Poverty in the 1800's

Betsy Moody was the mother of nine children.  She lived in a beautiful house in Northfield, Massachusetts in the early 1800's.  She was expecting twins when her 41 year old husband died suddenly leaving the family in dire straits.  There was a mortgage on the house, but because of favorable laws in those days, the creditors were not able to take away her home.  Instead, they took just about all her possessions, including the firewood needed to heat the home, in order to recover the debt.

Betsy was the mother of the famous preacher, D. L. Moody. The way in which she brought up her children and retained the family homestead, as a widow, is inspiring. 

Her brother came to her aid by providing such necessary things as firewood. They were also helped by the local pastor. Her older children worked in nearby farms (as was common in those days) to help feed and support the family. The work they did helped them to learn skills and built a tremendous work ethic, making them hardworking, dependable and successful. 

The children were required to attend church services, as were most all children of the time.  Their "mother instructed her children in the true religion of the heart that seeks first God and His righteousness."  The foundation of their home was strong in godly living.  They also learned compassion and charity from an early age:

"Mrs. Moody was tender-hearted, and the children learned the privilege of giving from their scanty store.  The hungry were never turned away from her door and on one occasion when the provision for the evening meal was very meagre it was put to the vote of the little ones whether they should give of their small supply to a poor beggar who appealed for aid.  The children begged that he should be aided and offered to have their own slices cut thinner."

The Sabbath was a wonderful time for the children.  The older ones worked away from home all week and returned each Saturday evening to be with the family. On Sunday, the family brought a packed lunch and spent the day at Church hearing 2 sermons and attending the Sunday School before returning home.  This precious time created a beloved "habit of attending God's house."

The children would bring home books from the church library for their mother to read to them.   She, herself, only owned 3 books, including the Bible, a catechism, and a "book of devotions."  She also read to the children each morning and prayed with them.

Betsy made home life attractive and pleasant for the children, despite her poverty. She did this by encouraging the children to open their home to friends. While the children played, "she would sit quietly with her mending," and provide a wholesome and pleasant environment of love and warmth.

I am amazed at how beautiful their house was, yet knowing how cold New England winters can be, I realize the Moody family did not have an easy life.  Yet, somehow, through their hard work, independent Yankee work ethic, and great trust in God, they succeeded!  It also amazes me to learn that Betsy lived in that same house until she passed into Heaven, at the age of 90!

Her grandson tells us that his father, D.L. Moody, "could never speak of those early days of want and adversity without the most tender references to that brave mother whose self-sacrifice and devotion had sacredly guarded the home entrusted to her care."


*Quotes, and photograph, in this post are from the book, "The Life of D.L. Moody by His Son," published in 1900.

From the Archives -

Old Fashioned Thrift - Retirement Planning for the Poor.

Taking care of Children - I Hear Angels Crying.

A Happy Marriage - A Wife Who Does Not Complain.

Mrs. White's special book for Homemakers - "Mother's Book of Home Economics."

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email. 


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