THE 1870 CENSUS OF AGRICULTURE
WAYNE COUNTY, TENNESSEE
By Gerald K. Moore
© 2002 Gerald K. Moore - All Rights Reserved
Used With Permission


INTRODUCTION

In 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880, a separate census of agriculture was made at the same time as the census of population. The agriculture census of 1870 is interesting because the age of rural self sufficiency was slowly ending and the age of urban industry was starting. Most things, including clothing and farm equipment, were slightly cheaper than in the past and buying instead of making them saved a lot of time. However, families needed more income for this purpose. The exports from Wayne County paid for imported, factory-made goods in the stores. A large majority of Wayne County farmers grew corn that was fed to livestock, and the sale of salted (cured) meat and live animals produced most farm income. Other income came from the sale of crops, forest products (tanbark, barrel staves, charcoal, etc) and home manufacturing. The markets for farm products included distant cities, nearby town dwellers, and shops or industries that fed their employees. The main shipping points, to which goods were carried by wagon, were Clifton and Columbia. Steamboat shipments from Clifton in the 1870ís included cotton, wheat, dried fruit, and feathers. Other possible exports, as shown by relatively large quantities in the 1870 census of agriculture, were live animals, cured meat, butter, sorghum molasses, honey, beeswax, wool, tobacco, and home manufactures. Some corn might have been shipped in the form of whiskey.

A few names and numbers in the 1870 census of agriculture are incorrect, as was determined, in part, by comparison with the population census. It was common practice in the 1800ís for a census taker to make a clean copy of his records, to keep the original, and to mail his copy to the county. County officials then made one or more copies to send to the state, where at least one more copy was made and sent to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some errors seem to have occurred when one person read the names of land owners aloud and other people wrote down what they heard. Other errors apparently resulted from carelessness (three neighboring farm operators are spelled Kidy, Kiddy, and Kiddey), overlooking some data, or entering data in the wrong columns. These possible errors have not been corrected because the transcript is intended to duplicate the source microfilm. Because of these errors, the records for individual farms are not completely reliable. Nevertheless, statistical analyses show that such problems have little if any effect on the distributions of values and amounts.

In the data for the census of agriculture, there are significantly more values in the lower half of the range for each category than in the upper half, and a few numbers are very large. In technical terms, the data are log-normally distributed. For practical purposes, this simply means that the middle or median value is a more representative average value than is the mean and that unusually large numbers are not representative of most farms in the county.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE DATA

The agricultural census of 1870 was intended to record the farms that produced more than $100 of goods, but the census taker also included some farms with less income. For each farm, the census taker recorded data in 52 separate categories on two pages. Columns for farm operator (col. 1) to tobacco production (col. 24) appeared on the first page, and columns for cotton production (col. 25) to gross farm income (col. 52) appeared on the second. A few pages are poorly legible, as is noted in the comments (col. 53). Also, there was no production for some crops; these columns have been omitted. One other column, the value of personal property, was not a part of the agricultural census but was copied from the population census; it follows the column showing land value because it might include the value of housing, outbuildings, and mills. In any case, this information adds to the picture of economic conditions in Wayne County. Column numbers and data explanations are as follows:

Original
Column
No.


