Ohio History Journal

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A noteworthy aspect of agriculture in Ohio before 1850 was

the attention paid to a number of minor crops--rice, cotton, hemp,

flax, clover seed, white beans, castor beans, hops, madder, mustard,

broom corn, cow cabbage, sugar beets, Rohan potatoes and tobacco.

The farmers were actually carrying on an American tradition, for

their colonial ancestors had experimented with most of these

special crops and with others besides. The colonists found that

climatic differences between Europe and the Atlantic seaboard

made it necessary for them to try out every plant of the Old

World on its merits in the New. They universally desired to

develop a staple other than wheat or forest products, and, like

their nineteenth century descendants, they were subjected to a suc-

cession of agricultural crazes. By a process of trial and error they

gradually ran through the entire list of European cultivated plants

and even some East Indian exotics. Commonly enough a crop was

tried generation after generation in one locality without the slight-

est reward, and even oftener a failure in one region seemed merely

to encourage similar ill-starred effort elsewhere. "So extensively

did these experiments go on, and so completely had they been

tried," William Brewer wrote in 1883, "that not a single species of

domestic animal, and but one species of domesticated plant

(sorghum), has been introduced since the Revolutionary War of

sufficient importance to be enumerated in the census tables."1

Pioneers with this colonial background were much less startled

than modern students by Manasseh Cutler's solemn claim of 1787

that the Ohio Country was suited to rice culture. "Where the large

bottoms are interspersed with small streams," he asserted, "they

are well adapted to the growth of rice, which may be produced in

any quantities. . . . It is found, in this country, that stagnant

waters are by no means necessary to the growth of rice; the com-

1 William H. Brewer, "Report on the Cereal Production of the United States,"

Tenth Census of the United States (Washington, 1883), III, 135.