Hibbard, Benjamin Horace, 1870-1955 / The history of agriculture in Dane County, Wisconsin
Chapter V: Difficulties of early farming, pp. 114-120 PDF (1.6 MB)
HIIBBARD-IIIST('RY OF AGRICU7LTURE IN DANE COUNTY. 119 In case the new arrival had no means of doing breaking the first year, he could hire a few furrows turned by paying at the rate of five dollars per acre.68 Later the price of breaking fell to two dollars, and two and a half dollars per acre, the former price for prairie, the latter for oak openings or such woodland as could be plowed without the use of the ax and grub-hoe, yet it is agreed that in the manner the work was done, more "openings" than prairie could be plowed in a day. A lack of suitable implements was a serious inconvenience quite as often as lack of teams. Grain was cut with a sickle, a scythe, a cradle; was bound by hand, threshed with a flail, winnowed by being tossed into the air with a shovel, pounded to flour in a wooden mortar, baked in a rude oven, and the bread eaten without butter.69 Men who had never shown a tendency to any description of skilled workmanship turned their hands to a multi- tude of home manufactures-ax-helves, flour-chests, tables, chairs, beds, baskets, rakes, harrows, rollers; in short those who had once depended on the various members of the community for everything, again became in a great degree independent, but lost their one art, which perhaps was overdeveloped, to gain a primi- tive knowledge of blacksmithing. carpentry, masonry, healing, hunting, fishing-little wonder that there was not energy and skill left over to make anything more than mediocre farmers. Blacksmithing was perhaps the greatest bug-bear in this cate- gory. Until there was promise of sufficient work to enable a man to earn a living at the forge, few cared to set one up, and the stories told of trials in getting blacksmith work done are many and picturesque. As much as they would stand plow-shares were beaten out cold: sometimes they were heated in a fire of chips on the open ground and hammered out on an iron wedge driven into a stump in lieu of an anvil. One man, wishing to give his tired oxen a rest, carried the share of his breaking plow to Madison, had it sharpened, and returned the same day, making the entire round trip of forty miles on foot. Another man after vain at- tempts to "toggle" his log-chain found that the splices took up too much of the length, so putting the pieces into a grain sack and -History of Wisconsin. by W. R. Smith. pp. 121 and 122. b-very item of this may be proved by people who were familiar with that mode of life In Dane county.
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