Notes from 1885

Since the month of August is a quiet time for many growers, one of our Senior Agronomic scientists thought you might like to reflect back on what life on the farm was like 130 years ago.  Dr. David Pike drew a few select entries from the journal of his great grandfather, George Pike, from the year 1885 and provided them below. George Pike used his journal as a means of keeping track of expenses and exchanged labor time, hence some of the odd details you might find included. This account follows his operations on a farm in SE Minnesota where he grew 10 or 11 different crops each year and maintained horses, dairy cattle, chickens, hogs, and occasionally ducks and geese. You might also note that his journal is not totally without some elements of drama. Comments in italics are offered to help the reader understand some of the terms and names used.

22 Mar 1885, Jim Finey (neighbor) had a set of harness stolen Saturday night, followed the men to Elgin had them arrested.

1 Jun 1885. Went over to see the clover. Fred (an apprentice worker George 'adopted' when Fred was 8 years old) dragged the Potatoes and went up and borrowed Orin’s (brother to George who farmed nearby) corn Plow (row cultivator). Went to plowing (cultivating) corn. He left Colonel and Fill (horses) and they run away on the plow and run up to the house, broke the shovel on one. (Having horses run away was a very common occurrence.)

5 July 1885, went to Sunday School today. Rain tonight. Wheat is commencing to head out now. They talked of having a neck tie sociable a week from Tuesday night if nothing happens, and a debate.

6 Jul 1885, went to town this morning with a grist of 7 bushels. Father’s will was acted on today.  Charlie (brother to George) was dissatisfied with it don’t know what he will do. Got 2 bundles of shingles to fix shed with. Helped Orin (brother to George), two of us with team at three o’clock. 

8 Aug 1885, We had an early dinner and went over to cutting on Moody’s (rented neighbor's land). Cut till about 6, then it rained again. Orin brought wagon home to night. We got Jen (horse) out of pasture and put her on harvester. Emma rode her.  We had five horses on this afternoon. (Emma is George's oldest child and was 12 years oldApparently it was common to have a child ride the lead horse to help provide guidance to the team.)

23 Aug 1885, Went to Sunday School & meeting. Gave one dollar to the preacher for Poor Preachers. Sarah Southwick & Emma Newell & children (neighbors) was here today.

20 Sept 1885, Mr Tip Rice’s boy age 20 was shot by his brother 8 years old.

24 Oct 1885, Went over to Walace’s (brother of George who farmed nearby) in the morning to take the colt over. Stopped by home this morning and helped Orin take down the wind mill. Then went over to Walace’s, he paid me 18 dollars this morning and we went to town this afternoon and he paid me 20 more for the colt, being all due.

16 Nov 1885 Went down to the school house this morning with the children. Wrote out the contract for the teacher. Measured the wood gave M Senwick his order 27 dollars. Drawed off one load of manure. Puttied in window in afternoon. Husked some corn to night.

18 Nov 1885 The team went to plowing this morning. Fred plowed 3 rounds till school time. I painted the box to the Bobs (bobsled) in the morning and then went to plowing. Plowed all day. It was cold, the wind blew cold all day.

24 Dec 1885 I went up to the school house to help build a shed for the horses. Worked all day at it. Mr Preston, Orin & me we built 28 foot long & 10 feet wide the lumber cost 8 dollars the nails and hinges cost about 1.00. I paid 2.65 for it as my share. Fred and the girls have gone to singing school tonight it is Christmas Eve night.

26 Dec 1885 We went to town. Julia (his wife's sister), Uranah (his wife), Fred & me went in the morning. Staid all day. Got Colonel & Fill weighed today they weighed 2,000 lbs. Colonel w 9,50, 1,100 Fill, got Colonel & Fill shod today. Steel corks. Saw RH today had a good time today. Fred got a fish weighed 5 lbs.