“Memories of EarlyDays”
Melinda Ann Warren Weaver,
Darlington Wis., December 21, 1875
Transcribed and Edited by Michael R. Reilly
Last Revised 07/17/2014
The First Fourth of July & Melinda’s Obituary
Burlington, Wis., July 3, 1876
As I sit alone in my room this 3rd of July evening, 1876,while my family are peacefully resting in the quiet embrace of the Goddess of Sleep, and everything in the house seems hushed to almost deathlikestillness, so that for a short time I only hear the surging and splashing and warring of the waters of the Pecatonica River, as itrushes furiously on through a portion of our town, swollen by recent rains. At intervals I hear shouts of boys as they sport with their
fire-crackers, and their merry glee rings abroad on the evening air; the firing of guns, and the sweetest and most soul stirring, of all, thebeautiful and glorious music discoursed by the silver cornet band of our village, through the medium of the sweet-toned instruments, all as atoken of the joyful memory of the coming Independence jubilee on the morrow. And as I listen to all of this, my mind is filled with memoriesof earlier years – the times and seasons that are past and gone – those very early days when Wisconsin was a territory and young, and when wehad no harbinger or forerunner to usher in the glorious Independence day but our lively and busy memories. If we could not publicly celebrate theday, we did not forget it, nor forget why we should memorize it. The only way that we observed and kept the day for a few successive years,
was by going and spending half a day, or a day, as was most convenient, with some one of our neighbors, or received and entertained a visit withsomeone or more of them, at our little home. And very social, pleasant and interesting seasons did we pass, thinking and talking of the times
when we had participated with our own kindred and former friends in the festivities of such times and like occasions, wondering if they werethinking of us, in our far away homes, and speculating as to the way and manner in which they might be celebrating or enjoying themselves at thetime, and looking forward in anticipation of a time when circumstances, we hoped, might allow us to celebrate our national independence daypublicly, if we should choose so to do, in a becoming manner, which time slowly and gradually rolled around when we could rally in sufficientnumbers to celebrate the day, though in a humble manner, compared with
such gatherings at the present day and age, of the world.
Shall I, may I, describe our first Fourth of July meeting inour settlement, which, by the way, I think was quite as enjoyable, everything considered, as any social gathering that we ever had, with noglorious display, but with cheerful hearts and dispositions to try to make each other happy and comfortable? We met on the premises of ourbrother, William Weaver, where men and boys had built bowers and booths, covered with bushes and boughs of trees to shelter us and our childrenfrom the heat of the sun, for as everybody in the place was expected to
go, of course the children must go too, from the age of thirteen down to the babe in the cradle, so that every family was well represented. As itwas not convenient for any one person or family to prepare a dinner for the whole neighborhood, we met in the capacity of pic-nicers, and each
wife and mother provided the requisites for her own family and about as many more, so that there should be sufficient for those who had no wifeor mother to prepare for them, or had not the wherewith to prepare, as all were invited. Some of our provisions were cooked at home and some onthe grounds where we met. There was an arch, or out0of-door fire-place and over it a boiling caldron all ready when we arrived on the ground atnine o’clock, to put in anything that we might wish to cook, as we intended to have a warm dinner, we boiled meat and vegetables andseveral meat puddings, (English people will understand what is meant by a meat pudding), and different kinds of pudding that were prepared athome and tied in cloths, all ready for boiling, according as the proper time came to drop in each different article of food to cook in the
cauldron. We carried our baked provisions ready prepared, such as bread and biscuits, pies and cakes, and cold baked meat of different kinds,such as pigs and chickens, cold boiled ham, butter, pickles, etc. We were our own cooks and waiters, and in due time our dinner was served ina style that was for the time, occasion and our circumstances, although not sumptuous, yet satisfactory and heartily enjoyed by all, both oldand young. Our dinner, with tea, coffee, and cold water, was served on a table made of rough boards, laid on the backs of wooden horses or highbenches. Our table-cloth was of pure white cotton instead of linen. Well, I will tell the truth, and say our table was covered with sheets,but I don’t think that there was much notice taken of the table-cloth any more than of it had been the finest pure white linen.
But the dinner, the happy faces, and cheerful hearts, of thepartakers, as they came around in order as if to a family board, at that day andage of our settlement, was as interesting a sight and truly enjoyable, particularly to those who had not enjoyed any such social meetings forfive or six years on the Fourth of July, or any other holiday. Our aged, highly esteemed, and much loved father Weaver, then over seventy years of age, at the head of the rustic table, invoked the blessing of heavenand returned thanks to the Father for the benefits and enjoyment of our frugal repast, and most heartily did he rejoice with us on this ourfirst Fourth of July meeting, wishing us many happy returns of the social enjoyment of the day. Although he did not live to enjoy many moresuch sessions with us, that particular one always seemed fresh in our memory on each returning Fourth of July, and we love to think of him ashe appeared then, enjoying the innocent sports of the children as well as those of the older ones. We had no public speaker to address us onthat day, but we were all free to speak or act as our own feelings might dictate. We had no cannon but only a common shot-gun to fire the salute,and no silver cornet band to enliven the scene and sheer the hearts – and indeed we expected no music but simply and purely vocal music, andthat came from the hilarious mirth of the children at their sports and
merry-makings, and possibly more or less crying of babies, as there was to be a general muster on that day of old and young, youth andmiddle-aged. After we came together we learned that three of our young men had each of them brought an instrument of music, just to please the
children, they said. One had a violin, another a clarinet and another a flute. The children were pleased, of course, for it was not often thatthey had an opportunity to listen to any music, except the sweet sounds of their mothers’ voices singing to them children’s hymns or the soft,
Some of our men and boys for amusement and to while away aportion of the time, engaged in innocent games of cricket and base ball and whenthe mothers and daughters had done their necessary work after dinner, and had rested a while and enjoyed a social chat, singing was proposed,and to fill our share of the bill for the amusement and pleasure of the day, we sang a number of familiar and choice hymns, and a few other andfavorite pieces, accompanied by the pleasant, agreeable music by our little band of only three musicians. And thus we spent our gala-day,with interspersion, occasionally, of a tune or two of martial music by our band and the firing of the old musket instead of a cannon. Towardsthe close of the day we separated, and went to our homes and home duties, with a feeling of pleasure and a sort of satisfaction that wehad regarded and paid our tribute of respect to the glorious Independence day and its cause in the best possible manner that wecould, considering the circumstances.
