Chapter 2: Life on the Farm (Part 1/4)
Levi and Marvin Green were born into a life of farming in Hallsport, New York, in 1841 and 1842, respectively. They were raised in a subsistence farming family, where hard work and frugality were the rules of the day. They learned to sow and reap, tend to the livestock, and care for the land from their father, William Erastus Green, who was a farmer like his father before him. Growing up in rural western New York in the mid-19th century took work. The climate was harsh, the work was hard, and the rewards were few. But the Greens loved their life, the land, the animals, and the people around them.
Levi was especially drawn to the life of a farmer. He was a careful observer of the land and its rhythms, and he loved nothing more than to be out in the fields with his father, tending to the crops and the animals. Levi was a good student of the land, and the boy quickly learned the skills needed to be a successful farmer in his own right.
He was also a responsible and caring young boy who was very connected to his family. The younger brother of Marvin had to have a sense of responsibility for his family and take it seriously. He knew that his father relied on him and that he had to help support his family.
William Erastus and Zelpha Anne (Wheeler) Green were the proud parents of a large family, including John Cordon, Marvin Wheeler, and Levi, along with Alice, who passed away before a year old, Lorenzo Erastus and Alice Elmina Green. William Erastus bore the weight of responsibility for the success of the family’s subsistence farm in Hallsport, New York. He understood that the farm was the lifeline that provided for their family and that he needed to do all he could to ensure that the land produced the best possible yield. William Erastus took on this responsibility with seriousness and dedication, driven by his love for his family and deep connection to the land.
Marvin was different from Levi. He was more interested in the social aspects of farm life. He loved visiting the neighbors, hearing their stories, and learning about their lives. He was a charmer who could make anyone smile with his easygoing personality and quick wit. But he was also a hard worker, and he took his responsibilities on the farm seriously. He had a special responsibility to Levi as his older brother and always looked out for him.
Despite their different personalities, Levi and Marvin were inseparable. They were like two peas in a pod, always together. They shared everything, from the chores on the farm to the adventures in the woods and the fields. They were each other’s best friend and confidante and knew they would always be there for each other, no matter what.
However, despite his love for the land, Levi had no interest in formal education. He saw no need to learn to read or write beyond what was required to manage the farm. This lack of education would later become a source of frustration for him, struggling to communicate his ideas and thoughts to more educated people, relying on others to write letters home. But at the time, he was content to spend his days working the land, observing the world around him, and dreaming of making the farm more productive and efficient.
Marvin always sought ways to make life more enjoyable for himself and his family. He loved to tinker with machines and gadgets and always came up with new inventions and contraptions to make life easier on the farm. Marvin also had a keen eye for beauty and loved to draw the world around him. His sketches were crude, but they captured the essence of the world as he saw it and provided a glimpse into his unique perspective.
Despite their different personalities, Levi and Marvin were each other’s best friends and confidantes and knew they would always be there for each other, no matter what. Levi’s keen eye for the land and Marvin’s gift for gab and creativity complemented each other, and together they made a formidable team.
In the mid-19th century, farming in rural western New York was a challenging and labor-intensive way of life. Technology was limited, and most of the work was done by hand or with the aid of horses. The farmers had to rely on their strength, skills, and hard work to manage the land and make a living. One of the most critical aspects of farming was tending to the animals. The farmers had to care for the horses by feeding and grooming them and managing their health. With horses, work on the farm was possible.
Another crucial aspect of farming was managing the land. The farmers had to clear the land, prepare the soil, plant the crops, and tend to them until they were ready to be harvested. This work required a deep understanding of the land and its rhythms and a significant amount of physical labor. The farmers had to work long hours, often from sunrise to sunset, to ensure that their crops grew correctly and that they would have a good harvest.
Living in a large family at that time could be challenging, especially when resources were scarce. The family had to rely on their abilities to make do with what they had. Children had to help with chores and work on the farm to contribute to the family’s well-being. They had to learn to be frugal and resourceful and to make the most of what they had.
Staying healthy was also a significant challenge. Medical care was limited, and many illnesses and injuries could be life-threatening. Farmers had to rely on traditional remedies, such as herbal medicines and poultices, to treat their ailments. They also had to take precautions to stay healthy, such as washing their hands and avoiding contact with sick people.
Despite these challenges, farming was a way of life, and rural western New York people were proud of it. It was a way to connect with the land and provide for their families. They had a deep respect for the land and the animals, and they understood the importance of hard work and perseverance. For many, farming was not just a job; it was a way of life that defined who they were and how they lived.
The Green’s home in Hallsport was a quiet hamlet in the Town of Willing, a small community of around 150 people in 1855. It was named after Calvin Hall, one of its founders. The town had a few small businesses, including a post office, a general store, and a blacksmith shop. The primary source of income for the town’s residents was subsistence farming, with many families living on small farms that produced just enough to support their basic needs.
The town was connected to the rest of the world by a few dirt roads that wound their way through the countryside. Horses were the primary means of transportation and were also used to plow the fields, pull wagons and carts, and do other farm work. Farming technology was bare, with simple hand tools like hoes and shovels being the most common implements. No tractors or other modern machines would make farming more manageable and efficient.
Living in a large family in Hallsport in 1855 was both a blessing and a challenge. Families relied on each other for support, both in terms of physical labor and emotional connection. Children learned to work hard from a young age, helping with chores on the farm and learning the skills they would need to survive in a rural community. However, the lack of modern medical technology meant that illnesses and injuries were often severe and sometimes fatal. Living close quarters with many family members, they also indicated that diseases could spread quickly, with no easy way to contain outbreaks.
Despite the challenges, the people of Hallsport were proud of their community and way of life. They enjoyed life’s simple pleasures in rural western New York, such as fishing in the Chenunda Creek, gathering around the pot-bellied stove in the general store to catch up on the news, and spending time with family and friends. For Levi and Marvin, growing up in Hallsport meant learning to appreciate the beauty and richness of the land, as well as the value of hard work and the importance of family.