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Sunday November 29, 2015
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Life in New Swabia



On one side were the "Americans," mainly people of English ancestry, who had come to Michigan from upstate New York. Neidhard admired their neat, clean houses, but considered them careless farmers: they lost grain while harvesting, leaving it for their cattle, pigs, and chickens to glean from the fields. In contrast, he wrote, German immigrants lived in more ramshackle homes but cultivated their land meticulously.

The frugal Germans bent over and carefully cut wheat with sickles. The Americans, who swung large scythes, found that laughable. But the Germans almost cried watching the Americans feed good apples to their pigs.

The American women, Neidhard wrote, were the "equals of the most elegant European ladies in manners, figure, and dress...their sole occupation being to keep the rooms and kitchen clean and to beautify themselves and their dwellings." But the German women did housework and worked in the fields. A Freedom Township schoolteacher named Emerson Hutzel recorded how his mother raked hay into windrows, piled it up in a haycock, then used a pitchfork to lift it onto a wagon. She also helped with harvesting and husking corn-in addition to the traditional women's work of cooking, gardening, making clothes, and rearing children.

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