Early Farming Perspective

Something I try to put my mind into is a little understanding of what farm life was like for my forefathers.  What follows is a brief glimpse taken from the June New York State 1855 Agriculture statistics.  The five Tallman families are:  My Great-great grandfather John in Chautauqua Twp., Chautauqua County his uncle Isaac and first cousins John and Darius (1) who lived in Perinton Twp., Monroe County in Central New York.  The fifth was his cousin Stephen Jr (2) in Savannah Twp., Wayne County.  I encourage my cousins who read this, if you have family history that enlightens this to please write me.

During this time-period the Industrial revolution was still going on and didn’t reach rapid growth till the later part of the century.  Electricity, still not available; homes were heated with the use of cast iron stoves fueled with coal or wood.  Wood-burning cookstoves were available and used for preparing the families meals.  Prior to mechanized farm machinery, barns were of less significance than in later years.  Typically, they were used to store implements, tools, carriages and might house horses- their sole mode of travel.  Families relied on poultry for three major purposes: meat, eggs, and money.  The four raised pigs and most likely built a smokehouse to help preserve the pork.  Crop areas were fertilized with land plaster (gypsum) which at the time was a cost of about $4.75/ton or with loose manure.  There were horse drawn rudimentary single row wooden spreaders available to do this.  Fields were also rotated by planting clover.  Crops were planted using a horse drawn plow, harrow and either hand planted or broadcast dependent on the crop. 

The following comes from the 1855 NY Agricultural Statists of these four families.  They all grew wheat, oats, barley, corn, potatoes, beans and apples.  Most farmers used their corn crop to feed the pigs that may have been sold for profit.  Oats, barley and apples were cash crops for all of them, while potatoes were a staple with nearly every meal and could last throughout the winter.  All four had another source of income wool.  Each produced a fair number of pounds with their annual shearing.  New York State from the 1850’s to the 1870’s was experiencing agricultural growth with sheep and wool production reaching its peak.  The Civil War period brought about an even greater demand for wool due to the scarcity of cotton.  .37 cents /pound in 1850 to .50 cents by 1860.  The Apple (2) cash crop Tallman’s grew dates back to Dutchess County long before migrating westward.  The Talman’s of Monroe County saw the importance of them as a source of income and easy transport along the Erie Canal to New York City “The Big Apple” and access to Canada via Lake Ontario.  One of the Talman’s, Lyman Jones was employed by the Canal as a disbursing clerk in the Rochester office.  Even as of today New York State is ranked second in apple production.  It was about 1840 that apple production changed from being used for cider to cooking and desserts.  In his 1905 thesis “History of the Apple in New York State” Charles S. Wilson attributed the ‘Talman Sweet’ to Thomas Tallman a farmer in Seneca, Ontario County.  However, our family might want to dispute that.  Considered a winter apple great for baking.  There are literally dozens of references to the Talman Sweet in newspapers, agricultural and horticultural books and reports.


(1) Isaac’s sons changed their last name by dropping a ‘L’ in the early 1800’s.

(2) Talman sweet apples have been documented in the following sources: 1.) John J’s mother Ruth in her 1844 Will leaving as much fruit and apples and firewood as she herself may use to her sister Ursula.  2.) 1854 letter of George Washington Tallman Alpha, NV to his brother Stephen in Port Byron, Wayne Co., NY.  “You say you want me to come home I cannot come yet.  I should like to be there to see the folks and eat some of your fine apples which I have not had since leaving New York.”  3.) Letter by John Talman Jr. to the Editor, Herald Mail 1 Sep. 1932. “In Temple of Pomona – My grandfather Isaac Talman is also entitled to a niche in the Temple.  It was he who discovered and propagated the nationally known apple called the Talman Sweet.  I will never eat a Talman Sweet so long as I can sink my grinders into something else. Have no more use for it than you have for a dead toad in Mexico.”

1850 Annual NY State Statistics

Chautauqua County: sheep- 137,453, wool- 369,997 lb., swine- 17,663, wheat- 185,734 bu., rye- 2,120 bu., Indian corn- 513,827 bu., oats- 614,392 bu., beans- 11,311 bu., potatoes- 319,026 bu., barley- 24,027 bu., Value from orchards $26,616

Monroe County: sheep- 112,297, wool- 365,084 lb., swine- 31,207, wheat- 1,441,653 bu., rye- 8,148 bu., Indian corn- 767,921 bu., oats- 449,150 bu., beans- 8,215 bu., potatoes- 561,425 bu., barley-26,306 bu., Value from orchards $67,192

Wayne County: sheep- 81,279, wool- 255,289 lb., swine- 20,702, wheat- 614,041 bu., rye- 44,237 bu., Indian corn- 660,739 bu., oats- 518,051 bu., beans- 4,191 bu., potatoes- 278,217 bu., barley-107,453 bu., Value from orchards $83,451

1855 Tallman/Talman Statistics

Keep in mind this was a half year in June

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