Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part I from Pleasant Grove: About those pioneer women January 24, 2017

pleasant-grove-town-hall-99-historical-marker

 

I ALMOST CAN’T BELIEVE what I am reading:

The first “real” settlement, with housekeeping and women, in Olmsted County was made in 1853 by Philo S. Curtis in the village of Pleasant Grove, then known as Curtis. The following year Mr. Curtis opened the Pleasant Grove House, a three-story log hotel at the junction of the Pioneeer (Fort Atkinson) Trail and the Territorial Road (St. Paul-Dubuque Road)…

 

pleasant-grove-town-hall-100-close-up-of-sign

 

Reread those first words: The first “real” settlement, with housekeeping and women

 

pleasant-grove-town-hall-98-side-view

 

What exactly does that mean? The words are posted on a sign erected in 1966 (or maybe it was 1986 at the Pleasant Grove Town Hall; I can’t decipher the decade) by the Olmsted County Historical Society.

 

pleasant-grove-town-hall-102-ballot

 

Pleasant Grove, as I understand the historical marker, was the first settlement in this southeastern Minnesota County where women lived. And those women were tasked with housekeeping. (Maybe more?) Now there’s nothing wrong with either sex assuming household duties. But I’m bothered by the wording; as a woman, it just strikes me as wrong. This is, after all, 2017, not the mid 1800s. A woman ran for President. Women ran for office everywhere, even in Olmsted County. We can vote. We can march. Perhaps this could be written in a more positive way to honor the early pioneer women who settled here.

 

pleasant-grove-town-hall-103-front-of

 

And why were so many towns named after men? Did you catch that? Philo Curtis established the village, originally called Curtis. Thank goodness someone had the good sense to change the name to the much more pleasing Pleasant Grove.

 

pleasant-grove-town-hall-101-meeting-notices

 

Now, if only someone would replace the weathered, nearly unreadable historical marker with something more pleasant.

TELL ME: What are your thoughts on the wording of this sign? Should it be changed? If so, what would you write? Or is it OK given the historical context?

FYI: Please check back as I bring you more discoveries from my stop in Pleasant Grove several months ago, well before winter arrived.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Wash day May 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:59 AM
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I CARE NOT ONE bit that he detests the rough feel of a scratchy towel against his skin, the abrasive texture of cotton encasing his foot or the stiffness of line-dried blue jeans brushing against his legs.

Nothing. Not my teen’s complaints, or pleads or requests will stop me from hanging freshly-laundered clothes outside to dry.

It is one of my joys—to hoist a basket of wet clothes onto my hip, lug the basket upstairs from the dark cave of a basement laundry room and then step onto the back stoop into the bright sunshine of a spring morning.

Methodically I work my way through the pile of wet clothes, clipping them onto the clothesline as the early day sun warms my fingers and the wind whips socks and jeans and underclothing and shirts into a frenzied dance.

The simplicity of this task pleases me, connects me to the land and to the women before me who toiled, hanging their faded calico dresses, their hand-stitched crazy quilts, their worn aprons, and the patched trousers of their men and sons under the prairie sun.

As my fingers touch the wet cloth, bind cloth to line, I am bound, by this simple act of hanging out the wash, to generations of women.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling