I’ve often thought of what it would have been like to live in another time. Especially back when pioneers were making their way across America, heading west for the promise of gold and a better life. To feel the spirit of adventure and excitement while loading up a covered wagon to head into the unknown. To truly depend on the land and instincts to survive.
This week, our homeschool group went on a field trip to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, CA. It was fun taking a peek into how some of the first pioneers lived their lives on a daily basis. So many things that we take for granted were completely unknown to them. Here are some pictures of our day, so you too can take a peek into life during the birth of California as we know it.
I was very surprised to see just how narrow the covered wagons actually were. I had just assumed that they were probably about as wide as a large vehicle, but they were probably half that. In fact, people didn’t even ride in the wagons. They were just for transporting their belongings, while everyone else walked alongside. The trips generally took 6 months. Could you imagine walking all day, everyday, for 6 months? Even the children. My children complain about how tired they are after a few blocks!
It was very interesting to learn that pioneer women and children didn’t put pockets in their clothing because fabric was too expensive. Instead, they made one pocket, which they would tie under the top layer of whatever clothing they were wearing. Young girls would often carry their doll around with them in their pocket. That doll was usually their one and only toy! I’m not sure what boys would carry, but I’m sure it was probably full of random rocks, sticks, and maybe a pocket knife or slingshot if they were anything like the young boys I know now.
How would you like to cook all your meals outside, over an open flame, for 6 months. I imagine it would have been difficult if it were very rainy or windy. You would have to be very diligent to keep your young children close by, so they weren’t carried off by large animals who had been attracted by the scent of your meal being prepared.
Surrounding the fort, in all the outer walls, were cannons pointed out open windows. I think it is sometimes easy to forget that there had already been many native peoples on the land before the settlers came. They weren’t going to just give up their home without a fight. Right next door to Sutter’s Fort there is the California State Indian Museum. It is nice that they were able to preserve so much of their history there at least, even though their way of life was destroyed. There are no pictures of the museum because photography is not allowed inside out of respect for the Native American beliefs. Going back on my grandmother’s side were European settlers, and on my grandfather’s side were Native American’s, so I am very interested in the histories of both groups of people.
If you notice the bed, it is being held up by ropes going all around it. My good friend who was on the field trip with us pointed that out to me. Apparently, that is where the phrase “Sleep tight” comes from. You would want to make sure that your ropes were pulled tight so your bed didn’t sag or fall while you were sleeping in it. I really love the pitcher and vintage shaving materials on the dresser. My grandma had a very similar set in her bedroom and this was a sweet reminder of her and my grandpa.
I am a huge fan of old artifacts and vintage items, so I had to take this picture. Check out the hour glass! And I believe the feathers you see behind it are quill pens.
This looks like a scene out of an old movie. It is amazing to think of the labor and craftsmanship that went into every thing that was made back then. There were no assembly lines or factories in other countries. A blacksmith would learn his trade from his father, starting at a young age, and then likely pass it down to his son’s as well. Or a young boy would be an apprentice, working for years under the careful eye of a master until he was skilled enough to work on his own. This “schooling” equipped young people with the skills they needed to be productive citizens.
In one of the information areas at the Fort, I read that if a man couldn’t use a gun to protect himself, he wouldn’t last long.
“The first Wal-Mart,” one of my friends jokingly said as we were looking at the General Store in Sutter’s Fort. There were some animals hanging off the wall in the back, some pickles, and garlic, looked like some kegs, and that about did it for the food. The store also carried fabric and sewing materials, cooking ware, lanterns and candles, and various other odds and ends that I’m sure were needed at that time. I’m reminded that they didn’t have electricity so all work had to be done in the daytime or by candlelight.
I called this the “Textile Room,” although I’m not sure if that is what they called it. You can see the spinning wheels along the back wall, and the room was mainly taken up by large weaving looms. And I can barely get my sewing machine to work!
I love this picture, but I almost didn’t include it because I am not sure what it is. If anyone has an idea, please let us know in the comments!
This is where the cooking was done. The women would take turns cooking for everyone in the fort, and then all the residents would share a meal together in the dining hall. I remember thinking that it wasn’t a very ventilated room, and probably got smoky often. There were no windows.
And for the last picture: this large farm table. Isn’t it beautifully crafted? I would love this in my kitchen. I know it is hard to tell the size of it in this picture, but there were 11 children (my kids and their homeschool friends) sitting at it, with plenty of room left over. This whole area makes me happy. So clean and minimalistic- just warm wood, fresh air, and sunlight.
Have you ever been to Sutter’s Fort or any other historical sites? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Please subscribe to my weekly newsletter: