kettle. This is very important to keep the apple butter from having a burnt flavor.

The evening before the day for the apple butter booking, a few neighbors were asked to come in to help peel and quarter the choicest large apples of best cooking quality and fine grained. Often mostly the younger people came to this 'apple peeling.' After the two bushels of cut apples were finished, a short gala time was had drinking and tasting the cider and usually doughnuts were served with the cider. Now for the walk home through the fields or along much traveled foot paths and maybe another day to help some other neighbor with their 'apple peeling.'

Vinegar was also made on the farm by simply 'laying away' a barrel full of cider to sour. The result was usually a vinegar of very fine quality. Vinegar was much used by the housewife in earlier days to add to fruits and vegetables for its keeping qualities. It was added to drinking water during hot weather to make a cooling drink as well as being medicinal for intestinal distsurbances. Cucumbers were put in brine during the summer. During the fall and winter months they were taken out of the brine and freshened with water changes. This was done a few times until almost all the salt was removed, then put into a solution of half vinegar and half water. Adding a little honey at serving time made them very delicious.

Vinegar was also used to clean metals and set dyes for the woolens from their sheep. Vinegar added to the laundry rinse water for colored clothes made the colors brighter.

A grape arbor was also considered a must for the family in earlier days. Grapes were mostly eaten fresh, some for an occasional pie, but not very many were used to make grape jelly. Jellies of any kind were considered to be too expensive. Grape wine was made on the farms. The very ripe grapes were washed and picked from the bunches. Only the fully ripe good grapes were used. They were then put in clean earthen jars and crushed. To each gallon of crushed grapes was added one-half gallon of hot water - must not be boiling hot. This was stirred well, covered tightly and set in a warm place to ferment. After about 20 to 24 hours, when fermentation has begun so that it is bubbly when stirred, it was strained and all the juice pressed out. Only wooden spoons or ladles were used and earthen, glass or enamelware. Then add two to three pounds of granulated sugar to each gallon of juice, mix well and set in a very warm place, tightly covered with one layer of thin cloth as it needs some air at this stage to complete fermentation, usually from three to five weeks. Then drain off the clear wine and seal rather tightly, but not altogether tight. Now set in a cool place to ripen for three to six months. Then seal tightly.

Wine of any kind was used as a medicine in case of colds. Also, as a stimulant in cases of summer complaints, dysentery, etc. A wine soup was made with about one quart of sweet milk brought to a boil. Then a mixture of one egg, one half tablespoon of flour, two tablespoons of sugar, a bit of salt, was added to the boiling milk. Continue boiling for one minute, remove from heat and add a half cup of wine. Serve with sweiback. Often during harvest time wine and some sugar was added to the drinking water. It would also be served with bread or sweiback as a snack before bed time.

Soap for family use was made on the farm during the fall and winter months. Used fats and scraps of fatty meats were collected in crocks. Lye for the soap was made in part of a large hollow sycamore tree, which was used to make a 'barrel-like' container four to five feet in length. This was set on a platform, one side of which was one to two inches lower for better drainage. A three to four inch layer of straw was placed in the bottom of the barrel, which was then filled with wood ashes collected from the fireplace or stove or brushpiles early in the spring. Occasionally some water was poured into the barrel to moisten and settle the ashes. Then when time came to make soap enough water was added over a period of days to start the 'flow' of lye which was collected into crocks. When enough lye had been collected some of the lye was poured into a large iron kettle hung on a strong pole, which was supported on each end by two forked props, over the place for the fire under the iron kettle. All of this was then boiled until the mass was like a thick soup, and when the long wooden ladle was lifted from the mixture the air would blow white strands of soap. It was then left to cool, then cut in pieces to dry. Sometimes the soap was better after a second boiling with more lye added. The result usually made a soap of good quality. If the housewife wanted a clean bright kitchen floor she would place about a gallon or two of wood ashes in a crock, pour some boiling water over the ashes, let stand for an hour or more, dip off the lye and add some to the water in her scrub pail. Also some would be used in the family weekly washwater. The result was a cleaner and brighter wash.

