The Farmer and His Community
by Dwight Sanderson
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In the "good old days" of early New England the people acted in communities. The original New England "towns" were true communities; that is, relatively small local groups of people, each group having its own institutions, like the church and the school, and largely managing its own affairs. Down through the years the town meeting has persisted, and even to-day the New England town is to a very large degree a small democracy. It does not, however, manage all its affairs in quite the same fashion that it did two hundred years ago.

When the Western tide of settlement set in, people frequently went West in groups and occasionally whole communities moved, but the general rule was settlement by families on "family size" farms. The unit of our rural civilization, therefore, became the farm family. There were, of course, neighborhoods, and much neighborhood life. The local schools were really neighborhood schools. Churches multiplied in number even beyond the need for them. When farmers began to associate themselves together as in the Grange, they recognized the need of a strong local group larger than the neighborhood. A subordinate Grange for example is a community organization. Experience gradually demonstrated that if farmers wished to cooperate they must cooperate in local groups. Strong nation-wide organizations are clearly of great importance, but they can have little strength unless they are made up of active local bodies. Gradually, the community idea has spread over the country, in some cases springing up almost spontaneously, until to-day there is a very widespread belief among the farmers, as well as among the special students of rural affairs, that the organization and development of the local rural communities is the main task in conserving our American agriculture and country life. It is interesting to note that what is true in America is proving also to be true in other countries. In fact, the farm village life in Europe and even in such countries as China is taking on new activities, and it is being recognized that the improvement of these small units of society is one of the great needs of the age.

Professor Sanderson, in this book, has attempted to indicate just what the community movement means to the farmers of America. He has brought to this task rather unusual preparation. In turn, a graduate of an agricultural college, a scientist of reputation, Director of an agricultural experiment station, Dean of a college of agriculture, he has had a wide, varied and successful experience in various states. He finally arrived at the conviction, however, that the most important field of work for him lay in dealing with the larger phases of country life, and he gave up administrative work for further preparation in the new field. In his position as Professor of Rural Organization in the College of Agriculture at Cornell University, he has been unusually successful, both as investigator and as teacher. He speaks as one who knows the farmers and not as an outsider, and also as a thorough student.

This book therefore is sent out with a good deal of confidence. It deals with one of the most important of the rural topics that can be discussed these days. It points out fundamental principles and indicates practical steps in applying principles.



In recent years we have heard a great deal about the rural community and rural community organization. All sorts of organizations dealing with rural life discuss these topics at their meetings, the agricultural press and the popular magazines encourage community development, and a number of books have recently appeared dealing with various phases of rural community life. The community idea is fairly well established as an essential of rural social organization.

One might gain the impression that the community is a new discovery or social invention were he to read only the current discussions. It is, however, a form of social organization as old as agriculture itself, but which was very largely neglected in the settlement of the larger part of the United States. This new emphasis on the community is, therefore, but the revival in a new form of a very ancient mode of human association. The community becomes essential because the conditions of rural life have changed and rural people are again being forced to act together in locality groups to meet the needs of their common life.

The author has attempted to define the rural community and to describe the new conditions which are determining its structure and shaping its functions, in the belief that an understanding of the nature of the rural community should aid those who are seeking to secure a better social adjustment of the countryside. It attempts to relate "The Farmer and His Community." The problems and methods of community organization have been discussed but incidentally, and the book is not designed as a handbook for community development. Its chief aim is to establish a point of view with regard to the rural community as an essential unit for rural social organization through a sociological analysis of the past history and present tendencies of the various forms of associations which seem necessary for a satisfying rural society. It is hoped that such an analysis presented in an untechnical manner may be of service to rural leaders who are working for the development of country life by giving them a better understanding of the nature of the community and therefore a firmer faith in its future and greater enthusiasm and loyalty in its service.

The present volume is a brief summary of a more extended study of the rural community, not only in this country but in other lands and in other times, which is now in preparation for publication.


























"The core of the community idea, then—as applied to rural life—is that we must make the community, as a unit, an entity, a thing, the point of departure of all our thinking about the rural problem, and, in its local application, the direct aim of all organized efforts for improvement or redirection. The building of real, local farm communities is perhaps the main task in erecting an adequate rural civilization. Here is the real goal of all rural effort, the inner kernel of a sane country-life movement, the moving slogan of the new campaign for rural progress that must be waged by the present generation."—Kenyon L. Butterfield, in "The Farmer and the New Day."



No phase of the social progress of the Twentieth Century is more significant or promises a more far-reaching influence than the rediscovery of the community as a fundamental social unit, and the beginnings of community consciousness throughout the United States. I say the "rediscovery" of the community, for ever since men forsook hunting and grazing as the chief means of subsistence and settled down to a permanent agriculture they have lived in communities.

In ancient and medieval Europe, in China and India, and among primitive agricultural peoples throughout the world, the village community is recognized as the primary local unit of society. In medieval France the rural "communaute" was the local unit of government and social administration. Its people met from time to time at the village church in regular assemblies at which they elected their local officers, approved their accounts, arranged for the support of the church, the school, and local improvements. In most of France and throughout much of Europe the farm homes are still clustered in villages, from which the farm lands radiate. There the village is primarily a place of residence, and with the lands belonging to it forms the community.

New England was settled in much the same manner, being divided into towns which still form the local units of government, and which for the most part are single communities, though here and there more than one center has sprung up within a town and secondary communities have developed. The New England town meeting has ever been lauded as the birthplace of representative democratic government in America, and in its original form it was a true community meeting, dealing not only with the political government, but considering all religious, educational, and social matters affecting the common life of the town.

Although the New England tradition determined the form of local government in the areas settled by its people in the central and western states, the township was but an artificial town resulting from methods of the land surveys. The homesteader "took up" his land with but little thought of community relations. He traded at the nearest town; church was first held in the school-house and later churches were erected in the open country at convenient points; his children went to the district school; and his social life was chiefly in the neighboring homes. His life centered in the immediate neighborhood. As railroads covered the country, villages and town sprang up at frequent intervals, and gradually became the real centers of community life, but usually there was but little realization on the part of either village or farm people of their community interests. The farmer's attention was on the farm, the townsman's chief interest was his business, and not infrequently their interests were in conflict and they gave little thought to their real dependence on each other.

In the South the plantation system of the landed aristocracy, which as long as it existed was quite self-sufficient, gave little encouragement to community development. The county was the most important unit of local government and the "carpet-baggers'" efforts at establishing local townships were repudiated with the ending of their regime. Only in recent years have conditions throughout the South, largely the result of increased immigration and the breaking up of large plantations, favored the development of local communities.

In general, the American farmer has voted and taken his share in local politics and government, has attended his own church, has traded where most convenient or advantageous, has joined the nearest grange or lodge, and with his family has visited nearby friends and relatives and joined with them in social festivities; he has loyally supported these various interests, but until very recently, he has had little conception of the interrelations of these institutions in the life of the community or of the possible advantages of community development as such. But new wants and new problems have arisen which may only be met by the united action of all elements of both village and countryside. The automobile demands better roads and both farmer and businessman are interested to have them built so that the natural community centers may be most easily reached. Better schools, libraries, facilities for recreation and social life, organization for the improvement of agriculture and for the better marketing of farm products, are all community problems and force attention upon the community area to be served by these institutions. A consolidated school or a library cannot be maintained at every crossroads. Only by the support of all the people within a reasonable distance of a common center are better rural institutions possible.

