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5th Minnesota for Kids:Civilians

To work, or to play. In modern times, most kids get to decide for themselves which one they will do-but in the 19th Century that wasn't usually the case at all. Being a kid during the time of the Civil War wasn't as easy as it might seem, though it wasn't always work either. In this page we'll explore the ups and downs of being a young person on the homefront in the 1860's.

If you had lived on a farm...

....then work would have been the center of your life. You must remember, that in the early 1860's Minnesota was still a very un-settled place. Farmers often settled as much as 10 or more miles from one another, and although there were plenty of small towns (and even two major cities, St. Paul and Minneaplois) most farmers still lived largely on what they could raise in crops and livestock. As such, EVERYONE in the family living on a farm must lend at the chores-and there is A LOT TO DO!



What sort fo things would you do if you grew up on a farm? Well, there are really two kinds of chores you might be expected to help with; House or Farm chores. Let's look at the House chores first.



What's to do in the house? Cleaning, washing (both laundry and dishes); remember that you can't call out for a pizza, so if you want dinner later you have to prepare for your meals through the day; mending AND MAKING clothes; tending the household garden, taking care of younger brothers and sisters (the average farm family in Minnesota had as many as 6 children-but sometimes MORE); ensuring food is stored properly and putting away new supplies for the season; tending the stove (remember that your stove is wood burning at this point) AND chopping wood for the stove; making of candles and soap, and that's the SHORT list!



Then you have the Farm Chores.You must tend all the animals (you might have had pigs, cattle, milk cows, oxen, horses, sheep, chickens, geese, bees, and don't forget all your barn cats and the watch dog!), keep after the buildings (fix and repair damage), clear land of trees and shrubs and THEN plow it. Plant crops and gardens; build fences to keep rabbits, raccoon and deer out; water the crops and pull weeds; don't forget to watch the weather and learn to understand how this new country will treat your seeds as they grow in the ground-and that's not even counting HARVEST!



You might feel tired just reading these lists. Because of all the work that farms required of settlers, many farm kids only went to school in the winter (part of the reason so many kids STILL have summers off in your time is because summer is when kids used to not be available for school, since they were needed at home!) and would have had little time for play. That doesn't mean they DIDN'T play, but a young person growing up on a farm had a lot of responsinbility that couldn't simply be ignored easily. As hard as it is to imagine, if you grew up on a farm in the 1860's-you would actually LOOK FORWARD TO SCHOOL! If nothing else, it was a break from work!

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....when the work was done, then it was time for fun...

.....they may not have had video games, DVD's, Ipod's, or even 21st Century toy stores; but kids in the 19th Century knew how to have fun! If you had lived in Minnesota in the 1860's, you might have enjoyed games like checkers (called draughts), bilbo catchers (a cup and ball game), Ninepins (a small version of bowling using small wooden balls and pins), marbles, jump rope, cracking the whip (see the picture on the right top side), ring around the rosie (the next picture down, on the right), tag, hide and seek, or baseball (although a bit different than the baseball YOU are used to!). Kids then played with tops, tin or lead soldiers, dolls, wooden swords and muskets might lead to an afternoon of playing Army; and home made kites could be sent aloft to sail into the clouds. Above all, kids in the 1860's used their imaginations to give their play a spark of excitement and fun that they may not have always found in their everyday lives. To you, living in 2006, their lives may seem hard and not much fun. But remember, that the children of the 1860's never knew any other way of living-so to them it was normal. Ask your parents what it was like when THEY were kids! You might be surprised just how much has changed, and also how some things always stay the same.

Work & Play

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If you had lived in Minnesota during the Civil War, you probably would have lived on a farm.

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If you had lived in a town or village.....

....then your life might have been very different from those that lived on a farm. You might have lived in a frame house or even a brick house(and not a log cabin like many people on farms in Minnesota did), and there was a good chance that you would have a PAYING JOB or at least that the work you did was in a shop or some kind of business. You would still have a garden to tend to, and maybe even a milk cow or some chickens. Unlike those that lived on farms, your neighbors would be just across a street, and everyday life would be much faster paced. You would be able to buy food at a grocer, or general store. But don;t think you get off light! Just because there aren't crops and as many animals to tend, doesn't mean you dont have chores to do!

If you lived in a village or town, you would still be expected to tend the stove and chop wood. There would still be most of the household chores to do, meals to prepare and siblings to watch over. The biggest difference being that you would likely atten MORE SCHOOL each year than the farm kids did, and perhaps sneak away for a bit more time to play. The work you would do would be just as hard though as a farm kids work, and just as dangerous. You might have worked in a store sweeping up and running errands; or you could just have easily ended up working in a warehouse or factory. Remember that there are no child labor laws (laws passed to protect children from dangerous work or situations) yet, so kids often did work that today we would not think suitable for them. Kids in the 19th century, on the Farm or in a Town, may have had harder lives than you do-but just like kids in 2006 they liked to have fun.

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Click here to return to the 5th Minnesota Kids Main Page!

It's Number 8! How can you tell? The part of His hair of course, and THAT is the clue we mentioned before!