The store bills were very light. A little tea for father and mother, a few spices and odd luxuries were about all, and they were paid for with surplus eggs. My father and my uncle had a sawmill, and in winter they hauled logs to it, and could sell timber for $8 per thousand feet.
The school was taught in winter by a man named Bowen, who managed forty scholars and considered sixteen dollars a month, boarding himself, was pretty fair pay. In summer some smart girl would teach the small scholars and board round among the families.
When the proper time came the property holder would send off to the collector an itemized list of all his property, and at another the taxes fell due. A farmer who would value his property at two thousand or three thousand dollars would find he had to pay about six or seven dollars. All the money in use then seemed to be silver, and not very much of that. The whole plan seemed to be to have every family and farm self-supporting as far as possible. I have heard of a note being given payable in a good cow to be delivered at a certain time, say October 1, and on that day it would pass from house to house in payment of a debt, and at night only the last man in the list would have a cow more than his neighbor. Yet those were the days of real independence, after all. Every man worked hard from early youth to a good old age. There were no millionaires, no tramps, and the poorhouse had only a few inmates.
I have very pleasant recollections of the neighborhood cider mill. There were two rollers formed of logs carefully rounded and four or five feet long, set closely together in an upright position in a rough frame, a long crooked sweep coming from one of them to which a horse was hitched and pulled it round and round, One roller had mortices in it, and projecting wooden teeth on the other fitted into these, so that, as they both slowly turned together, the apples were crushed, A huge box of coarse slats, notched and locked together at the corners, held a vast pile of the crushed apples while clean rye straw was added to strain the flowing juice and keep the cheese from spreading too much; then the ponderous screw and streams of delicious cider. Sucking cider through a long rye straw inserted in the bung-hole of a barrel was just the best of fun, and cider taken that way “awful” good while it was new and sweet.
The winter ashes, made from burning so much fuel and gathered from the brush-heaps and log-heaps, were carefully saved and traded with the potash men for potash or sold for a small price. Nearly every one went barefoot in summer, and in winter wore heavy leather moccasins made by the Canadian French who lived near by.
About 1828 people began to talk about the far West. Ohio was the place we heard most about, and the most we knew was, that it was a long way off and no way to get there except over a long and tedious road, with oxen or horses and a cart or wagon. More than one got the Western fever, as they called it, my uncle James Webster and my father among the rest, when they heard some traveler tell about the fine country he had seen; so they sold their farms and decided to go to Ohio, Uncle James was to go ahead, in the fall of 1829 and get a farm to rent, if he could, and father and his family were to come on the next spring.