Had to Carry Hay Rope

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

Friday, June 26, 1914:  Oh, I had to carry the hay rope, while Ruthie led the horse.


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

There is a seasonal ebb and flow to the diary—and generally I really enjoy looking at similar diary entries that were written in different years from a different angle each year. But, I hope that you’ll bear with me because I’m going to repost a post for the third time since it so aptly explains what Grandma was describing in this diary entry.

Hay Pulleys and Ropes

(Previously Posted on June 24, 2011 and November 23, 2013)

A hundred years ago hay was not baled. Instead dried loose hay was brought into the barn on a wagon and then hoisted into the mow using a rope and pulley system.

I called my father to get help figuring out what “carry the hay rope” meant. My father guesses that Grandma was half carrying and half dragging the hay rope to keep the horse from inadvertently stepping on it. Let me explain how they used to get hay from the wagon into the haymows.

(Some of you probably know much more about how hay was made in the old days—and please feel free to jump in if I’m not explaining it quite right.)

Dad said that when he was young there were pulleys on a track that ran down the center of the inside of the barn roof. Depending upon where the farmer wanted to pile the hay the pulleys would be moved along the track. A young man with excellent balance would climb up onto a beam in the barn rafters and move the pulleys along the track as needed.

One end of the rope was attached to a large clamp (hay hook) that was used to pick up a large bunch of loose hay from the wagon.

The rope went then went through the pulley system—and the other end of the rope was attached to a horse. On command the horse walked forward and the pulleys lifted the hay into the mow.

The hay was then released and the rope went limp and a portion of it would fall to the barn floor. The horse would then be walked back to the original position and the process would be repeated.

My father says that when he was a child, the adult men did the heavy work, and the children did the easier jobs. His older sister Marjorie would lead the horse as it pulled the hay upward—and then circle it back to the original position after the hay was released.

And my father would pick up the rope when it fell to the floor after the hay was released and keep it away from the horse’s feet. Dad says that if a horse stepped on the rope it would damage it by breaking some of the strands. Then there would be the risk of the damaged rope breaking, which might result in a dangerous accident if it broke while the hay was being lifted.

Making Hay

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

Thursday, June 25, 1914: Let me see, I leaded some hay for today and Daddy growled at the result. We went over to Stout’s this evening to fill up on black cherries (we haven’t any of our own). Nary a one did we get.

This picture is from a different time period. It was taken in the late 1950s, but it’s one of my favorite photos and I thought that maybe it would work as an illustration for this post. It’s a photo of my father and me on top of a wagon load of hay. I think that the hay baler broke that summer, so my father decided to make some hay the “old-fashioned” way.

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

Whew, it sounds like one hot summer job (picking strawberries) must be winding down, and another hot summer job (making hay) gearing up. Will the work ever end?

I think that Grandma was leading a horse that was either pulling a wagon through the hayfield while others piled the hay onto the wagon, or (and I think this is the more likely option) she was leading a horse that was operating a pulley system that was used to unload the hay in the barn.

Warmed Up Stuff

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

Wednesday, June 24, 1914:  Haven’t got nothing, but warmed up stuff today. So there.


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

Hmm. . . What does this diary entry mean?

. . . heated up left –over food? . . . just sitting around and warming up a seat? . . . had a disagreement with someone? . . weather was very hot? . . .

Hundred-Year-Old Ways to Prevent and Treat Sunstroke

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

Tuesday, June 23, 1914:   I Boiled, Baked, and Stewed in the hot sun. Please forgive all the capitals, but I want it to stand out from this page in blaring headlines. It wasn’t a very comfortable feeling to be cooked in so many different ways.


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


Are you still picking strawberries for wages? Take care— You’re young and healthy, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to get a sunstroke.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


The object is to reduce the temperature of the body. Generally, the causes of sunstroke are fatigue and sun heat, therefore, keep the head cool as possible and work in moderation while in the hot sun, and if any unusual dizziness is felt, cold water should be applied to the neck and head.

If the person falls unconscious he should at once be taken to a cool, airy place, and the bystanders should keep away so that the patient can get all the pure air possible. Sunstroke may be known by the respiration and pulse becoming slow and the face pale; give stimulants gradually, but do not use cold water too freely. Place the person on his back, the head being raised about two inches and a little ammonia water [smelling salts] given.

The Compendium of Every Day Wants (1908) by Luther Minter

1914 O-Cedar Mop Advertisement

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

Monday, June 22, 1914:  Had quite a time at rubbing and washing today, and it wasn’t here at home either. We are going to have the church fixed over, and it was necessary to wash off the walls. One girl upset her bucket of water off a step ladder. Had to laugh. I was up near the ceiling, and my laughing made me dizzy. Came down off that ladder and staid down. Didn’t want a fate like the bucket.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1914)

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1914)

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

What fun. . . and what a mess! Did they use an O-Cedar Mop to clean it up?

Went to Children’s Day Service at Lutheran Church

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

Sunday, June 21, 1914:  Went to Sunday School this morning. Was over to see Carrie this afternoon. It commenced to rain this evening. Was afraid I wouldn’t get up to town this evening. The Lutherans had Children’s Day services. The rain didn’t last long, so Ruth and I started out.

Raymond Swartz, 1915

Raymond Swartz, 1915

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

I wonder why Grandma wanted so desperately to attend the Children’s Day services at the Lutheran Church.

Here’s one possible reason—though I don’t think that it’s very plausible. But here goes–

Maybe Grandma thought that my grandfather, Raymond Swartz, was cute; and, that he would be at the service. When I was a child my grandparents attended Messiah Lutheran Church in McEwensville—and I think that Grandma converted from Baptist to Lutheran when she got married.

That said, I don’t think this scenario is realistic. What I really think is that Raymond was not yet on Grandma’s radar screen. Grandma was three and a half years older than Raymond—and a hundred years ago today she was 19 years old, but he was only 15. They didn’t get married until she was 26 and he was 21.

2010 photo of the building that once housed Messiah Lutheran Church. It is now an antique shop.

2010 photo of the building that once housed Messiah Lutheran Church. It is now an antique shop.

Carrie Stout was a friend of Grandma’s who lived on a nearby farm. And, Ruth was Grandma’s sister.

Old-fashioned Strawberry Muffins (Strawberry Cups) Recipe

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

Saturday, June 20, 1914: Am having quite a time working these days. Hardly take time to eat my dinner.

strawberry muffins

strawberry muffinHer middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma sure has been keeping busy picking strawberries. I hope that she was well paid for her hard work.

What did she have for her rushed dinner? . . . well, she probably was eating seasonal foods, so maybe one food was Strawberry Muffins.

The June, 1914 issue of Good Housekeeping had a recipe for Strawberry Muffins–though back then they were called “Strawberry Cups”.  Here it is—slightly adapted for modern cooking methods and ovens.

Strawberry Muffins (Strawberry Cups)

Preheat oven to 400° F. Separate two eggs; beat the yolks and add one cup of milk, one-half teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of melted butter. Add two teaspoons of baking powder and one and a half cups of flour, and beat well. In a separate bowl whip the egg whites until stiff, then fold the whites into the batter. Put a tablespoon of the batter in each of 12 muffin pan cups. Add a layer of thinly sliced strawberries; then fill the cups two-thirds full of batter, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Best when served warm.


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