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Copied from Harbaugh's 1909 History


Miami County Ohio

Chapter 14


-Primitive Farm Machinery of Pioneer Days-
Lack of Transportation Facilities
The Early Farmers Without Wagons
Improvements Gradually Introduced
First Crops Grown in Miami County - Livestock Easily Raised - Orchards Planted - The First Agricultural Society -
Miami Represented at the State Pomological Exhibtition in 1851 - Miami County Agricultural Society - Fair Grounds Purchased
Present Condition of the Society and Roster of Officers-
The Grange Movement - The Farmer's Institute -
Miami County Horticultural Society -
Farm Products of Miami County - Stock Breeding.

The pioneers of Miami County devoted themselves principally to agriculture. The majority were tillers of the soil and brought with them from their former homes the industrious habits that mark the successful farmer. Those who came from east of the Alleghanies had but little to learn in the wilderness of the Miami, while the immigrants from the South were largely cotton producers and not used to the sturdier system of farming which awaited them in the North. The southern pioneers soon adapted themselves to the habits of the new region and became, in time, the most progressive farmers of the earlyday. Many of the settlers brought with them the agricultural implements of the times. These were exceedingly primitive as compared with the improved farm machinery of the twentieth century. The wooden moldboard was then in existence, the grain was cut with the sickle and either flailed or tramped out in the first barns of the county. The progress made by the early agriculturist with his simple implements excites amazement now. He was handicapped in many ways, not only by a paucity of machinery, but the sore needs of good markets. The nearest places at which he could dispose of the produce of the little farm were Dayton and Cincinnati. His produdts had to be hauled to market by wagon or flat-boated down the Miami to the two places, then in their commercial infancy. Prices were low, but the farmer's needs were few and he was satisfied with the fruits of his labor. The few mills in the county gradually took up some of the produce, but it was usually set apart for home consumption. Boys were sent miles through the woods on horseback carrying sacks of grain to the pioneer mills and waiting there, sometimes for several days, till the grists were ground, when the return was made.

For a long time the early farmers were without wagons. Not all of them had brought wagons across the mountain barriers. Those who did not, built wagons of their own. These were stout affairs, fashioned from the sturdy trees of the forest, with heavy wheels and ponderous axles, with great beds and other strong accessories, enough to test the strength and endurance of the teams which drew them over the poor roads that irregularly bisected the county. With all the difficulties that beset him on every hand, the pioneer farmer got along very well. He widened the scope of his labors as his scant means permitted. He added to his agricultural domain, taking up the best land and, as his boys grew to manhood, farmed the whole of it.

In course of time the cabin which had graced the clearing gave way to a better habitation, a frame house with real glass in the windows and good carpets on the floors-the product of the weaver's looms of which a number sprang up in every township. It must be said that some of the first farmers were ingenious artisans, for not a few of the early farm houses are still standing. These structures were well built and quite roomy. Building material was cheap and always at hand. All that was needed was the labor, and that was ever ready. When the harvest was to be cut, the farmer found neighbors who stood ready to help get it in and the assistants were repaid in kind. As has been stated, the sickle was the first harvest implement, but the scythe soon followed it and this was considered a wonderful improvement in agricultural science. It took stout arms to sweep the scythe through the heavy grain that covered the Miami bottoms, and some of these scythe wielders became marvels in their way.

The principal kinds of grain produced at the dawn of local history were Indian corn, wheat, rye, oats and barley. Indian corn was to be found on every farm. It is said to have yielded from sixty to one hundred bushels per acre, but the average crop for the whole region was about forty-five. Wheat was raised almost as generally as Indian corn. Twenty-two bushels may be said to have been the average crop, though at times forty bushels per acre were produced. The bearded wheat with reddish chaff was preferred, as least liable to injury from the Hessian fly and weavel, two pests which were known in the county as early as 1815. The cultivation of rye was much more limited, as it was only employed in the distillation of whiskey and as provender for horses. For the former purpose it was mixed with Indian corn. Its average crop was about twenty-five bushels per acre. The common crop of oats was about thirty-five bushels, and that of barley thirty. The latter was not extensively cultivated before the erection of two large breweries at Cincinnati, into which the barley product of the county went.