Label


Explanation

1

Owner

Principal farm operator. The listed name was usually the same as the head of family in the population census.
2 acres, Improved Area of cleared land
3 acres, Woodland Area of forested land
4 acres, Other Area of other unimproved land; marsh and prairie (?)
5 Land Value $ Cash value of farm. The value of housing is apparently not included in column 5. For rented land, the letter "R" is shown in col. 5, and the word "Renter" is shown in col. 53.
None Personal Estate $ Value of non-land property. This column was intended to include the cash value of household goods, furnishings, and livestock for the population census. However, the personal estate value is commonly larger than the farm value. It is likely that these data include the value of the ownerís or tenantís house plus any outbuilding, workshop, or mill. On rented land, a small building of round or squared (with a broadax) timbers could be erected for the cost of a few sawed boards (flooring), nails, and window glass. On their own land, people built as good a house as they could afford.
6 $ Farm Machinery Value of farming implements and machinery
7 $ Wages Total wages paid during the year, including the value of board.
8 $ Horses Number of working animals
9 # Mules Number of working animals
10 # Milk Cows Number of farm animals
11 # Oxen Number of working animals
12 # Other Cattle Number of farm animals
13 # Sheep Number of farm animals
14 # Swine Number of farm animals
15 $ Livestock Value of all livestock  The census taker was instructed to count all animals more than 1 year old. Livestock values were recorded with 1-4 significant figures, apparently indicating both rough estimates and detailed calculations.
16 Bu. Wheat, spring Crop production, bushels
17 Bu. Wheat, winter Crop production; column omitted. Production was shown as spring wheat in the first five civil districts of Wayne County, but as winter wheat in civil districts 6-12; this is unlikely. Column 16 shows total wheat production.
18 Bu. Rye Crop production, bushels
19 Bu. Corn Crop production, bushels
20 Bu. Oats Crop production, bushels
21 Bu. of Rice No data; column omitted
22 Bu. Barley No data; column omitted
23 Bu. of Rice No data; column omitted
24 lbs. Tobacco Crop production, pounds
25 bales Cotton Number of 450 lb. bales. Fractional bales of cotton were recorded for Civil Districts 1-6, but only whole bales were shown for Districts 7-12.
26 lb. Wool Weight before washing
27 Bu. Peas Peas and Beans production
28 Bu. Pot. Irish potatoes production
29 Bu. Swt. Pot. Sweet potatoes production
30 $ Fruit Value of orchard products
31 Wine, gal. One small producer; column omitted
32 Mkt. Gar. $ Sales from market garden
33 lb. Butter Home manufacture, pounds
34 Cheese, lb. No date, column omitted
35 Milk, gal. One small producer; column omitted
36 tons Hay Farm harvest. Numerous producers of a fractional ton to multiple tons of hay were recorded in Civil Districts 1-6, but only two hay producers were recorded in Districts 7-12. This situation is unlikely.
37 Clover seed, Bu. One small producer, column omitted
38 Grass seed, Bu. One small producer, column omitted
39 Hops, lb. No data; column omitted
40 Hemp, tons No data; column omitted
41 Flax, lb. No data; column omitted
42 Flax seed, Bu. No data; column omitted
43 Silk cocoons, lb. No data; column omitted
44 Maple sugar, lb. Farm production. The Wayne County product was more likely quarts of maple syrup weighing 2.75 lb/qt. The extra time and effort (to avoid scorching) needed for maple sugar is usually not worthwhile for small operations.
45 Cane sugar, 100,000 lb. No data; column omitted
46 gal. Sorghum Sorghum molasses made, gallons
47 lb. Beeswax Farm production
48 lb. Honey Farm production
49 $ For. Prods. Value of forest products
50 $ Home Manf. Value of products manufactured on the farm. It is impossible to determine exactly what the farm operator and census taker included in this column. A large value for homemade manufactures seems to correspond with an unusually large average value for personal property.
51 $ Slaughtered Animals Value of animals and processed meat
52 $ Farm Income All farm production, including betterments and addition to stock.
53 Comments Notes.


ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION

Despite the disruptions caused by the Civil War, the population of Wayne County was larger in 1870 than in 1860, and more families made a living by farming. The 1860 census of agriculture included 1,124 farm operations out of a total 1,352 households in the population census for that year. The 1870 census of agriculture, for comparison, included 1,403 farm operations (20% more than 1860) out of the total 1,845 households, and another 190 households reported at least some income from farming. The economy of Wayne County was little changed by the War and by the growing concentration of industry in large cities.

The median amount of improved land or crop land on Wayne County farms was 25 ac (acres) in 1870; ten percent of the farms contained 7 ac or less of improved land, and another 10 percent included120 ac or more. The largest farm owned 500 ac of crop land, but part of this holding may have been rented to others. For comparison, the agricultural census of 1860 shows that the median was 40 ac of improved land, and the agricultural census of 1997 shows that 624 farms owned a mean of 96 ac of crop land per farm. The 1870 census record shows forest land only for owners (not for the farms of renters or sharecroppers). A total 217,000 ac of woodland were reported for 760 farms; the median holding was 160 ac, and the largest was 20,000 ac. At least 273,000 ac or 58% of the total land in Wayne County was owned by local farmers in 1870, and some additional land might have been owned by landlords in other counties, as is discussed below. For comparison, a total 271,110 ac of land were farm holdings in the 1860 census of agriculture. The 1997 census of agriculture shows that 700 farms owned 130,000 ac of land in Wayne County; the median farm size was 127 ac. The remaining land was owned by timber companies and others.

