(A Man’s Worth)
Gene Williams
In the 1850’s the main crop on the local farms were hogs, so, the main feed for the hogs
was corn. In order to grow the corn, the plow, pulled by a mule or horse and guided by
a man, needed to be plowed for best results, 10 inches deep, planting in squares, 3 to 4
feet each way, and working with a harrow and cultivator until the corn was knee-high.
Then it was plowed once, and laid by with a cultivator. When I was growing up,
“knee-high by the 4th of July” meant that you would probably have a good crop that year.
There was some Indian corn still being grown in these parts, so the hogs would be turned
out in the fields to feed off the Indian corn, thus saving the cost of hiring a man to
harvest and grind the corn for the hogs. Since the average wage for a farm hand in 1850
was about $220 a year………..that’s about $4.25 each week in wages, 6 days a week, 10
hours a day, which works out to about 7 cents an hour, plus meals and a place to sleep.
Since most farmers then had little money, they attempted to make do with what they had,
which meant very little hired help……….just another reason for the large families that
they had back then. Anyhow, most of the corn grown was fed to the hogs, which were
fattened and sent to market. Wheat was the second largest cash crop grown in the
Monroe area during this period. It was sold by the bushel, some of it being processed at
local grist mills at Amanda, Excello, and Middletown, being shipped to market via the
Miami Canal. Parts of the Maimi Canal can still be seen today. In 1850 a bushel of
wheat sold for 80 cents a bushel. A good farmer could harvest about 30 bushels per acre
in a good year. That works out to $18 an acre, or $180 for ten acres of seed that would
eventually turn into the finished harvest. Today, it is a treat for my children and
grandchildren to come to our house for dinner, with homemade bread, made from the
same type of wheat that Great-Grandpa used to grow on his little farm, and GreatGrandma
would get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to start baking. Times sure have

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