This page was created April 3, 2004

In the early days of the county, even though people didn't have access to the items we have today they still maintained an active life that was filled with entertainment-not however in the same manner as we view entertainment.

In reviewing many of the historical manuals of the time it is found that these pioneers worked very hard every day of their lives. They did managed to incorporate entertainment into this hard work.

Not everyone in a community owned every piece of equipment needed to complete a job. It was very common for neighboring families to gather together to complete certain tasks such as threshing, barn raising, butchering, quilting and sometimes the harvesting of a crop for a neighbor who was sick-- in this particular instance; one family may well starve were it not for the assistance of the neighbors.

Much of what we would refer to as work, is viewed as a time for social community gathering and statements of memory always include "We had such a good time". Below are some of the forms of entertainment as viewed by our ancestors; or what passed as entertainment for them.

Butchering Day

Most families butchered twice during the winter season; the first being around Thanksgiving and the second in January. The number of hogs butchered depended on the need of each family. Meat was eaten three times a day, seven days a week so this was an important process for them.

On the appointed day, neighbors who had agreed to help gathered at a prearranged home. The wives would also accompany their husbands and while the men were outside killing, scalding and cutting the hogs; the women were in the house doing just as much work in preparation for the celebration or feast to take place later that day.

In the beginning of the day, women would divide into certain groups and do various chores such as: shred cabbage, peel and slice onions, cut and boil potatoes bake pies and whatever else might be needed in preparation for the planned meal. During this time of course, the women visited with each other as did the men. This made an economical necessity into a social pleasure for most. It was considered a fortunate thing indeed if before dinner (noon) time, the men were able to get the liver out of a few hogs. This was brought in to the women to be prepared for the huge noon meal.

The meal would contain any number of delicious items, sometimes the table containing so many serving dishes that they required stacking. Many of the times, there were so many men assisting that there simply wasn't room or plates enough for everyone, so the men normally ate first while the women served and the women ate later after the men had returned outside to finish the butchering.

After this noon meal, the work truly began for the women. Refrigeration wasn't available, so the meat preservation options were smoking, salting, pickling and preserving using jars of lard. Large quantities of fat were brought in that the women would "try out" in a huge kettle outside to create their years supply of lard. Other pieces were brought in that contained small pieces of meat that were cut up, ground and seasoned for sausage. Some of the other forms of meat were cooked down and as mentioned, placed in crocks and covered with lard for keeping. There is no question that the women worked just as hard as the men on butchering day. At the end of the day, the neighbors each took home a certain portion of the meat products in return for helping with the task.

Threshing Day

Normally in a community, only one man owned the threshing machine. He and a group of men would travel from one farm to the next performing the service of threshing the wheat. It was commonly acceptable that the threshers were fed two meals a day. Some farms required that the group remained at one place more then just one day. In those instances, normally the wife would provide a breakfast for them. For the bigger meals of the days, the women of the community would go from home to home assisting the homemaker with the massive preparations of food needed. Each wife of course would provide the food, but the neighbors were always available to assist. Many times for the young bride, these sessions could become educational processes in the discussions of family care. The meals were served in much the same fashion as mentioned for butchering day with the men eating first and the women later. Most of the women attempted to coordinate their meals so that the men were not fed the same thing at two homes in a row.

However, in large areas, it was inevitable that they would eat the same thing during the threshing season. Certain items were always on the table such as pies and bread; biscuits were also kept handy when the bread ran out. Canned beef and noodles was another favorite and fried chicken was also popular. The men worked hard and so the table needed to be plentiful; some women found it necessary to borrow from others to provide.

As soon as the men left for their afternoon of work and the women had eaten; preparation was started for the evening meal.

Quilting Bees

This particular activity was attended only by the women of a community.

The home chosen was one where the woman had the quilt top done and was ready for the quilting procedure. There were other times though that a gathering was planned in order to make a gift for a new bride or perhaps a needy family.

On the given day, women would gather around a quilting frame and each chose an area to work on. During the process, conversations would occur creating again another social gathering while accomplishing a necessity. To avoid taking time away from the quilting women normally didn't have the large meals conventionally prepared for a gathering with men. Most of the women would bring something to eat with them; either in the form of just for themselves or perhaps one dish to be combined with everyone else's.

The hostess normally took the responsibility of providing coffee or tea for the meal.


A tragedy in a family was sometimes the cause of a community gathering to prepare a large meal for the family. Many of the women would gather together to take care of the necessities in the home for the grieving family. This again provided another opportunity for a large gathering in wish conversations were bound to take place.

Barn Raisings

Barn Raisings were normally large affairs requiring the hands of many different men. In those days, people were more readily willing to assist their neighbors knowing that at some time, they themselves might require the return favor. Food quantities for a barn raising were normally of larger requirements then the average threshing or butchering day. Below is just one listing I have found containing some of the items and quantities that might be served for a large gathering. Even though they may seem large, most of the time the noon meal was also held over for the most part if possible and used at the evening meal also.

The list below is from about 1850 and for a gathering of about 80 men and of course their wives/families. It is not definitive of all gatherings, just one example.

  • 60 pies of different varieties

  • At least 16 loaves of bread along with 100 biscuits

  • 12 fried chickens

  • 3-4 hams

  • 25 pounds of beef

  • 3 gallons each of white potatoes and sweet potatoes

  • Several (about 4-6) bowls each of beef and noodles, cole slaw, stewed tomatoes, turnips, and beans

  • Similar quantities of any other locally favorite items.


    Debbie Jennings

    Website Coordinator