The category Ďunimproved, otherí in the 1870 census of agriculture is not clear. It might mean non-forested wetlands, cane fields, and prairies. Eight Wayne County farms reported 15 ac to 24,000 ac of land in this category. The largest farm (L23) also included 200 ac of improved land and 800 ac of woodland for a total farm value of $10,000.

The census taker in 1870 recorded a land value only for farms operated by the owner; these data show that 790 farms in Wayne County were owned and 600 farms were rented. The large percentage (43%) of renters is surprising because several histories state that tenant farmers made up less than 30% of the Tennessee farm population before 1890. The median farm value in the 1870 census of agriculture was $800, and only 10% of the owned farms reported a value larger than $4,000. The largest farm value was $50,000 for 100 ac of improved land and 20,000 ac of woodland. For comparison, the census of 1860 showed a median land value of $600 for the 907 farms in Wayne County; two thirds of these farms had a land value of $200-3,000.

If the average Wayne County farm in 1870 included 25 ac of crop land worth an estimated $20/ac and 160 ac of woodland worth an estimated $2/ac, the total land value would have been $770. This is close to the median farm value of $800, and the estimates should be approximately correct. For comparison, values of $10/ac for crop land and $1/ac for woodland were used to calculate the value of some farms in the 1860 census of agriculture. In 1870, 32 farms in Wayne County reported land values larger than $20/ac, and some of these larger values might represent land rented to others and reported separately. Nevertheless, the 603 rented farms in 1870 included 11,700 ac of improved land worth about $235,000. These landlords might have been omitted by the agriculture census because they were living in towns or in other counties. Recently, for comparison, the 1997 census of agriculture, shows the average land value in Wayne County to be about $1,000 per acre and about $178,000 per farm.

The total personal estate for 1,342 reporting farms in the 1870 census of population was about $1.14 million. This was only about half of the total $2.15 million reported in the 1860 census even though the population was larger in 1870. However, the median personal estate in 1870 was $500 compared with $545 in 1860, and fewer than 20% of the farm operations in either census had assets worth more than $2000. About 760 farms in the 1870 census reported both a land value and a personal estate value. The personal estate is larger than the land value for 302 farms (40% of the total), and the median difference is $265. The other 425 farms have a larger land value. The personal estate probably included the value of a residence because there seems to be no other provision for this asset in the census data. For the same reason, a personal estate might also have included the value of a small mill or shop for home manufacturing. The personal estate value is larger than the livestock value for 90 percent of the reporting farms, and the estate value may generally have included livestock.

About 1,170 farms reported a total $67,500 of farm machinery and equipment in the 1870 census of agriculture for Wayne County. The maximum investment was $800, but more than 200 farms did not report an equipment value and 10 percent of the reporting farms valued their equipment at $6 or less. The median value in 1870 was $30, and only 10% of the farms owned equipment worth $125 or more. Similarly, in the 1860 census, the median value of equipment and machinery was $30, and two thirds of the reporting farms had $10-100 of equipment. For comparison, the average value of machinery and equipment in the 1997 census of agriculture was about $20,600 per farm in Wayne County. Total wages of $31,900 were paid by 327 farm operators in 1870. Wages of only $3-10 were paid by 10 percent of these farms, the median amount was $50, and only 10 percent of the farms paid wages of $200 or more.

In the category of working animals, 1,090 farms in Wayne County owned a total 2,472 horses in 1870. The median was two horses, and only nine percent of the farms owned more than four horses. About 500 farms owned a total 947 mules, and 93 farms owned one or more mules but no horses. However, most of these farms owned one mule, and only nine percent owned more than four mules. Some farmers preferred oxen, especially for stump pulling. In 1870, 625 farms reported a total 1,558 oxen; the median was two animals and only four percent of these farms owned more than four oxen. For comparison, there were 2,145 horses, 455 mules, and 1,555 oxen in the 1860 census of agriculture for Wayne County. The larger number of farms in 1870 than in 1860 probably explains small increases in the numbers of horses and mules.

In the 1870 census of agriculture, 1,280 farms owned 2,897 milk cows; seventy percent of these farms owned more than one cow, and 32 percent owned more than two. Most milk in excess of family needs was likely fed to swine. In the same census, 1,069 farms reported a total of 3,944 other cattle; the median for these farms was three animals, and only four percent of the farms owned more than 10 animals. A total 9,465 sheep were reported by 827 farms in the 1870 census; the median for these farms was 9 sheep, and only 5 percent owned 30 or more sheep. A large majority (1,300) of the farms reported a total 24,446 swine; the median was 15 animals, and 10 percent of these farms owned 40 or more animals.

