As Published in the November/December 2005 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
The horse was domesticated by early man in about 4000 to 3000 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). (Encyclopedia Britannica [University of Chicago: Chicago, Illinois] Volume 5, p. 970.) Naturally, at first, the horse was ridden by man. However, around 2500 B.C.E. the chariot was developed. This was the beginning of the use of horses as a source of “draft” power. Draft power was converted for use in agriculture shortly after that time. From that time up to the middle of the twentieth century, the horse was in widespread use in agricultural fields around the world. Draft power provided by animals was a real step forward for agriculture technology and at first, draft horse power served all the needs of the farmer. However, as agriculture became more mechanized, stationary machines were developed to ease labor for mankind. A different form of power was needed for these station stationary machines. At first, the power for stationary machines was provided by waterfalls or by the wind. However, these power sources depended too much on the whims of nature to be totally reliable as a consistent source of power for stationary machines. At some time in the past, farmers found that a tread mill could be used to capture animal power as a source of “brake” horsepower for stationary machines. The unit of measurement of force of strength necessary to operate these new stationary machines became known as “horsepower” based on the average pulling power of an average draft horse. Typically, the average draft horse was considered as having the “tractive” power to pull 1/8 of its weight for 20 miles traveling at 2.5 miles per hour. (Ronald Stokes Barlow, 300 Years of Farm Implements [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 2003] p. 24.) Thus, a typical 1,500 pound draft horse could develop 33,000 foot pounds per minute which became defined as one horsepower (hp.). By changing the nature of the power of the average horse from tractive pulling power to a stationary source of power, the treadmill actually improved on the horse’s ability. A 1000 pound horse on a treadmill inclined at a rate of 1 to 4 (an incline of one inch up for every four inches of length) could develop 1.33 hp. A 1600 pound horse on the same tread mill could develop 2.13 hp. (Ibid.) With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, there was an increased need for stationary power sources not only in agriculture but also in industry. The use of the treadmill was improved in design and efficiency. By 1830 the tread mill had become a very practical source of real power for the farm. Single horse treadmills were used on the farm for such tasks as butter churning, grinding feed for livestock, sawing wood and cutting fodder. The single horse treadmill could supply power at a rate of 32 to 36 revolutions per minute (r.p.m.) on the reel shaft. This speed could then be geared up to 96 to 108 r.p.m. on the main shaft and the attached band wheel. (C.H. Wendel, Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements & Antiques [Krause Pub.: Iola, Wisc., 1997] pp. 211 and 213.)
The stationary grain thresher/separator is one of the labor saving machines developed for agriculture which required brake style power. Development of the thresher started with simple, hand-fed machines to threshing machines with “apron” separating units which could thresh from 35 to 60 bushels per day. (Ibid., p. 336.) These early hand fed threshing machines generally used a single horse or two horse treadmill as a power source. Indeed, the treadmill was so closely associated with hand threshing machines that the horse tread mills were often sold together with threshers as a package deal. Such was the case with the Ellis-Keystone Company of Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The Ellis Keystone Company began as the brainchild of John Ellis from the small community of Ellis Woods, Pennsylvania in Chester County. John was first and foremost an inventor who was thrust into operating his own business. Sometime before 1876, John was engaged in attempting to develop a small hand-fed thresher which would be called the “Champion Grain Thresher.” In 1876, the company was chartered and a factory was built at the corner of Cross and Keim Streets in Pottsville, Pennsylvania for the mass production of the hand-fed thresher and the treadmill. He obtained a patent from the United States Government for part of his new hand-fed thresher on July 1, 1878. He obtained another patent for a different feature of the little thresher on July 25, 1880 and yet a third patent was obtained in October of 1884. Notice of these patents was stenciled onto every thresher made by the Ellis Keystone Company. Continue reading Ellis Keystone’s Horse-powered Tread Mill→
Navy Bean Farming in Huron County, Michigan (Part II)
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the March/April issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