The trend of events was thus bringing about a recognition of the place of the community in the life of rural people, when the Great War hastened this process by many years. Liberty Loan, Red Cross, and other war "drives" were organized by communities which vied with each other in raising their quotas. A new sense of the unity of the community was brought about by the common loyalty to its boys in the nation's service. Having created state and county councils of defense, national leaders came to appreciate that the primary unit for effective organization for war purposes must be the community, and President Wilson wrote to the State Councils of Defense urging the organization of community councils. Thousands of these had been organized when the Armistice was declared, and although most of them were not continued, the importance of the local community was given national recognition and attention was directed to the need of the better organization of local forces for community progress.

What, then, is the rural community? Is it a real entity or is it merely an idea or an ideal? Where is it and how can we recognize it?

We are indebted to Professor C. J. Galpin, now in charge of the Farm Life Studies of the United States Department of Agriculture, for first developing a method for the location of the rural community. Professor Galpin[1] holds that the trading area tributary to any village is usually the chief factor in determining the community area. He determines the community area by starting from a business center and marking on a map those farm homes which trade mostly at that center. By drawing a line connecting those farm homes farthest from the center on all the roads radiating from it, the boundary of the trade area is described. In the same way the areas tributary to the church, the school, the bank, the milk station, the grange, etc., may be determined and mapped. The boundaries of these areas will be found to be by no means coincident, but it will usually be found that most of them center in one village or hamlet, and that the trade area is the most significant in determining the area tributary to this center. When the areas served by the chief institutions of adjacent centers are mapped, it is usually found that a composite line of the different boundary lines separating these centers will approximate the boundaries of the communities. A line which divides adjacent community areas so that most of the families either side of this line go most frequently to, or their chief interests are at, the center within that boundary, will be the boundary between the adjacent communities. Thus, from the standpoint of location, a community is the local area tributary to the center of the common interests of its people.[2]

As indicated above the business center may usually be taken as the base point or community center, from which to determine the boundaries of the community. However, in the older parts of the country or in hilly or mountainous regions, the trade or business center is not always the same as the center of the chief social activities of the people, and may not be the chief factor in determining the community center. Not infrequently a church, school and grange hall located close together may form the nucleus of a community which does its business at a railroad station village some distance away, possibly over a range of hills. The chief trading points cannot, therefore, be arbitrarily assumed as the base points for determining community areas, but those points at which the more important of the common interests of the people find expression should be considered as community centers. It is not simply a question of where the people go most often, but of where their chief interests focus.

With this concept of a community it is obvious that the "center" of a community must be the base point for determining its area. It would seem that the community center is essential to the individuality of any community: The community "center" need not necessarily be at the geographical center of the community; indeed in many cases it is at or close to one of its boundaries, though in an open level country it will tend to approximate the center.

The term "community center" is here used in a literal sense of being the center of the activities of the community. It should be distinguished from the "community-center idea" which refers to a building, whether it be a community house, school, church, or grange hall, as a "community center." Such a building in which the activities of the community are largely centered may be a community center in a very real sense, but in most cases these activities will be divided between church, school, grange hall, etc. No one of them can then be a center for the whole community, but taken together they constitute the center in which the chief interests of the community focus. Every community must necessarily have a more or less well defined community center; it may or may not have some one building in which the chief activities of the community have their headquarters. Such buildings, of whatever nature, may well be called community houses or social centers.

Although attention has been directed to the area of the community, the community consists not of land or houses but of the people of this area. Its boundary merely gives a community identity, as does the roll of a company or the charter of a city. The community consists of the people within a local area; the land they occupy is but the physical basis of the community. The nature of the community will depend very largely upon whether its people live close together or at a distance. In the Rocky Mountain States many communities are but sparsely settled and may have a radius of forty or fifty miles and yet be true communities, while on the Atlantic seaboard a definite community with as many people may have a radius of not over a mile or two.

Nor is the community a mere aggregation or association of the people of a given area. It is rather a corporate state of mind of those living in a local area, giving rise to their collective behavior. There cannot be a true community unless the people think and act together.

The term "neighborhood" is very frequently used as synonymous with "community," and should be definitely distinguished. In the sense in which these terms are now coming to be technically employed, the neighborhood consists of but a group of houses fairly near each other. Frequently a neighborhood grew up around some one center, as a school, store, church, mill, or blacksmith shop, which in the course of time may have been abandoned, but the homes remained clustered together. Or the neighborhood may be merely six to a dozen homes near together on the same road or near a corner. The school district of the one-room country school is commonly a neighborhood, but as there are no other interests which bind the people together it cannot be considered a community. Likewise people associate in churches, granges, etc., but church parishes overlap, and the constituency of any one of these associations is not necessarily a community. Only when several of the chief human interests find satisfaction in the organizations and institutions which serve a fairly definite common local area tributary to them, do we have a true community. In many cases the neighborhood, particularly the school district, forms a desirable unit for certain purposes of social organization, and, indeed, in many cases it may be necessary to develop the neighborhood as a social unit before its people will actively associate themselves in community activities, but the neighborhood cannot function in the same way as the larger community which brings people together in several of their chief interests. The community can support institutions impossible in the neighborhood, such as a grange, lodge, library, various stores, etc. The community is more or less self-sufficing. A community may include a variable number of neighborhoods. The community is the smallest geographical unit of organized association of the chief human activities.

Bringing together these various considerations concerning the nature of the rural community we may say that a rural community consists of the people in a local area tributary to the center of their common interests.

Obviously the community thus defined has nothing to do with political areas or boundaries, for very commonly a community may lie in two or three townships or counties. That rural areas are actually divided into such communities and that the community is the primary unit of their social organization may best be tested by taking any given county or township and attempting to map its area into communities on the basis above described. In most of the northern and western states and throughout much of the South, most of the territory may be quite readily divided into communities. This has been demonstrated by the rural surveys of the Interchurch World Movement[3] and by the community maps made by County Farm Bureaus.

A very large part of the South, however, has no natural community centers and in such sections it will be found very difficult if not impossible to define community areas. The store may be at the railroad station, the church in the open country, and the district or consolidated school at still another point. Some people go to one store or church and others to another. Under such conditions, no real community exists. Usually, any form of social organization is more or less difficult under such conditions, for the people are divided into different groups for different purposes and there is nothing which makes united activities possible. It seems probable that only to the extent that certain centers of social and economic life come to be recognized by the people, and community life is developed around them, will the most effective and satisfying social organization be possible.

Recognition of the community as the primary unit for purposes of rural organization has now become quite general. Several mid-western states have passed legislation permitting school districts to combine into community districts for the support of consolidated schools or high schools, irrespective of township or county boundaries. The present tendency in the centralization of rural schools seems to be in the direction of locating them at the natural community centers. Rural churches are coming into a new sense of responsibility to the community and the community church is increasingly advocated. The American Red Cross in planning its peace-time program is recognizing the importance of the rural community as the local unit for its work. The County Farm Bureaus, working in cooperation with the state colleges of agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture, very soon discovered the value of the community as the local unit of their organization, and carry on their work through community committees or community clubs. Possibly no other one movement has done so much to bring about the definite location of rural communities and their appreciation by rural people. A conference of national organizations engaged in social work in rural communities held in 1919 summed up the experience of a group of representative rural leaders in the statement: "In rural organization it is recognized that the local community constitutes the functional unit and the county or district the supervisory unit." In other words, it is the rural community which really "carries on," whatever the executive organization of the county or district may be.

