Old Pictures of Farming in North Dakota in the early 1900s

Early tractor (perhaps 1920s?)

My great uncle's tractor (probably a late 1920s version?)
My great uncle's tractor (probably a late 1920s version?) | Source

Farming

My great aunt and great uncle used to own and run a large farming operation near Mapes, North Dakota. The numerous photos that I have included in this post tell a story of their own. My mother was not quite 5 years of age when she got to visit the farm in 1930. It had been in operation for many years prior to her visit. Thus these pictures represent farming in that part of the country dating back to the early 1900s.

Some history...

In 1870 that part of the country only had a population of around 2,400 people.

Indians and buffalo roamed the prairie lands.

Large scale farming began in 1875 near the Red River Valley and was primarily brought about because of the westward expansion of the railroad.

Generous land grants also encouraged people to travel west and settle in that region.



My great aunt & uncle's home in North Dakota.

My great aunt & uncle's home in North Dakota.
My great aunt & uncle's home in North Dakota. | Source
Another view of their home.
Another view of their home. | Source


North Dakota

North Dakota joined the United States by becoming it's 39th State on November 2, 1889.

By 1930 the total population had expanded to 680,000+ individuals calling North Dakota their home.

My great uncle's car

My great uncle's car
My great uncle's car | Source

1902 Threshing machine

How my great aunt and uncle came to farm that land, I can only now speculate. But just knowing how farms were passed along from father to son, I would guess that my great uncle's parents probably secured the land from one of those land grants.

My great uncle had siblings in the area who also farmed and in fact, when one of his brothers died leaving a rather large family behind, he and my great aunt helped to rear that batch of children in order to help his widowed sister-in-law.

They did not have children of their own so they just took on that self-assigned task as the natural thing to do.

Old farm photos

Feeding the plough horses
Feeding the plough horses | Source
Kids on horseback
Kids on horseback | Source
Going for a ride in the wagon
Going for a ride in the wagon | Source

Old Tractors

Mapes, North Dakota

Mapes is located in the northeast part of North Dakota west of Grand Forks. It can be found on a map by locating Grand Forks on Interstate 29 and then following highway 2 west. Elevation is at 1505 feet. The area is flat and one can see unobstructed views for miles.

If one sees a cluster of trees (or a grove of trees as my great aunt called them), the grouping is either growing naturally by a riverbed or was planted purposely to surround a house as a windbreak and for much needed shade.

Look at that flat North Dakota horizon!

Look at that flat horizon!
Look at that flat horizon! | Source

According to one link I found, Mapes now has a population of about 159 people. Another link lists it as a ghost town with fewer people in residence.

Old photo of some puppies amidst corn husks

Some puppies amidst corn husks
Some puppies amidst corn husks | Source

How things used to be done...

My great aunt and uncle had a large operation and employed at least one man full time and perhaps more.

In addition their relatives and neighbors would have helped each other for large events such as harvesting the crops and threshing times.

Working together was common back then for major events.

Old photos of harvest time of year

Harvest time of year
Harvest time of year | Source
Working in the fields
Working in the fields | Source
The women helped
The women helped | Source

Amazing antique tractors, cars and trucks collection

Harvest time

During harvest time, the women would do the cooking and transport the food to the fields to feed the men.

This was a monumental project in and of itself as the hungry men who were laboring needed the sustenance and calories to fuel them to keep going after the food breaks.

The "cook house" which was on wheels would be hitched up to the large plough horses and transport the cooked food to wherever the men happened to be working.

Old cook house photo

The women would prepare meals and the food would be transported to the men in the field during threshing time. This building called a "cook house" was on wheels and the horses would pull it.
The women would prepare meals and the food would be transported to the men in the field during threshing time. This building called a "cook house" was on wheels and the horses would pull it. | Source

Other times of the year, feeding the chickens, the turkeys, the pigs, the horses, and the cows would have kept anyone on a tight schedule in addition to the farming that was done.

Old photo of feeding chickens

Feeding chickens
Feeding chickens | Source

Women's Chores

Chores typically performed by women back then would have included the cooking and cleaning of the house; canning and preserving of food; keeping clothes clean and ironed; mending and sewing; not to mention the myriad little things that make a house a home. Gathering eggs and feeding the animals was also done.

Old farm photos with pigs

They also had pigs to feed...
They also had pigs to feed... | Source
More pigs!
More pigs! | Source

Old photo of dairy cows

They had some dairy cows.
They had some dairy cows. | Source

My great aunt and uncle had many out buildings to house equipment, animals and the like on their large acreage.

My uncle was a master farmer who not only did a great job farming with what he had been given by way of inheritance and learning, but he kept abreast of the latest trends.

