The James P. McPherson Family in 1853
A Semi-Annual Review of the Diary
HOME AND FAMILY In 1853, James P. ws 37 years old, and his wife was 30 years old. They had five children, William , age 10; James , age 8; Jabez, age 6; Anne, age 3, and baby Elizabeth, who was born on 4 Dec 1851. The boys all had their mother's maiden name of Burns as their middle names. Anne's middle name was Adamson after the last name of her aunt and uncle, Anne and Thomas Adamson. Baby Elizabeth was named after her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Spink of Arbroath, Scotland.
The family of seven continued to live in the log home that James P. built in 1850. The only mention of changes to the house was when strong winds blew part of the roof off. Even this occurrence was only given a line in the diary on 15th of April, and the repair was not even given a line. James P. did note that their livestock increased with the birth of two new bull calves, one each for Nan and Bass, as well as seven piglets.
The family continued to maintain Sunday as their family day which was spent at home with visitors coming to the house, or sometimes James P. went visiting neighbors. Several times neighbors and their wives came visiting to the McPherson home, but James P. did not indicate when or if Mary went visiting with him to the neighbors. His visits might have been more than just social, and included talk about politics and farm work, or he may just have left her at home with the five children.
It did appear that Mary was called upon as a healer when children or folks were ill, or for delivering a babe. Even though James P. and Daniel Lester were not speaking, Mary attended to Mrs. Lester at least three times in the spring of 1853. She was also called to the Bairds, Adam Davidsons, and Miles families. Once, James P. noted that Mary was at the store. It would have been nice if he had been more explicit as to Mary's activities, but then the diary was his diary.
During this year, there was a noticeable change in James P.'s farming habits. During 1850 and 1851, it appeared that his work was that of the new guy in Springdale; he worked for an exchange of services, but not exactly as an equal. However, in 1853, although the work exchange was still occuring, the diary reflected that he was feeling like an equal in the exchange. This change may have come about because he was more sure of himself in regards to the farm work, but also between his tailoring ability and his ability to write, keep records, and interest in politics and local government, he also had other unique marketable skills. It was noticeable that when neighbors ploughed or hauled rails and such for him, it was because he didn't have a horse or ox. James P. reciprocated with tailoring or other farmwork. He also wrote up mortgages, filed land papers and taxes, and letters for folks and was paid in cash. He was also called upon to make the sale of goods for folks in Springdale, although it is not clear whether this was a paid service or part of the local government.
It was also interesting to read about the extensive garden that he and Mary grew. In addition to wheat and hay, they planted corn, potatoes, peas, carrotts, beets, beans, onions, tomatotes, rutabagas, turnips, cabbage, and salad greens. They also planted melons, as well as getting a couple of plum trees which he obtained from Henry Borland. McPherson also noted that he planted Osage orange which was not edible, but had a number of uses necessary to pioneer farmers. Although, James P. never mentions chickens, I would be much surprised if they didn't have a small flock. The McPherson family appeared to have had a very healthy diet of vegetables, milk, cheese, bread and meat. A far cry from the first year and a half, when their diet was primarily potatoes.
Tailoring continued to be a source of income or exchange. James P. made vests for S. Lamount, Henry Borland, Jr., John Edi, and David Beats, as well as coats for Henry Oleg, Carl Lust and D. Douglas. Mary also cut a dress of C. Conchan. Considering this activity, though substantial, his tailoring did not appear to be his main source of income or exchange, as it did during the first two years.
The danger from lightening storms was noted by James P., as "Mrs. Young was killed by lightening in Paton's lane" on the 29th of May.
CORRESPONDENCE Personal corresponde continued between James P. and Anne Adamson as well as with the Cairncross family. In April 1853, Alex and William Cairncross traveled from Cincinnati to Springdale, and arrived on 17th of April. James P.'s other correspondence appeared to be more business and politically oriented. He wrote to Senator Whalley for information on the State Agricultural Society. He also corresponded with Ben Eastman, G. Bjornson, and Harper Brothers. He also ordered , for 25¢, the Evening Post from W.C. Bryant.
SOCIAL The McPherson family started off the New Year by “Keeping” the holiday, which in Scotland was Hogamany, the “first stepping” or first visiting of the new year. They were visited by J. Cunnningan, Thomas Miles, and Mr. and Mrs. Baird. Throughout the first half of 1853, the McPherson family often visited or were visited by the Thomas Miles, S. Lamount, William Jackman and wife, David Beat, A. Brown, A. Anderson, George Davidson, and the Henry and William Henderson families. McPherson also visited numerous other folks throughout the area. He attended "raisings" for David Beats' grainary and George Davidson's house. After the Cairncrosses (and A. Smith) arrived, he went “land hunting” with them. Many times visits to or from folks appeared to be work oriented because later a coat was made, or a raising occurred, or a barter for services, or for community busenss. For a variety of reasons and needs, James P. and Mary had a very busy life in their village of Springdale, Wisconsin.
COMMUNITY AND POLITICAL LIFE James P. showed his interest in local government, education and politics in the first months that he arrived in Springdale. He worked on the school, right along with working on building his own log home. He attended community meetings and by 1851 he was elected Town clerk. This interest not only continued but increased in 1853. He was elected Chairman of the Town Board on 5 April 1853, and jumped right in with his dealing with Town Business with J. Berges, T.Thomson and S. Shumway. He approved the Town Superintendent and others.
One of his first orders of business was to meet with S.Shumway to make out the road list. Some of the visits that he made, such as on the 14th April, to John Oleg, the Hendersons, S. Lamount and Adam Davidson may have been related to town busines and/or the roads. He was at S. Shumways on 23rd April to make out road lists. He also was at Thomas Miles on the next day with letters for Clerks of the County Court and the Board of Superisons. Then on the following Monday he was at the “village” (Springdale) and Town Treassurer and H. Hendersons. He also granted some kind of a liscense to Charles N. Collin.
Road business took up considerable time in April, May and June. McPherson made road lists as well as delivered road petitions to W. Thomson, H. Johnson, and made a road agreement between Jones and Lust. He also made and delivered an agreement between William Jackman and his brother-in-law regarding some issue.
On the 9th of June, he was "suponead" to appear at the Shumway case, and was, indeed, at Squire Thomas's, in Primrose Township, the next day in regard to the Shumway v. Holden case. The Squire found in favor of Holden.
On the 22nd of June, McPherson went to Madison, accompanied by “Messers. Cairncross, Smith, Beard and J. Conchan,” This was most likely in regard to land for Cairncrosses and Smith, as he was at “Forbes land with A. Cairncross and A. Smith” on Sunday, the 26th of June.
James P. McPherson had a busy and eventful first half of 1853, and we will be looking forward to see what the last half of the year brings to the McPherson and the folks in Springdale.
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© Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications