Wisconsin in its racial character is popularly known to the country at
large as a Teutonic state. That means the state has a German element,
original and derivative, which numerically overshadows the American,
English, Irish, Scandinavian, and other stocks also represented in
the Badger blend. It is not necessary to quarrel with this widely
accepted theorem, though some of the corollaries drawn from it can be
shown to be unhistorical; and one can demonstrate statistically that
if Wisconsin now is, or at any census period was, a Teutonic state
she began her statehood career in 1848 as a Yankee state and thus
continued for many years with consequences social, economic, political,
religious, and moral which no mere racial substitutions have had power
to obliterate. My purpose in the present paper is to present, from
local sources, some discussion of the relations of Yankee and Teuton
to the land–a theme which ought to throw light on the process of
substitution mentioned, revealing how the Teuton came into possession
of vast agricultural areas once firmly held by the Yankee.

The agricultural occupation of southern Wisconsin, which brought the
first tide of immigration from New England, western New York, northern
Pennsylvania, and Ohio–the Yankee element–may be said roughly to
have been accomplished within the years 1835 and 1850. The settlements
which existed prior to 1835 were in the lead region of the southwest,
at Green Bay, and at Prairie du Chien. The population of the lead mines
was predominantly of southern and southwestern origin; that of the
two other localities–the ancient seats of the Indian trade and more
recent centers of military defense–was mainly French-Canadian. When,
in 1836, a territorial census was taken, it was found that the three
areas named had an aggregate population of nearly 9000, of which more
than 5000 was in the lead region included in the then county of Iowa.
The Green Bay region (Brown County) was next, and the Prairie du Chien
settlement (Crawford County) smallest.

The census, however, recognized a new county, Milwaukee, whose
territory had been severed from the earlier Brown County. It was
bounded east by Lake Michigan, south by Illinois, west by a line drawn
due north from the Illinois line to Wisconsin River at the Portage, and
north by a line drawn due east from the Portage to the lake. In terms
of present-day divisions, the Milwaukee County of 1836 embraced all of
Kenosha, Racine, Walworth, Rock, Jefferson, Waukesha, and Milwaukee
counties, nearly all of Ozaukee, Washington, and Dodge, a strip of
eastern Green County, and most of Dane and Columbia. In that imperial
domain the census takers found a grand total of 2900 persons, or almost
exactly one-fourth of the population of the entire territory.

Two significant facts distinguish the Milwaukee County census list
from the lists of Brown, Crawford, and Iowa counties–the recency
of the settlement and the distinctive local origin of the settlers.
These people had only just arrived, most of them in the early months
of 1836. One could almost count on his ten fingers the individuals
who were there prior to the summer of 1835. In reality they were not
yet “settled,” for most of the rude claim huts–mere shelters of the
pre-log house stage–were haunted at night and shadowed at noonday
by men only, resident families being still rare, though many were on
the lakes, at the ports of Milwaukee and Chicago, or on the overland
trail which was to end at the cabin door. It was the prophecy of new
communities, not the actuality, that the census taker chronicled when
he recorded the names of claim takers with the number of persons,
of each sex, comprising their households. We have reason to believe
that the numbers were inscribed almost as cheerfully when the persons
represented by them were still biding in the old home or were en route
west, as when they were physically present in the settler’s cabin or in
the dooryard, eager to be counted.



Drawn by Mary Stuart Foster.]

Unlike the other populations of Wisconsin at that time, the vast
majority of Milwaukee County settlers were Northeasterners. Such
evidence as we have indicates that New York supplied more than half,
the New England states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan nearly all of
the balance.[1] New York’s title to primacy in peopling Wisconsin is
exhibited, most impressively, in the statistics of the 1850 census. At
that time native Americans constituted 63 per cent of the total and
New Yorkers had 36 per cent of the native majority. Native Americans
predominated in all but three of the twenty-six counties, and in all
but five those who were natives of New York, added to the natives of
Wisconsin, were a majority of the American born. The exceptions were
the four lead mining counties of Grant, Iowa, Lafayette, and Green,
together with Richland, which, however, had so few inhabitants that its
case is divested of any significance.

