Farming Methods and Practices
Invention and change has been an ever present characteristic of farming. This ability to accept new ideas has made our farms the most efficient in the world. This article reviews some of the changes that have occured in farm practice in the Manning area during the past century.
In the 19th century 75 percent of the population of the U.S. lived in rural America, in and around communities such as Manning. The Manning area was settled shortly after the Civil War by hard working European immigrants and their direct descendents. The Agricultural Revolution was well underway with the development of new machines using horses which improved work methods and productivity. Horse drawn plows, planters, cultivators, mowers, binders and threshers increased the work that one man could do in one day to new levels. Little did these immigrants realize that this was just the beginning of a whole century of change in American agricultural practices.
At the turn of the century the horse barn was the focal point of every farmstead. Farms were operated almost exclusively by horsepower. The average farm would have from four to eight head stabled and well fed on a ration of grain and hay. Especially during field work time, the first chore in the morning was to feed, water, and harness the horses in preparation for a day in the field. One longtime Manning resident, George Mohr, remembers spending all day cultivating behind a team of horses. However, the era of the horses as the primary power in agriculture was at its peak and would soon draw to a close.
The use of steam power in agriculture began around 1850, but did not receive wide-spread acceptance until 1910. These large, clumsy, smoke-belching, iron monsters always drew a crowd of spectators and proved to be the forerunners of the iron horses, soon to be called tractors, which would provide the power for twentieth century agriculture.
In the early 1900's horse drawn binders and steam powered threshers arrived on the scene. Grain harvest always came during the hottest part of the summer, but a field of ripe grain with a horse drawn binder with bundles rolling out behind made a beautiful picture. Two men and sometimes more followed the binder setting up the bundles in shocks. The shocks were left standing until the thresher arrived. Threshing was hard, hot, and dirty work which required a lot of manpower. "Threshing rings" were formed in most neighborhoods so that everyone could pitch-in and have a turn at helping and getting his grain separated from the straw. Depending on the size of the "ring", threshing could last for several weeks. No one was sorry to see the end of threshing each year. The coming of the modern combine changed not only the method of harvesting,
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but also made each farm operation more independent of help from his neighbors.
Another crop harvested was corn. In the era of horse drawn equipment, the usual method of harvesting corn was to pick it by hand. Two horses pulled a wagon with a high bang board on one side which deflected the ears of corn thrown by the shucker. The shucker never looked at the wagon and a good team would stay in position at the verbal command of the worker. Each shucker had his own style and favorite hook, peg, or finger stall. A good man could load 100 bushels a day.
Many farms would have hired men to help in harvest. The hired men would live with the farmers and their families, and be paid by the bushel. An announcement in the 1925 Monitor said that corn pickers would be receiving 5c a bushel that year. By 1946, although mechanical corn pickers were taking over, some in the Manning area still picked corn by hand. Tommy Concanon, a 76-year old who lived in the Manning vicinity his entire life, picked 1,000 bushels by hand that year, averaging 70 bushels a day.
Mechanical corn pickers and combines have drastically changed the time involved to harvest a corn crop. It is now common to have a combine harvest 6,000 to 8,000 bushels per day, and this includes getting the corn off the cob. No longer are winter days spent feeding corn into a sheller to separate the corn from the cob. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture estimates that if the average corn crop in 1981 were husked by hand, it would take a crew of 937,500 men working 100 days to get the job done.
The coming of engine power to the farm changed American agriculture more than most events. At the turn of the century, five or six men with horses could plough, plant, cultivate, and harvest the crop in a section of land. In 1980 one or two men can easily handle this work even though the yield per acre has increased by four to six times. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture says that it would take 61,000,000 horses to replace today's engine "horsepower" with animal "horsepower". In addition, it would take approximately half of the approximately 330,000,000 acres of cropland to provide feed for the work animals.
Yesterday's pioneer would stand in awe of today's 150 horsepower tractors with power steering, air conditioned cab, automatic shift, and hydraulically controlled implements mounted or pulled behind the tractor. Today's agri-businessman farmer can even follow the latest prices on commodities by listening to his tractor or combine radio. His grandfather had to travel to town to learn the price and hope to find a buyer.
Power used on the farm before the coming of electricity continued to undergo change. Windmills were useful, but the wind didn't always blow. Calm days sometimes required hand pumping in order to water the livestock. The gasoline or internal combustion engine proved to be a great advance in farm power. The problem of pumping water was pretty well solved, unless of course, the eccentric little engine would not start. Many of these small engines have been restored to original condition and can be seen at celebrations and fairs. A recent auction by Vernon Clemsen of Audubon had about 30 of these old engines, including an old Waterloo Boy which sold for nearly $6,000.
