The Ladies Page: Losing Our Sense of Community

A contributor muses on how much our sense of community has changed compared to what it was in the days of America's early settlers.

| January/February 1968

ladies page - sawmill

Pictured is a Buck-Eye saw mill owned by Frank Scego. A Huber tractor owned by Ed Piezuch is pulling it.It is at present in operation on Mr. Pleauch's farm. Frank Scego is operating it with the assistance of Ed Piezuch, Tom Scego (brother to Frank), Gus Wacker and Floyd Schlottog, all of Owensville, Missouri. They have sawed about 60,000 feet of oak lumber. Courtesy of Floyd Schlottog, Bland, Missouri


Today, neighbors are people with whom you might pass a few minutes of your day. Maybe you are real friendly with a few, but our sense of community now is very different from the way early American settlers shared their lives. From what I have read and heard a typical settlement would be like this:

Homesteaders would establish themselves near a creek in a nice valley. Their settlement would be a distance from another town, maybe separated by several hills. It would have to be self-supporting to survive. Someone would start a sawmill, probably run by water power. A tannery would be necessary to make the leather for shoes, harnesses, and saddles. The farmer would raise sheep for their wool, and the fullers who washed and bleached it. Thus industry was started and as the peoples' wants grew, so did the settlement.

Recreation would include sleighing parties and corn husking parties for the young folks. The ladies had their quilting parties, at which they would catch up on all the news and gossip. There were apple butter boilings and maple syrup and sugar making. The men would get together for raising bees. Also road building was a community work and each man had to do his share.

News was limited. They depended on the peddlers to bring the news in on their fall and spring visits. Meat came from the land: deer, turkeys, squirrels, and rabbits.

The life of the housewife was hard. She had to cook, clean, wash, iron, make soap, milk the cows and feed the chickens and the pigs. All of this was done without the conveniences we take for granted today. She also made clothes and spun yarn to knit mittens and socks. She preserved food for the winter: wild blackberries, huckleberries, gooseberries, peaches, pears, and apples. There were bins of potatoes, turnips, and onions, and also barrels of pickled beef and rounds of dried beef. Hams, pork shoulders, and bacon were hung from the ceiling.

Thus was our country started: people depending on each other for almost everything in their daily lives. Today, we can travel miles to a job, and if we don't like a certain store or a service there is always another somewhere else. It is too bad in a way; we are losing the spirit of togetherness and neighborliness that was so important in founding America.