The strength of the rural community as a social group lies in two facts. First, it is not so large but that most of its people know each other. The size of the community in this regard does not depend so much upon the actual number of square miles involved as upon the number of its population. People may all be acquainted in a sparsely settled community covering a ten-mile radius, and there may be less acquaintance in a small community with a dense population. Secondly, the great majority of the people in the average rural community are dependent upon agriculture for their income, either directly or once-removed. These two facts make possible common interests and a social control through public opinion which is not possible in larger social units such as the county or city. Sir Horace Plunkett appreciates this when he says:

"Our ancient Irish records show little clans with a common ownership of land hardly larger than a parish, but with all the patriotic feeling of larger nations held with an intensity rare in modern states. The history of these clans and of very small nations like the ancient Greek states shows that the social feeling assumes its most binding and powerful character where the community is large enough to allow free play to the various interests of human life, but is not so large that it becomes an abstraction to the imagination."[4]

This inherent social strength of the rural community, the fact that the community is relatively permanent, and the appreciation that only through community effort may rural people realize their natural desire to enjoy some of the advantages of cities, force the conviction that the community must be the primary unit for the organization of rural progress. It is from this point of view that we shall discuss the community aspects of the various human interests of the farmer and the consequent relations of "The Farmer and His Community."


[1] Galpin, C. J., "The Social Anatomy of an Agricultural Community." Research Bulletin 54, Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Wisconsin, May, 1915; and also in his "Rural Life," Century Co., New York, 1920.

[2] The following four pages are revised from the author's bulletin, "Locating the Rural Community," Cornell Reading Course for the Farm, Lesson 158.

[3] See Reports of the Town and Country Department, Committee on Social and Religious Surveys, 111 Fifth Ave., New York, or Geo. H. Doran, New York.

[4] "Rural Life Problem in the United States," p. 129. Italics mine.



The American farmer thinks first of his own home; only recently has he commenced to appreciate that his and other homes form a community. In the "age of homespun" the pioneer subdued his new lands and built his home; the farm and the home were his and for them he lived. He bought but little and had but little to sell. Farms were largely self-supporting. Neighbors helped each other in numerous ways and as the country became more thickly settled neighborhood life grew apace. But there was little sense of relation to the larger community. Roads were bad and people were too widely scattered to come together except on special occasions. The family was the fundamental social unit and social life revolved around the family, or in the immediate neighborhood.

But "times have changed." The farm is no longer largely self-supporting. It is now but a primary unit in a world-wide economic system, conducted with money as the basis of exchange and dominated by the interests of capital. Farm products are sold for cash and their value is determined by distant or world markets with which the farmer has no personal contact and of which he often has but little knowledge. Most of the goods consumed on the farm must be purchased. The marketing of his products and the purchasing of goods have given the farmer increasing contacts with the village and town centers and a broader knowledge of the world at large.

During the past century modern ideas of transportation and the development of industries due to inventions and scientific discoveries have resulted in an enormous growth of city populations. The social life of the cities is increasingly dominated by the interests of the individual rather than those of the family, until the breaking down of urban family life has become a world-wide problem. The family is no longer the social unit of the city as it is in the country.

Now farm people are by no means as isolated from town and city as is often imagined. Their brothers and sisters, sons and daughters have gone to make up the increasing urban populations. Through correspondence and visiting back and forth, through frequent trips to town, through the daily city newspapers, and through the general reading of magazines, farm people are in more or less close contact with the life and manners of the cities. Inasmuch as slightly over half of our people now live in towns or cities and only one-third live on farms, it is not surprising that urban ideals and values and the urban point of view tend more and more to dominate those of the countryside. There has been a natural tendency, therefore, for the association of country people to center in the country town and village, in the community center.

Better transportation and the inability to maintain satisfactory institutions in the open country have made this process inevitable and it will do much to abolish the evils of rural isolation. The increasing difficulty of maintaining successful churches in the open country and the growth of the village church, the dissatisfaction with the one-room district school and the desire for consolidated schools and community high schools, are evidences of this tendency.

The smaller size of the farm family has made it less self-sufficient socially than formerly, and the fact that fewer near relations live nearby and farms change hands more often has resulted in fewer neighborhood gatherings. The different members of the family tend to get together more with groups of their own age and sex coming from all parts of the community, and definite effort is made for the organization of such groups according to their various interests.

Attention is directed to these tendencies because in our present emphasis on the relation of the farmer to his community and on community values, we must not lose sight of the fact that the family must ever be recognized as the primary social institution of rural life. Indeed, it may not be too much to claim that the largest value in the agricultural industry is in the possibility of the most satisfactory type of home life. The millionaire farmer is so rare as to be negligible, and although farmers as a class doubtless have as wholesome and satisfactory a living as they would in other pursuits, yet no one engages in farming as a means of easily acquiring large wealth. The highest rural values cannot be bought or sold.

The mere fact that farming is practically the only remaining industry conducted on a family basis—which seems likely to continue—and that all members of the family have more or less of a share in the conduct and success of the farm, creates a family bond which does not ordinarily exist where the business or employment of the father and of other members of the family is dissociated from the home. Although the burden of the farm business on the home is often decried and there is obvious need of lightening the mother's work for the farm as much as possible, yet under the best of conditions there is on the farm a constant and intimate contact between the father and mother and children which is rarely found under other conditions.

Primitive woman discovered the art of agriculture. At first, the men assisted the women in what time they could spare from hunting; but as game became scarce and the food supply grown from the soil was found to be more certain, agriculture became man's vocation. Permanent home life commenced with the development of agriculture. As he became a farmer, primitive man stayed at home with his wife and shared with her the nurture of the children. Before then the family had been hers, now it was theirs. The mere fact that the home and the business are both on the farm, that father is in the house several times a day and that the whole family are acquainted with his farm operations, will always give the farm home a superior solidarity, so long as the family lives on the farm. Though but few farm homes are ideal and some of them have but little that is attractive, yet nowhere are conditions so favorable for the enjoyment of all that is most precious in family life as in the better American farm homes.

If this be true, that the chief value in agriculture is in the possibility of the most satisfactory home life, then community development should be considered primarily from the standpoint of its effect on the farm home, for the social strength of the country will be more largely determined by its homes than by its other social institutions. We should endeavor, therefore, to build up that type of community life which makes for better homes and stronger families. While seeking to afford superior advantages to individuals, all effort toward community improvement should recognize that the strength of the community is in its home life.

