Days on the
Family Farm

From the Golden Age through
the Great Depression

By Carrie A. Meyer
U of MN Press, 2007


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From cryptic entries such as these below, Days on the Family Farm was crafted. Check here for periodic updates or follow along at MayDavisDiary on Twitter.

As of January 2018, we took up May's Diary in 1918, a century ago when the United States was involved with World War I, and farm income was booming. [Previously we were posting diary entries from the Great Depression.]

June 1918

6-1-1918 Some cooler, clear.  Very windy.  Mama & Elmo go R in auto in AM.  Elmo take oats in PM.  Hamar plant in corn by hand.  Walter, Franklin, Russell & Stanley call in PM.  Hamar go home about 6PM to stay all night.

6-2-1918 (Sunday) A lovely day, cool AM, but warmer in PM.  We take mama to church & Rena to R (stop at McFarland’s on way) Then drive to Rochelle, back to R before 3.  Take Aunt Alice, Mama & Carrie to Black Hawk Park.  Then mama, Carrie & Belle W to cemetery, the call at McF’s on way home & see Verne.  Starr’s (all but Annetta) here after we home.

6-3-1918 Bright early, then get cloudy.  Rena wash.  Gentle rains Mon PM.  Elmo draw manure.  Hamar cultivate Elmo, Hamar & I take Mrs McLarty to CV at eve.  All stores closed.  Mama called at McLarty’s in PM.

6-4-1918 Elmo take grist.  Hamar cultivate.

6-5-1918 Elmo dig ditch to drain barnyard.  Red Cross circle organized here.  Also Maggie, Emily & Stanley and Mrs McLarty, her mother & children here.  McLarty’s get big telephone.  Elmo bring in stalk of sweet corn that is fully knee high.  Cooler, E wind, partly cloudy.

6-6-1918  Now caught 21 mice in cellar & 1 in sink cupboard.  Take off cattle to CV.  Mr McLarty, C Kleckner & boys help.  66o above at 6AM.  Foggy & cloudy early.  Sun soon break thru.  In PM, Hamar cultivate & Elmo draw manure & then go to CV with cattle feed & to help load them.  Mama go to all day Gleaners at R. Watson’s.  Maggie Jane in on way home.  Sudden short shower from NW about supper time.

6-7-1918 Elmo spend day in Chicago. Hamar finish cultivating 2nd time and cultivate potatoes.  Rena call at McLarty’s.  Nice day, cooler.  Rag man here.

6-8-1918  Nice cool day. S wind.  Elmo go R with oats in AM.  Hamar hoe garden.  In PM, they go to raise cattleshed for Mat Ralston on old Dan Davis farm. Hamar go home at eve & Elmo & I go CV.  Starr & children in early eve in Ford.  Eclipse between 6 & 7 PM, sun about ¾ obscured.

6-9-1918 (Sunday) Elmo go to camp for Mr. Betts but he gone to France.   Rena in R for day.  We all go for her at 6.  At eve, Elmo & I go to J. Lake’s on errand at eve.  Threaten showers in PM, but rain little.  Muriel Johnson, mother, 2 sisters, baby & 2 young ladies here in PM.  Hamar back at eve.

6-10-1918 Showers last night.  Men hoe potatoes & garden.  Rain some & cloudy & thunder much of AM.  Caught 3 more mice. Mrs McLarty & children here in PM.  Hamar mow part of lawn in PM & he & Elmo hoe corn.  One shower in early PM.  First lettuce.

6-11-1918 Same wet, foggy, cloudy morn, but sun out before 9AM & strong S wind blow up which quickly dry up mud.  Elmo mama & Rena go R in AM.  Hamar cultivate, both cultivate in PM.  Mrs Molander, Edith & Hazel here in eve.  89o above about 3 PM.

6-12-1918  58o at 6:30AM.  Rena wash.  Clear, but very strong NW wind.  Men cultivate.  Elmo go to CV about 5:30 PM.  66o after supper. 