The social structure of rural life has been affected by these changes in agriculture. While families and the "family farm" remain the mainstay of late twentieth century agriculture, the total number of people directly involved "on the farm" has been greatly reduced. The number of farm units have become fewer and further apart as farmers with bigger machinery reach out for more land. Country schools, country churches, and many small towns have felt the effects of this change and many have disappeared.
Transportation of farm products to market played a significant role in Manning's history. Railroads which crossed and stopped in Manning
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were the original reasons for its being a town settlement. Communities began along the railroads at distances of seven to ten miles. County seat towns were selected primarily on the basis of being able to travel to and from the courthouse by horse and buggy in one day's time. Horse and buggy transportation gave way to the automobile and trucks. Mud roads which were virtually impassable in the spring of every year would soon be graveled and some even hard surfaced with concrete or asphalt. Improved roads and transportation made it easier to market year around the produce of the farm: beef, pork, corn, beans, milk, and eggs.
The variety and volume of farm produce created a need for commercial carriers. The Ramsey family has been hauling agricultural products in the Manning community for over 45 years. Mayburn Ramsey started the business in the early 1930's with one straight truck. Mayburn's son, Jim, now manages the business which includes 17 trucks and trailers.
As farms became more productive they also became more dependent on services that even others provided. Many farms in the late 1800's were almost self-sufficient. Only basic supplies such as flour, salt, cloth, ammunition, and tools were purchased or bartered with surplus grain or livestock raised on the farm. High yields and improved varieties of seed corn meant that farms could produce more grain or livestock than was needed for their own use. The improved varieties of seed corn along with fertilizer and chemicals have raised the per acre yield from 35 to 135 bushels and more per acre. This productivity has allowed the farm family to purchase most of what it consumes from the same stores as his city cousins.
One rural American institution that has changed very little in one hundred years is the farm auction. Holding an auction has always been the accepted method of settling or selling of one's farm possessions. Because it is between seasons, winter is the favorite time to schedule an auction.
Friends and neighbors gather on frosty winter days to help disperse the life-long accumulations of a farm family.
While the purpose of the auction has remained the same, the items sold and the prices received have changed a great deal. Mrs. Bertha Puck, grandmother of Willis Puck, had a farm sale in 1899 following the death of her husband, Hans. The proceeds of that sale were a little under $2,000. Some of the items which sold on that sale were a spring wagon for $15.50, a good team of black horses for $180, and a black milk cow for $32. A recent sale in 1980 to settle the estate of Gene Schwarte had a tractor which sold for over $20,000 and a combine which sold for $28,000. The method of the dispersal was the same, only the items and the dollars have changed over the years.
Another subject of everlasting interest in farm country is the price of land. Iowa land was officially described on documents written in the early 1800's as "swamp land". Since Iowa was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase, that early description must have been assumed by surveyores who looked at ground hundreds of miles to the south of Iowa. Consequently, the original price for ground in the Manning area was $1.25 per acre.
The Great Depression of the 1930's caused the only real interruption in the increase in the price of land since that time. The Stammer farm located northwest of Manning is a good example of what happened to the price of land. Claus Stammer purchased the farm from F.H. Long in 1881 for the price of $20 per acre. He sold the farm to his son, C. Fred Stammer, in 1913 for $135 per acre. Clarence and Iola Stammer purchased the land from his father in 1944 at a price of $125 per acre. Calvin and Nancy Stammer presently operate the farm; while a current valuation of the ground is not given, recent sales of like land would show the price to be around $2500 per acre.
In 1980 only two percent of the population of the U.S. is directly involved in agriculture. However, farming remains "the business" of the Manning Community. With few exceptions, activity in Manning is arranged to support and provide supplies and service to agricultural producers in the area. Current statistics show that today's farm feeds from 75-90 people which has helped agriculture remain America's No. 1 industry. The people of the Manning Community are proud to be a part of this great heritage.
I CAN REMEMBER---
Sitting on the lawn of the W.B. Parrott home at 307 Third Street (where Keith Kelderman now lives). The Manning Band played and Mr. Parrott gave his acceptance speech to the state legislature.
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Ed Stuhr, who was born in 1890, recalls the days he was a member of a threshing crew. Crews were numerous in the Manning area in the early to mid-1900's, with this story telling of a typical operation.
In late summer, when the grain began to turn a golden color, farmers started getting their threshing crews lined up. This was a job that required 15 to 20 hard-working men, so they relied heavily on neighbors.
