SOME OUTLINES OF THE AGRICULTURE OF MAINE.
By Samuel L. Boardman, Augusta
It may be well, before speaking of the agricultural condition and practices of the State, to glance at its general outlines of situation, climate, soil, and productions.
The State of Maine occupies a little less than one-half of the surface of the New England States, and extends from latitude 43° to 47° 30' north, and longitude 5° 56' to 10° 10' east from Washington, its extreme length, from Kittery Point to the northeastern angle of the State, being 350 miles, and its greatest width, from Quoddy Head to the New Hampshire line, 200 miles. The area of the State comprises 31,766 square miles, or 20,330,240 acres. According to the census of 1860, the number of acres in farms was 5,700,675, while the number of acres under cultivation was but 2,677,136. Population in 1860, 628,276.
The climate of Maine is variable. We have extremes of both heat and cold. The temperature ranges between 100° above and 30° below zero, but the changes are seasonable and do not at all interfere with the personal health of the inhabitants. The season of active agricultural labor is short, as winter rules half the year; and although vegetation is late, it is rapid and vigorous. The growing season begins, usually, about the middle of April, extending to the middle of October, although the period of the most active growth lasts only for three or three and a half months. The apple trees blossom, on an average, from May 26 to June 6. Indian corn is planted from May 25 to June 1, and is ripe for harvesting about the first week in September; and the work of securing the crop of hay begins about the first of July and continues through the month. In situations along the coast the summers are rendered more pleasant by the recurrence of sea breezes, and in counties in the eastern part of the State the atmospheric temperature is somewhat modified by the vapors and fogs rising from the Gulf Stream, which, in these latitudes, sweeps the shores. Droughts of brief duration but great severity frequently occur during the summer months, although the annual average rain fall is not far from forty inches. Occasionally late spring or early autumn frosts seriously damage the crops of corn, beans, and the less hardy cereals. The surface of the land contiguous to the seaboard is generally flat, and its character sandy. Back from the coast region it is pleasantly varied with hills, valleys, and plains. One marked feature in the physical geography of the State is the absence of continued ranges of mountains, or even elevations approaching appellation of "high hills," although in the northwestern portion there are numerous detached elevations, which may quite properly be regarded as the sentinel outposts of the White Mountains. The highest elevation of land in the State is Mount Katahdin, which rises 5,385 feet above the level of the sea. Almost every variety of soil is found in the State—sandy, clayey, gravelly, rocky—and of various degrees of fertility. The coast lands are light, but with the application of considerable quantities of marine manures produce average crops. In the valleys drained be the Kennebec, Penobscot, Androscoggin, Sandy, and smaller rivers, there are rich fields admirably adapted to grazing purposes, and comprising the best-farmed sections of the State, being in a high state of cultivation, and yielding productive crops of every description. In the eastern part of the State there are extensive tracts of plain land, generally of a light character, originally covered with a white pine growth, and of a fair degree of fertility; but from the increased attention heretofore given to lumbering, their culture has been somewhat neglected. Along the coast in some counties are salt marshes of considerable extent, which are used for the purpose of cutting hay, and are generally owned in sections or lots by those having farms remote from the coast. The underlying rocks throughout the State are chiefly primary, with a large division of those that refer to the transition period, while in the eastern portion is an important region of the lower secondary formation. Fisher says: "Everywhere it has alluvial and diluvial deposits, and vast igneous formations, not only in the interior, but forming a barrier against the ocean surge along a considerable part of an immense sea-coast." The mineral deposits are various and extensively distributed throughout the limits of the State, and, through the instrumentality and scientific survey, (recommended in 1860, of science,) many important but hitherto unknown deposits of valuable minerals have been discovered. The one most worthy of mention is that of an extensive deposit of iron, discovered in the past season (1862) in No. 13, range IV, Aroostook county. This ore is of the same quality as that obtained from Woodstock, New Brunswick, which, according to experiments conducted by the English government, was the only iron from a large number tested that would withstand the pressure of a 250-pound ball from an Armstrong gun. The ore is a compact red hematite, containing about 30[%] of metallic ore, is favorably located for mining and smelting, is inexhaustible in extent, and its discovery is regarded as highly important at this time. Granite, limestone, and marble constitute the principal mineral products, the two former being extensively quarried; and the latter, of which some new deposits, excellent in quality and large in extent, have recently been found in Aroostook, is quarried to a limited degree. Lime is abundant in the southeastern section of the State, and is burnt in great quantities for exportation. It is also found in many other localities.
