Book Review: Plain But Wholesome – Foodways of the Mormon Pioneers

Here at Frontier Homestead, we thought we would, from time to time, share with you what we are reading. This month our review comes from one of our interpreters, Amy Howe. We encourage you to share with us your favorite reads as the year progresses.

When faced with the question of what the pioneers ate most people immediately jump to sego lily bulbs and short rations of flour. In his book Plain but Wholesome Brock Cheney shows that, as with so many other things, it was the exceptional dietary experiences that are remembered rather than the typical.

Cheney looks at the traditions of food and food processes of the Mormon pioneers from the settling of Salt Lake City to 1869, when the transcontinental railroad reached Utah. He opens with an account of a party of Forty-niners passing through Salt Lake on July 24, 1849. They were astonished at the tables loaded with food and said they did not believe a greater variety could have been produced in that city. Even a year earlier at a harvest feast just thirteen months after arriving in the valley the menu included bread, beef, butter, cheese, cakes, pastry, sweet corn, melons and a variety of vegetables.

Pioneer treats

The book’s chapters deal with various aspects of food production, preservation, and preparation. Titles include: “Four Ounces of Flour: Food on the Trail”, “Berries, Bulbs, and Beasts: Wild Gathered Food,” and “Wetting the Whistle: Beverages Hot and Cold.” Throughout he shows how food was shaped by local availability, national origin, and religious sensibilities.

One interesting aspect is the inclusion of recipes. Some of these were handed down orally in families while others are taken from books of “receipts” published around the time looked at. When looking for the next family dinner item, consider Zwiebelcuchen, or traditional German onion cobbler.

The earth oven – one form of pioneer cookery.

These pioneer food traditions live on in some surprising ways. Hunting and fishing are the most obvious examples, but many families also head to the hills to carefully watched elderberry and chokecherry patches. The various community celebrations from Peach Days in the south to Onion Days in the north grew in part out of the pioneer’s harvest gatherings.

Plain but Wholesome offers an interesting and readable look at one aspect of a time in our history that is often overlooked. While there were difficult times when sego lilies and pigweed greens were the only food available, after a few years in a place food was of a surprising abundance and variety. The book can be enjoyed by local historians and food enthusiasts alike and makes a great gift, especially if you have friends who will reward you with food.

Advertisements

Sheep to Shawl

Soft as a pillow.

Frontier Homestead State Park invites you to our first big event of 2017. Join us Saturday, March 18 for a trip back in time as we explore wool, from Sheep to Shawl. Frontier Homestead State park in partnership with the Sagebrush Fiber Artisans will allow participants to journey through the step-by-step process of taking wool from the sheep’s back to yours. Join us from 10:00-2:00 to have fun with the whole family.

Sheep will be attending as well to give visitors the opportunity to touch and feel before and after their annual haircut. Shearing demonstrations will be given hourly starting and 10:30am and run until 1:30pm.

Spot before her haircut.

 

 

Spot during her haircut.

Dyeing wool

Demonstrations include shearing, washing, carding, spinning and dyeing wool. Knitting and weaving will be available to participate in. Come enjoy the activities and visit with our talented craftspeople. Cost is $2.00 per person or $5.00 per family. Friend’s Group members are free with membership card.

 

Spinners at the walking wheel

This living history experience is hosted at the Frontier Homestead State Park Museum located at 635 North Main Street in Cedar City. Call 435-586-9290 for more information.

The Legacies of Iron County: Agriculture – The Hay Derrick

Agriculture, symbolized by the hay derrick, became the foundation of the local community. When early mining operations ceased, Iron County residents turned to sheep and cattle to provide needed trade goods. Today, the region still has a vibrant and expanding agricultural lifestyle.

An Iron County haying crew.

Hay for livestock in a horse-driven society was as important as gasoline or electricity is today. The oldest technology for stacking hay in Iron County was the hay derrick that allowed farmers to build haystacks in their fields.

 

 

A hay derrick in action.

Hay derricks, usually homemade devices, consisted of a central pole rigged so that it could rotate on its base. By means of pulleys, rope, and a one-horse hookup, the loading fork could be raised and rotated over the haystack. When tripped, the hay would drop onto the stack. Men on top of the stack would arrange the hay so that it would shed water, thus the hay would cure rather than rot. Occasionally rattlesnakes might be hiding in the hay and provide a surprise for those on top of the hay pile. Stacks were built one section at a time. When one section was finished, the derrick was hitched to a horse and dragged to the next section.

Frontier Homestead’s hay derrick.

The derrick in front of Frontier Homestead was donated to by local rancher Bud Bauer and relocated from his farm to the museum as an Eagle Scout project in May 2013.

Frontier Folk Festival: Call for Artists

Stillhouse Road performs at last the Frontier Folk Festival

Frontier Homestead State Park Museum and The Frontier Homestead Museum Foundation are pleased to announce the second annual Frontier Folk Festival in Cedar City, Utah, June 16-17, 11 am – 8 pm each day. Original art and live music combine to celebrate the diverse heritage of southern Utah.  The Frontier Folk Festival promises to be filled with remarkable talent.

“We’ve been talking about this idea for years,” says Todd Prince, Park Manager.  “Last year we introduced the festival, not knowing what the response would be.  Overall, it was a good event. This year we hope to expand on our success, and offer an exceptional experience to the community and all our patrons.”

One of the many vendors at last years event

Applications are now being accepted.  All interested artists and food vendors must submit an electronic  application, available at Artist application .

Thanks to the generous support of the Cedar City/Brian Head Tourism & Convention Bureau (Scenic Southern Utah), marketing and advertising will be extended to market areas in Las Vegas and the Wasatch Front, increasing the Folk Festival’s reach to a broad audience.

The Frontier Homestead Museum Foundation is looking forward to a diverse, quality show, and wish to thank its exhibiting artists and musicians in advance for helping to bring the arts in all of their forms to the residents of Iron County and beyond.

Questions can be directed to Festival Coordinator Todd Prince at (435) 586-9290, or via email atfrontierhomestead@utah.gov.

The Legacies of Iron County: Mining – The Ore Shovel

Mining, represented by the ore shovel, is the industry that began it all, proving to be the initial motive for settlement. In 1923, the mines began producing ore by the tons and elevated Iron County to one of the richest counties in the Utah for nearly 50 years.

Shovels at work in the mines.

Shovels at work in the mines.

In the 1930s, iron mining expanded in Iron County and massive shovels were needed to excavate the needed ore. According to company delivery records, two Bucyrus-Erie 120-B shovels were delivered to the Utah Construction Company in Cedar City in September of 1936 for use in the iron mines. At the time, the wage for a shovel operator was $0.48 per hour.

Shovel at work.

Shovel at work.

The electric 120-B shovel had a six cubic yard dipper capacity, big enough to scoop up six tons of dirt and rock, enough to fill a hole the size of a large pick-up truck with extended cab and bed. AC power was supplied to the shovel via a trailing 23,000 volt electric cable which drove a 275-horsepower motor-generator set. When moving the shovel from pit to pit, bulldozers were employed to prevent the huge tracks from slipping down the hill.

SHE-22 at work.

SHE-22 at work.

About 330 of the 120-Bs were sold around the world over a period lasting almost three decades. SHE (shovel excavator) 22 was used continuously until the 1970’s.  SHE-22 had previously been located west of town where it sat for many years.  In 2012, in partnership with Utah State Parks, Cedar City, Iron County, Gilbert Development, Inc., and Construction Steel, Inc., the shovel was relocated to Frontier Homestead State Park.