Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Old Country Traditions/ Piercing Ears Painful

Tri-City Pioneer
Sunday, 16 April 1961, page 18

No pioneers of the Tri-City region could have told you what Papa Schunneman’s first name was. Everyone called him Papa Schunneman. His wife was known as Mama Schunneman. They were from Germany. They spoke high German perfectly and their English, though spoken with a German accent, was flawless. They were both highly educated. Their home was situated about two miles up the Columbia from Pasco.

The bank of the Columbia, as this location was low, formed quite a large tract of sub-irrigated land. Papa Schunneman, being an expert mechanical engineer, and fine horticulturist, soon developed it into a productive beauty spot. The place was laid out like an Old Country German estate. The grounds and buildings reflected the refinement and good taste of old country German culture. It was an oasis in this raw untamed Western frontier desert.

Papa and Mama Schunneman had five children: Frank, Henry, Julia, Fred and Dolph.

Frank married quite a pretty girl, the only person wounded at the Indian uprising at Celilo in the 1870’s. She was accidentally shot in the leg by a careless defender. When medical aid was secured, it was necessary to amputate the leg at the knee.

Henry was the second son. He worked for the Northern Pacific at Pasco for many years.

Papa and Mama’s only daughter, Julia, was a pretty, vivacious and talented girl. Mama had trained Julia’s voice and taught her the piano and organ. Julia played the organ or piano for all the country dances. She was quite the “belle of the ball.” She married George Bowers, a wealthy stockman, who had a large “horse spread” at the mouth of the Yakima River. Her husband built her a beautiful dream house of that period. It was gorgeously furnished. The grounds were beautifully planted and landscaped. It was one of the show places of the region. Julia gave birth to a baby girl, which they christened Georgia in honor of her father. They lived very happily for several years. George Bowers was considerably older than Julia. He had been a captain in the Union Cavalry during the Civil War. He passed away about the fifth or sixth year of their marriage. It was a great shock to Julia as she and George were so happy together. About six years later she married James Clemons, a man of her own age. She had two or three daughters by this union.

Fred, the third son, was the buckeroo and bronco buster of the family. He rode the range for many years. He later established a dray and transfer business in Pasco.

Dolph, the youngest child, lived with his father and mother at the old home. Papa, was older than Mama, passed away about five or six years after Julia’s marriage. Dolph took loving care of his mother who was grieved by the loss of her faithful Papa. She sought solace from her sorrow in her flower gardens and the nestings of her roller song birds. Dolph saved her life by shooting an escaped lunatic who had attacked her with a scythe while she was working in her flower gardens. Mama’s hobby for years had been raising German Roller song birds. She had given all her friends cages of these beautiful singers.

Dolph was very athletic. He was the swiftest foot racer in the entire region. He always won all the Fourth of July foot races and climbed the greased pole. He was associated with his brother Fred in the hauling and drayage business in Pasco.

Mama Schunneman was noted for expert ear piercing technique. She always attended all the pioneer quilting bees. The ladies with unpierced or grown shut lobes would have her attend to their ears. She would take her long steel hat pin, heat it red hot in the hearth of the kitchen stove, then take from her purse a small cork which had been soaked in arnica. She would deftly place this behind the ear lobe of her patient who sat with bulging eyes and drawn lips while she took the hot hat pin and thrust it through the lobe into the cork. There was a slight sizzle and a sharp sigh. The hot pin had been removed, and the cork replace in the purse. A darning needle threaded with white woolen yarn that had been soaked in arnica was thrust through the pierced hole, looped and tied with the instruction to pull the loop around every day for nine days and then remove. The children were always sent outdoors while this operation was going on. We would peek in the windows or open doors to see our mothers sitting on chairs getting punished. We perceived that it was a positive preposterous prevarication to pretend that “pride knoweth no pain.”

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