« PreviousContinue »
and drive teams, attached to rough mud-sleds, which were loaded with flour to be delivered in Wahpokenetta; and in the next summer (1816), his employers built boats to carry the flour down the Auglaize River to old Fort Defiance, thence down the Maumee to the lake and into Canada, and in the venture lost both time and money." "The price of labor was 50 cents a day, which was also the wages of a hand in the harvest field. A good farm hand could be hired from $8 to $10 a month." In 1880, wheat hauled to Dayton sold for 37i cents a bushel. In 1879, the average price for the year was $1.07.
The swine of the early settlers, compared with the hogs of 1880, would present as wide a contrast as it is possible to conceive. Whatever the breed may have previously been or called, running wild, as was customary, the special breed was soon lost in the mixed swine of the country. They were long and slim, long-snouted and long-legged, with an arched back, and bristles erect from the back of thehead to the tail, slab-sided, active and healthy; the " sapling-splitter" and "razor back, " as he was called, was ever in the search for food, and quick to take alarm. He was capable of making a.heavy hog, but required two years or more to mature, and, until a short time before butchering or marketing, was suffered to run at large, subsisting mainly as a forager, and in the fall fattening on the "mast." Yet this was the hog for a new country whose nearest and best markets were in Cincinnati and Baltimore, to which places they were driven on foot. Persons then, as now, engaged in the purchase and driving of swine or cattle as a special occupation, and, by means of trustworthy agents, visited distant sections to buy up large droves. Judge John Reynolds, in connection with his other enterprises, was also a stock-dealer. It was not uncommon to see a drove of hogs driven into the public square to be weighed, preparatory to starting them on their long journey. As each porker was caught, it was thrust into a kind of leather receptacle, commonly the harness breeching, which was suspended to steelyards. As soon as the hog was fairly in the breeching, the whole was lifted from the ground, and thus, one by one, the drove was weighed and a minute made of each, and, with a pair of shears, a patch of bristles was cut from the hindquarters as evidence of the fact that the pig had been weighed. Two or three days' drive made the hogs quiet enough to be driven along the highway without trouble, moving along at an average gait of eight to ten miles a day. Much difficulty was experienced in keeping together in herds the hogs bought in distant and sparsely-settled neighborhoods, where they were but little handled and rarely fed. The highways, even when well-opened, led through hazel brush and fallen timber, and even down to a late day, rarely fenced on both sides. Every strange sight and sound gave an alarm, and the hogs scattered in every direction, to be gathered together again at their former haunts. This difficulty was obviated, we are informed, by Mr. John Earsom, an old settler, who was engaged in collecting hogs from distant settlements into one drove, by enticing them into a pen and then running a " stitch" through the eyelids and securing by a knot. Thus blinded, the hogs seemed instinctively to keep the road, and once started, could easily be driven by a person on horseback. Two or three days' drive made them comparatively quiet and tractable, and, reaching their destination a clip of the scissors or knife made all things right again. Another pioneer adds to this statement that, in order to catch the hogs, shelled corn was trailed from the brush into a strong rail pen, having a "slip-gap." As soon as the hogs were in the pen, the gap was closed, and, by means of a long pole with a hook on the end. which was made to catch behind the foreshoulder of the leg, the hog was drawn to a convenient place; a strap with a slip-noose, which was placed just behind the tushes of the upper jaw, drew the animal to the desired spot, when the stitches were made without further trouble and the brute then released.
Almost every farmer raised a few hogs for market, which were gathered up by drovers and dealers. The delivery of hogs began usually in September, and the business was carried on past the middle of winter. The price ranged in an early day at about $1.25 per 100 pounds, though at times running up to $3.25 or $3.50, with a fair margin after driving to Cincinnati or Baltimore. About 1840, the hog trade was brisk and speculation ran high. Mr. Andrew Wilson, Jr., then about twenty-two years of age, made a specialty for several years of buying up and driving herds of swine to distant markets, and was understood to have realized a handsome fortune in the trade, as fortunes then were counted, which afterward was lost in wilder speculation. Judge John Taylor [elsewhere spoken of in this sketch], about the same time was supposed to be hopelessly insolvent in consequence of some pecuniary ventures, but, as might have been expected of an old pioneer, he disregarded the importunities of his friends to avail himself of the law touching insolvent debtors, and entered the field as a buyer and drover of hogs. One or two seasons enabled him to pay the old score and lay the foundation for the competence of an honored old
age. In no stock of the farm have greater changes been effected than in the hog. From the characteristics of this wild animal, long-legged, slab-sided, roachbacked, muscular, tall, long, active and fierce, it has been bred to be almost as square as a store box, quiet as a sheep, taking on 250 pounds of flesh in nine or ten months. The swine no longer grows to be a hog, but goes to the butcher at not over a year old, and is a "pig." They are now ranked into distinctive breeds, which, so far as Champaign is concerned, has mainly narrowed to two— the Berkshire and the Poland-China—in the breeding of which the county seems to be the dividing line between the north and south parts of the State. In cattle and horses, Champaign for many years has claimed a high grade. Ex-Gov. Vance, in his association with the public men of the county, met with those who were taking an active interest in the improvement of stock, and at an early day brought into the county thoroughbred short-horns and horses. The result encouraged others to make like importations, and in a short time the breeding of thoroughbred stock—of horses, cattle, sheep and swine—was made a specialty by many. Of short-horn breeders, honorable mention may be made of Charles Lincoln, Rowland C. Moulton, Parker Bryan, Samuel Cheney and others; while farmers in every section of the county, engaged in breeding cattle for market, owned and kept a thoroughbred animal for use. Thirty to forty years ago, the breeding of cattle for feeding was carried on more extensively than to-day. The competition by reason of the occupation of immense