Another thing raised by our first farmers was flax. A good many flax fields were to be seen and flax raising became quite an industry. It will be recalled that the Dilbones were working in their flax field when attacked and killed by Indians. Hemp was cultivated to some extent in the bottoms until a depression in price, when the raising of it was discontinued. The early meadows of the county were luxuriant and produced wonderfully. Timothy, red and white clover and spear-grass were cultivated. Timothy and clover then produced about two tons to the acre.

Farmed meadows were not used as pastures, because in the early stages of agriculture in the county the woods abounded in grass and herbage proper for the subsistence of cattle. The various prairies supported hogs, which grew and fattened on the fleshy roots, so that the raising of pork required no particular attention.

Some land in Miami County which today commands $100 per acre was originally purchased for twenty dollars per acre. In remote sections it could be had for ten dollars. An average for the settled portions of the county, supposing the land fertile and uncultivated, may be stated at eight dollars; if cultivated, at twelve. The alluvial or bottom lands commanded the best price. The dry and fertile prairies were esteemed of equal value. Next to these were the uplands supporting hockberry, pawpaw, honeylocust the sugar tree and different species of hickory, walnut, ash, buckeye and elm. Immediately below these in the scale of value was the land clothed in beech timber; while that which produced white and black oak chiefly commanded the lowest price of all. After the War of 1812, when immigration received a new impulse, the nominal value of farm land advanced from twenty-five to fifty per cent.

One of the first things that commanded the attention of the pioneer farmer after he had erected his cabin home and broken ground was the planting of an orchard. It was soon discovered that the apple would thrive in Miami County. Some of the immigrants had brought the infant trees with them and these were set out where it was thought they would thrive best. It was also found that peaches, pears, cherries and plums produced well in our climate and these were introduced to increase the fruit supply. It is not known whether that strange and harmless man called Johnny Appleseed ever reached the county domain, but doubtless people who obtained seed of him afterward settled here and thus added to the fruit production. In those days there were no traveling tree agents to supply the farmer with all sorts of "brush" consequently the first agriculturists were thrown upon their own resources in the way of orchard planting.

Until 1846 there had been no thought of an Agricultural Society. In fact the situation did not demand one. As the county advanced in agriculture the needs of an institution of this kind became apparent. In the year above mentioned the Troy Times published a call for the people to meet to discuss the proposition to form an agricultural society. This meeting was held in the office of John G. Telford at Troy. Many of the best known citizens of the county attended, and a good deal of enthusiasm was manifested. It was decided to organize a society and William Giffin, David H. Morris, William I. Thomas and William B. McClung were selected to draft a constitution and by-laws for the proposed organization A few days later, September 26, 1846, the committee reported; the report was followed by an organization and the following persons were elected officers of the first Miami County Agricultural Society: President, William I.Thomas; vice-presidents, William C.Knight, Cyrus Heywood, David Jenkins; corresponding secretary, D.H. Morris; recording secretary, G.D.Burgess; treasurer, Jacob Knoop; librarian, H.D.Stout; committee on agriculture, John Hamilton, chairman; Daniel Brown, James McCain, Zimri Heald and William Giffin.

The first article of the constitution announced that the association should be called the Miami County Agricultural Society, the second defined that the object of the society was "the circulation of general intelligence and practical instruction in all the branches of agriculture," by the establishment of a correspondence with other bodies seeking the same object, by procuring the most rare and valuable kinds of seeds, plants, shrubs and trees, by the establishment of exhibitions at which premiums shall be awarded for the improvements of soil, tillage, crops, manures, implements of husbandry, stocks, articles of domestic industry, and such other articles, productions and improvements as may be deemed worthy of encouragement; and the adoption of other means for the general circulation of knowledge on the subjects embraced by the Society.

