Monday, March 4, 2013

The Kerosene Lamp Lit their Night

   In 1896, my grandparents were married in a double wedding. The other couple were my grandmother’s older sister, Carrie, and George, a boy from the neighboring farm. It was customary at the time for the oldest daughter to get married before the younger daughters. My engaged Grandmother had to wait five years before Carrie would be engaged herself and ready to marry. It was agreed that Carrie and George would stay on and take over his family farm. My grandmother and grandfather moved up to northern Minnesota, opened a general store, and started a new life on their own.
   Life in 1896 was very different from the life we live today. About three quarters of the country lived and worked on small family farms, the rest lived in small towns or in big cities. Travel was difficult, there were only a few country roads, and most people traveled on rutted trails made by horse drawn wagons. This made it difficult for people to get around and they were isolated in their rural surroundings. Things we take for granted today, like electric lights, indoor plumbing, and central heating did not exist in 1896.

1912 Picture of Davidson's General Store
   The general store my grandparents owned was open from seven o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night (fifteen hours a day). It was a place to buy anything and everything one could possibly need: from dry goods, to farm equipment, clothing, wooden shoes, and more. It was also a popular place of socialization and news gathering. In the early evening, the local men would come around once their supper and chores were finished to talk, play checkers, and smoke. The store was dark and gloomy on winter evenings, it was also cold. Oil lamps sat in wall brackets to help light the store, and an old pot belly cast iron stove warmed the store during the long winter months.

   My grandfather was also the postmaster so after the store closed, he would do his bookkeeping and wait for the train to come. If there were out-going letters, he would put them in a satchel that hung on a hook by the track and put the flag up. The train would take the satchel and leave the in-coming mail on the same hook. After he picked up the mail, he could go to bed. It was usually around midnight. 
   After her evening chores were completed and the store tidied up, my grandmother would retire to their private quarters in the back of the store. She would sew, knit, crochet, make lace or read. All the activities, in the front and in the back of the store were lighted by kerosene lamps. My grandmother would do her fancy work by the bright light of a table kerosene lamp and take a finger kerosene lamp up to bed with her. My grandfather also had oil lamps to light the store and aid him as he worked. These lamps gave the store a warm glow after the sun went down. Late into the night, my grandfather would sit at his desk by the window and calculate the daily receipts while waiting for the train, with a kerosene lamp beside him, helping to illuminate his ledgers.
   Hard work day in and day out made the general store prosperous. My grandparents ran this store for thirty years. They sold it, and the new owner operated it for another twenty years or so.
   The store provided a good life for my mother. She would often tell me stories about growing up and living in the general store. Many years have passed, and I now have a store of my own. Although the items my grandfather sold were new, I sell many of the same items, but mine are antiques and vintage wares. Please visit Reuzeit Emporium to browse all of the unique items available.


  1. What a lovely story Linda,I enjoyed reading your family history. To think you are doing the same thing.
    Thank you for visiting and for your nice comment. :)

  2. Hi Linda. I am now following you. What a wonderful story and pictures of your grandparents. I have a few stories and pictures but everyone else is gone now and I guess our family never did keep very good records. Thanks for coming by the Cottage. I hope to hear from you again..Happy Wednesday..Judy


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