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Life on the Farm in America - Early 20th Century

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  • Life on the Farm in America - Early 20th Century

    As I get older, I am more and more impressed with how difficult and challenging it must be to live as a farmer. My mother was born on a farm in North Hero, VT in 1925. This was her grandparents farm, where her father had been born in 1901. There ancestors had come from Quebec in the mid 19th Century, from the nearby border areas. My grandparents moved to Boston in 1928, so the kids could have more opportunities. But they would take the train up every summer and spend the summer.

    This was primarily a dairy farm, but they also grew other cash crops as well as food for themselves. They were fortunate that they were literally on Lake Champlain, so they always had fish available to them. My mother told me several times they did not get electrical power until after WW II.

    My mother loved her grandmother very much, who basically kept her alive when she was born two weeks premature in the middle of the winter. My mother would visit the graveyards every summer when we went to Vermont, and she would always point out all the women who died in childbirth. She also loved to visit antique shops every summer looking for things similar to what was on the farm. She especially loved to fish - they used to got out in row boats and "troll" for gamefish, especially Northern Pike.

    Some of the things I remember my mother telling me about the farm was that her grandfather was an excellent business man, who knew how to grow and find a market for cash crops (often pea beans), that every one of the kids had their own chore to do every day, and they used to love Sundays, when they got to see their cousins. There was also a huge 3 acre or so garden which later became the lakefront lots given to the children, including my grandfather, which was cultivated by the women "in their spare time". This was very important for putting up preserves.

    Anyway, my purpose here is ask anyone who lived on such farms, or whose people did, how they were organized on an economic basis - what were the cash crops, how important was communal labor or barter, how were chores allocated to children, how was the barn and outbuildings laid out, how were the fields rotated and fertilized, how were seeds stored, what the kitchen routine, how did diet vary throughout the year, were any herbs used for medicinal purposes, what machines were used, tractors, generators, etc. - in short, I would love to hear "oral histories' from people. I'm sure others would also, since many or most of us are "city kids" or "suburban kids".

    Thanks,

    Tony
    Last edited by lakechampainer; 17 Sep 11, 12:27.

  • Mountain Man
    replied
    Originally posted by Greybriar View Post

    It was said of the German farmers that the only thing lost when they butchered a hog was its squeal. I suppose that was true for the most part of all farmers in days gone by.

    Both my paternal and maternal grandfathers were farmers, one born in 1872 and the other in 1878, respectively. I never knew my paternal grandfather because he died in 1938 before I was born. However, I loved to listen to my maternal grandfather's stories and visit him and my grandmother on their farm in the 1950s. One of the stories that impressed me was how during harvest time the farmers in the area would get together and help one another harvest their crops. My grandmother would prepare a huge amount of food and serve lunch to the men helping grandfather harvest his crop.

    Grandfather had a team of mules and an old horse. He had tried using tractors and didn't like them--I recall seeing the rusting remains of a couple of tractors on his farm. He told me how he had been plowing once with his horse and a mule teamed together when somehow he was thrown to the ground in front of the plow. He yelled "Whoa!" for the team to stop and the horse did but the mule kept trying to pull the plow forward. In short, Old Bess (the horse) saved his life. He rewarded Old Bess by putting her out to pasture for the rest of her life.

    My mother was the youngest of eleven children. (Large families were common in those days because the farmers needed help on the farm.) She was born in 1926; her oldest sibling had been born in 1902. I don't remember what the crops were that my mother told me my grandfather raised, but I do recall her mentioning tobacco and that it was a lot of work. She mentioned that grandfather had raised sheep for a time but that hogs and cattle were his usual choice, as was corn and wheat in crops. As for animals, grandfather had once told me he preferred raising hogs instead of cattle because a sow could have a litter of ten pigs or more but a cow would usually have only one calf; he could lose a pig or two and still make a profit, but if a cow lost her calf so also was the year's profit lost from the cow for that year.

    I could write a great deal more, but to be brief: Farmers worked hard, families were closer, and people helped one another when the need arose.
    That was true of people in general at the tie. They had all endured hardship to come to America, so they had a common bond, and with no one else around for miles in many cases it was natural to help each other. Turning your back on someone is trouble was a major social error bordering on criminal.

    We're still like that out here in the country. When my wife and stop to watch the elk or something, every vehicle passing either way on the isolated dirt road will stop and ask if we need assistance. We do the same when we see someone stopped. N0 one takes it for granted that everything is OK, especially in areas with poor or no cell reception.

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  • Greybriar
    replied
    Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
    I have talked to people that went through this period. It was a time where nothing was wasted, and everything was used for some purpose. No fast food, no industrialized economy, no jobs....terrible
    It was said of the German farmers that the only thing lost when they butchered a hog was its squeal. I suppose that was true for the most part of all farmers in days gone by.

