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Southeast Missouri had a key role in the road to Missouri statehood in 1817-1821. The events leading to statehood, and some of the events, people, and lifeways in the area may be unfamiliar to many modern-day Missourians. Currently, Missouri is celebrating its Bicentennial, and this program aims to summarize the events leading to statehood, some of the factors affecting Missouri’s entry into the Union, and how people lived and worked during that time 200 years ago.Every Friday morning at 6:42 and 8:42 a.m. and Saturday morning at 8:18 a.m., Bill Eddleman highlights the people, places, ways of life, and local events in Southeast Missouri in 1821.The theme music for the show ("The Missouri Waltz") is provided by Old-Time Missouri Fiddler Charlie Walden, host of the podcast "Possum’s Big Fiddle Show."

MO Bicentennial Minutes: Crop Farming in 1821

Scenes of Statehood-era Agriculture.png
The State Historical Society of Missouri.
Scenes of Statehood-era Agriculture.

Most farms were subsistence-level at statehood. Larger farms were possible with either a large family or with the labor of the enslaved. Settlement followed valleys at first, or clustered in level or open uplands. Later settlers adapted to hill country by using small corn plots and open-range grazing.

Arriving settlers raised sheds or tents for temporary shelter and then surrounded with a rail fence for protecting vulnerable livestock. Houses were built of local logs, often with the assistance of enslaved workers or neighbors. Floors were of split logs, usually hickory or ash. Chimneys were wood lined with stones on the lower inside and daubed with mud in the upper part. Next, they cleared smaller trees. Girdling killed larger trees, allowing light to reach the ground and crops to be grown.

Most used oxen to plow, less commonly horses. Plows were wood, often with iron points. Corn was better adapted to Missouri than wheat, mainly because wheat varieties came from northern climates.

Farmers planted crops by hand, covering with a hoe. Corn was cultivated once after it was growing. In addition to grain, crops included flax; garden vegetables, especially beans, squash or pumpkins; and rarely cotton. Hemp and tobacco were cash crops on large farms. A vegetable garden was near the cabin, growing peas, beans, lettuce and other greens, cucumbers, melons, and Irish and sweet potatoes, among others. Most farmers planted apples, peaches, and pears for production of cider and brandy.

Farmers harvested grain by hand, then shelled corn or threshed wheat with a flail or trampling by oxen or horses. Grain was ground on the farm or hauled to mill on horseback or wagon.

Bill Eddleman was born in Cape Girardeau, and is an 8th-generation Cape Countian. His first Missouri ancestor came to the state in 1802. He attended SEMO for two years before transferring to the University of Missouri to study Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. He stayed at Mizzou to earn a master of science in Fisheries and Wildlife, and continued studies in Wildlife Ecology at Oklahoma State University.