G o o s e S t r e e t
Oxford Junction, Iowa
You won’t find it on a street sign, but Oxford Junction has a “Goose Street”. Main Street, now Highway 136, was called that because several long-ago residents along the street raised geese for their eggs, meat, feathers, and fat (goose grease). Local lore has it that when the housewives were plucking geese the breeze carried feathers over the street like a snowstorm. This photo and caption are from the 1971 O.J. Centennial book:
The Peckoshes and their fence were probably photographed after April 6, 1906 when Mayor J. A. Bracha published a notice in the Oxford Mirror: “The people of Oxford Junction owning poultry and other live stock are hereby notified to shut up and confine same to their own yards. This order is to take effect immediately.” And in the March 30, 1933 issue: “This is to notify those who own chickens or poultry running at large to keep them penned up, as there has been a number of complaints. By order of the Mayor.”
Five more Mirror articles mentionning Goose Street:
The breed/s of geese raised in O.J. is not known but most domestic breeds in the United States descend from the Greylag Goose (next photo) which live from 20 to 22 years.
A newsletter of Western Fraternal Life Insurance had an article on Goosetown, a Czech part of Iowa City, Iowa: “Bohemians in the 1870s fled their native land which was under the cruel reign of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The emigrants were too poor to bring many possessions, but they were filled with hope and skills, and brought a wealth of customs and traditons. These qualities enabled them to survive and eventually prosper.
….. (their) homes sat on large lots that were used for gardens for food that could feed a family of ten or more. Geese are very versatile birds. They feed on grass as well as grain. When butchered, it provided meat, the grease for cooking and medicinal purposes. The wing feathers became chimney sweepers. Other wing feathers were made into peroutky and used as pastry brushes. The down was used for feather beds in the cold unheated attic and for pillows. The geese were an economic and symbolic part of Bohemian life. The lots were fenced with picket fences.”
From page 51 of Early Farm Life by Lisa Gunby: “A flock of geese greeting visitors at the gate could be frightening. Geese often behaved like guard dogs. When strangers approached, geese made a terrible noise, honking and hissing as they waddled as fast as their flat feet could carry them. Strangers had to steer clear of their big bills. Geese could give them nasty bites! When plucking day came these brave birds turned into a sorry sight. They knew it was ‘that time of year’ again when the farmer put them in the pens overnight. The farmer wanted their feathers to be dry. One by one the geese were caught. Their heads were covered in an old sock so they could not bite. Plucking did not hurt them very much, but it hurt their pride. The big feathers were used for pillows and mattresses. The tiny ‘pin’ feathers were saved to stuff pillows for babies. Nothing could be more downy than a goose-feather pillow. By the time plucking was finished, the yard looked as if a snowstorm had swept through. Bits of down floated in the air like snowflakes. The geese huddled in the corner of the yard, nursing what was left of their ruffled feathers.”
Oxford Junction’s Goose Street in 2008:
I would like to think that all the geese who lived here had long happy lives. Perhaps some feathers from Oxford Jct.’s geese still serve in someone’s pastry brush. Judy Nelson