Friday, July 10, 2009

Sticks And Stones Will Break My Back

Olive Suter Palmer
Born 26 December 1895 - Neligh, NE
Died 31 May 1989 - Ronan, MT

This is my "They Worked Hard For The Family" submission to Smile For The Camera. Now I'm certain you're asking yourself, just what occupation does this photograph of little Olive depict. It's not Olive's occupation that we're looking for in this photograph. The significance lies in its' background.

It's that huge pile of sticks that has been the cause of much discussion in my husband's family when viewing this photograph of Olive. There have been many creative guesses as to what that pile of sticks in the background might be. Then my husband's uncle delivered the photograph below. It solved the mystery. All guesses were wrong.

Lewis Henry Suter
Born 15 March 1850 - Somerset Co., PA
Died 1 May 1930 - Salem, OR

As you can see from this photograph, little Olive was placed on the ledge half-way up the mound of sticks with her rocker, dolls, pull cart, and afghan. Then her photograph was taken.

This huge mound of sticks is startling; particularly when you notice the absence of forests surrounding the mound or in the background. I've never seen anything like this accumulation of stove wood. How long did it take to cut and stack?

The need for it, however, makes perfect sense. Houses were heated by fireplaces and wood burning stoves in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Suter's home had three fireplaces. They needed stove wood to live through the harsh winters in Nebraska. Lewis Suter worked very hard to provide his family with the security of having enough stove wood to survive the winter. But where are the trees that resulted in this huge mound of stove wood?

Written on the back of the photograph is the explanation of how "sticks can break the farmer's back."

Cottonwood - Planted by Lewis Henry Suter
on the homestead in Neligh, Neb.

Picture was taken 1895 - 96

Grandma Palmer's dad, Lewis Suter, carried the little trees
from the river, seven miles away, on his back and planted
them when they were small. When they got bigger he cut them for stove wood.

This would be your "Great Grandpa" Suter


Yes, he worked hard for the family.


Olive Suter. Cabinet Card. ca. 1900. W.G. Suter. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, Preston, Washington. 2007.
Lewis Henry Suter. Card Mounted Photograph. ca. 1895-96. Anonymous. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, Preston, Washington. 2007.


Anonymous The Family Curator said...

What a backbreaking job to cut and stack so much wood. I love the way you solved the mystery of the photo backdrop with another photograph; it's a good reason to "curate" everything with care.

July 19, 2009 at 11:34 AM  

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