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

Chapter V: The size of farms and estates,   pp. 185-191 PDF (1.4 MB)

Page 186

parties, to half a dozen sections gobbled up by eastern politicians,
prominent among whom was Daniel Webster, who for a time
owned the land on which Stoughton now stands. The average
size of these purchases was somewhat above six hundred acres.
   We will pass over a considerable number of years including
 the panic of 1837 and the period of slow recovery which fol-
 lowed, since they furnish nothing of importance to our subject.
 Sales practically ceased for a year or so; many of the large es-
 tates changed hands frequently and by i850 few of them re-
 mained. During the early '5o's the influx of Germans and
 Norwegians directly from Europe, having but little ready cash,
 resulted in a multitude of small purchases, and in i854 the aver-
 age purchase was ninety-two ocres: this was raised very mater-
 iallv above what it otherwise Would have been by several exten-
 sive purchases by speculating companies. There are no figures
 available, but a study of the old entry-book, the various plats for
 the '6o's. together with the manuscript census returns for i870
 show that these settlers added to their original homesteads an
 occasional forty or eighty. This is well indicated in the census
 reports, it appearing that the farms below fifty acres decreased in
 number about sixteen per cent., while those above that increased
 nearly sixty per cent. Again, in i86o the farms between twenty
 and fifty acres not only ranked first in numbers but comprised by
 far the largest aggregate acreage, while in 1870 those from fifty
 to one hundred acres exceeded the smaller class in the aggregate
 area and also outnumbered them.
 The census returns for i8So and I89o throw very little addi-
 tional light on the question under consideration; there is, how-
 ever. a steady falling off of the number of farms below one hun-
 dred acres87 and a corresponding gain of those above that figure
 from 1870 to I890. So far as the small farms are concerned this
 showing is no doubt correct and not wholly without meaning,
 7 See note at beginning of this chapter. It Is impossible to discuss this
Pubject without some comparison with the census returns. but It must not
forgotten that estate and farm are two distinct things. although they do
in the towns worked out minutely (see below), differ widely In number and
are for the most part identical.

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