Every week, I share an excerpt from the book my Great Aunt helped write, As the Story is Told: A History of Morpeth and Community, which was printed in 1986. This week we launch into the Farming section.
Over the years this land in the southern most part of Howard has proven to be a fertile agricultural area. From a ridge which zig-zags through here the land takes a sudden drop and continues to slope down to Lake Erie. The soil on this ridge is gravelly loam, but once over the ridge it turns into a clay, which again gradually changes as it nears the lake into a sandy loam. This land since it slopes southward, is naturally drained by numerous tile drains and creeks emptying into Lake Erie.
The first farmer to have settled here, seems to have been, as before mentioned, John Craford at the mouth of Patterson’s Creek, in 1811. According to a survey made in 1816 by Mahlon Buwell, Craford had by this time erected two log houses and a stable, and had cleared and fenced ten acres on his lot on the Lake Erie shore. Other neighbours were soon to follow.
In the Valley of the Lower Thames by Fred Coyne Hamil it is recorded that, if you were fortunate enough to have money in 1820, you could buy a good 200 acre farm on the Talbot Road in Howard for 250 pounds with a log house and barn and thirty acres cultivated.
From recordings in a notebook belonging to Sarah McLaren we find many interesting accounts of stories told to her of the days back in the 1830s.
The early settlers had to work very hard. The land had to be cleared. One man could clear 8 to 10 acres in a year. Wheat would be sown in the ashes. Grass was sown along with the wheat and it would be left for about 5 years till the roots of the stumps were rotted. A new field would be cleared each year till the land was cleared, then they would begin to plough. They got about 75 cents a bushel for their wheat.
The taxes on one hundred acres were only two or three dollars but it had to be paid in cash. This presented a difficulty as cash was very scarce. Sometimes it took a whole year to accumulate enough.
The grain and hay were cut with a sickle at first. The cradle, which was something like a scythe was the next step. The reaper was quite an improvement but a man had to go along beside it to rake the sheaves off, so when the binder came along it was a great labour saver. Now there is the combine.
The pioneers used a flail to thresh the grain. It was made of two very smooth round sticks about two inches in diameter. One was quite long, about 4 or 5 feet, the other shorter. They were tied loosely together at the end. The grain was spread out on the barn floor and the flail swung to hit it with the shorter stick. It required a great deal of skill to use it or one could get a crack on the head.