Abigael

-Mrs. George Newberry "Living Pioneers of Griggs County", Sentinel - Courier, 1937

In the snug sod house Abigael Fuglestad could now call home and her own (in 1883) she had a wooden floor in only one of the rooms.  Her kitchen had only a hard-packed dirt floor.  Every Saturday she swept it out carefully, and then brought in fresh sand with which she covered the dirt.

Torkel had constructed a table from the packing box in which most of their possessions had been transported.  Later a carpenter built a cupboard and a chest of drawers.  The latter at Torkel's request, was topped by a bookcase.  (This piece is on loan at the present time to the Dakota House where it is used as display space and as a little bit of history).  Also homemade was their bed and the trundle bed, which was slipped under the regular bed during the daytime.

Loneliness besieged her during the long days Torkel had to be elsewhere working.  The ceaseless wind was pitiless.  Work was a barrier against lonesomeness.  She milked the cow, skimmed the cream from the top of the milk, and churned butter.  Her churn was a small wooden one, which looked like half a keg, cut lengthwise.  It was cradled in a frame, which brought it up to a comfortable level as she sat on a chair, turning the handle attached to paddles, which beat the cream into butter.

Instinctively she became an expert at knowing how many buffalo chips or how much twisted, dried grass she would need to use in order to bake the bread she had made.  Later her expertise dictated just the right amount of wood, which would produce beautifully browned loaves.

Deep satisfaction for any Scandinavian was contained in a cup of hot coffee.  Abigael ground coffee by using her rolling pin to crush the beans as they lay in a long trough.

She kept foods fresh by putting them into palls, which she hung in the well.  Having drawn and heated water from that same well, she washed clothes by rubbing them on a corrugated rubbing board, which rested in a water-filled tin tub.

She also kept self-pity at a distance by tasks in which their sheep involuntarily assisted.  She carded their wool, spun the yarn on her spinning wheel, then knitted socks, mittens and other articles of warm clothing.  Their tallow was used to make candles and soap.  She mixed tallow and lye in a kettle of water.  The lye made the water hot.  Abigael stirred the hot mixture until it cooled and began to congeal.  She then left it to set overnight, cutting it into bars in the morning.  She made candles in a mold she had brought from Norway.  She placed the mold upside down, drew a cord through the tiny hole at the bottom, and poured melted tallow into the mold.  A bit of the heavy string left at the open end made it possible for her to pull out the hardened candle.

In the face of adversities, which bombarded them from every side, they stood together, Torkel and Abigael, establishing a home on the prairie.

Excerpted by permission from Though The Mountains Depart by Swanhild Aalgaard.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 135

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