tracts of the unoccupied Western territory, by persons owning immense herds of cattle, which may be fatted and shipped to market at four years old, at an average cost of $4 each, and the discrimination of railway companies in freights against the "local," or intermediate shipper, is rapidly driving the raising of fat cattle, as a business, out of this section. The discriminations made against dealers living along the line of a railroad, and in favor of great railroad centers, and the rebates made to shippers at certain shipping points, the tendency of which has been, and is, to operate in the interest of capital and against the small dealer more certainly than the competition furnished by Texas and the Western Territories, are gradually undermining this important trade. Whatever temporary advantage the policy pursued may give, we may reasonably hope that the pressure of public sentiment, or the force of a national law, may compel equitable rates of transportation on the part of an organization which threatens to be the overshadowing monopoly of the nation.
Under the act of the General Assembly of the State to authorize the organization of the residents of any county or district into societies for the improvement of agriculture, the required number of citizens met in Urbana in 1838, and in accordance with the act, organized the " Champaign County Agricultural Society." Unfortunately, the early records of the society have been lost, or, more probably, none were ever made, and the first minutes we find of its transactions date 1856.
It is difficult now to give the names of all who were directly concerned in the meeting called for the purpose of adopting a constitution and electing officers, and the proceedings of the first annual exhibit. Among those who took an active interest at that time were James C. Smith, John H. James, Philander B. Ross, Joel Funk, Joseph C. Brand, Lemuel Reynolds, A. F. Vance, John Thompson, Ed L. Morgan, William Patrick, Samuel Humes, Absalom Fox, Newton Harr, John Kemp, James A. Nelson, William McDonald, Abram Herr, Dr. Adam Mosgrove, James Rawlins, Perry G. Madden, Jesse Phillips, R. M. Woods, Matthew Stewart, J. Pence, D. Loudenback and many others from all parts of the county. Mr. William Vance was elected President, and John H. Jones, Secretary, William Ward and Samuel Keener, Vice Presidents, Smith Minturn, Treasurer, and John Reynolds, Abram Showers, Isaac Smith, John Enoch and Henry Van Meter, Managers. The first annual fair was comparatively an insignificant display of the stock and agricultural products of the county; but few fairs have been held since more productive of substantial good or which have elicited more general and enthusiastic interest. The horses and stock lined the fence on North Main, beyond the town limits, and the Court House yard was covered with the varied products of the farm.
Since that day, county agricultural societies have been organized throughout the State.
Champaign, in addition to the competition resulting from the associations of the counties adjoining on every side, has also found an active and enterprising competitor in a district fair, organized and conducted under private auspices, and holding their annual exhibit at Mechanicsburg, in Goshen Township. This association is entitled: "The Central Ohio Fair Association," a more detailed account of which will be found in the record of Goshen Township.
A general description of the physical geography of the county has already been given, in which notice was taken of the quantity and waste of timber. Many localities which a hundred years ago were bare of trees, have since been covered with a dense forest. The western portion of the county still retains a heavy growth of beech and other trees, the primeval forest but slowly and surely making way for the plowshare. Scarcely a division of the county can be found where the second growth, or "fallen timber," has not appeared. The barrens of Salem indicate a second growth. A story is told of a man who "entered" at the land office a tract of land lying in Salem, who afterward, learning that it was in the barrens, exchanged it for a tract of woodland, hardly worth a quarter of its value. On the Mechanicsburg pike, near the old St. George's Chapel, where Mr. James Fulton lives, and along through that quarter, was an open "barren" country, all of which was afterward covered with forest trees, of which large fields remain still. On the lower section of Dugan, on the farm lying at the junction of the Ludlow road and the Milford pike, the clumps of timber back some distance from the road have sprung up within the past fifty years. On the other hand, there has been a vast waste of timber, a hundred-fold greater than that of eighty years ago. Then there was an immense superabundance, and the difficulty was how to get rid of it, and in its stead make a fruitful field. To-day, the forest trees have a specific value, and the harvest goes on for the money that is in it, taking no thought of restoring the waste by a new growth, or of protection from storms or protecting growing crops. The theory that the denuding the land of its forests tends to diminish the rainfall and in the end impoverish the land, is not confirmed by the statements of Prof. Henry, of the Smithsonian Institution, after years of observation. Yet, though this be true, and Champaign still have an abundance of certain kinds of timber and to spare, still, as a matter of " dollars and cents," the present cutting joined with the total neglect of planting a new growth, the future will deem a great waste. Forty years ago, with an occasional corn-field or open plain, almost the entire road from the eastern city limits, beginning at the lands of John Kenaga and Joseph Eichelberger, was an unbroken forest to the county line; and a large part of this was unfenced. The past twenty years have cleared away many acres. The same may be said of almost every other quarter of the county. The black walnut, wild cherry and poplar were found in all sections—immense specimens of the latter in the western townships—all of which are being rapidly removed. In the woods, and along the highways, were found thickets of red and yellow wild plums, growing as large as the large domesticated blue plum of the garden, and equal to any; also a blue grape, of good size, remaining long on the vine, slightly musky in flavor, but considered a fine grape. Forty years ago, the fields abounded in wild strawberries of delicious taste and fragrance. Few were raised in gardens, or were made a special crop. The berries, compared with the fruit and varieties now found in the gardens, were small, but they were abundant, and Saturday found the schoolboy, with his tin pail, looking for the tempting fruit. The grapes and strawberries are no longer to be found. Here and there may be found a clump of wild plums, but of stunted growth and bearing a fruit inferior to that of the old settlement.