The three counties which, in 1850, showed a majority of foreign born
inhabitants were Manitowoc, Milwaukee, and Washington (the last named
including the present Ozaukee County); and in each case Germans
constituted more than half of that majority. Together those three
counties had over 20,000, which was considerably more than one-half
of all the Germans (38,054) domiciled in Wisconsin at that time. The
other lake shore counties, together with Calumet, Fond du Lac, Dodge,
Jefferson, and Waukesha, accounted for 15,000 of the balance, leaving
about 3000 scattered over the rest of the state. Thus the area embraced
by Lake Michigan, Lake Winnebago and lower Fox River, the upper reaches
of Rock River, and the south boundary of Jefferson, Waukesha, and
Milwaukee counties was all strongly and in the main distinctively

Investigating the causes which may have operated to concentrate the
German population within such clearly defined geographic limits, our
first inquiry concerns the land on which settlement was taking place.
And here we find that the distinguishing fact marking off the region
in which Germans abounded from most of the other settled or partially
settled areas of the state was its originally thickly wooded character.
In a way almost startling, and superficially conclusive, the German
settlements coincided with the great maple forest of southeastern
Wisconsin, spreading also through the included pine forest on Lake
Michigan south of Green Bay.

Returning now to the Yankee element, we find that although it was
strong in all of the settled districts save the five counties named,
it was more completely dominant in some districts than in others. For
example, in Walworth County the northeastern states furnished 96.5 per
cent of the American population, while 3.5 per cent was furnished by
sixteen other states. The foreign born constituted less than 16 per
cent of the total.[2] Walworth County was a section of the new “Yankee
Land,” which included in its boundaries also the counties of Racine
and Kenosha, Rock, and at that time parts of Waukesha and Jefferson.
Nowhere in that region were foreigners very numerous, and in many
localities non-English speaking foreigners were almost scarce.

Physically, this new Yankee Land comprised those portions of the
prairies and openings of southern Wisconsin which lay not more than
from sixty to seventy-five miles from the lake ports at Milwaukee,
Racine, and Kenosha. The region was just as characteristically “open
country” as that occupied so extensively by Germans was forested. One
land type, the glacial marsh or swale–good for hay and pasture–was
common to the two districts of country. But for the rest, the Yankee’s
land was all ready for the plow if it was prairie, and if oak openings
the labor of felling the scattered trees and dragging them away before
the breaking team was comparatively light.

The German, on the other hand, in order to subdue his land to the
requirements of successful tillage, must attack with ax, mattock,
and firebrand each successive acre, patiently slashing and burning,
hewing and delving, till by dint of unremitting toil extended over an
indefinite number of years his farm became “cleared.”

Shall we therefore repeat, as the sober verdict of history, the
statement often heard, that in settling this new country the Yankee
showed a preference for open land, the German for woodland? On the
face of the census returns that seems to be the case, and if our
evidence were limited to the census such a conclusion would be well
nigh inescapable. Fortunately, he who deals with culture history
problems of the American West has this advantage over the Greenes and
the Lamprechts of Europe, that on such matters his evidence is minutely
particular, while theirs is general to the point of vagueness. No one
will doubt that the Yankee staked his claim in the open lands because
he preferred those lands on account of the ease with which a farm could
be made. The question is, whether the German’s presence in the woods
rather than in the openings or on the prairies was with him a matter of
preference so far as land selection in itself was concerned.

Timber for shelter, fuel, building, and fencing was an important
consideration to all settlers, including the Yankees. In another
connection I have shown, from the records of land entries, that the
Yankee settlers in a prevailingly prairie township of Racine County
took up first every acre of forested land, together with the prairie
lands and marsh lands adjoining the woods, while they shunned for
some years the big, open, unsheltered prairie where farms would be
out of immediate touch with woods.[3] Rather than take treeless lands
near the lake shore, these settlers preferred to go farther inland
where inviting combinations of groves, meadows, and dry prairie
lands, or openings, could still be found in the public domain. Only
gradually did American settlers overcome their natural repugnance to
a shelterless, timberless farm home–a repugnance justified by common
sense, but springing from the habit of generations. When, for economic
reasons, they began to settle on the open prairies, the planting of
quick-growing trees about the farmsteads was always esteemed a work of
fundamental utility.

Yankee agricultural settlers found special inducements for going inland
in search of ideal farm locations, in the glowing advertisements of
Yankee speculators who early pioneered the open country far and wide.
These speculators concerned themselves primarily with water powers for
sawmill and gristmill sites and town sites. Yet power and town sites
both depended for their development on the agricultural occupation
of the surrounding country, and this made the speculators careful to
locate their claims in areas of desirable lands which would soon be
wanted. It also made them doubly active in proclaiming to immigrants
the agricultural advantages of their chosen localities.

