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Children

What do these photos tell you about what children were like?

Children At The Backdoor

This photo was taken outside the back door of a house somewhere in Colorado. The four children in the photo are dressed in everyday clothes.

Children At The Backdoor

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

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The children in this photo probably were brothers and sisters. Having several brothers and sisters had its advantages. It was easy to find playmates. It also meant that the oldest child often had to take care of the younger ones. Sometimes young mothers relied on other family members, if possible, for help with small children.

Their Own Words

“When I had been there [near Ft. Collins in 1871] about two weeks, Sister’s first baby was born. She told me long afterwards that she did not have anyone to stay with her except [her husband] Henry, and when he was outdoors working she needed someone in the house with her. She wanted me to keep up the fire for her. I was just nine years old, but I had been taught to work. Sister was only seventeen, and she was very sick, but she could tell me what to do. I could lift Baby around for her, wash his clothes, wait on her, and wash dishes and help my brother-in-law cook. I stayed with them until Christmas. . . .”

Source: Amanda Hardin Brown, “A Pioneer in Colorado and Wyoming,” Colorado Magazine, 35 (July 1958): 174.

Young Girl Feeding Chickens

This photo was taken outside a chicken house on a Colorado farm. The little girl in the picture is feeding the chickens. The chicken feed is in the can she is holding.

Young Girl Feeding Chickens

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

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Children on farms and ranches had outside chores. Boys as well as girls fed chickens, hoed weeds in the garden, and helped with feeding and milking cows. Children like the one in this photo began learning these chores at a young age.

Their Own Words

Girls did other chores besides feeding chickens, as this woman remembered:

"One of my chores was to pick the peas or beans and get them ready for cooking. . . . Sometimes I had to dig new potatoes too. . . . Gathering greens, washing and picking them over, washing beets, and peeling turnips kept me out of mischief all morning."

Source: Hazel Webb Dalziel, "The Way It Was," Colorado Magazine, 45 (Spring 1968): 111.

Farm Boys Pitching Hay

This photo was taken on a ranch in Colorado. The boys are removing hay from the haystack with pitchforks.

Farm Boys Pitching Hay

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

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Boys on Colorado farms worked in the fields with their fathers. The boys in this photo are pitching hay from a haystack. Hay was fed to cattle and horses. Boys who grew up on ranches herded cattle from an early age.

Their Own Words

"In 1870, my father filed on eighty acres of land near the present site of Kersey. Our cattle had open range and I herded cattle from as early as I can remember. In those days the first thing a boy did was to ride. . . . My father died in 1879 and the ranch was managed by my mother and my brother and myself."

Source: CWA Interviews, Doc. 343/41. Colorado Historical Society.

Boys Playing Stick Ball (1912)

This photo was taken in 1912 in the farm community of Ramah, Colorado. Ramah was a farm town in El Paso County. The boys are playing ball in a vacant lot.

Boys Playing Stick Ball (1912)

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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The boys in the photo are playing stick ball. Girls also played ball games, such as the game of Andy Over. Click on In Their Own Words for a description of this game.

Their Own Words

Children also played a game called Andy Over, as this woman remembers:

"Andy Over was a ball game. Teams took up positions on the east and west sides of the schoolhouse. A rubber handball was tossed over the roof by one team with a loud shout of "Andy Over" to alert the opposite team that the ball was coming over. If the ball was caught, the catcher ran to the other side as fast as he could to touch someone on the opposing team. If one was touched by the ball, he must join the 'touching' team. The game was won when all the players were on the same side. Since one never knew in which direction the throwing team was running, it was a strenuous game, and children were knocked down in the excitement."

Source: Clara Hilderbrand Ehrlich, My Prairie Childhood, (Fort Collins, 1977): 41.