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 and 1875 Agriculture statistics.  The Tallman families are:  My Great-great grandfather John J. in Chautauqua Twp., Chautauqua County. In Perinton Twp., Monroe County in Central New York are his uncle Isaac (3); Isaac’s sons Darius and John (1), his grandsons Isaac N., Lyman J. and Luther.  In Savannah Twp., Wayne County (4) is John J’s cousin and Isaac’s nephew Stephen Jr (2).  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 was still unavailable; 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, used as storage for implements, tools, carriages and might house horses- their sole mode of travel.  Families relied on poultry for three major purposes: meat, eggs, and money.  They 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 and 1875 NY Agricultural Statists of these 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.  They all 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 and .46 cents in 1870.  The Apple (2) cash crop Tallman’s grew dates back to Dutchess County before migrating westward and before becoming a cash crop.  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 to her sister Ursula as much fruit, apples and firewood as she herself may use.  2.) 1854 letter of George Washington Tallman Alpha, NV to his brother Stephen Jr 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.”

(3) Note that Isaac Sr. died ca. 1860, his son Ezra P. inherits the farm and in turn has his sons Isaac and Lyman run it.  John J. having lost his wife, a daughter and son-in-law sold his farm 1863 to his son John.  He in turn transferred it for another farm in the county and before 1875 relocated to Michigan.

(4) There were no Agriculture Statistics available for 1855 or 1875 in Wayne County.

1850 Annual NY State Statistics by County

Chautauqua County: sheep- 137,453, wool- 369,997 lb., swine- 17,663, wheat- 185734 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

1860 Annual NY State Statistics by County

Chautauqua County: sheep- 54,303, wool- 195,048 lb., swine- 17,904, wheat- 235,427 bu., rye- 2,851 bu., Indian corn- 442,937 bu., oats- 394,550 bu., beans- 8,568 bu., potatoes- 512,091 bu., barley- 17,101 bu., Value from orchards $72,026

Monroe County: sheep- 102,323, wool- 388,285 lb., swine- 36,229, wheat- 306,088 bu., rye- 159,810 bu., Indian corn- 1,183,269 bu., oats- 1,034,623 bu., beans- 110,155 bu., potatoes- 1,312,215 bu., barley- 300,065 bu., Value from orchards $367,643

Wayne County: sheep- 45,710, wool- 158,374 lb., swine- 19,290, wheat- 241,004 bu., rye- 47,077 bu., Indian corn- 624,824 bu., oats- 657,126 bu., beans- 16,325 bu., potatoes- 323,624 bu., barley- 175,616 bu., Value from orchards $160,517

1870 Annual NY State Statistics by County

Chautauqua County: sheep- 48,404, wool- 193,891 lb., swine- 13,429, wheat- 148,849 bu., rye- 972 bu., Indian corn- 254,110 bu., oats- 755,451 bu., beans- 6,566 bu., potatoes- 314,873 bu., barley- 43,227 bu., Value from orchards $178,222

Monroe County: sheep- 70,546, wool- 385,443 lb., swine- 17,341, wheat- 1,051,529 bu., rye- 37,370 bu., Indian corn- 802,261 bu., oats- 1,217,955 bu., beans- 131,186 bu., potatoes- 990.908 bu., barley-26,306 bu., Value from orchards $604,017

Wayne County: sheep- 53,242, wool- 289,907 lb., swine- 14,127, wheat- 476,348 bu., rye- 8,367 bu., Indian corn- 645,309 bu., oats- 924,719 bu., beans- 25,907 bu., potatoes- 429,971 bu., barley-408,962 bu., Value from orchards $423,285

1855 and 1875 Tallman/Talman Statistics

Keep in mind these were for half-year in June

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.