Forests, Fields, and the Falls: Farming

Lumbering Sawmilling Current page Farming Flourmilling Map of Minnesota with the farming area highlighted, covering mainly the south west part of Minnesota. A small star is on Marshall area. Glossary About this project Primary Sources Activity Ideas Tips
Current page Farming
Near Marshall, Minnesota, 1873
The Carpenters head west on the treeless prairie: Mary and George, their children Mamie, Georgie, Henry, and the baby Lorenzo. Mary and Mamie ride on the horsedrawn wagon while the boys and George walk with the cattle. More info
They arrive at a small shack and, over a series of panels, start to unload and move into the shanty.
Partially unpacked, Mary sits at a table and begins to write.
Dear Aunt Martha,
We arrived here a week ago last Monday after a journey of two weeks. George and the children drove the stock on foot while I drove the load. George did not ride ten miles of the whole distance, 200 miles. The older children took turns riding and driving.
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We shift now to outside. George, Mary, and Georgie stare at a cloud of grasshoppers.
The grasshoppers have destroyed gardens around Marshall. We have everything to buy till we can raise something excepting our meat and potatoes for awhile. And not a bit of money. Our appetites are good which seems rather unfortunate.
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We have no house but a leaky ten foot shanty. We expect to build something more right off.
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excepting (preposition): With the exception of.

shanty (noun): A roughly-built hut or cabin.

The perspective shifts back to the house and then moves inside. Little Lorenzo is crawling on the grass-covered floor.
Do you know what our carpet is? Our cabin has a dirt floor and we spread green grass over it for a carpet and change it occasionally. It saves scrubbing and mopping. But I would rather have a chance to do both.
It is daybreak. George and Georgie are leaving the shanty to begin the day's work. The rest of the family is eating breakfast at the table.
We brought a laying hen with us so we have some eggs. Our pigs could not start so we had to sell them, all except the two we brought in the pork barrel. I am not fond of salt pork but it is a good deal better than no meat.
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salt pork (noun): Pork cured in salt; white bacon.

On the prairie, George and Georgie break the sod with an ox-drawn plow.
George feels better to be on his own place than he did where we were before.
Please tell Aunt Laura that if a man takes a homestead and lives on it five years it is his, no one can jump his claim. This is all that is required to hold it.
I know a young lady here, a neighbor of ours, Miss Ticknor, who took a claim of 160 acres.
The view zooms up into the air, looking down on the farm. In the distance we see the town of Marshall in the distance with a train heading towards it. More info

homestead (noun): A house together with surrounding land and buildings, especially on a farm.

claim (noun): A demand of ownership for previously unowned land (e.g. in the gold rush, oil rush).

We follow the train into Marshall, a town still under construction...
View down the main street of Marshall.
Marshall is growing fast. One year ago, it consisted of one sod house. Now it is quite a thriving railroad town. There will be a paper published here soon.
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sod house (noun): A house made from the top layer of soil which is filled with the roots of grass.

The printing press has already arrived.
We see the printing press being uncrated at the depot. In the background, lumber is being unloaded from the train. More info

printing press (noun): A mechanical device used for printing text or images repeatedly.

With the railroad tracks in the foreground, we're now looking back at the Carpenter's homestead, same day.
We can see the cars four or five miles from our claim.
I must not write any more now for I am tired. I'll try to write you all the news as the seasons pass.

Your affectionate neice,
Mary, E. L. Carpenter
In a series of panels we see the seasons pass as we zoom in towards the house. We go to fall and see browner colors and more prairie turned to field. Then the blanket of white that is winter. Followed by springtime seeding. More info More info
Transition: Mary is writing inside the shanty with Lorenzo in her lap. The rest of the family is visible out the window, working in the garden.
August 1874

Dear Cousin Lucy,
The children are all well and hearty and all send love. Mamie, Georgie, and Henry have helped their father plant and they have our cows to watch.

hearty (adjective): Exhibiting strength; sound; healthy; firm; not weak.

The view continues into the garden, where Mamie is pulling weeds.
Mamie helps her dad a good deal being the oldest, and can harness and unharness as well as a boy. She does the milking during his absence, for I cannot milk, not having learned when I was young. She will be ten years old next January.
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harness (verb): To place a harness on animals; to tie up or restrain.

Georgie holds up a buffalo skull he's found in the dirt. Lorenzo and Mamie point to a bird flying overhead.
Georgie will be eight in October and Henry, five next February. They often pick up buffalo bones, teeth, etc., on our farm. I suppose this land was never before occupied excepting by Indians.
Little Lorenzo will be nine months old tomorrow and he has just commenced to creep. There are wild geese and ducks and prairie hens here, but we have no gun so have not had any of them.
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commenced (verb): Began, started.

creep (verb): To move slowly with the abdomen close to the ground, crawl.

Now for what I did yesterday...
A view straight down on the inside of the house. We watch Mary do her daily chores.
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skimmed milk (verb): Removed the cream from the milk.

churned (verb): Agitated the cream rapidly and repetitively with a rocking motion to make butter.

I was tired and lame enough at night and feel miserable as a consequence today. So you see I am giving you the doings in writing today but this is the first gap in work I have had for weeks.
A tired Mary sits outside, writing. The boys play in the yard while Mamie studies inside.

lame (adjective): Moving with pain or difficulty on account of injury or sickness.

The view shifts to the field where George rides a horse-drawn reaper.
We are now nearly through cutting the grain, but it is all to be stacked and threshed.
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threshed (adjective): Separated the grain from the straw or husks(chaff) by mechanical beating, with a flail or machinery.

Our cows have done well this summer. We have bought everything we have had with butter. I made 100 pounds of butter in June. Have not kept account since. Sold 28 dozen of eggs at 10 cents a dozen one week lately.
A view of a cow staring at us. More info
George and the boys stand proudly on the line between field and prairie.
George's health and spirits are good. He is largely endowed with hope, which is a blessing. And he loves working with the children.
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endowed (adjective): To be furnished with something naturally.

A close-up of Mary just outside the cabin. She puts the finished letter into an envelope.
Well my paper is exhausted and I must take up other duties.

With love from the children and myself to all and hoping to hear again from you before long. I am

Your affectionate cousin,
Mary E. L. Carpenter

exhausted (adjective): Depleted; used up.

The end.