Copied from Harbaugh's 1909 History
Miami County Ohio
-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
Miami County Horticultural Society -
Farm Products of Miami County - Stock
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
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
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.
1862........Isaac S. Sheets.
1868........W.H. H. Dye.
1894-9......Thomas B. Scott.
1908........George A. Fry.
1876-8......W.A. R. Tenney.
1894-7......John A. McCurdy.
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
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