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The New England Farmer was a widely read monthly journal “devoted to agriculture, horticulture and the Kindred Arts and Sciences Embellished and Illustrated with Numerous Beautiful Engravings”. It seems to have also been quite popular with the settlers in Harvey who were intent on enhancing the agricultural output of their new farms. Although only recently arrived in the community John Taylor was apparently also an avid reader of the journal and just as motivated to develop a successful farm.
The following two letters penned by John Taylor and both published in 1853, provide an interesting insight into agricultural practices used in the new community. The letters also provide a first glimmer of the entrepreneurial spirit that will see Taylor in only a few years become a very successful businessman following the outbreak of the second American civil war. In these letters he is not only keen to get New Brunswick, his adopted home, on the map with the readership of the New England Farmer but also in promoting the agricultural product with which the new Harvey settlers have had some success – sale of Harvey timothy for seed to the New England market. This “scotchman in the backwoods of New Brunswick” is, as the editor notes, as “glib with a pen as with an ax”.
John Taylor’s glibness is further demonstrated in the second letter. Although this contribution does have some serious content where Taylor extols the virtue of growing quality oats as a practical grain crop he wanders off toward the end in a humorous description of the ‘Amazonian’ qualities of Harvey women.
John Taylor Letter 1, 1853, New England Farmer, May Issue, p. 216.
Mr. Brown: - I have been a reader of the New England Farmer this last twelvemonth, and like it very much. But I have sometimes felt a little nettled at never seeing the name of New Brunswick mentioned in it, either as regards farming or anything else. You must be aware that there is such a place as New Brunswick, that your paper extends its circulation hither; but I suppose you think that “ New Brunswick is no good for farming”. It is better, however, than you are perhaps aware of; and to convince you of that, I have resolved on writing you some particulars regarding its capabilities. What kind of land we have – how we get along – and what we an raise. I do not feel myself altogether qualified for the undertaking, having only been two years in the country, and not being much used to writing, but it seems there is no one with better qualifications that thinks it worth their trouble.
This place is situated thirty miles from Frederickton the seat of the Provincial government, and thirty-five from the American frontier – Calais, Me. The settlers are a mixture of Scotch and English, the first of which commenced in the forest fifteen years ago. They have stuck to their farms and done well. The soil is a clayey loam, (nor very stony) and rests upon a hard pan. The geological formation is grey sandstone and granite. The growth of wood may be said to be a mixture of spruce and hemlock, birch, beech and maple.
Chopping down, clearing up, and fencing new land, cost £3 10s or $14 and acre. When it is sown with oats 3 bushels is allowed to the acre, and the return is 50, more or less; 70 is sometimes obtained. The ground is only harrowed twice over, and raked round the stumps. It ought to get more stirring.
We raise famous potatoes here. We had 300 bushels from the acre last season, good and sound. There was 800 bushels raised on one acre, near Fredericton, last year. The ground was a sandy loam, plowed out of the sward, and had no manure except 50 bushels of leached ashes. I saw some bushels of them at the Provincial Exhibition. We are not very particular in planning our potatoes on new land; we make no hold for the seed – just lay down the cuts (3 to a hill) on the surface, and draw the ashes and dirt round them. A neighbor of mine says, “he thinks they are give weel rigged if he gets a chip on them.” We raise grass seed in large quantities, and of superior quality; perhaps you may have heard of the Harvey Timothy, a great part of it is sent to Boston. We sow only 3 pints to 4 quarts on an acre – sometimes a little clover is added. The clover grows very strong; a neighbor of mine tells me that he used to sow some clover, but it grew so strong that he could not cut it, and he quit sowing it.
We top the herds-grass with the sickle, hence the seed is very pure. A good hand is allowed to top an acre a day. Four bushels from the acre is a fair crop. As for plow land farming, I have several times seen oats, barley and wheat raised here which weighted respectively, 50, 60, and 70 lbs. per bushel. The land would do well, if it was well attended to’; but there is a great room for improvement. Indeed, I have often been surprised to see the crops which are obtained by the mode of cultivation sometimes practiced. I know the farmer in my country would think hard to expect a crop from the same system. I have often thought that the farms in this country calculate too much, sir. The farmers in Scotland do not calculate so much, and yet they are betters farmers; moreover they have been allowed to be the best farmers in the world, and yet it has been said of them, that “they are strong as the ox, and as ignorant as the strong.”
I shall just state that oats here this winter have sold at 2s. 6d. per bushel, potatoes 2s., Timothy seed 14s., and hay £4 per ton, all on the spot.
A scotchman in the backwoods of New Brunswick.
Harvey Settlement, N.B.
Via Calais, Me., March 2nd, 1853.
Remarks – The New Brunswickers shall have a fair chance with us. They send us the finest grass seed the world can produce, and we suppose the men and women would come under the same comparative degree. A “ Scotch backwoodsman” seems to be as glib with the pen as the axe, and if he can impart something to benefit “ mankind in general, and farmers in particular.” Why he can “put it through” our columns.
John Taylor Letter 2, 1853, New England Farmer, August Issue, p. 358, 359.
Pleasant Words From “Down East”
Mr. Editor: - I imported six bushels of seed oats and two bushels of barley last fall from Scotland, which I sowed this spring, and for the information of those who may have an idea of importing seed from the old country or elsewhere, I purpose giving you some statements connected therewith. There is a prevalent idea that oats or other grain from the mother country never do well here the first season, but judging form the present appearance of mine, I am inclined to believe that if the seed be good, and I properly taken car of, and get a fair chance, it ill do as well the first year as it will the second. They have now fairly commenced to grow, both the oats and barley, and I have no doubt that they will turn out well. The oats are the early kind. They were raised near Forfar by one of the best famers in that county. They are as clean and pure as any oats I ever remember having seen; the barley also is very pure and clean. They were sent out last fall and lay all winter at St. Johns. When they came to hand this spring, I found they had been very carefully done up in two barrels, which had been well smoked or fumigated, and made perfectly tight, so that the grain smelt as fresh as when it had been put in. They were shipped at Dundee, and the freight to St. Johns was 3s., the duty 1s. 6d., entries 9d., cartage 1s. 3d. (I was charged nothing for storage,) so that the freight and charges, exclusive of inland cartage amounted to 6s. 6d.
The soil and climate of this province is well adapted for oats, and I think that it would be well for the country if their cultivation received more attention. Oat in a general way are raise for horse feed, and little pains is taken to improve them in quality; the seed is seldom changed, and is often of inferior description, being light and mixed with foul seed and other grain. If the farmer is asked why he does not sow better and cleaner oats, he will say, “O its no use being very particular with them, I can get just as good a price for poor oats as I can for the best.” Oats ought never to be sowed more than twice or three times without being changed. The seed should always be the best – well cleansed, and free from other grain so that it might be fit for being made into oat-meal for family use. Good oat-meal when properly cooked, is quite palatable, and ought to be used in every family; as an article of diet, it is one of the most wholesome aliments that can be set on the table. I shall venture to assert that if the people in this country, generally, were to use more oat-meal and less superfine flour, that sickness and consumption would be much less prevalent in it.
I should like to inquire of you, or any of your correspondents, something about he harvesting and management of seed clover. It has been tried here on a small scale, and the seed if found to be of a very superior quality, but the greatest difficulty seems to be in getting it threshed and cleansed – some information therefore on that subject would be very acceptable in this quarter.
In reference to the remarks which you made on my previous communication, I must observe that you gave us quite a compliment. My inference is that you seem to be quite satisfied respecting the availabilities of our soil, and the superiority of her productions, but that you would like to know something respecting the quality of our men and women. I shall endeavor to gratify your curiosity a little in that particular, but you must excuse me if I do not notice anything about the smartness of our own sex; suffice it, to give a work or two about the other. I think, sir, if you were to come through here and see our lasses at work about he farm, you would say that they are better stuff than your New England girls. They can plant a bushel of potatoes a day, (in good shape,), dig 25, top and acre of timothy, and reap 24 dozen oats. They can pitch hay, pick stones, pile brush, rake round the stumps, team a horse, and milk the cows. They can wash and dress, and bake and brew, and knit and sew, card, spin and cook, and clean in style, and catch the horse that beat the boys, and drive the sheep to pasture. The girls are very scarce here, people come a long way after them for wives.
Harvey, N.B., via Calais, Me
June 8th, 1858.
Remarks. – Thank you, “John Taylor.” Where persons make a business of raising clover-seed, they have a machine, moved by horse power, which they take into the field and gather the clover heads merely, leaving the stubble on the ground. These heads are generally on the “rowen,” or second crop. After being gathered, they are threshed and cleaned up much as other seeds are.
Your account of the ladies in “the Harvey Settlement,” smacks of olden times. As a wife, we don’t want one, having the best in “the States” already – but as “a help,” gracious, how things would shine at River Cottage, if we had one of your girls! But then, should we feel safe” “Team a horse! top an acre of timothy! Reap 24 dozen of oats!” and probably bind 24 men if they were to steal a kiss unfairly, from one of these Amazons!
But we are glad to hear from them, and may make more particular inquiries, in person, some future day.
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