The Families of Adam Keith

“Once upon a time ...”, family facts and tales


The good old days

Hudson Franklin “Frank” McCloughan [1869-1950]


Ancestry: Adam Keith1>Adam Keith2>Lewis Keith3>Rosanna [Keith] m. [John Sleeper] Smith4>Mary [Smith] m. [Charles Henry] McCloughan5>Hudson Franklin “Frank” McLoughan6



"How They Lived In The Good Old Days "


A Story Of The Activities Of Charles H. McCloughan And His Family,

As Told By His Youngest Son Frank McCloughan, January 1944


My father, Charles H. McCloughan, was born in Ohio, August 15, 1828 to Joseph H. McCloughan, a mild mannered, soft spoken Scotsman and his wife Martha McBride McCloughan, an Irish girl, born in Ireland, who was just the opposite in nature.


Transcribed by Russell Case

Charlotte, NC

May 5, 2000


This is a fascinating but poignant narrative of life in Indiana and Missouri in the middle of the 19th century.  I transcribed it from a typewritten copy that has been handed down to me. I have not attempted to edit or correct it ...


Charles migrated to Indiana and purchased a tract of virgin forest, between Pierceton and Warsaw, in Kosciusko County, a wagon and a team of young, fat, sleek oxen, named Buck and Bright, Buck was pure white and Bright was a deep bay or red. Both had long horns, tipped brass knobs. He provided his wagon with high bows and a heavy muslin cover in preparation for his wedding tour. About 1856 he was united in marriage with Mary Smith, born in Erie County, Pennsylvania, October 3, 1830, daughter of John Smith and his wife Rosanna Keith Smith, both American born Dutch, who had also migrated to Indiana. The oxen are hitched to the wagon, which had been stocked with cooking utensils, bedding, food, candle molds, candle wicking and other items available that was necessary, to their comfort to and in their now home. They sat on a seat formed by laying a wide board across the wagon bed near the front and drove the oxen to the forest land, which was to be their home, over a road made by cutting trees low enough so the stumps would pass under the wagon axles, in a space wide-enough for a wagon to pass through.


When they arrived at their destination they slept in the wagon and cooked over an open fire outdoors until Charles could build a cabin. When the first cabin was finished they moved in and then he built another, facing its leaving a space between sufficiently wide to permit a team of oxen to be driven between.  He then cut straight grained logs into lengths about fifteen inches long and used a rive to split them into clapboards, which he used to cover both cabins and the space between. He had built a large fireplace in the end of each cabin farthest from the entrance, and for heating and cooking purposes he would cut large logs and, with the oxen, drag them into the areaway between the cabins and roll them in and across the room to the fire place. These were called back-logs.  At night the large bed of coals, which as always provided, was covered with ashes to keep fire for the remainder of the night, then the clicking caused by winding the old weight-operated striking clock meant lights out for everybody.  If the fire became extinguished it was necessary to start another with a flint and steel, tow and punk, or take an iron pot or kettle and go about two miles to the nearest neighbor and borrow a kettle of fire. No matches until many years later.


For building fireplaces, and chinking between the logs of cabins they used soil wet until it became mud, and stirred until it would bake hard when dried or heated, and then mixed with twigs and small sticks. For floors, they cut trees of like size and cut the logs into lengths to conform to the interior of the room to be floored then split them in the center lengthwise and laid them flat side down on the ground floor and then use similar slabs laid flat side up to fill the depressions between the first ones laid. Then used an adz to smooth the surface of the top ones. That was called a puncheon floor. The cooking was done on the fireplace. Stoves were unknown to them. For light, they used candles. They were made in molds brought with them from the tallow from the many deer Charles killed and from tallow and fats taken from beef Charles purchased or won at shooting matches. If for any reason candles were not available they took a saucer of melted fat and laid a piece of cotton cloth in it and lighted one corner of the cloth, and snuffed it when it began to burn low.


Their first bedstead had two high posts and a headboard at the head and two low posts and a footboard at the foot.  Their posts were turned, having corrugated rings from top to bottom except where the railings joined the posts. There were round railings entirely around the bed. Those at the head and foot were firmly fixed, but on each of those at the sides were turned right and left screws, and large right and left screws to match were turned on the holes which they entered the head and foot boards, and the railings fastened In place by turning the railings, which were about three inches in diameter from the outside of the bed toward the center.  The railings were made from sycamore wood and at intervals of every six inches around the entire bed headed pegs also made from sycamore, that projected up about an Inch and slanted slightly out from the center when the railings were in place. A long rope, three-eighths of an inch in diameter, was looped at one end and the loop placed around a peg at the corner of the bed.  Then carried to the opposite and placed around two pegs, and this proceeding followed until all pegs at each end and the sides were filled, which formed a rope net with six inch meshes. On this were placed a straw or shuck mattress or tick, then two feather beds and other bedclothes. They slept on both feather beds in summer and between then in winter. No girl was considered ready for marriage until she owned two feather beds and many quilts, pieced by herself and some comforts. The bed clothing had to be removed and the rope tightened frequently; otherwise it would become sagged in the center. This bedstead was retained in the family and used until we moved to Iowa about 1880.  When the children arrived and became too big to sleep with the parents father, made a bed of boards with slat bottom a little smaller than the distance between the posts of the large bed and low enough to roll under it.  At night it was drawn out in the room and the children slept in it and in the morning it was made up and pushed beneath the large bed out of the way.


In the old days women wore dresses that touched the ground, two or more undershirts but no other underclothing and it was considered indecent to expose even the ankle. It was also considered indecent for a woman to wear underclothes other than skirts, as her dress was not supposed to be above her ankles at anytime so she did not need underclothes.  Hoops were worn on "dress-up" occasions, and when a woman sat down it was necessary to kick the hoops back toward the chair to cause them to lay flat and by that means prevent exposure.


Father was an expert rifleman but had only, a full stock flintlock rifle.  When he saw game he had to pour some powder from his powder-horn into the small pan on the right side and near the rear end of the rifle barrel, then cock the hammer, aim and press the trigger but he killed many deer, as deer were plentiful in his forest, Sometimes the powder from the pan would burn without ignition the powder In the gun barrel, That was called a "flash in the pan", or the powder in the pan would burn and the firing of the gun delayed perceptibly that was called a "hang fire".  At times my father or some of the neighbors would kill a steer and quarter it and hold a shooting match. They shot for each quarter separately, Each contestant paid a specified sum on money, the total amount to equal the value of the quarter of beef at about five cents a pound and when all the beef was disposed of they hold a match for the hide and tallows, and father usually brought home at least one quarter of beef, They used the hide, after tanning, for leather for shoes and the tallow for candles or soap.


In the fall, they took a log about eight inches in diameter and beginning at about six inches from one end, removed one quarter of it forming a trough with one open end.  They then took a short log about fifteen inches in diameter and another about twelve inches in diameter and laid this trough across them, open end on the smaller log which gave it a drop of about three inches. Then they built a frame about six feet square and about the same height, then set boards on end in the trough and leaned them against the frame forming a "V" then closed the ends of the "V" with boards. They lined this with hay or straw to prevent ashes from shifting through the cracks and covered it to turn rain, and each day they deposited accumulated ashes in this until full. In the spring they placed a vessel under the low end of the trough, poured water on the ashes which leached through into the vessel as lye.  Since the process was slow the small vessel was usually emptied each day into a larger one until the lye began to run weak.  Then the ashes were taken from the leach in which they had been stored and scattered and the lye tested for strength by dropping a fresh egg into it.  If the egg floated about one-eighth out of the lye, it was sufficiently strong to dissolve grease.  If it was too weak it was boiled until the desired strength was reached and then the fats were added and the mixture boiled until it became the nature of jelly. This was excellent soap and was used for all purposes for which soap is intended, as no other was available. For clothing they caught their sheep washed them in the creek, let them dry, sheared them and sent the fleece to a carding mill, where It was carded into rolls, then the rolls were taken home and spun into yarn on a spinning wheel, woven into cloth on a hand loom at home, the garment was cut out and made with a needle and thread, by hand. If coloring was desired they gathered barks and berries from the surrounding forests and did their own coloring. Flax was also home processed into linen, but cotton goods, what little they used, could be bought on the market forty miles away. Carding of wool was sometime done by hand at home but it was a slow process. On washday, Charles took a large iron kettle to a place down near the creek suspended It on a green pole and filled it with water and built a fire under it.  This supplied hot water and the creek supplied the cold, this was mixed in tubs made by Charles from wood from his own forest.  Home made soft soap was used. The only washing machine was the laundress and washboards had not been thought of. They removed what soil they could by rubbing the clothes between the hands and if that was unsuccessful they laid the garment on a log or stump and struck repeatedly with a round stick or paddle to remove the dirt.


Father was a veterinarian and also a shoe cobbler who repaired most all the damaged shoes in that locality. In addition to being one of the best marksman with a rifle in the state of Indiana, sometimes they would allow him to win one prize and then bar him from further competition in that shooting match.


After father's cabins were completed and a garden plot cleared he began clearing land for farming.  It was customary in those days for a landowner to fall the trees and trim them, pile the brush and let them season awhile and then invite all his neighbors to a log rolling.  On the appointed day, when all were present they would drag the logs to the brush piles and roll them on until the pile was as large as they could make it.  In the evening the host would have prepared a big dinner, and when this was over they set fire to the log heaps, and sang songs and told stories and otherwise enjoyed themselves. Sometimes there was a generous supply of home distilled whiskey, but no one became intoxicated, for that was a disgrace, and most of them had a still and made their own whiskey so It was not a rarity and it's use was not abused.  There was no tax on it and a bushel of earn valued at about twenty-five cents and a peck of rye valued at about ten cents would make four gallons of good whiskey. Of course one had to have the still and the know-how.  After father has cleared sufficient land to raise crops for his family need and for his oxen he purchased a saw mill. They used oxen for loading logs on the log wagon for the reason they were slow and steady and would stop immediately when commanded, but the horses would pull the logs up onto the wagon and then clear over it before they could be stopped sometimes wrecking the wagon.


Father and my older brothers, with a little additional help, operated the sawmill, and were financially successful.  As soon as he could saw lumber and season it he built a good house, and was able to accumulate some money, In those days a man with ten thousand dollars was rich and if he had twenty five thousand dollars he was very wealthy. No laborer had ever been paid as much as one dollar a day for many years after the period covered by this story.


After the Civil War in 1866 the cry, in the locality was "Go West" and get some of the cheap but fertile soil, while it could be purchased at a low price.  Father was soon convinced by his neighbors and friends that the West was the land of rare opportunities, but mother protested, and said they were doing well and had lots of good friends there where they were and that she did not want to go among strangers, make new friends and risk financial failure.  But father overruled her and decided to join a train that was forming by his friends to travel together.  So he sold his possessions that he did not want to take with him, bought two new wagons, two sets of new brass trimmed harnesses, brass knobs the top of the hames and brass stars an each tug, and other trimmings to match. He made bows for the wagons and covered them with heavy muslin then he bought two teams of beautiful young dappled gray horses to draw the wagons. He had the finest outfit in the train.  When he landed in Missouri; he had himself, wife and five children to feed, and flour was fourteen dollars per barrel and everything else in proportion, the native Missourian hated an Easterner more than the devil hates holy water, and would leave no stone unturned to cheat him or pauperize him.


He knew nothing about Missouri land and some shark sold him for cash one hundred and sixty acres of land most of which was In Shoal Creek bottom. He planted among other things a large field of corn which grew as he had never seen corn grow before. Each stalk had one ear and some had two or three large ones. Just as it was ready to be harvested the overflow from the Grand River and Shoal Creek came up just under most of the ears, and the ducks, geese and other water fowl, of which there were millions would swim up to an ear, shuck it and devour the grains. Father built a large boat and he and my older brothers went in the boat and gathered what they could to feed the horses over the winter, but the stalks softened and what they did not gather or the wild fowl get went down in the mud when the water receded, and was lost. A similar condition obtained for two or three more years. Then father signed some notes for security, for his friends when they came West with him, which he had to pay. Then he had illness that stopped him from working and caused him great expense and it was not long until he had only what he earned each day.