As part of the old Northwestern Territory, Ohio is defined as one of the Midwestern states. During the turn of the century, Midwestern life consisted mostly of farming, yet still like many Midwestern towns, people assumed that one-day the small towns would be great cities. But, instead the majority of the small cities stayed small. When farming tools were introduced, farmers did not need as many workers and people had to move to the next town to find a job. If the small town was lucky, the growing train companies would come through and maybe even stop in the small town and bring the Ohioans some jobs and new people. There was definitely a notion of failure among small towns during this time period because of the unfound expectations that the residents put on themselves. An important point about Midwesterns and their historical experience is that “the distinctive social and cultural character of Midwestern small town life was founded on this different economic experience.” (14)
When Ohio was first settled, it was primary a farming town because of the ideal farming and herding conditions. The land was first occupied by American Indians, whose primary resource from this land was corn. When European settlers first come they had to cut down many trees, so that they could plant on the land. (15) The land continued to be used primarily for farming. Life at the turn of the century was definitely a challenging time all over the country, but with the lack of good farming equipment, the work was almost unbearable. Wives and children would come out to help their fathers and brothers on the fields so that they could sell their goods.
Religion also played a significant role in the Midwestern experience. The two primary religious groups in Ohio were the Catholics and the Quakers. Regardless of which one the Ohioans were, the residents followed those rules closely and made sure that others did as well. Religion kept many of the small towns together by forming unique bonds with one another. Religious schools opened up for children and churches were being built all over the United States. (16) There were many notions and stereotypes that come along with the zealous beliefs that the Midwesterns tended to have during the turn of the century, such as being crazy. These men and particullary women just believed that they had to protect this country against what was right and what was wrong. Probihibtion started in Ohio in part to protect the youth against foolish mistakes.
Leisure time did not happen very often with families that lived in the rural areas. After working on the farm for 12 hours, the last thing most people wanted to do was have a drink. Family outings or activities were very rare, so all members of the family would have to participate.
By the 1910’s people in small towns were being to get restless. They were living the same day over and over again without any possibility that things will change. The physical separation from neighbors and the big cities, made the small towners feel very out of touch. In an effort to make an identity for themselves, these Midwesterns began to see themselves as simple folk with great self-control, religious faith, and diligence. The residents also took great pride in having a clean neighborhood with civic institutions and law and order (17). They valued their Mainstreets because that is where all the action took place.
Life in Ohio at the Turn of the Century
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