An Ideal First Winter
The 1878 History of Benton County, written as the nation turned 100, focuses on the human affairs at the beginnings of the county. Although those human affairs include some unsavory or unhappy human activity such as horse theft and suicide, the tone of the history is celebratory.
One image in the history, captioned “Pioneers’ First Winter,” is a particularly hopeful image as it depicts a farmer sharing with his animals the results of an apparently successful harvest. The snowfall around him suggests beauty and peace rather than the threat of being lost in white-out conditions and freezing to death—the subject of many early stories of Iowa winter. Since the county was formed in 1843 following an agreement with the “Sac (Sauk) and Fox” (Meskwaki), and some whites were said to be settling in the county as early as 1839, the pioneers’ first winter would have been before mid-nineteenth-century, within the years of the “little ice age.” But the image offered here looks back from 1878 to that earlier time remembering plenty and peace more than the struggle to survive.
Source: SHSI: History of Benton County, Chicago, 1878.