The Pioneer History of
 Orleans County, NY

Chapter VII
Clearing Land & First Crops

Online Edition by Holice & Deb




Cutting down the Trees -- Black Salts -- Slashing -- Clearing--Fallow -- Planting and Sowing -- Harvesting and Cleaning Up -- How Done.

Orleans County was originally covered with a heavy growth of trees. These had to be moved to open the soil to cultivation. This was commonly done by cutting the trees so as to leave a stump, two or three feet high. The felled timber lay upon the ground until it was dry, when fire was put in, and the whole field was burned over at once. The logs were then cut off at the proper length, to be hauled together in heaps by oxen and burned; and the ashes of the heaps collected and leached to make black salts and potash. The land being thus cleared and covered with earth by harrowing the ground with a triangular harrow, or drag.

A field with the trees lying as they fell was called a "slashing," and sometimes a "clearing," or a "fallow,' as the work progressed.

The wheat was sown in the fall, to be harvested the next season; no spring wheat being raised. Sometimes corn and potatoes were planted among the logs, the first season, by digging in the seed with a hoe.

It was several years before the land could be plowed to much advantage, after the trees were felled, on account of the stumps, but as these were chiefly hard wood, they soon rotted out.

For some years, the first settlers cut their wheat crops with a sickle; threshed out the grain with flails, or trod out with horses and cattle, and freed it from chaff by shoveling in the wind, or fanning with a hand fan. The want if barn floors, and other conveniences, made all these operations exceedingly laborious and slow, compared with such work now-a-days.

Before barns, with threshing floors in them, were made, some farmers made floors, or platforms of split logs, and laid them on the ground, without any roof over them. Beside these, they stacked their grain and threshed it on these floors in fair weather, or trod it out with oxen or horses.

The Pioneer History of Orleans County, NY, By Arad Thomas


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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