    Both my paternal and maternal grandfathers were farmers, one born in 1872 and the other in 1878, respectively. I never knew my paternal grandfather because he died in 1938 before I was born. However, I loved to listen to my maternal grandfather's stories and visit him and my grandmother on their farm in the 1950s. One of the stories that impressed me was how during harvest time the farmers in the area would get together and help one another harvest their crops. My grandmother would prepare a huge amount of food and serve lunch to the men helping grandfather harvest his crop.

    Grandfather had a team of mules and an old horse. He had tried using tractors and didn't like them--I recall seeing the rusting remains of a couple of tractors on his farm. He told me how he had been plowing once with his horse and a mule teamed together when somehow he was thrown to the ground in front of the plow. He yelled "Whoa!" for the team to stop and the horse did but the mule kept trying to pull the plow forward. In short, Old Bess (the horse) saved his life. He rewarded Old Bess by putting her out to pasture for the rest of her life.

    My mother was the youngest of eleven children. (Large families were common in those days because the farmers needed help on the farm.) She was born in 1926; her oldest sibling had been born in 1902. I don't remember what the crops were that my mother told me my grandfather raised, but I do recall her mentioning tobacco and that it was a lot of work. She mentioned that grandfather had raised sheep for a time but that hogs and cattle were his usual choice, as was corn and wheat in crops. As for animals, grandfather had once told me he preferred raising hogs instead of cattle because a sow could have a litter of ten pigs or more but a cow would usually have only one calf; he could lose a pig or two and still make a profit, but if a cow lost her calf so also was the year's profit lost from the cow for that year.

    I could write a great deal more, but to be brief: Farmers worked hard, families were closer, and people helped one another when the need arose.

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  • Sic Semper Tyran
    replied
    Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
    I have talked to people that went through this period. It was a time where nothing was wasted, and everything was used for some purpose. No fast food, no industrialized economy, no jobs....terrible


    sounds like freedom to me.

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  • Mountain Man
    replied
    Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
    I have talked to people that went through this period. It was a time where nothing was wasted, and everything was used for some purpose. No fast food, no industrialized economy, no jobs....terrible
    And yet the people themselves had a very rich and full life because they did not have a need for the constant mindless entertainment and electronic pacifiers that we do. And their lives were better tan the previous generation's.

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  • Drusus Nero
    replied
    I have talked to people that went through this period. It was a time where nothing was wasted, and everything was used for some purpose. No fast food, no industrialized economy, no jobs....terrible

    Leave a comment:


  • lakechampainer
    replied
    My mother proudly holding fish she caught. This is what made the farm special, being right on the lake.
    Attached Files

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  • lakechampainer
    replied
    Two reposts, since original posts no longer visible. Two "farm life" pictures.
    Attached Files

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  • lakechampainer
    replied
    repost of the first picture in the thread, my great-grandmother, who died in 1935 and my mother missed the rest of her life. I think the picture is about 1932, so my great-grandmother would be about 64.
    Attached Files

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  • lakechampainer
    replied
    My mother, my grandmother, my cousins George and Alison, about 1955, at the mailbox on the then dirt road right along the lake.
    Attached Files

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  • lakechampainer
    replied
    Originally posted by lakechampainer View Post
    Hi Tom,

    Great to see your post. Below is a picture of Desire Dubuque with five generations of family, from the Burlington Free Press dated October 5, 1954. Apparently it is page two, because the flip side is apparently page one, hence the date and banner.

    The other picture is a picture of him with a cat, apparently on the front porch. At first glance it looks like it could be from the same time the picture was taken of him with my mother, where she is proudly holding up the fish she caught. Actually quite an interesting picture as the lake and New York state can be seen reflecting in the window. I don't claim to be a photo interpreter, but I think the angle of the sun suggests it is near the summer solstice. Like the picture with the shadows on post 14, I'm here wondering decades -six? later wondering if we are dealing with a master photographer. (Edit - and after thinking about it, I think it most likely was my mother)

    On post 2 my grandparents are holding black cats, while he is not. Post 7 is the post with my mother, the hat actually looks different, I think.

    Edit: I'm typing in the text from the "Five Generations" photo, so it will show up in searches.

    Five Generations - Posing for a family portrait, these five people represent five generations living in the same family. Shown are Mrs. Louis Poquette, Desire Dubuque, Lynn Mary DeGrechie, Mrs. Paul DeGrechie and Roland Poquette. The picture was taken at North Hero. Dubuque is 89 years old, and has six living children, 25 grandchildren, 33 great grandchildren and one great- great grandchild.

    Regards,

    Tony Tramonte
    Repost of picture- five generations. A cousin of mine contacted my sister and me looking for family info. I found this picture again after some looking. My cousin as part of his research found there were Dubuque's in Quebec in 1608 who were masons and in the militia. They were from Northern France, as I suspected, just on a statistical basis.

    Also, apparently, no American Indian blood, based on my sister's DNA sample.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by lakechampainer; 30 Jun 17, 22:05.

