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Pioneer Life: Collecting ‘Buffalo Chips’ And 10 Other Chores From Way Back In The Day

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

I sometimes forget that my mom didn’t grow up as a pioneer in late 1800s, but actually about 100 years later in the 1960s. All of her childhood stories always remind me more of an episode of Little House on the Prairie rather than the more suburban nostalgia we see on The Brady Bunch.

Growing up on a farm, she and her many brothers and sisters were all expected to chip in and help their dad with things, like pulling weeds and picking the fruit during harvest, as well as helping their mom keep the house in order on wash days and preparing daily meals. It’s like hearing about time travel every time she remembers another part of her chores back then!

Of course, they also managed to enjoy a few of the more modern conveniences — like indoor plumbing by the time my mom was in high school.

The folks making their way across the country as early settlers, however, were lucky if they were even able to find land they could stake their claim on.

Take a look at some of the other tasks those pioneering families tackled on a daily basis below.

Did we miss an essential chore? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your friends!

Thumbnail Credit: Talk Tulia

1. Patching Up The House

1. Patching Up The House

Homes were made with whatever materials they could get their hands on, like this sod house, which meant lots of upkeep on the outside as well as keeping the inside organized and tidy.

2. Clearing Fields

2. Clearing Fields

Farming was pretty much the only way to not only make money, but keep food in your family’s belly, too. That meant tons of ploughing, planting, and maintenance for each shifting season.

3. Harvesting Crops

3. Harvesting Crops

When it was time to pluck up your bounty, the whole family chipped in to get the job done as quickly as possible to make sure they had fresh fruit and veggies to offer at the market.

4. Prepping Meat

4. Prepping Meat

Obviously, early settlers couldn’t just waltz up to a deli counter. They were required to hunt and dress their own meat if they wanted to add protein to their evening table. And they had to salt any leftovers to save for later.

5. Collecting Eggs

5. Collecting Eggs

Whether they were being sold for some extra cash or scrambled up for breakfast, having a few chickens providing eggs was always beneficial.

6. Churning Butter

6. Churning Butter

My mom actually had to do this as a kid, but despite the repetitive nature, she has always said it was her favorite chore! Traveling pioneers could also attach a bucket to the bottom of their wagon to let the jostling do the churning for them.

7. Gathering Wood

7. Gathering Wood

Always having plenty of wood on hand was essential, no matter what time of year it was, and was especially important to keep families warm in the bitter winter months. You definitely didn’t want to be mid-December with just a few planks left.

8. Collecting "Buffalo Chips"

8. Collecting "Buffalo Chips"

Another great source of heat was the less appealing “buffalo chips,” which are the dried out manure patties of buffalo. I’m sure it was nice for warmth and cooking needs, but I can’t imagine it added much in the way of aroma.

9. Making Candles

9. Making Candles

Again, they couldn’t just hop over to the store and buy a few candles, lamps, or other light sources to rely on after the sun went down, so dipping their own was the only logical option.

10. Quilting Blankets

10. Quilting Blankets

Any extra scraps from sewing clothes for the family were never wasted or tossed aside. They could become another piece in the cozy quilt puzzle that kept them from shivering in the snowy months.

11. Fetching Water

11. Fetching Water

Indoor plumbing wasn’t a thing, so youngsters were often sent down to the well regularly to deliver pailfuls of fresh water for cooking and cleaning.

Any time I start to feel frustrated with something making my life a little less easy, I remind myself of how much folks had to do for the simplest of tasks like these back in the day. I realize I’ve definitely got it pretty darn easy.

Did we miss something you know was an important chore for pioneers? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE with your loved ones!