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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)

Page 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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