The oats, wheat, and other small grains were cut with a binder. The grain was set up in shocks and allowed to dry for several days.
On many farms, creeks were dammed up to provide water for the huge steam engine. The "coal wagon" was filled to provide fuel for the boiler.
This particular crew northeast of Manning used a steam-powered threshing machine owned and run by Henry Langel. Ed Armstrong was the engineer and the water tank was run by Irish Brennan and later Bill Sibbel and Lauren Stoelk.
Ed would need to start firing by four A.M. to get the water heated. Several hours later, he pulled the string and let out a steam whistle that could easily be heard for miles and the men knew it was time to thresh.
Some of the crew were John Langel, Lawrence Weiskircher, Hubert Lamp, Ed Stuhr, Bill Meggers, Charley Gruhn, Jim Myatt, Grant Hockett, Fred Spies, Jurgen Hinz, John Riemers, Emil Grau, T.J. Armstrong, Frank Meggers, Otto Hansen, August Kusel, Max Gruhn, Frank Algren, John Schrum, and Nick Schrum. More crew members were added as they moved in and out of the neighborhood.
It took 10 or 12 men with horses and racks to pitch bundles, loading them in the field and throwing them into the machine. Two or three men hauled grain, several more men helped scoop the grain into the bins and several brave men stacked straw. Building a good stack was an art in itself.
The crew usually worked until 9 or 10 P.M. or until the job was done. On many an occasion a team would run away and upset a load of bundles. There was also a possibility of a fire in the straw.
Threshing was not a job for the men alone. The day or two before threshers came to their house, the ladies fired up the cook stove and baked cakes, cookies and bread; churned butter and dug at least a bushel of potatoes.
On threshing day, it was up early to get five or six pies baked so the 25 to 30 pound roast could go in the oven.
By nine A.M. it was lunch time and a dishpan full of sandwiches, cake and cookies, plus coffee was sent to the field.
At noon, benches were set outside with basins and buckets of water. Towels were thrown over the fence so the men could freshen up for dinner. Barrels were put on water skids to haul the extra water needed for this.
Each woman tried to outdo the last one and the men were fed well.
By 3:30 the women were busy filling the dishpans with sandwiches and cooking cans of coffee again for lunch.
If the job was a big one, the men would stay for supper so the women had one more meal to fix. This was not easy because there was no electricity for lights, no dishwashers or air conditioners, and lots of cobs and wood to carry in.
But there was a reward. All the families enjoyed their threshers' picnic at the lake. No one had bathing suits because it was the only time all year they got there, but overalls and dresses worked as well. The greatest reward was the friendships formed when these families worked together as they did.
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From the days of the Escher-Ryan Ranch to the present time, this community has enjoyed a world wide reputation for the best in livestock. Those wanting to start a herd, or to improve their lines, have come to Manning to buy the best in bulls or boars.
It has been claimed that no other community has had as complete a group of famous herds: beef and dairy cattle, hogs, poultry, and sheep have shared the spotlight during the past 100 years. In addition to being known for their quality stock, the breeders themselves have gained international recognition for their work in research, legislation, and national Samuel Bingham, one of the pioneer settlers of Carroll County, was the first to bring Hereford cattle into this county, paying $5,000 for a bull and $225 for a cow. Bingham bought land in the southern part of Carroll County in 1876, and his "Sunnyside Stock Farm" was widely known throughout the state in the early days. In 1896, he bought about 50 acres south of Manning for $1,700. This land, which had been the scene of the Manning District Fair from 1883 to 1895, is now the A.H. Hinz addition of Manning.
E.F. Escher, a relative of Charles Jr., bred Angus cattle on his Manning Stock Farm, which adjoined the town at the north. This was in the early 1900's. The land is now farmed by Dorothy Kusel and her sons Barry and Dave.
Numerous sales were held at the Manning Livestock Sale Pavilion, located north of Third Street on the west side of the railroad tracks. One was a Duroc Jersey sale October 10, 1918, featuring stock from G.W. Hockett.
M.J. Hickey & Son and J.A. Campbell & Son sold a total of 58 head of "Scotch cattle from herds of two leading Iowa breeders" at the pavilion in April, 1919. The cows averaged $352 each, and the bulls averaged $267 each. The top price was $1,205, paid for a cow.
Paul Petersen held a horse sale at the pavilion February 14, 1920. Bad weather prevented a larger turnout, but his 18 head still managed to average $112.50 each. Most were work horses, although a few were saddle horses.
Four widely known Poland China hog breeders were located in the Manning area in the early 1900's. They were Fred Hassler, Bob Halford, Charley Lyden and his son Vince, and Bill Timmerman, father of Henry Timmerman.
