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Furnishings

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ was certainly the slogan of the pioneer. Most settlers designed and built their own household furniture. On entering the cabin, the first important consideration was the construction of beds for the family. At best, sleeping arrangements in one-room cabins were very crowded. A solution to this was a trundle bed, which was stored under a higher bed during the day.

There were no electric lights as electricity wasn’t invented until the 1890s. Shelby County’s noted politician Ben LeFevre first learned to read in the 1840s by the light of a burning rope knot which he would hang in his room. It was common to light homes with candles made from beeswax or tallow. Tallow candles were made from beef fat and made a sooty smoke that smelled, so beeswax candles were preferred. It takes more than 500 dips to produce a finished candle.

Farmers would often work and rest according to the sun’s schedule in order to use whatever natural light was available. They did, however, do haying at night using the moon or the stars for illumination to take advantage of the coolness of summer nights. The most common farm lantern was the metal one, punched with many holes. Glass lanterns were very rare.  Dining tables were the next important item. Once built, pewter plates, wooden dishes, and in many instances, wooden knives, forks and spoons were the only items placed on the table to be used in eating. Tins and gourds were used for drinking.

 

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Meals were prepared over open fires, in large kettles that hung over the fire. Younger children collected wood to keep the fire going properly or watched the boiling stew so it did not become dry or burnt. In many cabins, the floors were made of dirt.

'Pioneer' segment written in October, 1997 by Sherrie Casad-Lodge

 

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