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Missouri Vanderfords

When still in his teens, Eli Vanderford (2013) moved with his brother from North Carolina to Ohio. There he married and started his family. In the fall of 1838 he packed up and with all his children except two of the older boys, came down the Ohio River and the Mississippi River to Memphis, Tennessee and then proceeded inland by covered wagon along the Santa Fe Trail to Polk County, Missouri. The journey took only one month to complete. Eli and his sons settled on the new public lands just opening up on January 1, 1839.

Before public lands were surveyed and put onto the market, early settlers exercised the rights of squatter sovereignty. Eli had been witness in Ohio to the problems created when new settlers or speculators entered land occupied by a "squatter", dispossessed them and took advantage of their improvements. In Missouri the squatters organized for mutual protection. A number of the squatters went to Springfield, Missouri and were ready at the opening sale to look out for their own and their neighbors property. If a man did succeed in entering another man's claim he was never allowed to occupy it.

The native forest provided ample timber for a cabin. The cabins were built of rough logs with puncheon floors and clapboard roofs and doors. To make the clapboards, logs were cut in two-foot lengths, split into fourths and then the blocks were split into thin boards that were fastened down on the cabin roofs with wooden pegs. The puncheon floors were made of split logs with the flat side used for the floor surface. The round side was notched and fastened across studdings made of logs laid cross-ways of the room spaced a few feet apart. The doors were made of clapboard and fastened by wooden hinges. Strips of clapboard were fastened over the windows to keep out the wild animals.

The new settlers worked hard to get enough land cleared during the spring to plant enough grain for their breadstuff. They felled the trees with a chopping ax, rolled the logs in heaps, piled the brush on top and burned the huge heaps after it was too dark to cut timber any longer. There was plenty of free range for their livestock and an abundance of wild honey. The only source of cash income at first was from trapping and selling fur pelts at the small trading post at Springfield.

The vegetable garden was considered the woman's job. The gardens contained onions, lettuce, radishes, turnips, mustard, parsnips, popcorn, squash, pumpkin, beans, peas, peppers and potatoes. Most of the settlers in Missouri followed old southern customs. "They were sincere in their belief that planting the root crops in the dark of the moon and the leaf crops in the light of the moon brought a more abundant yield from their gardens and fields."32 Early lettuce was planted on Ground Hog Day (then February 14th), potatoes on St. Patrick's Day and the rest of the vegetables on Good Friday.

The early settlers grew only small patches of cotton, just enough to supply cotton thread to weave the cloth for the family needs. The tedious task of picking the small cotton seeds out belonged to the children. They also had to pick the seeds and burrs from the wool fleeces. The cotton and wool was then carded and spun into the thread that would be used to weave their homespun cloth. A quilting frame was fastened to the ceiling of the main room. When there was time to quilt the frame was lowered to a comfortable sitting height. It would later be raised up to the wooden pegs on the ceiling.

The vegetables, dried fruit and canned items were stored in the upstairs rooms of the large cabin homes. Piles of potatoes and turnips were covered with oak leaves and dirt deep enough to prevent them from freezing under the deep snow. Tender cabbage heads were buried in the soil with the roots protruding up like miniature trees. The cows, oxen and chickens were kept in a small log stable built to keep them out of the reach of panthers and wolves. Deer and other wild game as well as wild turkeys and fish were stored in the log smoke house.

Homemade soap was made in the yard in an ash hopper of split green timber built like a deep trough. Water was poured over green wood ashes in the hopper and lye would leach out of the ashes and drain down through a small wooden trough at the base of the hopper into a copper or iron container. This was mixed with fats from wild or domestic animals. The soap was then cooked down in a large cast iron kettle.

Without any medical doctors the settlers were compelled to depend on herbs for their medicines. "Rhubarb and yellow percoon roots were pulverized and used as a remedy for biliousness. Mullen leaves and wild cherry bark were boiled down and sweetened with honey for a cough medicine. ... Catnip and peppermint was considered croup medicine. Each spring sassafras tea was boiled in the iron tea kettles and served as a remedy that was supposed to purify the blood. Sassafras roots, dug in the spring just as the sap began to go back up into the plants, made a very delicious drink whether it had any medicinal value or not."33

During the unsettled years prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, neighboring Kansas flamed into anarchy. A pro-slavery posse of "border ruffians" sacked the town of Lawrence while bodies of "armed abolitionists" invaded the Territory. On August 30, 1856 John Vanderford (3011) was appointed to collect contributions of money and provisions for the relief of the Kansas Territory residents who were victims of this violence.

Even though Missouri was a "border state" during the Civil War conflict, the Vanderfords stood for the Union. John's (3011) son, John A. Vanderford (4041), served in the 15th Missouri Infantry and Monroe Vanderford (4016) served in the 8th and 14th Missouri Cavalry. Asa Ratcliff Vanderford (3016), even though he was in his forties, served in the Dallas County Regiment, Missouri Home Guards.

Vanderfords standing in their Idaho wheat field.

Eli Vanderford's (2013) extended family stayed mostly in the Polk and Dallas Counties area until the end of the Nineteenth Century. Near the turn of the century Eli's grandchildren moved on to Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico and Idaho. In the early 1900s Eli's great grandchildren were farming the lands along the Snake River in Idaho. Farming in the same areas were great grandchildren of Eli Vanderford (3003) of the Iowa branch. At the beginning of the 1800s, William (2012) and Eli (2013) Vanderford were early pioneers in Ohio and 100 years later their descendants were again pioneering new lands, this time in Idaho.


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