Habits and Customs.
Money was a very scarce article among the pioneers, and they were required to dress in the plainest and least expensive manner. Their common habiliments were pantaloons and dresses made from flax for summer wear, and from wool for winter. Roundabouts, or sailor's jackets, took the place of coats. Calico was less common than silk is now and cost 75 cents a yard. She who could afford a dress made from seven yards of this material wore an "extravagant garment." "The fashion was petticoats and short gowns." Shawls were wade from pressed woolen cloth, and the finest home-made linen was bleached and constructed into fine shirts for men and boys.
A lady's common dress was "copperas and white," as it was called; and "copperas and blue, two and two," for nice. The women wore handkerchiefs as a covering for the head, or bonnets of their own manufacture. Garments were made to wear the longest possible, as it was very uncertain when the next could be had. The boys had hats and caps made by their mothers from woolen cloth or straw. Some wore knit caps also, until "sealskin" caps, as they were called, came in fashion. Garments were fastened together with buttons constructed out of thread.
Nearly every wife had her spinning-wheel and loom, and manufactured her own cloth, while Mrs. John Heverly wove for the balance of the neighborhood. Each did her own coloring, and the bark from a soft maple tree, hemlock, butternut or witch-hazel was used for dyeing purposes, also log-wood and smart.-weed. Copperas, alum and sorrel were used to set the colors.
During the summer season, the boys, girls and women generally went barefooted, as did some of the men. Their boots and shoes for winter wear were coarse, and made by the heads of the several families, until Messrs. Slotery, Rinebold and Wilt came in, who were more practical shoemakers.
The food of the pioneers was coarse and consisted of corn and rye bread, sometimes wheat with potatoes. The last were generally baked in the fire-place by covering them over with ashes and coals. Mush and milk was not an uncommon diet. Venison could he had for the killing, and brook trout for the catching. Deer and bear meat was made more appetizing by smoking it. Jerked venison was also a favorite article on the bill of fare. The flesh of the raccoon, woodchuck and squirrel was utilized when larger game could not be had. Sometimes bread was made out of wheat and rye bran. Milk was the main dependence, and was made a most palatable dish in several ways. Hogs were raised and fatted upon beech-nuts.
Stoves with ovens had not been invented, and baking was done in fire-places and stone bake ovens. The raw material for bread and cake was prepared and put in the bake-kettle (a low kettle-shaped iron pot with a cover), which was then placed over coals on the hearthstone. Upon the cover of the kettle, coals were also placed that the baking would he more evenly done. Johnny-cakes were baked in the long handled frying pans, which were heated over the fire-place. The bake-kettle remained in use for some years, when it was supplanted by the tin oven, which could he heated before the fire-place and every side readily shifted against the blaze as the cooking required.
Maple sugar was used for sweetening purposes, and corn-cobs were burned in the bake-kettle cover to get a substitute for saleratus. Maple sugar and honey took the place of butter and bear's fat was used for shortening. Fried cake were baked in pots of bear and raccoon fat. Browned rye, peas, beechnuts, chestnuts and chickory were substituted for coffee, and sage, thyme, peppermint, spearmint, evans root, spice bush, sweet fern, tansy and hemlock bows for tea. Imported tea and coffee were too costly, and could only be afforded when the "good mothers" had company.
Herbs of all kinds were gathered and used for teas in sickness, and each had its specific cure. For instance, elderblow, catnip and wormwood were used for children, and boneset, pennyroyal, etc., for adults. There were no physicians for miles, and "one person was the other's doctor."
Greased paper hung over an opening in the wall afforded light for the cabins in the daytime. At night they were illuminated by the light given out from the huge fire-places, and pitchpine splinters stuck in the chimney jambs. This furnished sufficient light for the mothers to sew, spin and weave by; for the fathers to mend and make shoes, and the boys and girls to get their lessons. A supply of pitch pine knots was generally put in before winter. Deer fat and lard were sometimes used for illuminating purposes, but not frequently. Tallow lamps were finally introduced, and were used when tallow could be had or lard spared. They were a cuplike construction to contain animal fats, and could be hung against the wall. One end of a piece of cloth, answering as a wick, was dropped into the cup, and the other end, which hung out, was lighted. Tallow candles next followed, and subsequently lamps for burning coal oil.
