The Civil War: Brothers Enlisted and Left Father to Work Farm

Mother and daughter forced to work on tillage after brothers enlisted and father took sick during the Civil War.
CAPPER's Staff
Good Old Days

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Oh, I wonder if it is as plain in other people's memories who were living in those days as it is in mine, of the happy days before the Civil War when my brothers and sisters and I were home on the mountain farm with our father and mother. My father had a farm of 160 acres, all under good tillage. But then the Civil War broke out and the cry came for soldiers. My two brothers, who were scarcely young men grown, as were our three hired farm hands heard the call. The five left home and enlisted. It was in the midst of haying time, leaving my father without a soul to help him.

Then it was that my dear mother and 1 had to take a hand out of doors. There were no mowing machines at that time or horse rakes. At that time, Father mowed the grass by hand with a scythe. It fell my lot to turn the grindstone to grind that scythe. Sometimes 1 thought my arms would break before the grinding was done. When Father mowed the grass, 1 had to follow with a pitch fork and spread it out to dry. Then after dinner Father, Mother and I would all fall to and rake it into windrows. Then Father would get the horses and big wagon, and I made load and Mother raked after. Then when the load was made, Father would drive on to the barn floor. I on top of the load would get on the scaffold and mow it away. I was only a weak girl of 15 years, but Father could not get help for love nor money. In the midst of this my father was taken sick. He had worked too hard.

We had finished the haying, but it was clear along in September and the harvesting was to be done with no one but my mother and myself, beside two small boys, my brothers, who were of very little use. We had very large fields of potatoes to dig and turnips. I remember it so well; we had 170 bushels of turnips and such a quantity of potatoes. I can't tell how many, but I can remember the number of bushels of turnips because when I pulled them, I gave the little boys two cents a bushel for cutting off the tops.

Until that time I had never milked a cow. Mother knew how, but she had not milked for years. She had to take a hand at it, and she taught me how, for we had a large dairy of cows, and we were making a great deal of butter at the time.

Father also had a large hog house full of hogs that had to be cured and large fields of oats. I had a 10-dollar gold piece, the first one I ever saw. I gave it to a man for cutting or cradling the oats; I raked and bound them. We could not get anyone to thrash them, so we fed them out in with straw. Oh, those were hard times. But we had enough to eat, that which we raised upon the farm.

By Minna (Fowler) Rounds
Submitted by Paul H. Rounds
Severance, Kansas

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. 

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