In the spring of 1838, Jeremiah Van Reed and Ezra V.R. High traveled to Warren County to visit Charles V.R. High. The following are excerpts from Jeremiah’s journal.
From Rob Roy they took the Williamsport road to the Wabash River opposite Williamsport. The river was over its bank and near one mile wide. They tried for some time to flag the ferry located on the Williamsport side to ferry them across.
A boy on a horse eventually rode by and told them the ferry had lately sunk, but he thought they could cross five or six miles upstream at Attica. They reached Attica around 3 o’clock and waited for preparations to be made to ferry them across. In an open somewhat leaky scow, they were poled for one-fourth of a mile through sycamore trees until they reached the main channel where a cable was stretched across the river to guide the scow. They reached the other side at 4 o’clock.
The distance to High’s house was 10 miles. As they walked, the road turned into a path. When it became dark and they were exhausted, they decided to lay upon the lately burned prairie grass with no fire as there was no fuel to burn. A half hour later they heard pigs squealing and followed the sounds to Charles High’s house.
Charles lived at Walnut Grove which contained about 200 acres of timber, mostly walnut. He also owned about 2,000 acres which could be plowed in two days and produce 40 to 50 bushels of corn per acre when first cultivated.
Unimproved prairie ground was still abundant at $1.25 per acre. Three men with two yoke of oxen could clear and fence forty acres in five or six weeks and put out the same in corn and raise a dwelling in five or six days. Two yoke of oxen was needed to break up the prairie, but four to six yokes to a single plow were often seen.
Plows were generally made of iron and turned a 14- to 22-inch furrow. To plant corn, some would take an ax and follow along every third furrow. Every three to four feet an opening in the ground was made with the ax, corn dropped in and covered over with the foot others covered it with the plow. Corn was the principal crop due to the ease of growing it and the only grain used for bread. Exceptionally rich ground could produce 100 bushels per acre.
Wheat was sown amongst the standing corn in September and covered with a plow. The stalks were cut down in the spring. The farmer would get 15 to 20 bushels of wheat per acre. If the wheat was sown as a single crop, one could get 25 to 35 bushels per acre.
The average price of wheat was 60 to 80 cents per bushel which in many cases covered the cost of the land, fencing, breaking the prairie, seed, planting, harvesting and taking it to market. Oats were beginning to be raised due to demand from traveling and stage horses. They yielded 40 to 60 bushels per acre and sold from 12½ to 25 cents per bushel.
Terri Wargo writes for the Warren County (Indiana) Historical Society.