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Fourth graders, homeschoolers get a taste of pioneer life

Paul Moody teaches 4th graders how a farmer would sow a field before tractors were invented. H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt
Posted: Sep. 17, 2015 4:19 pm Updated: Oct. 1, 2015 4:19 pm

Deborah Gertz Husar
Staff Writer | 217-221-3379
dhusar@whig.com | @DHusarWHIG

MENDON, Ill. — Christian Rabe had two words to say about trying pioneer living in a log cabin.

“No way,” he said.

The 7-year-old from Plainville worried that he wouldn’t have enough to do and would be bored in the small cabin. Even pointing out that pioneer boys his age likely had plenty of chores to do didn’t make a difference. 

“I hate chores,” he said.

Christian’s mom, Lisa Rabe, appreciated making a connection to the family’s pioneer past. Another Christian Rabe, her son’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, emigrated from Germany in 1849, settled in Burton and lived the lifestyle on display Thursday at School Days sponsored by the Adams County Olde Tyme Association.

About 300 fourth graders from across the county — along with homeschool groups like Christian’s — took in the one-room school, the round barn, the cabin, a rope-making barn and a variety of demonstrations on the Adams County Fairgrounds.

Making sure her kids understand that part of the family’s past is important to Rabe. Making sure area kids also appreciate the past is a priority for the association, which has sponsored the event for more than 20 years.

The event also gives the youngsters a better understanding of the present. Seeing wheat threshed is one step toward making the loaf of bread at the grocery store, association president Willie Venvertloh said, and watching a sawmill turn raw wood into smooth boards is a step in making furniture that might be in their classroom.

For the first time, the event had outside financial support. The Elks Lodge No. 100 provided a $2,200 grant to fund the event, and Quincy Hy-Vee stores provided a goody bag for all the students.

Venvertloh said that made a big difference to the association, which has covered all the costs in the past.

“We thought maybe we’d have to go looking, (for help), but the Elks saw what we were doing,” he said.

Katelyn Spencer, a fourth grader from St. Dominic School, said it was fun to visit the one-room schoolhouse.

“It teaches us how life was in the past without TV,” she said.

“They get a perspective of how things used to be,” said Hayley Harvey, a teacher at St. John’s Lutheran, and it’s a good supplement to what they’re learning in the classroom.

For fourth grader Eddie Murphy, one of Harvey’s students, coming to School Days was sweet after tasting a bit of a sorghum plant. 

“It wasn’t as sweet as (maple) syrup,” he said.

Students learned about sorghum, tried their hand at pressing sorghum and tasted the finished product.

Back in the log cabin, the students learned more about pioneer life from Judy Lubbert, whose husband David built the cabin, and Dennis Hildbrand.

“They don’t have any idea what people had to go through years ago,” she said. “They just don’t realize what life was like.”

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