But as time passed and each successive year rolled around,and we could realize that we had made some little improvement since the last, and inthe process of time, we were favored so as to be able to have a public speaker to address us on some interesting subject on such occasions, andmore popular music and have our dinner prepared for us by some one of our neighbors and pay for it, and give a little more of our attention todress and style, which, by the way, had not come direct from Paris via London and New York, but originated nearer home. Our style at that time,of course would not compare very favorably with that of to-day; but it was our own, not borrowed nor bought, and though simple and plain, wewere satisfied and contented until the time came for improvements from time to time, and what we called better times in many respects, I do notthink that there ever was a meeting of friends that was better enjoyed than the firstneighborhood gathering when we met as one family and shared with each other in all things pertaining to the comforts andpleasures of the day.
I have wandered quite away from what I intended at thiswriting, but I beg to be forgiven, and hope to do better at the next. For fear ofwearying your patience and that of your readers, with my scribblings, I intended to have brought them to a close before this time, but owning topoor health and the care of my family, with the intense and almost intolerable heat of summer, I find myself in a fever.
Melinda Weaver obituary; Waukesha Plaindealer newspaper,October, 1886
Sussex – Died, at the home of her son-in-law, Jeremiah Smith, on Sunday, October 24th, 1886, Mrs. Melinda Ann Weaver, widow of the late JohnWeaver. Mrs. Weaver was born in the town of Augusta, Oneida county, New York, on the 20th day of February, 1813. her father, Daniel Warren, wasan old revolutioner, and a relative of the celebrated Gen. Warren who fell pierced by English bullets when fighting for and defendingfreedom’s cause. Early in the year of 1833 she was married to John Weaver. In the fall of 1836 they, with their two children, came toWisconsin, landing in Milwaukee on the night of September 27. On the 13th of October following, their son James was born, there were but fewwhite children born in Milwaukee before him. It was extremely touching to see them on the fiftieth anniversary of that day; she so near her
mortal end, yet that meeting seemed to bring back some of the life of by-gone days. Fifty years! What memories crowded upon her mind, whatwonderful changes have taken place in the last half-century. Death seemed to halt in his mad career that she might recover her strength to
look back on a well spent life before she departed hence – upon the trials, troubles and hardships and privations of a pioneer’s life; thisthen a wilderness now a noble commonwealth; Milwaukee then, but a fur-trading station now a fine city; Waukesha but three log cabins now a
beautiful summer resort and watering place, and dubbed the Saratoga of the West. To be a pioneer in those times was to be one in every sense ofthe word. Shut out by winter’s icy hand on the great lakes for more than half the year from the civilized world, famine and privation staring
them in the face, was it any wonder that women’s hearts failed and strong men broke down. On the 4th of March 1837, they, with three otherfamilies, came into the town of Lisbon as real bona fide settlers, there to make homes for themselves and families. Of those four men and fourwomen as heads of families, the first actual settlers that came to this town on the same day, now none remain. She was the last, and their livesare a part of the history of this town, county and state. In 1838 she opened and taught the first school in this town. In their little logcabin by the brook many received instruction at her hands. Although now scattered far and near, those of them that live well remember the goodadvice and instruction imparted to them. Upon the organization of the Episcopal church in this town she affiliated and ever remained afaithful member of that society, so faithful that when the society was assailed by scoffers and persecutors by word and pen, her pen flew as itwere a sword from the scabbard in the defense of that little society till strong men were heard to say that they knew it was Mrs. John Weaverwho was defending that little church, and they would neither say nor write another word against it. As a nurse she will long be remembered ashaving waited on many in their very young infancy, and the pillows of the aged and was often made softer by her deft and gentle hands. Thelong, cold, dark and stormy journeys that she has made to wait on the sick and afflicted will not be soon forgotten. As a friend her memorywill long be green, all knowing that they have lost a true one. As a mother she was one in every sense that that word implies, and as suchher councils were often sought and never refused, to many besides her own direct descendants. This much mourned one has gone and left us, leaving us an example that all can follow and but few can excel. Howmany are better men and women from her acquaintance and good councils. The silver cord is severed, the golden bowl is broken, and they mournbecause she is not. Mrs. Weaver leaves four sons and three daughters, twenty-six grand children and six great grand children to mourn her loss.