As noted earlier, the lower peninsula of Michigan is shaped in the form of a winter mitton. Huron County, Michigan lies at the tip of what is called “the Thumb” of the State of Michigan. (See the article on called “Navy Bean Harvesting in Huron County Michigan [Part I]” in the January/February 2005 issue of Belt Pulley.) Although navy beans had been raised in in Huron County and the Thumb since 1900, the production of navy beans in really became a major crop in Michigan only in 1915. Spurring that growth in production was the high prices that all edible beans were fetching in the market starting in 1914 due to the war in Europe. Additionally, in 1915 the Michigan State University released its newly researched and developed “Robust” variety of navy bean. The Robust variety had been bred to have genetic features which made this variety of navy bean adapted for commercial growing in Michigan. By the 1920s, production of navy beans on the Thumb and in the neighboring Saginaw River Valley, located at the base of the Thumb, was sufficient to push Michigan into first place among all states in the United States in the production of field beans. (Willis F. Dunbar, Michigan:A History of the Wolverine State [Eerdmans Pub. Co.: Grand Rapids, Mich., 1980] p. 578.). Within the State of Michigan, Huron County became the leading county in the state for the production of field beans. Indeed Bad Axe, Michigan, the county seat of Huron County, began to identify itself as the “Navy Bean Capital of the World.”
Following the First World War, the map of Europe changed following the disintegration of four empires—the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A series of newly independent nations sprang up Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Czechslovakia and Poland. The economic dislocations caused by this new order set off another wave immigration to the United States. In 1920, George Prich immigrated from the newly formed nation of Czechslovkia to Detroit. His parents, George and Marie (Sliacky) Prich remained in Czechslovakia. However, the family did have relatives living in Detroit. However, George did not remain long in Detroit. He moved out of the city and up to the Thumb. Settling in the western part of Huron County on the Thumb, he rented a farm and commenced farming winter wheat, corn, hay, sugar beets and navy beans and raising some hogs and beef cows. In August of 1924, he married a local German girl by the name of Martha Haag. They began were blessed by the birth of a son—George Jr. (really the third George) born in June of 1925. On March 1, 1926, they purchased an 80-acre farm in a low-lying area of Brookfield Township in western Huron County. However, the farm was on the county line road between Huron County and Tuscola County. Consequently, the Prich family still had strong contacts with western Huron County. The Prich family farm was located in a low liying area called the “Columbia swamp.” On their new farm they had three more children—John born in 1926, Florence born in 1929 and Albert born in 1933. The main crops raised on the farm were hay, oats and corn. However, each year about 10 acres were planted to sugar beets and about 10 to 15 acres were planted to navy beans.
During the same time another family was living on a farm in southwestern Seigel Township located east of Bad Axe and north west of the settlement of Parisville. Even before the sun rose, one morning in October of 1935, activity was brewing on this 160 acre farm. Our Siegel Township farmer was taking a team of horses to the field towing a one-row “Albion Bean Harvester.” The bean harvester or “puller” that he was towing behind the team of Percheron horses—Pete and Moll—was really a horse-drawn a cultivator with the shovels removed and horizontal long knives bolted onto the cultivator frame. The Albion line of bean harvesters were made by the Gale Manufacturing Company of Albion, Michigan.
Our Siegel Township farmer arrived in the field were the navy beans were stood. Although planted in rows, the 18” yellow/brown vines had grown out along the ground and blurred the 30” pathways between the rows. Our Siegel Township farmer “drew up” the horses to a halt with the reins at the start of the first row in the field of navy beans that he and his father had grown during the summer.
He and his father raised navy beans as part of a diversified farming operation that included oats and wheat on their farm. However, the summer of 1935 had been a difficult growing season. Indeed the past couple of years had seen drought conditions all across the United States. Nationwide the dry condition, which was coming to called the “dust bowl” on radio, had begun in 1932. (William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal [Harper and Rowe Pub.: New York, 1963] p. 172.) In Huron County the dry conditions had started in June 1933, when only 1.91 inches of rain fell during the whole month. (From the monthly average historic rainfall for Saginaw Michigan on the web page for Saginaw, at the NOAA weather web site on the Internet.) A normal June would have seen 2.9 inches of rainfall. (From the Bad Axe average rainfall page of the Worldclimate.com web site.) July and August of 1933 had followed with only 1.13 inches of rain in each month. 2.9 and 3.3 inches of rain was normal for those months.
