Henry Bliss continues his recounting of the family’s travels and adventures in their new home:
While plowing among the stumps, Horatio broke a moldboard to the plow, so he and I walked to Portland and bought one, tied it to a pole, put the pole on our shoulders and carried it home, in one day. Another time we walked to Lansing and got some drag teeth. They were 1 ¼-inch teeth. We put them in bags, divided them equally in the bag, slung the bags over our shoulders, and carried them home. We bought them of Wm. Hildreth, who owned the Temple place and operated a foundry in North Lansing. We paid for them in work. I recall that Stebbins and I walked to Dewitt and bought some sheet iron for sap pans. We took along some eggs to pay for some groceries. We tied the sheet iron and the groceries to a pole and carried them home. Westphalia was our nearest town and I walked there many times to do our trading.
Ruben Gunn was a wagon maker. He lived just east of us. He made our first wagon. It was made with a wooden axle with a piece of strap iron over the top and bottom of the axle. We cradled all of our grain up to the time of the Civil War. We cut our hay with a scythe and raked it by hand. When the Civil War broke out, so many men went to war that help became scarce, so David and I bought a combination reaper and mower. We went to Lyons and bought a revolving rake. It was a simple affair but saved lots of work. We paid $110 for the first mower.
Father died in 1858, and left mother and me to struggle along. Then came the Civil War and all the boys responded to the call but David and me. Fortunately they all came back alive. Those were trying days. Mother died with typhoid fever in 1863, when all the boys were in the South. Sister Adeline died when Orval was born, in 1861.
The second year that were here we got the ague. This added to our misery. We took lots of quinine. Brandy and all the salt it would dissolve was the best remedy. Mr. Boughton and Mr. Hill had young orchards in bearing and we got our apples of them. We used to dry pumpkins for pies. We would slice the pumpkins in rings, hang them on poles and dry them. We had a cook stove, elevated oven; they were good heaters and answered the purpose of heating, cooking and baking. Philo Peck had an oven that they placed in front of the fireplace and baked with. The mosquitoes were thick and we had to build smudges in the house to smoke them out. After a while we got netting. We let our cattle run in common and had cowbells on them to locate them if they did not come home. The first year that we had cattle, we kept them on browse winters, as we had no hay. Cattle did well on it.
These are just a few of the incidents of early pioneer life. Here is another incident as related by Jim Warren. Stebbins and David Bliss went to St. Johns to mill one day. In those days we had to go around by way of the Jason schoolhouse. The land north and east was very low and filled with water, but a road had been cut through and they were building a causeway through the low land. Coming home it was late and they concluded to take the short way home. There were no “Detour” or “Follow the Arrow” signs along the highways. When they were within a mile and a half of home, the horses stopped suddenly. It was late and very dark. They got out and examined the cause and found that they were at the end of a causeway not completed. They could go no further, so they unloaded the grist onto some logs to keep it out of the water, lifted the box off, uncoupled the wagon, turned the wagon around, coupled it up again, put the box on, loaded up the grist, hitched the horses back on the wagon, retracked their path and went around, concluding that “the farthest way ‘round was the nearest way home.”
Quite a tale of perseverance and endurance. What a family to be part of! Below is an 1873 map that shows Bliss-owned property, as well as their neighbors in that year. Peck land adjoins Bliss land.
1873 map of Riley Township