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Goc, Michael J. / From past to present : the history of Adams County

Farming,   pp. 38-57 PDF (14.6 MB)

Page 38

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 
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- 
Above: Hans 
Sorenson with 
wheat or oats in 
shocks, 1924. 

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