Hassler had the Fashion Herd of Poland China hogs and was the largest hog breeder in this area of that time. He had the famous boar "Grand Master" which weighed 1,140 pounds. Fashion Hogs were sold throughout the country and were the basis of many famous herds.
Fred Hassler was married to Glennie Babcock, whose family owned and lived on the former Albert Jensen farm. After their marriage, the Hasslers moved to the farm south of Willow Creek Park, which was once owned by Bill Leets of Audubon. Leets had built the lovely home which is still used today.
The Charley Lyden home place was southeast of Manning where the Wilbur Lamp family now lives. The Lydens raised trotting horses which were raced at many fairs. Their most famous was a stallion named La Mark Jr., a winner at nearly all the races it entered.
Lyden went into the hog business about 1917 and raised purebred Poland Chinas. He showed the hogs at many fairs and was a judge in the Poland China division at the Indiana State Fair for four years. He showed the grand championship sow in 1918 at the National Show held in Cedar Rapids. The prize animal's picture graced national association literature for several years as "the most perfect and typical Poland China sow".
In the early 1920's Lester Wiese shipped the first Tamworth hogs into this area and had the first flock of Karakul Fur Sheep in the state. When the Wiese Hereford business began to demand more attention, the sheep were sent to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, and the hogs were sold to Dr. W.D. Addison. Doc Addison, a veterinarian, continued breeding and showing the Tamworth hogs a number of years.
WE CAN REMEMBER---
Hassler 8. Son held a Poland China sale October, 1939. Top pig brought $600 and was sold to L.E. Phillips, then president of Phillips Petroleum Co., of Bartelsville, Oklahoma.
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The nation's leading Aberdeen-Angus herd of the late 1890's and early 1900's came from the Escher-Ryan Farms between Botna and Irwin.
The herd was started in 1892, when Charles Escher Jr. entered a partnership with his father, Charles Escher Sr. The family had come to Shelby County in 1876, and during the next 30 years, Charles Sr. accumulated more than 1,100 acres of farmland.
Charles Jr. was 20 when his livestock and farming career was launched. Within 20 years, he owned 1,800 acres of land and was considered the foremost breeder of Aberdeen-Angus cattle in the United States.
The Eschers built their herd from a foundation of 100 high grade stock. The herd was increased through four importations from Scotland, in 1900, 1902, 1906, and 1909, and from the purchase of the leading cattle at American Aberdeen-Angus sales.
In 1906, James Dalgety met Charles Escher, Sr. at an Aberdeen Angus sale in Pert, Scotland. Dalgety was asked to come to America as a herdsman, and he and Escher arrived on a cattle boat, taking care of a shipment of cattle Escher had purchased in Scotland. Dalgety continued to work for the Eschers for many years.
Between 500 and 700 head of full-blooded cattle were kept at the farms each year. It was said that if a parade was formed of the Escher cattle, allowing 10 feet for each, the parade would have been 1 1/2 miles long.
The Eschers showed cattle at seven international shows previous to 1915, and never took lower than second place. They won more championships than any other exhibitor; they held the distinction of producing both a grand champion carload and the reserve champion at the same show, and did this two years, in 1911 and 1913.
The Eschers held an annual sale at their farm known as the Longbranch, now the Jerome Croghan farm south of Botna. Buyers from throughout the United States would come to Manning by train, and be taken by buggy to the farm. The group would often return to the Virginia Cafe in Manning for meals.
Stock from the farm went to 28 states and Canada.
Charles Jr. was appointed by two different governors to represent Iowa at the National Livestock Association meetings. He helped establish the Iowa Beef Producers Association, served as its president, and was a director of the National Aberdeen-Angus Breeders Association. He also served as a county supervisor and state legislator.
Charles Jr. was married to Myrtle Ryan in 1894. Her brother Earl became a partner in the business, which then became known as the Escher-Ryan Farms. Ryan lived at the Pleasant View farm between Irwin and Kirkman.
Both Ryan and Escher were considered excellent judges of cattle, and were often called upon to judge livestock shows.
Charles Escher, Jr. died in 1925, and a dispersion sale was held in the Manning sale pavilion. A bull named "Enlate of Denison'' sold for $36,000, the highest price a bull had ever brought. The next day, one of their cows sold for $10,000, the top price in that category.
The sale lasted two or three days, recalls Clyde Kenyon. Auctioneers were Kraschel and Cooper; Nels Kraschel later became Governor of Iowa. Each sale day concluded with a banquet in the old opera house, with the business people of the town invited as well as the cattlemen attending the sale.
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