Elizabeth O’Neal’s May genealogy blog party theme is Spring Fever. I had to stop and think about this topic, as spring mostly makes me think of plant allergies! However, spring is a time for planting and I decided to take a new look at my most recent ancestor whose occupation was farming.
1880 Atlas of Washington County, Maine
Charles Stewart (1 July 1822 – 24 November 1894) was born and raised in Charlotte, Maine, but when he married the land he bought in Charlotte ended up just outside the Charlotte town line in the new town of Meddybemps in 1860.
If you look at the squared off boundary between the C and H of Charlotte, you can see “C. Stewart” just below the right angle.
I decided I needed to learn something new about Charles Stewart – I’ve known he was a farmer for years because that is what he reported on the federal censuses. However, because I have so few farmers in my family tree, at least those who would appear in the special schedules, I’ve never taken a close look at the agricultural supplements.
Charles Stewart married his first cousin, Elida Anna Hicks, probably shortly after their marriage intentions were filed on 5 July 1850 in Calais, Maine.
Although they became parents to eight children, three died as children and their oldest child, Wallace Newmarch, died at the age of 31 years.
Therefore, there were five children growing up in the Stewart home and each likely had farming chores to complete each day.
How much land did Charles own? What crops and animals did he raise? I realized I had no idea and needed to search out the agricultural censuses.
Charles Stewart didn’t appear in the 1850 agricultural census, likely because he married in July and missed the census taker. I also suspect that since Elida was only 17 years old and most of the family lived in New Brunswick, Canada, that they may have married in Kent County. However, Charles Stewart appears in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 agricultural schedules.
By 1860, the Stewarts had been married for ten years, had lost one baby, Permelia, aged 18 months on 22 June 1854. There were four young children at home – Wallace Newmarch, born in May 1851, Felicia, born in September 1854, Harry Weston, born 15 June 1858 and Melissa E., born 4 August 1859.
Charles’ farm was apparently doing well. He owned 40 acres of improved land plus 280 acres of unimproved land, valued at $900. His farming equipment was valued at $100. He owned one horse, four milk cows, two working oxen, five cattle, sixteen sheep and two swine. Livestock value was $400.
What crops did he grow? Typical for the area and climate, Charles harvested 12 bushels of peas/beans, 20 bushels of Irish potatoes, 25 bushels of barley, 20 bushels of buckwheat, 40 lbs. of butter and 15 tons of hay. The value of his homemade manufactures was priced at $50 with the value of animals slaughtered at $250.
It appears Charles was a subsistence farmer and much of what he grew was used at home.
By 1870, not much had changed, except Charles reported owning considerably less acreage. There were 40 acres of improved land with only 20 acres unimproved. However, the value of the 60 acres was placed at $1000. Value of farming equipment was $75. Charles owned three horses, two milk cows, eight cattle, one sheep with a total value of $200. Produce for the previous year totaled sixty bushes of wheat, thirty of barley and twenty of buckwheat.
The farm produced 30 lbs. of wool, nine bushels of peas/beans, 200 bushels of Irish potatoes, 400 lbs. of butter and ten tons of hay. Value of animals sold or slaughtered was $100 and value of all farm production was $600.
Charles Stewart, 1880, Line 6
The 1880 agricultural census included a lot of questions on a new page format. Charles Stewart owned 55 acres of improved land, 50 more that were meadow or pastureland, 40 acres of woodland and 300 acres of unimproved fields not growing wood. That was a lot of land for one small family! His farm value was $1500, with $50 of farming machinery and $540 in livestock.
The 1880 questions definitely delved more deeply into farming life, as it asked the cost to build or repair fences during the previous year – $25 for Charles, cost of one year’s fertilizer – $5 for Charles, and it asked how much money was paid out in wages in 1879. This question surprised me because Charles paid $100 in wages over a period of 30 weeks. I wonder who he paid to come help him?
Value of all farm production was $640, with 50 acres of grassland mown. Fifty tons of hay had been harvested. Charles was down to owning one horse. He had two oxen, ten milk cows, plus 13 “other.” Ten calves were dropped, two cattle sold living and three slaughtered. Charles also lost two cattle who either died or strayed and were not recovered. Neat cattle and products on hand were 14 as of 1 June 1880, although I am not sure exactly what that means.
14 lambs were dropped, 10 sheep/lambs slaughtered and four more died “of stress of weather.” 21 were clipped, shorn or to be shorn with 105 lbs. of wool produced.
There was one swine and 20 barnyard poultry. Excess produced in 1879 was 300 dozen, but I am not sure what that refers to – eggs, perhaps? 1000 pounds of butter was made.
Charles grew 3/4 of an acre of wheat, which produced 12 bushels, along with 9 bushels of beans. An acre and a half of land produced 400 bushes of Irish potatoes. He had 25 cords of wood and the value of all forest products sold or consumed was just $6.00/
I think the most interesting statistic was that Charles apparently kept bees, as he produced 300 lbs. of honey in the preceding year.
Charles died on 24 November 1894, apparently of a heart attack or fatal stroke. His granddaughter, Bertha Stuart Eldridge, was living with her grandparents at the time and, although she was very young, she remembered what happened:
I didn’t realize how much I was going to learn about Charles Stewart when I began this post. If you haven’t looked for your family in the agricultural schedules of the U.S. censuses, you might be surprised the data found in them.
2 thoughts on “Spring Fever: May 2019 Genealogy Blog Party”
Nicely done! I has several farming ancestors and appreciate the detail of the agricultural schedules. Mine gave up farming by 1880 — but I wish they hadn’t because your post indicates how much more can be learned from that farm census.
Great take on the topic and nice to see how much info you found in the agricultural schedules. I noticed the farm was producing wool. I wonder if that was sold locally, or did they use it themselves? ( I have weavers in the family – and beekeepers too.)