MARKET AND SALE PROBLEMS OF EARLY SETTLERS
In those days a market for their products was the problem that worried the farmers as much as did the producing. The nearest railroad ended at Dubuque, and when that was reached there was no real demand for farm products. But it was the best in sight and therefore long strings of teams were constantly on the road from all directions, loaded with wheat and dressed pork, each in season. It took about eight days to make the trip from Waverly. A fair load was about silty bushels of wheat, which would sell for forty cents a bushel. The scarcity of money forbade sales for cash, so pay must be received in trade. To enable the buyers to handle the immense volume of wheat that flowed into the market, combinations of merchants were formed, so as to be able to furnish what the farmers wanted. John Hancock handled groceries; Mr. Mobley, dry goods; Westphal & Hinds, hardware, and M. Humbert, boots and shoes. If the farmer sold to Hancock, the seller would take orders on the other three in the combination for what he wanted in their lines; not a cent of money entered into the deal. The ordinary amount for a load would run from $24 to $30. When the farmer left home, he carried a lunch box with food enough to last him the trip; he slept under his wagon. If the weather was cold or wet he suffered accordingly, and his horses fared the same way. He had no money to pay hotel or stable bills. For several days before starting to market, the evenings at home were spent by families in making out a list of the things needed worst. A load of wheat did not go very far in purchasing power, but helped along some. After revising and trimming the list of wants several times, it would be safely stowed away for use when the load was sold.
The custom was for a bunch of neighbors to go to market together. This practice was protection, as well as company. The roads were often very muddy and miry, and being together made it less difficult for all, as double teams could be used to pull a load thru the worst "slough." I recollect several trips made in company with John Wile, Ed Fairhurst, W. M. Colton, John Skinner, Thomas Halse, Samuel Kreiger, Parker Lucas and perhaps others. Such trips were hard on teams as well as men, but it was the only way the people had to realize anything from what they produced. Wheat and dressed pork were all they attempted to market. Corn, oats, butter, eggs, potatoes and all such stuff were not worth anything in the Dubuque market. Eggs in Waverly sold at eight dozen for twentyfive cents, when sold at all, but most of the time those days there was no market for them at any price. The life of a farmer was one of hard and constant toil. In addition to cultivating his plowed land he spent a month in the spring breaking more of the sod, thus adding to his productive possessions. The days not spent in cultivating his crops or harvesting them, or breaking new land, were given to making fences, adding to his crude buildings, preparing for winter, getting fuel ahead, etc. Not an idle hour for him. The women folks helped in every way they could. Many of the girls then, solid grandmothers now, worked in the harvest and hay fields from early morn until late evenings. The whole country was a bee hive of industry and rarely could a drone be found; if one was found, he received cold attention. The struggle was to subdue the wild prairies and bring them into the line of production. They met the hardships and disappointments with Spartan courage and fortitude. The star of hope, backed with faith, was always before them. Dark and dreary as were the times, they looked forward to better ones. Such men and women are not classed as heroes and heroines and yet they deserve to be recorded as such.
Last updated 4/9/16
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