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MICHIGAN FOOD & BEES

BY A. D. P. VAN BUREN

Rail-splitting was connected with clearing up land, and came in for its share of hand labor. A beetle, iron wedges, gluts, and an ax were the implements used in this work. Rail-splitting was a regular employment for a certain class of men in our early settlements. Pioneers and presidents have split rails. The business has no more honor for that. There used to be some merit though, in the number of rails one could split in a day. To cut and split one hundred rails in a day was a day's work for a common hand; and two hundred for a good hand. The wages were one dollar a hundred, and board yourself; one-half dollar, and be boarded. The rail was mostly made from oak timber, and was eleven feet long. Conrad Eberstine was accustomed to say that he and Martin and Ephraim Van Buren had cut and split rails enough in Battle Creek township, to fence off Calhoun county. They split in the winter of 1837, fifteen thousand rails for Noah Crittenden, and eight thousand for Edward Smith, who then lived where Henry D. Court now does. Remnants of some of the old rail fences of that day can yet be seen in some parts of the county, though dilapidated and fast going to decay.
"BREAKING UP. "
Many settlers followed breaking up as a regular vocation, during the season, as threshers follow. theirs now. The turf on the prairies and plains was the toughest, and hence there was the hardest breaking. That on the oak openings yielded much more easily to the plow. The thicker the timber the softer the soil. Three yoke of cattle for the openings and four for the prairies and plains, was the team required in breaking up. Many of the first settlers broke up their lands with two yoke of oxen because they could get no more. After the underwood grew up in the openings, on account of the annual fires not burning it down, the "breaking-up team" consisted of six or seven yoke of oxen, according to the size and thickness of the "grubs" in the land to be plowed. The first plow used by some, was the old "bull plow. " This was all wood, save the share and coulter.

Michigan


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