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Old Time Customs
Memories and Traditions and Other Essays
Farming and Business Methods


NO LINE OF BUSINESS has received more attention from the inventor and the manufacturer than has that of agriculture. The implements of husbandry now in common use by the progressive farmer rival the human hand under mental guidance in precision and skill and far surpass it in amount of work done. By recollection and mental picture observe the movement of the sower of the former days as with sway of body and swing of arm he scatters broadcast his seed grain into the lap of mother earth, so picturesquely represented by the children of the kindergarten; and then look at the farmer boy as he rides over the ridges, sitting on the seeder duly regulated as by clock work. Note how this wonderful machine simultaneously implants the kernels of grain, the grass seed and the fertilizer in duly measured quantity and at proper depth for each in the soil and finishes the work by rolling the earth smooth and compact. In like manner one may compare the farmer of days that have been as, through the livelong day, sweltering under the burning sun, he toiled with his scythe in the hay field, and at the end of the day's work he had gone over but a small corner of his meadow, with him who, to-day, sitting on his machine, mows the same area before breakfast or in the cool of the evening. Or, again, see our fathers as with flail they pound out the grain, toiling at it for a month or more, and then waiting, perhaps a week, for a favorable wind to separate the grain from the chaff. To-day three or four men with the threshing machine do the work in a few hours with the winnowed wheat in one pile and the chaff in another. Herein the former days may be better in poetic suggestion; but they fail to count when measured by work done.

Our forefathers handled very little money. The early settlements were made up chiefly of farmers, and nearly every one had of his own raising all the farm produce that he required. Thus to find a cash market it was necessary to send these products to some city or town in which the people were engaged in manufacturing, fishing, trade, or business other than agriculture. Halifax was the principal place of this kind in Nova Scotia and it, though a garrison city and a British naval station, was but a small place and was thus easily overstocked with such commodities. St. John, Boston and some other cities in the United States, which were accessible by water, were much used as market places, especially by farmers in the western part of Nova Scotia. The transport to Halifax was generally overland for distances varying from thirty to seventy-five or even a hundred miles by the King's highway.

The farmer's chief source of money was beef cattle. Oxen that had been used two or three years in doing farm work were after the harvest turned out on the marshes and other pasture lands, and then fattened in the winter on raw potatoes with perhaps crushed oats to finish off. In sending their cattle to the Halifax market two or three farmers often clubbed together and made a drove. In times of scarcity the Halifax butchers came to the country and bought cattle and lambs at the farmer's home. In this case the weight of the ox was generally estimated, so that the farmer became quite an expert in estimating the number of pounds of beef his fat ox would yield.

Other subsidiary means of raising money was by taking waggon loads or sled loads of pork, mutton, poultry, cheese and other domestic products to Halifax. The load weighed eight to ten hundred pounds and on the top of the load were two or three bundles of hay and a bag of oats for the horse. The farmer sometimes had also a basket of sandwiches, dough-nuts and other food for his own use. But with all this economy there was little money to meet the many obligations arising out of the maintenance of a family.

We have seen the method of paying the salary of the minister and the schoolmaster. In a similar way other debts were paid. The laborer, in haying and harvest time, was paid in wheat reserved from the preceding year's product. A half bushel was the usual payment for a day's work.

The country merchant chose his place of business where four roads met—"the corner" it was called. Though late in coming into the settlement, he soon learned to deal in all kinds of merchandise that was required—pins, needles, jewsharps, tea, sugar, tobacco, snuff, nails, jack-knives, rabbit-wire, salts, senna, factory cotton, silk and broadcloth, and many other things, for which he was prepared to take in payment anything that the farmer had to sell. His was a "general" store and his mode of business was known as "barter trade"—an exchange of goods for other goods. Three or four times a year he sent the farm produce to Halifax market. It should not be omitted that previous to the coming of the store-keeper with his wares there was the itinerant merchant called the pedlar. Like the degenerate minstrel of the middle ages, he went his rounds from settlement to settlement and from house to house with his pack of dry goods snugly wrapped in green baize strapped to his shoulders.

Money—what little there was in circulation—was counted in pounds, shillings and pence—twenty shillings to the pound and twelve pence to the shilling. A crown, sometimes seen, was the fourth part of a pound. The silver coin in common use was British money, including the half crown, passing in Nova Scotia for three shillings and a penny ha' penny; the shilling, passing for twenty-five pence; the sixpence, passing for seven pence ha'penny, and the two shilling piece or florin, passing for two shillings and six pence. The copper coins were penny and ha'penny pieces. The only paper money for some years was that issued by the Province of Nova Scotia. The first Bank established in the Province, was a private organization without incorporation or charter, opened for business in 1825. Among the leading partners were Henry Cogswell—the President—William Pryor, Enos Collins, James Tobin and Samuel Cunard.


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