15 May 2008

Thursday Thirteen: Families in the Old West

By Penny Ash

Here's a Thursday Thirteen about children and families in the Old West, which were not so much different from today.

1. Women, and men, married early, sometimes as early as 12 or 13.
2. Children were born in cabins or out on the trail with little or no medical help unless the family lived in a city.
3. Children spent their time doing chores or playing.
4. There was school for the kids who lived in a town that had one, or had a mother who could teach them.
5. Women cooked and cleaned, did the mending and raised the kids while their husbands worked in the fields or the store or their chosen profession.
6. Families staved off attacks from natives in the area, diseases, and attacks from outlaws and other criminals.
7. Some women were abused and sought a divorce as a remedy, something that in most places took an act of the state or territorial government. If they could be convinced.
8. Some women became entrepreneurs, traveling to the gold fields and setting up restaurants, wash houses, and rooming houses.
9. Children sometimes had to raise themselves and take care of invalid parents or siblings.
10. Some families moved into Indian Territory and did things like my great great-grandfather who traveled through the territory as a medicine man.
11. Some women turned to crime and became outlaws themselves, they set up brothels, robbed banks, and rustled cattle.
12. Boys, and some of their sisters, learned to hunt and fish as well as work in the fields. Girls, and their brothers, learned to cook and clean, make soap and grow a garden.
13. And of course girls and boys grew up to be women and men who met and fell in love and got married and started all over with their own children.