The need of this point of view with regard to rural community organization has been very forcibly indicated by Mr. John R. Boardman, one of our keenest observers and interpreters of country life in his "Community Leadership." He says:

"At the heart of the rural situation is the rural family. The social problems involved in home life in the rural village and on the farm are of two kinds,—developmental and protective. The social unit in the city is the individual. Urban conditions have rapidly disintegrated the family as a social unit. Grave dangers have resulted from this interference with the unity of domestic life. The rural family is in danger of meeting the same fate. It is now the social unit in the rural social structure. Every effort must be put forth to make this situation permanent. The major problem is one of home conservation. Protection of the rural family against social exploitation will demand increasing attention. The development of social organization along lines which interfere with the unity and solidarity of rural family life must be approached with extreme caution and tolerated only as they may be absolutely necessary. So far as possible social organization must be built around the rural family and give it every possible opportunity to act as a family in the scheme of organization and activity. The home as a social center must receive increased attention. There is great danger, in the new interest which is being aroused in rural social life, that the matter of social organization be greatly overdone. The rural family will be the one to suffer first and most severely as a result of this craze for social organization."

In support of this point of view it is interesting to note that the strongest rural institutions, the church, the grange, and the recently organized Farm Bureaus, are all organizations which have an interest for the whole family or for most of its members. With an increasing sense of social needs and responsibilities on the part of rural people, new organizations will be formed and various community activities must be undertaken, but if country people will remain true to their traditions and, with clear view of changing conditions, will seek to organize their community life as an association of farm and village families, they will create the most satisfying and enduring type of society. The community buildings now becoming so popular in rural communities are a good example of a family institution organized to furnish better recreation and social facilities for the whole family.

Inasmuch as the home is its primary social institution, the rural community must give its first consideration to its relations to the home and how the home life may be strengthened, if the rural family is to withstand the influence of the disintegrating home life of the city. For the farm home is in a process of readjustment to modern conditions and the recognition of ideals and objectives of home-life by the community will be a powerful factor in their maintenance.

The mother has ever occupied the central position in the home. Under modern conditions, as a result of her education and broader knowledge of life, through her more frequent contacts with town and city and through her wider reading, many a farm mother is coming to feel that her position is an anomalous one. In some cases she may be able to solve her own problems, but only a general change in public opinion concerning their position will bring a more acceptable status to farm women as a class.

Some of the farm woman's problems arise from the increasing division of labor between her husband and herself and from the marketing of the farm products; these are the problems of her economic status. The peasant woman of medieval Europe or the wife of the American pioneer never worried that she did not receive a monthly allowance or a certain share of the farm income. She worked with her husband and family in raising the farm products and she shared in their consumption, for but relatively little was sold off the place. To-day, the wife of the farm owner does little work on the farm; its products are sold and much of the food and practically all of the clothing is purchased. She and her children contribute a considerable amount of the labor of the farm enterprise, and do all of the housework; but the husband does the selling and most of the buying, she often has but little share in the management of the family's finances, and rarely knows what she may count on for household expenses. She comes to feel that she is no longer a real partner, but a sort of housekeeper, though without salary or assured income. In over nine thousand farm homes studied in the northern and western states,[5] one-fourth of the women helped with the livestock, and one-fourth worked in the field an equivalent of 6.7 weeks a year, over half of them cared for the home gardens, and one-third of them kept the farm accounts. Over a third of them helped to milk, two-thirds washed the separators, and 88 percent washed the milk pails, 60 percent made the butter and one-third sold the butter, but only 11 percent had the spending of the money from its sale. Likewise 81 percent cared for the poultry, but only 22 percent had the poultry money for their own use and but 16 percent had the egg money. These figures do not give us a complete analysis of the household finances in relation to the amount contributed by farm women, but they are indicative of the general situation.

It is because of these facts that farm women feel that a larger portion of the farm income should be spent in giving them better household conveniences, somewhat commensurate with the amount that is spent for improved farm machinery and barn conveniences. Only one-third of these farm homes had running water; and but one-fifth had a bath-tub with water and sewer connections; 85 percent had outdoor toilets. Improvement is in evidence, however, for two-thirds had water in the kitchen, 60 percent had sink and drain, 57 percent had washing machines, and 95 percent had sewing machines. It is not that she is merely seeking less work so that she may attend her club or go to the movies, that the farm mother desires better conveniences and shorter hours—her average working day is now 11.3 hours—but because she has new ideals of the nurture which she wishes to give her family and of what she might do for them had she the time and physical strength.

As a result of the cooperative survey of 10,000 representative farm homes in 241 counties in the 33 northern and western states made by home demonstration agents and farm women, Miss Ward[6] gives some interesting "side-lights," which are as illuminating as the statistics:

"Women realize that no amount of scientific arrangement or labor-saving appliances will of themselves make a home. It is the woman's personal presence, influence, and care that make the home. Housekeeping is a business as practical as farming and with no romance in it; home making is a sacred trust. A woman wants time salvaged from housekeeping to create the right home atmosphere for her children and to so enrich their home surroundings that they may gain their ideals of beauty and their tastes for books and music not from the shop windows, the movies, the billboards, or the jazz band, but from the home environment.

"The farm woman knows that there is no one who can take her place as teacher and companion of her children during their early impressionable years and she craves more time for their care. She feels the need of making the farm home an inviting place for the young people of the family and their friends and of promoting the recreational and educational advantages of the neighborhood in order to cope with the various forms of city allurements. She realizes that modern conditions call for an even deeper realization and closer contact between mother and child. The familiar term, 'God could not be everywhere so He made mothers' has its modern scientific application, as no amount of education and care given to children in school or elsewhere outside the home can take the place of mothering in the home. 'The home exists for the child, hence the child's development should have first consideration.'

"Farm women want to broaden their outlook and keep with the advancement of their children 'not by courses of study but by bringing progressive ideas, methods, and facilities into the every day work and recreation of the home environment.'"

"True enough," you say, "but these are problems of the individual home. What have they to do with the community?" Just this: The status of the farm woman is a matter determined more by custom than by individual achievement. It is difficult for any one woman, no matter how able or strong-minded, to maintain a status much in advance of that of her neighbors; but let the women of a community get together and discuss their problems and ideals and the group spirit strengthens each of them in the pursuit of the common ideals. It is such a desire for mutual support—even though they are not conscious of it—which has drawn farm women together into clubs and which has given such an impetus to the Home Bureaus, or women's departments of the county Farm Bureaus. Not only in women's organizations, but finally in community organizations of men and women, such as the Grange and the church, the social standards of the community receive the sanction of public opinion, than which there is no more powerful means of influencing family usages. The community as such, must give recognition to a new and better status of its farm women.

If the rural home remains the primary social institution, it will be due to its intelligent effort at self-defense, and not to any inherent right which it has to such a position. Originally the family was but a biological group. Until modern times the agricultural family was chiefly an economic unit. Only with the isolation of the American farm, did the individual family assume the primary social position known to our fathers and grandfathers. Physical isolation and large families made the farm home the only possible social center. Isolation is largely passing, families are smaller, and organizations of all sorts and commercial amusements compete with the family. It is the use of leisure time which reveals the true loyalty of the family group. If there be nothing to attract them to the fireside, they will inevitably go elsewhere whenever possible. Hence, if it would have its foundations strong, the community must encourage the enrichment of home life, particularly, in the hours of leisure when life is most real. The family games after supper, the group around the piano singing old and modern songs, the reading aloud by one member of the circle, the cracking of nuts and the popping of corn, the picnic supper on the lawn, the tennis court or croquet ground, the home parties, the guests ever-welcome at meals, these are but items in a possible scorecard of the sociability of the home. We are giving much thought to all sorts of group activities, but how much attention have we given to systematically encouraging the social unit which has the largest possibilities, the family? Last summer my friend, Professor E. C. Lindeman, of the North Carolina College for Women, spent several weeks in becoming acquainted with rural Denmark under peculiarly favorable conditions. A statement in a letter from him regarding Danish home life is apropos in this connection:

"I observed that the country people find a great deal of social expression within their own homes. The home life is organized on a much higher plane than is common in America. In addition, there is a larger content of cultural and educational material within the family circle."