Nearly all (1,381) of the farms reported a value for livestock in 1870; the total was $623,725. The median value was about $300, but 25 percent of the farms owned more than $600 of livestock, and 10 percent owned more than $900. For comparison, a total livestock value of $603,700 was reported by 1,096 farms in 1860. The median value was $310 in 1860, and two thirds of these farms had livestock with a value of $110-900. The 1870 annual report of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture lists average prices in Tennessee as mule-$106, horse-$85, milk cow-$24, steer-$15, hog-$4.50, and sheep-$1.70. The 1870 census of agriculture for Wayne County includes a few farms with only one type of animal, and these data indicate similar valuations: sheep-$2, hog-$4, steer-$10, milk cow-$25, pair of oxen-$75, and horse-$110.

About 46,000 Bu of wheat were produced by 832 Wayne County farms in 1870. This was 50 percent more than the approximately 30,000 Bu produced by 670 farms in 1860. The median wheat production in 1870 was 40 Bu; only 10 percent of the producers harvested more than 100 Bu, and 4 percent harvested more than 200 Bu. Fewer than 100 farms raised rye in 1870; a total 1,480 Bu were harvested. This was a little less than the 2,100 Bu of rye produced in 1860. About 474,000 Bu of corn were harvested by 1,338 farms in 1870 compared with about 471,000 Bu produced by 922 farms in 1860. The median production of corn was 250 Bu in 1870 compared with a median of 350 Bu. in 1860. The 1870 census shows that 25 percent of the producers harvested 500 Bu or more of corn, and that 10 percent harvested 750 Bu. or more. Fewer than 400 Wayne County farms grew a total 18,400 Bu of oats in 1870, but the production was larger than in 1860 when only 1,240 Bu of oats were harvested. The median harvest in 1870 was 30 Bu of oats, and 100 Bu or more were harvested by only 10 percent of these farms. In 1997, for comparison, 51 farms in Wayne County raised a total 317,500 Bu. of corn, an average 6,200 Bu. per farm. In 1992, an average 1,800 Bu. of wheat were raised on each of nine farms, but there were only two producers in 1997. There was little or no Wayne County production of rye or oats in 1997.

Tobacco and cotton were traditional cash crops on small southern farms. The 1870 census shows large increases in the number of farms raising these crops and in the amounts harvested. About 450 farms produced 25,270 lb of tobacco in 1870 compared with 3,900 lb from 22 farms in 1860. The median production of tobacco in 1870 was 30 lb, and only 10% of these farms produced 100 lb or more. Nevertheless, one farm harvested 1,500 lb in 1870. For comparison, the 1997 census of agriculture showed that only two Wayne County farms raised tobacco that year.

A total 924 bales (450 lb) of cotton from 580 farms in Wayne County were reported in the 1870 census of agriculture compared with 297 bales (400 lb) from 73 farms in 1860. However, the census taker in 1870 wrote down fractions of a bale for farms with less than six bales of cotton in Civil Districts 1-6 but only recorded whole bales for the farms in Districts 7-12. The median harvest in both areas was one bale, but about half of the 411 farms in Districts 1-6 picked less than one bale. A total 643 bales of cotton were recorded in this half of the county compared with 281 bales from 169 farms in Civil Districts 7-12. Therefore, the total number of farms raising at least some cotton in 1870 and the total harvest were likely larger than was shown by the census. There might have been 650-800 farms producing a total 1,050-1,250 bales of cotton in 1870. About 730 farms clipped 16,700 lb of wool in the 1870 census compared with 13,650 lb of wool in 1860. The median production of wool in 1870 was 18 lb, which represents the clippings of about 4 sheep; half of the producers reported 10-39 lb of wool. In 1997, for comparison, little or no cotton was produced by Wayne County farms. Nine farms reported owning 127 sheep in 1997, but wool production, if any, was not shown.