It was also included in the Constitution that "any person may become a life member of the society by the payment of ten dollars into the treasury at any one time."

Substantially the by-laws of the society provide: That each member shall pay one dollar annually into the treasury, that no money shall be paid by the treasurer unless upon a written order of a majority of the directors, and that the society shall, in addition to annual meetings, hold three other meetings on the first Thursday of the months of December, March and June in each year for the purpose of hearing addresses, discussing questions and receiving reports on the several subjects embraced by the society. Subsequent to the adoption of the original constitution. and by-laws numerous changes have been made in the way of amendments. What has become of the library purchased by the first fair board I have not been able to discover, but it is probable that not many of the volumes are in existence.

Much interest was taken in the Agricultural Society by the people of the county. It was one of the first bodies of the kind in this part of the state. In 1851 the State Pomological Society exhibition was held in Cincinnati, at which Jacob Knoop represented the Miami County Agricultural Society, and Dr.Asa Coleman was the first person to represent the new society at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture which convened in December, 1850. Messrs. Knoop and Coleman were very enthusiastic members of the Society and did much to make it known beyond the county is borders.

In 1856 William Senior sold the fair board ground for the annual exhibitions of the Society and the price $1,520 was paid in three installments. The following year the society erected on its grounds a house for exhibition purposes and a year later adjoining counties were invited to compete with Miami at the Fair.

Set firmly on its feet by the energetic men who were at the head of it, the society made good progress. More ground was purchased from time to time and many improvements were made. The old grounds were situated on the vacant land in what is now the southeastern portion of the City of Troy, near the Miami River and the Miami & Erie Canal. The buildings on the grounds were poor and were soon found inadequate. In 1871 the present county fair grounds were laid out on land purchased by Mrs. E. McKaig and are now among the handsomest fair grounds in the state, being reached by steam and trolley lines and excellent turnpikes. Of late years much money has been spent in the beautifying of the grounds and for the convenience of the fair-going public. Some years ago the old manner of electing the directors was abolished and they are now chosen by the electors of the county at annual elections, two directors being elected from each township. The twenty-four directors constitute the fair board and elect the several officers of the Society.

The Miami County Agricultural Society, as constituted today, is the splendid outgrowth of the one established in 1846. It holds an annual fair which has become known everywhere, both for the variety and excellence of its exhibits and for other features not necessary to enumerate here. Its speed ring has gained commendable notoriety among fair goers. New buildings of modern convenience have been erected as the success of the fair demanded. The annual premium list of the Miami County Agricultural Society is large and well chosen and the character of the exhibits are second to none in the state. Following will be found the presidents, secretaries and treasurers of the county fair from its second year to date (the officers of the initial year being already given):


1849........William B. McClung.
1850........William B. McClung.
1850-51.....Dr. Asa Coleman.
1852-53.....William B. McClung.
1854-55.....S.K. Harter.
1856........W.H. Gahagan.
1857........W.H. Gahagan.
1858........W.H. Gahagan.
1859-60.....W.H. Gahagan.
1861........W.H.H. Dye.
1862........Isaac S. Sheets.
1863........W.B. McClung.
1864........W.B. McClung.
1865........W.B. McClung.
1866........W.B. McClungi.
1867........B.F. Brown.
1868........W.H. H. Dye.
1869-1871...W.B. McClung.
1874........J.W. Ross.
1878-1881...M.W. Hayes.
1882........Lewis Hayner.
1883........David DeWeese.
1884-5......F.B. McNeal
1886-7......D.C. Branson.
1888-9......W.B. Cox
1890........D.M. Coppock.
1894-9......Thomas B. Scott.
1900-7......W.F. Robbins.
1908........George A. Fry.


