AGRICULTURE AND MARKETS
Source: The Early Life of Lexington [KY] before the Year 1820, Mary Estelle Delcamp, A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Transylvania College in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts June, 1916
Lexington, situated as it was in the heart of the Bluegrass, was at once a central market for food-stuffs, and a meeting place for agricultural societies. Hemp was bought for rope manufacture (Mar. 15, 1790); barley and hops were needed at the breweries (Apr. 23, 1791); wheat was purchased for the flour mills (Jan. 1, 1792) hogs, mules and pack horses found a ready market (Sept. 8, 1792; Feb. 5, 1791; Mar. 8, 1803).
As early as 1792 the farmers were importing cherry trees, in order to have fruit of their own (Jan. 7, 1792). In 1798 a Kentucky Vineyard association was formed with the purpose of growing grapes and manufacturing home-made wines (Sept. 12, 1798). At a meeting of this association, held in 1803 at Mr. Postlethwaite's Tavern, a sample of Kentucky wine was exhibited and the toast offered: "May those who seek war or separation from the Union never taste the juice of the grape" (Mar. 22, 1803).
In 1797 the average produce from one acre of land was estimated thus: wheat 25 bushels; rye 25; barley 40; corn 50; oats 40; potatoes 250; hemp 800 cwt.; tobacco 2,000 lbs.; hay 6,000 lbs. (Sept. 16, 1797). The farmer suffered occasionally from hail storms, in which his corn, wheat, rye, fruit and vegetables were almost entirely destroyed (June 19, 1804); from the army worm; which left scarcely a spear of grass in his meadows (May 27 & June 7, 1806); and from droughts (Aug. 2, 1806).
Tobacco was grown to some extent, altho not considered as important as hemp and cotton. The way in which one smoker of that day upheld his favorite weed is rather amusing: "it is said that tobacco is harmful. Just so tea is called a poison, but as one old man observed it is a slow poison. So it is of sugar. Take away luxury, and you take away commerce; take away commerce, and you take away arts. While tobacco grows naturally in a state of innocent nature, there will always be smokers" (June 4, 1805).
In 1803, Daniel Bradford kept a sample of Kitefoot tobacco in his office for the inspection of planters (Sept. 10, 1805). In 1818 it was pointed out to citizens that tobacco in the Louisville market brought $6.00 per cwt., in Lexington only $4.00. A great cry was raised for better navigation and good turnpike roads, to get to Louisville at the least expense (Mar. 27, 1818). Two years later C. Bradford rented of Robert Wickliffe and John Bradford their large brick warehouse on Water Street. Here an inspection of tobacco was established according to law, and inspectors appointed (Sept. 14, 1820).
In 1810 the statement appeared that cotton and hemp bade fair to become the staple of Kentucky (Sept. 18, 1810). A year later the farmers of Fayette met at the Kentucky Hotel to discuss the low price of hemp. They felt that in comparison with the price in Atlantic ports it should bring at least $6.00 per cwt. Instead, the price ranged from $3.50 to $5.00, while in Philadelphia it was $14.00 to $15.00 (Jan. 22, 1811). In 1816 a meeting of citizens was held at the court house. Richard Higgins acted as chairman, and Thomas January as clerk, Mr. Francis Hall exhibited specimens of flax and hemp, and showed a patent for manufacturing the same. It was decided at the meeting that the General Assembly be petitioned to but the patent for the use of Kentucky (July 11, 1816).
Stock raising in early days, as now, was one of the chief occupations of the Bluegrass farmer. It is interesting to note that the forerunner of the Kentucky fair was an exhibition of stock. In 1816 a cattle show was held at Sander's, two and one-half miles northwest of Lexington. The objects of the meeting were" "First, to bring sellers and purchasers together; second, to form a Kentucky agricultural society" (June 17, 1816). The next year the new society had a meeting on Postlethwaite's Tavern, and decided to have their next fair at Capt. Fowler's Garden. At this second fair fourteen cups were offered. Among the various exhibits were cattle, sheep, hogs, cheese, woolen cloth, linen, and whiskey (Mar. 31, 1817). At the fair held in 1819 there were many exhibits of domestic manufactures (Oct. 1 & 8, 1819.
The early stock-raiser had his troubles. In 1810 great complaint was made of sheep-killing dogs. One man in righteous indignation sarcastically remarked that at least one wise legislature refused to enact a law for the preservation of sheep by curtailing the number of dogs. He declared that every negro was permitted to own three or four large curs, and that within ten days in the neighborhood of Lexington a flock of sheep had been destroyed. He further hinted that the owners in self-defence might have to band together (June 30, 1810). The circumstances however did not hinder the raising of sheep: for about a month after this complaint, a flock of Merinos arrived in the neighborhood (July 31, 1810).
