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Finding former farmland

June 26, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

It is hard to believe at one time Adirondack tree-covered country was farming country. Early settlers, especially in the southernmost Adirondacks and up in "potato" country, removed the trees and cleared the land for large farms. It was a labor-intensive enterprise and not always a successful endeavor in the rocky and hilly Adirondacks. The location of many of these farms can be found in the woods today where the lilacs and apple trees grow and the rows of stone fences meander through the wilderness.

The 1845 census reveals the extent of Adirondack farming. More than a half-million acres were listed as "improved lands" in five of the major Adirondack farming counties. The five counties of Essex, Warren, Hamilton, Herkimer and Franklin accounted for 16,179 acres of potatoes, 1,978 acres of flax, 20,677 acres of corn, and 10,417 acres of rye. They also raised oats, barley, peas, beans, buckwheat, turnips and wheat. It becomes quite clear with these numbers that it took a lot of plowing; did you ever wonder where all those farm plows were manufactured?

Interestingly, garden plows were manufactured about six miles from the Adirondack Blue Line, in Galway. It becomes an American success story that defies all the usual beliefs. The complete story is now well-told in a book by C. Donald Carpenter, "THE MOSHER FURNACE." Located in a somewhat remote area, far from the usual manufacturing, transportation and commercial centers of our country, the "Small Town Plow Factory" in the town of Galway lasted some 80 years. Holbrook plows of Boston and Collins and Co. plows of New York City, among others, were well-advertised in the country newspapers of that day while Mosher plows were probably being sold by "word of mouth."

The main players in the manufacturing of plows in the town of Galway were the Moshers and the place became known as "Mosherville." Some of the foundry buildings still stand today on Route 29 and house the general store, well known for its good cheese.

The story of "The Mosher Furnace of Galway" probably started at Corinth in the Adirondacks. Israel Mosher, who patented a shovel plow, had a partner, Walden Eddy, who was born in South Corinth. The Eddys had a foundry operating in Corinth as early as 1833. An Eddy relative married into the Mosher family, possibly, explaining how the Moshers got into the foundry business and why the patent was jointly developed. The details of the story can be found in Carpenter's well-researched book.

Apparently, the Moshers got into the plow business at the right time. Gleason's Pictorial reported, in 1854, that farmers were switching from the slow oxen to the faster horses to plow the gardens. Better plows were needed. "The Yankee farmers are not against improvements to the latest inventions and to adopting labor-saving machines," they concluded, "and the ploughs used are of the latest and the best make." England had patented a plow in 1730 and Charles Newbold got an American patent for a plow in 1797.

There is probably more to say about the development of the plow; their complete history can be traced back some 8,000 years.

About the same time the Moshers were developing the plow in Galway, inventors in Ipswich, England, were hard at work making a special wrought iron/steel plow with a mould board on each side. Plowing fields in India for sugar cane required a large, strong, well-powered plow. The answer was a special plow pulled by an elephant. One author noted that "the Yankee farmer would find the elephant plow quite a contrast to his small plow." (Crossword puzzle people - have you ever heard of an "ard?" But that's another story. )



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