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Frontier — The Orendorffs

McLean County was a wilderness when the first white settlers arrived. They left behind over farmed land and crowded conditions. Some came because title to the land they left behind was uncertain. Making a home proved challenging.

For Mary Walker Orendorff, life on the frontier included few refinements or comforts.

With limited resources, setting up and maintaining a home, and raising children were her biggest challenges.

Mary arrived in Blooming Grove with her family in 1824. That fall she married Thomas Orendorff and moved into his crude log cabin. 

See a vignette portraying their home life in our exhibit here!

Black and white photo of a middle-aged woman wearing a black dress.

Mary Walker Orendorff

Black and white photo of a middle-aged woman wearing a black dress.

Frontier settlers like the Orendorffs relied on hunting and gathering to feed themselves.

Furs were tanned and used for clothing, hats, and gloves, or traded for needed supplies.

Frontiersmen like brothers Thomas and John Orendorff would have worn buckskin clothing for hunting. The leather was waterproof and protected the hunter’s arms and legs from thorns and brambles.

Reproduction buckskin tunic and leggings, and racoon hat

A white, male mannequin dressed in buckskin, standing with a wooden rifle in one hand and a fur in the other hand.

View this object in Matterport

The Pennsylvania type hunting rifle, a prized possession, was a necessity for survival.

A white, male mannequin dressed in buckskin, standing with a wooden rifle in one hand and a fur in the other hand.

Facing the difficulties of basic survival was the Orendorffs' first course of action.

The brothers relied on hunting and trapping of deer, turkey, and smaller birds and animals to feed themselves.

Good hunters had all the necessary equipment. This included a bullet mold for making rifle balls (bullets); a powder horn; a skinning knife for removing the hide of the game; and a hide scraper for scraping the hide. This equipment was stowed in their saddle bags.

Powder horn, circa 1815

12 inch long powder horn made from bovine horn. It has a rounded wooden plug in the large end, secured with 5 brass tacks. The small end of the horn has been carved to form conical section at tip.

Donated by: Fred W. Schwenn
726.277

12 inch long powder horn made from bovine horn. It has a rounded wooden plug in the large end, secured with 5 brass tacks. The small end of the horn has been carved to form conical section at tip.

John B. Orendorff’s bullet ladle, circa 1850

Hand wrought iron ladle, bowl has pouring lip. 18-inch long handle is riveted to bowl, Hand-wrought hook at end of handle for hanging.

View this object in Matterport

Donated by: the heirs of John B. Orendorff
723.109

Hand wrought iron ladle, bowl has pouring lip. 18-inch long handle is riveted to bowl, Hand-wrought hook at end of handle for hanging.

Skinning knife, circa 1900

Knife has a curved blade and a wooden handle marked

Donated by: Greg and Carol Koos
855.363

Knife has a curved blade and a wooden handle marked

Bullet mold, circa 1860

Iron bullet mold for single round ball. Appears to be hand-forged. The pointed handles curve outward, and the top of casting cavity mold is flattened.

726.110

Iron bullet mold for single round ball. Appears to be hand-forged. The pointed handles curve outward, and the top of casting cavity mold is flattened.

Orendorff Flip Book

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