Other crops in 1870 included beans and peas, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, orchard fruit, and market gardens. About 300 farms produced 2,520 Bu of field beans and peas in 1870 compared with 3,580 Bu in 1860. The median harvest in 1870 was 5 Bu, and only five farms produced more than 50 Bu. Nearly 1,000 farms produced 13,600 Bu of Irish potatoes in 1870; this was almost twice as much as the 7,700 Bu harvested on 500 farms in 1860. The median production in 1870 was 10 Bu, and only 10 percent of the farms produced 25 Bu or more. About 625 farms raised 14,000 Bu of sweet potatoes in 1870 compared with 18,900 Bu in 1860. The median production in 1870 was 16 Bu; only 10 percent of the farms produced 50 Bu or more of sweet potatoes, and only four farms produced more than 100 Bu. In 1860, a relatively few operators (133 farms) reported selling $4,120 of orchard fruit. In 1870, sales by 35 farms were only a total $320. Eleven farms in 1870 sold a total $348 of produce from market gardens; the median was $20. During 1997, for comparison, there was little or no production of dry beans, potatoes, and orchard fruit in Wayne County; market gardens and sweet potatoes were not included in this census.

Eighty four percent (1,177) of the farms in Wayne County produced 106,700 lb of butter in 1870 compared with 87 percent of fewer farms and 106,900 lb of butter in 1860. The median production in 1870 was 75 lb of butter, and only 10 percent of the farms produced 200 lb or more. Eight farm families made 240 lb of cheese in 1860, but no cheese production was reported in 1870. One farm operator sold a small amount of milk in 1870. In 1997, except for home use, there was no farm production of butter or cheese.

The census taker in 1870 reported that 474 farms out of the 676 farms in Civil Districts 1-6 of Wayne County produced 766 tons of hay. The median harvest was one ton of hay, and 31 percent of these farms produced less than one ton; only 10 percent of the farms harvested three tons or more. The census records for Civil Districts 7-12, however, show that only 3 of 727 farms produced hay. These results are unlikely, and some data were probably omitted or lost. The census of agriculture for 1860 shows that only 31 farms harvested 115 tons of hay during the previous year. Animals were usually not fenced at this time, and they found their own winter feed. In contrast, the 1997 census of agriculture for Wayne County shows that 460 farms raised about 31,300 tons of hay on 16,500 acres of land.

Only seven farms produced a total 140 lb of maple sugar (probably 140 qt of maple syrup, instead) in 1870, according to the census of agriculture. This is significantly less than in 1860 when 20 farmers in Wayne County reported a total 1,230 lb of maple sugar (or 1,230 qt of syrup). The 1870 census shows that 505 farms produced a total 20,400 gal of sorghum syrup; this was more than 10 gal for each household in the county, and most molasses was probably shipped to cities. The median production in 1870 was 30 gal, and 12 percent of these farms produced 80 gal or more. For comparison, the 1860 census shows that about 200 farms made a total 5,100 lb of sorghum syrup. It is highly likely that the census taker inventoried gallons of molasses instead of pounds in 1860, because the median production was reported to be 20 lb (slightly less than 2 gal) and because a half acre of sorghum stalks would have produced about 20 gal or 220 lb of molasses. Nearly 13,000 lb of honey were produced by 168 farms in 1870; the median was 50 lb, and 10 percent of these farms produced 150 lb or more. Ninety of these same farms produced 925 lb of beeswax. The median was 8 lb of wax; many farms produced 10 lb of honey for each lb of beeswax. The 1860 census of agriculture, for comparison, shows that 150 farms produced a total 17,000 lb of honey and 1,240 lb of beeswax. Maple syrup, sorghum molasses, honey, and beeswax were not included in the 1997 census of agriculture.

The 1870 census of agriculture for Wayne County shows that 15 farms sold forest products worth $10-225 for a total $785. These products might have included hewed (squared) timbers, fence rails, split boards and shingles, tool handles, barrel staves and hoops, charcoal, potash, and tanbark, but the small amount in the census was an insig-nificant part of the farm economy. Other forest products might have been included in home manufactures or in the separate census of manufacturing.

In the year of the 1870 census, 987 farms in Wayne County sold $3 to $1,125 of home manufactures for a total of $49,000. The median for these farms was $40, and only 10% of the farms had sales of $100 or more. It is impossible to determine what the census taker included in this category. Internet sources suggest that wool yarn and woven cloth made up most home manufactures in some areas of the country. The median value for home manufactures on Wayne County farms in 1860 was $57, and the farms that had the highest 100 values (an average four times larger than the median) had an average personal estate 12 times larger than the median. The highest values of personal property in 1860 apparently included investments in mills and workshops, and the largest incomes for home manufactures resulted from associated activities. The 1870 data show a similar but less striking correlation. The 100 farms with the largest income (a mean $126, three times larger than the median) from home manufactures in 1870 had a mean personal estate of $1,006, two times larger than the median. However, other farms with a large personal estate reported a relatively low income from home manufactures.

