Farming, at the present time, is almost entirely confined to the south half of the State, the northern half being still largely covered by forests. A notable exception to this statement is found in the counties on the western border, which are well settled by farmers much farther north. The surface of the agricultural portion of the State is for the most part gently undulating, affording ready drainage, without being so abruptly broken as to render cultivation difficult. The soil is varied in character, and mostly very fertile. The southern portion of the State consists of undulating prairies of variable size alternating with oak openings. The prairies have the rich alluvial soil so characteristic of the western prairies, and are easily worked. The soil of the "openings" land is usually a sandy loam, readily tilled, fertile, but not as "strong" as soils having more clay. The proportion of timber to prairie increases passing north from the southern boundary of the State, and forests of maple, basswood and elm, replace, to some extent, the oak lands. In these localities, the soil is more clayey, is strong and fertile, not as easily tilled, and not as quickly exhausted as are the more sandy soils of the oak lands. In that portion of the State known geologically as the "driftless" region, the soil is invariably good where the surface rock is limestone. In some of the valleys, however, where the lime-rock has been removed by erosion, leaving the underlying sandstone as the surface rock, the soil is sandy and unproductive, except in those localities where a large amount of alluvial matter has been deposited by the stream. The soils of the pine lands of the north of the State, are generally sandy and but slightly fertile. However, where pine is replaced by maple, oak, birch, elm and basswood, the soil is "heavier" and very fertile, even to the shores of Lake Superior.
The same natural conditions that make Wisconsin an agricultural State, determined that during its earlier years the main interest should be grain-growing. The fertile prairie covering large portions of the southern part of the State had but to be plowed and sowed with grain to produce an abundant yield. From the raising of cereals the pioneer farmer could get the quickest returns for his labor.
There is the same struggle for existence, and the same desire for grain the world over, and hence the various phases of development of the same industry in different civilized countries is mainly the result of the widely varying economical conditions imposed upon that industry. Land is thoroughly cultivated in Europe, not because the Europeans have any inherent love for good cultivation, but because their land is scarce and costly, while labor is superabundant and cheap. In America, on the other hand, and especially in the newer States, land is abundant and cheap, while labor is scarce and costly. In its productive industries each country is alike economical in the use of the costly element in production, and more lavish in the use of that which is cheaper. Each is alike economically wise in following such a course, when it is not carried to too great extremes. With each the end sought is the greatest return for the expenditure of a given amount of capital. In accordance with this law of economy, the early agriculture of Wisconsin was mere land-skimming. Good cultivation of the soil was never thought of. The same land was planted successively to one crop, as long as it yielded enough to pay for cultivation.
The economical principle above stated was carried to an extreme. Farming, as then practiced, was a quick method of land exhaustion. It was always taking out of the purse and never putting in. No attention was paid to sustaining the soil's fertility. The only aim was to secure the largest crop for the smallest outlay of capital, without regard to the future. Manures were never used, and such as unavoidably accumulated was regarded as a great nuisance, often rending necessary the removal of stables and outbuildings. Straw-stacks were invariably burned as the most convenient means of disposal of them. Wheat, the principal product, brought a low price, often not more than fifty cents a bushel, and had to be marketed by teams at some point from which it could be carried by water, as this was, at an early day, the only means of transportation. On account of the sparse settlement of the country, roads were poor, and the farmer, after raising and threshing his wheat, had to spend, with a team, from two to five days, marketing the few bushels that a team could draw. So that the farmer had every obstacle to contend with except cheap and fertile land, that with the poorest of cultivation gave a comparatively abundant yield of grain. Better tillage, accompanied with the use of manures and other fertilizers, would not, upon the virgin soils, have added sufficiently to the yield to pay the cost of applying them. Hence, to the first farmers of the State, poor farming was the only profitable farming, and consequently the only good farming, an agriculturo-economical paradox from which there was no escape.
