Todd County, Kentucky Agriculture

Something more than the southern half of Todd County was originally included in what was known as the ” barrens,” so called, not because the soil lacked fertility, but because of the former absence of timber and the numerous ” sinks ” to be found. This area lies upon the cavernous formation, and the soil is notably of very high quality, but is easily restored when worn. The soil of the northern portion of the county rests upon the clifty sandstone and is of a less desirable quality. There are occasional patches of the red clay subsoil, but these are rare, the greater part being the white pipe clay or kindred soils of meager fertility and difficult to build up. Todd is pre-eminently an agricultural county. Its numerous streams in the early history of its settlement gave rise to a number of mills, but these have had a local significance only. Of the large number that have had existence less than a dozen now survive, and of these only the mills at Elkton are an important feature in the manufacturing interests of the county. The lack of shipping facilities and the scarcity of merchantable timber has retarded the development of manufactures, so that Todd is not only a purely agricultural district, but is likely to remain so for all time to come.

The first settlers sought an agricultural region where timber and water united to furnish the simple demands of pioneer existence. The ” barrens,” covered with considerable underbrush and with scarcely a tree, looked very unpromising to the pioneer accustomed to the heavy timber of Virginia and North Carolina, and were passed by, the first settlements being made in the timber along the Elk pork and streams of the northern part of this region. The consequence was that the pioneers seized upon the poorest land in the county to begin upon, and only necessity drove them later to the occupation of that portion which is the garden spot of Todd. The pioneers brought with them the notions gained in their former homes, and bringing their slaves sought to make plantations here for the cultivation of the staples of the country from which they came. Tobacco was the chief crop on which reliance for revenue was placed, and this proved an admirable growth to subdue the soil, but the thin soil first attempted soon proved inadequate to the trying demands of repeated crops of this ‘plant, and some twenty-five years later there were hundreds of acres ” turned out ” as worn-out land. The “barrens ” were then taken up and cultivated in the same way with the same result. There was this difference in the two sections, however: no profitable means of restoring the thin soil could be devised, while the red sub-soil lands were readily and cheaply renewed by fallowing with clover. Farmers have not given the subject that careful investigation which its importance demands, and careless, uninstructed methods are still employed, as a rule, here as else-where in the south. There are evidences of improvement in this respect here, and it is probable that the improvement will continue until the cultivated area in Todd County will be largely increased.

The plan of the first farmers was to plant a crop of tobacco on the new soil and follow it with corn until the soil was completely exhausted, when the field was abandoned. Later years have taught the advantages of rotation in crops, and this is now the rule. Tobacco is still the first crop on new or sod land. Occasionally a second crop is taken from the same field, but generally, corn is the succeeding crop for one or more seasons, then occasionally oats, succeeded by wheat and then clover. Tobacco has been, until very recently, almost the only source of revenue to the farmer, and beyond the demands of his family support his farm and energies were devoted by the farmer to the cultivation of this crop. The variety is known as the Clarksville leaf, a thick, gummy, heavy variety which is principally marketed at that point and nearly the entire product exported to foreign lands. The style of cultivation is of the better sort. Care is taken in all its stages and the product comes to market in pretty. good condition. It is an exacting crop on soil and labor, and the farmer has always a crop in hand from the time he begins its cultivation until he stops. Like all other crops, it affords remuneration of a varied sort. The careful, attentive planter gradually grows rich, while the careless class gradually joins the indigent class, a good year ” only delaying his inevitable progress. More than most of agricultural products, the success of its culture turns upon critical junctures, when a day’s unfaithfulness will ruin or greatly damage a promising field. The changes wrought by the war ” in the character of farm labor, has increased the demand for care, and the frequent remark is now heard, that ” tobacco growing don’t pay.” Todd County, however, is quite as much devoted to the noxious weed ” as ever before, and will probably continue to be, the farmers de-pending upon increased care and intelligence to cure the clearly defined evils now observed in handling it.

Corn is an important product of husbandry in the county. An in-creasing acreage is planted each year, the farmers having discovered that it is more profitable fed to stock than to Negroes. Its yield is large, its cultivation not exacting on soil or labor, and its returns, when fed on the farm, are highly satisfactory. In recent years a mixed form of husbandry has gradually made its way into favor, and the growth of live stock is modifying agricultural traditions in every way. But little attention is paid to grass as a merchantable crop, but meadows of mixed timothy, blue or orchard grass and clover alone or mixed with the other varieties, are becoming more frequent. Clover, for renewing purposes, is very largely sown. The general practice is to turn under the growth unpastured or cropped in the fall, to lie fallow until planting time in the following spring. On soil thus fertilized tobacco is first planted, which is followed by wheat. The acreage devoted to this cereal has largely in-creased of late years, and some of the best farmers plant only enough tobacco to pay the farm hands, and look to this grain for their principal revenue. Every farmer raises some wheat, and the aggregate quantity raised in the county reaches a large figure.

Stock-raising to any noticeable extent dates from about 1863. Before this date but little had been attempted in the way of improving stock, save in horses. Kentucky has long been noted for its horses, and the record of breeding horses and jacks which were licensed in the county indicates an early interest here in this subject. Up to the year 1833 the following horses are named in the record: Sir Clay ton, Silver Heels, Young Pilgrim, Wormwood, Diomede, Bolivar, Richard, Faulkner, Arrasaka, Corsican, Bachelor, Aratas, Uncas, Sir Charles, Pacotel, Sir Archer, Mike,

The American Beauty, Hamiltonian, Comet, Niter, Selim, American Eagle, Young Stump Dealer, etc. These names indicate -the prominent strains that have been used to improve the common stock. The interest in this class of stock has been maintained by the circumstances and tastes of the people. Horses are selected here with reference to their qualifications for the saddle or harness. Among well-to-do people, horses are kept especially for the one use or the other. “All purpose” horses are only in demand among the class of owners who cannot afford the expense of maintaining animals for road purposes. The mystery of “fox-trot, side-pace and running walk,” is eloquently explained by the Kentuckian horse-lover (and what man is not?) and enters largely into every horse sale. The average horse in the county is well-bred, but rather run down. There are many fine-spirited animals to be seen, held or sold at prices varying from $250 to $500, but these are in the minority. The heavy draft horse has been introduced of late years, but does not find much encouragement, as mules are almost entirely used in farm work. The latter animal is found in large numbers in the county, and meets a ready sale at good prices.

About 1845 Dr. Garrard brought to Todd County a fine short-horn bull, which he had purchased at a cost of some $500. This attempt to improve the cattle was not appreciated, and it is said the investment was a complete loss. About 1863 the subject of improvement of cattle was revived, and some of the best families of short-horns were brought in from the blue grass region. Since then the interest in this stock has considerably increased. Jersey cattle were introduced here in 1878, and quite a number of this breed of animals are found. Webb C. Garth, of District No. 5 (Trenton), and M. P. Bailey, District No. 4 (Elkton), are prominently identified with stock-raising, dealing principally in herd-book animals. Other classes of stock are receiving some attention also. Hogs are a considerable source of profit, and are shipped to market to an important extent. The Berkshire, Poland-China and Jersey Reds are all represented in the breeds. Coarse-wool sheep are found to a limited ex-tent in the county. There are no large flocks, but almost every farmer has a few head, kept principally to furnish the table with mutton. Wool is becoming more of an object of late, and within a few years past the flocks have materially increased.

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