The life of a
farmer wasn’t the easiest
occupation, yet nearly every
colonist was in some way involved in
farming. Most had to rely on
themselves and their children to do
the backbreaking work.
Today we think of
clearing a field as being done by
earth movers and dynamite. In the
Colonial days, the task was called
grubbing, meaning to dig out
stumps of trees and bushes when
clearing land for planting. This was
dangerous and arduous work.
Trees had to be
felled and removed. Some trees were
kept for the lumber to build needed
barns or other structures; the rest
was burned or piled to the side.
Work of this type was quite slow.
Felling a single large tree could
take two men most of the day.
Then came the
task of removing the stumps. Smaller
tree stumps could be chopped, dug
out, or pulled out with a team of
oxen. Larger stumps were often
burned, or just left to rot over
several years before they could be
Brush and prairie
grasses had to be manually dug out.
Debris and stones were removed. Once
the land was cleared, work began to
prepare the soil for planting. This
too was no easy task as this was
land that had never been touched and
was frequently packed hard and
The farmer, using
a team of oxen or mules, drug simple
plows through the fields turning the
soil over. They then went back
through it again and again digging
deeper each time and breaking large
Once the clods
had been broken into smaller pieces
or reduced to just dirt, another
implement, the harrow, was drug
across the soil leveling it out. Now
they were ready to begin planting!