Notwithstanding the fact that farmers could economically follow no other system than that of land-exhaustion, as described, such a course was none the less injurious to the State, as it was undermining its foundation of future wealth, by destroying the fertility of the soil, that upon which the permanent wealth and prosperity of every agricultural community is first dependent. Besides this evil, and together with it, came the habit of loose and slovenly farming acquired by pioneers, which continued after the conditions making that method a necessity had passed away. With the rapid growth of the northwest came better home markets and increased facilities for transportation to foreign markets, bring with them higher prices for all products of the farm. As a consequence of these better conditions, land in farms in the State increased rapidly in value. With this increase in the value of land, and the higher prices paid for grain, should have come an improved system of husbandry which would prevent the soil from deteriorating in fertility. This could have been accomplished either by returning to the soil, in manures and fertilizers, those ingredients of which it was being rapidly drained by continued grain-growing, or by the adoption of a system of mixed husbandry, which should include the raising of stock and a judicious rotation of crops. Such a system is sure to come. Indeed, it is now slowly coming. Great progress upon the earlier methods of farming have already been made. But so radical and thorough a change in the habits of any class of people as that from the farming of pioneers to a rational method that will preserve the soil's fertility and pay for the labor it demands, requires many years for its full accomplishment. It will not even keep pace with changes in those economical conditions which favor it. In the rapid settlement of the northwestern States this change has come most rapidly with the replacement of the pioneer farmers by immigrants accustomed to better methods of culture. In such cases the pioneers usually "go west" again, to begin anew their frontier farming upon virgin soil, as their peculiar method of cultivation fails to give them a livelihood. In Wisconsin as rapid progress is being made in the system of agriculture as, all things considered, could reasonably be expected. This change for the better has been quite rapid for the past ten years, and is gaining in velocity and momentum each year. It is partly the result of increased intelligence relating to farming, and partly the result of necessity, caused by the unprofitableness of the old method.
As has been before stated, Wisconsin is essentially a grain-growing State. This interest has been the principal one, not because the soil is better adapted to grain-growing than to general stock, or dairy farming, but rather because this course, which was at an early day most immediately profitable, has been since persistently followed from force of habit, even after it had failed to be remunerative.
The increase in the production of grain was very rapid up to 1870, while since that time it has been very slight. This rapid increase in grain raising is first attributable to the ease with which this branch of farming was carried on, upon the new and very rich soils of the State, while in the older States this branch of husbandry has been growing more difficult and expensive, and also to the fact that the war in our own country so increased the demand for grain from 1861 to 1866, as to make this course the most immediately profitable. But with the close of the war, came a diminished demand. Farmers were slow to recognize this fact, and change the character of their productions to accord with the wants of the market, but rather continued to produce the cereals in excess of the demand. The chinch bug and an occasional poor season seriously injured the crops, leaving those who relied principally upon the production of grain, little or nothing for their support. Hard times resulted from these poor crops. More wheat and corn was the farmer's usual remedy for hard times. So that more wheat and corn were planted. More crop failures, with low prices, brought harder times, until gradually the farmers of the State have opened their eyes to the truth that they can succeed in other branches of agriculture than grain growing, and to the necessity of catering to the demands of the market.
For about sixty years after the first settlement within the present limits of the county, farming was wholly confined to the "prairie," and the methods employed to carry it on were very primitive. "There was not," says James H. Lockwood, "at the time I came to Prairie du Chien [Sept. 16, 1816], any Indian corn raised there. The traders for the upper Mississippi had to send down for their corn which they used, to the Sauks and the Foxes at Rock Island, and trade with them for it. It is believed that the first field of corn raised at Prairie du Chien, was by Thomas McNair, an American, who had married a French girl and settled down to farming.
"The farmers of Prairie du Chien appeared to be a more thrifty and industrious people than those of Green Bay; they raised a large quantity of small grain, such as wheat, barley, oats, peas, and also some potatoes and onions. Every two or three farmers united and had a horse flouring-mill; the stones being cut from the granite rock found in the country. There they ground their wheat, and sifted the flour by hand. The surplus flour was sold to the Indian traders for goods, or exchanged with the Indians for venison, ducks and geese, or dressed deer-skins, as there was no money in circulation in the country. Any purchase made was payable in goods from the traders or flour from the inhabitants.
"The manner in which the traders dealt with the farmers was this; to let the farmer set his price on anything that he had to sell, without grumbling or saying anything about its being high, as it was payable in goods; the trader charging his price for the goods --- so each party got all he asked, and neither had cause for complaint, but of course the trader was not the loser by the transaction. Mr. Michael Brisbois related to me a transaction which took place between himself and a farmer by the name of Pierre Lariviere. This Lariviere was ambitious to pass with his neighbors for the best farmer in the country, and went to Mr. Brisbois to see what he was paying for flour, which I think was then six dollars per 100 pounds; but Lariviere, desirous of the opportunity of boasting to his neighbors that he had gotten more for his flour than they did, expressed a wish that Mr. Brisbois would pay him more than the market value for his flour, which Mr. Brisbois told him he could not do. "Oh," said Mr. Lariviere, "you can make it up by charging more for the goods with which you pay me;" and so they closed the bargain, not to Mr. Brisbois' loss. The prices compared somewhat like this: When flour was worth $8 per 100 pounds, hyson or young hyson tea was worth $8 per pound; if flour was worth only $6, tea would remain the same price; when the farmer got $9 per bushel for onions and $1 per dozen for eggs, he paid the above price for tea.