6-13-1918  52o above at 7AM.  Men cultivate. 3 times over. 6 little ducks hatch.  Col breeze.  Oil man here.  Red Cross meet here.  Also Maggie, Emily & Stanley here.  At eve, Elmo, Hamar & I go see work down on school bridge & to C Pickens.

6-14-1918  Fine day.  64o at 7AM.  Elmo, ma & I go R in AM (I to dentist) after Elmo plow for beans.  E wind.  Cloudy part of AM.  In PM, Elmo & Hamar plant beans & more sweet corn & at eve, Elmo, Hamar & I go to CV’s for late cabbage plants.  Set out that eve. 

6-15-1918  Elmo go 14 Ave for new mower taking old one down.  Cut grass in dooryard.  Hamar split wood & do odd jobs for me.  E wind.  I sit out in auto while Elmo gone.  Mama get tomato plants from Mrs McLarty’s at eve & set out.  2 of our early ones in bloom. 

6-16-1918  (Sunday) Very hot.  95o above at 11AM at F Whittle’s.  Starr & 6 children up in AM.  Then we take mama to church & Rena to R & go out W. State where we pick up a soldier. Drive through Pecatonica, Myrtle, Seward, Byron, Stillman Valley, Camp, & back to R.  Over the river, and around to Sinissippi Park.  Leave soldier near Vierck’s & go for mama & Rena.  82 miles.

6-17-1918 Dr Sambaugh commit suicide.  Much cooler, E wind, some cloudy in morn.  Rena wash.  I get up at noon.  Elmo go for coke.  Starr come for mama in PM.  Pig eat our little ducks.  Hamar cultivate.

6-18-1918  Elmo get 2 loads coke.  Hamar cultivate.  CK & 2 boys here at eve.  Cool, east wind.  Some cloudy. 

6-19-1918  Elmo green potatoes.  Go R in auto in PM.  Get ising [stet] glass put in back curtain & work over magnets.  Hamar cultivate.  Mrs McLarty, children, mama, Annetta & Emily call in PM.  Cool, E wind.  Partly cloudy.  First peas.

6-20-1918  Cool, cloudy, E wind.  Elmo get coke in AM.  He & I go to Dr Shambaugh’s funeral in PM.  Stop at Starr’s on way home.  C Marteson bring his knitting up.  Hamar cultivate.  Cool.  Rain early morn to lay dust & sun out by noon.

6-21-1918  Elmo take auto to R & after helping Hamar load up coke for which he drove down, went to garage & worked on car till late.  Mr Schultz & Dan & Mr Lansing called in PM.  Cool, windy, cloudy towards eve.

6-22-1918  Men mow lawn.  Cool, pleasant.  Elmo take oats to W. Shaw in AM.  Cut weeds & road hay & cultivate end rows of corn in PM, which with what Hamar cultivated in AM finishes 4th times.  Annetta, Emily & Stanley bring Ma home in PM.  Have 1st currants & 2nd sowing of radishes. 

6-23-1918 (Sunday) 49o at 7AM.  Cool & clear.  Elmo & I take Rena to Love’s Park in AM & after dinner, Mama, E & I call at F. Davis’ to see how Mr Dubois is then to Bel (get water lilies) back to call at Thad's & to CV to meet Rena.  [Frank Davis married Mamie Dubois]

6-24-1918  Cool, cloudy, sprinkle few times, but sun drive off clouds about middle of PM.  Rena wash.  I get up at noon.  Men cut weeds, etc about yard.  Mama call at McLarty’s in AM.  Mama call at McLarty's in AM.  Find 4 little owls in dooryard tree.  Fix rake & get up road hay.  (1/2 load) R Watson & Melvin in in PM.

6-25-1918  Cloudy, sunshine in PM.  Cool NE breeze in AM.  PM warmer.  All but Hamar go R in AM.  I go to Dr Ells’.  Hamar cultivate.  Fix box for mail on bridge.  Elmo cut hog pasture hay in PM. 

