Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Pioneers Had Advice Too/Tenderfoot of Old Days

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, March 26, 1961, page 14

The early day “tenderfoot” of the Tri-City region was a person who had never experienced many frontier hardships. He had come West from the Eastern States that were at this time developed beyond the pioneer and frontier stages. He had traveled to the Far West by stage, railroad and steamship. He had not made the trip by wagon train. If he had, his feet would have been toughened by the time he had reached the Tri-City area.

These “tenderfeet” had little experience of any kind. Those from the towns and citites were, for the most part, factory workers. They rented their home or were domestics. Those from the country were farm hands and servants. They were frugal and ambitious. They expected to better their economic conditions by traveling to the west, where undeveloped opportunities were available to the new settlers. Government land could be cheaply secured by many land acts, such as Donation Claims, Homesteads, Soldier’s Claims, Desert Claims, Preemption Claims, and Timber Cultures. Railroad land could be purchased for as little as 90 cents per acre. At these early times, there was an abundance of open range ready for stock grazing.

The “tenderfoot”, because of his background and sudden change of living environment, was under a great handicap. He unknowingly made foolish mistakes and costly errors. The early pioneer settler viewed the “tenderfoot” and his actions with a mixed feeling of mirth and sympathy. He jollied and ridiculed the tenderfoot, but deep in his heart, he admired him. He respected his courage and willingness to keep on trying. It was not long, under the spirit of the “old West”, for the old pioneer and the “tenderfoot” to understand each other. A father-and-son-situation developed. The “tenderfoot” went to the old pioneer for advice and the pioneer took delight in giving it. He helped the “tenderfoot”in solving many problems that arose in his new life in the Northwest. The “tenderfoot” was an apt pupil.

It was not long until he had mastered the major problems that came to him. He enjoyed the ownership of property. He was thrilled by the responsibilty of making his own decisions. He was inspired and greatful for his abundant opportunities. He emerged from a “tenderfoot” to a citizen of the great Northwest.

There was also another type of “tenderfoot” in the old Northwest, the wealthy “tenderfoot”. In 1884 Theodore Roosevelt went to the frontiers of North and South Dakota to rough it and regain his health. Quite a bit of publicity was given to the episode. Many restless sons of wealthy Eastern families came to the Northwest for exciting experiences that the wild untamed and wooly West afforded. Many of these “tenderfeet” were just irresponsible spend-thrifts and wastrels. Others became interested in the development of the wonderful natural resources so abundant in the wild new country. They became leading, respected and influential citizens of the Northwest. Many wealthy English remittance men also flocked to the Northwest to secure the experiences of the wild-and-wooly West. Many of these found themselves in the new environment and became successful businessmen in the new country.

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