Friday, October 7, 2016

Moving West - Domestic Chores - 1824-27 in Missouri


In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson quietly purchased the territory of Louisiana from the French government for $15 million. The Louisiana Purchase stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to New Orleans, & it doubled the size of the United States. To Jefferson, westward expansion was the key to the nation’s moral health. He believed that a republic depended on an independent, virtuous citizenry for its survival, & that independence & virtue went hand in hand with land ownership, especially the ownership of small farms. “Those who labor in the earth,” he wrote, “are the chosen people of God.”

Gottfried Duden, Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America: Written during a stay of several years along the Missouri, 1824-1827.


A woman on the Montana frontier in the 19C. Photo by Evelyn Jephson Cameron (This photo is decades later than the narrative; but it is by a female photographer, and I just couldn't resist.)

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI. October 26, 1824. Domestic chores for women on the frontier

"The choicest settlements are along the Ohio, the White, and the Wabash rivers. The state was established in 1816 and, at present, has a population of about a hundred and fifty thousand souls. Slavery is as little permissible as in the state of Ohio and in Illinois. It is claimed that this law is not favorable to the rapid progress of the interior.

"The state of Ohio has been able to increase its population more easily through the immigration of poor settlers from the Atlantic states. Settlements in the more remote regions, however, require more means, which are almost exclusively in the possession of such persons who, because of their education and their circumstances, are relieved from spending all their time in physical labor, and usually make use of servants or slaves in establishing settlements.

"As long as the population is sparse, servants are very expensive. I have stayed overnight in houses that were very luxurious in their accoutrements, with costly carpets in all rooms, but one asked in vain for a servant. The landlord was compelled, in spite of his considerable wealth, to care personally for the horses as well as for the guests.

"Furthermore, his wife and daughters had to perform the most menial household tasks. Their only topic of conversation was that they wished to sell their establishments in order to move to a state where one could keep slaves."
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