Goc, Michael J. / From past to present : the history of Adams County
Farming, pp. 38-57 PDF (14.6 MB)
Farming Pioneer Farms "We have no apples, peaches and many other kinds of fruit which we miss very much, but then on the other hand there are many things I do like here. I like to raise wheat, corn and oats without manure which is actually the case on good land like the most of my farm...Turnips and [rutalbages we sow broadcast on new broke ground and get abundant crops. I raised this year 110 bushels of wheat, 200 of corn, 100 of potatoes and of beans. I call that doing well for the first year don't you ?" (Timothy Temple, Dell Prairie, 1856) Wn letters he sent to friends and family in Massachusetts in late 1856, Timothy Temple, the farmer who was "doing well for the first year," penned one of the first accounts of farming in Adams County. Like most pioneer farmers, Temple had selected the best available land he could afford, 153 acres "laying in one body, 7/8 of it fit for the plough." Given the choice, pioneers did not occupy wooded, rocky or hilly ground. Like Temple, whose land was in Section 8 of Dell Prairie, they selected prairie or lightly-wooded acreage that could be farmed right away. "I like to work with a breaking up team first," Temple continued, "we use from 4 to 6 yoke of oxen...our ploughs cut from 16 to 24 inches, there being no stone, we keep the share sharp by filing and it cuts all before it." People settling on new land, who had to build a house, tend a family and plant their first crop looked for land where a plow could stay sharp and readily cut "all before it" as soon as possible. Much of Adams County was not wooded, especially the western Towns of Dell Prairie, Springville, Quincy and Strongs Prairie. Big pines, oaks and maples may have grown along the creeks, but the ground in between was usually either a prairie, dry savanna or marsh broken by groves of jackpine and black oak. Land along the glacial moraine in New Haven, Jackson, New Chester and Lincoln was more wooded and some fields were stony enough to make rock picking an annual chore, but not enough to seriously halt or hurt settlement. Wetland and blowsand were greater obstacles, delaying settlement and farming in Monroe, Big Flats, Rome, Richfield, Colburn and Leola. By 1860, after a decade of settlement, about 47,000 of the 440,000 acres in the county were improved" farmland. For Temple and other pioneer farmers, spring wheat was the first crop. It grew well on new ground, "without manure." It was readily market- 38 Above: Hans Sorenson with wheat or oats in shocks, 1924.
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