In that part of the State extending from the Kennebec to the Penobscot rivers, in the southern portions of Piscataquis county, are extensive beds of roofing-slate, which have been quarried in a number of places, especially at Brownville, where a large number of men are continually employed, and slates in the extreme eastern and western parts of the States, and iron has for many years been smelted in considerable quantities at the Mount Katahdin and Pembroke mines. Bog-iron ore is so common as to be put down as occurring in almost every county in the State, in many of which it has heretofore been worked. The upper silurian limestones, suitable for the manufacture of hydraulic cement, which is a most important article in building, occurs in several localities in Eastern Maine. Soapstone, sandstone, and brecciated rocks of many varieties are found; also jasper, including the beautiful greenstone trap, and its varieties, and porphyry. Fisher remarks: "The trap-dykes are numerous and exceedingly distinct; they cut through most of the other rocks, and produce upon them most distinctly those peculiar effects which, to a demonstration, prove their igneous origin; while the diluvial deposits, the boulders inherent in rocks which once formed the sea-coast, although now elevated 26 feet above the water, a salt spring at Lubec, and many other interesting phenomena, illustrate parts of the scientific geology of Maine." It has been estimated that one-tenth of the State is covered with water. The rivers are numerous, and many of them large and important, affording, in nearly every instance, excellent opportunities for mills, although the rapids in them interrupt their navigation to a great extent into the interior. The northern section is drained by the St. John and its tributaries, the eastern by the Penobscot, the central by the Kennebec, and the western by the Androscoggin and the Saco. Lakes and ponds are found in great numbers and many of them are of such an extent as to form a characteristic feature in the country; and while many of them are noted for the picturesqueness of the surrounding scenery, not a few are fast becoming useful channels of interior communication, and are likely to become still more important as fields for the propagation of fish, when the experiments which have been begun, and which have thus far proved so successful, shall have been extended to those ponds suited to the enterprise. The largest in extent are Moosehead, Chesuncook, Pemadumcook, Umbagog, and the Schoodic. The islands on the coast are numbered by the hundreds, ranging, in extent, from sixty thousand acres of inhabited and fertile land, to those numberless smaller islands which are little else than a mass of rocks. Upon many of these islands sheep have, within a few years, been introduced, and they are likely to become the best lands for sheep ranges that we have in the State. Away from the worrying and dangerous chase of dogs, and protected from the cold winds by the low, thick evergreens with which the shores of these islands are studded, they offer most excellent situations for this branch of husbandry. A mixed course of husbandry is pursued by the farmers. There is no one branch of operations which farmers engage in as a specialty, but all the staple crops are usually grown upon each farm, and a mixture of stock, including horses, sheep, neat cattle, &c., are kept. The barns and farm buildings are in good order, many of them being elegant and expensive, and all are well adapted for their purposes. The size of the farms ranges from 100 to 300 acres.
Maine is pre-eminently a stock-growing region. It has rich pastures, and furnishes a large amount of that indispensable staple in stock husbandry, good hay. The value of the farm stock, as furnished by the census of 1860, was $15,437,380. Let us present some notes on the early history, introduction, and present condition of the various breeds of cattle.
