On August 15, we’ll be hosting an open house at the home Nels and Emma built in 1887. It made the National Register of Historic Places last year. More details on that are available here.
In honor of Sesquicentennial Plus One, I’m devoting the Speaking of Idaho blog to my family’s history during August.
Blackfoot River, Idaho Territory
April 11, 1871
My Dear Father:
Our first “house” is not one that would be likely to lure Queen Victoria from her throne, but it is ours, because we have made it with the simple materials that God left strewn around here for us. It is only a hole in the ground, it differs from the habitations of the lesser animals, however, in the flatness of its walls and the squareness of its corners. It has no windows, but is lighted by a tallow dip and the cheerful fire on the hearth. We feel very wealthy because of our cook stove. You and I, Father, lived and laughed in the days of the open fire. So with the stove to furnish us heat and a splendid heavy buffalo skin to keep the cold from coming in the opening that we use for a door, we have kept comfortable.
For furniture, well, first we have a wonderful bedstead that Nels has made. Four legs made from a pine pole, with holes bored in them to put in side pieces, which are also made of pine poles. Then down the sides are many holes bored and through them run strips of cowhide, laced back and forth, making springs. For mattress we have a tick filled with cured bunchgrass, that was cut with a scythe while the weather was warm. We have one chair, only one that I brought with me from Montana, and a table of rough pine boards that was given to us by a man at Fort Hall. We each had bedding and our dishes are so few I hate to enumerate.
We take the New York Sun and Peterson’s Magazine. The stories of Frances Hodgson are running in the magazine and I like them so much. Mr. Shoemaker is also very kind to loan us reading matter and he has a better supply than anyone. They live a little more than two miles down the river, but she is in such poor health that she seldom gets out of the house. Speaking of reading, I must tell you that Nels and I had one of our first quarrels over Shakespeare. He has his complete works in the cheapest edition obtainable and he reads and reads until sometimes he forgets to carry a bucket of water. Well, I felt very much abused and told him so. I know now that I was wicked, for I should be glad that he can be entertained in that manner. I’ve seen all of his best plays again and again, but I will not give my poor husband time to even read them. Women are surely funny folks.
We shall plant a small garden, very small though, for the problem of irrigation is the next one. We have the land and we have the water, but the next thing is to bring them together. This year the garden will be a handmade affair, watered with a bucket.
The spring has brought some activities of the kind peculiar to frontier localities. An occasional trapper drops in on his way to a summer job or to market the furs from his winter’s catch. How we welcome such company! Some of these fellows have good educations and have drifted here from the states, where everything is civilized. We listen to them eagerly, beg them to remain longer to share our primitive hospitalities and sigh when they pass on.
With my best love,
Tomorrow, famous visitors stop by.