The settlers' wives and children stayed home to tend whatever animals or chickens they had and work the gardens planted in hastily prepared ground, scratching the soil with homemade tools, at first using seed they had brought with them. Their life was hard, but one woman wrote, "We are no poorer than our neighbors and no richer." The women, missing the flowers of their former home gardens, exclaimed with delight upon discovering the pink and white lady-slippers (moccasin flowers), the dainty violets and anemones. The settlers returning from St. Anthony likely stopped at Wayzata, formerly called Freeport, at one of the three crude hotels orhostels where a meal of home baked bread and baked coon or woodchuck stew could be enjoyed, while hearing news of other settlements.
Besides the hardships that accompany pioneer life, our early settlers lived with the fear of Indian uprisings. Serious trouble was experienced in other settlements. Long Lake had a great scare in 1858 when many Chippewa Indians passed through their town carrying scalps and trophies after a battle with the Sioux near Shakopee. In the winter of 1856-57 about three hundred of them camped on Pioneer Creek and the following winter about double that number. The settlers here were annoyed by stealing and begging, but no actual killings. It is reported that at times a friendly Indian left freshly killed meat or a brace of partridge on the doorstep of a destitute family, but these acts were not common.
Other hardships that caused some settlers to abandon their claims were the ravages of grasshoppers, drought and hail. Also, the financial depressions of 1850 and 1860 caused near starvation for not a few settlers. Some picked bushels of cranberries from the marshes and sold them for much needed cash. In cases of extreme need, money for seed for the next year's crop was appropriated by the legislature.
Their cabins were small and contained only the bare necessities. If there were children, they usually slept in the loft to which they ascended by a rough ladder nailed to the wall. It was not unusual in the winter to find patches of snow on their beds. Their toys were rag or cornhusk dolls or animals whittled from wood.
The women tried to make their homes a bit more attractive, papering walls with newspapers if available. One woman contrived white window curtains from her best muslin petticoats. Some had been able to bring a few prized possessions from their former homes, a clock, a trunk, a few books. The baby was rocked in a homemade wooden cradle. When time could be taken from the endless clearing of the land, some were able to build a "lean-to" onto their cabins for more space as the family increased in size. The beds often had rope springs and cornhusk mattresses, freshly filled when the corn had been picked.
The men worked long days clearing the land. Trees were felled, logs rolled, brush piled and burned. Soon a patch of land was ready for the plow, pulled by the oxen, and potatoes, wheat, barley or corn were planted. Hay was cut in the marshes for the cattle. The women and children helped pole the hay and stack it. The oxen furnished the power, hauling supplies in heavy cumbersome carts. They pulled the first grain to the mill. It is recorded that Vincent Cox and the Foglemans brought the first horses into the region.
Neighbors were often far apart but found ways to help and encourage each other. On special occasions small parties called "kitchen sweats" were held in the homes. John Hillstrom, who came from Sweden, was in great demand as he could play both the accordion and the violin. The party food was simple but joyously shared. Other events were logging bees and taffy pulling parties. The taffy was made with maple sugar.