Rules Of Life From 1875

Living History Farms in Des Moines has always been a favorite destination for school groups. I remember going there in school several times, walking through the farms set up depict what life in Iowa was like in the 1700s, the 1870s and the 1900s. Farm life was very different then, and it has always fascinated me to see actors literally living on the farms from day to day, showing us what happened there on a daily basis.

The second half of the Farms is an 1870s town, complete with general store, church, dress shop, lawyer's office, dentist's office and printer's shop. All of the buildings are working shops, actually printing all the signage for the town, making period-style clothing and selling goods that would have been available in that decade.

Visiting a living museum like this as an adult is much different than walking through as a child. Everything makes more sense now, and I notice things I definitely don't remember seeing as a little girl. Walking into the schoolhouse, for example, I was immediately drawn to the list of rules on the blackboard. There were three simple rules for the classroom: be quiet, sit up straight and stand to recite. This trio of rules seemed quite simple in comparison to the long list written above it.

The Rules of Life gives 12 building blocks of character that mean just as much to us today as we walk through the museum as they did in the 1870s when they were penned. What I wonder, though, is whether the actors portraying the townspeople today know that each one of those Rules of Life comes straight from Scripture.

1. Kindness to animals - Genesis 1:26
2. Good manners - 1 Samuel 18:14
3. Respect of elders - Exodus 20:12
4. Respect of the government - Luke 20:25
5. Obedience - Joshua 24:24
6. Patriotism - Psalm 33:12
7. Wisdom of early rising - Psalm 5:3
8. Reverence - Psalm 89:7
9. Honesty - Proverbs 13:5
10. Trustfulness - Genesis 39:6
11. Temperance - Galatians 5:22-23
12. Greed and waste are evils - Proverbs 21:5


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