6-26-1918 Cloudy, partly warmer in PM.  Florence Fitch spend day here.  Mama & Mrs McLarty make several calls in PM.  Elmo & Hamar fix hay-track, (Elmo go CV in PM for 2 by 4).  Hamar cultivate some. At eve, Elmo go to Mat's new barn to help fix it for party. 

6-27-1918  64o above at 7AM.   All Red Cross girls come despite rain in PM.  Elmo tedding hay in AM & about 11 AM go to CV & Bel in wagon for fencing to keep pigs out of potatoes.  Hamar cultivate, then split wood & pick over old potatoes.  Just nice gentle rain. 

6-28-1918 Warm, partly cloudy.  no mud from yesterday’s rain.  Hamar cultivate & ted hay & rake road hay.  Elmo help bale straw at F. Reid’s.  In eve, Elmo & I go to CV and then to M. Ralston's barn dance.

6-29-1918  Elmo & Hamar get up 3 loads hay (1 from road & 2 from hog pasture) They have to get loader from McLarty's  & it break 5 times & rope bother! Elmo go R at eve.   Mama at McLarty's in PM & Emily & Walter come back with her. 

6-30-1918  (Sunday) Cold, cloudy, drizzle a good share of AM.  SE wind turn to NE about 11AM & rain hard for awhile.  Sun shine some in PM, but no warmer.  Mama take iron to bed. [to keep warm]  Starr’s all here in eve.


May 1918

5-1-1918 Heavy frost last night.  Get warmer.  Elmo plow in orchard for garden & potatoes & pulverize it.  In late PM, he & I go to Belv to see Watson’s & Mr J Fisher.  Nice, sunny day.  Roads rough & muddy until past Fitch’s, then good.  Mama go to McLarty’s in PM. 

5-2-1918 We all go R early in PM.  I go to dentist’s.  Mama stay to Gleaner’s at Mrs J Reid’s.  Elmo drag late potato & garden ground in PM.  Nice day, SW wind.  Rough roads.

5-3-1918 Made garden & plant late poatoes.  Clarence Martenson help drop [potatoes] after school.  Warm & sunny. 

5-4-1918  Elmo take baled hay to R.  Agent here to sell jack in AM. Clarence Marteson put wood in cellar & do all sorts of odd jobs.

5-5-1918 (Sunday) Elmo went to C. Picken & CV.  Nice warm day, altho some cloudy & few drops rain.

5-6-1918 Showery.  Rena wash.  Elmo set out a few cabbage plants, finished planting late potatoes & shell some seed corn.  (Our seed corn tests about 80 percent) Draw manure in PM.

5-7-1918 We all go R.  Roads real muddy & bumpy.  I go to dentist’s.  In PM, Elmo draw manure.  Caught a mouse down cellar.  Walter, Franklin, & Russell have measles. 62o above at 7AM.  Elmo go to CV at eve with CK & boys who are coming down with measles.

5-8-1918 Another mouse caught.  50o above at 7AM.  Elmo draw manure. Children come from school at noon as teacher has measles.  Joe came down with them at night.  Rena mow lawn.

5-9-1918 60o above at 7AM.  First heavy thunder shower of season.  Elmo get brooder & coops from over home. then go R with grist.  Showers thru day & at night very heavy rain. Hail which crack 3 windowpanes upstairs & break in back half.  Wind blow over 2 apple trees. Much lightning. Rena "over home" for old laths and wire in PM. 

5-10-1918  45o above at 7AM.  Rain from N early in morn, but not long & clear before night.  Elmo fix fence at creek pasture & take Sam & colts down.  Cyclone at CV last evening.  One of mama’s window panes broken.  Starr up in AM.  Annetta came down with measles last night. 

5-11-1918  43o above at 7AM.  Get warmer thru day.  60o at 7PM.  CK here in morn.  Elmo & I go to CV & see ruins.  Elmo draw 8 loads manure.  3 mice caught. E put cows in creek pasture.  Mama at McLarty, get dandelion greens.  All measles better.  Walter go out.