A total $195,000 of farm animals and meat were sold by 1,274 Wayne County farms in 1870; a large percentage was apparently hogs and pork. Most pork was probably cured and exported to markets in nearby counties, whereas a majority of the smaller amount of beef was eaten within Wayne County. The median value was $100, and 50 percent of these farms sold $70-190. Only eight farms had sales of more than $800. In 1860, the census of agriculture shows that 86 percent of the farms sold a total $107,200 of farm animals and meat; the median income from this source was $75. The slightly larger population of Wayne County in 1870 than in 1860 does not explain the 82 percent increase in income from slaughtered animals, and most animals were likely raised for export markets. Recently, for comparison, the number of cattle sold by Wayne County farms increased from 10,800 in 1987 to 12,400 in 1997, but the number of hogs decreased after 29,800 were reported in 1987.

The farms in the 1870 census of Wayne County reported a total $758,000 of income for the previous year. This was total farm production, not cash income. The median for the reporting farms was $420, and 50 percent earned $250-800; the rest earned smaller or larger amounts, but only 10 percent of these farms had an income of more than $1,100. Farm income was correlated with personal estate, land value, value of farm machinery, and wages paid. The mean of the 100 farms with the highest incomes was $1,850, about 4.5 times larger than the median income. These same 100 farms had an average personal estate 6.0 times larger than the median and owned farm machinery worth about 5 times more than the median for all farms. Seventy five percent of these same farms paid wages that on average were nearly 6 times more than the median. Twelve of the 100 farms with high income used rented land, but the average land value for the remaining 88 farms was 6.2 times larger than the median. The correlations are imperfect because a few high-income farms have lower investments or lower wage costs.

Based on average crop prices in the 1870 annual report of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the most important items in the farm income of Wayne County were probably:

474,000 Bu corn at $0.47/Bu  = $223,000
Animals sold for slaughter = $195,000
1,150 bales (450 lb) of cotton at $0.22/lb =  $114,000
Home manufactures = $ 49,100
46,000 Bu wheat at $0.97/Bu = $ 44,600
107,000 lb butter at $0.20/lb =  $ 21,400
20,400 gal sorghum molasses at $0.40/gal (estimated) = $ 8,160
18,400 Bu oats at $0.46/Bu plus13,600 Bu Irish potatoes at $0.52/Bu plus 14,000 Bu sweet potatoes at $0.40/Bu =  $ 21,136
25,300 lb tobacco at $0.09/lb plus 16,700 lb wool at $0.14/lb plus 13,000 lb honey at $0.10/lb (estimated), plus 925 lb beeswax at $0.40/lb (estimated) = $ 6,285
Total = $682,000
 

The total for this table is about $75,000 (10 percent) less than the total production estimated by Wayne County farmers in 1870. One reason might be that the table does not include several minor crops, and there was additional income from things not included in the census, such as cattle hides ($3.30 each), eggs (4 cents/doz), and feathers. Also, however, if nearly all corn and oats were fed to animals, the value of these crops is part of the production cost for slaughtered animals. Total income was not included in the 1860 census, but partial income was estimated by adding the sales for fruit orchards, home manufactures, and slaughtered animals; the median of this total for 1860 was $150; the median farm income from the same sources in 1870 was $140.

Cash income for the farms in the 1870 census is speculative. The county total would likely have included the sale of all cotton, forest products, and home manufactures plus the excess of other farm products. This excess might have included 90 percent of the tobacco and beeswax plus 75 percent of the honey, sorghum molasses, and wool, plus 60 percent of the wheat plus 50 percent of the butter, Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes. Finally, each household in the census likely ate the meat from one steer (worth $10) and three hogs (worth $12); the 1,403 households in the census thus raised about $31,000 of farm animals for their own use. Based on these assumptions, farm sales consisted of the following:

Animals sold for slaughter =  $164,000
1,150 bales (450 lb) of cotton at $0.22/lb = $114,000
47,600 Bu wheat at $0.97/Bu = $ 27,000
Home manufactures =  $ 49,000
53,500 lb butter at $0.20/lb = $ 10,700
15,300 gal sorghum molasses at $0.40/gal (estimated) = $ 6,200
6,800 Bu Irish potatoes at $0.52/Bu plus 7,000 Bu sweet potatoes at $0.40/Bu = $ 6,300
22,700 lb tobacco at $0.09/lb plus 12,500 lb wool at $0.14/lb plus 13,000 lb honey at $0.10/lb (estimated), plus 832 lb beeswax at $0.40/lb (estimated) plus $785 of forest products = $ 6,200
Total = $383,400

