De Smet Harvest Scenes & Quotes from Laura’s writing

Fall is in full swing here in De Smet! In 2014, that means it is harvest time for local farmers, just as it was for the early pioneers in the early 1900s.

Our archives collection features several unique farming photos from previous generations of Kingsbury County farmers.

1904-1905 Era Threshing Crew

This photo was taken in 1904 or 1905 and shows local farmers threshing grain. Threshing the grain was an important task and often required assistance from neighbors.

Laura wrote about a threshing machine in her book “On the Banks of Plum Creek”:

“One morning at daylight three strange men came with a threshing-machine. They threshed Pa’s stack of wheat. Laura heard the harsh machinery noises while she drove Spot through the dewy grass, and when the sun rose chaff flew golden in the wind. The threshing was done and the men went away with the machine before breakfast.”


Horses Swathing Grain

This photo shows a team of four horses swathing grain. It was taken by Aubrey Sherwood of the “De Smet News” at the Colwell farm, four miles north of De Smet.

Laura wrote about the busyness of harvest time in “Farmer Boy”:

“Then the rush of harvest-time came. The oats were ripe, standing thick and tall and yellow. The wheat was golden, darker than the oats. The beans were ripe, and pumpkins and carrots and turnips and potatoes were ready to gather. There was no rest and no play for anyone now. They all worked from candle-light to candle-light.”


Threshing Scene Postcard

This photo of threshing was taken near De Smet and then turned into a postcard. On the far left side of the photo, the remaining straw can be seen. The straw and the grain were separated by the threshing machine.

Laura wrote about the large straw pile left behind after the threshing crew came in “On the Banks of Plum Creek”:

“When Laura and Mary went up on the prairie to play, that morning, the first things they saw was a beautiful golden straw-stack. It was tall and shining bright in the sunshine. It smelled sweeter than hay. Laura’s feet slid in the sliding, slippery straw, but she could climb faster than straw slid. In a minute she was high on top of that stack.”


Bird’s-Eye View of Area Farms

This photo was taken at an unknown location in Kingsbury County. It shows the lay of the land divided into sections and long, straight graveled roads leading from one farm to another.

In one of her adult columns published in the “Missouri Ruralist on October 20, 1916, Laura describes the joy of fall colors in the country:

“What a beautiful world this is! Have you noticed the wonderful coloring of the sky at sunrise? For me there is no time like the early morning, when the spirit of light broods over the earth at its awakening. What glorious colors in the woods these days! Did you ever think that great painters have spent their lives trying to reproduce on canvas what we may see every day? Thousands of dollars are paid for their pictures which are not so beautiful as those nature gives freely.”



4 comments on “De Smet Harvest Scenes & Quotes from Laura’s writing

  1. Connie in Colorado says:

    My husband and I were just chatting about the old ways of threshing grain when your timely blog arrived. Thanks for sharing a glimpse of the farming life the Ingalls and Wilders knew so well in De Smet.

  2. Sylvia, UK says:

    I really appreciate the various photographs! When I was a little girl, Laura’s time seemed so long ago. These days I realise, it isn’t so very long ago after all…my grandmother’s youth! How much has changed and yet…

  3. Heather says:

    great pictures! I really enjoyed this

  4. Ron Chan says:

    Wow, does this ever bring back memories. I grew up on a farm and recall this but to young to take part, and our parents kept us in the house much of the time as polio was going on and scared to let us out. But recall the swathing, and the binders, and shocking, and pitching bundles into the threshing machine. Thank you for the memories.

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