Maine, until 1820, was a part of Massachusetts; consequently, our early history of the introduction of neat cattle must include those brought to New England. In Hubbard's New England, p. 34, the author says: "In March, 1624, Mr. Winslow's agent for the colony arrived at Plymouth, in the ship Charity, and, together with a good supply of clothing, brought a bull and three heifers, which were the first cattle of the kind in this part of America." These were cattle which came from parts of Devonshire and adjoining counties, where Devon cattle equally prevailed. Subsequently to this, in 1630, it brought over more or less stock of the Devon breed. So early as 1630, Captain John Mason, an enterprising and energetic pioneer, had several plantations on the Piscataqua, now including the towns of Kittery and Berwick, in the western part of the State. The cattle imported by Captain Mason were Danish (C.E. Potter, esq. Transactions New Hampshire Agricultural Society. 1854.); and although, prior to 1630, he had imported a few cows for the purpose of affording milk for the workmen on his estates, in the two or three years following he "made frequent importations of bulls, oxen, and cows" for the purpose of stocking his somewhat extensive farms. They were chosen on account of their capacity for labor and endurance of the rigors of our climate. They were large, of powerful make, and yellow color. In 1634 there were some three hundred cattle upon Mason's patents, mostly of this breed; and six years later, according to Barber, "it was judged that they had 12,000 neat cattle in New England," and some writers assert that of this number eleven hundred were, without doubt, Devons, and the remainder of the Danish cattle imported by Captain Mason. Dr. Holmes says (Agriculture of Maine, 1855, p. 80): "Now these Denmarks of Captain Mason, thus distributed through Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, soon became mixed with the cattle that had been imported into the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies, and which may be mainly called Devons, and formed that cross or breed of cattle denominated Natives," or, in other words, the "Old Red Stock of New England." But few facts can be obtained concerning the importation of cattle into this State between the dates above mentioned and 1791-'92; but it is probable that they were occasionally brought in my masters of vessels who traded with different parts of Europe and with the West Indies. In 1791-'92 the late Mr. Charles Vaughan, who, with his brother, the late Benjamin Vaughan, LL.D., both gentlemen largely interested in agriculture, had previously migrated from England and settled on an extensive estate in Halowell, imported a number a number of cattle from England. Their first importation was made in 1791, and consisted of two cows and two bulls, the animals arriving in the Kennebec river in the fall of the year. The bulls were selected from the cattle in the Smithfield market, and the cows from the milch farms near London. These cattle were probably the Bakewell breed, which was an improvement of the Long Horns, as they were called. During the war with England, in 1814, an English vessel was captured and taken into Portland, that had cattle on board. A bull from this lot, a few years subsequently, stood in some part of the Kennebec valley, and was known as the "Prize Bull." He left some good stock. "Up to 1718, therefore," says Dr. Holmes, "the native cattle of Maine, so called, and, indeed, of all New England, were a mixture of the Denmarks, imported by Mason; the Devons, brought over by the pilgrims of Plymouth, and, probably, of some black cattle, brought at some time from the West Indies or the Spanish Main; the Vaughan importation, and the "Prize Bull." There were also occasionally found some polled or hornless cattle, which were probably introduced from England or from some of the British provinces adjoining us."
About the year 1817 an increased attention was given to the rearing of stock. At this time the old "Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture" (many farmers in the District of Maine were members of this society) offered a premium of $100 [~$1895 in 2018 value. -ASC] for the importation of a thorough-bred Durham shorthorn bull. This resulted in the procuring of a fine animal, imported into Northboro, Massachusetts, by the late Stephen Williams, esq.—the first short-horn bull imported into the United States—at a cost of about one thousand dollars. He arrived November 5, 1817. He was sired by Denton, by Comet, by Favorite, &c., &c. His dam was by Baronet, grand-dam by Cripple, &c. He was called "Denton 2d." This arrival was kept in Northboro' and Worchester until 1827, when he was presented by Mr. Williams to Dr. E. Holmes, of Gardiner, in this State. He was the first throughbred Durham short-horn ever brought into Maine, there having been a few half-bloods previously introduced. Denton was at this time about seven years of age. He stood a part of the following season at Gardiner; afterwards two seasons at Livermore, and was from thence carried to Starks, in Somerset county, where he died of old age in April, 1830. Other importations were made by General Robinson, of Hallowell, and John Davis, of Augusta.
