Homesteading on Wisconsin Land Near Belle Plaine

Times got incredibly tight for one family homesteading Wisconsin land near Belle Plaine.

| Good Old Days

My folks pioneered for eight years near Belle Plaine in Wisconsin. My father spoke of these years as the best-years-of-his-life simply wasted! Well-meaning friends had urged him to buy a piece of Wisconsin land in wintertime, and when the snows melted away, Father discovered he had bought a rock pile.

After those years of working away from home to earn enough for food and payments on the rock pile, Father decided to quit Wisconsin and go west in search of better land. With his wife and eight sons he left in the spring of 1875. The highlight of the first leg of the journey was the spectacle of the city of Oshkosh in flames. Oshkosh was burning as they drove by.

The Grants, my father's family, settled near Rhodes (then Edenville), Iowa. Mother afterward told us they were so short of money and food that they surely would have starved if their neighbors, poor people, too, had not sent in a little food. One kind woman sent over a pan of little new potatoes and Mother hid them until dinnertime so they would be a surprise for the children. They ate the potatoes with salt; there was no milk for gravy.

Father heard of a sod-breaking job 10 miles away, and although he was suffering from dysentery and the plow nearly jerked him to death as it dug into the tough-rooted sod, he lived through the week, eating mostly cornmeal gruel cooked with milk which his boss's wife prepared for him.

When Saturday night came, Father asked for his week's wages, but the farmer said he had no money. Father insisted that he must draw his pay so he could get a few groceries to take home for his wife and children. When the man still refused, Father, sick and desperate, said "You must pay me or else. . ." He got it and walked the 10 miles home carrying groceries in a sack over his shoulder.

The family grew to 10 with the birth of a ninth son and a daughter in Iowa.

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