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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 125

for there was abundant opportunity to make good returns on an
investment in grist mills.83
   With these conditions it can easily be understood why there
was no great excitement over canals or railroads during the
greater part of the decade between 1840 and 1850. The world
had not then learned to want the news of the antipodes to be
served at breakfast; the question of selling produce was not vital;
and as to buying articles from the East, the westerners were pass-
ively willing to be humbugged.
   The first intimation that there was a limit to the wealth of the
wheat fields came in the disguised form of some partial failures
in the winter wheat crop during the '4o's; that is to say, failure
and prosperity had about the same start in the race. Part of the
wheat winter-killed and it was soon noticed that the only place
where it seemed reasonably safe from this trouble was in the
well-sheltered fields in the woods and to a less degree in the oak-
openings; on the prairie it uniformly failed.84 But spring wheat
had been tried and found to produce a good crop in these open
places, so the wheat fever was merely allayed a bit and showed no
symptoms of subsiding. Spring wheat never equalled winter
wheat at its best, either in quantity or quality, but while the land
was new the returns were moderately good.
  Being thus soothed and reassured, the farmer was ill prepared
for the rude awakening which came with the failures of all varie-
ties of wheat from 1847 to 1853. For a time he would not be
persuaded that the shortage was anything worse than a mere
temporary misfortune caused by unfavorable weather; his faith
in the soil was unshaken; and his hopes for the future were slow
in waning. But there were several dormant forces which now
asserted themselves, and compelled the farmer to face the facts
First in importance and persistency were the debts, contracted
recklessly which now became due.85 Creditors had previously
been satisfied with the interest, which at the rates charged would
equal the principal somewhere within four to eight years. Now
""Wheat In plenty and selling from $.75 to $.87% per bushel, yet
with all
this, flour is scarce and held at $7.00 to $7.50."-Madison Express,
October 2T,
X Wiscasin Farmer, 111, 145; also confirmed In a letter from Mr. Robert Steele.
JlTrana. State Agr'l Hoc., 1, 133.

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