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History of Butler County

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by John M. Millikin


BUTLER COUNTY contains four hundred and fifty-seven square miles. This area, as returned and assessed for taxation, contains 293,605 acres. The county, therefore, is of medium size; there being three counties in the State which contain less than 200,000 acres, and four counties which contain over 400,000 acres, all averaging 288,346 acres.

The lands of the county, from the latest data available, and from the known changes which have since taken place, are subdivided about as follows:

	In arable lands,. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210,000 acres
	In meadow and pasture lands,. . . . . . . . . . . . .	  20,000   "
	In wood and uncultivated lands, . . . . . . . . . . . .  63,000   "

			Total, . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . 293,000
The value of the lands, exclusive of the real estate in towns and cities, exceeds in value per acre the value of the lands in any of the other counties in the State, excepting the counties of Hamilton and Montgomery.

There are no data of recent date which exhibit the present subdivision of lands; but is is believed that the lands are now divided into about 4,000 farms of the following dimensions:

Farms containing less than 40 acres, about . . . . . . . 1,400
   "       "     between 40 and 80 acres, about . . . .  1,190
   "       "          "   80 and 160 acres, about . . .  1,130
   "       "          "   160 and 320 acres, about . . .   300
   "       "     over 320 acres, about . . . . . . . . . .  30

The geological formation of Butler County is identical with that which exists in the Miami Valley, known as the Lower Silurian. Throughout the county blue limestone rocks, of good quality, are found in great abundance.

Geographically considered, its location is not liable to serious or well-grounded objections. It enjoys superior business advantages from it proximity to the city of Cincinnati. There the farmer can, at all times, find a fair and ready market for all his productions. The facilities of access to the city by canal, by railroads, and by turnpikes, relieve the farmers from the unpleasant necessity of submitting to either exorbitant charges for transportatin or to the unreasonable and more odious exactions of those who have control of grain elevators. If farmers are not satisfied with the margin of profit claimed by grain-dealers, they can transact their own business in conformity with their own views. They enjoy like opportunities in the purchase of staple goods for their family use. Hence, the position of Butler County in reference to business affairs is unusually favorable.

The soil of this county is properly designated as limestone soil. It is exceedingly variable in character, but highly productive. Much of it is unsurpassed in fertility, while there is only a small portion which is not susceptible of being made of good quality by judicious husbandry. It has neither barren plains, nor sterile hills, nor marshes, nor swamps, which mar the beauty of the landscape, or generate noxious and unhealthy atmospheres.

As the characteristics and productive qualities of the soil in a county can be more correctly estimated and determined by the number, size, and character of the streams which flow through it, a skeleton map of the county is herewith presented, exhibiting the course of the Miami River, and the many large creeks, small creeks, runs, and streamlets which so abound and which so thoroughly ramify the entire county. This map will not only be valuable as indicating the quality of the soil, but will exhibit the abundance of water which the streams afford, and which is used for propelling machinery, as well as supplying water for farm and other purposes.

The lands known as "bottom lands" on the Miami River are generally composed of a sandy alluvial deposit. The predominant timber upon these lands is hackberry, buckeye, box-alder, sycamore, honey-locust, walnut, and sometimes sugar-tree and hickory. Nearly all the lands in this county of this quality have been cleared for more than fifty years, and have since been cultivated almost continuously. Portions of these lands have been occasionally subject to inundation from backwater, and have thereby become greatly enriched, while other portions have been injured by the displacement of the soil or the covering of the same with gravel.

The same quality of rich alluvial lands is to be found along the larger creeks, and is liable to like overflows and subject to like casualties. Such lands do not constitute either the most valuable or the most desirable farms. They subject their owners sometimes to great inconvenience and loss, and are not suitable for the production of the various grains, grasses, and other crops raised as are lands of essentially different quality. Nevertheless, these "bottom lands" are highly prized by many, and greatly preferred by a few of our farmers.