1849-53.....M.M. Manson.
1854-5......R.W. Furnas.
1856........George Morris.
1857-61.....C.W. Morris.
1862........C.T. Bear.
1863-65.....C.W. Morris.
1866-69.....W.H. Gahagan.
1870........J.W. Ross.
1871-4......S.R. Drury.
1875........F.M. Sterrett.
1876-8......W.A. R. Tenney.
1879-80.....A.M. Heywood.
1881-2......J.C. Chamberlain.
1882-1908...W.I. Tenney.


1849-53.....G.D. Burgess.
1854-55.....S.K. Harter.
1856-61.....B.S. Kyle.
1862-4......C.H. Culbertson.
1865-6......David Kelly-
1867-70.....C.H. Culbertson.
1S71........Frank Harter.
1872-3......S.E. Drury.
1874........S.D. Frank.
1875........Theodore Sullivan.
1876........Thomas Sullivan.
1877-8......Theodore Sullivan.
1879-85.....I.N. Price.
1886-93.....W.H. Alexander.
1894-7......John A. McCurdy.
1898-1904...D.M. Coppock.
1905-08.....John N. McDowell.

Some years ago the Grange movement began in the county and in a short time assumed great proportions. It at once interested the agricultural localities and granges were established in various seetiom. Store houses were set up, but, with one or two exceptions perhaps, these have been discontinued. There are now a number of thriving granges in the county and the meetings are largely attended. Charles M. Freeman, of Rex, P.O., has held the office of secretary of the National Grange for several years.

The Farmer's Institute is another important body of recent formation. This organization has done more to keep up the interest in county agriculture than anything yet started. It holds one or more meetings each year at which speakers of state and national reputation deliver addresses. It does not confine itself to any one locality, but meets at various points in two-day sessions. Theodore Rogers of Casstown is now president of the Farmer's Institute.

The Miami County Horticultural Society, B.B.Scarf, president, is another organization which of late years has done much good in it's particular line. It was formed to keep up an interest in horticultural matters and in this has been very successful. The importance of horticulture is constantly kept at the fore by the society and many of its discussions are published at length in the county newspapers. There are several nurseries and fruit gardens in the county, besides many berry raisers, and these work in conjuriction with the Horticultural Society. A large amount of berries are annually raised within the county for home consumption and foreign shipment and this branch of industry is yearly increasing, The soil of the county is peculiarly adapted to small fruit culture and the farmer is taking advantage of it. The farm products of Miami County are for the most part wheat, corn, oats, rye, hay and barley. Of late years the culture of tobacco has been introduced with much success. This commodity meets with ready sale and the farmer has added it to the sources of his income. At first tobacco was raised only west of the Miami, but of late years the farmers east of the river have taken up the culture of the weed and have profited thereby. The prediction that within a few years Miami will become one of the greatest tobacco producing counties of the state may be made with the utmost confidence.

Aside from general agriculture the farmers of the county have taken up the breeding of good stock as a side line. In the early sixties the first Jersey cattle were raised, on the Johnston farm near Piqua; Charles McCullough had one of the first brought to Troy. In 1876 N.H.Albaugh exhibited a pair of Holsteins at the Fair. Many years ago a sale of Durhams was held in Troy. Captain John Drury brought the first Morgan horse to the county seat, and about 1860 N. Smither had the first English draft horse brought into the county. The early 70's witnessed the arrival in the county of the first Norman horses. As early as 1847 Zimri Heald exhibited a lot of Merino sheep and for many years this breed was the only kind to be found in the county. At the public sale of, Durhams mentioned above a calf was knocked down for seventeen dollars. This price was then considered excessive and led one of the spectators to exclaim: "Why, that is more than we gave for our cow!" In 1847 cows in the county sold for from ten dollars to fifteen dollars. The reader may compare those prices with the ones that prevail now. Today the county is full of blooded stock, as is seen by the annual exhibits made by the farmers. In this respect agricultural Miami is the peer of any county in the State.

End of chapter 14
Harbaugh's 1909 History of Miami County Ohio

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