In the same way the economic position, health, education, and all other phases of life of the family are the most potent influences both in the life of its members and of the community.

The question arises, therefore, what is the community doing to strengthen the home? In recent years the new discipline of Home Economics has vigorously attacked the problems of diet, clothing, and household management, and has accomplished much. It is now concerning itself with health, child welfare, and even with child psychology and the family as an institution. Yet the home economics point of view is necessarily restricted to that of the institution which it serves, i.e., the home; it has the same limitations, when pursued solely from the home standpoint, that farm management has as an interpretation of farming if not related to agricultural and general economics. We need a consideration of the problems of the home from the standpoint of other social institutions and with regard to its function in social organization. We need a clearer concept of the relation of the home to the community and to community associations and activities.

The community institutions, the school, the church, and various organizations, have had too much of a tendency to compete with the home rather than to support and strengthen it. Thus the tendency of the school has been to demand a larger and larger portion of the child's time and to assume that because certain phases of education can be more economically given in the school, that, therefore, it should take over as much of the educational function of the home as is possible; a conclusion which is by no means valid. In the home project a new educational principle has been discovered, which has far-reaching significance: for in it the school and the home cooperate, the school outlining, standardizing, and interpreting, while the home furnishes supervision, advice, and encouragement. Thus, the home is stimulated to perform those educational functions in which it is superior, through a definite effort upon the part of the school to strengthen them. The same principle is being applied to education in hygiene. Why should not the church and Sunday school adopt similar methods and undertake a definite system of encouraging the home to give moral and religious education in an adequate fashion, rather than attempt to give homeopathic doses to children en masse? Why should not the church, or the school, or both, give parents instruction and inspiration as to how to educate their children in matters of sex, about which they are in the best position to gain their confidence? Should not our clubs and social organizations, for men and women, boys and girls, face the question, as to whether their aggregate activities are unduly competing with the home, and should they not give definite thought as to how they may assist and strengthen the basic institution of our social organization? If the home is the essential primary social institution, then its well-being should command the consideration of every institution of the community; for the function and objectives of the home cannot be determined solely by either its own ideals and purposes, or by the values established by the various special interest groups. The home and the community institutions are constantly in a process of adapting themselves to each other, and to the extent that each recognizes the function of the other and is willing to cooperate rather than to compete, is the highest success of each made possible.

This problem of the relation of the home to the community is a relatively new one, and is largely the result of better means of communication which have enlarged the horizon of every farm home. When the life of the child was almost wholly within the home and the neighborhood, the parents gave themselves little concern about the influence or conditions of the larger community. But when her children go to a consolidated school and their school associates are unknown to her, when they attend the movies in the village, and when they read the local weekly or the city daily newspaper and the monthly magazines, so that they know what is going on throughout the world, then, if she be wise, a mother commences to realize that the community is having a growing influence in shaping their character and that however ideal the home may be, it is but a part of their lives. She commences to appreciate that she must have an understanding of the life and forces of the community so that she may use her influence toward making their social environment what it should be and so that she may be able to make the home so attractive that it will hold their primary interest and loyalty. Thus community problems of health, of education, of recreation and social life, and of religion become inter-related with those of the home. The successful homemaker can no longer concern herself solely with home-management, but must assume her share of responsibility in community-management, or "community housekeeping."

With the new responsibilities of suffrage rural women are following the example of their city sisters in taking a larger interest in civic affairs and social legislation, and with a most wholesome influence on community life. There is, however, some danger that while the men are engaged with their business problems, these social problems will be too largely left to the women;[7] for without the sympathetic understanding and hearty cooperation of their husbands, rural women will find that their new social ideals will materialize but slowly. Here again, such family organizations as the Grange, the Church, and Farm and Home Bureau, in which community activities engage both men and women are peculiarly serviceable.

An interesting example of how the family may function in community life is found in a small town in southern Michigan (Centerville) where the people have established a cooperative motion picture theater, to which the families buy season tickets, and where one may find whole families together enjoying the best pictures to the accompaniment of a community orchestra. This is also being accomplished in many community buildings.

On the other hand the home need not abdicate all of its old-time functions as a social center. A few years ago in attending a rural community conference at the University of Illinois I was interested to hear a farm woman, a graduate of that university, tell how she and her neighbors had held amateur dramatic entertainments on their front verandas during the summer. The young people took the parts and the audience sat on the lawn, and thus many families were brought under the influence of the better homes who would not have thought of visiting them. When winter came on, these entertainments were continued in a slightly different manner, so that neighboring families were brought into contact without any tendency toward undue intimacy between families which would not associate otherwise. Family parties for young and old, should by no means be abandoned in favor of community parties, however satisfactory and attractive the latter may be.

The social responsibility of the rural home must receive new recognition, for the day when we can live to ourselves in the enjoyment of a select group of personal friends is rapidly passing, if we are to have satisfactory social conditions. It is one of the bad effects of the increasing amount of tenancy in our best farming sections, and of the frequent changing of farm ownership, that the shifting of residence makes it difficult for the family to secure a satisfactory social position in the community life.

In the last analysis, however, the largest contribution of the home to the community and the best means of solving the problem of its relation to community life, is in the development of the best social attitudes among its members toward each other and toward the life of the community; for all sound social organization is but an application of the relations of the family to the affairs of larger social groups, and unless attitudes of mutual aid, common responsibility, and voluntary loyalty, are maintained in the home, so that its relations form a norm for all other human groups, rural society will have lost the chief dynamic of social progress.


[5] From "The Farm Woman's Problems," Florence E. Ward. U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, Circular 148 (1920).

[6] Ibid., pp. 14, 15.

[7] Benjamin Kidd claims that this superior interest of women in race welfare is due to woman's cultural inheritance and that from the very nature of the division of labor between man and woman, man is less capable than woman of devoting himself to human welfare. "But the fact of the age which goes deeper than any other is that the male mind of the race as the result of the conditions out of which it has come, is by itself incapable of rendering this service to civilization. It is in the mind of woman that the winning peoples of the world will find the psychic center of Power in the future."—"The Science of Power," p. 241.



The community is composed of people in a certain area, but the community may be dead or it may be alive. The life of the community is determined by the degree to which its people are able to act together for the best promotion of their common welfare. This ability to act together will obviously depend upon the extent to which the people have common aims and purposes. If the people of a community form distinct groups with diverse ideals and purposes, it will be much more difficult to secure that sympathy, tolerance, and understanding which are necessary for united action, than if they are more alike. Yet it is just such diversity of interests of different elements in the community which gives rise to community problems and which brings about an appreciation of the need of developing community life.

It is necessary, therefore, to have some appreciation of how the characteristics of its population influence community life.