Lands known as "second bottom", whether near the Miami River or in the vicinity of our largest creeks, constitute a larger proportion of our good choice lands. Farms composed of such soil are more highly valued, and are regarded as decidedly superior in quality. Such lands usually abound in about the following varieties of timber: Hackberry, cherry, walnut, buckeye, blue ash, gray ash, pin-oak, white oak, burr-oak, and sugar-tree. Sometimes sycamores grow on such soils, in connectin with elms and the several varieties of haw-trees. It is not intended to say that all these several varieties of trees are found in the same locality; sometimes particular varieties prevail in one neighborhood, while other varieties predominate in another.

The surface of such soils not only furnishes exceedingly eligible sites for the location of farm buildings, but it is very favorable for farming operations. The soil is composed of a dark sandy loam, which originally abounded in vegetable mold. The land is, therefore, almost uniformly friable and easy of cultivation; sometimes it is based upon a gravelly subsoil, and at other times upon a clay substratum. This quality of soil is not confined to the immediate vicinity of either the Miami River or the largest creeks, but is to be found in great extent throughout many parts of the county. Farms consisting of lands of this quality have maintained their fertility surprisingly, even under improvident cultivation. They are easily recuperated with clover, which takes readily, and grows with vigorous luxuriance.

The "uplands" are very variable in quality. In one portion of the county, where the hills are unusually high for this part of Ohio, the land is of exceeding richness. The soil is adapted to the production of every variety of grain grown in the county. It is based upon a clay subsoil, and was originally covered with a rich, dark-colored vegetable mold. These hills, which have an altitude above the Miami River of about three hundred feet, were originally covered with a very thick growth of timber, indicating the very best quality of soil, entirely dissimilar from that which usually grows upon our uplands. On the very highest points on these hills, sycamore, black walnut, white walnut, black locust (trees between two and three feet in diameter), box-alder, gray ash, blue ash, pawpaw, etc., grew to an unusual size. And, notwithstanding the irregularities in the surface of this region, and the rich and friable character of the soil, yet there is no excessive gullying or washing away of the surface of the fields. The rich and favorable character of these lands, and their high elevation, make them especially valuable for the cultivation of fruit of every variety.

The other uplands, although somewhat different, are nevertheless similar in quality to most of the uplands in the Miami Valley. In some places they have incorporated with the surface soil a good proportion of vegetable material, while in other localities the soil is purely argillaceous. The farms on these uplands, usually denominated "clay farms," have for the last thirty-five years continuously grown upon public favor. By judicious culture they have regularly improved in productiveness. Clover usually takes readily, and all the labor and means applied in renovating these soils have been successful in producing good and enduring effects. Farms located upon these uplands are generally favorable for fruit-growing, for the production of small grain and grasses, and for general farming purposes. Indeed, farmers occupying such lands are already competing in large crops of corn with those who reside upon purely bottom lands. The prevailing timber is white oak, pigeon-oak, hickory, ash, red-bud, dogwood, and elm. Intermixed with these we generally find more or less of walnut and sugar-tree.

The climatology and meteorology of Butler County vary immaterially from that which prevails in southwestern Ohio. The most important characteristic of the climate is its uniformity. By this we do not mean to say that we are exempt from the usual changes and fluctuations of temperature, of wind and of rain, which are found to exist in other localities. What is claimed is great uniformity, for a series of years, of mean temperature, of mean precipitation of rain, and of mean force and frequency of winds. Consequently, although, in common with others, the county has occasionally suffered from the effects of droughts, from an excess of rain, and slightly from severe winds, yet its farmers have not encountered such privations and sustained such losses from the above causes as are common in other localities in the country. Our mean temperature for many yeas has been about fifty-three degrees; and the mean fall of water varies but little from forty-eight inches.

Although the surface of Butler County, sixty years ago, was thickly covered with a heavy and vigorous growth of timber, eight-tenths of which has been removed, yet there are now no perceptible changes in either the mean temperature, the mean quantity of rain precipitated, the frequency or durations of showers, or in the character or direction of the prevailing winds. Neither is it believed that our atmosphere is less humid than it was fifty years ago. Some slight modifications of our climate may have taken place. They are, however, not so marked as to be appreciable, even by those who have been careful observers of the weather and its influence upon the vegetation of the county.

