In today’s throwback Thursday photograph, a Cortland County farm family uses a horse-powered treadmill to saw wood. For centuries, draft horses have been used on farms to plow fields, haul wagons, and for various other forms of hard labor. During the 19th century, farmers also used horses to provide their machinery with a dependable source of power. The horse treadmill utilized a system of gears and belts to harness the power of horses to thresh hay, saw wood, and even churn butter. The amount of force necessary to operate these treadmills was measured in “horse power,” a familiar term that is still used today.
As the Chenango River snakes it way southward through the rolling hills of Upstate New York, it bisects the town of Oxford. Before the American Revolution, the fertile land around the river was home to the Oneida Indians. The land was ceded to the fledging United States Government after the war in the 1788 Treaty of Fort Schuyler (Stanwix). White settlers quickly moved into the region and Oxford was officially incorporated on January 19th, 1793. The town’s central location made it an ideal early trading center in the region.
In today’s vintage throwback Thursday photograph, a farmer gives his daughter a ride in a wheelbarrow while a group of cows look on. The photo was taken in Chenango County probably around the late 19th or early 20th century and represents an interesting snapshot of farm life during this time period. Tune in for the premiere of “Harvest,” WSKG’s new original documentary chronicling the history of agriculture in our region, on November 19th at 8PM to learn more about family farm life.
Photograph courtesy of the Chenango County Historical Society.
The other day marked the “unofficial” end of summer in my household as my daughter boarded the school bus for the first time and rode off to kindergarten. The event found my wife and I discussing the tradition of summer vacation and its origins. We both shared the belief that summer vacation was tied to America’s agrarian past, however upon further inquiry we discovered that our assumptions were mistaken. According to a PBS NewsHour article from 2014, the myth that summer vacation was directly tied to our nation’s agrarian roots is still very persistent. In realty, the early rural schools in America that were tied to an agrarian calendar had short summer and winter terms with breaks in the spring and fall.
Harvest, a new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Brian Frey, aired November 19, 2015 and December 8, 2015 on WSKG TV. The film traces the history and evolution of the farming and agricultural community in upstate New York over six generations through the lives and stories of farming families and the communities they help build. Utilizing rare archival photographs and film footage, first-person accounts of historical characters, personal memories and analysis, along with breathtaking cinematography, this new documentary chronicles the critical contribution the farming community has made in the development of the culture and customs across the Southern Tier of New York. Woven within the narrative of the film are biographies of dozens of normal everyday area farmers and their families whose triumphs and often devastating personal and economic struggles help punctuate the incredible story of rural life in the region. Along with their journey, we see the life-altering innovations and scientific developments in farming that helped to transform Upstate New York’s landscape.
Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954) was a professor of horticulture and botany at Michigan Agricultural College, now Michigan State University, and later at Cornell University. Explore this map, and follow Bailey’s travels while he makes some of the most important contributions to New York State agriculture. Explore the map fullscreen! Photo credit: Wikipedia