"The women of Prairie du Chien, mostly daughters of the Indian traders, had been raised in the habit of drinking a great deal of tea in the Indian country, where other beverage for children could not be procured, and it thus became, from long habit with them, almost a necessary of life, and they would make any sacrifice to obtain their favorite beverage. When eggs were worth $1 per dozen, rosin soap was worth $1 per pound, and calico, that at this date would be sold at Prairie du Chien from twenty to twenty-five cents per yard, was then sold at $2 per yard; clay pipes at forty cents each, and common tobacco at about $2 per pound. So much flour was made at Prairie du Chien at this time, that, in 1820, Joseph Rolette contracted with the government for supplying the two companies of troops at Fort Crawford with it, they preferring the coarse flour of the prairie, which was sweet, to the fine flour transported in keel boats in the long voyage from Pittsburg, which would be sour on its arrival.
"There were on the prairie about forty farms cultivated along under the bluffs where the soil was first rate, and enclosed in one common field, and the boundaries generally between them marked by a road that afforded them ingress and egress to their fields; the plantations running from the bluffs to the Mississippi, or to the slough of St. Ferriole, and from three to five arpents wide. The owners did not generally live immediately on their farms, but clustered together in little villages near their front, and were much the same description of inhabitants as those of Green Bay, except that there were a number of families of French extraction, entirely unmixed with the natives who came from the French villages of Illinois. The farmers' wives, instead of being of the Indian tribes about, were generally of the mixed blood. They were living in Arcadian simplicity, spending a great part of their time in fishing, hunting, horse racing or trotting, or in dancing or drinking. They had little or no ambition for progress or improvement, or in any way bettering their condition, provided their necessities were supplied, and they could often collect together and dance and frolic. With these wants gratified, they were perfectly satisfied to continue in the same routine and habits of their forefathers before them. They had no aristocracy among them except the traders, who were regarded as a privileged class.
"Joseph Rolette, in connection with the Indian trade, carried on farming, after the fashion of the country, pretty extensively. Michael Brisbois, besides being a trader, carried on the business of baking and farming to some extent, receiving of the inhabitants 100 pounds of flour and giving in return tickets for fifty loaves of bread, and these tickets made a convenient change to purchase trifles from the Indians. None of the inhabitants pretended to make their own bread, but depended entirely upon the bake house. Jean Baptiste Faribault did something in the line of Indian trade and carried on a small farm, but soon after left the prairie to reside on the St. Peter's river."
The following extract from a publication by the late Alfred Brunson, gives truthfully the first avocations of the "greater portion of the original settlers:"
"The greater portion of the original settlers here, came to the country as hunters, traders or employes, and taking wives of the natives, commenced farming upon a small and primitive scale, while they also hunted, trapped and voyaged, as occasions occurred. They probably raised their bread, vegetables and some meat, while their skins and furs bought their clothing, and what else they needed out of the store."
The general formation of the country is hilly. Some portions of our original county (including what is now Crawford, Vernon, La Crosse, etc.,) is level, but more of it undulating. The level portions of it are at the heads of the largest streams, where it is apt to be swampy and marshy. Near the Mississippi the hills, or bluffs, rise in some places 500 feet above the river; but as you ascend the streams the hills lessen down to a gentle undulation on the small streams, and to a level or marsh and swamp on the larger ones. In the present limits of the county the land is generally hilly or rolling. The level or marshy portions are on the margins or bottoms of the great rivers. The whole of the original, as well as the present county, abounds in streams of pure water, and abundance of water power. The purity of the waters in the smaller streams and lakes --- those that are fed entirely from springs --- may be judged of from the fact that they abound with speckled trout. But those larger streams, which rise in swamps and marshes, many of them being tamerack swamps, show the effects thereof in the highly colored state of the water.
The prairie region extends from the Wisconsin, north, by a width of from thirty to fifty miles from the Mississippi, to within ten miles of Lake Superior at its western extremity, with sufficient timber for farming purposes the most of the way. Between the Black and Chippewa rivers, on the present mail route, the timber is too scarce to encourage a general settlement; but along the river hills, and also east of the mail route, timber is more abundant. East of the Kickapoo, and on the headwaters of the St. Croix, Chippewa and Black rivers, and on the western branches of the Wisconsin, all within the original county of Crawford, there is no lack of timber; indeed, it is generally a dense forest of pine, mixed with hard wood. Within the present limits of the county, except a dense forest on the east side of the Kickapoo, the county is divided between prairie and timber, and open woodland, so that no portion of it can suffer for want of timber; and except along the precipitous bluffs of the river, there is but little waste land. It can mostly be ploughed, grazed, or kept for timber, and is not more uneven than some of the best cultivated portions of western Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio, along the Ohio river.
