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TIP 261 - WHAT VIRGINIA WAS - KENTUCKY BECAME - PART 2

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TIP 261 - WHAT VIRGINIA WAS - KENTUCKY BECAME - PART 2

Sandi Gorin (View posts)
Posted: 16 Sep 1999 6:00AM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 23 Jun 2001 9:32AM GMT
TIP #261 – WHAT VIRGINIA WAS – KENTUCKY BECAME – PART 2

In continuing our look at the lives of Virginia residents, we find many of the customs, foods, animals, laws and housing, give us a good picture of the early lives of the Kentucky settlers who came from that area.

Animals played an important part in the lives of the early settlers, both in Virginia and Kentucky and other newly forming states. Oxen were the primary work animals. They might not be as fast as horses, but they were much stronger and earned their board and keep. Normally a single ox was worked at a time, fastened by a strong yoke. Oxen had shoes like horses, but since oxen have “cloven hooves”, the shoe was a two piece affair and they were harder to put on the oxen! Their legs are not strong and an ox is unable to stand on 3 legs as a horse is. A special sling was used which raised the ox from the floor; not at all comfortable for the ox and it might cost the farmer a week or more usage of the ox until they recovered.

Horses were popular ever since being brought over to the New World (plus the Indian horses already here), but they were more for pleasure riding and getting to appointed rounds than for work. Two of the earliest breeds have disappeared from American soil – the Narragansett Pacer (of Spanish background) and the Conestoga (English).

Most farmers did not have special corrals or pens for their livestock; they roamed at will. If the settler wanted to keep their work animal or food animal contained, they outfitted them with yokes and pokes. Yokes were frames which hung around the neck with extensions which had a tendency of catching on rails and prevent them from escaping. Geese and chickens were blessed with smaller versions. Pokes hung around the animalÂ’s neck also, but had a rod which pointed forward which would catch in the fence if the animal tried to leap to freedom.

Almost every farmer raised bees also with honey often being a good substitute for sugar; and the pollination was needed for the fruit trees. The bee gum tree of the southern part of the United States was a favorite hive location.

Farmers also raised pigs; they were cheap to feed and were needed for wintertime meat. But, they were more a wild pig than the domesticated varieties known today.

Transportation for the early settlers was a necessity and every farmer needed a cart of some sort. The Conestoga wagon, a creation of the Pennsylvania Dutch areas, were a copy of European carts. They were heavy, strong and could go places the smaller carts and wagons couldnÂ’t. It is the Conestoga wagon most normally seen in any good western! They could be pulled by up to eight horses.

The one-horse-shay was also known as a chair or a cheer. Based on an earlier French invention, the Americans modified it by adding hickory springs. The city slickers had a cover over the shay but most country folk didn’t have this luxury – unless they stretched a canvas tarp over it.

The pleasure wagon had its roots no where but in America. As it name indicates, no hauling was done in the pleasure wagon; it was strictly for pleasure, taking the family to the nearest mercantile or to church.

But getting from here to there was still a challenge. Our early roads were either Indian trails or buffalo trails. It is said that two buffaloes side by side wore a path wide enough for the early wagons. But most Indian trails were only the width of the horse upon which they were riding and they had to be widened to accommodate even a small wagon. In Kentucky, as in Virginia, hands were appointed by the court to widen the roads and to maintain them – they were allowed to work off their taxes in hard labor. They had the clear the land around the trail which meant cutting down trees and digging out the stumps. It is noted that many early wagon drivers carried an axe with them in case their wagon had to be cut out from the trees and undergrowth. (Passengers were expected to push!).

Bridges also had to be built if one wanted to visit Grandma! The first bridges were nothing more than 3-4l logs side by side and tossed in the water from shore to shore. They had to be supported by girders if they started to sink under the weight of the wagon. Eventually they were improved and strengthened and many were roofed over and sides enclosed. There are so few covered bridges remaining to this day and they were a sight to behold!

Some settlers who lived close to a wider river came up with the idea of building a ferry and adding to the change in his pocket. Most ferries could carry one wagon and at least 4 horses. A rope was stretched across the river and run through pullies. On the deeper rivers, ferryman rowed hard.

To be continued.

(c) Copyright 13 September 1999, Sandra K. Gorin, All rights reserved. sgorin@glasgow-ky.com

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