With some ditches dug and the water beginning to recede a bit, more ground gets planted. But we are not out of the woods—ahem– water yet. The higher elevation, of course, drains first and the lowlands.

Between 1820 and 1830 fewer than 1000 settlers were in Boone County. For over 250,000 acres that is not a big workforce. But since half or more of it is still forest and water, large numbers don’t matter. Clearing the forest will be a slow arduous task.

The tools available were the two-man crosscut saw, an axe and a team of horses or mules. The process was simple; cut the tree down, lop off the limbs, snake the logs out to a clear spot and cut them to length and then split them into usable boards, or rails.

Photo Joe Bierce

Photo Joe Bierce

Photo Joe Bierce

Then the process of clearing out the stumps began. Small stumps could be pulled out by a team, but the larger ones were a different matter. Some hours with a shovel digging around the roots and stump, cut the roots and then grab the stump with chains and g’up Jack, g‘up Bob……pull, pull. One stump after another cleared more tillable acres. After the trees were removed the land could dry out and tilling could begin.

Early Boone County crops were a variety of corn, beans(not soy), squash, tobacco, hemp, wheat, oats, barley and more. Some crops that would be consigned to other climates where they would flourish.

One might say that the 1800’s were developmental years in the county. Lessons were learned about what worked and what was better left to others. Early, planting used tools that were crude but got the job done. It was during this time that the steel plow was developed. Earlier crops were planted in a hole created by pushing a stick into the ground and withdrawing it and placing the seed in the hole and covering it up. As soon as ground could be plowed, a means of leveling it and breaking up the clumps to provide for sowing seeds was developed, thus the drag harrow was created. One horse could pull the tool across a ploughed field and two horses could pull an array and complete more preparation in less time. But when the average farm was a little more than 46 acres (U.S. Census data) one only needed one horse, one plow and the related equipment.

Only as the trees were cut and the swamp was drained did anyone look beyond providing primarily for the family. Why buy cloth when you can spin the wool, comb the cotton, spin the yarn, weave the cloth and make the clothing.

But the question comes up, “why should everybody, do each of the processes when some would rather do one and not the other?” Trade for labor and trade for goods became a hallmark of the American way.

Lumbermen began the process of cutting the trees and turning them into usable lumber to build barns and houses. Farmers sought to spend their time in raising crops and animals. Salesmen peddled patent medicine, pots and pans from wagons and buggies. The more sedate opened a mercantile establishment and provided the products produced by others; shoes, dresses, flour, sugar, molasses, fatback, lard, thread, cloth, sweet treats and whatever else the heart could desire. Items paid for in trade for by those who could produce, eggs, meat, milk, butter, and vegetables when in season for the burgeoning population.

By 1840 (U.S. Census) the population was over 8,000. There were 3,637 horses and mules, 6,225 sheep, 20,109 swine, 10, 381 neat cattle(livestock) and the grains: bushels of wheat, 35,000; oats, 40,017; buckwheat 148 and rye, 1,258. Crops were wool, hops, wax, potatoes, hay, hemp and tobacco. One can get rather nitpicking here.

The above were agriculture as opposed to horticulture which was the produce of gardens, nurseries and florists and the number of men employed. There are no numbers supplied for these categories.

But there were 54,000 acres of improved farmland and 109,000 unimproved out of the more than 250,000 in the county. You can do the math.

It appears that we need to keep the boots handy.

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