In the first place, a community of people of different nationalities or races, or sometimes even of people from different states, find it much more difficult to secure a common loyalty than if they were of one stock. It is, of course, quite true that many an old community of a single stock is divided by family, religious or political feuds; yet usually there is more solidarity between people of common traditions and culture. The largest problem in the so-called "Americanization" of foreigners in rural communities is to get the natives to understand and appreciate the newcomers and to realize that the future of the community depends upon mutual respect and good will. Had we a little more of an historical perspective, we would remember that all of our ancestors were "foreigners" but a few generations back. In almost every part of the United States are communities in which alien groups form one of the chief obstacles to a better community life. Throughout the South, the most fundamental problem is that of a better understanding between the two races, and until some means of amicable adjustment is attempted, there is little prospect for the development of community life. In some of our best agricultural sections there have been successive waves of immigration of different nationalities. Thus in Dane County, Wisconsin, of which Madison—the state capital—is the county seat, Dr. J. H. Kolb[8] describes communities in which Germans, Norwegians, and Swiss have largely supplanted the original settlers from New England. In an interesting study of Americanization in a community in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts, John Daniels[9] has described how the French Canadians and Irish and then the Poles have taken up the land, and how good feeling between them and the native Yankees was gradually established. On the other hand, a nearby community in southern New York comes to mind, in which there is a colony of Bohemians, and another of Finns, which have been fairly successful in building up hill farms deserted by the descendants of the original settlers, and yet the community as a whole has done little toward making these people feel that they are a part of its life, although their industry is one of its largest economic assets. "America is the home of the free" and most of our people do desire a real democracy, but we seem to have assumed that it will develop spontaneously, and we have not appreciated that good will and common understanding require some means of acquaintance and exchange of ideas, and that the interests and desires of all the people in a community, young and old, must receive recognition. Unless we can establish democracy in our own local community, how can we expect it in the state or nation?

A second factor in community life is the age of its people. How often do you find a community composed chiefly of elderly people which is progressive? In the more progressive communities are not the middle-aged and young married people in control? The younger people desire better advantages for themselves and particularly for their children, and so they stand for better schools, better churches, and better facilities for all phases of community life. It is largely for this reason, it seems to me, that older communities seem to have cycles of relative decline and progress, according to the proportion of older and younger people. It is to be hoped that in future generations the ability to "keep young" may become more common; indeed, this is one of the chief objectives of modern education.

The density of population is also a determining factor with regard to many phases of community life, for it is obviously much easier to carry on many community activities where the people live fairly close together and not very far from the community center, than where the country is but sparsely settled. Even with automobiles and telephones, the distance between homes will have a large influence in determining the nature of community activities. One of the most difficult of our rural problems is how to bring to the people in sparsely settled regions the advantages which they rightly crave. It will be physically and economically impossible for them to have as good opportunities as sections which are more densely settled, but ways must be found whereby a larger degree of equality of opportunity is available to more thinly inhabited communities.

Changes in population immediately affect community needs. Where immigration is increasing rapidly, institutions such as schools, churches, and stores are often inadequate, and there is every incentive toward the development of community spirit and united effort to meet the common needs. On the other hand, in the older sections decreasing populations make it impossible to maintain as many institutions as formerly. Many an eastern community has inherited two or three churches, which were once well filled, but which now merely serve to divide the community as none of them are able to operate successfully, though it is obvious that unless the people are more loyal to their common needs than to their differences that the community will be unable to survive.

In relatively new communities, and often for several generations, the influence of the original settlement of the community may have a strong effect on its life. Thus where a new section is settled by acquaintances from an older community, by relatives, or those of one church, there is a bond between them from the beginning, but where land is settled by homesteaders from different sections, the process of establishing common ideals and purposes is a gradual one. Many a community in the middle west still bears the stamp of its original settlers. About in the center of West Virginia is the little community of French Creek which was settled by a few New England families a little over a hundred years ago. A recent study[10] of this community shows that it has had a powerful influence in the educational life of the whole state, and that its progressive spirit is largely traceable to "an ancestry of energetic people with high ideals which have been passed on by each generation." On the other hand, in many cases this influence is soon lost, due to some radical change in local conditions and the influx of new elements.

Its history plays an exceedingly large role in advancing or retarding community development. History and tradition are the memory of the community; they bring to mind its past experiences. Common ancestors and common participation in important events in the past give a sense of identity and heighten community consciousness. Pride in the history of the community is like pride in a good family, and is a strong factor in maintaining the standards of its people. Of course the past may be one of which no one is proud and which they may prefer to forget, but this is a spur to new endeavor as it is to a family to attain a new status.

Community life is likely to be at a low ebb where there is but little knowledge of, or interest in, the history of its past. I was recently impressed with this in visiting a small inland community, which was not without many events of interest in its earlier development. I failed, however, to find any connected records of the community's past or any of its people who know much of its history. So far as I could learn there had been few celebrations or community activities for many years and there was a general feeling that the community had been on the down grade and needed redirection. It seemed to me that one of the things which might arouse community loyalty in this instance would be for its people to clean up some of the old neighborhood cemeteries where many of the early pioneers lie buried, and which are now grown up and unkept.

Then I think of another community where every few years on important anniversary events the history of an organization or of the community as a whole is related and often published in the local press. Its past has no more striking events than that of the locality last mentioned, but these people have pride in their community and their loyalty is renewed on these anniversary occasions.

Miss Emily F. Hoag[11] has recently given a good picture of how the history of their community has been made to live in the hearts of the people of Belleville, New York, through their loyalty to the old Union Academy, and she has given a fine example of how a community may be brought to a realization of the contribution which it has made to the life of the state and nation.

Only by a knowledge of the community's history can the nature and origin of the attitudes of its people be understood. A generation or two ago, perchance, there was a quarrel between two families which was carried into the school meeting, and to this day two factions have persisted. The attitudes of the people in many a progressive town may be directly traced to the influence of some outstanding leaders—a teacher, minister, or doctor, perhaps—long since gone to their reward. A village fire, the coming of a railroad or its deflection to a nearby town, a bank failure, a prohibition crusade, the establishment of a library are but a few examples of events which form crises in the life of every community and which have a far-reaching and subtle effect in moulding its character.

The cultivation of a knowledge of its own history is, therefore, one of the first duties of a community which seeks to understand itself so that it may better direct its life. Every community should maintain a record of its history, and have some means of preserving important historical material. The New York legislature has recently passed an act authorizing any township or village board to appoint a local historian, without salary, and to furnish safe storage for historical records. One of the most progressive rural communities in the country is the Quaker settlement at Sandy Spring, Maryland,[12] whose first historian was appointed in 1863 and whose historian reads the record of the year at each annual meeting. These "Annals" form a most intimate account of the community's progress. The custom of some rural newspapers of publishing local history of the past year on New Year's Day serves much the same purpose.

One of the best means of encouraging historical appreciation, and one which is very generally neglected, is the teaching of local history in the schools. Educators have learned that it is more pedagogical to commence instruction in geography with the local environment of the child, which it can know and understand, than to begin—as formerly—with the nebular hypothesis; but they are only commencing to appreciate that the same principle applies to the teaching of history. Is it not true that most children can glibly recite dates and events in the history of their own and foreign countries, of whose significance they have only a vague appreciation, but who never secure any real historical point of view or an appreciation of the importance of history because it has not been made concrete and intimate, as must be the case in considering local events? If national history is taught to develop patriotism, why should not local history be taught to inspire civic loyalty? Such a study of the efforts and sacrifices of former citizens would bring a new sense of obligation to be worthy of the heritage they have bequeathed, and would gradually establish an attitude of loyalty to the community which would be considered as essential to respectability as devotion to one's country. Indeed, how can one be truly loyal to a great country which is mostly unknown to him if he is not loyal to the people with whom he lives day by day in his home community?

