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

Updated on March 6, 2017
Peggy W profile image

My mother has told me so many wonderful stories about our rich family history. There is much to learn by reviewing the past.

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
My great aunt & uncle's home in North Dakota.Another view of their home.
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

Our 39th State...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 | 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

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Feeding the plough horsesKids on horsebackGoing for a ride in the wagon
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 North Dakota 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.

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

Harvest Time of Year

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

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Harvest time of yearWorking in the fieldsThe women helped
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

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.

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

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They also had pigs to feed...More pigs!
They also had pigs to feed...
They also had pigs to feed... | Source
More pigs!
More pigs! | Source
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 for his efforts.


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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
They raised loads of turkeys!Feeding the turkeysFeeding the 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
Some calves
Some calves | 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.

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 on the farm and visiting. | Source

Location of Mapes, North Dakota

A markerMapes, North Dakota -
Mapes, ND 58344, USA
get directions

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

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    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Don,

      Nice seeing you here via a comment. My mother got to see this large farming operation when she was a child. Needless-to-say the farm had been sold and my great aunt and uncle were retired when I got to know them. Thanks for the share.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 weeks ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      HI Peggy. I don't know if my original comment got posted or not. The format has changed since I was active on hubpages. By the time I saw the family farms the grandparents were mostly retired and maybe renting the land out to neighbors. sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Virginia,

      Many people seem to really like these old farming photos from earlier days in North Dakota. Thanks for the shares. Perhaps it will introduce many more people to what it was like back in the early 1900s.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 weeks ago from Central Florida

      I'll share your link in a few nostalgia groups on Facebook. They will enjoy these so much. Hope it brings you lots of visitors.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mike and Dorothy McKenney,

      Those certainly were simpler times back then! I am pleased that you enjoyed the photos of what farming was like in the early 1900s. Thanks for your comment.

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