Farm Kids and Chores, 100 Years Ago

Farm kids certainly learned to do hard work in earlier decades, and to contribute to the family when they were young. Here are Donald and Delbert riding a machine pulled by a team of horses. You can be sure that their dad, Clabe Wilson, rigged up the horses for them.

He would have been a patient teacher about turning the horses at the end of a row and watching the field to make sure the weeder didn’t tear out any of the precious corn plants.

Check the photos for the boys’ doing fieldwork barefoot!

Donald Wilson, not yet 9 years old, running the weeder over the cornfield. SE of Dexter, Iowa, June 5, 1925
Delbert Wilson, just turned 10, also weeding corn. SE of Dexter, June 5, 1925
Taken on Delbert’s 10th birthday, June 3, 1925

But I’ll bet that Clabe Wilson kept an eye on his sons as they weeded the corn, then helped them unhitch the horses and taught them how to tend to the hot and sweaty horses.

I’m going through Leora Wilson’s memoirs, which she wrote decades later. She told about chores when she was a child. Like Delbert, she was the oldest of several children.

Her brothers Merl and Wayne plowed corn when they were 6 and 7, even younger than Delbert and Donald. Wayne drove the team while Merl handled the plow to cultivate corn, she said. “We were all taught to work early in life–a good thing, and we took pride in it.”

Can you imagine kids these days doing much more than mowing the lawn and caring for a pet?



  1. You must have read an early draft of my blog post for this Friday! Fathers teaching their sons the value and importance of hard work early in life.

  2. I had to laugh at your ending, you have to bribe them to mow the lawn, take out the trash or tend their pets now a days 🙁 ….but not all 🙂

  3. Work horses have been replaced by tractors, but chores are still chores; and my relatives who still farm did chores when they were young and their children did also.
    My boys weeded and hoed when we had a vegetable garden, My one son has a very large vegetable garden and his 3 girls maintain it.
    Yes I can imagine kids today doing chores.

    • Hurrah for kids who still know how to do hard work! When Clabe Wilson became a tenant farmer, in 1939, the landlord got a John Deere B, but his younger sons wanted to drive it. As they left for WWII, they taught him to drive the tractor and also their car, since he’d only had a Model T.

  4. My folks only had one boy, so I helped in the fields. I drove the tractor for the disc, harrow and hay rack. I was very young when I started controlling the belt for the thrashing machine. I think of milking all those cows every morning and every evening! I still had lots of free time and loved living on a farm!

  5. Children are capable of doing so much and they are so proud of their accomplishments. I have the grandchildren helping me do things and they seem pleased in their work. I think it is a real disservice to treat kids like they can’t, or should not be, helping with chores. For one thing, there are a great many things they will be doing for the rest of their lives, and everything takes practice. Learning to do chores around the home is an excellent way to build confidence in young people. I can remember my mother teaching me to make the bed when I was really little. She folded the sheets ‘just so’ and when I tried to do the same, (with practice), I felt so happy about it. It was the same with many things and I am glad my parents took the time to teach me. These children on the farm did the work of the farm and certainly ‘pulled their weight’ like adults. The world may be very different now, but children need to learn responsibility from a young age. Chores are a very good way to instill confidence and build on the concept that ‘families work together to get things done.’ It makes for a happy home!

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