Efforts have been occasionally made to raise the wild plum, but without satisfactory results. The tree in the wild state grows in groves, and its wild nature has been overlooked. The plantings made have been single trees, and the treatment the same as other fruit trees, which may possibly explain the failures. In 1880, several bushels of wild plums were sold in the Urbana market, which shows that the " plum thickets " of the county are not altogether destroyed. The new settler fancied, and with some truth, that the highlands were the more healthful. The nearness of a spring generally dictated the place for the cabin. The latter was made from the timber growing on the ground. A clearing was then effected by chopping off the trees of the field intended for cultivation; and a larger " opening " begun by cutting a small kerf around the body of the trees, usually called the " deadening," and the neighbors, at a given time, with their oxen, met to drag the fallen logs into heaps for burning. Large portions of the county were heavily timbered, and many of these places were wet and miry. The shade trees and luxuriant growth of underbrush and vegetation prevented the rapid exhalation and escape of the rainfall, and the streams were kept constantly full, and the rains kept up a uniform supply. The rainfall of the past ten years will probably equal that of any decade, within the previous sixty years, but the effects are of no long continuance. A drought is felt much sooner than formerly. The pent-up waters which gradually oozed from the marshy flat, or percolated through the gravelly bank, have been liberated by the destruction of the trees, the diversion of the surplus water into new and few channels, and by means of underdrains, so that the rivulet in a few hours becomes a foaming brook, and the modest stream a torrent. There is as much effort and expense put forth to-day to get rid of the surplus water as the early pioneers employed to get rid of the trees, and a recent agricultural journal gravely asserted but a short time since that in the next century there will be more anxiety and labor employed to take the tile up than were had in putting them in place. Whatever the future may do, the course adopted is drying the land.
With the beginning of the century, there were no roads in Champaign. For years, what were called roads were little better than wagon tracks through the forest, and these were supposed to follow the Indian trails. The highway was wide enough for all necessary purposes, but, down to 1840, or later, the roads were execrable. The undrained country partly explains the cause. At certain times, when the ground was frozen and worn smooth, or dry and solid, no roads were better; but the proceeds of the road laws, in money or labor, were totally inadequate to keep them even in tolerable condition at the time most wanted, and only within recent years has it dawned into the minds of our road-makers that a good drainage is essential to a good road-bed. Fifty years ago, in every section of the county, the " corduroy" was found on every road. Corduroy was the name given to the roads made of rails placed crossways, 'through the soft and miry places. Occasionally the heavy teams, at this day, driving along the pike eastward from Urbana, will cut through the graveled crust and tear up fragments of the hidden "corduroy." At the present time, few, if any, counties of the State can boast better roads. A network of graveled pikes intersects every part of the county. These, in the aggregate, amount to 405 miles in length, and at a total cost of over $800,000, constructed on petition of parties interested in the proposed improvement, and paid for in installments, running through five years, by assessments on the real estate supposed to be benefited.
Of the history of Champaign County, as associated with the Indian tribes, little need be said. We have elsewhere spoken of the principal chiefs and tribes which made this section, prior to its occupation by the whites, and for some time after permanent settlements had been made, a hunting-ground and trading-point. Wigwams were found over the county, and the sites, and possibly the ruins, or many of them, are still pointed out. The Mack-a-cheek towns were in the bor ders of Logan, and the Piqua or Pickaway towns, in Clarke County. We are not aware that the territory was claimed by any one tribe.
The county presented a good hunting-ground, with an abundance of deer, wild turkeys, black bear and small game. An occasional deer or flock of wild turkeys was found as late as 1835. For some time after the close of the war of 1812, Indians made their annual hunting-camps in various parts of the county, remaining long enough to lay in their usual supply. In a few years,