Quakers were among the earliest settlers of Niagara County, and one such woman left a fascinating account of those early days in a journal she faithfully scribbled in daily.
Aunt Ednah Dean Smith and her husband, Dr. Isaac W. Smith, migrated to Lockport in April of 1821, and left a legacy detailing pioneer life in the rapidly emerging county. The late county historian Clarence O. Lewis said she was dubbed Aunt Ednah "because of her lovable ways."
Today personal journals have largely been replaced by disappearing blogs, which will undoubtedly cause consternation among historians of the future. But old-time journals still exist, and Aunt Ednah's is one of the most interesting.
The good doctor bought a lot in Lockport and contracted to have a log house built. Ednah said in her journal that they expected the house to be completed when they arrived with all their possessions, but were shocked at the scene they encountered.
"We were confronted with a sorry outlook," she penned. "The logs were up in the shape of a house, to be sure, and a temporary roof was on made of oak staves lashed to the rafters, but there were no doors or windows, no partitions, a small fireplace with the back of the chimney on the lower floor, from the ceiling it had four sides up to the roof. Altogether it had a very dreary air to one accustomed to the common comforts of life."
They moved in, put up a bed and hung blankets over the open windows and doorway. Without many materials with them, they had to fasten the blankets to the wood with forks.
But, as luck would have it, "that night a terrific storm of wind and rain came on, accompanied by thunder and lightning. The strain on the forks was tremendous and finally notwithstanding all our experience out they flew and down came the wet blankets, flapping and fluttering in the room."
They moved the bed away from the rain and tried to sleep through the night.
The next day they sent to Niagara Falls for windows and doors. Luckily, it did not rain again until they had the windows and doors installed.
The floor consisted of planks that were not nailed down, she wrote, thus they clattered when walked upon. And then they warped, "until they were not unlike a cradle in shape," increasing the clatter. She said they had to turn the planks over every couple weeks to flatten them out. Then a neighbor building a log house had a chimney collapse, and some workers were injured. Aunt Ednah took them in to care for the injured and house the homeless.
"We had no place for them but a low loft or chamber where two were put, the other on a cot in our common room. A ladder was the only access to the chambers and up that we climbed with all the appliances necessary to care for the sick and wounded."
Eventually, she said, they finished the cellar, replaced the roof and raised it by putting several more logs on the sides. But all did not go well with that construction job either.
The man they hired to do the work promised faithfully, she wrote, that the work would be completed immediately.
"One fine morning he brought a large force of men and the roof was removed," she wrote. Nothing was taken from the chambers, so certain were we that it would be completed the next day. The workmen left at noon for dinner and nothing more was heard from them for a week.
"As could be expected, the weather did not cooperate and rain came during that period, soaking the insides of the house. We were obliged to sit with raised umbrellas to protect us from the rain."
But they finally got the house completed and lived there for several years. She kept a positive attitude despite these annoyances, noting some had it worse, with "agues, fevers and other diseases incident to a new country."
In later years, she added, "notwithstanding these trials and tribulations, I can look back to no part of my life in which was more real enjoyment than the first few years of our life in Lockport. We had youth, health and hope of better times to animate us, and so much neighborly kindness and good feeling as rendered inconveniences endurable."
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||March 1, 2011|