Last year’s growing season had continued to be extremely dry. May of 1934 had yielded only 0.76 inches of rain for the whole month, whereas 3.3 inches would have been normal. June, July and August of 1934 all continued to be dry with rainfall amounts of 1.7 inches, 1.29 inches and 1.43 inches of rain falling in those months, respectively. Although normal rains had returned in September of 1934, this was too late to help the crops and the rains only succeeded in making harvesting of the crops difficult. As a result of the drought conditions in 1934, only 1,461,000 acres or only 75% of all the acreage planted to edible beans nationally were actually harvested. Generally, 90% of all acres planted were harvested in a normal year.
The drought conditions returned last April with only 0.86 inches of rainfall for the entire month of April 1935. However, suddenly in May, the weather reversed itself. Last May (1935) had been the coolest month of May on record since 1925. This was largely due to the 4.5 inches of snow had fallen in May. (Ibid. on the historic monthly snowfall page.) Snow in May! It was not a good beginning to the growing season. Spring planting had been delayed because of the cold spring in 1935. Once June did arrive, the rains would not abate. The radio reported that the Thumb had had 5.09 inches of rain in month of June whereas only 2.9 was average for June. (From the Bad Axe average rainfall page of the Worldclimate.com web site.)
As a result, spring planting development of all the crops were delayed. Only the winter wheat which had been planted in September of the prior year (1934) was growing according to schedule. Following the heavy rains of June, the drought conditions returned throughout July and August with only half the usual amount of rainfall for those months. (Ibid.) Usually, our Siegel Township farmer began pulling the navy beans in mid-September. However, the beans were still growing and maturing in September. Now here he was in October just getting started with the task of pulling the beans.
Across Huron County to the west and indeed, just across the county line in Elmwood Township of Tuscola County township the George Prich family was also struggling to get the navy bean crop harvested. George had planted the navy beans in rows with his 7½ foot Van Brunt grain drill. This grain drill had 13 planting units. However, by closing off the proper amount of holes in the bottom of the seeder box of his Van Brunt grain drill he could use the old grain drill to plant navy beans on his farm also in 30 inch rows.
The 30-inch rows meant that there was room for a horse to walk down the pathway between the rows without stepping on the rows of growing beans. This would allow the navy beans to be cultivated. However as the navy bean plants grew, they began to “vine” along the ground and to tended to cover over pathway between the rows. Thus, the navy beans could only be cultivated a couple of times before the bean plants became too viney and covered too much of the 30 inch pathway. By harvest time in the fall, the beans had become a tangled mass of plants in the field.
Now in October of 1935, our Siegel Township farmer lowered the cultivator on the first row of navy beans the newly sharpened knives lay horizontally on top of the ground over the hilled up row of beans. As he urged the Pete and Moll forward with a shake on the reins and uttering a “giddap” the knives slid under the ground and moved along through the hill of beans, cutting off the beans from their roots just below the surface of the hilled up row of beans.
Our young Siegel Township farmer regreted loss of navy beans that he knew was occurring during this harvesting process. All he needed to do is to look down on the ground and see the naked white beans laying on the ground to know that some loss was occurring because of the cracking of bean pods under Pete and Moll’s feet. Although Pete and Moll walked down pathways between the rows, they could not help treading on the vines.which tended to cover over the 30 inch pathways. This caused a loss of some of the navy beans on the ground as the horses’ feet cracked open the pods of the beans. Indeed the mere manipulation of the bean plants by the cultivator tended to crack open the dry pods on the vines spilling the pearly white navy beans onto the ground. To avoid this type of cracking of dry pods, our young Siegel Township farmer had begun pulling beans with the team early in the morning while the dew was still heavy on the plants. In this way it was hoped that they would complete a great deal of the bean pulling while the dew lasted. The dew tended to moisten the dry pods and to prevent cracking. Once the dew had lifted under the sun of the mid-morning, our young Siegel Township farmer would cease his work in the navy bean field. This meant that work in the navy bean field was limited to early morning work.