5-12-1918 (Sunday) We take mama to Starr’s in morn, Rena to Beloit car and then get Ed & Florence & go to Durand.  Roads get very slippery before we get ½ way back to R as it rain some before we start & more on way home.  Cool riding.  Break part of steering gear.

5-13-1918 Cleared off last night.  Elmo go R in morning & work on auto at garage.  Home by 4:35 PM & get corn planter out ready to work.  Light frost last night.  Rena wash.  I abed most of day. 

5-14-1918  Elmo pulverize.  Annetta, Stanley & Emily bring mama home in PM.  Elmo cultivate garden with hand cultivator at noon.

5-15-1918  Partly cloudy, SE wind.  Elmo drag late potatoes & then drag for corn.  Plant in PM.  Mrs McLarty over for lawn mower at noon.  8A corn planted.

5-16-1918 Another mouse caught last night.  Warm & nice.  Elmo plant 1A, then draw manure & pulverize.  No mail.  Mr Nichols has been sick a long time & the substitute stopped.  Mrs McLarty & children stop on way from CV. Sowed poppy seed.

5-17-1918  C Marteson bring up pieplant in AM. 15th mouse caught in cellar last night.  Clarence drag for Elmo in PM.  Look showery & rain little.  Elmo pulverize & plant corn.  Emily & Stanley have measles.

5-18-1918  Elmo get more corn planted.  Go CV at evening.  Had 5 little pigs.  Mailman came in PM.

5-19-1918  (Sunday) Look showery all day & evening & sprinkle at times in PM.  Shower at evening.  Elmo, Rena & I go R & CV in PM.  Mrs McLarty stay with mama. Accident on Camp Grant Street car line 5PM. Willie Pratt killed.  Linna & her mother hurt, also Mattie.  [Pratts previously worked for May and Emily]

5-20-1918  Mama at McLarty’s in AM to see Starr who is loading hay.  Elmo pulverize.  7 little pigs.  Rena wash.  Annie McFarland & aunts call.

5-21-1918  Very cloudy.  Sprinkle at non & then almost clear off, get very cloudy at eve & heavy showers at night.  Elmo finish planting corn at noon and go R in auto in PM. 7 little pigs.  Rena mow lawn.

5-22-1918  We all go R in PM.  Elmo & mama to William Pratt’s funeral & I to house.  Elmo take the family out to cemetery.  Elmo put on some window screens in AM.  Mr McLarty over for seed-corn.  Cloudy until into PM.  Roads muddy in AM.

5-23-1918   8 little pigs, one has died, now 26.  Clarence M brings up pieplant.  Elmo go R with grist.  Cold & cloudy.  Rena iron. 

5-24-1918   54o above at 7AM.  Rainy till about 2 PM.  Some lightning.  Then Elmo go to CV & I go to Mr Molander’s.  Fields very wet.  Elmo put screen on front door.  Put up curtain pole, etc.  No mail.

5-25-1918  Muggy, cloudy, 71o at 7AM.  Elmo set out tomatoes & more cabbage plants.  A large brood of little chicks came out from under barns. Very warm.  Mama & Rena both call “over home.” Picken boys here for evening.  Elmo take oats to R.

5-26-1918  (Sunday) Old pig kills 3 little ones, 23 now.  Some cloudy but nice warm day.  Elmo & I leave mama at church & Rena downtown & we go to Byron & beyond to spring.  Back to R at 3 & call on Carrie.  Elmo go to CV at eve and take Hamar O, who came to work, on wheel, from R.  Starr & family here at late PM.

5-27-1918   Hamar mow part of lawn.  We have new postman these days.  Shower last night about 12.  Rena wash.  Cloudy, but sun out much of PM.  Elmo take oats to W Shaw in PM.  Hamar drag part of corn & they take up corn planter & wire.  Shower before noon.  Annetta & Emily here in PM.  Mama & Annetta go to Kleckner’s.  Men start cultivating corn.  Had 1st radishes.