The thorough clearing up of farms, however, has produced very decided effects upon our streams. They now rise more rapidly, attain to a great height, and subside, consequently, in much less time than heretofore. Obstructions have been removed from low lands, from runs and streamlets, and from creeks; and water now flows speedily off, instead of remaining spread over large tracts of land, to the great detriment and loss of our farmers.

In view, therefore, of the foregoing, we believe that it will not be unsafe to say that if a favorable geographical and commercial position - a climate singularly favorable for the production of the great agricultural staples and for the cultivation of fruits, and a soil variable in character, yet highly rich in all essential elements - are necessary to sonstitute a good farming region, then the farmers of Butler County are in the possession of that rich boon. In fertility of soil, in her temperate climate, in her favorable geographical position, her numerous streams of water, her timber, her exhaustless quarries of blue limestone, and her abundance of water power, Butler County may be equaled - she can not be excelled.

The cultivation of the lands of this county is by no means what it ought to be. The farmers are not sufficiently alive to the importance of a very complete knowledge of the general principles of such branches of learning as relate to agriculture. They hesitate, in many cases, to adopt, and in other cases they reject, not only the teachings of science, but refuse to profit by the practical demonstrations of our more intelligent and experienced cultivators. Notwithstanding the existence of this state of feeling among some of our farmers, we have the gratification of being able to say with truth that the husbandry of the county has, in many important regards, attained a commendable thoroughness, and is now rapidly improving. Farmers are becoming less and less unwilling to learn from others, and are more ambitious to investigate and consider the reasons assigned for the various systems or modes of culture. In due season, we do not question but what an improved state of husbrandry will generally prevail, and that the annual product of this county will be quadrupled.

The productiveness of the lands of the county will best be understood by a fell statement of the annual amounts of grains produced and the number of domestic animals owned in the county since the year 1850. And, first, of the grain produced.

Under this general head it is proposed to give a brief account of the mode of culture, with the results of wheat, barley, corn, rye, oats, and buckwheat, and to present such other facts and statements in reference to the same as may be deemed of general interest.

WHEAT. - This is one of the staple and most profitable crops raised in Butler County. The mode of culture generally adopted gives conclusive indications that the farmers have given great attention to the production of this favorite crop; and the results prove that they have generally met with fair success.

Wheat ground is generally prepared with more than ordinary care. Every thing necessary to be done for the proper preparation of the ground is more faithfully attended to than in preparing the lands for any other crop. The grain is generally put in with a drill. There are some, however, who adhere to the old way of sowing broadcast. Barn-yard manure on hand at the time of plowing for wheat, if unrotted, is carefully plowed under. If thoroughly rotted, it is applied as a top-dressing before the ground undergoes thorough pulverization with the harrow.

The old mode of plowing up "bare fallows" during the summer, and then replowing the same before sowing in wheat, has fallen into almost general disuse. If there are any fallow grounds, they are what are termed in England "green fallows". Clover-fields are esteemed the best for the production of a good crop of wheat. There are many who have great faith in the productive capacity of a good timothy meadow field, or timothy and clover field under pasturage for a good crop of wheat. Wheat stubble, barley stubble, and oats stubble grounds continue to be used by many for growing wheat. The practice of sowing wheat upon the same ground for many successive years is not so common as heretofore, although very frequently followed.

The breadth of land sown in wheat in this county is by no means uniform. It is as variable as the product per acre is uncertain. The crop harvested in 1862 was nearly forty-five per cent greater in breadth of land than the crop harvested in 1865; and the aggregate product of wheat in the county in 1862 more than doubled that harvested in 1865. The yield per acre of the crop of 1862 was fifteen and a half bushels, while the yield of 1865 was less than eleven bushels per acre.

To show the capacity of Butler County as a wheat-producing county, we herewith present a statement showing the number of acres sown and the number of bushels harvested per annum. Our statement refers to the years in which the crops were produced.


