The Missouri homestead my father bought in the Missouri Ozarks had only a two-room log cabin chinked with mud. We carried water in buckets from two large springs quite a distance from the house, and we did our washing at a stock pond with washtubs, a washboard and a large iron kettle for heating water. After the clothes were washed, we hung them on bushes. How sweet they smelled drying in the sunshine!
My father hauled lumber for a sawmill 15 miles away and built a four-room house. Until it was finished, several of the children slept in a grape arbor near the log house.
I helped my mother rive board for shingles on our house. A tree was cut down and logs sawed. We drove wedges in the end of the log to split it.
With my sister I hauled rock in our brother's wagon and built a quarter mile of rock fence. We tried to dig a well, and we dug until it was so deep we could no longer throw out the dirt. Father hired two men to finish it.
Mother made jams and jellies from grapes and plums. We also picked blackberries and wild grapes, and Mother canned them in tins which were sealed with wax melted in a ladle and poured around the lid.
We helped our neighbors strip sorghum cane and took molasses in return. Navy beans, black-eyed peas and cowpeas were picked on shares. We raised a garden. Corn was cut from the cob and dried, and apples, peaches and pears were also dried. At the approach of winter a large hole was dug in a corner of the garden, lined with straw and filled with potatoes, cabbage, squash, turnips and apples. A covering of straw and dirt kept them from freezing.
We had very little money in those first homestead days. But we had courage and love and the will to fight want and earn our keep. We needed a home, food and each other, and God made it possible for us to have all of them.
Mrs. Mae Miller
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.