Overcoming Adversity

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Southwest Virginia Project
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The following is a tale from Canada, but the sense applies to any pioneer settler's wife.

From Source:Traill, 1855

I knew the wife of an officer, who had settled on a government grant in the backwoods : she 'was a young woman who had never been accustomed to any other work than such light labour as the most delicate female may take pleasure in, such as the culture of flowers, and making pastry and preserves, and such matters ; but of laborious work she knew nothing. Well, it so happened, that her female servant, her husband, and also the man-servant, all fell sick with intermittent fever : in a few days both the man and the maid went home to their own friends, and this young wife, who was also a mother, and had a baby of ten months old, was left to nurse her sick husband and the child, and do all the work of the house. At first she was inclined to fret, and give up in despair, but when she looked upon her sick husband and her helpless babe, she remembered that duty required better things from her than to lie down and weep, and lament: she knew that other women had their trials, and she braced up her mind to do what was before her, praying to God to give her strength to do her duty, and she went on cheerfully and with a brave spirit. The spot where these people lived was very lonely; it was a new clearing in the forest, and there were not many settlers near them : it is now full eighteen years ago, and emigrants were not as well off then as they are now in their new settlements, and often had to put up with great privation, and encounter great hardships. Besides a few acres of fall wheat, they had half an acre of Indian corn, on which they depended in part for food for the household, and also for fatting some pigs for winter meat. The corn was just ripe, for it was the last week in September ; the greai golden pumpkins showed like gigantic oranges on the ground, between the rows of ripened corn ; but, alas! the fence was not very secure, and the hogs of a settler about half a mile off, came through the woods and destroyed the corn. The blue jays, and the racoons from the forest, came to share in the spoil; the grain was fast diminishing, which was to have done so much for the support of the little household. The poor wife looked at her fever-stricken husband, and at her baby boy; neither could help her, and at first she hesitated before she could decide upon which plan to pursue. However she left plenty of cooling drink by the bed-side of her sick partner, and with baby in her arms she set out to the field.
Fortunately it was close at hand, just beside the garden. She spread a shawl on the ground at the foot of a pine tree that stood on the clearing, and setting up an umbrella to shade the little one from the heat of the sun, she set to work on her task of gathering the corn. She soon became interested in the work, and though her soft hands, unused to rough labour, were blistered and chafed, in a few hours she had stripped the cobs from a large portion of the corn, and thrown them into heaps, running back from time to time to speak to her baby, and amuse him by rolling towards him the big yellow golden pumpkins, with which in a short time she had effectually fenced him round, while the little fellow, shouting with joy, patted and slapped the cool rind of the orange-coloured fruit with his fat white hands, and laughed with infant glee. Between gathering the corn, playing with the baby, and going to visit her sick husband, she had enough to do. She next brought out some large Indian baskets, into which she gathered up her corn. At sunset she dragged her little one home, mounted in great state on the top of one of the loads; weary enough she was in body, but well satisfied in mind, at her day's work. In this way she harvested and housed her first crop of Indian corn. Her husband was well enough to aid in storing the pumpkins by the time her task was finished. In after years she has often with honest pride related to her children, how she gathered in the first Indian corn crop that was raised on their bush farm. Possibly this very circumstance gave a tone of energy and manly independence of spirit to her children, which will mark them in their progress in after life.
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