The general character of the soil is good; within the present limits of Crawford county, in Bad Ax, La Crosse, the western portions of Chippewa, and southern parts of St. Croix, it may be considered as first rate. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how it can be improved. Further east and north, when you reach the pine region, the soil becomes of less value, except in places where the pine does not grow.
The soil in that portion of the country first named is mostly a vegetable mould, formed from the decay of vegetable matter, or its ashes, when burnt over. It is mixed with sand sufficiently to give it warmth; and this seems to increase as we go north, showing that nature, or nature's God has provided against the vicissitudes of the climate. The poorer soils spoken of are, in the pines too sandy, and in the marshes too wet, and in a few instances a cold clay.
Of the crops and the general yield, it would be difficult for me to speak, because I have not sufficient data. Much depends on the mode of cultivation and the season; 50, 40, 30 and 20 bushels of wheat to an acre have been raised. So far as I know, 30 of wheat, 50 of corn and oats, and from 100 to 200 bushels of potatoes, are considered an average crop.
In the cranberry marshes, which are found at the head of the larger streams, the crops in good seasons are said to average several hundred bushels per acre.
Of the manner of cultivation, and of its defects, I can say but little. The old French settlers, when the Americans first came among them, wrought things as their fathers did 200 years before.
To yoke oxen, they tied a pole across the backs of their horns. They had no wagons, and their one-horse carts were without tires, boxes or skeins on the axles. They usually put in only spring crops. Their wheat, oats, barley and peas were sown on the ground with no other preparation than burning off the weeds, stubble and grass of the last years growth, and ploughed in --- the ploughing being usually in the same direction --- no crossing and no manuring.
The ground cultivated was in a narrow strip at the foot of the bluffs, where was the best soil, say from forty to eighty rods wide, and enclosed in one common field from five to seven miles long, having but one fence on the west side and across each end, the bluffs on the east answering for a fence on that side. The corn planted was of the early Indian variety, which ripens in the early part of September, yielding from thirty to fifty bushels per acre, according to the mode of cultivation. The wheat, oats, barley and peas being harvested in August, and the corn in September; the field was usually thrown open in October, as soon as the potatoes were gathered, as common pasture. If wood was scarce in the ensuing winter, or before the ice became good for procuring it from the islands and bottom lands of the river, most likely the fence would be used in their stores, being dry, and the place of the rails would be supplied before spring by new and green ones. These annual changes of the rails rendered it of little consequence whether they were made of oak, ash, maple or willow, the three latter being usually the easiest obtained, composed the most of the fencing material of the farm.
The grain cradle was not known here until the arrival of Americans, the scythe and sickle being the only instruments used for that purpose. The French bind their grain with willow withes to this day. In other respects, they have availed themselves of the improvements introduced by the American immigrants, and some of them are now among our best farmers.
Most of the new inventions for ploughs, harvesters and threshing machines are now in use.
The markets are good, and also the facilities for reaching them. From the earliest settlement of the country the military and Indian departments, including the fur trade, always furnished a good market for our surplus produce until a short time since, when the amount produced has been greater than the demand from that source. To supply the deficiency, the lumber trade since 1838 has kept the demand more than equal to the supply; add to this the demand growing out of the immigration, so that hitherto the demand for every thing, except wheat, in the two last years, has much more than equalled the home supply. And our prospects for a market are good for a long time to come in our own country, and nearly at our own doors. The lumber trade, the Indian trade and annuities, the military posts at the north and west of us, together with the continued tide of emigration; to which may also be added the mining interests; all together bid fair to consume the most of our surplus produce, except, perhaps, wheat.
Within two or three years past, the produce of wheat has been larger than the demand in the country. But the facilities for transportation by steamboat on the Mississippi has supplied us with a market in St. Louis. Our merchants purchased the wheat, cleaned it thoroughly, had sacks made of coarse domestic cotton, holding over a bushel each, and sent it to St. Louis, where its superior quality and clean state commanded the highest price, making it profitable for both the producer and the merchant.
