Southern ice storms and pioneers… the American spirit

A week or so ago, when I was in our little local library, perusing the biography section to see if there was a book on Beatrix Potter that I had seen Susan Branch recommend, a little book called ” A Bride Goes West” by Nannie T. Alderson ( the bride ) and Helena Huntington Smith ( the collector and writer of Nannie’s recollections ) caught my eye. When the library purchased it, it was only $1.95!  In 1882 Nannie and her husband traveled from West Virginia out to Montana, and this is her story. A fascinating and well-written book, since Nannie was a natural story-teller and the writer did her justice.

Reading the amazing stories of the people in the Southern ice storm stuck on the highway the other day, some of them women with young children, or bus drivers coping with school children all night, or the father delivering his baby…and much much more, reminded me of a passage in the book so I looked it up to type that passage before I returned the book to the library.  ( For instance: ” Ashley McCants spent half a day in her car before she gave up, got out and carried her son 2 miles to a stranger’s house, where they spent the night. ”  CNN story HERE  )

for when we arose the next morning, thinking to make an early start, we found it was snowing. And we were traveling in an open box sled! My husband with his usual resource, however, went to the river bank, and with the help of our new hand, John Logan, cut a number of willow poles. These he bent into half hoops which he fastened at intervals along the box body of our sled, thus duplicating, in effect, the top frame of a covered wagon. Now it only required to cover these with a wagon sheet, and our bobsled was completely enclosed and sheltered from the worst the weather man could send. The body of the sled was then filled with sweet blue grass hay and after that a number of buffalo robes and blankets were included for warmth. I must say, it looked inviting for a one-day’s journey , but I was to travel five days in these narrow quarters with the two babies.  The hundred miles to the ranch were often covered, with a good team, in two days under fair conditions, but just now innumberable snowdrifts lay across our path. We were digging out of the drifts, all the time. One day we traveled from sunup to sundown and only made ten miles.

For four days she was cramped in those quarters with a seven month old baby and a three year old. Can you imagine?  Reading the stories of the poor people stuck on the freeway just brought that section to mind.

A Bride Goes West Book Cover

This was only a small portion of  Nannie’s journey…and their lives were often fraught with difficulties such as having their first lovely little home with amenities from back East burned down by Indians…oh it was a fascinating book! If you like memoirs, and can find it in your local library or a used book store, I am sure that you would enjoy it.  The phrase “making do” finds new meaning when one reads how this young adventurous woman had to live, and did live, yet still joyously for the most part.

The book’s copyright is 1942 and Nannie was 81 years old, living on the ranch of one of her children, when her memories were compiled into this book.  The foreward said that at that time, she still lived in her own house and had the energy of a woman half her age, and would still “lift mammoth kettles of boiling wild-plum jam” etc.

This little book at the library had an interesting one close by to it that I brought home, and I snapped a few pictures from it since I was on a roll with this out-of-the-blue post inspired by the heroes & heroines in the ice storm.

Because ” A Bride Goes West” had no photos, and only little illustrations, I brought this home thinking that it might be an interesting companion book:

Frontier Family Life Collage One

It is quite extensive…I only snapped a few ( and these are old photos in the book so nothing is going to be very clear )  but what I snapped is what I am most interested in…the women’s clothes back then.  If it goes over 72 degrees I am ready to melt. How did they wear those clothes in the summer and do all of their work and live to tell the tale :)

Some pretty wedding clothes here…a family outside of their soddy, and everyone pitching in to harvest apples:

frontier collage 2

A very interesting book…a good companion to something like “A Bride Goes West” as far as visual references.

In ” A Bride Goes West” the pioneering spirit was one of hospitality. Throughout the entire book, people were constantly stopping by to either be fed or sheltered. If anything came out of the stories that I have seen or read about the Atlanta ( and other cities in the south ) ice storm, it is that we still have that spirit alive in this country, when hardship requires it. Shelter, food, looking after one another…it was all there. Businesses staying open or reopening to provide shelter, people opening their homes, restaurant employees feeding stranded travelers and not charging for it…no one needed government to tell them what to do. They just did it.

