Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pioneers to Indiana

I am descended both maternally and paternally from pioneers to Indiana, who arrived to the unbroken forests in the early 19th century from Connecticut, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina. These many grandmothers and grandfathers were mostly English or German in ancestry and traveled to the Hoosier State by horseback and Conestoga wagon.

From the History of Indiana by the Hon. W.S. Haymond, 1879:
"The journey from civilization to the forest-home for the pioneer, with his wife and family, was not among the least of their difficulties. The route lay, for the most part, through a rough country. Swamps and marshes were crossed with great exertion and fatigue; rivers were forded with difficulty and danger; forests were penetrated with risk of captivity by hostile Indians; nights were passed in open prairies, with the sod for a couch and the heavens for a shelter; long, weary days and weeks of tiresome travel were endured. Perchance the mother and child were seated in a rough farm-wagon, while the father walked by the side of his faithful team, urging them over the uneven ground. But they were not always blessed with this means of transportation. And, in the best cases, the journey westward was a tedious, tiresome, dangerous one...Generally the pioneers were blessed with good health, and enabled to overcome the privations of the forest travel. At night they slept in their wagon, or upon the grass; while the mules, hobbled to prevent escape, grazed the prairie around them.

But the toils and dangers of the pioneer were not ended with the termination of his journey. Perchance the cabin is yet existing only in the surrounding trees. But he never falters. The forest bows beneath his axe; and, as log after log is placed one upon the other, his situation becomes more cheerful. Already the anxious mother has pointed out the corner for the rude chimney, and designated her choice in the location of the door and window. The cabin grows day by day; and at length it is finished, and the family enters their home. It is not a model home; but it is the beginning of a great prosperity, and as such is worthy of preservation in history, on account of its obscurity and its severe economy. But it was a home, notwithstanding; and I venture the observation, that with all its lack of comforts, with all its pinching poverty, with all its isolation and danger, it was often a happy home; and perhaps its growth, in this respect, is not among the greatest of its accomplishments; yet after all, it has become happier, as well as wealthier...

The years passed on, and the pioneers continued their toils, submitted patiently to their hardships, until the light of civilization and prosperity dawned upon them in open cornfields, waving in harvest luxury, or in neat, comfortable dwellings, that were raised by the site of the cabin homes. But his dawn is rapidly approaching the high noon of prosperity. In place of the ever-winding 'trace,' the iron rail may now be seen, and for the old-fashioned two-wheeled cart we have the powerful locomotive. The scene has been completely changed. The forests have disappeared, or are rapidly disappearing, and being supplanted by cultivated fields. On every hand we may behold evidences of this great transformation. Let us thank God and praise the pioneers of Indiana for what has been accomplished, and, having the promises already fulfilled in our eyes, continue in the industry and perseverance for which we have had so glorious an example."

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