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"Eau Claire County History, 1949"


History of Sunnyview School Area

As a contribution to your history of Eau Claire County, I should like to write a little story of my grandparents who came to this area in 1865, just at the close of the Civil War.

Grandma, just turned twelve, came from the state of Maine with her family which consisted of her father and stepmother.  The mother had died sometime before the Civil War and the father had remarried and started a "second batch" of chldren, as the "first batch" of three called them.  There were two in the "second batch" at the time, the number rising to six as years passed.

As was the custom, grandmother went to work at once - for a family who lived nearby.  The trip by sleigh had been rough, but evidently spring had brought new vigor to the travelers.  The father and stepmother set to work at once to build a little log shanty on the homestead alloted them by the land grant, doing alot of sweating, a little swearing and a tremendous amount of praying.

The house had only one room at first.  What little furniture the family brought with them was augmented by three legged stools, beds made of split timbers, and a coat rack made by driving pegs in a log.  A stone fireplace was also made.  They had a little old "cookin' stove" which they brought with them, which was indeed a prized possession.

By planting time they were relatively comfortable, but there was more work to be done.  Land had to be cleared, and hors pwoer meant using horses, so they set to work pulling stumps, plowing immediately and planting what they could buy or trade for.  New Englanders must have potatoes, so they were the first to go in.  Then came the other vegetables, especially rutabagas, and there had to be some wheat for the baking powder biscuits.  That was a dire necessity.  In all my listening to my grandmother, I can never recall an instance where she mentioned bread.

In all, the family had a lot to be thankful for.  Others had not been so lucky, and a neighborly hand was held out to many who found it difficult in their first years.

And now, grandmother worked out at the home of a very generous farmer.  They gave her her room and board, bough calico for her dresses and the thread to sew them with.  Occasionally the lady of the house gave her some other little thing, such as an end of unbleached muslin for a dish towel, to keep her contented.  She worked from daylight until way after dark, day after day, never a day off.  She went to the church services at the "meetin house" with the family every Sunday and heard an Elder put the fear of God and the threat of eternal damnation into the souls of those present.  These services usually lasted about two and a half hours.

After grandma had worked there for a few months an ex-service man arrived.  He had been through the thickest of the fighting, having only recently been discharged from General Sherman's outfit.  And, wonder of wonders, he had come from Maine!  He was taken on at the farm as a "hand" and was soon learning all there was to know about Western farming.

Years slipped by, grandma was growing up.  She had learned to keep house and sew.  She could cook. She knew how to care for children.

One day, Charles, the "hand" was driving to town.  As was the way, he asked the women if they needed anything.  They made up a short list including salt, and grandmother asked for a new thimble.

When Charles arrived at the farm some five or six hours later he had a package, a small package, for grandmother.  She opened it immediately and saw the shining new thimble, but there was something around it.  A ring!  a wedding ring! she said, "What on earth for?"  And then they were engaged and the gold wedding ring was ready and waiting.  They planned an early wedding.

At about the same time, the Elder chose to predict the end of the world.  He said great fires would come down upon the early destroying all.  "So people, get down and do nothing but pray until the wrath of God has vengeance", he shouted.  People took to "carrying on", some even committing suicide to save themselves and their families from such an end.  Grandmother said that there was no use to get married, what with the end of the earth and all.  But time went on and nothing happened, except they were married and settled on a homestead about four miles away from her parents.

They built a little cabin such as the parents had, and started farming and raising a family.  The second young one died soon after birth.  They fixed up a little box and buried it out under one of the huge elm trees which they were so proud of.  There were no birth or death records in those days, and it was taken for granted that every father should be able to preach a funeral sermon for his deceased children.  The marker on this grave has long since rotted away, but it was long remembered by this little family.

Grandma said she was always afraid at first of Indians.  There were scattered groups which still held out in this territory, and she never knew for sure when she would come face to face with one.  The nearest farm was her father's, four miles away.  The family seldom left home, but on Sundays, occasionally.  Grandpa took his old muzzle-loader along, just in case.  He had other guns, relics of the War, but he liked the old one the best because he always kept a supply of black powder, and it seemed to fit better.

As years went on other settlers moved into the neighborhood which was filling up fast.  Neighbors were closer, and the little family moved on to a more desirable location two miles away.  More children arrived, and a school was built, but it was difficult to find a teacher.  The teacher had to have a certificate through eight grade.  One was found, however, and she opened the school which now stands today.  It had a different name -- The Happy Jack School-- and it was in a different place, but it was moved later and re-named the Sunnyview School.

This is no literary highlight, but I think it gives a fair account of life in this area as far back as this area was settled.  It proves one thing, "The first hundred years were the hardest."

By -- Phyllis Sherman  
  

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