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A Day in the Life of a Pioneer

Updated on September 25, 2014

The Life of a Pioneer

Imagine waking up in a life of outhouses and horse-drawn buggies, candlelight and water from a pump. Imagine living without electricity or running water, without cars or trains or airplanes. This life you have imagined is simple in technology but harsh in reality. It is the life of a pioneer.

Settling a new land

Pioneers are early settlers. They were the first European people in North America. The natives who lived on the land before the pioneers did not believe that the land could be owned. The Europeans, however, came to North America to claim the land as their own. The settlers that arrived in North America came with very little. These pioneers were forced to begin a new life from scratch. They had to clear the land, farm the land and survive on hard work.

The Day Starts

As you wake up in this pioneer life, you notice the sun just beginning to peek through the windows. It is very important to get up with the sun so you can take advantage of all the sunlight hours.

The bed you awaken in is wooden, the mattress is stuffed with straw and held in place by ropes that are tied across the underside of the bed. You must change out of your nightgown and into your clothes so you can go to the pump for water to wash in. Since it is summer you go without shoes, leather is much too expensive to buy often so you must take care of your shoes. It is much more important to have your feet covered during winter’s snowy months than summer’s dry months.

Water and Fire

On the way to the pump you grab two buckets. The more water you bring back in this trip the fewer the number of trips you have to make. Your mother has already lit the fire in the kitchen. It provides warmth to a room not yet touched by the newly risen sun. Your brother comes in carrying firewood. The fire must be kept going all day. It is used for warming water, cooking and drying fruit, vegetables and herbs. Without matches, sparks caused from smacking a steel nail against flint must light the fire. So, the fire is lit once and never let to go out.

Milk and butter

The first two buckets of water you carry in are warmed on the fire. One bucket allows you and your many brothers and sisters to wash. The second bucket is used to clean the breakfast dishes. Your brother heads out to the pump for more water so that there is always water near the fire.

You must head to the barn to milk the cows so your sisters can make some butter and cheese for Sunday. The milk you bring back is put in a butter churn, which is a wooden container. Your sister then begins to churn the milk by lifting a stick with a wooden circle on the end up and down in the milk. Gradually the milk will get thicker and form butter.


At the beginning of the summer the wool is shaved off the sheep. This wool will be used to make clothes for winter. It must be cleaned, dyed, spun and woven into fabric which can then be sewn into clothing. This task is a long one which takes all summer to complete. Today, three of your sisters are working at spinning the wool while your mother weaves wool already spun. Your youngest sister is knitting socks for the winter months.


Your father and elder brothers have gone out to the fields to harvest the grain. Tomorrow, that grain will be taken to the mill where it will be made into flour. Flour is a very important ingredient in most of the food your mother bakes. Your chore today, as it is every day, is to take care of the animals and look after the garden. You head to the barn with your younger brother in tow. After feeding the cows, horses, pigs, goats and chickens you begin to clean out the stalls. Each stall must be raked; the dirty hay must be cleared away and replaced with new hay. The rake you use is one you made yourself. You tied small sticks onto the end of a cut-off branch.

Preparing the food

Your work is interrupted temporarily by one of your sisters who has come to collect some eggs for dinner. Being reminded of dinner you go to the garden to pick what vegetables are ripe. Throughout the summer the meals always include fresh vegetables straight from the garden. Some of the vegetables, however, must be preserved for the winter months. These vegetables are placed in containers and pickled. The containers are covered with brown paper, which is sealed with egg white smeared on top. The egg white dries causing the paper to tighten. They are then kept in the cellar, which is the coolest room in the house.


Your chores are done just as the sun begins to fall. What little daylight is left must be used for dinner time. You run to the house, stopping at the well to wash in the cold water. The family gathers around the table to enjoy the meal your mother has prepared. The pork stew is made with the pork from the pig that is hanging in the smokehouse. It is continuously being smoked in order to preserve it as long as possible. The stew also contains potatoes and vegetables you picked in the garden. The whole wheat bread was homemade yesterday, made form the flour that is ground from the grain in your father's fields. You spread apple butter on your bread since the butter your sister made today must be saved for Sunday visitors. The apple butter is easier to make and apples are abundant in the orchard. you also have apple cider to drink. The cider is stored in barrels in the cellar.

End of the Day

Once dinner is over water is brought in from the pump to do the dishes. Extra water is warmed on the fire to prepare for the younger childrens’s baths. Each night is bath night for a different member of the family. The cast iron tub is brought out of the storage room and placed by the fire to warm. While the little ones are bathing you must light the candles as the sun is now just about to set. Once the baths are over each child takes a candle and heads off to bed. The cabin has only three bedrooms. The boys sleep in one room, the girls in another and Mom, Dad and the youngest child sleep in the third. Just before you go to bed you see your father head out to the barn with a lantern in his hand. He must check on the animals one last time before he rests.

The fire is reduced to smoldering embers and the candles are blown out for the night. The cabin rests in silence and darkness. The hard working pioneers are tired. They sleep soundly until the sun peeks through the windows again.

Product Recommendation: A favorite resource about pioneers

About the Author

Sandra Wilson

I am an experienced home educator with a passion for writing. Joining together these two passions I create interesting unit studies for my children, and now for yours!

I am Director of Education at the Wilson Education Resource Centre where our motto is Learn, Laugh, Inspire

Comments on my page? - Thanks for reading!

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      @Hedremp: no pro babe

    • jballs6 profile image


      7 years ago

      Oh for the simpler life, hard work but I bet it was much more satisfying

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I don't think I would have been a very good pioneer but I sure enjoyed reading about A Day in the Life of a Pioneer.

    • Hedremp profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandra Wilson 

      8 years ago from Wilson Education Resource Centre

      @Virginia Allain: Thank you very much - I love history myself so I am sure we can share many lenses.

    • Hedremp profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandra Wilson 

      8 years ago from Wilson Education Resource Centre

      @Virginia Allain: Thank you very much - I worked a year at a pioneer museum and LOVED it. If it wasn't for school I would have stayed!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @Virginia Allain: I'm going to feature this on my lens about Civil War Childhood. Many of the country folk still lived a pioneer lifestyle.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      9 years ago from Central Florida

      You do a great job showing daily living in pioneer times. I could visualize each as I moved down the page.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      9 years ago from Royalton

      Wonderful imagry. Thank you for taking me through the life of a well established farm and family of the mid 1800's. This is a great resource for any family studying the lives of the pioneers.

      SquidAngel Blessed:)


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