The time of day was determined by "sun-marks" or noon marks upon the door or window frame. Finally, the old-fashioned clocks, without cases and with long cords, were brought in and sold at fabulous prices. This was in 1830, and the first to purchase were Christian, Daniel, John and Henry Heverly. Matches had not yet been invented, and the fire was made by striking a piece of flint and steel, (or the back of a jack-knife) together, causing a spark, which was caught in a piece of punk (an inflammable substance, formed from decayed wood, which was always kept in supply). "Borrowing fire," as it was called, was not an infrequent occurrence. Wooden pails were in use, and the neighborhood supplied in this line by Henry Sherman. Wooden spoons and forks, also pewter plates, spoons and other table pieces were in use. "Gores" were substituted for dippers, and sap troughs sometimes used for cradles. Brooms were made out of young birch and hickories.
Logging and chopping bees were common, and the men most cheerfully turned out with their ox-teams, or came with their axes to assist their neighbor in getting a start. On such an occasion a sheep would be killed, and boiled mutton and pot-pie had in abundance for dinner and supper.
Spinning bees were also in fashion. The lady getting up the bee would distribute tow among her lady friends, and on a day set apart they would bring in their skeins and enjoy a visit and supper with her. The affair generally wound up in the evening by a dance, or "snap-and-wink-em," and other games. Another practice was for the gallants of the neighborhood to go to the home of the lady who was favored and procure a quantity of tow, which was distributed among their sweethearts. On an evening agreed upon each swain took his girl with her skein to the home of their friend, where several hours were enjoyed in merry-making. Sometimes, however, the ladies would take their spinning wheels under their arms and go to the house of a friend, do a day’s work and enjoy a visit together at the same time. Quilting and sewing parties were common, and mothers and daughters alike came with their needles to assist their friend in need. Husking bees, apple-cuts and spelling schools were more of modern date, and dancing was the chief entertainment of the young people.
Every mother taught her daughter to spin, weave, make garments, bread, in fact everything required of a housewife, and the young lady who showed herself the best skilled in these arts was the first to find a suitor. Courting is said to have been "short and sweet," and this is the way one of the "boy's" of the "happy past" remembers it:
Greater than the mumps or measles or a mother's cut of hair,
When a sore toe was a treasure and a stonebruise on the heel
Filled the other boys with envy which they tried not to conceal,
There were many treasured objects on the farm we held most dear,
Orchard, fields, the creek we swam in, and the old spring cold and clear;
Over there the woods of hick'ry and of oak so deep and dense,
Looming up behind the outlines of the old rail fence.
On its rails the quail would whistle in early summer morn,
Calling to their hiding fellows in the field of waving corn,
And the meadow larks and robins on the stakes would sit and sing
Till the forest shades behind them with their melody would ring;
There the catbird and the jaybird sat and called each other names.
And the squirrels and the chipmunks played the chase- and-catch-me games,
And the gartersnake was often unpleasant evidence
In the grasses in the corners of the old rail fence.
As we grew to early manhood when we thought the country girls
In the diadem of beauty were the very fairest pearls
Oft from spellin' school or meetin' or the jolly shuckin' bee
Down the old lane we would wander with a merry little "she.’
On the plea of being tired (just the country lover lie).
On a grassy seat we'd linger in the moonlight, she and I,
And we'd paint a future picture touched with colors most intense
As we sat there in the corner of the old rail fence.
There one night in happy dreaming we were sitting hand in hand.
Up so near the gates of heaven we could almost hear the band.
When she heard a declaration whispered in her lis'ning ear-
One she often since has told me she was mighty glad to hear.
On my head there's now a desert fringed with foliage of gray,
And there's many a thread of silver in her dear old head today.
Yet the flame of love is burning in our bosoms as intense
As it burned in the corner of that old rail fence."
Modes of traveling and conveyance were in novel contrast with those of today. It was common to see the foot-man traveling with his knapsack on his back. Riding on horseback was the usual mode off conveyance from place to place and even of making long journeys. Sometimes a gentleman and lady, or a father and mother with two children, might be seen pursuing their way in this style; and not infrequently parties to a hymeneal engagement betook themselves to the house of the minister or magistrate. Oxen took the place of horses, and in the oxcart or sled families were conveyed to social gatherings or places of worship. As the country improved, a chaise or gig was occasionally seen, and in due time wagons, stages and coaches were introduced.
