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La Charrette Village

Interested in what Lewis & Clark, Daniel Boone, Zebulon Pike, John Colter, President Jefferson and other notables thought about America's newly acquired westernmost village? Enjoy the west...before it became distorted by TV, movies and novels.

Location: Port Aransas, Texas, United States

A retired professor of Food and Animal Science at Texas A&M University, The University of Connecticut and Texas Tech. A cowboy in my previous life...never thought about being a professor or an author.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Horses, Cattle, Dogs, Poultry and Swine

Farm animals first came to the frontier at La Charrette with the settlers. The title link tells of how the family and friends of Daniel Boone drove their cows and hogs from Kentucky aided by horses and dogs. All were essential. Horses were used for riding and clearing and cultivating the land. Oxen were also used as draft animals. They were considered stronger than horses but much slower. Cattle also furnished milk and meat. Sometimes mares milk was even consumed. Geese and chickens provided eggs and meat while hogs offered more variety as pork. All were free-roaming...allowed to graze the countryside for their food. Dogs assisted the settlers when hunting and in rounding up the livestock. The picture of an oxen pulling a plow on the Missouri frontier is from an article by C. L. Goodwin in volume 14 of the 1920 issue Missouri Historical Review. La Charrette landowner Charles Tayon harnessed his oxen with raw hide strips tied about the horns; not a yoke like the one shown here.

The relationship between frontiersmen and their horses, oxen, milk cows and dogs was intimate. All were given names and thought of a valued companions. This same symbiotic relationship continues today, most prominently for horses and dogs. Most of these domestic animals would be considered as 'scrub' livestock by standards of today. Generally they were smaller, in poor health and much less productive. To contrast the conditions described above with those of today and learn about exciting careers in the modern world of animal science proceed to http://animalscience.tamu.edu/ansc/facilities/klebergcenter.html This Texas A&M University facility was my academic home for most of 22 years when serving as a professor of animal science there.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Women...often forgotten in history

Women in early frontier settlements experienced lives far different than those of today. As rugged as life might have been for their men and children, the women not only toiled continuously with family and household chores, they maintained the homefront in the absence of the men. And, they occupied the bottom rung on the societal ladder. Even among the women stratification was evident. Blacks, either free or enslaved, ranked lowest followed by Native American women with whites at the top. These social conditions are discussed in some detail at the title link. The two women shown above are from Callaway County, home to Cote sans Dessein. Pictures taken before the 1876 publication of the History of the Pioneer Families of Missouri (its source) by Wm. S. Bryan, a Boone family descendant.

Of the women at La Charrette, few had anything recorded on their behalf except for Rebecca Boone and her family member Nancy Howell Callaway. None recorded anything about themselves during the early years at La Charrette, although Callaway did learn to write ten years following the 1815 death of her husband. At Cote sans Dessein, things were little different. There Julia Royer Roy was one of few recorded as a heroine for her exceptional skills in saving a fort under attack in 1815. Like La Charrette citizens, those at Cote sans Dessein were mostly, if not all, illiterate.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Frontier Food

Consider for a moment how our world food culture has changed over the past 200 years. Today, we have ready access to an international array of wholesome foods in the local Wal*Mart Super Center while those living on the frontier only consumed whatever was locally available to them. At La Charrette the selection was limited. The role of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals were either vaugely understood, not understood at all, or in most cases not yet discovered. As a result, those most vunerable - the children, the sick and elderly - suffered. These realities, combined with equally poor medical support, resulted in short spans of life on the frontier. Even the water supply was most often suspect. Today's concept of consuming 'natural' foods should not be considered as the equivalent of consuming diets like those offered at La Charrette. As unbelievable as it may seem, I clearly remember malnourished children and adults with primary vitaman and other nutrient defiencies as late as the 1940s in the nearby community of Marthasville, Missouri where I grew up.