The opening of the navigation of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers, already gives us a choice of markets, between St. Louis and the lakes, for all we have to spare over and above the up river and home demand. And if, as is expected, the Milwaukee & Mississippi railroad should reach the river, we should have an additional facility for reaching an eastern market. Nor will it make much difference, if any, whether the road reaches that river at this point or not, so far as the surrounding country is concerned. The road must reach the river somewhere, but if not, some other one will, within a short distance, by steam; so that before our surplus produce gluts the market on this great river, we shall have the double facility of steam-boat and railroad whereby to reach an eastern market, and that too at but a trifling expense. As it is well known that the average of our crops exceed that of the eastern part of our State, after deducting the expense of reaching the lake, we shall have equal, if not greater profit per acre than will our more eastern neighbors.
Our stock is that which is most common to the country. We have no animals of special note, unless it is pony breed of horses; and not many of them. Our early French settlers came to the country by water, and in bark canoes or Mackinaw boats, and could not bring with them the real Canadian or Norman horse. Indeed I do not remember of seeing one of that breed in this country. If there is one or more, they must have come by land from some States bordering on lower Canada. The original stock of horses here probably came from the south and west, and were from the stock introduced by the Spanish into Mexico, Santa Fe, etc., and from thence spread among the Indians. Carver mentions an expedition of the Winnebagoes towards Santa Fe, and the capture of eighty horses at one time, which they brought home with them. The French settlers here may have obtained horses from their brethren at Kaskaskia, or in Missouri. But in either case they were originally obtained, most probably, from the Indians to the south and west of them.
The present breed of horses or ponies are not generally of an extraordinary character. Only a few very great travelers have been found among them. I have, however, seen one of but moderate size, which is said to have traveled before a light train on the ice, from Mount Trempeleau to this place, 120 miles, between sunrise and sundown, in February, and that without any visible injury. But whether any of such bottom can be now obtained, I am unable to state. Our stock of horses has greatly improved of late from immigrants.
The horned cattle in this country originally came from the States of Illinois and Missouri, and were not of the first quality. Some few of good quality were obtained from the droves brought up, but generally they were of the ordinary character. Immigration has lately brought some of good quality among us, but I know of none of the imported breeds of the day, though, no doubt, we have some of mixed bloods, which are quite valuable.
Sheep have done remarkably well, so far as they have been tried; they are very hardy, and produce good and heavy fleeces. To show their hardiness and the adaptation of the climate to their growth, I will give the following fact: In 1837 a drove of sheep was brought to this place for slaughter. One of them, a wether, strayed from the flock and took up its abode in the hills east of this prairie, and within three fourths of a mile of my house, and strange to tell, but nevertheless true, he escaped notice of men, dogs and wolves, through two winters, and was discovered and killed in the spring of 1839, in good eating order. His hoofs were so worn by traveling over the rocks, that they were but square stubbs. We know that he must have strayed from the said flock, because there had been at that time no other such drove on the prairie, from which he could have strayed. At this time there are a few small flocks of sheep which do exceedingly well, and show, most conclusively, that our hilly and healthy country is well adapted to raising them on a large scale. I have never heard of any disease among them.
As for hogs, we have some Berkshires, but they have become so mixed and crossed with other kinds, that but few of them can be distinguished. Poultry of all kinds do well.
The adaptation of the country to grazing, as compared with tillage, is a question I am not as well prepared to decide as are those of more experience. A few facts, however, may serve to show the grazing qualities of the country. The French here who usually own large droves of horses, seldom, and some of them never, feed them in winter, except such as they use; and, in the spring they are in tolerable order. In our low bottoms and ravines where the wild grasses grow high and rank, they are sometimes beaten down by the fall rains and snow; in which case the snow usually covers a large quantity of green substance which the horses reach by pawing away the snow, if snow there is. If the grass is not beaten down by the snow, but stands up and reaches above it then they eat off the tops. And what is remarkable in this country, this dry grass, reaching above the snow, is eaten with avidity by the horses; and from the fact that they keep in good order on it, it must have considerable nutrition in it, even in that dead and dry condition.
There are, however, other means of grazing in the country. On some of the islands and river bottoms, there are not only thickets of underbrush on which the animals browse, but rushes abound in many places, on which horses and cattle will even thrive through the winter. These rush beds are not very numerous; they abound most in thickly timbered regions where the wild grass is thin, or does not grow at all. In the winter of 1842-3, when the hay failed at the falls of the Chippewa, the cattle not wanted for immediate use were driven to, and watched in the rush bottoms.
In the same winter a party of us voyaging with horses through Lake Superior and back, our hay and oats having failed, we were obliged to resort to the rushes on which our horses subsisted three days before we reached the settlement.
The quality of our prairie hay is said to be better than the same article further south. Those who have lived in the southern parts of Illinois and Missouri say that they can winter cattle easier in this region than in the former places. They think the grass here makes more substantial hay, probably from not being so much drenched in the summer by rains.
