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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 123

   In the case of wheat all seemed promising; it would do well
on new land; in fact it was on new land that it did its best. Very
little capital was required to begin wheat farming. A breaking
team and plow, a harrow, and some seed wheat was enough for
a start. While the acreage was small this was about all that was
required with the exception of a wagon in which to haul the crop
to market. The entire work of harvesting was done at first by
hand. The sickle and the cradle in the farmers' hands constituted
the reapers. The flail was sometimes used in threshing, but
more often oxen or horses were made to tread out the grain as
in ancient times. Men even made it a business to go about the
country to do threshing with a pair or two of cattle as the sole
threshing outfit. The grain was stacked around a circle or open
space some thirty or forty feet in diameter. Preferably the stacks
were left till the ground froze and then on this open space,
scraped as clean as possible, the grain was spread, and the
thresher, with his own oxen and those of the farmer for whom
he was working, entered the ring and used alternately the lash
and the pitchfork to keep the cattle in motion and the grain prop-
erly turned and shaken. In this way two men could thresh and
clean in an indifferent manner fifty or sixty bushels of wheat in
a day, and the thresher would take his pay in wheat, probably
about four bushels."
  These very primitive methods soon gave way to something
more modern and effective. The fanning mill was introduced
about i84o; a "moving threshing machine" came into use, and
went out almost simultaneously, in i846.76 This machine con-
sisted of little besides a small cylinder and a set of "concaves,"
with the ordinary teeth. The machine was mounted on a wagon,
the power being applied by a chain running on a sprocket-wheel
attached to one of the rear wagon wheels, and the work done as
the vehicle was driven about the field. The straw was scattered
broadcast from the rear of the wagon while the grain, chaff, and
dirt fell promiscuously into the box. It is needless to say that
farming operations were not revolutionized by this invention.
'TThbs In from a conversatlon with a Mr. Payne of Prairie du Sac, who
worked at this kind of threnhing as far back an 1845. See also LUfe 4. Prare
LAd. Eliza W. Farnham, 288.
"Hiltory of Done County, 871.

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