From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, July 02, 2007

An Ohio Farm of 1920

Farm Life in the American Midwest, Early 1900s



The following passage is excerpted from a 1922 geography textbook. I have faithfully reproduced the spelling and punctuation, but I have broken up some of the long paragraphs. The authors are describing a typical farm of the Central United States:

In the main, [farms] resemble the one in Ohio that is here described. On this Ohio farm of 160 acres, is a house in which the family lives, with a barn near by for horses, milch cows and hay, and with sheds near it for storing grain and farming implements.

A windmill at the rear of the house keeps the milk house well supplied with cold water, and also fills the water trough in the barnyard.

Near the house is an orchard of apple, peach, and pear trees, with a few rows of berry bushes in one part, and a chicken house in another. Here enough chickens are raised to supply some meat, and all the eggs that are needed, with some to sell.

On one side of the front yard are a few beehives and back of them, between the orchard and the barn, is a garden of vegetables. Still back of that are several pigpens, in which hogs are fattened for home use, and also for the market.

Farther away from the house are fields in which there are at least three or four different kinds of crops. Every farmer in that vicinity expects to raise corn, -- perhaps sixty acres of it, -- some grass for grazing and for hay, and wheat or some other kind of grain.

After these crops are harvested, they are either sold or fed to stock -- horses, cattle, hogs, or sheep-- upon the farm. The latter plan is often followed, chiefly because it pays better to fatten stock and sell it, than to sell the crops themselves.

There are generally two or three good milch cows on the farm which not only supply the family with fresh milk and butter, but furnish some cream or butter to sell.

Since there are usually only a few houses in sight of a farmhouse, and no store or post office within a number of miles, the farmer and his family may not meet with other persons for several days at a time, although they often see friends driving by.

In the busiest season from spring till fall, they make few trips to town. However, they have a telephone by which they can talk with neighbors, and with friends and merchants in town, while the postman brings the mail to their doors.

Some persons would not care for such a life as this, because it is too lonesome, and there is too much hard work connected with it. But this farmer enjoys it greatly, because he likes to take care of his stock, to work in the soil, and to watch his crops grow.

In addition, he is able to raise most of his own food, and his whole life is more independent than that of persons in a town or village.

Excerpted from World Geographies Second Book, by Ralph S. Tarr and Frank M. McMurry. Published in New York by the MacMillan Company in 1922. Copyrighted in 1912, 1913, and 1920.

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You can see a 1915 panoramic photograph of a nice farm, something like the one described above, at the Library of Congress "American Memory" website: Stuart Acres at Marshall, Michigan.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.