What Was It Like To Live In The Wild West?

Life for Americans living and working in the wild west was full of lots of hard work and daily struggles. Western expansion brought with it a host of challenges for new settlers, but also the start of a whole new world for American citizens and immigrants alike.

From the humble beginnings of a few ambitious farmers settling on the American Frontier, the wild west initiated significant advancements for American society and culture.

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What Was It Like To Live In The Wild West? 


A farmer would start his farm by clearing the land, building a cabin and a barn, and planting some crops. The barn was essential for keeping the animals safe from dangerous predators such as wolves and to store important grain and farming equipment.

The cabin and barn would usually be made from logs. Planting crops on a large farm area took a lot of hard work; the farmer would first need to plow the field with a plow pulled by a horse.

Then, the farmer would need to scatter seeds throughout the entire field and use the horse and plow to pull dirt across the top of the seeds.

Keeping the farm running smoothly would have been an arduous task, as the farmer and his family would need to ensure their livestock were kept healthy and that they were adequately growing crops to ensure their livelihood was maintained.

There was not much room for fun on the American Frontier, and no weekend breaks. In the year 1837, a blacksmith named John Deere invented the steel plow which allowed thick soil to be cut through easily. It made farmers’ working lives much easier and shortened their daily workload. 

Facts About American Frontier Home Life

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Native Americans helped the American settlers learn how to effectively plant crops and introduced them to herbs that they could use as medicine for ailments. When they needed to go to the toilet, American settlers would have to use their outhouses, where they had no running water and they would use leaves for toilet paper.

Lots of American settlers made their houses from bricks as the Native Americans did, but in regions of the Great Plains where there weren’t many trees available, they would make their houses from large blocks of mud and grass.


Some of the children who settled in the American West with their families attended school. These schools were normally made up of just one room, with one teacher that taught all of the different age groups in one class.

Education was relatively basic on the American Frontier, with children learning mathematics, literacy and history. When they learned to write, children generally used slates rather than paper, which were small sized chalkboards.

Normally children attended school during the Summer and Winter months, but remained at home with their family to help out with farm work during harvest seasons (Autumn and Spring). Most days were reserved for working, but sometimes the settlers would gather together for a large party or picnic.

They would also gather to help each other on large projects, such as helping to build someone’s barn. They would often celebrate once a large job was finished by holding a dance, where they would play accordions and fiddles.

The children of the settlers entertained themselves by playing outside and swimming in lakes. They would make their own toys and girls would learn to sew and make their own dolls.

What Was It Like To Live In The Wild West As A Woman?

Women generally helped out lots on the family farm as well. They would help during the harvest seasons, but they would also do other essential jobs to keep the farm running, the household in good shape, and the children looked after.

They would spin wool and flax into threads, sew and repair clothes, tend the garden so that vegetables could be grown for the family to eat, and make soap from water, lye, and ashes from their fireplace.

What Was It Like To Live In The Wild West As A Child?

When the children of the wild west were old enough to help out, they worked hard too. Children could be just five or six years old  and would help the family by collecting water, keeping an eye on fires to make sure they didn’t burn out, milking cows, churning cream, and preventing livestock from eating crops.

Older children took part in more difficult jobs such as working with the farmer,

chopping wood and looking after younger children.

Harsh Weather Conditions

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The livelihoods of wild west settlers were heavily reliant on weather conditions. Because of the harsh conditions on the American Frontier, droughts could get rid of months of work by killing all of a farmer’s crops, wildfires could break out and destroy crops, houses and barns, tornadoes were common and could cause major destruction, and insect infestations could cause havoc to crop fields too. 


Life in the wild west was hard work and there was not much time for leisure. Adults had the fundamental jobs of keeping the farm and household running to keep their families fed and healthy, while children had to try and get an education and help their families with endless chores.

Daily life wasn’t easy for anyone on the American Frontier, however, this time period was one of the most exciting and dynamic eras of history. Huge changes occurred between 1850 and 1900, and the hard work and dedication of the settlers turned the West into a bustling society by the end of the era.