PART 4 – DAILY LIFE – WORKING ON THE FARM – PRIDE IN A HORSE, SEEDING, A BARN FIRE, SAWMILL, ELEVATING A BARN, THRESHING & MORE
Contents ©2016 by Harold Pfohl
DAILY LIFE ON THE FARM AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY
Labor was manual, horse powered, wind powered, water powered and sometimes steam powered. Gasoline engines were primitive. Steam traction engines were commonplace, but usually so large and expensive that they were purchased by entrepreneurs and employed for community-wide use, e.g. threshing. One engine would be utilized to power threshing machines for numerous farms, and large crews of neighbors would gather to quickly dispatch the harvest labor at each farm. Time was short; the grain could not be left in the field long for rain would spoil it.
Nonetheless, the equipment that was in use was a vast improvement over that of the grandparents pioneering generation half a century earlier.
Electricity and telephones were virtually nonexistent, and local communications were by letter, postcard, and word of mouth. The daily paper was in printed in German and distributed from Milwaukee.
A tip of the hat again to “Uncle” Charlie Nieman for all of his wonderful photos.
For the location of the Nieman and Lueder farms see link: FARMS OF JOACHIM LUEDER AND JOHANN NIEMAN
For a guide to the Nieman and Lueder families see link: 1890s/1900 – GUIDE TO THE NIEMAN AND LUEDER FAMILIES
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CHARLIE’S FARM ACCOUNT BOOK
Charlie was meticulous. Using a most elegant penmanship, he accounted for every penny spent and received.
One can learn a considerable amount about an era by scrutinizing account books. For example, Louis Hoffman owned the Hoffman’s Butcher Shop. Charlie’s accounts for January 3, 1910, show “Louis Hoffman – Casings 4 lbs. @ 25¢” $1.00 (hog intestines washed and sterilized then used to make sausage). Charlie, like many farmers, made his own sausage, and almost certainly had a few pigs to slaughter for that purpose.
Also on January 3rd, “Chas Propp(?) Rev. & teacher’s salary $2.00.” This would seem to suggest that Charlie and wife Minna were sending their children to the Immanuel Lutheran parochial school.
From a different page. It is fascinating and amusing to note the accounts and the amounts paid in a very different world, a century in the past, e.g., saloon, $0.35; church, $0.01.
PRIDE IN YOUR HORSES
Horses were not only utterly essential but also subjects of great pride. Our love of and pride in modern automotive chrome and steel does not compare to the magic of a relationship with a large, intelligent, high-spirited animal. You may love your car, but it doesn’t love you back. Clearly, Otto was proud of this mare and foal.
Horses on the Fred Mintzlaff farm, home of Charlie Nieman’s wife, Minnie Mintzlaff. Given the elevation and the fact that photos were taken with a large, cumbersome view camera, Charlie must have taken this from high up in the Mintzlaff barn through a window, or from on top of a silo. Either way, it took a lot of effort to make this image.
SEEDING AND HARVESTING PEAS – A CASH CROP
Note the hats worn on the farm for field work! Some tasks did not involve heavy exertion, but did require walking behind the horses all day long. Charlie was 40 years of age in this image.
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Horses are very intelligent, have a great deal of individuality, and have working lives of as much as 15-20 years. After spending thousands of hours working together, the bond between man and beast often became very close. Hence we abhor the thought of eating horsemeat as we abominate the idea of eating dogs. The horse on the left was Dan; the one in the middle was Bill. The one on the right was so modest and unassuming that he remained anonymous and in spite of his/her years of arduous service to humanity its identity is lost to history.
Johann and Sophie Nieman’s son, John Jr., became an unusually successful businessman. More on that in a later post, but for the moment, the harvested peas were sent to a cannery that he had built in Cedarburg.
HARVESTING AND THRESHING GRAIN
Source – web
Reapers were in common use. They saved an enormous amount of time and effort vs the grandparent’s hand scythe.
The bundles of grain were pitched by hand onto a wagon, piled high and hauled to the threshing machine which had been placed inside the barn. The steam engine powering the thresher was placed far outside the barn to the right in this picture. The wagon was pulled into the barn, the bundles were forked into the threshing machine, the grain was separated from the chaff and straw. The straw was blown out the back of the barn onto the pile at the left. The windmill atop the barn was a commonplace source of power for various tasks such as grinding corn and grain. A separate windmill, seen next to the house, was used for pumping water.
The steam engine greatly eased the heavy and urgent work of threshing.
It is interesting to inspect the photo of the threshing at Niemans closely.
Threshing with all of its dust, chaff, and hard sweaty labor was a singularly laborious and dirty job. However, it had both a pleasurable social side to it and considerable excitement as numerous men and women gathered at each farm to do the work. Feeding a threshing crew huge dinners (the noon meal on a farm) prepared on wood-burning stoves, with no refrigeration in the July and August heat was also a major task. It was laborious for the women, but the gathering produced the pleasures of company and sharing.
