Farm Collector Blogs > Looking Back

Ohio in 1858

by Sam Moore

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 I have an issue of the The Ohio Farmer newspaper from Aug. 14, 1858, in which are some interesting tidbits.

“Mr. James Hall, of Portage County, sold recently 100 mutton sheep for the sum of $800.”

“G.C. Beardsley, of Trumbull county, has sent us a sample of wool from a Spanish buck that he purchased in Vermont. He writes, ‘the fleece weighed in the dirt, 12 pounds; washed, 10 pounds.’”

“The New York State Agricultural Society is offering a $250 premium for a machine that will plow satisfactorily by steam power. One application has been received.”

“Accident - On July 29, Mr. John Bratton, while mowing on the farm of H.C. Belden, in Howland, incautiously stepped in front of the mowing machine, and his leg was cut off just above the ankle. Mr. Bratton is a very industrious, steady young man, and his misfortune is to be regretted.”

“Dr. M.L. Wright, of Cleveland, advertises his newly patented porcelain false teeth, which he claims are held in place “without the aid of Metallic Plates, Clasps, or Springs.”

“D.D. Duty, of Cleveland, takes pleasure in announcing that he can furnish a casket, of his own manufacture, that is ‘highly ornamented, with a thick plate glass running the entire length of the top. A full length view can be had with ease.’”

“CLEVELAND INFIRMARY. There are in this Institution, as a charge upon the city, a number of boys and girls, including infants, whom the Directors will bind to service until they come of age, with suitable persons, upon their producing testimonials from the Clergyman, Magistrate, or Trustees of their town, that they are suitable persons to have the care of, and bring up such children. Application may be made to: R. Hussey, Acting Director, Cleveland, Ohio.”

Wyandts, Putman & Son, from Stark County, Ohio, offer the Pitt’s Grain Separator and Thresher, with Carey’s Double Grand Horsepower. The ad says: “They will thresh and clean, in the most perfect manner, from 300 to 600 bushels of grain per day, and are without any doubt THE threshing machine of the country.”

Under the heading, “Anecdotes and Fun,” are the following gems:

“Why is a chicken sitting on a fence like a cent? Answer - The head is on one side and the tail on the other.”

“A duel was fought in Mississippi, last month, by S. Knott and A.W. Shott. The result was Knott was shot and Shott was not. In these circumstances, we would rather have been Shott than Knott.”

On the front page is a letter from a man named James Johnston about conditions he observed as he traveled through Ohio during 1857. Mr. Johnston writes in part:

“In traveling through your state last summer, I seldom saw a barn for hay or grain, or even shelter for cattle. This I think very bad economy. There is a very great waste of grain from letting it stand in shocks. I was told it stood thus for months, until the farmers got time to thresh it, and then they generally took the straw away from the machine by horse-rakes, and left it laying in heaps on the fields to rot.

“The hay put in barns would be a great deal more profitable to feed than when put into stacks. I think barn hay is worth one-half more than stack hay, but not when put up in such small stacks as I saw in Ohio, the majority containing not over two to three tons. If farmers would put from 10 to 30 tons in a stack, there would be much less waste. If the hay was cut earlier, and put in large stacks, it would be much better; but houses for both hay and grain soon pay for their cost.

“Their poor cattle and sheep have no shelter in winter, but have to stand out in all storms, and often to lay in snow, with the thermometer at from 20 above to 20 below zero. This is very unprofitable to the owners, and also unmerciful to the dumb brutes.

“If they would erect good sheds for their sheep and cattle, and barns for their grain and hay, then they might keep their stock as it should be kept, and make large quantities of valuable manure. I did not see a manure heap in Ohio, only where the cattle had stood and been fed, and the manure left there to waste.

“I read in the Cincinnatus, that large sums have been expended in Ohio in building schoolhouses and churches, which is laudable as a state without education and religion cannot prosper. Still, with the temperature at zero, and my cattle and sheep exposed to the pitiless storm, I don’t think I could sit very comfortable in a church, no matter how elegant and warm, even while hearing the most eloquent preacher.”

Sounds as though Mr. Johnston wasn’t impressed by the way farmers in Ohio did things. It doesn’t say, but Johnston was probably from “back east,” where farmers had had a lot more years to improve their farmsteads with barns, etc. In 1858, Ohio was only about five short decades from being the western frontier.

I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse of farm life in Ohio on the eve of the Civil War.

Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail at