Pioneer Wives Tales From the Plains

Stories from pioneer wives of the Plains depicts a life of arduous toil.

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When I came to this community in Kansas as a bride in 1913, I soon had friends among the women who were pioneer wives and homesteading mothers. I liked to listen to their stories.

As young wives, they often prepared a bundle of baby clothes to be given to an expectant mother. Money was scarce, so little garments were made from men's faded blue shirttails or the best parts of worn-out dresses. Diapers were mostly flour sacks. Each woman added what she could, washing and mending any baby clothes she had, and passed the layette on to her neighbor. The babies looked as sweet and dear in the hand-me-downs as they would have looked in fine linen and lace.

One friend told me of the birth of her son in their dugout home. A blizzard came up and left a blanket of snow on her bed, but she and the babe were snug and warm under the covers.

Another told how frightened she and her children were in their sod shanty when a herd of buffaloes came rushing across the prairie on their way to the river. At the soddy the herd split and passed on each side of the house without harming it.

She also told me how her family hungered for garden stuff after the grasshoppers ate everything. All was gone; where the onions had been there were only holes in the ground. Her family wanted trees so they planted precious seedlings and watered them by putting water in a washtub, tying a rope to the handle and pulling it to the little plants.

When Indians were in the country, the settlers would go to Fort Kanopolis and stay until they left. One friend told how the Indians came to their home wanting feed for horses and how her anxious father held her, a little golden-haired girl, while the chief fingered her curls. "Little princess," he said, and left the family unharmed.  

Mrs. Irma M. Folck
Little River, Kansas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.