 Matthew 25:35 “ For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in”


You might also enjoy :  Sunday Special : Holly Jolly Vintage Christmas Series Kickoff  or  Delicious Fried Cauliflower, Cornbread & Preserves   or  This Late Summer Week

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23 Responses to Southern ice storms and pioneers… the American spirit

  1. Nana Diana says:

    Thank you for the review on that book. I noted it down in books to look for when I get to the library. I love those that really “tell a story”. Can you imagine being cooped up like that with 2 babies on a rough, treacherous journey like that? We have it so easy today- xo Diana

  2. That sounds like an amazing book of pioneering spirit…I wonder sometimes if we could have survived in those days. Most likely not, now that we have been cossetted and spoiled.


  3. Brenda Kula says:

    As Jen said above, the pioneering spirit. I guess people just do what they have to do.

  4. I love reading books like this too and always feel inspired. It reminds me somewhat of Little House on the Prairie in the early shows. It was a hard life and I’m glad I don’t have to live in those days. But it’s good to know how to survive and take care of yourself even now. Sweet hugs!

  5. We don’t realize how easy we have it, in due to large part to those that came before us with this kind of spirit and tenacity.

  6. Laura says:

    It is always so amazing to me that people could survive those conditions. We are so spoiled. I will definitely see if my library has that book. xo Laura

  7. Rose says:

    Oh, my goodness. I can see we would enjoy a lot of the same books. I am going to check for this book…I know I would love it.

    Do you ever visit the American Memory From the Libarary of Congress and look at the American expansion section? I so love that place and will get in moods where I go there and spend hours and hours looking at old photos. The Url is below. Just from your posts here, I bet you would love it.

  8. Connie says:

    I love it when you recommend books! I often look for them and read too. This is one I will be looking for. Frontier Family Life I will look for as well. The pic of the woman at the water pump is also on the cover of a book I currently have, “I Dwell In Possibility, Women Build A Nation” by Donna M. Lucy. Just got it so I haven’t started it yet.

  9. Gattina says:

    This was a hard time for people ! very interesting to read these stories !

  10. Judy says:

    I will definitely look for this book on my kindle! Thanks for the interesting review I enjoy reading about the pioneers and wonder how they survived in the winter with none of the modern conveniences that we have!

  11. Joyce says:

    Great review! I am also a fan of historical fiction. Like memoirs, they fill in the gaps between sentences found in history books. To actually “be there” in every day life brings a new meaning to any era of time. Can you imagine pumping every drop of water you need – from a well that you had to dig?

  12. Life was very different then, wasn’t it? I have no idea how women wore all those clothes when it was very hot!

  13. Grandma Kc says:

    What wonderful books — thank you for sharing.
    It has been heartwarming to see how many people have helped strangers in need. Makes you think there may be hope for the human race after all!

  14. Goose bumps all over – they were hearty folks and without their tenacity where would we be? And, you are so right about times of need and the American spirit. Thanks for sharing, friend.

  15. Rose says:

    Thanks for the other link…I will check it out later…having trouble getting through all the Random 5 links and my regulars…glad you liked the link I gave you.

  16. genie says:

    What a fascinating post. The American spirit…those folk really had to have it. I do not think I would have survived.Nannie could do not at 81 than I can do at 74. An amazing woman.

  17. It looks like a lovely read. I love old books like this.

  18. Hootin' Anni says:

    Wow…I bet that is one amazing, heart wrenching, and fulfilling read!! What spirit.

    I read recently a book entitled Blizzard of 1949. It sounds quite similar, but still totally different…yet the spirit of the human race still stands proud.

    I am gonna have to check this out. See if I can find it.

  19. Eileen says:

    A wonderful story, thank you for sharing your review. It is nice to know we still have that American Spirit in our country today.. G reat post, thanks for sharing! Enjoy your week ahead!

  20. Pondside says:

    Those old books are a rare treat when you find them!

  21. Lorrie says:

    That sounds like an interesting account of life as it was. The human spirit is so resilient. I think, that if we had to, many of us could adapt to a different lifestyle. It would be hard, we would sigh and complain, but it could be done. We live in such luxury now and don’t even realize it.
    When tough times come, like the blizzard in the south, the human spirit rises up to meet the challenge.

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