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)
HIBBARD-IIISTORY OF AGRICULTURE IN DANE COUNTY. 113 recurring, at the risk of tedious reiteration, to the endless reasons, and almost lack of reason, which attend the selection of different land by different people; and in addition, that the writer had no thesis to maintain or theory to prove. In answer to the question "Did the first settlers take the best land ?" no sweeping answer can be given. The greatest mistake was no doubt in rejecting the prairies so long; quick returns-and this was of vital importance in most cases-were more easily had here, where a little skill in the use of the breaking plow enabled a man to turn virgin soil into cultivated fields at the rate of two or three acres a day, while in the woods not a quarter of the same results could be had. The patience and toil of those who cleared up the woodland was eventually rewarded, and where this land is not too hilly or stony, it has proved to be excellent in wearing qualities, though on an average it must still rank below the prairies, as the latter have always excelled in the production of Indian corn. Many of the old pioneers who still remain look with chagrin from their rough farms, worth fifty dollars per acre, to the smooth, inviting fields of their prairie neighbors, worth fifty per cent. more, and recall the time when they rejected the latter in favor of the former. Yet no doubt they were temporarily better off making the choice they did than had they undertaken the greater task with the possibility of greater gain in the long run, and "for many of them there was no long run." They took the land they thought was best, and for a period it was. On an average the land which was best ultimately was not taken first, but this was due largely to the particular class of settlers who took it.58 sitnce writing the above, I have received a letter from Mr. Robert Steele of Lodi, Wis., which corroborates almost all the statements made in the chap- ter respecting the choice of land by the different settlers. He adds that the Germans of the northwest part of the county, who were mostly from the Rhine country, hoped to raise grapes on the sunny hillsides of Roxbury. Some of them did so, and made several thousand gallons of wine per year for a brief period. Mr. Steele thinks, however, contrary to one of the quotations above, that there was a general tendency for immigrants to choose land re- sembling that of their former homes, an example of which io the location of the Swiss In the hilly country to the southwest of Dane county.
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