YEARS	No. acres		No. bushels	YEARS	No. acres		No. bushels
	sown		gathered			sown		gathered

1850	31,131		529,390		1866	38,602		127,832
1851	29,242		377,738		1867	32,890		425,336
1852	24,947		397,625		1868	37,733		329,144
1853	24,804		367,030		1869	40,517		646,054
1854	29,278		396,266		1870	35,075		442,537
1855	31,294		447,813		1871	34,318		384,427
1856	40,145		636,861		1872	28,901		300,186
1857	42,396		789,569		1873	33,856		487,070
1858	43,331		497,926		1874	38,443		623,329
1859	42,267		589,976		1875	34,235		149,847
1860	42,723		639,578		1876	25,839		263,135
1861	45,860		533,843		1877	33,900		525,889
1862	51,206		783,984		1878	39,653		564,944
1863	39,766		495,953		1879	38,427		678,717
1864	39,972		638,850		1860	38,669		587,764
1865	35,795		387,670		1881	42,799		. . . . . . 

BARLEY has been extensively cultivated in this county for many years. It has in many instances been one of the most remunerative crops grown, particularly when sown upon land specially adapted to its production. At times when barley commanded a high price, some of the farmers have produced such crops as would enable them to realize from fifty-five to seventy dollars per acre for a single crop.

The soil best adapted for raising barley must be a rich, warm, loamy soil, in good tilth and condition. On poor soils it is an unreliable and poorly paying crop. Fall barley is more generally raised than Spring. The first is more certain as a crop, and is more desired by brewers. Neither are regarded as being as exhaustive of the soil as wheat; and the stubble of barley is generally regarded as favorable for sowing wheat upon. The straw of barley is much used for feeding cattle, and as a substitute for hay for horses that are not performing very severe service. In the table that will be hereafter given it will be seen that the number of acres sown in barley varies from six to sixteen thousand acres per annum, and that we produce from 165,000 to 340,000 bushels per annum.

Barley being a crop quite extensively grown and relied upon by many farmers of this county, they will be interested in knowing the number of acres annually sown and the product thereof. The following will give the desired information:

YEARS		No. acres 	Annual 		YEARS	No. acres 	Annual
		sown.		product.			sown.		product.
1858		17,383		389,995		1870	 1,021		 15,732
1859		15,749		339,935		1871	16,887		400,918
1860		 9,171		230,560		1872	18,857		398,558
1861		10,569		224,639		1873	14,026		309,110
1862	 	 6,211		163,714		1874	12,443		364,632
1863		 9,501		187,393		1875	10,155		 71,318
1864		11,644		289,151		1876	10,126		193,542
1865		14,179		280,645		1877	15,852		484,732
1866		   944		 14,160		1878	11,841		435,150
1867		12,394		346,552		1879	15,995		449,786
1868		 6,692		 83,646		1880	23,693		489,055
1869		 9,165		245,747		. . . . . . .		. . . .
The crop of barley produced in 1866 was the most deficient of any that has been raised at any time within the last forty years.

RYE receives but little attention from the farmers of this county. Some sow it to provide early green feed for their milch cows, while others raise very small quantities for the grain and choice straw.

OATS are more extensively cultivated, although our farmers have been greatly discouraged in their production by the injuries which have for many years been done that crop by rust.

BUCKWHEAT is raised to a very limited extent indeed. Why it is so much neglected it is hard to determine. The quantity produced does not equal the demand for home consumption.

The corn-crop of this county is the crop, of all others, upon which farmers must rely. It is the basis of our agricultural prosperity. It is indispensable to the diversified system of husbandry which farmers have so long practiced with such pre-eminent success.

In this chapter it is deemed unnecessary to go into any special examinatin of the several modes or systems of culture which have been practiced in raising this crop. The qualities of land best adapted to the production of this important staple have already been given, when speaking of the various kinds of soil which exist in the county.