TO THE MILL – GRINDING GRAIN INTO FEED FOR THE ANIMALS AND FLOUR FOR HOME USE
Courtesy Edw. Rappold
Cedarburg’s commerce existed to serve the farmers. The mill, now an historic structure, was a necessity. Some farm animals ate grain whole, e.g., chickens and horses. However, for cows, the grain needed to be ground. Wheat needed to be ground in order to provide flour for home usage. The Cedarburg mill, water powered for many years, served the needs of the surrounding farmers for over a century. Joachim Lueder had to haul his wagon load of grain bags three miles to have it ground. That trip would take nearly an hour one way, and would be repeated many times over the course of a year – perhaps weekly.
DOING BUSINESS WITH A FESTIVE AIR
Photo courtesey Edw. Rappold
This image was previously used to help illustrate the character of Cedarburg. With respect to farming, note the type of freight wagon. Niemans and Lueders likely had a similar wagon to haul their grain to the mill and animals to market and surely enjoyed the occasional farm fest in town.
Barn fire – 1890s
Charlie recorded the evidence of a neighbor’s catastrophe. What caused this fire isn’t recorded. Barn fires were uncommon but not rare. Fire could be caused by a spark, by smoking, or by lightning (although lightning rods were normally used). Fire could also be started by spontaneous combustion which was usually the result of storing hay in the haymow that was a little moist. Deep inside the mountain of hay mildew and mold would develop, generate heat, and eventually the heat trapped inside all of that hay would ignite the stack. A barn fire was virtually impossible to stop; fire-fighting equipment was non-existent.
The long belt connecting the steam engine and the threshing machine enabled the powerful engine and the sparks emitted from its smokestack to be far from the easily torched barn.
The consequences of the blazing destruction of the barn reached far beyond the loss of the building. In the course of a barn fire, cows and horses were often trapped. Horses, led from a burning barn, frightened by the chaos around them would head for the safest place they knew, back to their stalls in the barn, only to die in the flames. The anguish for the farmer, hearing his animals screaming, was unbearable and unforgettable.
Depending on the time of year, a season’s crops could be lost. Shelter for animals and a place to milk cows was gone. Not only was the costly barn gone, but current income was lost as well. Neighbors helped as much as they could, boarding livestock until a barn could be raised again to replace the loss. Fire insurance was commonplace so that helped reconstruction.
Even worse than a barn fire is getting killed. Farming was a dangerous occupation. Ferdinand Gräse, an Old Lutheran immigrant who settled near Kirchayn, died after having his arm torn from his body by equipment that he was operating. His grandson, Erwin Graese, enters our story in the early 20th Century.
A LOW COST WAY TO ADD SPACE TO YOUR BARN
Adding a floor to Joachim Lueder’s barn – 1899
This was an inexpensive way to add an entire floor to a barn. It was jacked up and a wall was placed underneath. In order to raise it, at a signal, ten men simultaneously turned identical jack-screws mounted on platforms to elevate the structure evenly. Setting this up properly took special skill and an expert would be hired to oversee the work.
SAWMILL AT NIEMAN’S
Prior to the existence of the incredible transportation network that we now enjoy (and take for granted), most communities were self-sufficient out of necessity with basic but unsophisticated industry. Local sawmills, metal foundries, brickyards, quarries, and textile mills, were commonplace. If a farmer needed lumber or wanted to sell some, he felled selected trees and arranged for the neighboring sawmill entrepreneur to reduce the logs to boards. Note – six men are visible in the photo above. It required teamwork.
MARY AND HER DAUGHTERS BARELY EKE OUT A LIVING MAKING AND SELLING COOKED CHEESE
Mary, a kind person, had a hard life. She married Albert Lueders, Joachim and Albertina’s eldest son. Albert and Mary had three fine daughters, Hulda, Erna and Anita.
Unfortunately, Albert preferred beer to farming, spent his time in taverns and became obese. Tante (Aunt) Mary made “cooked cheese,” (gekochter kãse) carted it to town with horse and wagon, and sold it to stores, barely making ends meet. Tante Mary and the girls also did the farm work. Not surprisingly, daughters Erna and Anita never married. Hulda died in 1905 at the age of 14.
Source – http://tauranga.kete.net.nz
Note the rope tied to the cow’s leg. Many a men and women were seriously injured by a kicking cow. That could end a farmer’s career. Not all cows tolerated milking passively and a kick from a beast that big and powerful could do serious damage.
Source – Pinterest.com
Women helped with the physical labor in every way that they could. They worked in the fields, the barn and with animals to the extent that strength and time permitted. Farming was a full partnership in every respect for both sexes.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE MILK – TO THE CREAMERY NEARBY
A creamery a quarter mile from Joachim and Albertina Lueder’s farm received their milk. It served the dairy farmers in the area for many decades.
PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
To put the hard labors of the Niemans and Lueders into perspective, below are two photos of the Doukhobor sect of Russian immigrants pioneering on the Canadian prairies at the turn of the century. The scene is appalling. They did this for religious reasons, namely freeing their brethren, animals, from such labor. They were also poor. The photos are not a joke.
In actuality occasionally Ukrainian husbands and wives did act in place of animal motive power out of stark poverty.
By comparison, Niemans and Lueders were very well off indeed. They had come a long way in the half century since their grandparents settled in the new world.
NEXT – DAILY LIFE – ASIDE FROM FARMING TASKS