But a principal reason why cattle can be easier wintered is the character of our winters. We are not one day in mud and wet snow, nor being drenched with rain, and the next day frozen with icicles. Cattle, under such sudden and repeated changes, cannot do as well as with us, where but few changes occur, probably not more than one or two, and sometimes not one through the whole winter. Dry snow, and dry cold weather, even if somewhat severe, when it comes on gradually and is uniform, does not effect man or beast as does the contrary kind of weather. If it requires much labor to provide a winter's stock of povender, we have good health and physical strength to perform it, and we are satisfied to work if we have health, rather than get along without it, and shake half the year with the ague and fever. If our cattle cost us more to raise and keep, they bring a better price when raised than do those that come up themselves in sickly regions.
As between grazing and tillage, I think there is but little to choose if either is to be pursued by itself. But both together is certainly preferable; because the straw and stalks from tillage go far in wintering cattle, which would be a loss if we had no cattle to eat them.
Of dairies we cannot say a great deal, having but few; but we could say much in favor of their establishment. What few dairies we have are on a small scale, but have been and are very profitable, and would, no doubt, be more so on a larger scale. I have already stated the facility we have for raising and wintering cattle; these, of course, are necessary to a dairy, and so far it is an encouragement. The next, and indeed the great question is, as to the market for the products of the dairy and of this, let facts answer. The most of the cheese consumed in our mines, our pineries and on this entire frontier, is made on the Western Reserve in Ohio, and transported 2000 miles by the rivers; and having changed hands several times, each of which must have some profit to pay for freight, storage, commission, etc., the price realized by the producer cannot equal more than half the cost to the consumer. Having lived myself on that reserve, and having some knowledge, by experience, of the cost of clearing land, and getting it into grass, the crops obtained, etc., I am certain that cattle can be raised and kept in this region for one-half the expense necessary to be incurred for the same purpose in that country; and, of course, if the products of the dairy here equal the products there, per head of cattle, and the producer here realizes no more than the producer does there, the business must be much more profitable here than there; but if the producer here realizes double what the producer does there, and that too at one-half the expense for raising and keeping cattle, then the business is proportionately more profitable. The only difference and the only drawback in this country to this business is the difference in the wages of hired help. But the difference in costs and prices in favor of this country will more than balance the difference in wages.
The extent of our horticultural experiments are but limited. That the country is adapted to the growth of fruits is evident from the fact that the wild fruits indigenous to this climate are very abundant; such as crab apple, plums of some dozen or twenty varieties, grapes, cherries, currants, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and several other varieties.
The French who first settled Detroit planted apple trees, pear trees and various other kinds of fruits, and, judging from the fact, I expected to find such trees in abundance in this region. But in this I was disappointed; finding of their planting but a few apple trees, and these of an indifferent quality.
About the year 1830 Gen. Street, the Indian agent, brought a lot of apple trees from Kentucky to this place, and set them out on a lot at the north end of this prairie. They have had but little care and are natural fruit, yet they have grown well and are very fruitful when not injured by the frost. In 1838 I procured fifty grafted fruit trees from Kentucky, the nearest place from which I could then procure them. But the distance of transportation and change of climate must have affected them. Furthermore, the warmth of the steamboat caused them to bud in the moss in which they were done up, so that but four or five of them lived. I have since tried seedlings of this country's growth, and though I have had bad luck, the mice and careless ploughman injuring the trees, yet there are some fine and very promising orchards in the country. What is wanted is a nursery in the country, so that the trees will become acclimated, and there can be no doubt but that apples, pears and plums will do as well as in any country as far north as this.
As for peaches our hopes and prospects are not so flattering. In 1846 I had twenty peach trees, which, in March, showed buds for as many bushels of fruit; but a severe frost in April killed them down to the very roots. A neighbor of mine had beat me, in that he had thirty or forty bushels of the fruit the season before, and had hopes of 100 at the time, but his shared the fate of mine, or nearly so. A few sprouted and made a great effort to live. We could raise peaches here if we could prevent the sap from starting before the late severe frosts in the spring. I do not agree with the theory that hard freezing before the sap has started kills these trees. For forty years I have watched these trees in the west, and I have never been satisfied that either the fruit or the tree has been injured by the frost before the sap starts in the spring. But invariably if the sap has started, and is followed by a black frost, that is, something harder than a mere white frost, the fruit, if not the tree, is killed.