One of the best means of reviving interest in the community's past is through the production of an historical pageant, which is discussed on page 161; for as the people act together the events of the past, they gain a new realization of what they owe to the life of the community in bygone days, and come to appreciate that men come and men go but the community continues and perpetuates their influence for better or for worse.

Socrates' injunction to "know thyself" is the epitome of wisdom for the community as it is for the individual. The first step in this process of self-acquaintance is to secure an accurate knowledge of the kinds of people which compose the community, and how its past is influencing its present.


[8] "Rural Primary Groups," a study of agricultural neighborhoods. Research Bulletin 51, Agr. Exp. Station of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1921.

[9] "America via the Neighborhood," p. 419, D. Appleton & Co., 1920.

[10] A. J. Dadisman, "French Creek as a Rural Community," Bulletin 176, Agricultural Experiment Station, West Virginia University, June, 1921.

[11] "The National Influence of a Single Farm Community," Bulletin 984, United States Department of Agriculture, Dec., 1921.

[12] See "A Rural Survey of Maryland," Dept. of Church and Country Life, Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., 1912; reprinted in part in N. L. Sims' "The Rural Community," p. 227, New York, Scribners, 1920.



We have seen that the real life of the community depends on common interests and the ability of its people to act together. This having things in common is the basis of all community and is achieved only through the exchange of ideas by various means of communication. Without communication there would be no community and no civilization. It is man's ability to communicate through spoken and written language that has made him human. Man is more than animal because he can exchange ideas with his fellows, and can profit by the experience of the race. This power of communication creates a new world for him in which he lives on a different plane from all other living things. The very words community and communication, both derived from communis—common, indicate their relation to each other; community—the having in common, communication—the making common.[13]

Until modern times practically all communication between the masses of the people was by word of mouth. The people of the old world lived together in villages which were largely self-dependent, and only the higher classes were educated to read and write. There was little opportunity for contact with the outside world, and the people felt little need of better means of communication. It has been frequently asserted that isolation has been the chief rural problem in America. The reason for the dissatisfaction with life on isolated farms is better appreciated when we remember that during all previous history men have lived together in close association and their whole mode of thought, customs, attitudes, and desires have been formed in the intimate life of compact groups. It is but natural, therefore, that life on the isolated farm with but few contacts with others than immediate neighbors should become irksome and that town and city have had a peculiar attraction for farm people.

We cannot here examine the causes and history of the development of our modern means of communication, but we must recognize that it is due to them that rural community life as we are coming to know it in the United States is made possible. Without these newer facilities for more frequent association and exchange of ideas, rural life would still be confined to the small local neighborhood.

At the same time, the railroad and trolley have abolished the isolation of the rural community and have made possible the diversion of local interests and loyalties to larger centers. Thus while communication aids the integration of the community it affords equal facilities for its disruption. Doubtless some of the smaller community centers will be unable to compete with the attraction of nearby larger centers, but there seems no good reason to believe that better communication will injure the best life of communities which are of sufficient size to support the institutions which will command local loyalty. This dual influence of means of communication on the internal and external relations of rural communities creates some of the chief problems of rural social organization, for the increase of means of communication in the past two or three generations has been more momentous and has had a more far-reaching effect on human relations than in all the previous centuries since the invention of writing.

A brief survey of the more important of these new agencies will indicate how they affect the relations of the farmer to his community and to other communities. These may be considered under the two general heads of means of transportation, and means for the exchange of ideas.

As long as transportation was by wagon and by boat, commerce was slow and expensive; each community was compelled to be largely self-dependent, and life was isolated to an extent that it is difficult for us to conceive. Anderson has well stated the situation when he says:

"Merchandise and produce that could not stand a freight of fifteen dollars per ton could not be carried overland to a consumer one hundred and fifty miles from the point of production; as roads were, a distance of fifty miles from the market often made industrial independence expedient."[14]

It was the steam railroad which made larger markets available, made possible the growth of our large cities and the opening up of new lands distant from markets. The railroad and manufacturing by power machinery put an end to the "age of homespun," and made it more profitable for the farmer to sell his products and to purchase his manufactured goods in exchange. The railroad, and the markets which it made available, changed the village center from a place of local barter to a shipping point and so tended to center the economic life of larger areas in the villages with railroad stations. Better local roads were necessary and business tended to become centralized in the village. The numerous wayside taverns along the main highways disappeared, as did the neighborhood mill and blacksmith shop. The railroad, more than any other one factor, has determined the location of our rural community centers.

The electric railroad made the village centers more available to farm people and gave transportation facilities to many villages without railroads, but it also made it possible for the people of smaller communities to go to the larger centers for trading and other advantages. Trolleys have made it possible for many farm children to get to high school who could not otherwise have attended and have enabled those living near them to more easily get back and forth from the village centers for all phases of community life. On the whole, however, they have probably carried more traffic between communities, and it seems strange that they have not more generally been able to find a profit in hauling produce from the farms to the nearest markets or shipping stations.

Of more importance to community life has been the development of good roads, a movement which did not get under way until the present century and which was chiefly due to the rural free mail delivery and the automobile. The change in rural life due to automotive vehicles can hardly be exaggerated. In our best agricultural states practically every farmer has his automobile. He can get to the community center as quickly as the business man or laborer gets to his work in the average city, and can go to the county seat or neighboring city as quickly as one can drive to the business section from the more distant parts of New York or Chicago. Auto-bus lines radiate from most of our small cities, and auto trucks not only bring freight from nearby wholesale centers, but are rapidly supplanting horses for hauling farm produce to the shipping station or market.

As good roads have been due chiefly to state and county, and more recently to national aid, it is but natural that they should have been constructed where the traffic is heaviest connecting the main centers. What is now most needed to build up the local communities is a systematic development of the principal local roads radiating from the community centers.

Good roads and automobiles have made possible a new sort of a local community, which could never have existed without them. Consider the present possibility of consolidated schools with auto-busses to haul the children; the numbers of automobiles which come in from the farms to every village center where there is a band concert or movie show; the ability to get in the "flivver" after supper and ride to a relative's or friend's on the other side of the town and be back for early bedtime; and one can perceive how the people in a community area are bound together and develop common interests in new advantages made possible by their ability to get together easily and quickly. How could the county agricultural agent or the visiting nurse cover a county as effectively as they now do without the automobile? The rural community can now enjoy the services of expert paid executives in many fields of work as diverse as a county commercial club secretary, a Boy Scout leader, a Sunday school executive, or county health officer, because the county has become a unit which can be covered as easily as a city and is large enough to support such a division of labor as no one community could enjoy. We shall have occasion to refer to many county organizations and agencies which not only build up the county and the county seat, but which strengthen the life of every community which they serve, and whose work is very largely possible because of good roads and automobiles. Where bad roads still exist many of these services must wait and less community life is possible.

