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thickly scattered over our country, unimproved and unappreciated, as much to the shame of their owners as to the discredit of that shrewdness which ought to be manifested by the many who are seeking ways and means to get a farm. Five years ago, I was applied to by a young man who was anxious to begin his effort to secure a home of his own. Не was a capital farm-hand, possessed great energy,
and had saved $200 of his earnings. After learning his views, I suggested to him the propriety of purchasing a piece of swamp land, containing twenty-six acres, which was very nearly the counterpart of that above described. It produced nothing whatever was too wet for a cow pasture, and was in fact a neighborhood nuisance. I had long noticed it, and had studied its capabilities. I had even pointed them out to the owner, but he was one of those farmers who have little faith in any one's knowledge but their own, and he refused to believe-his only desire was to sell.
I took the young aspirant for a home all round the swamp, and into it as far as we could penetrate in a very wet season. It was grown up with alders, young dogwood bushes, and maples, with here and there a clump of tolerably large trees of other varieties. In some places where there was a slight rise in the land, it was firm and solid. I drew his attention to this circumstance, as proving that if the water could be as effectually drained away from the whole
swamp as it was from these elevated spots, it must become equally dry. He recognized the reasonableness of the inference; and, after a thorough examination of the matter, assented to the feasibility of completely reclaiming the land.
But the whole condition and aspect of the swamp was so forbidding, that, although his judgment was convinced, yet he hesitated about undertaking the task. He had never drained a swamp, nor seen a similar job done by others. He spoke of the numerous waste places in the neighborhood resembling thïs, and of the fact that not one owner had ever undertaken the business of reclaiming a single acre, though so much wealthier than himself. He was satisfied that the redeemed land would be of the highest value, but he doubted if his means would hold out. The difficulty was to get him to begin--he had a commendable degree of courage, but not quite enough.
Finally, his hesitation was overcome by a third party offering to furnish the money with which to pay for the swamp, to wait any time for him to refund it, and, in case of his little capital and his own labor proving insufficient, to assist him with whatever more might be needed.
With this agreement to rely on the swamp was purchased at twenty dollars an acre. Taking it as it stood, this was a high price; but looking at it with reference to what could be made of it, the price was low enough. It lay within twelve miles, by rail, of a city of many thousand inhabitants, and there was a station within gunshot, from which vast quantities of milk, vegetables, and other farm products, were daily carried to the city. The railroad company was one of the few that assiduously
cultivate the way traffic of the country through which they pass. The directors were as studious of the interest of the man whose whole freight was contained in a single milk-can, as of his who brought a load of wheat. Thus, let the farmer grow whatever crop he considered best, he could rely upon the railroad to convey it punctually and cheaply to the adjacent market. It is the combination of such facilities that gives value to land. Without such combination in the present case, the swamp referred to would have been dear at any price.
Hence, in the purchase and reclamation of a swamp, reference must not only be had to how cheaply it may be brought into tillage, but how near may be the market for its products, because the nearer it may be to market, the higher will be the prices to be obtained for them. The first charge on agricultural productions is that of freight--the cost of moving them to market from the spot whereon they were grown.
The swamp was a parallelogram, with a watercourse running professedly from end to end, but by courses surprisingly tortuous. There was a good natural fall, but the stream had become dull and lazy from a thousand obstructions, such as fallen trees, clumps of alders, old roots, and sandbars. At its lower end an ample outlet could be created, through which any volume of water from above would flow off rapidly whenever the outlet should be opened. These important facts had been noted before the purchase was made. When the fences had been shifted by the lines of the tract, an acre of upland was found to be included, on which buildings could be placed.
My protegé began by opening an outlet at the lower end of the swamp, from which he cut a wide ditch through the whole, from one end to the other, felling trees, taking out roots, and grubbing up the dogwood and alders. Thirty days' labor of himself and one hired man, accustomed to such work, completed the ditch. The effect was immediate and very decided. Instead of the old sluggish stream, a lively current now flowed rapidly down the new water-course, into which trickled a hundred little streams from both sides of the swamp. Heretofore they had stagnated for want of an outlet—now they put on a wholesome activity. Numerous ponds and puddles quickly disappeared, while sundry powerful springs became so well defined that their sources at the foot of the upland could be distinctly identified.
While the changed condition of the land was thus enabling it to throw off a large portion of the surplus water which had made it worthless, the young owner went to work on the trees and underbrush. So great had been the change effected by the single ditch already made, that he felt greatly encouraged to persevere. As often happens, in such cases, the trees produced more cords of wood than either of us had anticipated. The brush was trimmed and bundled into faggots, which sold readily for kindling. The dogwood bushes were grubbed up bodily, so as to preserve the crook or curve at the root, and were then sold to a manufac
turer in the neighboring city, who converted them into canes and umbrella handles, paying such a price as more than refunded the cost of grubbing. The wood was of course salable enough.
Five months, from April to September, were occupied in these various labors; but though a hot sun had been playing on the now exposed surface of the swamp, causing an uninterrupted evaporation of its moisture, yet in some places it was still too wet to admit of hauling off all the wood, and that portion was left until a hard freeze the following winter. Meantime the grubbing went on wherever a root was found small enough to be extracted. Many larger ones were of course left, the operation of taking them out being too expensive for a beginner. But vast piles of the smaller ones were collected and used in filling up the old tortuous water-course, while the dirt from the new ditch was wheeled over planks to cover them, leaving the roots so far under ground as to be below the reach of ordinary ploughing. This operation secured two important advantages-it cleared the new ditch of the embankments thrown up on its margin in digging it, and it brought ир the old one to the surrounding level. By the first, all the surface water was allowed to flow off, as there could be no ponding or backing where no bank existed. By the last, a huge, crooked gully was converted into fast land.
But the work was not yet done. Cross drains were to be dug from the main ditch, on both its sides, extending to the adjoining upland. So far there had been no proper time to do this, as all such