Looking down at the little white beans that lay on the ground, our young Siegel Township farmer was struck by a feeling of digust. He had always felt that way. Ever since he was a child he had felt a repugnance against waste that had caused him remorse over the loss of even a single good bean. As a child, his father had attempted to assure him that the losses were usually of “cull beans” which were too discolored or too immature to pass inspection at the grain elevator anyway. However, out in the field he could see that these beans, lying on the ground, were pearly white and were certainly good beans. While reading some articles in the Michigan Farmer, he was gratified to find that his feelings about waste were reflective of the modern trend in scientific farming.
In addition to noting the waste on the ground, our Siegel Township farmer was beginning to doubt the value of having navy beans in the crop rotation on his farm. Despite the passing of the worst part of the depression, prices of all edible beans last year (1934) had averaged only $3.52 per 100 pounds. (From the National Agricultural Statistics Service page of the United Sates Department of Agriculture website.) This was only 52% of the average price of 1929, the year before the depression. (Ibid.) Continue reading Navy Bean Farming in Michigan (Part II): The All-Crop Harvester→
Navy Bean Farming in Huron County, Michigan (Part I)
Brian Wayne Wells
As published in the January/February 2005 issue of
Belt Pulley Magazine
As mentioned in past articles, agriculture in the United States has long served as a beacon of hope for many immigrant groups which came to the United States in search of a new future. This was especially true for the earlier waves of immigration from North Europe and Scandinavia. It is generally assumed that for the later waves of immigration from eastern and southern Europe were limited in their opportunities to only industrial and mining occupations. However, even for these later waves of immigration, agriculture in the United States still offered some opportunities. One such immigrant group who recognized these opportunities in agriculture were the Poles.
The struggles of the Polish population for a nation of their own had long been an important feature of European history. From 1773 until 1795 the Polish nation underwent three different land grabs (politely called “partitions”) by its more powerful neighbors—Prussia, Russia and Austria. (Norman Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland Volume I :The Origins to 1795 [Columbia University Press: New York, 1982) p. 512.) By the time of the third partition in the 1795 there was no independent Polish nation left, all the territory had been swallowed up. However, the spirit of Polish nationalism never ceased to exert itself. The Poles of Cracow (or Krakow) was located right on the border of the Russian occupied part of the old Polish State where that border met the Austrian occupied zone.
However, during the dislocations caused by Napoleon’s Wars in eastern Europe, which included the temporary establishment of the Duchy of Warsaw from 1807 until 1815. Following the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Cracow became an independent “free city state.” In February of 1846, the rising tide of revolutionary patriotism among the Polish people exploded into the “Krakow Uprising” against the occupying forces. This uprising was suppressed by the Austrian armed forces crossing their border with the Free City State of Cracow. In the end, the Austrian Empire annexed Cracow into the Austrian part of the Polish partition.
Two years later, in 1848, there was a rash of revolts which broke out all across German speaking lands. (This period of time saw the emigration of William Frederich Oltrogge from Germany to the United States. See the article called “Massey-Harris Farming: The Oltrogge Family of Waverly, Iowa” in the March/April 2004 issue of Belt Pulley. This article is also published on this website.) This series of revolts spilled over into the parts of Poland controlled by the German speaking kingdom of Prussia, as the Poles in the city of Posnan rose in revolt. (H.W. Koch, A History of Prussia [Dorset Press: New York, 1978] p. 236.) In both 1830 and in 1863, the Polish population of the part of Poland controlled by Russia revolted against the Russian Government. (Edward Crankshaw,The Shadow of the Winter Palace [Viking Press: New York, 1976] pp. 105-109 and 203-206.) All of these revolts were unsuccessful and were put down by the authorities. The suppression of each of these each of these revolts had the effect of spurring emigration from the various parts of occupied Poland. These Poles sought to build a new future for themselves in the United States. One of the major destinations for the immigrating Poles was the State of Michigan. Michigan had entered the union of the United States only in 1837. In 1848, the first Poles settled in Michigan. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, Poles were arriving in large numbers in Detroit, Michigan, which was rapidly becoming Michigan’s premier town.