One may take up at random the land office records of townships in the
older Wisconsin, and in practically every case find proof that the
speculator was abroad in the land before the arrival of the farmer.
Along the banks of navigable rivers he took up, early, such tracts
as seemed to afford good steamboat landings, which might mean towns
or villages also. Along smaller streams he engrossed potential water
powers. In the prairie regions he seized the timbered tracts which
commonly lay along the streams. And wherever nature seemed to have
sketched the physical basis for a future town, there he drove his
stakes and entered an area large enough at least for a municipal center.

In some portions, particularly of the earliest surveys, the speculator
also absorbed a goodly share of the best farm land, which he held
for an advance when the immigration of farmers became heavy. Other
Americans, aside from Yankees, participated in these speculations,
but the records show that the Yankee’s reputation for alertness and
sagacity in that line is not unmerited. For illustration, the plats of
Dane County townships disclose among the original entrymen who bought
their lands early, the names of well known speculators like James D.
Doty, Lucius Lyon, the Bronsons, Cyrus Woodman, Hazen Cheney, and
C. C. Washburn–all Yankees. In addition, we have distinguished New
Englanders who probably never came west but invested through the agency
of their Yankee correspondents. Among them are Daniel Webster, Edward
Everett, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Caleb Cushing.

To a considerable extent these speculators, in paying for government
lands, employed military land warrants, usually purchased at a heavy
discount. “Scripping” by this means became more common after the
Mexican War. A German immigration leader wrote at the close of 1848:
“There is a man living in Sheboygan who has already placed 344 of these
warrants [each good for 160 acres] on government lands and intends next
spring to place 200 more on tracts lying north of Fox River.”[4] He
did not say the man was a Yankee; possibly he deemed that information
unnecessary. For, although the German sometimes bought warrants of
the brokers in order to save the difference between the price of such
warrants and the land office price of government land, he did not in
the early years of the immigration speculate in farm lands.

Therein was one of the outstanding differences between him and the
Yankee. The German could not be tolled into the interior by golden
promises of unearned increments from the sale of city lots, of mill
sites, or of choice farm lands which were going rapidly. His caution
and his phlegm were a protection. He was not particularly responsive
to the optimistic prophecies of the development of this region or
that region in which this company or that prominent individual had
interests. For these reasons, the German’s motives as a land seeker
were more legitimately economic and social than were those of the
Yankee, and on the basis of such motives we can explain his settlement
in the woods.

In his homeland the German villager loved the forest for its shelter,
its recreational hospitality, and the benefits it conferred in
necessary fuel, timber, bedding, and forage. A large proportion of the
early German immigrants came from south German provinces dominated by
such famous old forests as the Schwartzwald and the Odenwald. From
considerations both of habit and of economy it was natural that in the
New World they should make sure of an abundance of timber on the lands
they sought for future homes. Yet, there is no reason to assume that
the German, any more than the Yankee, courted the grilling labor of
clearing heavily forested land–a labor to him the more formidable for
the want of the Yankee’s training in axmanship and his almost unbroken
tradition of winning fields from forests. Some German pioneers who were
self-helpful struck for the openings and the prairies, and like the
Yankee chose for their farms the ideal combination of wood, marsh, and
open land whenever such a combination could be found within easy reach
of the market.[5]

But Germans were less venturesome than Yankees, or more prudent,
depending on the point of view. In the old home they were accustomed
to haul their farm produce many miles in going to the markets and
fairs. But there the roads were passable at all seasons. In the New
World, where all was in the making, the roads were often impassable and
always–except in winter–so rough and troublesome as to daunt those
who were not to the manner born.[6] Hence the German settler’s idea
of what constituted a safe distance from the lake ports within which
to open a farm differed from the Yankee’s idea. There is one striking
illustration of that difference. Along the Illinois boundary from Lake
Michigan westward was the strip of prairie and openings twenty-four
miles wide and seventy-eight long which was divided into Racine and
Kenosha counties (on the lake), Walworth, and Rock. We have already
called that region the new Yankee Land and have seen the Yankee farmers
spread over it with seeming disregard to distance from the lake ports,
each being intent rather on finding an ideal combination of desirable
kinds of land. The three divisions of the strip contained almost equal
numbers of Yankees–these people evidently believing that canals,
roads, plank roads, and railways would come to them when needed, while
a good farm location once lost was gone forever; and being willing
also, until such improvements should come, to haul their crops sixty or
seventy-five miles to market. Not so the few Germans who entered this
Yankee Land prior to 1850. More than four-fifths of them were in the
section nearest the lake (Racine and Kenosha counties), and less than
one-thirtieth in Rock County, the farthest west of the strip.