The first Hereford introduced in Maine was a grade bull, "Young Sir Isaac," brought into Hallowell, in 1830, by Sanford Howard. This animal took the Hereford portion of his blood from a bull of the Hereford breed, presented to the "Massachusetts Agricultural Society" by Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin. About fourteen years later, 1844, J.W. Harris, of Hallowell, purchased of Messrs. Sotham & Corning, Albany, New York, (who imported this stock from England in 1841,) the full-blooded Hereford bull "Albany." He stood in various towns in Kennebec county, and sired some of the best working oxen raised in Kennebec county, and sired some of the best working oxen ever raised in Maine. Subsequently to this, a bull and a heifer of this breed were imported from England into Searsport by Captain Phineas Pendleton.
The Devons, although beautiful and compact and well adapted to the various purposes of grazing country, are not found in great numbers in this State; yet they give promise of becoming a prevailing and favorite breed. "They are as large as the fertility of Maine soils generally are capable of feeding fully and profitably." The first of this breed sent to Maine was by Isaac Thorndike, esq., of Boston, to his farm in the town of Jackson, Waldo county, in 1834. It was a full-blood Devon bull, from the Patterson herd in Maryland. From this animal grades were obtained on the Durham and other stock of the vicinity. Subsequent to this full-bloods were obtained by Messrs. Percival, of Waterville, Mr. Mitchell, of Pittston, Mr. Harris, of Dixmont, J.F. Anderson, esq., of South Windham, and Mr. Joseph Tufts, of Paris. The two latter gentlemen are quite largely engaged in breeding this class of stock.
In 1852 or 1853 William S. Grant, esq., of Farmingdale, purchased a thoroughbred Jersey bull and heifer. The Jerseys are now quite extensively disseminated in many parts of the State, especially in the rich grazing district of the Kennebec country, in which section there is a number of gentlemen engaged in breeding them.
Among the first importers of Ayrshires from Scotland to this country appear the names of Captain Randall, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Hon. J.P. Cushing, of Watertown, Massachusetts. From these two herds several animals were brought into Maine by enterprising farmers. The dates of these importations we are not able to determine. How extensively this breed has become spread throughout our State, or how careful breeders have been to preserve the purity of the blood, we cannot say. It is to be feared, however, that the care necessary for the perpetuation of valuable properties in stock—and this applies to one breed as well as to another—has not been so fully attended to as is necessary in order to preserve these characteristics. In 1852 Dr. Holmes wrote as follows: "We have had all the well-defined breeds of English cattle brought into Maine, except the Alderney and West Highland. But very few of our farmers, however, make a systematic business of breeding any particular breed of cattle. They have no system at all in this business, but are continually mixing and crossing anything and everything that comes to hand." Notwithstanding the truth of this at the time—and, to a limited extent, even now—yet there is a large number of breeders who keep their breeds pure and choice. There has also been a decided improvements in the general character of all the breeds of stock, which is due to the high character present excellent condition of our working oxen and cows is traceable to these thoroughbred animals and their grades.
Agricultural societies, by offering premiums for the importation of choice breeds, have contributed much to elevate the character of our neat cattle and other stock, and have accomplished a work that would not have been so quickly done by individual enterprise. If the only proof of the benefits derived from the establishment of the old "Massachusetts Society" were found in the importation of the single bull, "Denton," into this State, it would be a convincing argument in favor of agricultural societies. That one animal has been of incalculable worth to the State of Maine. Another good work done by these societies in the matter of stock-breeding has been in the classification of breeds, and offering premiums for each distinct one. Previous to 1845 stock was not classed for premiums by the societies then existing in Maine, and premiums were awarded for the best bull, best cow, &c., &c. Since then, by awarding premiums to distinct breeds, societies have helped greatly to induce farmers to have a more judicious care in breeding, and in this way have contributed directly to the development and perpetuation of known excellencies in breeds. It could not have been so well done by any other method.