Then in 1881, Czar Alexander II was assassinated. Despite the fact that Czar Alexander II had been assassinated by Russian radicals and not-Poles, the Russian Government began another round of persecutions of the Poles in retaliation for the assassination As a consequence of this Russian repression of the Poles, a second and much greater wave of Polish emigration to the United States was begun in the 1880s. (Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration [University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1960] p. 198.) Russian immigration (of which Polish immigration was considered a part) grew from only 5,000 in 1880, to 81,000 in 1892 and rose to a peak of 258,000 by 1907. (Ibid., p. 202.) Of this total “Russian” immigration approximately 25% was actually Polish immigration. (Ibid.)
Once again Detroit, Michigan, became a destination for many Poles in this second wave of immigration. (See the article on the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company in the September/October 2004 isue of Belt Pulley magazine.) However, not all of the Polish immigrants of the second wave chose to remain in the urban areas. Across the nation some of the Polish immigrants migrated out of urban areas to seek their fortune in the rural areas of the nations. “After 1900, there was a small, but significant movement of Poles from American cities, factories and steel mills to the semi-abandoned farms of the the East. In western Massachusetts and Connecticut, Polish farmers began to cultivated onions and tobacco, crops requiring special soils, intensive hand-labor and not a little technical skill and business ability.” (Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration, p. 215.) Thus, some of the Poles that came to Detroit, chose to pass through the town and settle in a rural area of Michigan known as “the Thumb.”
Michigan is divided into two land masses—the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Penninsula. The geographical shape of the Lower Penninsula on a map appears to be in the shape of a hand or a winter mitten. North of the city of Detroit lies a protrusion out into the Lake Huron which appears to be the “thumb” of the mitton-shaped Lower Penninsula.
Located on the very tip of the Thumb is Huron County, Michigan. The townships along the shoreline of Huron County, Siebewaing, Fairhaven, McKinley, Seville, Lake, Hume, Port Austin, Huron, Gore, Rubicon, Sand Beach and Sherman Townships were predominately involved with fishing and later became the tourist and vacation destinations for the population of the Detroit metropolitan area. Thus, after the fading of the fishing industry, the economy of these shoreline townships came to revolve around the summertime tourist trade coming largely from Detroit. However, in the middle of Huron County are fourteen townships, Chandler, Meade, Lincoln, Bloomfeld, Windsor, Oliver, Colfax, Verona, Siegel, Brookfield, Grant, Sheridan, Bingham and Paris, which are primarily agricultural in economy. The level ground of these townships with their covering of the clay/loam soil is conducive to agriculture. Furthermore, the mild summer weather moderated by the close proximity of Lake Huron adds to the natural plant growing capability of Huron County, Michigan.
Huron County was organized as a political sub-division of the State of Michigan in 1859. However settlement of the area had begun much earlier. Polish settlement of Huron County began in the late 1840s and early 1850s, by immigrants coming directly from Poland but arriving in the Michigan from Canada. The early settlers gathered around the small town of Parisville., Michigan. In 1852, the first Roman Catholic mission was opened in Parisville. By 1858 the foundation of St. Mary’s Church in Paris Township was laid by Reverend Peter Kluck, himself an immigrant from Poland.
The town of Bad Axe was located in the middle of Huron County and became the county seat of newly organized Huron County. Poles arriving in Huron County from Detroit as a result of the massive second wave of Polish immigration and worked on farms owned by others. However, they soon became farm owners themselves. Polish Settlement of the Huron County tended to be centralized in the townships east of Bad Axe. Immigrants of German heritage tended to settle the townships west of Bad Axe.
