Building a Family Farm in a Country Village

Missouri woman talks about how her parents built their own family farm while running a barber shop in a country village

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Growing up on the family farm lends an influence that lasts a lifetime.

My father was a farm boy, the youngest of three sons. He left home early and became a self-taught barber in the village of Plevna, Missouri. He soon found a young farm girl who became his wife. They built a barber shop of their own in the country village.

With the arrival of their first son, they felt the need for their own home and wanted a bit of land to help make a better life for the family.

At the edge of the village was a small bungalow home on 18 acres of land. They managed to purchase the property and moved to their first farm. Soon they bought a milk cow and a pig; my grandmother added 12 laying hens and a fine rooster to the little farm. Since Grandmother had given these hens to my mother, Mother always claimed the chicken business was hers. She cared for them, gathered the eggs from her flock and sent them to the nearby village store and sold them in exchange for sugar, flour and necessities. Any money that remained after the sale was "Mother's Money." When I was growing up, it always seemed that the egg money met every need of the home.

I, the only daughter in the family, was born in 1916. By that time my dear parents had acquired an additional 40 acres of farming land. My father continued to operate his country barber shop, and with the help of Mother and two sons he took care of the farm.

With the purchase of another acreage and a piece of land acquired by Mother as inheritance, he had a small farm operation working very well. The two brothers helped with the farm work and I assisted our mother.

We were a busy, happy family. In the Missouri springtime, planting season required corn, oats, kafir corn, gardens and potato patches to be planted. We had cows that had to have grain and hay. Father bought a small flock of sheep and we had a work team of horses and a riding horse. Mother's laying hens and young chickens also required grain for feed.

The garden, as well as the poultry, was part of Mother's chores. The garden had to be cared for and the produce canned and pre-served. We put out an orchard of apple and peach trees, and within our backyard we had a grouping of Damson plum trees. In our own woods we had walnut and hickory trees from which we harvested nuts for winter use. We also grew a few rows of popcorn in the garden, thus being sure of popcorn and apples for evening food in the long, cold winter evenings.

We had an Edison phonograph that played records that resounded through a large metal horn. We thought this good music. My father bought a piano for my use, and a nearby music teacher gave me lessons.

We subscribed to several good magazines. The Capper's Weekly and the weekly Kansas City Star were always at our reading table. We read at night by the light from kerosene lamps. The long winter evenings were pleasant as we sat by our wood-burning fire, reading and finding apples and popcorn for family treats. In later years we enjoyed a radio, but it is good to remember those early days when we were happy with books and magazines and the shining clean light of the kerosene lamps. It was a daily chore to keep those lamp flues clean and the bowls filled with kerosene.

One of our acreages was some distance from our home ground. This particular ground boasted a good river on the land. The "Big Fabius River" was filled with catfish and carp. My brothers and Father liked to fish and caught many good-sized ones.

Some of my choice memories recall times when we stayed overnight at this river, set bank-fishing lines and caught nice strings of plentiful catfish. The work seemed like part of a picnic.

Christmas time was a joy at the farm. Our village school always had the program at the local village church. There was a tall tree, beautifully decorated. The whole farming community came to the Christmas program, which honored the Christ child. The countryside was filled with small farms and farm children. The church was always filled to capacity on Christmas evening.

Church and school were always well attended. Old Settlers celebrations and Fourth of July gatherings within our own Knox county were always well attended and were part of the pleasures that came along with growing up on the farm.

We had good neighbors, good friends and a wealth of good memories to carry us through coming years.

Father and Mother gave us a good childhood and a good home, for which I am forever grateful.

Margaret Stout
Plevna, Missouri

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.