Two articles were included in the 1940 Story City Herald Anniversary Book about pioneer women, describing these women as the backbone of pioneer life. Pioneer women led a hard life of long hours, hard work, and few conveniences.
One of these articles was written by Nehemias Tjernagel, who was an author, composer, and world traveler. He wrote examples of several local pioneer women, who along with their daily duties would help the sick since medical assistance was not readily available in these early days. These women included Mrs. Kittel Knutson, who freely gave her services to the sick, diagnosing cases as if by intuition. Mrs. Christian Karolussen, an intelligent woman with a helpful spirit, “helped usher into the world many of our present citizens.” Mrs. Haaver Thompson was well known for her hospitable attitude towards children. Besides caring for her own children, she took in several other children who lost their parents.
Nehemias also wrote of Charlotte Wier, the wife of Captain Wier, who came to Lafayette Township in 1856. She is remembered for waiting on traveling families for days and days. Sometimes she would take in so many travelers that they would lie strewn around on the floor at night and she would have to step over them in the morning when getting breakfast ready. No one was turned away. Charlotte had “experienced the hardships of travel and knew what a friendly welcome meant.”
The other article in the book described a young pioneering couple just starting out. The first year they could not afford to employ a hired man, which meant they milked 14 cows and fed the calves by hand every day. The household facilities were not the best; the living room adjoining the kitchen was used as the family sleeping room. House cleaning included white-washing the walls, scouring the unpainted woodwork, washing windows and bed clothes, emptying, washing and refilling the straw bed ticks, taking up the rag carpet, beating the dust out of it, scrubbing the floor, and putting the carpet down again with fresh straw underneath. If the rag carpet needed to be washed, it was ripped apart and washed on the washboard one strip at a time. It’s hard to imagine this carpet cleaning process with the multiple vacuums and carpet cleaners available today.
We hope you have enjoyed this brief overview of the lives of early pioneer women in the area.