The first settlers in the Cumberlands, like first settlers elsewhere, invented nothing, and most certainly not democracy. They pioneered no new system of government, religion or agriculture. The successful pioneer was a master hand at adapting old learnings to a new environment, as seen in aspects of his life log house learned from the Swede; whiskey from the Scotch; corn, moccasins, popular dugout from the Indians. This is also seen in the patterns of agriculture, trade, industry, education and speech.
The new log house in the new ground field was new to the man who cleared the land, but behind him other men on older borders to the east had built cabins and cleared fields. The Cumberland pioneer was merely re creating a way of life known to other men, the pattern shaped and changed by the land, the climate, the rivers and the Indians. All these influenced the pattern of his life, but it was not a new pattern.
Life on the frontier was not an easy one. There were no stores to buy clothes and other needs. These frontier people made what they had to have. They used the skins of the animals they hunted for food to make the clothes they wore. The hides were tanned into leather, the leather made into clothes. Clothe was spun on the spinning wheels by the wives and mothers from natural fibers for clothes that could not be made from leather.
The men and boys wore moccasins, short pantaloons, and leather leggins, which were usually dressed deer skins. The hunting shirts were cut like modern shirts, open the entire length in front, and fastened with a belt. In this belt they carried a small hatchet and a long sharp hunting knife. They wore caps of mink or coon with the tail hanging down as a tassel. The rifles they carried were long muzzle loading flintlocks, and in a pouch hung over one shoulder was carried gun wipes, tow, patching, bullets, and flints, while fastened to the strap was a horn for powder. When they were not working in the fields, they were out hunting for game.
The women and girls wore sun bonnets as a rule, and had little time for tucks and ruffles. There was no place at which to buy things, except at the store of the Indian traders, and they had very few things that white people wanted.
Gradually, forts were built in the wilderness. This gave the settlers a small measure of safety from the roving bands of Indians that did not like this intrusion into their forests and land. Usually the forts had a store, where goods were brought in by wagon, raft, or pack train. These provided some glimpse of the "civilization" these settlers had left behind when they moved to the frontier. The storekeepers usually carried clothe goods, powder, tobacco, metal parts for farm tools, barrels of salt, beans, flour and candles. They traded their goods for furs, perhaps fresh eggs, any number of items the settlers could come up with, as money was a scarce item. At that time, most states issued their own money, as well as banks and towns.
These hardy people fought the elements, Indians, ruffians and life in general to bring about the settling of this vast country, to marry and raise their families.
Submitted By Ethel Taylor
June 9, 2004
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