A Grandparents' Homestead Through the Generations

| 7/12/2011 3:55:18 PM

A Grandparents' Homestead Through the GenerationsThis story is from Debbie Mildfelt, submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear. 

My grandmother, Charlotte Riley Mildfelt Thornburg, kept me entertained with tons of stories from her childhood. Her grandparents homesteaded land in Clay County, Kan. (coming from England). They were Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Waterman. Their daughter, Ethyl Waterman, married Winfield Scott Riley and they built a home near the Waterman homestead.

The home never had any paint. This home was a two-story home without electricity, gas or running water. The home was heated with wood. Food was cooked on a wood cook stove. They had a root cellar under the home and a cistern under the kitchen floor that collected rain water from the roof. Water from the cistern was pumped with a hand pump. Baths were taken in a tub in the kitchen and water was not dumped after each person (ewww). Dishes were first washed in lukewarm water then set in the sink, and boiling water was used for the second rinse.

Perishables were preserved in a crock in lard and stored in the crawl space of the attic. Grandma Ethyl Waterman baked her own bread and if food ran out at meal time, someone would go upstairs and get lard to be melted for family to dip their bread into.

In the summer there was a claw foot tub outdoors and a large thick piece of plate glass. The tub would be filled with pumped water from the well and the glass was used like a magnifying glass to warm the water. In the winter, each kid had a brick that would be heated in the wood stove, then wrapped in a pair of old jeans to take with them to put at the foot of their beds to help stay warm.

If the wind blew, snow would blow into the home through the windows; same with dust. During the Dust Bowl, wet towels and sheets were pinned up at each window and stuffed under the base of the doors. Every day a clean sheet would be used.

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