5-28-1918   Cloudy.  Elmo & I go R in auto, roads quite muddy.  Home by 11:45 AM.  Hamar cultivate in PM.  They fix new shovels on another 1 row & both cultivate.  Mamie & Frank Davis call at eve. 

5-29-1918   56o above at 7AM.  Cool, cloudy, foggy, turn to rain about 10AM.  Men cultivate till rain, then do odd jobs.  Mr McLarty bring his family over to spend PM.  Rain gently till about middle of PM, but cloudy till dark. 

5-30-1918   Very foggy & dark morning, sun began to break thru about 10AM.  After 2 PM, nice & clear.  80o about 11 AM.  Elmo take Rena to CV in buggy in morn & she go to Belv.  Hamar work in garden.  Men cultivate in PM & Elmo go for Rena before 6 in auto.  Now 18 mice caught in cellar. 

5-31-1918 73o above at 7AM.  Men cultivate, finish 1st time over.  mr Picken & boys here at eve.  Now have 31 pigs.  Very warm & windy.  Mrs McDonald walk over in PM.  sunny, but a heavy cloud in NW after dark & lightning.  No rain.


April 1918

4-1-1918 A beautiful still day.  Rena wash.  Elmo and Mr. McLarty clean up their seed wheat.  Then Elmo pulverize & sow it.

4-2-1918 A fine morning so Rena start to clean dining room.  Elmo finish wheat piece & start to pulverise N of house for oats.  Also take Mama & McLartys down to vote.  Mr Holmnes won road commissioner by 49 votes.  Grow very windy before noon & light shower about 4 PM. 

4-3-1918 29o above at 7AM.  Elmo pulverize for oats & help put down carpet at night.  Rena finish cleaning dining room.  Mrs Bengston called in PM.  Also Russell & Stanley with pony.  Very windy, NW.  Partly cloudy.

4-4-1918 33o above at 7:30 AM.  Mrs McL take mama to Gleaners at Mrs Brown’s & we keep children.  Elmo sow oats & pulverize.  Put section of drag on behind pulverizer & use 5 horses. Frozen about 2 in in ground last night.

4-5-1918  Nice day, get cloudy some toward’s night.  cool SW wind.  Elmo & ma go R in AM.  Beulah here in AM & her pony untie itself & draw buggy into barn.  Uncle Chas Green died at 7:30 this evening.  Elmo sow & pulverize in PM.   

4-6-1918 40o above at 7:30 AM.  Cloudy, chilly, SE wind.  Begin to rain about 1 and rain gently all PM.  Elmo have to stop pulverizing about middle of PM.  McLarty’s new car brought out from town in PM.

4-7-1918  (Sunday) Cleared off last night, windy & colder, especially in PM.  Rena call at McLarty’s and Elmo & I go to Starr’s in PM & then across to McL for jar.

4-8-1918 30o above at 7AM.  Clod, windy, NW turn to NE in PM.  Partly cloudy.  Elmo & I go to Uncle Chas Green’s funeral (2PM). Leave mama & Rena in R.  Elmo & mama wear fur coats.  Real cold & windy. 

4-9-1918 30o above at 7AM.  Windy, cold.  Ground frozen so can’t pulverize till about noon.  Elmo sow & do odd jobs in AM.  Pulverize in PM.  Rena wash.  I not up till noon. 

4-10-1918  26o above at 7AM.  Windy, NE.  Elmo draw out 5 loads manure in AM.  Mend spreader, etc. In PM, pulverize.  Mrs McL & children here in PM.  Mat Ralston here for War Chest cards in eve.

4-11-1918 33o above at 7AM.  Bernice bring spring beauties and blood root.  Rena & Elmo drag oat field. Rena & Mrs McLarty & children go to woods and find flowers.  Harper’s grocer agent her yesterday PM.

