Hibbard, Benjamin Horace, 1870-1955 / The history of agriculture in Dane County, Wisconsin
Chapter IV: Selection of land, pp. 105-113 PDF (2.2 MB)
312 BULLETIN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN. Be this as it may, the prairies of Wisconsin have long been ex- onerated from the charge of unhealthfulness; and the modest woods of this section of the state can hardly be termed dark or damp forests. Nevertheless the great amount of surface water, often stagnant, was the cause of much sickness in the early days of Wisconsin settlement.57 If it appears that the foregoing is a vague treatment of the manner and motives of land selection it can be answered only by 7 'It Is true the prairie mania has ever prevailed among the eastern farm- ers coming to settle amid the West. This Is the result of a fancied convenience among new settlers and a wish to gratify that thirst for novelty which In inherent In the minds of those who have been reared among the hills and valleys of the New England and Middle states, where nature In her prairie beauty has never appeared. But that prepossession In favor of prairie farms Is rapidly yielding to the formation of a more rational conclusion. The ab- sence of many of the common conveniences of life which are enjoyed In the timber-the want of health and the failure of crops from year to year are obstacles In the path of prosperity -which exist upon the prairie and which can never be wholly surmounted. These will henceforth prove a barrier to their settlement, and will have a tendency to direct emigration to a forest home. The angry winter wind which sweeps over their heads in its course for hundreds of miles, unbroken by any obstacle, save the slight undulations upon the bosom of the prairie, where neither tree nor shrub appears to shel- ter the weary traveller from the keenness of the blast which often threatens him with immediate destruction,-the scorching rays of the summer sun maddening and destroying the brain, and other manifestations In nature, all speak to the settler, In language not to be misunderstood, of disease and death In Its most horrible form. There disease In every form destructive to vegetable life Is stalking abroad and ever and anon lays Its withering grasp upon the fruits of the toil of the laboring man and deprives families and neighborhoods of the means of subsistence, leaving poverty and destitution to prey upon Its victims, until another year shall have rolled Its sluggish course, bringing but too often In Its train the same fearful consequences. This Is not an overwrought picture."-Wisconsin Farmer, III, 145. Preference for woodland lingered till long after wheat ceased to be the principal crop: "Upon the whole it Is our opinion that, everything consid- ered, the oak openings are the best lands for a farmer of moderate means. These lands seem to be less rich in the vegetable producing elements than the other two [timber and prairies] but such is not the fact as demonstrated by experience. The soil of the oak openings Is of a lighter color, but It pro- duces the finest crops of cereals, Including corn and also esculent roots. It plows very kindly, Is never miry like the prairie, where the reapers have sometimes become useless in wet seasons because they could not be worked In deep mud. The openings produce as much to the acre, and of a plumper, heavier grain; manure works a more permanent benefit; they raise heavier crops of clover and other grasses and the use of plaster Is attended with won- derful effect, frequently doubling the crop of hay; orchards thrive better; they supply fuel and fencing material; also stones for cellars, wells, and handsome Imperishable fences. "All these advantages mentioned In connection with oak openings also be- long to the timbered section and the latter have the further advantage that, once cleared, they do not, like the openings, send forth a crop of useless and tangled grubs which are very expensive to eradicate. Thus prairie is the poor- est land.-Trean8. State Agr1l Soc., IX, 405.
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