One very marked as well as important change in the culture of the corn-crop has taken place within the past ten or fifteen years. Farmers no longer restrict themselves, as formerly, to any specific number of what were styled "plowings" before "laying by" their corn-crop. It now receives much more attention than formerly, and many more "workings". The mellowness of the ground and its freedom from weeds have much to do in determining when it will be either safe or prudent to cease further cultivation of the land. A fixed number of times of "going through" no longer determines or regulates the operations of the intelligent cultivator of corn.

The following statement will exhibit the number of acres of corn planted in the years stated, and the number of bushels produced in each year:


YEARS.	No. acres 	No. bushels	YEARS.	No. acres		No. bushels
	planted		produced		        	planted		produced
1850	62,031		2,646,353		1806	13,411		  136,000
1851	54,640		2,696,183		1807	51,374		1,838,375
1852	57,763		2,446,123		1868	53,039		2,164.062
1853	62,470		2,406,733		1869	52,258		1,601,229
1854	55,594		1,815,161		1870	42,350		1,239,132
1855	61,939		3,245,186		1871	58,723		2,522,690
1856	59,513		2,288,713		1872	57,690		2,738,309
1857	56,383		2,696,597		1873	54,971		2,437,997
1858	49,848		1,448,846		1874	58,110		2,300,388
1859	57,237		2,089,463		1875	73,388		2,935,430
1860	55,566		2,581,596		1876	72,247		3,000,546
1861	58,093		2,425,379		1877	75,744		3,273,070
1862	58,353		2,215,510		1878	68,841		2,946,815
1863	57,666		2,275,145		1879	65,547		2,516,016
1864	46,905		1,252,636		1880	59,031		2,358,833
1865	51,273		2,181,989		. . . 	. . . . . 	. . . . . . .

With this exposition of the grain-producing capabilities of this county, we pass to the consideration of other questions connected with our agriculture.

In the further presentation of such facts and considerations as are pertinent to an exposition of the state of agriculture in this county, we shall give, briefly, some account of the cultivation of other articles which are included in agricultural products.

Among these may appropriately be mentioned the growing of potatoes, of flax, of sorghum, and of tobacco. The quality of our soil is well adapted to the raising of potatoes. Farmers who have given their attention at the right time and in the right way to the proper cultivation of this highly prized and indispensable esculent have always been well rewarded for their labor and painstaking. And yet potatoes are not so generally cultivated as they should be. We do not produce more potatoes than we consume. We should produce largely for exportation. It is a staple vegetable, universally used, and always commanding a fair price, and its production should, therefore, be greatly augmented.

Flax, although grown in this county, is not as extensively raised by our farmers as by those residing in some of the adjoining counties. It is more generally cultivated for the seed, which has become an important article of commerce, and is industriously sought for at high prices. The fiber is now only incidentally valuable. It is not relied upon to any great extent as a source of income, because of the unsalable condition in which the same has to be sold. If a cheap and speedy way can be discovered by which the fiber can be so manipulated as to make it an available and desirable stock for the manufacture of a good quality of paper, then the business of growing flax would rapidly increase, and soon become a prominent and profitable crop in this county.

Sorghum cane is cultivated with us, and manufactured into syrup, to a moderate extent. It has proved a very valuable substitute for other molasses, and has been used extensively by those who felt themselves unable or unwilling to purchase sugar or other molasses at the exorbitant prices demanded. If science, and the practical skill of those who are now investigating the subject and making experiments, shall successfully ascertain some real, certain, and not extravagantly expensive process, by which farmers and others can manufacture a fair article of sugar, then the introduction of sorghum will have been proved to be of exceeding great value to the country. As yet no satisfactory testimony of such success has been given. That sugar has been produced from sorghum is unquestioned. That the process of its production is easily to be understood and practiced, so that success in making sugar is certain, no satisfactory proof has yet been adduced. It is earnestly to be hoped that our farmers may soon be able to obtain such information and instruction as will enable them to manufacture their own sugar from sorghum syrup in such quantities as will at least enable them to meet the demands of their own households.

