A Look At Life On the Homestead – Part 1

By Linda Stewart, 24 February 2019

It is February and most of the country is blanked in snow.  In southeast Texas, we are enjoying a few 50 to 70 degree weather days, which is a wonderful break from the cold and rainy days.  The plum tree has bloomed and plums about the size of a lentil are appearing.  The citrus trees will soon be in bloom.  The smell of the orange blossoms is indescribably amazing.  Clover is covering the yard, which the chickens really enjoy.  The Kalanchoe, Narcissus, and Magnolia tulip tree are blooming.  Life on a micro-homestead is growing and changing with the season.  Thanks to the US Census Bureau, we can go back in time and look at our ancestors homesteads by reading the U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880.

In 1880, The Non-Population Schedule is known as the Agriculture Census.  It will list the production of a homestead in 1879.  It shows if the person owned the land, rented it for fixed money, or rented it for a share of the production.  It lists the number of acres of improved and unimproved land.  Improved land is land that had been tilled for planting, cleared for pastures and meadows, orchards and vineyards.  Unimproved land is land that had not been disturbed such as woodlands and forests.   It will give you the monetary value of the farm, i.e. land, fences, buildings, machinery, and livestock.  It also list the cost of repairs and the hired laborers.   It shows the number of livestock they had and what kind, i.e. horses, mules, oxen, cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens.  One Paschall ancestor had 35 chickens that produced 100 dozen eggs.  The Agriculture Census will show what was planted, how many acres, and how many bushels were produced per acre.  It will also show how many pounds of butter that was churned.  Reading the Agriculture Census and including the information in your research, will allow you to peer through a window of time.

So whether you live in the country or city, have 100 acres or an apartment balcony, this spring when you plant your peppers, tomatoes, and flowers remember the ancestors.  Enjoy watching the plants grow and the fruit of your labor.

Happy Hunting!


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