Part of human nature is our desire to be social and form relationships. Farmers in the Cuyahoga Valley have relied upon the help of friends and relatives to endure economic and personal hardships that often threaten family survival. In the early 20th century, neighbors worked together in each others' fields to thresh wheat and make hay. During the Great Depression, farmers with enough produce shared food with their extended families. Participating in the local community meant that farmers could usually find the help and support they needed during tough times.
Living in a small community brought a sense of safety and security. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, valley residents knew their neighbors. Many people did not lock their doors. If you needed a ride, there was usually someone to pick you up. Children played and explored outside for hours with little adult supervision.
Valley residents also saw the community as a source of fun and entertainment. In communities like Everett, Peninsula, and Bedford, residents attended Home Days, local dances, and other events where they could enjoy themselves and strengthen neighborhood bonds. For families living on small farms participation in the local Grange provided vital continuing education and support.
In Their Own Words
Hear stories about Cuyahoga Valley life below.
Jan Thomas, a resident of Everett, describes how farmers in her community worked together to share and exchange products.
They bartered a lot with other farmers, too. You know, if Mr. Scobie needed corn, he came down and got corn. Or if he needed some hay, he got hay and then maybe the next year he had more hay than we had, and he had better corn than we had, so… It was a close-knit life.
Knowing Your Neighbors
George Fisher, longtime resident of Peninsula, remembers how families knew all of their neighbors and how children could never keep secrets from their parents.
At one time, I used to know everybody in Peninsula, and everybody in Boston. Now I don’t know half the people. You know, newcomers come along, generations, it changes. ‘Cause when we were growing up, we never, nobody ever locked the doors. I could come home anytime—the doors were open! Everybody’s house was open. In fact, they didn’t even have a police department when we were kids, you know. They had a constable and he was only around in the evening once in a while, downtown Peninsula. Other than that, you didn’t have any police departments. You know as far as a small town goes, when you were kids, if you were out playin’ or somethin’ and you did somethin’ wrong, before you got home your dad knew about it. Someone would tell him. Yeah, you know, everybody knew you, you know, and “Hey, that kid’s doin’ the wrong thing. I’ll have to tell his dad.” ~chuckles~