Remembers When Hoppers Made Farmers Quit Land by Alice Leffler
Work, while possibly no harder in early days was much different than now, according to Mrs. F. A. Preuss, whose people homesteaded in Green Garden, where she was born. Because the grasshopper damage was so great for seven years in that vicinity, her grandfather and an uncle returned to Iowa. Again coming to Madison, they found their homesteads had been taken up by others, so they did not remain.
Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. August Buettner, stuck it out as did two uncles, Martin and Gottlieb Buettner and their families. Among other neighbors who weathered this difficult period were the Polenske, Maurer, Schwartz, Wells and Teske families.
The cost of a 160 acre homestead was only $16.50 but this small sum was more difficult to pay than the cost of land today, for it was so hard to get hold of even a few cents. Timber claims were given to those willing to plant 80 acres, or half of the land, in trees. Seedlings were scarce, it was hard to get the trees to grow in the newly turned sod and only two persons to the knowledge of Mrs. Preuss, ever attempted to get a tree claim until the government lowered the number of acres of trees to be planted to 40 acres. None of the Preuss stock was lost in the blizzard of 1888, although she believes her father had
a close call himself while trying to get the stock into the open sheds. He fell into a soft drift and his brother had to assist him out. In the morning the cattle were safer, but huddled in the rear of the shed which was otherwise packed with snow.
One year there was no market for barley and, after Mr. Buettner had taken a load to
Columbus where he could find no buyer, his impulse was to empty it on the prairie rather than make the team haul it home. Thriftiness revolted at the waste so he cached it in the granary and the next fall again attempted to see it to have room for his new grain. To his surprise it brought 75 cents a bushel, as breweries using barley had begun operating.
A fall task was making mattresses of the soft inner husks of corn. The men would snap a load and the children would shred the husks and restuff mattresses. Instead of comforters, many families used feather ticks and all but the softest of downy feathers were stripped. In stripping feathers, one pulls the fuzz from the quills which are discarded.
Women knit socks and mittens, many of them using a spindle to work wool into yarn. Mens clothing was also handmade by many pioneers before sewing machines came into general use, or store clothing was low enough in price to permit the poorer people to get it.
Mr. Preuss was born in Germany and came to Madison county when a small boy. His parents lived in the neighborhood of Battle Creek, having a log house until shortly after he was married, when they erected a frame structure. There were not many log houses in the territory, but many sod shanties, some of which were plastered and all of which were warmer and in some ways more comfortable than frame buildings.
A cyclone which came through here in the early days, doing considerable damage in Madison, destroyed the Charles Preuss homestead. It lifted a granary building off the fanning mil which was undisturbed. A grass mower, much heavier than the mowing machines of today, was ruined. The Young place was torn up and Mrs. Young injured. She was found by Mr. Weinberger. Mr. and Mrs. Preuss farmed in this vicinity until they retired and moved to town.
Source: “Madison Star-Mail”, Thursday, January 15, 1942, page 3.