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Parf of speech: Noun, OED Year: 1769, OED Evaluation: Originally in U.S.

(Under bee) In allusion to the social character of the insect (originally in U.S.): A meeting of neighbours to unite their labours for the benefit of one of their number; e.g. as is done still in some parts, when the farmers unite to get in each other's harvests in succession; usually preceded by a word defining the purpose of the meeting, as apple-bee, husking-bee, quilting-bee, raising-bee, etc. Hence, with extended sense: A gathering or meeting for some object; esp. spelling-bee, a party assembled to compete in the spelling of words.

Money was very scarce but that was one way to contribute. Many other folks in the area helped in other ways also. Work-bees were also held during the winter to cut fire-wood for the manse and the church building.
Communal work activity.
So there's- but you didn't go and ah do the- the hard labour of s-- pick- picking stones or the hay or you-know, and the- and then of course in fall the fall you would ge-- you would be getting into ah um you-know harvesting your grain, and then you'd ah, ah what we call the ah thrashing day right, which you'd bring the grain and- and you'd end up getting everybody ah as a- as a work bee and- and they would all chip in their work, you-know to- to ah a thrash this to- to separate grain from the stock and whatever and bag it and then- then put it into storage. But that happened on every farm so the thing is you figure, oh you're done, no well you got to help the neighbour because the neighbour was helping you. Yeah work- work bees were- were a big thing yeah so.
Communal work activity.
Oh yeah, you'd have to walk, you-know, that's ah- and of course, people then were so conservative with everything. Like, when- when you were- went to one of these work bees, that was half a mile away and you took the horses and wagon, you'd have to walk the horses home on their lines so you wouldn't wear the wagon out, riding on it.
Communal work activity.