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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)

Page 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
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
 ter respecting the choice of land by the different settlers. He adds that
 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
 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
 the Swiss In the hilly country to the southwest of Dane county.

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