Long before Vampire Tools and the internet were here to home deliver you top quality screw removal pliers and the best scissors available, the Pioneers of the earliest days of European settlement in America needed to make do with the tools they had at hand.

While we are prone to romanticize the lives of the early American Pioneers, in truth their life was hard, dangerous, and somewhat terrifying at times. Success and survival depended upon good luck, the strength of body and character, and working together. It also required carrying the best tools they could.

The Pioneers had to hunt for their food, clear their land, build their homes, make their own clothing, defend themselves, and sow and reap their own crops.

So what were the most important survival tools to our forebears?

  • Hammers, Saws, and Axes were crucial for building shelter. Most homes on the Frontier were constructed from wood, though some were made using sod. Hammers were used to split logs, break rock, hammer nails and work metal.
  • Spades or shovels were essential for all types of digging – for everything from creating root cellars to planting vegetables and even burying the dead.
  • Farming was survival to the Pioneers, so plows, hoes, flails, and scythes were critical. Hunting was also a way of life, with almost every Pioneer owning a shotgun; many also having a pistol. All had hunting knives, and hatchets were important when needed for self-defense.
  • Inside the home, tools were important as well. Spinning wheels were very common, as wool or cotton were spun to create fibers for making into blankets, clothing, and other fabrics. Almost every woman knew how to use a spinning wheel. Laundry was done by hand over a washboard, usually in a nearby stream.
  • Women also used a grinding device to make flour from grain.
  • The smallest and simplest tool every woman used was the humble needle. Nobody had new or repaired clothing unless it was made by hand. Additionally, sewing skills from scratch were needed for blankets, leatherwork, flour and grain storage bags, and even blankets for horses.

We take so much in life for granted today, and our forebears’ minds would have boggled had they any idea how much simpler, yet in other ways so much more complex, life would be at the dawn of the twenty-first century. So when you pick up your best scissors or any other tool, spare a thought for those who came before. We really do have it easy!