Monday, May 5, 2008

The Miller's Wife





In honor of Mother's Day I thought I would share a few tales of enterprising women.

When settlers first arrived to the Niagara region (as it was in any new area of settlement) survival was an endless struggle. Many brought the skills and know how they had developed to this rugged and wild territory.

Once the vast virgin forests were felled by the lumbermen, the settlers began to arrive to farm and produce livestock to feed and clothe their families.

The ever-flowing streams and rivers provided the perfect spot to build the gristmills. The strength of the channeled waters could turn the huge grinding stones that ground the grain (wheat, barley, rye) into flour. Stored throughout the long, harsh winter it was the sustenance of life.

Esla had been a miller's daughter before she had moved north by wagon with her young husband and children. He was also a miller and built a mill along the river's edge.

Esla had learned early the skill of barter and trade. Many of those who came to have their grain milled into flour were required to trade a portion of the finished product as payment. Others who raised livestock or grew flax (the beginning stage of what would be spun into linen thread and woven into cloth) would trade this for flour.

She set up a shop at the back of the mill and began her own enterprise.

A tragic wagon accident took the life of her husband, leaving her a widow with eleven children.

Esla (a German name) became known as Essie, ran the mill and the shop until her six sons grew old enough to take over the grinding process.

She taught her daughters to spin and weave the linen that would fill the store shelves.

She and her family lived well, eventually building a large home filled with children and grandchildren.

At eighty-six Essie took her rightful place beside her husband in a quiet grave on a hillside overlooking the mill.

It continued to prosper for a long time following her death finally closing after 150 years from the beginning of Essie's life as the Miller's Wife.


16 comments:

Doreen said...

What a wonderful story Susan. Thank you so much for sharing it. How very inspiring....this story shows the true strength and ingenuity that women have always had...an ability to overcome...no matter what the obstacle...And my goodness...11 children....can you imagine...In those days it was the norm for a large family..those days are gone now as one can not afford to raise such a large family...even on two incomes..Our families are shrinking...how sad indeed.

Thank you for stopping by and saying hello...Have a safe trip and a wonderful Mother's Day...I will talk to you when you return.


Blessings & Hugs,
Doreen

Lori said...

what a wonderful tale of enterprise and the strength of women!

Donna O'Brien said...

I always love it when you share stories of these past lives. You write so descriptively, I can see it all in my mind.
Can you even imagine the life she led?
D.
PS- More stories like theses, please! Love them.

Christine LeFever said...

Essie is yet another heroine to add to my list, and I thank you for telling about her. Each era offers those old obstacles to survival and it takes heroic action in order to do so, and I believe that good old law of attraction affords people their opportunity to achieve what they dream of, no matter when. Life is a joy!

Christine

Stacey said...

Such a treat to look at the past through they eyes of a goode wife! thank you Susan for sharing and giving us a gentle nudge to look within our own families and see the people in our own past and what their lives were like.

Christine said...

Dear Susan,

This is wonderful.
You know how much I love your story telling.
Just now in reading it I could hear the wagon creaking along and the sing song chatter of the children running alongside.
The farmers bringing their wagons filled with sacks of grain, the sights, the smells. The grist mill and the river noises.

I'm sure that if we were all gather'd round while you told your stories there would not be one sound but your voice and the images your words make filling the air above you.
I'm sure we could see,hear and feel every detail through your words.
Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

I agree with Donna, please, more stories,

I do love them,too.
C

Fete et Fleur said...

Beautiful Story Susan! She reminds me of the Proverbs 31 woman. Her strength, character and determination are astounding!
Thank you for sharing this.

xx Nancy

Joy at Cupids Charm said...

Loved your story Susan! I think many of us take for granted how easy we have it these days. My grandmother had 17 children and they all worked a big family farm. Can you imagine having to cook and feed that many people every day (with no grocery stores around)...can you image just doing laundry...all this in the days before washers and dryers? YIKES! Your story reminded me of her and her love and her strength as a woman. Thanks for sharing! ~ xoxo Joy

Sea Angels said...

Hello Susan what a story, it makes me want to travel back in time and meet this lady, can you just imagine....It holds such a fasination,for me this land where you live, across the pond. I love the wonders that you reveal, and always find your posts a real delight.
Hugs Lynn xx

Suzanne said...

Thank you for another lovely story Susan, you tell them so well. Essie, what a woman!....what an inspiration, overcoming hardships that were probably the "norm" of her day. Makes one appreciate life all the more.

Britt-Arnhild said...

What a good idea to praise some of our foremothers.

Happy Mother's Day.

nicol sayre said...

In days of yore, as now , the strength of women has not abated...tis just our tasks that have altered a bit. Lovely story, dear Susan! I would have more as well!
xox N

http://afancifultwist.typepad.com said...

Oooo! Love such tales!!!!

Pinkie Denise said...

Hello Susan,
I just love hearing that story. Having six children I can't imagine having almost double. Things were so
much harder then and being a single woman raising a large family and business, what an incredible story.Happy Mother's Day to you Susan. I received the most wonderful Mother's Day present 21 years ago, my son! It is his birthday today. Have a wonderful weekend Pinkie

Donna O'Brien said...

Happy Mother's Day, Susan!!
XO
D.

Marie Louise said...

Very inspiring story! And perfect for Mother's Day. My first visit to your blog - I'll be back!