Growing Up In the Early 1900’s

Have you ever wondered what it was like growing up in the early 1900’s? I love looking through old photographs and studying our family ancestry.  As a young girl I sat with my great grandmother, Granny Grunt, for hours listening to her stories of her life. She told many stories about the depression and her family.  Times were hard back then. Most families did not have much.  George and Mary, her parents, were share-croppers. A land owner contracted with them and several other families to plant and harvest crops in exchange for a place to live.  

Most families had several children. The entire family helped work the farms just so they could survive. By the time Effie was born there already was 8 children in their house.   Below is the 1900 census with their family highlighted in green. My Granny Ethel Mae was 4 years old when the census was taken.

1900 Census

Thomas, Henry and John; the oldest boys worked with their daddy in the fields cutting tobacco or sugar cane. The girls also helped in the fields, usually harvesting tobacco or vegetables and helping to prepare the crops for market. Granny used to tell me about having to hand tie the tobacco to get it ready to hang in the barn to dry.

Over the next few years a grocery store was built in their town. The older boys were excited at the opportunity to work at the store. They knew it would be easier than farming all day. Just thinking about the possibility of doing some other kind of work made them happy.

The town continued to grow over the next few years, a Paper Mill was built and then an Ice Plant. But, the boys quickly discovered that the family still needed everyone. Thomas had gotten a job at the grocery store delivering goods to people in town.  But even after he was done with his grocery job, he was still needed at the farm.  All the kids helped to work the farm, but it seemed as though the work was never done.

Effie married John Wesley in 1912. From my research, I found several events that took place prior to Effie and Wesley’s marriage. In 1912, both his wife of 17 years and his father died. John and Wesley married in December of 1912. They were only married for a year and half and had two children together, George and Thomas. The picture below was taken in 1915 of Effie with her two sons. By this time she had already left John Wesley, their marriage only lasted about 1.5 years.

Ethel Mae and her two sons, George and Thomas in 1915

After her divorce from John Wesley she returned home with her boys. She helped her family on the farm for several years as a farm laborer. Below is a picture from the 1920 Census. Her brother, Lindsey and her were the only siblings living at home at this time.

Granny Grunt loved her children and I loved hearing about her family and growing up as a share-cropper. Of all the stories she told, I never heard her say anything bad about anyone.


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