"When a child attending the religious school the story of The Sojourn of the Israelites
in the Wilderness stirred my imagination. I too longed for a sojourn in the wilderness.
I did not know that my dreams would become a reality, a reality covering long
years of hardship and privation. My husband had brothers in Milwaukee who sent
home glowing reports of conditions in America. We wished to tell our luck in that
wonderful land. When my daughter, Elsie, was fourteen months old we left to make
our fortune fully confident of our undertaking.
We sailed from Antwerp and landed in Boston. I brought with me my linen
chest, feather beds, pillows, bedding, etc. My brother-in-law, Sam Thal
advised us to go to Dakota Territory. He had been out there and thought
highly of the prospects. My husband was anxious to get started and as soon as
he could leave me he went out there. Six weeks later I followed.
I had never seen frame houses until we reached America. Everything I saw from
the train window was interesting and new. We reached Grand Forks late at
night. Being unable to speak English I could not make my wants known so I
went to bed without supper. I reached Larimore hungry but safely. Here I met
my husband. He was wearing a buffalo skin coat, the first I had ever seen.
With him was Sol Mendelson, the manager of the Sam Thal farm.
A newcomer must be of course experience much embarrassment. My worst one day
was when Mr. Mendelson brought in a crate of pork and asked me, a piously
reared Jewess, to cook it. In time I consented. However, I never forgot my
religious teachings. In the spring of '83 we homesteaded land in Dodds
Township along the supposed railroad right of way. Here we planted our first
garden. My, how I loved to watch things grow in that newly broken land.
That fall I would look out of the window and see fires in the distance. These
I believe were far off factories. I was still unable to realize the
completeness of our isolation. That fall my second baby, Jacob, was born. I
was attended by a Mrs. Saunders, an English woman. It was in September. The
weather turned cold and the wind blew from the north. It found its way
through every crack in that poorly built house. I was so cold that during the
first night they moved my bed into the living room by the stove and pinned
sheets around it to keep the draft out and so I lived through the first child
birth in the prairies. I liked to think that God watched out for us poor
lonely women when the stork came.
In the spring our baby was taken very ill. I wanted a doctor so badly. There
was a terrific storm and when it cleared the snow was ten feet deep. My
husband couldn't risk a trip to Larimore. On the fourth day my baby died
unattended. I never forgave the prairies for that. He was buried in the lot
with Mrs. Seliger and a child of the Mendelson's. For many years we kept up
the lonely graves. In time the wolves and elements destroyed them. They are
unmarked in all save my memory.
In winter we killed our meats and froze them, in summer we bought fresh meat
from the market and kept it by tying it to a rope and lowering it into the
well where it kept as though on ice. Fresh fruit of any sort was almost
unknown. We used Arbuckles coffee, paying a dollar for eight pounds. Our fare
was meat and potatoes, bread and vegetables. The only fruit obtainable were
dried. Syrup and jelly came in large wooden pails. Biscuits and jelly,
pancakes and syrup constituted the favorite breakfast.
I never learned to milk a cow. On one occasion when my husband and the hired
man went threshing and did not return at night I waited until dark. The cows
came home to be milked. I tried my hand at milking. I sat under a gentle and
patient cow for nearly an hour and succeeded in getting only a few drops of
milk. I grew desperate, and drove my cows to the nearest neighbor. The man
was away and Mrs. Fahey milked the cows for me and I carried home the heavy
pails, a distance of about three-fourths of a mile. Card playing was a
favorite winter pastime. The neighbors would gather in each others homes.
When extra men were needed a lantern was hung out and left there until they
came. I can't remember that this signal ever failed.
About this time I had made the acquaintance of Mrs. Stratton. She wove rag
carpets. Three yards for fifty cents. From her I learned to make citron and
green tomato pickles and cakes and pies, and in turn I taught my neighbors
how to make coffee cake, potato salad, cottage cheese,and noodles.
All the women in the neighborhood save two lived to see their children grow
up. Mrs. Fahey died, leaving seven, the eldest fifteen.
By this time most of the sod houses and barns have been replaced by frame
buildings and such luxuries as buggies and driving horses became common.
There were schools in every district. Then came hanging lamps, upholstered
furniture, carpets and curtains and when the cream separator came into common
use I felt that the pioneer's days were gone and that the land was tamed
forever. Year by year wild ducks and geese became scarcer, the storms become
fewer and less severe and the Northern Lights less mysterious."