Milk was extensively used as a drink and in cooking. Refrigeration of milk was not possible in earlier days. Fresh milk was strained into half-gallon crocks and set on the floor of the vegetable cave during the summer. Each crock was carefully covered by a square piece of board and the crocks stacked on top of each other - maybe two to three high. Each evening the cream was carefully laddled off, set aside to sour and later churned into butter, to be sold or exchanged for merchandise. The milk from which the cream had been removed, which when it was sour, thick and set like a custard, was served with some sweet milk, brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg - a very good dish. Sour milk or clabbermilk, as it was then known, was much used in the making of pancake batters, for cottage cheese and some families made longhorn yellow cheese. The milk not used for food was fed to the farm animals.

Lengths of large hollow sycamore trees were used for grain storage, set up in the corner of the barn. There would be a small opening at the bottom to let out the grain and a stout end of a ladder set up on one side to the top.

Sycamore logs were also used to make troughs by sawing the long in two lengthwise, and the ends fitted tightly together with boards. The inside walls were smoothed with an adz. Smaller troughs, made on the same order were used to feed cooked mash to the milk cows during the winter months. The 'mash' consisted of chopped oats, cowbeets, small potatoes, apples, turnips, very small ears of corn, leaves, small heads of cabbage, carrots, rutabagoes, all of which were put into an iron kettle which was stationary in a frame of brick and mortar usually in a utility building. A lot of water was added to the mixture and then cooked for hours. The warmth of the cooking was much appreciated by those members of the family doing the chores, since the brick oven was kept going every day. There was plenty of wood to burn so that the warmth was constant. Also, this was a place for neighbors to exchange plans and news and help the younger members crack nuts from the hickory nut barrel in the corner, or popping popcorn on the coals under the kettle. Also, apples were always on hand.

In cases of sickness the early settlers depended mostly on herb teas. These were used for many ailments. Herbs were gathered in the summer for medicinal purposes. For tiny infants a tea of catnip, flowers and leaves was used. This was also used for older children in cases of summer complaints, cramps, for malarial fevers, or the three day-ague. Raw onions with raw cucumbers in vinegar on bread and butter was used for colds. Elderberry blossom tea was considered good for colds. For a baby's cold, an application of goose greese and a bit of kerosene mixed together was applied to the chest and then covered with a woolen cloth. Also some of the goose greese mixture was applied to the soles of the feet, then gently warmed by the fire place and then put to bed on a warmed feather pillow.

Men frequently took generous doses of whiskey for most common ailments. Wormwood on whiskey was used for upset stomach, dysentary, suspected food poisoning and insect bites. Balsam apple on whiskey was used for accidental wounds, inflammation and also for old sores on man and animals.

Boils and carbuncles so prevalent in those early days, were treated by soaking bread in a small quantity of heated sweet milk. This was placed on a piece of muslin with a generous sprinkling of elderberry or chamomile flowers added, placed on the boil as hot as could be borne and kept warm. This poultice was changed every hour until the boil broke open.

To call a doctor in those days meant going by horseback to the nearest town to get some medicine or on occasion wait until the doctor came in from his calls and then maybe wait until he made a still more urgent call that had come in earlier. If necessary, he would accompany the caller to the sick person.

For sore throat, bread with a blue greenish mold would be soaked in warm wtaer, then drained and the water used as a gargle. Its effect was like penicillin.

In the days of the early settlers a few hives of bees were kept for the honey they produced. Honey was used to ease sore throat and to put on wounds. It was also used as a sweetener for cooked fruits and as a spread on bread.

A few geese were usually kept on the farm to fill the many feather beds that were needed - usually two for each bed in winter - one to sleep on and one to use as a cover. Two or three pounds of the small fine feathers were needed for one feather cover. These feathers were also used to fill pillows.

Sheep also played quite a role in the family needs. They produced the wool to spin into yarn for knitting stockings. The finer grades were taken to the woolen mills to be made into cloth for men's everyday shirts, children's dresses, etc.