All this aside, those on the frontier who obtained a wide enough variety of foods flourished just as well as we do today. To see what was served and how it was prepared on the Missouri frontier proceed to the title link. Contrast these alternatives with the so called 'fast foods', microwaveable dinners and other instant foods available today. And remember, you did not need to grow, harvest, prepare or hunt for these foods to be cooked over an open fire. Any wonder that today less than 6% of society represent the food chain while essentially 100% were devoted to that need on the frontier of 1880? But then self-inflicted obesity was not a major societal problem either.

The above family sketch comes from the History of the Pioneer Families of Missouri by Wm. S. Bryan, published 1876. Lucky for me, I acqiured this 569 page book for $5.00 in 1993 in a Lubbock, Texas City Library sale. Notice that the father is slaughtering a hog as pelts hang about the house. Here they explained 'how' they ate... hunting knives used as fork and knife "aided by the fingers" and water was drunk from a gourd. Anyone for the Golden Arches?

The Lives of Native Americans

Native American life was equally sophisticated to that of frontier settlers as demonstrated in this picture. Here a large cottonwood log is being crafted into a canoe. Notice the array of tools required to accomplish the task. These and other skills were shared with settlers, just as the settlers shared skills unique to them with the Native Americans. Picture taken at the Lewis and Clark Rendezvous Celebration of May 2004 in Marthasville Park, Warren County, Missouri.

The title link directs you to Chapter 4, pages 27 - 37, of La Charrette. Here you may study an overview of daily Native American life on the Missouri River. From page 27, it will be possible to proceed two pages further in either direction. Next enter page '32' in the Google search engine provided and repeat the process to continue through this chapter five pages at a time.

To learn more of Native American cultural developments along the Missouri River proceed to http://coas.missouri.edu/mas/articles/articlemotimeperiods.html Here you may develop a greater appreciation for their archaeological past and how it influenced cultural advanced across time. Many other such webpages are available.

Living at La Charrette

Living at La Charrette Village was unique compared to almost any standard of today. The title link takes you directly to Part Two, pages 43 - 163, of the 2003 issue of La Charrette: Village Gateway to the American West. This on-line copy is identical to the hard copy and will offer school children and scholars of history as well as casual readers the opportunity to delve into this aspect of frontier American life. By January of 2006 the reissued copy, La Charrette: A History of the Village Gateway to the American Frontier Visited by Lewis and Clark, Daniel Boone, Zebulon Pike..., will replace the the 2003 issue. An early review of this issue appears at http://www.kirkusreviews.com/kirkusreviews/discoveries/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001350947

The material presented offers the reader the most completely researched rendering of their daily lives. The villages of La Charrette and Cote sans Dessein represented the most western American settlements for a full decade following the Louisiana Purchase. No Americans lived in permanent settlements beyond these settlements. As such, these villages protray an unequalled opportunity to grasp frontier life, to learn what 'Americanization' was really all about, and how it all started on the very cusp of America's new frontier. At the same time we may participate in the celebration of two national bicentennial celebrations intimately linked with the families living there. The medallion shown above depicts yet another view of life at La Charrette with their little 'barefoot' wooden carts and a typical bousillage cabin in the background. The commerative medallion was a gift to me from the Marthasville Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee of 2004.

To navigate through La Charrette the book, follow the instructions as provided. For example, the title link will take you to page 43. You may access only three pages in either direction from there, i.e. back to page 40 or forward to page 46. To continue in either direction, enter the desired page number in the Google search engine provided. Its a bit awkward, but pretty easy to learn.

Life at a typical frontier French village on the Missouri frontier is presented at http://www.ecarter.k12.mo.us/dept/elementary/fourthgrade/ccrites/frenchvillageassignment.html This site, and the one offered below, is especially informative to youthful school children. The following site offers insights from Cahokia and Kaskaskia, Illinois where the Chartran, Cardinal and Tayon families lived before crossing the Mississippi River to St. Louis, then up the Missouri to St. Charles, and eventually to La Charrette. Learn more of their lives there at http://www.lib.niu.edu/ipo/2000/ihy001217.html