Various remedies have been tried and recommended for this evil --- a northern declivity, covering the roots with straw when the ground is frozen, etc. But the best, as I think, is engrafting the peach upon the wild plum. The plum , we know, seldom fails of bearing fruit on account of frost, because it is late in putting forth its sap; and if the peach top is dependent on the plum root for sap it cannot get it, nor start its buds, until the plum root, according to the law of its nature, gives it. And as that period is so late, the frost usually does not injure the plum, neither can it injure the peach. Another advantage of this mode of grafting is, that the worm has sometimes killed the peach by goring its roots; but that occurrence, as far as I know, never happened to the plum.
The raising of peaches in this climate is a desideratum of which most persons despair. It is laid to the climate; but in this I think they are mistaken. Lower Canada, Vermont, New York, northern Pennsylvania, Ohio, and I think Michigan, once were favored with abundance of this delicious fruit. In 1812, when I first emigrated to northern Ohio, those farms which had been long enough cleared to have peaches on them abounded in this fruit, and the trees and fruit continued to grow and do well until about the year 1830, when the late spring frosts began to kill, not merely the fruit, but the trees themselves. And what is singular, the frost took those in the valleys in one year, and those on the hills in another; until, in 1836, when I left that country, there were but a few peaches left, and from the newspapers I learn that since then this same cause has worked farther and farther south, until fears are entertained of the loss of this fruit as far as Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Now, from all this, the evil appears to be in the changes of the seasons and not in the climate. The climate in the same place must be the same. But seasons have changed and rechanged since the settlement of America, and favorable seasons may yet come round to us again in this matter.
The Crawford County Agricultural Society was organized Sept. 30, 1871, with a capital of $250. The following is a list of officers since its organization to and including 1884: President, North Miller; secretary, C. D. Lompart; treasurer, Dennis Bell.
List of officers for the year 1872: President, John M. Gay; secretary, C. D. Lompart; treasurer, Richard Wollin.
List of officers for the year 1873: President, North Miller; secretary, C. D. Lompart; treasurer, Richard Wollin.
List of officers for the year 1874: President, North Miller; secretary, C. D. Lompart; treasurer, Richard Wollin.
List of officers for the year 1875: President, L. A. Bonney; secretary, Fergus Mills; treasurer, Richard Wollin.
List of officers for the year 1876: President, Gilbert Stuart; secretary, Fergus Mills; treasurer, James Smith.
List of officers for the year 1877: President, Gilbert Stuart; secretary, Fergus Mills; treasurer, D. W. Briggs.
List of officers for the year 1878: President, North Miller; secretary, Fergus Mills; treasurer, Richard Wollin.
List of officers for the year 1879: President, Edward Garvey; secretary, J. K. Longdon, treasurer, D. W. Briggs.
List of officers for the year 1880: President, Edward Garvey; secretary, A. B. Withee; treasurer, D. W. Briggs.
List of officers for the year 1881: President, Edward Garvey; secretary, George Dean; treasurer, James Smith.
List of officers for the year 1882: President, Robert Morris; secretary, A. B. Withee; treasurer, James Smith.
List of officers for the year 1883: President, James Smethurst; secretary, A. B. Withee; treasurer, James Smith.
List of officers for the year 1884: President, James Smethurst; secretary, A. B. Withee; treasurer, James Smith.
The grounds of the society are located on the southwest quarter of section 10, adjoining the village plat of Seneca on the east; the area, nine and three-fourths acres. The grounds were purchased of Samuel P. Langdon by the society in 1872, and in the fall of that year a fair was held thereon, but the first fair of the society was held in the village of Seneca, in the fall of 1871, on grounds near Kane's hotel. The amount of property belonging to the society at this time (1884) is valued at about $600. Fairs are held in the fall, in September or October, the twelfth annual one being holden on the 25th, 26th and 27th of September, 1883.
Article I. The name of the society shall be "The Crawford County Agricultural Society." Its object shall be to promote the Agricultural, Horticultural Mechanical and Household Arts.
Article II. The society shall consist of such citizens of this and other States as may signify their intention to become members, and on subscribing not less than $1, and annually thereafter $1.
Article III. The officers of this society shall consist of a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, who shall constitute the executive committee. Also a general committee shall be appointed, consisting of one member from each town in the county.
Article IV. It shall be the duty of the secretary to keep the minutes and have charge of books of the society. Also to carry on the correspondence with other societies, with individuals, and with the executive committee in furtherance of the objects of the society. The treasurer shall keep the funds of the society, and disburse the same on the order of the president or vice president, countersigned by the secretary, and shall make a report of the receipts and expenditures at the annual meeting. The executive committee shall have charge of all the property transmitted to or belonging to this society, and shall have charge of all communications designed for publication and so far as they may deem expedient shall arrange and publish the same. The general committee are charged with the interest of the society in the towns where they respectively reside.