The market house was one of the most important buildings in the town, and the trustees gave careful attention to its government. Greatest care was taken to satisfy the housekeepers as to market days, to insure fresh vegetables, and good weights and measures. In 1806 the following rules of regulation were passed (the phraseology and punctuation are those of the original):
"Section one, Be it ordained, that it shall be the duty of the clerk of the market, to enforce the regulations respecting the same, (viz.:) seize all unwholesome provisions offered for sale at the market house, as well as such as shall not be found weight or measure, agreeable to the standard of this town, and dispose of the same as follows, (that is to say) sell such as are under weight or measure, and the nett proceeds pay into the hands of the treasurer of the board, which he shall regularly enter into a book, to be by him provided and kept for that purpose), and such as are unwholesome, if condemned by two respectable citizens, whom he is authorized to call on for that purpose, shall under his direction be burnt at the expence of the owner. It shall be his duty, safely to keep the different weights and measures deposited with him by the trustees as standards. It shall be his duty to have removed from the market house all filth, and twice a week at least to have the same cleaned and swept. It shall be his duty to give proper attention to all persons bringing to him weights and measures for examination and marking; for such attention and his fees, he shall be entitled to demand, for each half-bushel, bushel, or peck, for adjusting the stamping the same, one shilling and six pence; for every lesser measure six pence: for every yard-stick nine pence: for every set of weights from four pounds down one shilling and six pence: for every single weight three pence: provided that the weights and measures be sufficiently large when brought to him: and all such weights and measures as are correct, and brought to him for stamping only, shall by him be stamped at half the prices herein affixed. It shall likewise be his duty, at least three times a year and at such other times as shall be deemed necessary, to examine all weights and measures used within the town, and adjust and stamp the same; and for every weight and measure as adjusted and stamped, he shall be entitled to the fees herein before mentioned. And every weight and measure which shall be used for purpose of vending any article, that is not so stamped, shall be forfeited, and the owner fined, in a sum not less than one dollar nor more than three dollars, one half of which to be appropriated to the use of the town, the remainder to the clerk of the market. The days of the market are hereby fixed on Wednesdays and Saturdays in every week: on those days no person or persons shall retail any provisions out of the market house and within the town, before ten o'clock under penalty of three dollars.
"Section two, Be it further ordained that no person shall buy in the market during market hours, any kind of provisions, in order to sell the same again, under the penalty of three dollars for every such offence.
"Section three, Be it further ordained that no person or persons shall retail, or expose to sale by retail, any beer, cider, or spiritous liquors, within the market house or the limits thereof, or on any of the public grounds or streets of the town, under penalty of forfeiting all such articles so exposed to sale; and that it be the duty of the clerk of the market to carry this ordinance into effect.
"Section four, Be it further ordained that any person who shall hitch and fasten any horse, mule or ox to the railing surrounding the market house, or to anything pertaining thereto; or bring them so near as to incommode the passage to and through the same, or shall bring any wagon, cart or other carriage within twelve feet of the railing of the market house, during market hours, shall for every such offence forfeit and pay one dollar.
"Section five, Be it further ordained that no huckster shall occupy any part of the market house during market hours, and at no other time without paying price agreed on with the clerk of the market for the same.
"Section six, Be it further ordained that no steelyard shall be used in the market by any butcher, under penalty of three dollars for every such offence.
"Section seven, Be it further ordained that the clerk of the market be authorized to rent the stalls in the market house, taking bond with approved security for the payment of the rent to the town treasurer quarterly (May 10, 1806).
These ordinances were added to or changed in the course of the following years. In 1813 the watchman took a vote among the housekeepers of Lexington to ascertain their preference as to market days. At that time Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday were observed; but because of the unanimous opinion of the housekeepers, the days were again changed to Wednesday and Saturday (Aug. 3, 1813). In the same year the trustees ordained that the clerk should have chains to extend from the ends of the market house to the public square and to the foot-pavement on Cheapside. These were to be stretched at daylight each market day to prevent horses, cattle, et cetera, standing on said streets until nine o'clock a.m. (Sept. 28, 1813). The next year, because of the annoyance and inconvenience of selling rawhides in the market, the sale was forbidden, on penalty of ten dollars fine to both buyer and seller, and a five dollar fine for bringing the hides into the market house (Jan. 3, 1814). At the same time, because it had been declared unlawful to sell before daylight on market days, due to the prevalence of fraud in light and unwholesome provisions, the market was opened the evening before until dusk (June 20, 1814). In 1817 an ordinance regulated the sale of hay. The provisions of this were: "First, All hay must be weighed at the scales on Water Street; second, the inspector must give a two-hundred dollar bond and keep a book; third, the inspector shall receive twenty five cents for weighing hay, and twenty five cents for weighing empty wagon- he must give the owner a certificate of weight; fourth, after June of this year anyone who shall sell without a certificate does so under penalty of a ten dollar fine; fifth, if the inspector purchase any hay, except for his own use, he shall be fined ten dollars" (Apr. 21, 1817).
Transcribed March 2001 by pb