In lieu of a wagon, long sleds were generally used in hauling hay and grain and in making trips to mill. Sometimes, however, hay was hauled to the stack by placing a bunch or more upon a brush, which formed a sort of sled; and not infrequently carried by two men for some distance by running two poles under a bunch with a man at each end. Farming implements were very imperfect, as compared with those of modern invention. A plough was used with one handle and a wooden mould board; a crotched sapling with holes bored through and supplied with wooden pins, answered as a harrow. Grain was sometimes "brushed in" by dragging a hemlock bush over the ground; pitchforks and hoes were manufactured by blacksmiths, and were very clumsy articles. The "Dutch scythe," which was sharpened by pounding to an edge with a hammer, was in use. Reaping with the sickle or hand-cradle was the slow and tedious method of cutting grain, which was threshed with flails mud cleaned by shaking it with a hand-fan, a very laborious task. Fanning mills were not introduced until about 1825.
The greatest economy had to be practiced, and the wife vied with her husband in trying to get along. She not only did the work pertaining to the house, but helped to gather the hay and grain, and not infrequently assisted in the fallow, or the sugar bush. The people took great delight in visiting each other, and would generally go on foot or with ox-sleds. A meal was always had together, the hostess giving the best the house afforded, which was sometimes one thing and sometimes another. The guest never forgot her knitting work or sewing, and would visit and work at the same time. The kitchen was the parlor, sitting room and all. There were no castes then, and the old people say "those were the happiest days we ever saw." One neighbor envied not another, but, on the contrary, did all in his power to encourage and help along. Such was the true, Christian life of the pioneers.
Hay was scarce, and cattle fed largely upon browse-the tender shoots of trees, especially of the maple and basswood. Cows roamed in the woods, and were found by the tinkle of the bells, which they wore about their necks. Pigs were fatted upon hickorynuts, or taken to the beechnut woods.
Liquor was always had in abundance at chopping, logging and mowing bees, raisings, shooting matches and weddings. It was a very common drink-even church members and preachers imbibing. The best could be had for six shillings a gallon, and when a tippler got boozy, he was not a week in getting over it. "Spirits" were regarded a necessity, and every family kept a supply.
The household furniture was very plain, and was generally made by the pioneers themselves. 'Not infrequently would the men back a load of maple sugar to Towanda and Monroeton. Daniel Heverly (1st), the Hottensteins and others used to make visiting trips on foot to Lehigh county.
The First Quilting Party.-"Aunt Charlotte" Ormsby related the following: " In the year 1817, after Almira Heverly had got settled in her new home in Overton, some of us girls who had been former associates, concluded we would make her a quilting party, and, accordingly, walked in from Albany. We found her down on the flats in her little log house of one room. We took down the bed, in order to make room for the quilt. We quilted and visited at the same time, and enjoyed ourselves very much. Finally the quilt was gotten off, when it was proposed we have a 'french four.' There were just boys enough, with a girl to spare. I was counted the best singer and had to furnish music for the rest to dance. After the evening's entertainment had concluded a couple of the boys took Miama Sweet and myself upon horses with themselves and brought us through the mud to Albany."
Big Mowing Bee.- About the year 1840 Isaac Streevy had a big mowing bee, and men came with scythes from Monroe, Albany and the surrounding country to make a quick harvest, determine who was the best mower and have a feast of honey with the necessary liquid refreshments of the times. The large crowd soon accomplished their task and had a "rousing," good time. Some, however, ate too much honey and for a time were in painful attitudes, which afforded amusement for those who had tried the "sweet trick" themselves. Daniel Heverly, yet living, was "whisky boy" on the occasion.
Game and Hunting Matches.-All the early settlers were required to keep guns to protect their stock against the ravages of panthers, wolves and bears. None of the pioneers made a business of hunting, only using the gun as necessity required in supplying a depleted larder. Of the sons, Eli Heverly was the most noted hunter and crack marksman. When only smaller game was left hunting matches came in vogue. There were several forms of these. Some occupied a week or more, and sometimes the match would be for the best results during an entire season. A match often meant a contest between two sportsmen for half a day. In such a case the contestants usually took opposite directions in their quest for game, meeting at a given place and time. He who had the smallest amount of game either gave it to the winner or paid for a treat or supper. The hunting match affording the greatest satisfaction occupied about three days and had from ten to fifty participants on each side. There was a captain for each side, and the score wars computed by means of tables agreed upon. For instance a hawk or owl counted 100 points, crow 50, woodchuck 50, squirrel 10, blackbird 10, etc. Usually only the heads of birds and ears or tails of animals were brought in for the count. When the contesting parties met there was a test of skill as marksmen, and sometimes in feats of strength and wrestling. The side having the smaller score paid for the dinner or supper, which had been arranged for all.