This total was a mean of about $270 for the 1403 farms in the 1870 census. Employee wages in 1870 were $31,900, and the table does not show transportation costs or land rent. If the value of family labor is ignored, other production expenses were small. A reasonable guess is that mean net income, ignoring family labor, was about $200-220/yr. The average net farm income in 1870 seems small by modern standards, but several histories say that most of our ancestors lived close to the poverty line. One history estimates that the average annual income of a sharecropper after the Civil War was about $90. A different history says that many farm families spent no more than $50/year for supplies at this time. Another factor is the non-cash average $210 of production for households and farm animals.

 

EVALUATION

The crop and livestock harvests in the 1870 census of agriculture are not impressive because most farms did not produce a large excess of things for sale. Both local and distant markets were limited, and shipping costs were high. The homespun era was characterized by subsistence farming rather than by production for distant markets. (Large tobacco and cotton farms near shipping centers were exceptions). Nevertheless, the land and labor resources of Wayne County were not wasted, and almost every farm produced an excess of one or more agricultural products with sales in mind.

It is difficult to compare incomes and living costs in 1870 with those of today, but one factor is the effect of inflation over more than 130 years. The Internet site of the Economic History Society shows that $21 today would be needed to buy what $1 would buy in 1860 and that $13 today would be needed to buy what $1 would buy in 1870; prices rose during the Civil War and declined slowly afterwards. The History Society also notes that a given amount of money today would buy a better quality of life than an equivalent, smaller amount in 1870 because products have been improved. However, the number of necessities and their costs have increased over the years, and a ratio of 13 to 1 seems unrealistically small. The poverty line for a family of four in 2000 (U.S. Census Bureau) was an annual income of $17,500. Also, a research paper on the Internet site of the U.S. Census Bureau states that the poverty line for city dwellers in 1870 might have been a family income of $2/d or $526/yr. These relative incomes indicate a ratio of $33 today to $1 in 1870. Another factor is that half of the poverty-level income of a town dweller in 1870 was needed to buy food for a family of five people. All of the remainder was spent on rent, heat, clothing, and lighting. Therefore, it is also important that shelter, food, fuel, and clothing could be produced by family farms with family labor in 1870; there was no need to depend on money or other people for these essentials. If farm production for home use in 1870 was worth a city income of $526, if the net cash income of a farm was $220, and if $1 at that time was worth $33 today, the average production of a farm in 1870 was worth $24,600 today. Most farm families in Wayne County had a hard life in 1870, but they seem to have been comfortable and secure for the times. An 1870's lifestyle with less physical labor and more leisure time was possible, but it required servants, which cost $300/yr ($10,000/yr today) each.

The changes that occurred in Wayne County from 1860 to 1870 are interesting because they might reflect the impact of the Civil War or national trends toward cheaper transportation by steamboat and railroad, urbanization, mechanization (including more effective and efficient farm equipment), the use of artificial fertilizers, and the change from rural self sufficiency to a market economy. From 1860 to 1870, the total number of households in Wayne County increased 36 percent, and the percentage of households making a living from agriculture increased about 25 percent. In other words, about 83 percent of all county households were included in the 1860 census of agriculture, but only 76 percent of all households were included in the agriculture census of 1870. A longer record is needed, however, to determine whether or not this decline in the percentage of households dependent on farming is significant.

The total area of improved farmland increased from 52,600 ac in 1860 to 56,500 ac in 1870, but the median area of improved land decreased from 40 ac in 1860 to 25 ac in 1870. This decrease in average farm area was caused partly by the increase in farm households and partly by a changed data distribution (a larger percentage of farms with a relatively small acreage of improved land). Farm renters in 1870 might have wanted only as much crop land as was essential for their operations. Forty three percent of the farm operations in Wayne County used rented land in 1870. The percentage of rented farms in 1860 is unknown, but the large decrease in the average acreage of improved land suggests that something changed in the 1860-70 period. Some farm families might have had to sell their land during the Civil War. Also, as discussed previously, there was a large decline in total personal assets from 1860 to 1870, but the median value stayed nearly the same. This change suggests that most of the assets lost during the War were those belonging to only a few wealthy farmers. Improved land had a value of about $10/ac in 1860 and $20/ac in 1870; unimproved woodland had a value of about $1/ac in 1860 and $2/ac in 1870. The higher land prices were likely caused by an increase in population; the lingering effects of wartime inflation may have been another factor. The 20 percent increase in the value of farm equipment from 1860 to 1870 can be explained by the increased number of farm families; there is no evidence for investments in improved but more expensive farm equipment by Wayne County farmers during this period.

