The Herald Bulletin

April 21, 2010

Students mark Pioneer Days

By Dave Stafford
The Herald Bulletin

LAPEL, Ind. — Fourth-graders at Lapel Elementary School this week are turning back the clock to get a taste of what life would have been like in Pioneer Days.

On Wednesday, students dressed up for the annual celebration of settler spirit that includes hands-on events such as churning butter, doing crafts and playing games from the 1800s.

School treasurer LouAnn Mason’s daughter Makena was among the fourth-graders in the classes of teachers Debby Davis, Tiffany Smith, Lisa Storm and Carmen Whaley,  who participated in Pioneer Days.

“All the kids have come up with an outfit of what they would think a pioneer boy or girl would dress like back in the day,” LouAnn Mason said.

For Makena, that meant getting together with her mother and grandmother (“Mammy”) and, much like pioneers, making the clothes themselves.

“(Makena) and Mammy had like a sew play date,” Mason said. The result was a pioneer dress and matching bonnet and a shawl.

“It was very uncomfortable,” Makena said. “I probably would not be able to be a pioneer. ... I didn’t know their life was so hard.”

But pioneers did have fun sometimes, as the youngsters learned through games popular in the period. “I played tug-of-war with my class and the girls team beat the boys team,” Makena boasted.

Davis said her students have learned about quilting, making corn cob dolls, working with wool, learning about antiques, playing pioneer games and sampling food such as salt pork, dumplings, bean soup, Johnny cakes, turnips, and of course, pies.

“Pioneers always ate fruit pie,” Davis said.

She said the week of events allows students to act out some of what they learn in class about their ancestors’ lives. “I heard kids say today, ‘Gosh, I didn’t know pioneers had to work so hard,’” Davis said Wednesday. “I think they have more respect for how easy they have it.”

Like real pioneer days, the whole town pitched in, Davis said. “We had almost 40 adults coming to help us — parents and grandparents. We couldn’t do it if they didn’t come out and help us.”

Today, Lapel students will take a field trip to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in Fishers. On Friday, Davis and her colleagues will become schoolmarms for a day as classes will revert to the style of one-room schoolhouses. 

Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250,