Tobacco is the last of the four articles named in the preceding list. How great a curse it has been to the soil unwisely prostituted to its cultivation we have no time to consider at length. It is enough for the intelligent and conscientious husbandman to know that every district of country devoted to the raising of tobacco for a series of years has been almost irreparably injured in its productive capacity. Small and particular localities which have been cultivated in tobacco may have had their fertility maintained for a while by robbing other portions of the farm of their due proportion of manure; yet, sooner or later, the exhaustive process will ultimately work the deterioration of any neighborhood or farming district where tobacco-raising is a prominent part of the farming operations.

As the very choicest land of a farm has to be used for growing tobacco - as it is an exacting crop (not only upon the land, but upon those who work it, and who worm the plants) - as the product has to be housed and handled, stemmed, and prepared for market in a most careful manner, by those who have practical experience in its management - as the crop is precarious and uncertain, and the price which it commands is exceedingly fluctuating - we are happy to know that many of the farmers of this county, who were beguiled by its tempting but false promise of gain, have entirely abandoned its cultivation. The losses which some of our farmers have sustained by reason of their devotion to the weed have sadly modified their admiration of its money-producing qualities. We have no commiseration for those who have sustained losses. On the contrary, we rather rejoice that something has occurred to induce them to withdraw from the pursuit of a business which at no time and in no manner has promoted the happiness or well-being of a single consumer, but which, on the contrary, has strongly tended to injure, mentally and physically, all who permitted themselves to be brought within its baneful and destructive influence.

In addition to the foregoing statements relating to the past and present condition of many important branches connected with the agriculture of Butler County, it will not be inappropriate briefly to make reference to other products which deserve attention, and which constitute a part of our productive wealth.

With us, as yet, fruit culture has not received merited attention. As a substantial element of food for many - as a valuable agent in preserving and promoting good health - as as a luxury which all classes may enjoy with a zest and a relish unknown to the non-producer, good fruit, upon the farm or in the garden, may be justly regarded as the best indication that the agriculturist or horticulturist has been mindful of his duty to his family and himself, while he has been considerate in looking to the sure and liberal pecuniary reward which will follow the labors of the careful, industrious, and intelligent cultivator. The growing of fruits is not only an attractive pursuit in which men become intensely enthusiastic, but it is profitable employment. Hence, under favorable circumstances, every desirable point for raising fruit should be speedily and thoroughly improved.

The orchard culture of apples is improving regularly; while the orchard culture of peaches and pears is making rapid progress. Some exceedingly eligible localities in various parts of the county have already been well improved by the establishment of large peach orchards. One of these localities, on the west side of the Miami River, near Middletown, has attained a creditable notoriety as a valuable fruit producing point, from which extensive crops of peaches have been profitably shipped. Its location is exceedingly favorable as a shipping point. Fruit designed for the North may be taken in the morning from the trees, and properly boxed and delivered at the depot in time for the morning express train from Cincinnati. Thus fresh fruit may be landed in Toledo, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, or Buffalo, and intermediate points within from six to twelve hours of the time the fruit was taken from the tree.

The cultivation of all the esteemed varieties of small fruits is receiving increased attention. Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, and gooseberries are being disseminated more thoroughly throughout the county. Amateurs, gardeners, and farmers are vying with each other for prominence in their cultivation.

Grapes are receiving increased attention. All the more modern and all the esteemed varieties are receiving proper culture in the vineyard as well as in the garden of the amateur.

Vegetable gardening for the supply of the markets has increased with unusual rapidity. The same is true of the country. Farmers everywhere are giving more time and labor to the cultivation of their own fruit and vegetable gardens. They are manifesting a becoming and an increasing regard for the comforts of their family, by supplying them with the fruits and garden products that constitute to so great an extent the substantials and luxuries of life.

Superadded to these productions, our farmers are giving more and more attention to the cultivation of sweet potatoes, and the field culture of pumpkins, turnips, beans, etc. All these things, concerning which we have no statistics, constitute in the aggregate a valuable item in making up a full statement of the entire agricultural products of this county.