The number of horses increased from 2,145 in 1860 to 2,472 in 1870. Mules increased from 455 in 1860 to 947 in 1870. The number of working oxen stayed almost the same, 1,555 in 1860 and 1,558 in 1870. Other animals were omitted from the 1860 census, but the total livestock value increased only 3 percent from 1860 to 1870. Thus, there is no reason to think that the total numbers of cattle, hogs, and sheep on Wayne County farms changed significantly during this period. On the other hand, the value of meat and animals for slaughter increased 82 percent from 1860 to 1870 and produced an additional $88,000/yr of income for county farmers. The nearly constant livestock value but the large increase in value for slaughtered animals from 1860 to 1870 suggests that the export market for meat had increased in the period.

The production of wheat increased 54 percent from 1860 to 1870, and it is likely that nearly all of this increase was exported and sold to city flour mills. If so, total cash sales were increased by $15,600/yr. The oats harvest increased from 1239 Bu to 18,400 Bu, but oats and corn were generally used on the farms where they were grown. Corn production increased by less than 1 percent from 1860 to 1870, and it is therefore unlikely that Wayne County farmers were using a significant amount of artificial fertilizer. Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes in excess of family needs were sold (mainly to town dwellers) or fed to animals. The production of Irish potatoes increased 77 percent from 1860 to 1870, but the production of sweet potatoes decreased by almost the same amount during this period. These changes suggest that the market for Irish potatoes had increased and that for sweet potatoes had decreased. If the increased production of Irish potatoes was a response to market demand, then at least 50 percent of this crop was sold rather than fed to farm animals in Wayne County.

Tobacco production was about 6.5 times larger, and cotton production was about 3.5 times larger in 1870 than in 1860, probably because of the need for more cash income by area farmers. Wool production in Wayne County increased 22 percent from 1860 to 1870. In most of the eastern U.S., less wool was being spun and woven at home by 1870, but the increased production of wool in Wayne County corresponds closely with the increase in population. The sale of fruit (usually dried for cheaper shipment) was much lower in 1870 than in 1860, probably indicating competition from growers closer to big-city markets. Hay production was much larger (Civil Districts 1-6, at least) in 1870 than in 1860, but all producers of three or more tons of hay owned less than $100 worth of farm machinery. These large hay producers also reported paying nearly four times the average amount of wages. Hay cutting, raking, and stacking were apparently done with scythes, hand rakes, and pitchforks.

Butter production was almost exactly the same in 1870 as in 1860. This was apparently the amount that could be sold and eaten by families in Wayne County. The production of maple sugar or syrup almost ceased in this period, possibly because late winter sap runs are less reliable in Tennessee than farther north. The production of honey and beeswax was about 30 percent less in 1870 than in 1860, but this change is more likely to have been caused by less-favorable springtime weather than by a decrease in market demand. Four times more sorghum syrup was produced in 1870 than in 1860, and it is likely that the increase was exported to market centers. Home manufactures had only two thirds as much value in 1870 as in 1860. The decrease might indicate a lessening dependence upon self reliance and the beginning of a market economy, but a longer period of time would be needed to confirm this trend. The large production increases for wheat, Irish potatoes, tobacco, cotton, sorghum syrup, and animals for slaughter show larger export sales than in 1860 and might indicate cheaper shipping costs.

In summary, some farmers may have had to sell their land, and a few farmers apparently lost most of their personal assets during the Civil War. However, most Wayne County farmers seem to have been as well off after the War as before. Also, as noted above, the average farm family in 1870 may have had more money for discretionary spending than a city dweller who was paid wages twice as high. Beginning about 1880-90, the trends that eventually made small farms uneconomical were falling crop prices, rising production expenses, and a slow but steady increase in the costs of a middle-class life style. Our ancestors didnít have to pay income or sales taxes; they didnít have insurance or utility costs; and they didnít have to afford the purchase and maintenance of a farm tractor, automobile, hot-water heater, air conditioner, television, or computer. In 1993, doctor bills, prescription drugs, and health insurance costs made up 20% of an average familyís expenses. Mennonites maintained their traditional life style only by avoiding most of these costs.


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