The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West

By Thomas D. Clark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
FOOLIN' WITH THE GALS

No people ever had a higher regard for their women than the American frontiersmen. Women, in a sense, were trail breakers in the American West. Even the Indians realized this for when the women and children appeared west of the mountains they knew that white settlement would be permanent. Woman was symbolical of all that the backwoodsman wanted for his land; she was the necessary element of happiness in his life. Yet peculiar conditions on the frontier made the life of women a bit of a comedy at times, and a tragedy at others. Facilities for separation of the sexes did not exist, and familiarities, of course, were common. Women played their part well in frontier life, and they accepted conditions as they found them without grumbling. No American woman has ever enjoyed more independence than the backwoods belle.

The frontier home was the hub of western civilization. Home to the Westerner meant a plot of land, a log cabin, a wife and a rapidly growing family.1 Many frontier accounts have emphasized the importance of the family, and the vanity of the parents when their cabins became a veritable bedlam because of fretting young ones.

The heads of households considered themselves the patriarchs of small kingdoms, and to satisfy their vanities they often sent from three to five wives to the cemetery before them because they overtaxed their physical systems in bearing children. Margaret Dwight Bell was one of the few women to write of her hardships, or of life on the frontier. She was born in Connecticut in 1790, and went to Ohio in 1810. In 1811 she was married and in 1834 she died. During her twenty-three years of married life she bore a brood of thirteen children. There were

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The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter I - The Backwoods 17
  • Chapter II - Varmints 39
  • Chapter III - Green Un's 57
  • Chapter IV - Boom Poles and Paddle Wheels 79
  • Chapter V - Somebody in My Bed 102
  • Chapter VI - Servants of the People 120
  • Chapter VII - Where the Lion Roareth and the Wang Doodle Mourneth for His First-Born 142
  • Chapter VIII - Bench, Bar and Jury 163
  • Chapter IX - Gentlemen of Rank 183
  • Chapter X - Liars 205
  • Chapter XI - Qurater Hosses 224
  • Chapter XII - Keards 239
  • Chapter XIII - Fiddlin' 259
  • Chapter XIV - Foolin' with the Gals 281
  • Chapter XV - Yankees B'Gad 301
  • Notes 321
  • Bibliography. 341
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