In breeding stock, our farmers have paid too great attention to size, leaving other important qualities in the background. The aim has been to produce fancy stock—steers and oxen well matched for color, form, size, &c.; and by following this plan our working oxen are unsurpassed for hardiness and good working qualities, but our cows are not celebrated as milkers. We are glad that that the true policy is becoming understood, and that breeding for the dairy is beginning to receive increased attention, while the other is not neglected.
From the historical sketch of the importation of choice breeds into Maine, with the careful breeding and close attention to purity of blood, which, in many cases, have marked the course of their breeders, a very correct opinion of the present condition and character of our neat stock can be obtained. We have preferred to give this historical sketch, instead of remarking upon the characteristics of the various breeds as they are now well understood by all intelligent farmers.
This State has not been less celebrated for its horses than for its neat stock, while of both we have now, and heretofore had, some of the best specimens to be found in the New England States. The number of horses by the census of 1860 was 60,741.
It is probable that the early residents of Maine derived their first breeds of horses from Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Messrs. Gorges and Mason, who were the proprietors of that portion of Maine west of the Kennebec river, and who took great pains to introduce neat stock into this State, probably brought horses also, which were disseminated by early settlers throughout the extent of their settlements. Previous to the days of agricultural societies, the introduction and improvement of stock rested upon individual enterprise; but of these no records have been transmitted to us. In the early records of the county of York, there are but one or two instances where horses were made the subject of public auction. In 1653 we find the following order, made by the general court of Massachusetts, for the valuation of horses, and it is copied here as a specimen of the curious records of the past:
"Whereas the order made to regulate, in point of rating, for the countries use, provides how horses, mares, and colts should bee valued, which at present is farr below what, they are worth; for redressing of which this court doth order that henceforth ev'y mare, horse, or gelding, of Foure yere's old and upwards, shall bee vallued at Sixteen pounds; and of Three yere's old at Tenne pounds, and of Two yere's old and upwards at Seaven pounds, and at One yere old at Three pounds tenne shillings, any Lawe or Custome to the Contrary notwithstanding. And, further, it is ordered that this Lawe shall Continue for two yere's onely, except the Generall Court shal see Cause to Continue or alter it."
It would be interesting to the agriculturists of the present day to follow out the early history of the introduction and breeding of this useful animal, to give a connected account of the different families or breeds that have been introduced into our State, and by whom they were introduced, and to trace the results that have followed from the course of breeding, though pursued with but little system, and often on incorrect principles; but it is impossible to do this, there being no date from which to start such a work, or to carry it along through the early years of our agricultural history. Up to about 1816 the horses of Maine were, doubtless, a collection of what the farmers of England would call "horses of all work," and this definition would apply, with much correctness, to the horses of Maine of the present day. In 1855 the secretary of the State Agricultural Society, in his annual report, wrote as follows:
"At present there are three breeds of horses that may be considered as being predominant in Maine, viz: Messengers, Morgans, and Black Hawks. These breeds, however, are not kept very distinct, being crossed and mixed up in no very systematic manner, according as the fancy or convenience of the farmers who wish to raise colts may dictate. It is not a little remarkable that, notwithstanding this lack of system in breeding, some of the fleetest trotters in the Union were raised in Maine."
Imported Messenger, according to the "American Turf Register," was brought from England by Mr. Benger in 1791, and landed in New York in the fall of that year. He stood two years near Philadelphia, and was afterwards sold to Mr. Henry Actor, and stood one season on Long Island. After this he was carried to Dutchess county, New York, and in 1808 he died on the farm of Mr. S. Cook, on Long Island. The "Winthrop Messenger," or, as he is best known by residents in this State, the "Old Messenger," was a grandson of "Imported Messenger," and was purchased in Paris, Oneida county, New York, by Alvin Hayward, esq., of Winthrop, and brought by him into that town about the year 1816. Those who have seen him describe him as "a large white, muscular horse, with a clumsy head, but well proportioned body and legs." His form and general appearance indicated a powerful animal, but he never exhibited any of those qualities which would have entitled him to be called "a fast horse." When his colts came into service they were found to be superior roadsters, and very many of them became fast trotters, and were