Rivard, John T. / Triple centennial jubilee souvenir book : Somerset
Chapter III: life in the Apple River settlement, pp. 14-15
THE VILLAGE, aside from the mills, contains a hotel, store, blacksmith shop, a good substantial school house and about thirty dwellings. It is pleasantly located on Apple River, which affords an abundant water power. Such is the home of SAM HARRIMAN, where he lives, thrives and has his being, and head- quarters for the Superior Land Grant Agency, "of whom he is which," by recent decision of the powers that be in Washington. Another feature (good one at that) is ED. FANNING, right hand supporter and aid-de-camp to the General. Ed. sells sugar and calico, lumber and tape. Ed. entertains company in princely style, and attends to business like one born to the trade. To him are we indebted for much information regarding the town and its prosperity this season. Over one thousand acres of new breaking has been done this year, and the teams are still at work. New farms are being opened up, new dwellings and fences erected, and business of every class flourishing. And there is yet room for improvement. Lands are cheap and emi- grants can find plenty of chances to make homes. Somerset is a success, and is destined to be one of the best towns in St. Croix County. Drive on, Somerset! CHAPTER III LIFE IN THE APPLE RIVER SETTLEMENT The first settlers who came to the Apple River from 185o to 1 856 were drawn here by the possibility of obtaining a homestead from the land owned by the United States of America. First they would choose a likeable piece of land suitable for farming. The settler would build himself a log cabin. Between clearing the land and sowing what he had cleared in wheat and rye, he would work in the woods or on the log drive down the Apple River or the St. Croix. Our hearty pioneers were adapted to any kind of hard labor. Sometimes immediately, or being in no rush to decide permanently yet, sometimes a year or two after settling, they would file an entry or claim at the U. S. Land Office in Hudson, the county seat. This entry would be sent to Washington whereupon a patent, or first deed, signed by the President of the United States himself, would be issued to the homesteader. Upon payment of about z5c per acre the homesteader received his patent and the land was his to have and to hold. Several families in the township have to this day their original patent issued by Presidents: Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson and Grant, from 185o to 1870. David Germain made the first claim on July 18, 1851. Ambrose Martell Log House The Oldest House, Logs Are Covered with Tin Jroseph Parent made the next claim on December 1, 1852. he claims were usually made a year or two after settling. This whole territory was then known as La Pointe de ]a Pomme de Terre, in English - Potato River. This was the name given it by the Parent brothers, or the Indians. Pomme de Terre word for word means apple of the earth. When the English speaking loggers and trappers came they translated the pomme to apple and dropped de terre, called it the Apple River and let it go at that. The old Frenchmen still call it La Pomme de Terre. After General Harriman named his little village Somerset, the French speaking pioneers by common usage began calling the territory Somerset also, but it did not come out the same way. In the Province of Quebec most small places are called after the title of the parish: St. Anne, St. Pascale, St. Jean, etc. When the Frenchmen heard the name "Somerset" it sounded to their French ear like "St. Morrissette". So the early pioneers called it St. Morrissette; Some oldtimers still do. Little by little the pioneers pushed back the forest and set their breaking plows to the virgin soil. These hardy Frenchmen would then take their poche a semance (broadcasting sack) and sow wheat. What about the tough pine stumps? With a team of oxen and a block and tackle they would grub and pull them out, spending hours on one stump. No dynamite those days! Le jaivelier (cradlescythe) and the fleau (flail) were their instru- ments of harvest. The women would use the lighter faucille (hand sickle) to cut the wheat, tying the wheat into javelles (bundles). After flailing the wheat they would vanner (fan) the grains by pouring the grains from a bread pan in the air so that the wind would blow out the chaff. No grain was ever lost. The men and especially the women and children would take a rateau (wooden toothed rake) and go over the field. When they needed supplies or clothing they would throw in a few sacks of wheat and make their way by ox cart (charette) to the nearest grist mill, having it ground to flour or selling it to the miller. The dairy industry did not develop until the cheese factories came in the 8o's and 9 's. They had only a few cows. Mother skimmed the pans of milk and made butter with her baratte (churn). Outside of the cabin was a four (oven made of masonry) where Mother baked bread. Mother also made her own soap. Un rouet a filer (spinning wheel) stood handy in the main room of the house. Many an hour did our randmothers spend at that wheel! La machine a tisser (hand om) weaved the thread into cloth. And the heavy wool stuff was plenty picky! Le foin (hay) was cut, raked and stacked by hand - no big barns those days! La Charrette (ox cart) was the transportation for hay, wheat and people. Felix and Adolph Parent threshing machine 1893. Note that first steam engines were horsedrawn. Joseph Sicard, Amable Parent, Sr., Edward Dumais, and Albert Germain.
© Copyright 1956 by John T. Rivard