Old Settlers Reunion – Part 5

               scythe sickle

concluding the Hon. P. A. Armstrong’s remarks to the 1877 La Salle County Old Settlers Reunion:

Our modes of farming and the implements we used would of itself constitute a theme for hours of description. I will pass them briefly as I have already taken up too much time. Seven yoke of cattle strung out in front of a bar-share plow with long raking wooden mould board with one man to govern the plow and another to drive the team did well in turning over two acres per day.

In crop plowing the second year we used what was termed the Carey plow. It was similar in construction to the prairie plow with wooden mould board and coulter, but instead of cutting the sod and turning it topsy turvy as that manufactures by our friend T. D. Brewster does, it simply pushed it aside and left the soil in splendid condition for the growth of weeds. Our stirring and corn plows were of similar construction, fine implements for the cultivation of weeds. He who would have told us that a plow could be made that would scour in loose soil would have been deemed “soft in the head.”

A paddle to remove the dirt from the mould board was deemed as essential as the plow itself. These plows gave way to cast iron mould boards for stirring plows, and the shovel plow for tilling the corn. These in turn have given place to the more modern improvements until these of the present day, when gang plows for cultivating have reduced the labor almost into a pastime.

Our hoes were of monstrous size and ponderous weight, with the handle thrust  into a massive eye. They bore about the same relation to the steel-shanked and polished hoe of today that the stone ax of the Indians bears to that made by the Perkins Brothers or Underhill.

We harvested our grain with the sickle or cradle and our hay with the scythe. Our threshing machines were the flail or the more speedy but less cleanly mode of tramping it out with horses. The latter was the general mode, but for buckwheat it would not work, because the horses’ feet ground it as well as threshed it. The Messrs. McCormick, Manny, Ball, Esterly and other manufacturers of farm implements had not yet put in their appearance. Harvesters, mowers, threshers, shellers, horse-rakes and forks, did not even have a name, much less a habitation, in those days; yet we thought ourselves well advanced in the arts and sciences, and criticized our predecessors for their lack of knowledge. If the same ratio of improvement in the discovery and manufacture of farm implements be made during the coming half century that has been made during the past, who is there here to-day will dare predict the result?

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