Lambs, not needed for replacements, were slaughtered for meat in early winter. The pelts were salt cured and dried, then used as covers on seats of farm implements and wagons. The large pelts were used over the knees when driving in winter. Sheep tallow having great healing qualities, was much used for sore hands during corn husking season and wood cutting time, and on sores of farm animals. Also on sore nipples of nursing mothers. This tallow was also applied on leather boots making the leather very pliable and keeping it soft.


Compiled by Rachel Meyer

Travelers endured many hardships to reach their destination. The pioneers were isolated on their farms which were often a distance of a few miles from any other families. Thus, tired travelers were never turned away when they approached a pioneer's cabin toward evening. They always found a welcome, even though there might already be a guest for every puncheon or bedstead. There was still "room for one more," and a wider circle would be made for the new-comer at the large fire. If the new-comer was in search of land, he was doubly welcome. His host would volunteer to show him all the "first-rate claims in this neck of the woods," going with him for days, showing the corners and advantages of every "Congress tract" within a dozen miles of his cabin.

To his neighbors the pioneer was equally liberal. If a deer was killed, the choicest bits were sent to his nearest neighbor, a half-dozen miles away, perhaps. When a "shoat" was butchered, the same custom prevailed.

If a new-comer came in too late for "cropping," the neighbors would supply his table with just the same luxuries they themselves enjoyed throughout the first winter, and in as liberal quantity, until a crop could be raised. Once small communities were established, the residents would erect a large cabin near town to house the new-comers until they could build a house of their own. When a new-comer had located his claim, the neighbors for miles around would assemble at the site of his proposed cabin and aid him in "gittin" it up. One group would cut down the trees with axes and hew (square up) the logs; another with teams would haul the logs to the ground; another party would "raise" the cabin; while several of the old men would "rive the clapboards" for the roof (splitting off thicknesses of logs).

By night the little forest home would be built, mudded and ready for a "house-warming," which was the dedication of the house. Music, dancing and festivity would be enjoyed at full height. The next day the new arrival would be as well prepared as his neighbors.

The Strong Survive

Compiled by Rachel Meyer

Money was little known and seldom seen among the earlier settlers. There was little use for it. They could transact all their business about as well without it, on the "barter" system, wherein great ingenuity was sometimes displayed. When it failed in any instance, long credits were established by the tradesmen and shopkeepers for the convenience of the citizens.

However, for property taxes and postage neither the barter nor the credit system would answer, and often letters were delayed a long time in the post office for the want of the twenty-five cents demanded by the Government to receive it. With all this high price on postage, by the way, the letter had not been transported 500 miles in a day or two. It had probably been weeks on the route via a lone horseman. The long-awaited news was delivered at the pioneer's postoffice, several miles from his cabin, only once every week or two.

Animal pelts were used to purchase necessities. Peltries, as they were called, were the item most easily traded and it came to be custom to estimate the value of everything in peltries. A length of calico was worth a certain number of peltries. Even some tax collectors and postmasters were known to take peltries and exchange them for the money required by the Government.

The first settlers in Ohio were generally from the east with it's "modern ways." Not knowing what to expect when they first came into the wilderness, some assumed that their hard struggle would be principally over after the first year. Looking for "easier times next year" for many years before realizing them, caused much disappointment. The easier times came in so slyly as to be almost imperceptible. The lot of the pioneer was a hard life. The sturdy pioneer learned to bear hardships, deprivation and hard living. As the ability to make money was not great, they learned to be satisfied in an atmostphere of hardship and compensated with good, social, friendly feeling among their neighbors. "Being right down neighborly" took on a more important meaning.

Among the early settlers who came to the frontier were many who, accustomed to the advantages of an older civilization, to churches, schools and society, became homesick and dissatisfied. Their enthusiasm would remain perhaps one summer and by the end of the second growing season, they felt forlorn and defeated. Selling their claim with its improvements, they would return to the older States, spreading reports of the hardships endured by the settlers here and the disadvantages which they had found in the frontier. Often it was the women who were the most unhappy, and would coax her pioneer husband to return to civilization.