He harvested the best seeds for planting the next year. He planted not only wheat and corn, but flax and soybeans. He was way ahead of the curve on planting flax and soybeans and was rewarded economically.


Old farm photo

Source

Many farmers back in those days only raised one or two crops. If pestilence or weather intervened to cause crop failures, they had little reserve to call upon to help them out of their predicament.

History shows that not only the Great Depression but the drought that occurred in the 1930s devastated many farmers.

My great aunt and uncle survived and went on to farm for many years. This is a testament to their hardiness and smart farming techniques.

Many of their turkeys were sold at Thanksgiving time to a large distributing company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They were very proud of this fact because that company only accepted the best of poultry.




They raised loads of turkeys!

They raised loads of turkeys!
They raised loads of turkeys! | Source
Feeding the turkeys
Feeding the turkeys | Source
Feeding the turkeys
Feeding the turkeys | Source

When I was born, my great aunt and uncle were already retired and had sold their farm. So I never got to see it.

I am just happy to have all of these photos and to have heard a little about their part in history with respect to farming in North Dakota in the early 20th century.

Farming pictures from the early 1900's in North Dakota.

Some calves
Some calves | Source
My mother and her older sister with the dog Rover in North Dakota.  August 10, 1930.
My mother and her older sister with the dog Rover in North Dakota. August 10, 1930. | Source

Look at the spikes on that tractor wheel!

Look at the spikes on that tractor wheel!
Look at the spikes on that tractor wheel! | Source

Resting after a days work on the farm and visiting.

 Resting after a days work and visiting.
Resting after a days work and visiting. | Source
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© 2009 Peggy Woods

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Comments are welcomed! 95 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 20 months ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi ladyguitarpicker,

In the old days entire families worked together for the good of all. Kids also had chores and did a lot of hard work. It was just expected. I am glad you enjoyed these pictures going back to an earlier time...especially since you had a family farm. Thanks for your comment.


ladyguitarpicker profile image

ladyguitarpicker 20 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

The farm was a lot of work for the whole family. Women did work back then, they just didn't get paid for it. We had a family farm but nothing this hard. I enjoyed your hub and the photos of the old tractors. Nice Hub, Stella


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 20 months ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi Au fait,

You made an interesting observation regarding the women wearing dresses. It would appear that one of them was driving the team of horses. My maternal grandmother who died the same year President Kennedy was assassinated never wore pants. My other grandmother who lived to be in her early 80's did wear pants but that was many years later. House dresses and then better ones for church, etc. were the norm, from what I have gathered, for women's clothing in the early 1900s.

Thanks for sharing part of your family history with us regarding what your mother wore when working on the farm. Interesting also about your grandmother not exercising her right to vote after that battle was fought and won. One of my grandmothers never learned how to drive a car. Times certainly have changed!

Thanks for the votes and shares. Much appreciated.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 20 months ago from North Texas

What great photos! You are so lucky to have all these photos to be able to look back at your families history. Very interesting.

As you know I grew up on a small farm as did my mother. There were 8 children in her family and she was 2nd oldest, born in 1912. The girls and the boys had to work out in the fields and my mother preferred it to working inside.

I have to say that my mother never got dressed up in fancy clothes to do field or barn work. Was a little surprised to see women in dresses on a wagon with pitchforks or whatever they're using. Skirts could get caught in things and bad accidents occur.

I know a lot of women wore house dresses to feed the livestock or work in their gardens, but that's usually light work compared to working on harvesting in the fields. No one wore dresses to do any of the work on our farm, but that was several years later than your photos here.

Interesting to see how people lived back then and the ideas people had about what was proper. My maternal grandmother never would vote because she couldn't accept that it was proper for women to do that. She was around 30 when women got the vote in 1920. I never knew her to wear jeans or trousers of any kind no matter what. Same with both my grandmothers. Only dresses or skirts and blouses.

Isn't it funny (strange) how times change and how painful it is sometimes when those changes come around? People so determined that things have to be a certain way or the world will end. People thinking everyone must do things their way or else. Even I have a hard time not being shocked at the young school aged girls who wear cheek-teaser short shorts to school and it's allowed.

A really fantastic article letting everyone see a glimpse into life back in the good ol' days. Voted up and interesting. Pinning this to my 'Education' board because I think it is educational for most people today who never saw anything like those days. Sharing as well with followers. Appreciate so much your sharing these photos.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 20 months ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi Will,

My hubby when he was a boy also helped his aunt and uncle on an Iowa farm. In his case he drove a tractor with a wagon behind it while hay was being bundled and hauled. He was too young to do anything else but felt really important that he could help in that way. It is a fond memory of his.

Glad you liked reading this. Yes...farming has really changed compared to years past!


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