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Hibbard, Benjamin Horace, 1870-1955 / The history of agriculture in Dane County, Wisconsin

Chapter VI: The one-crop period,   pp. 121-142 PDF (5.1 MB)

Page 122

    The reasons for turning attention and energy so exclusively to
 wheat culture from the first settlement up to about i87o are too
 numerous to be stated in a sentence. To begin with, the ques-
 tion as to what crop would flourish in the new country was a
 grave one. The belief was general that corn could not be raised
 to advantage. True it wvas raised by the Indians, but this was a
 small variety. and was not a sufficient testimony to overcome the
 preconceived notion that Wisconsin was a little too far north to be
 reckoned in the corn belt. Or, suppose corn could be raised in
 large quantities, it was too bulky and too cheap to stand transpor-
 tation a thousand miles to market. This latter argument was also
 conclusive when applied to the alternative of raising oats, it being
 conceded that oats would do tolerably well, at least as to yield.22
 Barley "I and rye did not seem to gain in favor for a long time,
 principally because there were greater possibilities in wheat.t4
 As a matter of fact they were both more certain to make a fair
 yield, and towards the latter part of the period barley did gain a
 considerable significance.
   The reasons urged against stock raising were mainly two: first,
it was not generally believed that grass or clover would flourish
here; and second, quite as important, it was thought that the win-
ters were so long and cold that the cost of housing and feeding
must necessarily consume the profits. The poverty of the set-
tlers was one of the most important factors in deciding the chan-
nels along which their energies should flow.71 It required capital
to invest in stock, and the keeping of stock required the additional
outlay for fences and barns.
  The belief that feed could not easily be produced was
only natural. since cultivated grasses and clover do not take
kindlv to the conditions of early pioneer life.7" They will not
choke down weeds or brush in the woods; and not until prairie
grass has been partially killed by cropping and trampling can
anything better be induced to take its place; even if the wild land
is first plowed, tame grass does not succeed well until after the
sod is rotted.
"'.Oats yield well but are hardly worth raising, as they sell for fifteen
"Pat. Office Repts., Agriculture. 1852-53, p. 337.
t"For some phenomenal results In wheat growing, see Wiacoaain Farmer,
I, 44.
"Trans. State Agri. soc., 1, 133, 185.
'Pat. Office Rept., Agriculture, 1852-53, p. 334.

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