In the early days here on the prairie there was a need for soap, just as there is today.  One would certainly guess that there was plenty of soap to be purchased in the towns at that time, but we do know that most farm wives made their own, not only because that was cheaper, but also because most of the necessary ingredients were available on the farm.

There are still, in these times, a few who make soap, even soap that has various fragrances added to it, but this is mostly hobby, even a paying hobby perhaps for some people.

The housewife would save the drippings from fried meat, and would render the excess fat from the hog after butchering, and all this would be accumulated for a convenient time to make the soap.

Melvin Tande and his family lived at the edge of the Sheyenne River southwest of Aneta.  When he was a boy, he said, his father Sivert J. Tande would come up here in the fall and get my old widowed grandma Margit Osmundson, and bring her down to the Tande farm to make soap.   She would stay there two-three days, Melvin said.

The process of soap making would start by driving three steel rods into the ground, which would hold the heating kettle over the flames.  This was set up under a large shade tree back of the house, near the river.  Melvin, and his brothers, had the job of gathering wood for the fire.  The lard was then heated, mixed with water and Lewis Lye.  Earlier, before Lewis Lye was used, a certain type of wood ashes were used instead.  This mixture was brought to a certain temperature and stirred to the proper consistency.  (Incidentally, this is not a recipe, but only the general way it was made).  When the soap cooking was done, the mixture was ladled out onto a flat board with raised edges or something similar, and after a time of proper cooling and curing it was cut into squares, and then wrapped in pieces of newspaper.

Melvin says he still has the old kettle that was used, but it is broken now.  Possibly grandma Margit made soap for other neighbors, but unfortunately there are very few people still living who remember her and so could tell me about it.

Allen Osmundson

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 130

News & Events