Little Boy Ran Away

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

Friday, July 11, 1913:  Went to Watsontown this morning. We were surprised today, when it was discovered that the little boy had run off.

Road near the Muffly farm.  How farm did the boy need to walk to get home?
Road near the Muffly farm. How far did the boy need to walk to get home?

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

Three days prior to this entry Grandma wrote:

Pa picked up a little boy who is going to work for him. I have to room with Ruth now.

I guess that the Muffly family again had to do all of the farm work. But my heart aches for the little boy. Why did he run away? . . . Was he homesick?  . . . . Was he scared? . .  .Was the work too hard? . . .

17 thoughts on “Little Boy Ran Away

  1. My Dad and my uncle grew up very poor along with 10 other children on a farm in Kansas. They used to tell me terrible stories of the way they were treated as child laborors. The time frame would have been about 12 years later than your grandmother. However, it was not uncommon for a family with several boys to hire out to a family with all daughters. My uncle told me because he was a year younger than my dad he made 20 cents a day and my dad made 50 cents. If they ate food from the family they worked for it cost them 10 cents out of their pay. When my uncle turned 16, he went to work for the family full time and earned $1.00/day plus the privledge of sleeping on the floor of the barn (both winter and summer) and he could have 1 meal a day.

    1. Times have changed so much. Even in the late 50s and early 60s, I can remember a high school student living with the family and attending school during the day and working on the farm in the mornings and evenings.

  2. I find it a little sad that Grandma does not give his name: or maybe she means ‘little boy’ in an affectionate way? For a teenage girl, small boys might not be very interesting;0) I am as hopeful as the other commenters here and eager for more news. What a great blog you have, Sheryl!

  3. This is a very intriguing story – could he have been a ‘British Home Child’? From 1869 to 1939 over 100,000 children were sent by social agencies to work in Canada as domestic and farm labourers. An in-law of mine had roots tracing back to this time and has very tough stories of young, orphaned and often totally unprepared children ending up as farm labourers. I wonder if there was a similar program in the U.S.?

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