4-12-1918 40o above at 8AM.  Fine day, cool enough for winter coat to ride in.  Elmo draw manure in AM & in PM we all go to Liberty Loan Parade.  Mama stay down at Florence’s.  We take Aunt Agnes in & all but Elmo go to Aunt Alice’s to see parade.  Annetta & Emily here to supper. 

4-13-1918 Lovely day, tho cool.  Mrs McLarty stop on way from R in PM.  Elmo draw 2 loads manure & then plow where seeding not good.  We go to CV at eve.

4-14-1918 (Sunday) Some warmer, pleasant.  Elmo go to C. Pickens in AM & to Bert Popham’s funeral in PM.  Rena & I wait in auto during funeral & then we all go to Belv, call at Asa’s. McLartys go to her mother’s & bring home a pup.

4-15-1918 Pleasant, but windy.  Rena wash.  Elmo finish sowing oats.  Mrs McLarty bring pup over in PM. Mama have her teeth out. 

4-16-1918 Elmo sow barley at 10A.  Rain enough to lay dust last night.  Jennie Breckenridge call to sell Liberty Bonds in PM.  Mostly sunny.

4-17-1918  Cloudy, wind NE.  Begin to rain about 8:30AM.  Elmo finish sowing barley & then go R in buggy.  Dig horseradish.  Rain gently much of day.  Clean in kitchen.

4-18-1918 Mrs McLarty & children here in PM.  Elmo pulverize barley in AM & take small load hay & oats to R in PM.  Finish cleaning kitchen & clean hall. 

4-19-1918  Elmo go Rockford & work on auto at garage fixing brakes.  Bring mama & Carrie home with him. Very windy & cold.

4-20-1918 34o about noon.  cloudy, NE wind.  Snow flakes, sleet & rain.  Elmo seed some grass seed in AM & go CV in PM.

4-21-1918 (Sunday) Cold, rainy AM.  Cloudy all day.  Rena go to McLarty’s in PM.  Mrs Watson died at 6AM. 

4-22-1918 Rena wash.  Cleared last night.  Mama & Carrie tie Belgian quilt.  Elmo get up old scattering wood.

4-23-1918 Rain & snow both fall in AM.  Clear PM.  Elmo drag barley till sotrm stop him.  He & mama go to funeral in PM & then he finish dragging.  Go to show at night.  Take Picken boys.  Mrs McLarty & children here in PM & help tie Belgian quilt.

4-24-1918 Ground froze little last night.  We all go R in AM.  Mama  stay to go to Aunt Emma’s surprise tomorrow with “lady aunts.”  Carrie stay down too.  Roads rough.  Elmo start to plant early potatoes in PM. 

4-25-1918 Cold, cloudy.  Elmo plant more early potatoes in AM.  He & I go to school with notice of Liberty Loan Rally & to McLarty’s.  Rena wash outside of windows.  McLarty, Edwin Molander, Barkley’s man & CK help saw wood in PM.  Rain a little at eve.

4-26-1918 Some warmer, sun shine most of PM.  Elmo finish planting early potatoes & then go R with oats.  J Watson here asking for “job.”  We all go to Town Hall to rally in eve.  Mr Carpenter, Bruce Garrett & Mr Reynolds speak & 3 soldier boys & Florence Carpenter sing.

4-27-1918 Cloudy all morning.  PM sunny part of time & warmer.  I go with Elmo about neighborhood on Liberty Loan business.  McLarty’s take Rena to CV in PM.  J Watson here again.  Cloud over at night.

4-28-1918 (Sunday) Rained last night & also this AM.  Cold, windy PM.  Sun break thru clouds in PM.  Mama come down from Roscoe on 2 PM car & Elmo  meet her at Fitch's.  Mr McLarty go down with him.  Rena & I stay at McLarty’s in PM.

4-29-1918 Rained again last night & some in AM.  Mr Taylor here to buy bond in morn & then we go to J Lake’s.  Then Elmo go to R with pigs.  Cold, NE wind. 

4-30-1918 Rain mixed with some snow fell most of AM.  Elmo & I out in buggy on Liberty Loan business until 1:30PM.  Cold.