Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cabin Fever

By Mary Pascoe, Cornish immigrant, 1835

From the Chloe Ellefson Mysteries

by Kathleen Ernst

I heard a miner talking about "cabin fever" the other day. Now that winter's pressed down, do you have it too? If so, I must admit to some envy.

It took every cent my brothers and I had to travel from Cornwall to what soon became the Wisconsin Territory in America. We settled near the spot where the very first lead was discovered in Mineral Point.

Our first "home" was a little dug-out shelter with brush for a roof. This winter we got lucky, and moved into a tiny cave somebody had carved out from a hillside. We've even got stone around the entrance to help keep the rain out. Since there's no door, I get to watch the snow fall.

Source:  PIxabay

The boys go down in the mine every day. It warms them up and keeps them busy. I don't have much to do this time of year except huddle under my blankets, feed the fire, and dream of spring.

And when a blizzard roars down, or the temperature plunges...well, let's just say that a cabin sounds pretty good.

Don't worry about me, though. I've adopted a little girl to raise, and she gives me hope. I'll rise above all this one day, and own a real home. You'll see.

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A note from Chloe:

The Cornish mining families that settled in southwest Wisconsin endured rugged living conditions. Fair-weather miners might simply dig out a shallow pit and stretch a tarp or some brush over it. The hillside across from Pendarvis, the historic site where I'm working as guest curator, is riddled with evidence.
Note the trees growing from the depression once dug by miners.
People who wintered over did what they could. This so-called Badger Hole was dug near Mineral Point, WI.

Here's another photograph, this one on display at the Badger Mine & Museum in Shullsburg.

Can you imagine spending a Wisconsin winter in one of these shelters? The tenacity of these immigrants, who sacrificed so much to make a better life for themselves, inspires me every day.

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To learn more about the award-winning Chloe Ellefson series---including the latest, Mining for Justice, see Kathleen's website  or follow her on her Facebook Author Page.


  1. I can't imagine being out in the frigid cold during a harsh winter with no shelter to go to other than a dug out hole. One things for sure people of that time were tough compared to the lackluster modern man who think they can't survive with their cell phones much less without proper shelter.

  2. Kay - it certainly does put things in perspective, doesn't it?

  3. These shelters do not look like they'd be warm enough.

  4. I can't imagine, Jana. Wisconsin winters are cold!

  5. I am reading it right now! Interesting to see the pic of the Badger Hole!