These days it is easy for us to brew a quick cup of a hot drink, and hardly stop the flow of conversation. Even if it is just a cup of hot water heated up in the microware with a tea bag thrown in…it takes less than two minutes.
Back in the pioneer days—depending on if you were traveling or on the homestead—you’d have to gather the wood, start the fire, go outside to a well or creek to draw up a bucket of water, put an enamel pot over the fire to heat up the water, roast and grind the coffee beans, etc (sigh) before even thinking of savoring that hot cup of brew.
The time consuming work of getting meals—or even an afternoon cup of coffee on the trail—was very evident when I was researching and writing my Trail of Thread series.
For example, Deborah and John Pieratt, featured in the Trail of Thread, the first book of the Trail of Thread series left Kentucky in 1854 when the Territory of Kansas was formed. They were part of the thousands of families that packed wagons and headed east for the promise of a new life. They had to gather wood for a fire for every cup of hot drink they made for three months. I’m sure conversations with other women they met along the trail were welcomed, but short, due to the groups moving on every day.
Thimble of Soil, the second book in the series, features Margaret Ralston Kennedy. She was a widow who moved with eight of her thirteen children from Ohio to the Territory Kansas in 1855. She was dedicated to the cause of the North, and helped with the Underground Railroad in both Ohio and Kansas. Did she brew and secretly give hot drinks to people hiding under her watch? Did Margaret have a chance to ask where her visitors were from let alone where they were headed?
Orphaned Maggie Kennedy, portrayed in Stitch of Courage, the last book in the series, followed her brothers to Kansas looking for a better life as the states fought out the history of the Civil War. Again, think of the work it took to make a cup of coffee behind the battle lines, and how welcomed a normal conversation with someone from home would have been.
This series, written in the form of letters the women have written back home to loved ones portray the life and times of that generation. I wish I could have a cup of tea with one of my ancestors to get to know her, and her way of life.
I imagine there would be talk, gossip, laughter, and tears—with that cup of tea…
Trackback from your site.