Like most frontier areas, the early settlers on the Thumb raised a great deal of alfalfa hay and small grains—largely for their own use. However, with the coming of the market economy and modern transportation, farmers on the Thumb began to find a specialized niche in United States agriculture. The flat land and silt loam, clay, well drained soil of the Thumb was found to be extremely accommodating to the raising of dry edible (field) beans—specifically navy beans.
The navy bean is a very high source of protein and obtained its name because of the fact that once dried, the beans could be stored for a very long time. Thus, the navy bean was perfectly suited for storage aboard ships. The first navy beans were introduced to Huron County in 1892 as six (6) acres were planted to navy beans that year. In 1895, still only eight acres of navy beans were grown in Huron County. However, an explosion in the growth of navy bean production occurred in 1900. By 1909, Huron County, alone, was raising 10% of all edible beans raised in the whole United States. In 1910, 20,015 acres within Huron County were devoted to navy beans. Following 1909, the navy bean market stablized for a number of years until 1914, when the outbreak of war in Europe created an increased demand and another spurt in production of edible beans occurred.
In 1915, one particular farmer in Bingham Township in Huron County became interested in raising navy beans on his own 160 acre farm. Just like his neighbors our Bingham Township farmer raised oats, hay and winter wheat. Just like his neighbors, our Bingham township farmer used nearly all of the hay and oats that he raised on his farm as animal feed. Only winter wheat served as a “cash crop” which was sold each year.
Winter wheat was planted each year in mid September. It grew some in the fall and then went dormant in the frozen ground under a blanket of snow during the winter. Upon the first thaw of the ground in the spring, the winter wheat began growing again. Having already established a root system the winter wheat always matured well ahead of other crops that had been planted in the spring. Consequently, winter wheat usually ripened and was ready to harvest each year in July.
Each year, our Bingham Township farmer would carefully watch the price of wheat. Sometimes he would sell his wheat immediately after threshing in July if he thought the price was right. He did this in 1910 and in 1912 and had been able to get $1.00 per bushel and $1.01 per bushel, respectively. (From the Macro-history Prices page of the National Bureau of Economic Research web page on the Internet.) However, in most years the price fell in July as a result of the glut in the market, created when everybody attempted to sell wheat at the end of the harvest. In 1911, he stored his wheat and waited until October and finally sold his wheat at 97¢ per bushel. This was nearly 10¢ more per bushel that the price had been in July of 1911. Last year, in 1914, the price of wheat reached $1.09 per bushel. He really felt that this high price would not persist. However, the war in Europe had created and was continuing to create some unusual price conditions in the market and the price of wheat had continued to rise in the winter and spring of 1915 until the price reached $1.57 per bushel in March of this year—1915. He now wished now that he had held on to his wheat through the winter. However, hind site is always 20/20.
Our Bingham Township farmer was a member of the grain co-operative that owned the grain elevator in Ubly. Ubly was a small village located in the central part of Bingham Township. Every winter the co-operative held its annual meeting to elect new members to the Board of Directors. Speakers were invited to this meeting to talk about new trends in farming. For some years now, speakers at this meeting had been urging farmers in the Ubly area to plant navy beans in addition to their other crops. Pointing out the recent “volatility” of the winter wheat market, they noted that navy beans would provide Huron County farmers with some economic stability by providing at least some diversification of their cash crops. By not having all their “eggs in one basket” Huron County farmers would have a “hedge” against any dip in the price of winter wheat. These speakers pointed out that since 1909, the overall price of dry edible beans had increased from $3.30 per hundred weight in 1909 to $4.00 per hundred weight in 1914—a 52% increase in the price. (A “hundred weight” referred to a 100 pound sack of beans. One hundred pounds of beans was equivalent to roughly two (2) bushels of beans, since a bushel of beans weighed about 56 pounds.)