Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Early 1900's Kansas Wheat Harvest

Last April I spent two solid days with my husband Jeremy's Grandpa "Bill" Wilson at his kitchen table scanning farm and family photos and recording Grandpa's comments about them. They were two of the best days of my life!
Grandpa turned 90 this past November and he is still as sharp as a tack and VERY funny! The vivid memories of his youth are simply amazing and very humbling.
I am so grateful to Grandpa for sharing his time and memories with me and for showing me his precious photos and artifacts. I also have to say THANK YOU to his long-time girlfriend, Lorraine, (aka Grandma Bair), for watching my girls as Grandpa and I completed our task. C.W. and the wee red head were a very busy 3 and 1 then :)
I thought I would share some of the fruits of our labor with you. I hope you enjoy this little journey into the past to look at wheat harvests of the early 1900's. The Wilson family farmed in Kansas before they moved to North Dakota, so what you see are pics from the Salina, Kansas and Cambria, Kansas areas.
This is Jeremy's Great-grandfather, J. Harry Wilson:
Below, a threshing crew. FYI- Threshers separate the grains of wheat from the straw (stem) and chaff (the rest of the plant that surrounded the grain).
Below, Grandpa Wilson's brother-in-law, John Lang, with two of the mules who likely helped with harvest.
Below, Jeremy's Great-grandfather, J. Harry Wilson, ran this threshing crew in Salina, Kansas, 1905.
Here J. Harry Wilson's crew takes a break for a meal. He is seated on the left and is wearing suspenders. Grandpa didn't know who the rest of the folks were, but we agreed that the women standing in the back had a pretty big job on their hands cooking for that bunch!
This is a photo of the Lang and Wilson families. J. Harry Wilson and his wife, Susan (Jenkins) Wilson, my husband's great-grandparents, are standing in the back row on the right.
The pictures you've just seen were taken in Kansas, but Grandpa Wilson said that when his family settled on the farm we're on now in the early 1930's, his mother, Susan, would haul a load of wheat each year to a mill in Valley City (about 35 miles east of Jamestown) and have it ground into flour. The flour was put into 50 lb. bags and she would use 52 bags a year to feed his family and all the men who worked on the farm. Now THAT is some serious baking!
Time marches on and wheat harvest is upon us once again. Looks like we'll get started today if all goes well and this good weather holds.
These are the combines our family used to use:
And here is the one we use today:
We've come a long way since the early 1900's!
I hope that those who read this take a moment to consider the generations of knowledge and hard work that went into raising the wheat that makes the bread and other foods we enjoy today.
Sarah :)


  1. Loved your story and photos. My grandfather and his twin brother went to Kansas in 1913 at the age of 14 as migrant workers. They left their parent's homestead in Potosi, Missouri because with 16 kids in the family, they needed to go out and earn their livelihood. Too many mouths to feed! So, as my mother told the story, they hopped trains and headed to the Kansas wheat harvest. It is neat to see your harvesting photos. Thank you

  2. My father, Theodore G. DeLozier went to work in the Kansas wheat harvests beginning in 1926...He became friends with Allen Sutton somewhere in western Kansas..Does anyone know the whereabouts of the Sutton Family?