The continuing series by Mrs. W. T. Lafferty. Sadly, this article is not complete. When it appeared in a local paper in 1938, it was supposed to be continued on another page. But, it wasn’t. I hope to be able to find it some day!
Pioneer’s Clothing Picturesque But Not Always Comfortable
The costume of the Kentucky pioneer is accurately portrayed on the monuments of Captain James Estill, in the cemetery at Richmond Kentucky; Enid Yandell’s Minute Man in Cherokee Park, Louisville; and Elberheusen’s George Rogers Clark at Harrodsburg. It is the costume minutely described by Doddridge, and consists of the Kentucky hunting shirt which became famous throughout the world; a loose smock reaching half way down the thighs, double breasted with a large pocket or wallet in the bosom in which he carried his “jerk-meat,” a “chunk of bread,” and tow for wiping his rifle barrel. This was made either of linsey-woolsey, or of dressed deer skins. For the sake of convenience, he adopted the breech cloth, of the Indians – a strip of material about nine inches wide and a yard long which was tucked under the belt leaving the gaily embroidered and fringed ends hanging down before and behind. In the belt were tomahawk scalping knife and bullet pouch. “The leggings” covered his legs to the thighs and were fastened to the belt with deer thongs. He made his own moccasins of deer skins, out of a single piece with a gathering seam along the top of the foot, and another from the bottom of the heel as high as the ankle joint, without gathers. Flaps reaching half-way up the legs were left on each side and these were bound to the leg with deer thongs and proved a protection against briars and snake bites. They were cold even when stuffed with dried leaves or deer hair and many a brave pioneer suffered torture from scald feet and rheumatism. When George Rogers Clark and John Gabriel Jones were on their way from Harrisburg to Williamsburg, Va., to ask Patrick Henry for gun powder, they suffered so terribly they had to crawl for hours on their hands and knees. Every pioneer carried an awl with him and mended his tattered moccasins at night in the light of his camp fire.
On his head the pioneer wore the coon skin cap with the tail hanging down between his shoulders. The deer skin outfit was picturesque, but uncomfortable when wet and many preferred garments of linsey-woolsey, a material of wool and flax combined. The latter were sewed by either the women of the home or by visiting tailoresses, who brought their big shears and pressing irons and lived with their patrons while they worked. The deer skin garments were made by tailors and every fort boasted handy men who could make a hunting outfit of fringed buckskin for "ten bucks” or at the rate of a dollar a buckskin.
Leather vests and breeches were worn by all the early settlers of this country for the Pilgrims and the Puritans were as hard pressed as the Kentuckians to find clothing when the articles they had brought to this country were worn out. Even William Penn wore leather “overalls” and leather stockings. Buckskin jackets or leather “jerkins” were used generally during the Revolutionary War and for years afterward, servants wore leather breeches and waistcoats.
Leather clothing was followed by homespun. The linsey-woolsey fustian and jeans were woven in every home, then sent to a fulling mill to be shrunken and stretched and pressed before the arrival of the tailoress. She made suits for old and young and all after the same pattern. Her buttons were highly prized and handed down from father to son. Some were of wood, others of brass, tin and pewter …
(Let’s hope I can find the ending!