Pioneer Life in Kansas, by Mary Barrett, 1912, Part 1

In the spring of 1871, my parents with their family consisting of my two brothers, a nephew, and myself, moved from our former home in Iowa and settled in Kansas on a homestead two and one-half miles south of the Solomon River, at the point where the beautiful city of Beloit now stands. My mother was said to be the first white woman ever seen in that locality.

When the homestead was first taken there was not another dwelling place in sight, but during the first summer so many had settled on our side of the river that by fall we could stand in our door yard and count something like a hundred dugouts and shacks that in those days comprised the homesteader’s dwelling place.

At the time of our settlement on the quarter section Uncle Sam had given us, we had but two neighbors on our side of the river, and both of them were bachelors living in dugouts down in the draw where we could not even see the smoke from their stovepipes! A cheering situation, wasn’t it, for those who had left friends and civilization behind?

My mother, along with the wives of the other homesteaders, got very lonesome and homesick and longed, oh, so intensely, for the blessings and comforts of civilization.

The men and boys, though, for the most part took a more cheerful view, and rather liked the wild, free life. They liked to walk after the breaking plow and see the long black furrow stretch away behind them with never a break in its ribbon-like surface. Not a tree to chop down, not a root to grub out, at which they had spent so many weary, back-breaking hours “back east!”

The boys especially enjoyed the long horseback rides over the smooth miles of prairie they must traverse in making their occasional visits with each other, and their holidays were often spent in summer, fishing or swimming in the clear depths of the Solomon.

The girls, too, took kindly to the new life, and learned to ride horseback in summer, go skating in winter, and, in fact, learned to do most of the things their brothers did.

The first few years of the homesteader’s life were very hard indeed, especially if there was a growing family to provide for. While the children of the pioneers were easily satisfied as long as they were not really hungry and had somewhat of clothing to cover their restless, growing bodies, yet the parents were often sore perplexed to know how and where provision and clothing were to be obtained.

Most of the early settlers brought some money and a supply of provisions with them when they came west and this often would be sufficient for their limited needs until some land could be broken out and a crop of sod corn raised. This, with the plentiful supply of buffalo grass for grazing purposes, would enable the homesteader to keep a team, a few chickens, and a cow or two.

Between the years of 1871 and 1874, the country settled up very rapidly, although there yet remained for many years after this, much good grazing lands, public lands, and the less desirable claims.

I Glory in My Job; 1932; Part 1

When the census-taking man called at our home, I parked the babies in the sandpile and sat for half an hour answering his questions. When he came to my occupation, he looked from under his brows in all solemnity and asked, “You don’t do anything, do you?” Without even awaiting a reply, he wrote, “Occupation–Housewife.”

I protest! I refuse to be draply set aside. I demand the title of Homemaker (LOL I like either title but prefer “Housewife.” To each his own!) and defy the world to say that homemaking is doing nothing. It is a profession, and those of us so listed labor at it. It is a labor of love. There is no monthly salary. The pay is merely the little sweetnesses of everyday family life, and I must sift them out of their attendant pains and sacrifices. The business of making a home–an honest-to-goodness home, with cookies and pillow fights and firelit hours and books and beds and joys and tears–that is a job–a great, grand task.

I happen to be not only a Homemaker but a Farm Homemaker. I glory in it.

That I am only one among thousands of others is a point to be stressed. I am representative of my class, and I am decidedly not stooped nor wrinkled. I am sun-tanned and straight two pounds underweight from a summer of strenuous hours in Ye Olde Swimming Hole (I do a rather nice crawl stroke, too.) My hair has a natural wave, and doesn’t string, and I never wear sunbonnets. Instead of drab calico, I make my own house frocks of gay, fast-colored prints with fresh white collars, and I wear happy-looking aprons over them.

While we are getting acquainted, I might add that I have been at my present job for five years, and am still in my twenties. I earned my own living for five years before I married, and at present have two sons–husky young lads of two and three.

From a honeymoon of care free happiness, I came to our Old Homestead, a rambling farmhouse built half a century ago, and typical of the times–high ceilings, plastered walls, no closets, wood heaters, not enough windows, coal-oil lamps. There is a big zinc sink without a drain. Running water has been installed, but drinking water is still drawn from a well with a rope and bucket and pulley. There is a temperamental wood range for cooking, and you raise a door and go down a flight of steps into the dim, dirt-floored cellar.

To be continued…

Happy Homes; 1913

May I say a word to the wife whose husband prefers some place else besides home. See if you are the cause…

Nothing will send a man away quicker than a quarrelsome woman. Be kind to those around you and you will be thought more of; try to keep your clothes and the children’s clean and tidy, and he will be glad to come home finding you looking nice. When my better half is away for a day I try to have the house and myself and children look as if we were expecting some company, for after all, our own are company and we can depend on them for true friends if we treat them as we should. One rainy day he came home and I had everything slicked up and a white table cloth on table and vase of fresh flowers in the center. When he came in the room he said, “You have everything slicked up and nobody came.” I said “yes they did–you–and that was who I was looking for after evening work was over” and I passed around the little dainty lunch I had prepared. I couldn’t see that the rainy day had made him gloomy because he couldn’t work in the field. He was glad to be home, let us all do what we can to keep our family happy.

The Special One Among Your Flock; 1914

Very often in a family of several children, there is one who is not as quick to learn as his brothers and sisters. He is usually a very nervous and sensitive child and his feelings are often cruelly hurt by being taunted as being a “dummy” or in other cruel ways being reminded of this weakness, which he surely cannot help.

Dear mothers, if you have one of these among your little flock, be infinitely loving and patient, helping him all within your power by kind words and deeds, for your more fortunate children do not need you so badly as this little innocent. Some children who are slow to learn “booklore” are singularly gifted in other ways, and parents should earnestly endeavor to find out their other talents and help to develop them. One boy I know, was continually drawing pictures on his slate instead of “doing sums” and thereby drew down upon his head the severest rebukes from parents and teachers. Now he is an illustrator of note, for several of the largest magazines, drawing a very substantial salary. His talent for drawing which teachers and parents considered sheer nonsense years ago, is now his life’s work.

Another example: A girl, the oldest of five, never got beyond the fourth grade at school, being positively unable to keep up with her class-mates. As a child even, she had a singular gift for cooking and baking. In sheer despair her mother gave her a course in domestic science and now she holds a lucrative position as chef in a large hotel. If this child of yours possesses no especial gift, never taunt or allow others to taunt him upon his weakness for such treatment will only help to increase it. Many apparently “dull” children if properly treated with kindness and encouragement will, in time, grow more proficient. If his reports at school do not meet with your expectations do not allow him to see it, if you are convinced he is doing his best. Always praise him for worthy effort, thus doing all within your power to make his lot easier. If he is sure of your unfailing faith in his ability to learn, he will never cease trying, whereas if he sees you have no confidence in his efforts he will soon cease to care and then there will be no hope for his ever becoming more intelligent.