Thursday, April 9, 2015

Family History Friday #14 - Old John Maytham Had a Farm

    In working on the Maytham family I stumbled into something fun the other day. I found John Maytham, my third great grandfather, on the agricultural schedule of the 1850 census.  This is a wonderful feature of the 1850, 1860, and 1870 federal censuses which provides a window into the daily life of our ancestors assuming one is lucky enough to have some farmers on their family tree.  The agricultural schedule not only lists the size and value of the farm, but goes into considerable detail as to the number of various farm animals, the value of their farm implements and machinery, and how much of various commodities was produced on the farm.  I find it fascinating to not just know they were a farmer, but to know exactly what kind of a farmer.

    John Maytham's farm consisted of 90 acres, 60 of which were improved and 30 unimproved.  I'm pretty sure improved means house, barn, orchard, and fenced fields and pastures.  The unimproved acreage was possibly woods, or it may have been land too hilly, too rocky, etc to farm. In that part of Ohio I think it is most likely that the unimproved land was woods.  The estimated cash value of the farm was $1,000 while the value of his farm implements and machinery was $53. Implements would be items like a plow or a wagon.  Most of the farms on John Maytham's page of the agricultural schedule  consisted of 80 acres or less of "improved land".

   John Maytham's live stock consisted of 4 horses, 5 "milch" cows, 2 working oxen, 5 "other" cattle, 100 sheep, and 15 swine, for a total of 131 animals.  The oxen were likely used for plowing and heavy draft work.  The horses were probably more used for transportation, like riding or pulling a wagon. It looks like the sheep were their primary livestock as 100 is a sizeable flock of sheep for a small farm.  That is a lot more sheep than any one family could eat.  The annual production of wool from that flock was 300 pounds, a lot more than would be needed for the personal use of the family.  I wonder if they sold it as raw wool or washed and carded some of the wool for a "value added" product.  It is very likely that the daughters were taught to clean, card, and spin wool. The smaller number of swine were probably raised mainly to feed the family as opposed to a revenue source.  The livestock was valued at a total of $363. That averages out to less than $3 per animal.

   The schedule also provided information about the farm's yearly production of certain crops and commodities. John Maytham primary crop was "Indian Corn" of which he grew 350 bushels.  That is a whole lot of corn shucking and shelling.  I'm guessing his numerous children were very active participants in harvesting the corn. I wonder how old a child had to be to get to drive the wagon. John Maytham may have had a hand crank corn sheller similar to mine.  With that volume of corn, I suspect that his children might have been less enthused about cranking the corn sheller than my grandchildren have been. He also grew 100 bushels of wheat, 50 bushels of oats, and 30 bushels of buckwheat.  I'm not sure how the grain crops were harvested and threshed.  Lesser commodities included 10 tons of hay,  5 bushels of "Irish" potatoes, 500 pounds of butter, orchard products valued at $20, and 60 pounds of maple sugar.  The value of animals slaughtered was $65. That may seem paltry by today's standards, but remember that John Maytham's 131 head of livestock were collectively valued at $363.  The animals slaughtered for food or sale would have a lesser value than his horses, milk cows, and oxen. That $65 could easily represent 50 slaughter lambs, 10 hogs, and a few steers.  I'm sure a great deal of serious labor was involved in harvesting the grain crops and the ten tons of hay.

    The primary orchard product in those days was probably apple cider.  Initially I thought that seemed like a very small orchard, but this was back when a sheep could be purchased for a dollar. I suspect that the orchard would have consisted of at least a dozen apple trees.  The value of homemade manufactures was  $6.  I'm curious what that category might have included. Possibilities I've considered are homespun woolen yarn or carpentry products.  For all I know, they may even have had a bee hive or two.

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