Monday, December 20, 2010

White Christmas

Remember featherbeds and pallets on the floor? Remember sleeping in you grandparents unheated upstairs and making a run for it in the morning to dress by the stove in your grandmother's kitchen? Remember being snowed in and loving it?

Much of the nostalgia I feel about having snow this time of year is probably a result of the modern era inventions that have made it so much easier to deal with the effects. Here's a heroic (at least I see him as a hero) storm story related by one Nebraska pioneer who was writing to his wife back home about his experiences in the west:

... now I can tell you of one of the most terrible storms I ever witnessed. It struck us at sunset Sunday evening with wind & rain ... Monday morning it turned to snow ... the storm lasted from sunset Sunday evening till near midnight Wednesday night making near 80 hours storm. When we would go out to try to do anything for the stock we could not see other more than from 5 to 10 ft & to be heard we had to shout at the top of the voice on account of the wind blowing such a gale ... there was a woman about a mile from here with 4 children whose husband was away from home and I knew she had but little wood if any so Wednesday afternoon I concluded to make the effort to reach her and see how they were getting along & I had to go right against the storm ... I would proceed abut 5 rd [rods] then turn and get a little breath then try it again in this way I succeeded in reaching the house & she was mighty glad to see me as they were out of wood and the ax buried under the snow. They had been in bed for 2 days only as she would break up something in the house to burn & cook something for the children to eat the oldest was only 7 years old. I dug the ax from under the snow hunted my way to a pig pen got a couple of poles and cut wood enough to do till next day then started home again ...

I'm thankful I don't have to worry about getting to the well and hauling in water, or breaking frozen water before I can wash up or make coffee in the morning. I often have the luxury of avoiding even going out when the weather is at its worst. Oh, I do my share of whining about shoveling and snowblowing when Nebraska winters rage, but overall, I have it fairly easy compared to my pioneer foremothers.

Have a safe and blessed Christmas, friends ... and a white one, too, if that's your heart's desire.

Stephanie G.


  1. I miss my grandfather's excitement that led him to be the one to get up before dawn and go around the (packed-to-the-gills) farmhouse calling, "Merry Christmas--time to get up!" on Christmas morning. We cousins (there were so few of us back then!) slept on a thick foam pad on the floor in the "Green Room"---four or five of us on one king-sized pad. That was back when we had to be careful not to step on the furnace grate in the hall floor so we wouldn't burn our feet!

  2. We had a floor furnace in the house when I was in elementary school. It was in the floor between the living room and the first bedroom in a row of 3 bedrooms. I hadn't thought about it until now, but that furthest bedroom had to have been frigid in winter. I was the spoiled brat so I didn't have to know from experience ....

  3. Merry Christmas Nancy & Stephanie!

    I consider your blog a gift of history that keeps on giving all year long!


    And enjoy good health and prosper in the new year!


  4. Thanks for your encouraging words, Vince. As you probably know, blogging sometimes feels like a one-sided conversation. I know I speak for both of us when I say that we appreciate you. We are neophytes at blogging, and appreciate our followers so much. If you have something you'd like us to blog about, don't hesitate to say so. I love researching, and if I don't know the answer, it will be fun looking for it! One question I've been trying to answer this past week has been ... What did Sioux City, Iowa, look like in 1869? Hope you are all having a wondermous day. Christ is born! Hallelujah!

  5. I join Steph in feeling my gratitude for you, Vince, and for all of you who follow this blog and take time out of your lives to post a comment. We love hearing from you!
    And like Steph, I have a question from history I'd like answered. How many sittings did a subject have while having their portrait painted? Anyone know?
    Merry Christmas to one and all... the day is nearly over and we are safely back home again from visiting both sides of the family. Feeling very blessed, very full, and very tired. Christ is born!

  6. Hi Stephanie:

    I checked with the librarian in Sioux City, David Mook, and he said these two books would have some early
    maps/sketches/photos of Sioux City in and around the 1869 time period.

    “A Historical Profile of Sioux City” by John F. Schmidt c. 1969

    “Sioux City a Pictorial History” by Scott Sorensen & B. Paul Chicoine c. 1982

    You can probably get these with an interlibrary loan.

    Good luck.


    P.S. NANCY: I have a good friend who is a portrait artist and today there probably will not even be a sitting. They can use a series of photographs. I would expect the number of sittings was proportional to the cost of the portrait and skill of the artist. What year are you interested in? Maybe I can find out for you.

  7. Thanks, Vince. The era I'm looking at is the late 1880's, the Gilded Age, the era of John Singer Sargent portraits.