The slight improvements they had made were sold to families of sterner conviction, who were able to surround themselves more quickly with the necessities of life. Those who returned east spread unfavorable reports which deterred weaklings from coming. The families who stayed and were willing to endure the deprivations belonged to a different guild. They were heroes every one -- men and women to whom hardships were things to be overcome. Their work and simple pleasure were welcomed for the sake of posterity, and they never shrank from their duty. Yes, the strong survived!

This is part of Company L 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1898. The unit was mostly from Wapakoneta. The lad standing on the far right holding the horse is the grandfather of Joe Weber, Joseph HERBST. Joe would love to know who the others are! Please
e-mail Joe if you can identify any others. Joe will keep us all up to date.

The Daily News Wapakoneta, Ohio   Aug 22 19__(No year on Clipping)


Preparing to attend the State Convention

Which will be held at Findley August 27-29 - Camp includes Department


Among the many organizations of this city that exist with honor to

themselves and to Wapakoneta, is the local camp of the United Spanish

War Veterans.

While the members of this organization is a part of old Company L,

which left here to engage in the Spanish American War, there are

members who served in other organizations as well as members who

served in other branches of the service.

Wapakoneta Camp, No. 22, United Spanish War Veterans, was chartered

May 27, 1902, as Elmer E. Mayer Camp, No. 267, Spanish American War

Veterans. On July 31, 1903, this camp was, as a whole, taken in the

Spanish War Veterans as Wapakoneta Command, No. 204. Under the

Amalgamation Agreement of April 18, 1904, it became a Camp of the

United Spanish War Veterans. The past commanders of the Camp are John

G. Hoegner, Roy E. Layton and Dr. C.L. Mueller, who is now serving as

Department Commander.

The officers of the camp are:

Commander, Guido F. Franke.

Senior Vice Commander, Henry W. Wentz.

Junior Vice Commander, Albert J. Miller

Officer of the Day, Lawrence Sexton, Jr.

Officer of the Guard, James Shockey

Chaplain, Earl McMannamy

Adjutant, George Bitler

Quartermaster, George W. Hassenter

The camp now has a membership of 44 and is steadily growing. The

members are:

Harry Agenbroad, Henry G. Agenbroad, Louis A. Agenbroad, Isaac W.

Anderson, Charles O. Brokaw, George Bitler, Elard Botkin, Charles E.

Chenowith, Frank M. Clark, Nathaniel Crider, Ferd C. Dearbaugh,

William Dicks, Guido F. Franke, Ola Foster, William H. Fisher, David

Gilmore, Samuel Howell, George W. Hassenter, John G. Hoegner, Harry

Hale, Joseph Herbst, William L. Heitman, William Jasperson, Albert J.

Koch, Conrad Kirchner, Bert E. Kerst, Roy E. Layton, William F.

Leffingwell, Marion Lucas, C.L. Mueller, Albert J. Miller, Ferd C.

Miller, Carl Means, Earl McMannamy, William Peckham, Frank Powell,

E.L. Sheffler, Lawrence Sexton Jr, James Shockey, Franklin F. Smith,

Samuel Smith, Grover Winemiller, Henry Wentz, Ferd A. Wentz.

The organization in Ohio has recently been given an impetus by the

publication of an official roster by Department Commander, Dr.

C.L. Mueller, of this city. This roster is the first published in

the country and has been the subject of much favorable comment. The

illustration herewith presented is embodied in the roster, which

contain numerous illustrations and 1677 names.


Note: Company L was part of the 2nd Regiment, Ohio Volunter Infantry.

The unit did not leave the United States and did not see combat. The

Company was mustered in May 10, 1898 at Columbus Ohio, and mustered

out Feb 10, 1899 at Macon, Ga. (Source - Service record of Pvt. Joseph

Herbst, Co.L 2nd OVI [Nat'l Archives]). Joseph F. Weber

Return to the Auglaize County GENWEB page.

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