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  • lakechampainer
    replied
    Reposts of pictures

    Originally posted by lakechampainer View Post
    The first picture is a picture of my grandmother that my sister found recently. This was when she was in England in the period 1919 - 1920, having gone there from Ireland (Aughrim) to earn money for the trip to NYC where she had relatives. There is handwriting on the back that says "Sylvia aged 1 year 10 months Winnie aged 5 years. May Rose Kelley 19 years." My mother always mentioned London, so I assume the picture was taken in London.

    My mother was named Sylvia after the little girl, because my grandmother loved her a lot. My grandmother's age of 19 confirms that it was in the 1919-1920 period.

    I wonder how the lives of the two girls went. They theoretically could still be alive, in their 90s.


    The second picture is a postcard that says in type at the top "North Hero Volunteer Fire Department, North Hero, Vt." In what I would say is 1950s type. My sister's boyfriend, who is an officer in a Fire Department in a Boston suburb, says that the truck is probably from the 40s, and was probably sold to the dept. after 15 or 20 years of use by a larger dep't. He says his department has sold trucks after 10 or 15 years to a volunteer dep't in Maine. On the back it says "Place one cent stamp here" and "Fairbanks Card Company, 14 High Street, Brookline, MA which is a coincidence, because Brookline is where they lived when they moved to Boston.

    I am baffled as to the one cent stamp aspect, as as far as I can tell 1919 was the last time there were one cent post card rates.

    My sister also found an US Army Pass ID card of my mother's from 1943. I (i.e. my son) wasn't able to transfer the picture, as it had too much data, a problem I have had on other pictures. My mother told me she had done volunteer air defense work during the war; I wish I had asked her more about it.
    EDIT: My son got the ID card picture in by reducing the size of the file (granularity)
    The card says:

    U. S ARMY PASS No. A 52907
    FIRST FIGHTER COMMAND

    Region Boston SEP 2 1943
    Name Sylvia L. Dubuque
    Designation Boston Information Center
    Age 18 Weight 108 Height 5' 3"
    Color of Hair brown Color of Eyes blue

    then my mother's signature

    then it says
    This Card Must Be Presented When Entering Premises or Whenever Requested At Other Times - Under No Circumstances Shall This Card Be Used By Any Person Other Than The One To Whom It Is Issued.

    then it says:

    COUNTERSIGNED Richard J. E. Kain

    Regional Signal Officer

    Wing Signal Officer??


    On the back were spaces that said "Paste Photo Here" and "Right Thumb Print" and four other spaces with just the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4

    There is a seal embedded in the card - I can't read what it says

    Below is a link to the Wikipedia article on I Fighter Command
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Fighter_Command

    Below is a link to the Wikipedia article on "(Boston Fighter Wing) - 323rd Air Division"
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/323d_Air_Division

    I assume that the pass was to the old Boston Army Base in South Boston - which was the center of the Boston Port of Embarkation

    Edit: Wikipedia article refers to unit being stationed at "Logan Airport" during this time period
    Picture is Repost of first picture - picture of my Grandmother in London circa 1920, with two girls she took care of. My mother was named after the girl Sylvia.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by lakechampainer; 01 Jul 17, 07:05.

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  • lakechampainer
    replied
    Rare fish caught twice in twenty years - 29 year old Lake Sturgeon caught 19 years after being tagged in Lake Champlain link to stories and photos below

    http://www.necn.com/news/new-england...426777431.html

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  • lakechampainer
    replied
    Edit: I received an email from the Lake Champlain Land Trust, about a Wildflower Hike there May 13.

    latest brochures on Butternut Hill

    http://www.lclt.org/butternut-hill/

    excerpt


    HISTORY

    Butternut Hill Natural Area was conserved in 2012. Two North Hero, VT families, the Williams and the Keyes, worked alongside each other, the Lake Champlain Land Trust, and The Nature Conservancy of Vermont to conserve wildlife habitat and lakeshore along Lake Champlain.
    Butternut Hill Natural Area combines conserved land from the Williams family, the Keyes family, and the Town of North Hero, protecting a spectacular, old floodplain forest, while providing public access to the forest and the lake via the trails starting at the Town of North Hero’s former Camp Ingalls land.

    PARTNERS

    Butternut Hill was conserved in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, the Town of North Hero, and the Lake Champlain Land Trust.

    -----------------------

    https://www.lclt.org/wp-content/uplo...HillGuide1.pdf
    Last edited by lakechampainer; 22 Apr 17, 08:22.

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  • lakechampainer
    replied
    From the same videographer (Paul Rude) - I am 90% sure this is from the shore of the northern edge of my great-grandparents farm - because of the road safety barrier you can see, and the trees that are on the other side of the road, looking South. The sunset is more or less looking towards Plattsburgh.

    I hope we can get the thumbnail photos back at some point, so the photos here and on thousands of other posts can be seen again.

    Last edited by lakechampainer; 22 Apr 17, 08:11.

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