Catherine Jones Thomas
Catherine was also involved with the temperance movement, and she played the role of trying to rehabilitate an alcoholic. It is impossible to tell whether “the cure” she gave to a friend worked for him or not, but in the following quote it appears that she was attempting to help him kick the habit:
October 5, 1886: “Ed Myers hear sword off for a year will give me a horse if he enters a saloon or drink inside of a year”
Through her temperance work and through her role giving guidance and advice she was performing free work to the community.
Almost every Sunday she went to the church, even if that meant walking seven miles in the winter. It is easy to see that her church was the highlight of her week, lifting her spirits, and gave her strength to carry on.
April 8, 1888: “Joseph Griffith and myself went to church had 2 Welsh sermons which we all needed”
Her friendships were extremely important. She mentions frequently the exact length of time it had been since she had seen a particular friend. Once she laments, “it has been two weeks since I have seen a woman.” Interestingly, two days prior to this entry she has two female visitors – it probably only seemed like two weeks.
The two diaries encompass only a few short years. What happened during those missing years is left to our imagination.”
— Christine Sartor
The contents of Catherine Jones Thomas’s two diaries gives us only a glimpse of what life was like on the flat, empty prairie of southwest Minnesota in those early days of white settlement. Women are not often mentioned in history — for it is the men who envision the chance to embrace a better life, and it is they who have the energy and fortitude to strike out in search of their dreams. It is the men who decide to head out, build the roads and the railroads, start up the settlements that become villages, and then govern them. But it is the women they take along who love and support them and who make these life adventures bearable for the men. It is the women who bring comfort to body and soul, prepare the food and provide a home as well as bear and raise the children of their union. The men find and experience the joy and satisfaction of building a new future for their family, which brings them contentment. But it is the woman who must leave the comfort and ties of her parental home and the familiarity of her country to follow her man. It is the woman who experiences the loneliness and often depression of the physically cruel and deprived prairie that gives no mental solace. They must both work hard and experience extreme hardship in order to make their lives bearable. And it is the women who finally bring culture to these communities by convincing the men to spend the money so that schools, churches, libraries and theaters might be built. So together they worked hard, prayed hard, supported each other and the children of their union until they had built together a community that became a nation — a nation of immigrants that has become the most democratic and powerful nation in the world.
Sources: Lyon County, Minnesota (1884-1912), A.P. Rose; History and Description of Lyon County, Minnesota, C.F. Case, 1884; “Catherine Jones Thomas,” Christine Sartor, March 1998.