AGRICULTURE


OVERVIEW OF FARMING: 1925 AND 1940

Material from the 1925 Department of Agriculture Census by Towns allows us to compare our three towns half way through the Roaring Twenties. Of interest, Frank Washburn of Perry was Agriculture Commissioner at that time.

NUMBER OF FARMS AND FARM SIZE

Alexander: 58 farms with 8616 acres, 1293 acres cropland, 1035 pasture and 3034 acres woodland.

Cooper: 33 farms with 4857 acres, 506 acres cropland, 350 acres pasture and 2124 acres woodland.

Crawford: 23 farms with 2893 acres, 314 acres cropland, 472 acres pasture 1496 acres woodland

CROPS

Alexander: corn 21 acres, oats 22 acres, potatoes 56 acres, and 959 tons hay

Cooper: corn 0 acres, oats 18 acres, potatoes 40 acres, and 307 tons of hay

Crawford: corn 0 acres, oats 50 acres, potatoes 41 acres, and 226 tons of hay.

LIVESTOCK

Alexander: 299 milk cows giving 24016 pounds butter, 48 sheep, 1416 chickens

Cooper: 59 milk cows giving 5987 pounds butter, 22 sheep, 942 chickens

Crawford: 49 milk cows giving 6989 pounds butter, 10 sheep, 415 chickens

CROPS FROM TREES

Alexander farmers had 1952 apple trees and produced 972 cords of firewood from their woodlots.

Cooper farmers had 1077 apple trees and produced 462 cords of firewood from their woodlots.

Crawford farmers had 802 apple trees and produced 305 cords firewood from their woodlots.

LOCAL ROAD CONDITIONS

Alexander had 7 miles gravel roads, 50 miles improved dirt roads

Cooper had 6 miles gravel roads, 27 miles improved dirt roads

Crawford had 17 miles of gravel roads, 6 miles improved dirt roads

This census reported that 10 of 58 Alexander farmers had mortgages, 6 of 33 Cooper farmers had mortgages and 3 of 23 farmers from Crawford had mortgages. How does that compare with today? That low number of mortgages was one thing that helped rural residents survive the depression. Farm gardens, livestock and woodlots that supplied food and fuel were other factors that helped rural neighbors get by.

 

The 1940 Department of Agriculture Census by Towns allows us to again compare the three towns and also to see what has happened in fifteen years. Some of these figures clearly show the decline of farming. The asterisk * indicates that only one farmer was involved and no number was given to protect personal information. That seems reasonable in some, but not all cases. Cords of firewood were not listed in 1940, although it was an important fuel for all as well as a source of income. Both of these lists are incomplete, for example we did not list tractors in 1940.

NUMBER OF FARMS AND FARM SIZE

Alexander: 46 farms with 6351 acres, 1042 acres cropland, 213 pasture and 3152 acres woodland.

Cooper: 33 farms with 3926 acres, * acres cropland, * acres pasture and 2500 acres woodland.

Crawford: 24 farms with 4102 acres, 451 acres cropland, 129 acres pasture 2815 acres woodland

CROPS

Alexander: corn * acres, oats * acres, potatoes 26 acres, and 763 tons hay

Cooper: corn 3 acres, oats 5 acres, potatoes 11 acres, and 227 tons of hay

Crawford: corn * acres, oats 0 acres, potatoes 10 acres, and 0 tons of hay.

LIVESTOCK

Alexander: 177 milk cows giving 20242 pounds butter, * sheep, 551 chickens

Cooper: 61 milk cows giving 8033 pounds butter, * 22 sheep, 304 chickens

Crawford: 24 milk cows giving 2570 pounds butter, * sheep, 367 chickens

CROPS FROM TREES

Alexander farmers had 869 apple trees

Cooper farmers had 474 apple trees

Crawford farmers had 255 apple trees

LOCAL ROAD CONDITIONS

Alexander had 23 miles gravel roads, 12 miles improved dirt roads, and 6 miles hard surfaced roads

Cooper had 18 miles gravel roads, 2 miles improved dirt roads, and 5 miles hard surfaced roads

Crawford had 1 mile of gravel roads, 10 miles improved dirt roads and 2 miles hard surfaced roads

We listed LOCAL ROAD CONDITIONS to illustrate what was happening. Back roads were being abandoned. Trade with Calais/Woodland was becoming important. Young people wanted the horseless buggies. All this would soon lead to people from Alexander, Crawford and Cooper commuting to work in our larger neighbors. And that, and the lakes, is the history of why we today are bedroom communities, not farming communities!

MISCELLANEOUS FARM ITEMS FROM 1900 TO 1950

APPLES

One reason for the decline in the number of apple trees came from Josiah Pierce of Baldwin, Maine. Baldwin was named for the family that developed the Baldwin apple tree. These trees were popular in Maine until 1936. In May of that year a nice day in the 50 to 60 degree range was followed by a night of zero temperature. The trees were full of sap, and the bitter cold froze the sap which burst open the trees. It is said that the banging kept people awake all night. It killed all the Baldwin and in some areas they were replaced with the heartier Macintosh. Farming was in decline here, so likely those Baldwins were not replaced. (Memory from Josiah’s grandfather)

PULPWOOD

About one-hundred years ago pulp wood became a cash crop for farmers. On July 1, 1920, Wyman Vining signed a contract with Canadian Realty Company to supply rough spruce pulpwood, loaded in railroad cars at McGeorge’s Crossing at $4.00 per cord. The contract called for at least 5 cords and was marked paid in full. (Gordon Lord supplied this contract to A-CHS.)

SNAP BEANS

Marcella Wentworth of South Princeton was one of many who grew snap beans for the factory. Hatha way canning Company had a factory in Columbia Falls. Representatives from the factory would come in the spring, plow, fertilize and plant the field. Marcella had a three acre field.

Marcella had a truck and would get a load of kids and take them to fields from Alexander to West Princeton where the crew would pick the crop. The beans would be picked three or four times; the factory wanted small beans for canning. Pay was by the pound; it ranged from 2 to 5 cents per pound. Those pickers from South Princeton were Ron Neduau, Kenny and Howard Leighton and Vernon Wentworth. Pickers from Woodland were from the Hood and Whelock families. This all happened after WWII. (Personal memories of Sonny Wentworth)

C. C. CROSBY’S FARM ACCOUNTS FOR THE DEPRESSION YEARS – AND DIARIES

The account of Cooper farmer Coburn Crosby’s operation is the most detailed we have. It is found in issue 114 of our newsletter on pages 1 through 5. A-CHS has published numerous diaries, mostly kept by farm wives. These and the Daniel Seavey Papers add to understanding agriculture in our area.