Nor does the home lose with the community advancement due to better transportation. Surely it is better to have the children living at home than boarding in the village while they attend high school; the doctor is secured more quickly and the visiting nurse is available; and the family can come and go as a family because less time is required and there is no waiting for the horses to feed, or to get rested.

It is true of course that the automobile makes it possible for people to go to the larger towns and other village centers, and to visit their particular friends and relatives in neighboring communities, and thus seems to furnish means for breaking down and stratifying community life. These tendencies exist, but they will not seriously injure the community which has anything worth while for its people. Better transportation simply makes possible a more highly organized community life, and any complex organization is the more easily deranged; a complex machine or a high-bred animal is more susceptible to injury than a simple tool or scrub. Many ministers have railed against the automobile, while others have used it to fill their pews. We cannot get away from that oldest of paradoxes, first learned by Father Adam, that every new good has possibilities of evil. A certain type of mind has always enjoyed condemning every new invention as "of the Devil," and yet the world wags on and no one who knows them would go back to "the good old days."

The automobile has brought new ideas both to the community and to the farm and home. Farmers and their wives are traveling by auto much more than they ever did by train, and it is impossible not to pick up new ideas. One of the most effective educational devices is the farm tour in which a group of Farm Bureau members travel from one farm to another studying the methods of farming, and the women have adopted the idea for an inspection of farm homes.

To discuss all the effects of automotive vehicles—cycle, car, truck, bus, and tractor—on farm life would fill a book in itself: space forbids except for incidental mention in the following chapters.

Turning to the mechanisms for the transmission of ideas, we appreciate the even more wonderful inventions which have brought the whole world to the farmer's door.

A generation ago farmers went several miles to the nearest postoffice for their mail, and usually got it but two or three times a week. To-day over the greater part of the country it is delivered to them daily, and they can ship small packages by parcels post from their doors. This daily delivery has greatly widened the circulation of the daily newspapers and magazines of all sorts, and has given farm people a new knowledge and a livelier interest in city and world-wide affairs. The parcel post has made the mail-order business, but it is even more beneficial to the local merchant who can fill a telephone order and mail it to a customer for less expense than delivery costs in the city. Correspondence and advertising by farm people have greatly increased. It is true that the abolition of many rural postoffices has destroyed an old-time rendezvous, but farmers probably go to the community center more frequently than formerly. A more unfortunate feature of the rural delivery service is that it often gives the farmer a mail address at a postoffice of a community where he rarely goes, and fails to indicate the community in which he is located to one unacquainted with the local geography (see page 232).

Even more important as an aid to community activities is the telephone. Visiting is now done more over the phone than in person, but conversation can be had with any one in the community at any time, and isolation is banished. The telephone has brought a larger protection to the farm home in calling the doctor, police, or fire assistance. The economic value of the phone soon became apparent for the distribution of market reports and weather forecasts or for ordering goods or repairs from town, and the marvelous wireless telephone will greatly extend these services. The Extension Service of the Kansas Agricultural College is installing a wireless outfit which will receive market and weather reports and will transmit them to the farm bureau offices at the county seats, where they may be relayed through the local telephones to every farmer. Thus world-wide conditions may be flashed to the farmer's fireside. Within the community the telephone has made possible a degree of organization hitherto impossible. Meetings are called, committees are assembled, or their business is done over the phone, so that both social and economic life are greatly stimulated.

The farmer is sometimes chided for not having organized rural life more effectively. The simple reason is that he has not had the mechanisms whereby he could do so. With only mud roads and horses people could get together but infrequently, and arrangements had to be made when they were together. City life was better organized because people could get together more easily. To-day both time and space have been so largely overcome that communication in the country is almost as rapid as in the city and more effective organization is possible.

Better transportation, mail, and telephone service have made available agencies for the communication of ideas, previously accessible only to the few or patronized so infrequently by those further away as to furnish too small a constituency for their successful maintenance. The free public library is a powerful educational agency, but many a community has been too small for its support. Now county library systems are being organized—thanks to automobiles—which give branch stations to every community (see p. 102). Lyceum courses of lectures and entertainments, chautauqua courses, public forums for the discussion of current problems, and last, but not least, the moving picture shows with their pictures of important events from all parts of the world and showing life from Central Africa to the Antipodes, all of these are agencies for bringing new ideas to the rural community, and are becoming increasingly common as better transportation makes it possible for the people to utilize them. The fact that these agencies must be located where they can serve the largest number of people, determines their location at the community centers and they are thus a large factor in unifying the community.

Modern transportation has abolished the isolation of the farm and new means of communication have freed the spirit of the farmer and brought the world to his doors. Together they make possible so many satisfactions heretofore only available to the cities, as to quite revolutionize the whole aspect of rural life. They give a new position to the rural community and to the farmer's status in it.


[13] Community is derived from the Old English word commonty which came to mean "the body of the common people, commons." Communication is from the Latin communicare, also derived from communis—common, and ic (the formative of factitive verbs)—to make, or to make common.

[14] "The Country Town," p. 20.



We have seen that an active community must focus its life at some center, and that this center is usually a village which has been established primarily for business purposes. The relation of the American village to the surrounding farms is historically unique and is largely due to the rapidity and ease with which large areas of the United States were settled after the advent of railroads. In the colonial period and the early days of the New West, every settlement was so isolated that it was obliged to be largely self-sufficient. Transportation was slow and uncertain and prohibitive for other than the necessities which could not be locally produced. Under these conditions the farmer and village business man were so inter-dependent that they were forced to consider each other's interests. But when settlement became safer and transportation easier the homesteaders took up their claims without relation to village connections; they traded where it was most convenient, and their social life centered largely in the immediate neighborhood and in the district school and country church. On the other hand the village was settled by men who came primarily for business. The spirit of the age was that of competition and they came primarily for profits. Their business came from the farms, but they felt little sense of obligation to them. Every village was a potential city in their eyes and its growth and the rise of real estate values was of more concern to them than the development of the community's basic industry of agriculture. The village craftsman and business man gets most of his living from the farms and it should be to his interest to give them the best of service, but more and more he has become primarily a business man or craftsman, coming to the village to "make money" and moving on when he sees better opportunities elsewhere. His business and craft affiliations link him to the centers of commercial and industrial life in the cities, and he is strongly inclined to take the city's point of view. Particularly has this been the case with the country banker who has so largely controlled the economic life of the village and countryside. Too often he has inevitably been more largely influenced by the interests of eastern capital and the mortgage owners than by the real needs of his local constituency.

The result has been an increasing friction between the villages and the farms, and we have come to think of them as two separate groups or interests rather than as essential and inter-dependent parts of a social area—the community. The literature of country life and of rural sociology has very rightly recognized the existing situation, but many writers seem to accept the division between village and farm as inevitable, and even question whether there can be a rural community of the type herein described, rather than to recognize that this is but a necessary stage in the beginning of community life, due to the mode of settlement and temporary conditions.

This friction between farmer and villager has been most acute in the Middle West and has found its extreme expression in the Non-partisan League Movement, which has engendered a degree of bitterness between the two factions which cannot be permanently maintained without serious injury to their common interests. This, however, is only an attempt of the farmers to secure redress through political control, and is but the political form of expression of a protest which is being more effectively made as an economic movement through cooperative buying and selling agencies, particularly strong in Kansas and Nebraska, but rapidly spreading throughout the country.

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