Sandburg's Hometown

Aug 26, 2013


Coffee and Water

By Barbara Schock

During his boyhood, Carl Sandburg was given many household tasks to perform. One which he shared with his brother Martin was grinding coffee. One or the other would hold the mill, filled with Arbuckle’s coffee beans, between his knees. The handle would be turned until all the beans had been ground down.

 For several days, the fresh coffee would be added to that which was already in the pot. After three or four days, the accumulated grounds would be thrown out and the process would begin again. For one day, the coffee was wholly fresh and at its best.

 Water was needed to make the coffee. Another of Sandburg’s responsibilities was bringing in pails of water from the back yard pump. In all seasons he worked the pump’s handle until he had filled a bucket or two for drinking and cooking. In the hottest months of the year, the butter supply would be wrapped securely and lowered into the well. There it stayed cold and firm.

 Occasionally, the pump would cease to function. Carl’s father would lower him down into the well to replace the malfunctioning part. Many houses in Galesburg had wells to supply the vital fluid. Homeowners had to maintain their own wells and hope they didn’t fail during a dry spell of weather.

 The Sandburg house also had a cistern where rainwater was collected from the roof. That water was used mostly for doing laundry and for bathing. During the summer months, the cistern water was used to prime the pump of the well. At those times, water might also be drawn from the cistern for drinking. Generally, it was used as a last resort, largely because its flavor was not good. No real thought was given to the question of how healthful it might be.

 Rainwater washed off the roof of a house might contain the remains of bird droppings, mold from decaying leaves and particles falling from the sky. A cistern had to be covered in order to prevent the incubation of mosquito larvae in the standing water.

 In the days before water treatment plants operated by municipalities, there were many opportunities for water to be contaminated. Individuals had to be very careful in choosing the source of water from which to drink.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity