A Look Into History

What would it be like if it took all day to get to and from church on Sunday?  What if a bath meant hauling water from the creek and heating it up on the stove?  What if all you and your family had to eat was what you grew or hunted for yourself?

My family and I were in Gatlinburg for a few days over Spring Break a few weeks ago.  One of the highlights of our trip was a 9-mile horseback ride in the Smoky Mountains.  Any nature lovers or horse lovers or birders or those who just love fresh air and sunshine should check out Great Smoky Mountain National Park, it’s awesome!

While on our ride we passed several tumbledown homesteads from the original settlers of the area.  Our guide pointed out watering holes and found objects like washtubs and metal bedsteads that are the only evidence humans ever lived there.

The path we rode along was an old wagon track that was wide enough (barely!) for two horses to ride side-by-side.  There were places where there was a sheer drop-off just next to the track, not a guard rail in sight.

I thought as we rode about what life was like in a place like that.  Of course, compared to some places people lived in the early 1800s, the sites we saw were practically an urban paradise.  You could get to town with an hour’s walk, much faster if you rode a horse or mule.

Even though just about everything people did involved more effort and planning than it does nowadays (you couldn’t just run down to the market if you ran out of sugar after all), I suspect life really wasn’t all that different then.  Mothers worried about their children. Fathers (and mothers) worked hard all day to provide for their families. Young people learned their letters, practiced their faith with their families and courted each other as young people have always done.

One of the hobbies I’ve been dabbling in lately is genealogy.  It’s amazing how much information is available for free online!  I think I’m related by blood or marriage to half of Auglaize and Mercer counties here in Ohio, LOL!

I’ve traced part of my family all the way back to the 1600s.  I recently found my great-great-great-grandmother’s parents’ names by checking a photo of a census report from 1860.  I’ve found ancestors that died in the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, including my great-grandmother, as well as an ancestor that died of gallstones (!) and one that died of tuberculosis.  I found families that had 10 or more children, and families that had just one baby girl that died in infancy.

I’d like to share a photo of my grandparents on their wedding day in 1942.  She is seated, and he is standing behind her.  He was 29 and she was 23 years old.

Wissman Wedding small

This is very different from the wedding portraits that we see nowadays.  However, I can’t help but think that in many ways they were EXACTLY like modern-day brides and grooms.  They are sharing a very special day with family and friends.  Was she nervous?  Was he?  Did they want children, and were they worried about how they would provide for any children they had?  She worked as a wrapper for a silverware company before they were married.  Did she continue to work?  Did they argue about it?  I don’t know.

Here is a fun, casual picture of them that I just adore.  I’m not sure how old they were in this photo.  See how the sun is in her eyes?  She looks like she’s laughing at something off-camera, and he’s got her arm around her.  But for the clothing styles this could easily be a modern-day couple.

Mom and Dad

It’s easy to feel that we have nothing in common with those who lived decades ago, or hundreds of years ago.  However, the more I study my family’s history, and history in general, the more I find that people are people, and we have more in common than we think.

QUESTION:  How do you think life is different now than it was in the 1800s?  How is it the same?


3 thoughts on “A Look Into History

  1. That is so very interesting thank you very much. We have done the same where our parents and grand parents came to America (Ellis Island) Also grandma was on the Carpathian that saved passengers on the Titanic. Also on my sisters husb. side one of the nephews married an Amish woman and I just bought her 2 books Why I left The Amish and Bonnet Strings. Being in the family I could not put the books down till I finished them. Was also a different type of living that we are not use to.Thank you again!!

  2. On some levels, life is much easier than in the 1800’s, but people were more attuned to their surroundings than we are today. We have too much social media, and not enough personal interaction, too many electronic devices, not enough just plain, good old downtime, sitting and watching the birds, the rain, the snow, and just being in the moment. I had this conversation with my husband at lunch one day, and I said that we are so dependent on the national weather service that we’ve lost the ability to rely on our instincts. In the past, previous generations could read signs from Mother Nature about rain, snow, etc. They would observe the way wildlife would prepare for any change in the weather, if it was going to be a hard winter, oaks would have an abundance of acorns early in the season, insects would be very active, etc. Folklore was what, and still could be, a link to our survival instincts, but first we have to disengage in the electronic distractions and re-center ourselves. Much easier said than done! I, for one, wouldn’t have made a good pioneer!

  3. Just a fun response from a friend– also shows you I read your stuff LOL.
    How Old is Grandpa?
    Stay with this — the answer is at the end. It may blow you away. One evening
    a grandson was talking to his grandfather about current events. The grandson
    asked his grandfather what he thought about the shootings at schools, the
    computer age, and just things in general..

    The Grandfather replied, “Well, let me think a minute, I was born before:
    ‘ television
    ‘ penicillin
    ‘ polio shots
    ‘ frozen foods
    ‘ Xerox
    ‘ contact lenses
    ‘ Frisbees and
    ‘ the pill
    There were no:
    ‘ credit cards
    ‘ laser beams or
    ‘ ball-point pens
    Man had not invented:
    ‘ pantyhose
    ‘ air conditioners
    ‘ dishwashers
    ‘ clothes dryers
    ‘ and the clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air and
    ‘ space travel was only in Flash Gordon books.
    Your Grandmother and I got married first, and then lived together..
    Every family had a father and a mother.
    Until I was 25, I called every man older than me, “Sir”.
    And after I turned 25, I still called policemen and every man with a title, “Sir.”
    We were before gay-rights, computer-dating, dual careers, daycare centers, and group therapy.
    Our lives were governed by good judgment, and common sense.
    We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong and to stand up and take responsibility for our actions.
    Serving your country was a privilege; living in this country was a bigger privilege…
    We thought fast food was eating half a biscuit while running to catch the school bus.
    Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins.
    Draft dodgers were those who closed front doors as the evening breeze started.
    Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends-not purchasing condominiums.
    My brother in-law sold these.
    We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, yogurt, or guys wearing earrings.
    We listened to Big Bands, Jack Benny, and the President’s speeches on our radios.
    And I don’t ever remember any kid blowing his brains out listening to Tommy Dorsey.
    If you saw anything with ‘Made in Japan ‘ on it, it was junk
    \\\\The term ‘making out’ referred to how you did on your school exam….
    Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, and instant coffee were unheard of.
    We had 5 &10-cent stores where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents.
    Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel.
    And if you didn’t want to splurge, you could spend your nickel on enough stamps to mail 1 letter and 2 postcards.
    You could buy a new Ford Coupe for $600, . .. . but who could afford one?
    Too bad, because gas was 11 cents a gallon.
    In my day:
    ‘ “grass” was mowed,
    ‘ “coke” was a cold drink,
    ‘ “pot” was something your mother cooked in and
    ‘ “rock music” was your grandmother’s lullaby.
    ‘ “Aids” were helpers in the Principal’s office,
    ‘ “chip” meant a piece of wood,
    ‘ “hardware” was found in a hardware store and
    ‘ “software” wasn’t even a word.

    ‘”a hat was worn outside, not in the house and never at the dinner table

    And we were the last generation to actually believe that a lady needed a husband to have a baby.
    No wonder people call us “old and confused” and say there is a generation gap.
    How old do you think I am? I bet you have this old man in mind….you are in for a shock! Read on to
    see — pretty scary if you think about it and pretty sad at the same time.
    Are you ready ????? . . . ..

    This man would be only 62 years old!!

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