Voices from the Frontier

The cession of western lands of the new nation by its original states and the desire of Americans to settle north of the Ohio River led to the opening of the Old Northwest. The individual settlers who came down the valley of the Ohio and across from New England and New York were a widely varying lot. They came from all sections of the Atlantic seaboard. Some came from the south, out of Kentucky, as well. Some were farmers, some were hunters, and some were businessmen. Among those who came were the Lincolns, who moved into Indiana in its earliest days.

We do not know much of the Lincoln family's trip or their first days and months in Indiana, but we do know that it was an, as yet, unbroken wilderness and that life was hard. Other settlers moving into other portions of the state also found the realities of pushing back the frontier harsh. For all of these pioneers there was a common bond, a common experience, even if they were settling different areas. The challenges they were faced with were similar in their ability to overwhelm and intimidate the faint of heart.

In the quotes that follow, an unnamed pioneer woman tells of her experience on the Indiana frontier. Undoubtedly, many others, including the Lincolns, could have related very similar stories.

"On the 16th day of February 1825, I, in company with Mr. Odell's family, left Wayne county, Indiana, to emigrate to the Wabash country. Our journey lasted 14 days…Sometimes it rained, and then it snowed, as fast as it could come down. I was on the horse from sunrise until dark, with a child in my arms, two years old. You may be sure that I was very much fatigued. The next day…my husband came with our goods. On the day following he was taken sick and kept down about six weeks. We thought he would die. We had no doctor, nor any medicine. He recovered, and we all kept well until August, when he was attacked again with fever and ague, and was very sick for some time. I was confined the 21st day of August, and could procure a nurse but for two days…Another family came to the neighborhood…who all got sick and lost a child."

"The next December my husband came up to Deer Creek and built a cabin. February 15, 1826, we started our new home…We were nearly three miles from our nearest neighbor. We brought corn-meal with us, sufficient, as we thought, to last until after planting; but it gave out, and I had to pound corn in an iron pot, with an iron wedge driven into the end of a hand-spike, and sift it through a basket lid. We used the finest of the meal for breakfast, and the coarse for dinner and supper. We got our corn planted about the first of June, and then went to mill in a pirogue, down the Wabash, to a little corn-cracker…"

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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