A Snowy Home in the Big Woods

September 14, 1864
Dear Grandma,
I have not seen you in over a year and much has gone on in my life. You have a new grandson, Howard Aaron. He was born this past summer on July 29. Lyman carries him around on his shoulders already. You would be surprised as how big Ly has become because of our journey up here to Michigan.

     After we left you, it took us about two weeks to come by way of Toledo and through Ann Arbor. When we got to Newaygo we turned North on the newly made road. From there it took us about six more days to get here. All there was for miles on miles were huge trees on both sides of the Trail. Each day about noon, we had to move over so the stage could pass us. We would wave to the people going north. Then in the afternoon the stage going South would pass us and we would wave again. Pa was down sick the whole way. Lyman took over so Ma would not have to do everything herself. He rode on the lead Ox pulling the wagon while the rest of us walked next to it. Ma took care of Pa in the wagon and also little Leafy, who is two now. She is such a good baby who does not cry at all. At night we stayed under wagon on the blanket rolls. We heard wolves howling every night, but Ly kept the rifle next to him and we never even saw a wolf. Ma said they could see us, so she made sure none of us wandered too far from the wagon. The wagon never got stuck because of the big oxen, Samson and Delilah. They walked right through some of the biggest muddy puddles you ever saw, and a few creeks also. They were also not scared of the wolves, even at night.
Ma would tell us stories under the wagon at night of how our lives would be once we got a home. I have to admit it started out worse than what she said, but it is getting better each year. When we finally got to Sherman, the man there directed us about two miles south to where Pa’s stake was. Once there, Ly and Ma cut down some of the smaller pines and started making a little house for us. The miles of rope Grandpa sent with us helped tie the trees together in a way it would fold over and also put the trunks together to keep out the wind. There are no critters, nary a rabbit. Pa said the pine needle flooring of the forest keeps them away. He also said that is why there are no Indians villages around here. They are mainly close to the big water to the West. I have not seen an Indian yet.
Pa started feeling a little better after seeing Dr. Perry. He said Pa had an infection. He learned a remedy from the Indians here. Maybe Grandpa can use this. You burn dry poplar wood until it turns into white ashes. Then collect them and add to boiled water. Boil them for one hour, then cool and use only the clean water from the top of the pot. Take one half teaspoon with lots of fresh water. Pa has been doing that for a couple of months now and feels better than ever. He has been out trapping all summer and we have lots of pelts to trade and food salted for soup for the winter.
Oh, winters here are so wonderful. There are some hills here and Pa made sleds for us girls. We have to put layers of clothes on, almost everything I own to wear. Ly takes Mary and me over to the hill and helps push us. We have to walk back up, but it is well worth it.
The woods here are so dark, even in the middle of the day. We cannot venture into the woods in any direction or else it becomes too dark and you can’t find your way out. Ly chased a cougar away from the house and into the woods with the rifle. He wanted it as a trophy. After he should have come home, Ma and I started banging pans together and he followed the sound back to our house. He had the look of terror on his face and was so relieved to get out of those dense woods.

     Last year Pa started cutting down some hemlocks to make us a little larger cabin. It took him several weeks, but we finally moved into it and it looked so big. The shack stores our wood for fires now. Plus some extra supplies. He is working with Mr. Wheeler to get some milled wood for a new house for sometime next summer. All our neighbors will turn out to help build it. I watch each day for the stage to go by. Pa said that if we have a big enough house, the stage will stop here and maybe people will spend the night.
     Well, Grandma, I miss you so much. I miss your smile and sitting on your lap. Although, Ma said I am way to big of a girl now to sit on her lap. Mary, Lucy and Leafy send their love. We pray for you every night and someday hope to come and see you.
We love you,
Ellen