Surrounding Dangers.- Panthers and wolves were playing havoc with the stock in the settlement, and the Wilcoxes learning of this fact, came in from Albany one evening and laid with others for the depredators. They waited and watched, but no panther came. Finally toward morning, despairing of all hopes in making a catch they fell asleep, and while they were enjoying themselves in ‘happy dreamland,’ a panther came, killed a yearling, filled his stomach with blood and again escaped to his secreted home in the wilderness."
In 1817, when Amasa, the first child of John Heverly, was a baby his father was required to do considerable working out. While he was at Greenwood, Mrs. Heverly remained alone with her child and attended to the stock. Every evening, with babe in arms, she would go in search of the cows. One evening, however, her tramp, was most discouraging. She followed the tracks and foot-path leading to sugar Ridge, but heard no tinkle of the bell. On she pursued through the wilderness and at last caught the tinkle in the distance. When she found the cows she was three miles from home, and before she could return darkness had fallen. To her chagrin upon reaching home, she found the fire out, and no means of starting another, as Mr. Heverly had the steel and gun with him. No supper could be had, and what would she do for herself and child! When almost yielding in despair, a rap was heard at the door. She opened it, and to her great joy found Frederick Kissell, who was returning from a hunt. He soon had a fire blazing for the comfort and relief of the brave woman.
In speaking of their dangerous surroundings, Mrs. Hannah (Heverly) Jones says: "One evening myself and sister Betsey had been sent to the clearing after the cows. I was then about ten years old. We had started for home, when there came out of the brush near us a monster bear. I wanted to run to the house and tell father, so he could come with his gun and kill the beast. But as we had been taught that we would not be disturbed by a bear so long as we remained with the cattle, and Betsey being afraid to chance it alone, we hurried of with the cows as fast as we could, followed some distance by the bear. We reached hone safely with the cattle, but by the time father got around with his gun, Bruin had scented danger and made his escape."
The late Myron Kellogg of Monroe relates that in one of his early courting experiences, as he was returning from Overton late at night, a pack of wolves struck his track and soon made the woods ring with their hideous howls. He hastened as fast as possible, the wolves pursuing and gaining. The race was growing more exciting every minute, which seemed almost hours, but he finally reached the John Heverly place first and was secure. Mr. Kellogg concluded by saying this was the last pleasure trip he made to Overton after night.
Roads.-The first out-let from the Heverly settlement was the old turnpike, which crossed the huckleberry mountain, thence passed north to the Schrader and following it to Greenwood. The next egress was to the "Forks." Daniel Heverly and his sons cut a road, leading from his place down by G. L. Rinebold's, thence bearing to the left to below the Sherman house, thence up to the ridge beyond the O'Brien place and following the ridge to Ezra Roe's, thence to the "Forks."
The Albany settlers found their way into the settlement by following up Bahr creek to the Morrison place; then bearing to the left struck the public road a little above Joseph Haverly's residence. At first they came in on foot, but afterwards cut a road sufficient to allow them to make the passage on horseback. This course became known as the Albany road, which, with some changes, was opened as a public road in 1833.
A road was also cut out across Hatch hill, connecting the old turnpike with the new. This was improved and made a public road in 1834. In 1833 a public road was also laid out, running through the John Heverly place across the huckleberry mountain and terminating at Burr Ridgway's saw-mill on the Berwick turnpike in Monroe.
The earliest road constructed through any part of Overton was the Genesee Road, the first thoroughfare between the North and West branches of the Susquehanna, opened about 1802. Locally, this road started near Millstone Run, thence in a southwesterly course passed through the central part of the town by the Cahill place to Eldredsville, thence to Muncy. This road was of use only to travelers. It was half a century before there was any road connecting it with the Heverly settlement, or before any one had settled on this thoroughfare in Overton. It was called the Genesee Road, because it afforded the first thoroughfare to emigrants from Southern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia to the rich valley of the Genesee river, then the popular rage. Even earlier than this road, another in the same locality had been surveyed (1792) as the "Harris Road." It, however, was never opened.