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

Chapter VI: Land values,   pp. 192-202 PDF (2.3 MB)

Page 197

not exceed the value of the improvements made since 1855; or in
other words, land had failed to make any rise whatever. The
explanation is simple: land had failed to respond to the general
rise of prices because the farmers had gone to war, leaving an
inadequate force to carry on the ordinary farm operations; the
general unrest of the times led many to seek new homes in the
farther \Vest, thus putting their W\isconsin farms on the market
at a time when buyers were few. Wheat was not yielding re-
turns for the immediate expenses of raising: it could not com-
pete with the new lands of the \Vest, and other crops were not
sufficiently well established to create a demand for land on which
to grow them; as a result, much old wheat land was not wanted
at any price.
  This might seem to mark the year as an abnormal one, but
when it is remembered that the same conditions had existed for
three or four years before, and continued till near the close.of the
'6o's. it appears to be a fair example for our purpose. It is the
year I875 that is farthest removed from the normal, for here we
find the sales to be less than one-seventh as many as ten years
before. Again the reasons for the situation are not obscure. The
price of land had made a considerable advance as business recov-
ered its stability in the early '70's. With the collapse of 1873
sales became few. but did not reach the lowest ebb till two
years later, by which time the discouraged farmer was reluctant
to put any more money into land. and vet he was equally reluctant
to sell at a sacrifice. This is reflected in the figures of the table;
the  few  farms sold. brought a    fair price.91  Emigration
to the West had continued, but this was partly offset by the new
system of farming, and the inventions in agricultural machinery,
both of which enabled a farmer to manage more land with a
given amount of labor. It was, then, conservatism rather than
any active agency that kept land from sinking below the prices
reached in better times.2 and the new elements in farm economy
were still too rudimentary to force the price up.
   It would seem, then, that the results of the table are fairly re-
 liable in the sense of showing the general trend of farm values.
   O'Currency was now worth about $.87Y.I.
   "In 180 there were twenty-three thousand, eight hundred seventy-two
 sold nt $20.91. but this was on a gold basis and, therefore, does not represent
 a decline.                                                 I |

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