Article V. There shall be an annual meeting of this society on the fair grounds at 2 o'clock P.M., on the second day of the fair, for the purpose of electing the officers of the society, who shall assume the offices to which they were elected on the first day of January following. The general committee shall be appointed by the executive committee. The executive committee shall have power to fill any vacancies that may occur in the offices of the society. Special meetings may be called by the executive committee after giving proper notice of not less than ten days, stating the day, hour and place of said meeting. Seven members shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
Article VI. The society shall hold its annual fair at such time and place as it shall designate.
Article VII. This constitution may be amended or altered by a vote of two thirds of the members present at any annual meeting.
Article I. The fair grounds shall be located within five miles of the geographical center of Crawford county.
Article II. The annual meeting of the society shall be held at Seneca on the last Saturday of November of each year, at 1 o'clock P. M.
Article III. There shall be a vice president elected from each town in the county, and one from the city of Prairie du Chien, who shall constitute a general committee.
Article IV. There shall be an officer elected annually, styled general superintendent, whose duty it shall be to oversee the division superintendents and see that each department has a superintendent.
Rule 1. All competitors living within ten miles of the fair grounds, must enter their names upon the secretary's book, and have the article or animal on the ground by 5 o'clock P. M. on the first day of the fair. All articles and animals must remain on the ground until 4 o'clock P. M. of the last day of the fair, unless removed by permission of the president.
Rule 2. The judges will be on the ground promptly at 10 o'clock A. M. on the second day of the fair and answer to their names and proceed to the discharge of their duties. Three will constitute a quorum. The superintendents will fill vacancies in their respective divisions. Judges are required to report in writing, and notice in detail all entries in their respective classes, stating the merit of each. The object of this society is improvement in its various branches, and this will not be attained if mention is made only of the most worthy articles. It is hoped that judges will keep this in mind. Judges may withhold premiums when, in their estimation, articles are not worthy. Judges will hand their reports, properly signed, to their respective superintendents at as early an hour as possible after the decisions have been rendered. A majority must sign. Superintendents will see that the judges pass no article unnoticed in their divisions.
Rule 3. The secretary will furnish each entry with a card numbered to correspond with the number on entry book, which must be attached to the article, and judges making their report will be governed by number instead of name of exhibitor.
Rule 4. No exhibitor, or his agent, will sit as a judge in the class in which he exhibits. Any article or animal competing for more than one premium must pay additional entry fee, nor will any article or animal be allowed to compete for more than one premium, except as part of a collection.
Rule 5. Judges' report must be made to the superintendent of the department. No premiums will be paid except on reports duly signed by the proper superintendents and judges, and the proper officers are authorized and instructed not to pay premiums until they are satisfied that all the rules and regulations have been complied with; it is therefore necessary that judges report as required.
Rule 6. Competition is only open to manufacturers of Crawford county, except for farm machinery and arts.
Rule 7. Canned fruit, etc., except wine must have been put up the present season.
Rule 8. The same animal after arriving at maturity, and having taken first premiums for two consecutive seasons in the same class, shall not be allowed to compete for a regular premium afterwards.
Rule 9. Farm products must have been raised the present season by the exhibitor to entitle to premium. Forage will be furnished to animals on exhibition free of charge. Stock cows must show offspring to entitle to premium. Brood mares must show a sucking colt. All animals entered as full bloods, must show pedigrees full blood, to compete with full bloods, grades with grades, natives with natives. Animals entering for trial, time to be test, distance and time of test to be arranged by the superintendents and judges. Butter, cheese, bread, cake, etc., must be tested by the judges. Superintendents will see that no others molest any article in their respective classes, except by permission of exhibitor. Teams will be allowed on the grounds if properly secured.
Rule 10. When articles are entered which are not on the premium list, the judges may award such articles premiums if, in their judgment, such articles are worthy of it; which premium shall not exceed the regular premium in their respective classes.
Rule 11. Entry fee twenty per cent. of premium. Price of membership tickets $1, and entitles the purchaser to a vote at all meetings of the society, and admits a gentleman and lady, or a man and his wife, or all of their unmarried children under twenty-one years of age, during the entire fair, and is not transferable. Children under fifteen years of age and not belonging to families holding tickets will be charged fifteen cents per day. Persons holding single day tickets will not be granted a pass, except from 11 o'clock A. M. to 2 o'clock P. M.
Any person not included in the above regulations, will be charged twenty five cents per day.
As far as is practicable the premiums will be paid at the close of the fair.
Rule 12. All teams of horses, herds of cattle, sheep or swine, or collection of canned fruit or any other article must be owned by the person who enters it.