17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, November 18, 1912:  I’m half way out of something that I worried about before school started, and that was that I was afraid I’d have to miss school when Pa had his threshing done. They started today and well I went to school today, too. So glad I don’t have to miss, that would be too bad for me.

Picture of an antique threshing machine demonstration (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

In the days before combines, threshing machines separated wheat (and other small grains)  from the straw.  Huge steam-operated threshing machines went from farm to farm. It took lots of labor to operate them —and the men who came to help expected a big meal.

I’m amazed that Grandma had worried about the possibility of missing school for months. (I think that I might have looked forward to missing school when the threshers came, rather than dreading the possibility). In any case, I’m glad Grandma didn’t have to stay home and help with the cooking, serving, and cleaning up if she didn’t want to.

The wheat would have been cut in late July and put into sheaves to dry for a while before it was threshed. I’m surprised how late in the year it was threshed. The previous year, it was done on September 13.

Here’s a YouTube video that shows a demonstration of how wheat was threshed years ago.

11 Responses

  1. cooking and serving and cleaning up would not be my forte at that age either, and I too loved school

  2. Threshing crews and large mid-day meals were topics of many conversations with my mother in her latter days. Have a few harvest photos to prove it. Thanks for the memories.

    • It’s hard to imagine how much work it must have been. It sounds like it really made a deep impression on your mother. It’s really awesome that you have some photos of it.

  3. I also am surprised at how late in the year they threshed this time Ours was done in September, I am pretty sure, because I remember how hot is was in the kitchen with all the cooking. I don’t think my Mom slept at all the nights before, as there was a sort of neighborhood competition among the men for which farm served the best meals! I am sure my Mom must have been the winner!

    • I also wanted to mention that I volunteer at Norskedalen April through October, and we have an annual threshing day the last weekend in September each year. I demonstrate old-fashioned cheesemaking for that event. You can see more about it here:

      • I’ve never been to an old-time threshing day, but they sound like a lot of fun.

        I googled Norkedalen and it looks like a wonderful heritage and nature center. What a fun place to volunteer!

  4. The schedule is surprising, I wonder what the weather was like that year. Must have been really mild.

  5. […] having their children miss school when extra help was needed than parents today. For example, on November 18, 1912 Grandma also was concerned that she might need to miss […]

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