The movement into the prairies and openings of the southeast had been
going on for about four years before the Germans began coming to
Wisconsin, and so many selections of first choice, second choice, and
even third choice land had been made that newcomers were already at a
disadvantage in that region, especially if a number of them desired
to settle near together in a body, which was the case of Old Lutheran
congregations who made up the earliest German immigrations. Moreover,
most of the Yankees were business-like farmers who generally planned
for fairly large farms, in order to make money by raising wheat. They
were mainly men who had sold small farms in the East in order to secure
larger, or sons of large farmers. Most of them had money or credit to
enable them to acquire land, construct buildings and fences, buy stock,
and begin farming operations. Having found good land by canvassing the
whole region, they were not to be dislodged until, with the failure of
wheat crops at a later time, the spirit of emigration sent numbers of
them to fresh wheat lands farther west, thus making opportunity for
well-to-do Germans to buy their improved farms, which they did to a
great extent.

Meantime, the forested lands pivoting on Milwaukee, the most promising
of the lake ports, were open to entry at the land office or to
purchase at private sale on easy terms. The Yankee had not altogether
shunned those lands. There, as elsewhere, he had been looking for
good investments, and the project for the Milwaukee and Rock River
Canal, which was to traverse a portion of the forested area through
the present Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Jefferson counties, favored
speculation in farm lands as well as in mill sites and town sites.
Besides, there is evidence that some of the poorer Yankee immigrants
who felt unable at once to maintain themselves on open land farms,
often settled first in the woods, where they began making improvements
with ax and fire, only to sell out promptly at an advance and go to
the prairie or openings to establish permanent farms. But most of the
forested land was still “Congress land” when the Germans began coming
to Wisconsin.

The German “Pilgrims,” as the first colony was called, arrived at
Milwaukee early in October, 1839, their leader being Henry von Rohr.
Within a month they had decided on a location, in the western part of
township 9, range 21 east (the town of Mequon, Ozaukee County), and
had made numerous purchases of government land. They selected a tract
of high, rolling land, heavily timbered, well watered, and with an
extensive marsh near by in the public domain which would furnish free
hay and pasture.[7] The situation was similar to that which was chosen,
near Watertown (in the town of Lebanon), a few years later by a German
colony from the same region. They also took a tract of heavily timbered
upland neighbored by an extensive marsh. “Here,” said their leader, “we
have both wood and hay” (“_Holz und Heu_”).[8]

Many of the colonists in these two congregations were very poor. Those
who had means lent to the indigent to enable them to emigrate. For them
it would have been madness to go to the prairies, where such absolute
necessities as fuel, building material, and fencing might cost ready
money and at best would be difficult to procure. In the woods trees
cut on the spot were used to build cabin and log house, stable, garden
and field enclosure. Some of the German families were months without
draft ox or even cow. All work was performed by hand, including the
carrying of logs from the spot where the trees were felled to the
place where they were to be rolled up to make the cabin wall. To such
settlers, bringing timber from a distance would have been among the
impossibilities. Their place was in the forest, where labor alone was
required for making the beginnings of a self-sustaining home.

In thousands of later instances, Germans who came to Wisconsin on their
own slender means were in a similar case to these early seekers of
religious freedom. An immigrant of 1848, J. F. Diederichs, has left a
diary and letters from which the process of home making in the woods
can be reconstructed.[9] Diederichs, after considerable search, found
eighty acres of good government land nine miles from Manitowoc, where
early in winter he settled down to work alongside of several other
Germans who were as poor as himself. The location was favorable, being
near a port. “What good is there,” he writes, “to possess the finest
land and be 6, 8 or 10 days journey from market.”[10] The first step
was to build a cabin, the next to bring his family from Milwaukee and
with a few dollars borrowed for the purpose to lay in supplies for
them. Then he erected a comfortable log house and continued clearing
till, by the middle of May, he had two acres ready partly for garden
and partly for potatoes, corn, and beans to provide the family with
food. Diederichs realized that “to begin such work at the age of 44 is
some job,” and recognized that not he and his wife but the children
would be the chief beneficiaries. Nevertheless, the joy of creation was
not wholly denied him. He had, he said, the “prettiest” location; house
set on a commanding knoll, with a pure limpid stream flowing within
a few yards of it, along whose course was some open land, making a
“layout for the finest pastures.” And there was timber enough on his
eighty to be worth $30,000 in the home town of Elberfelt. Of this, he
would gladly make his friends in Germany a present of about $20,000

The question of nearness to market was a determinant also in the cases
of Germans who were well enough off to take open lands. William Dames
found, for himself and associates, a favorable tract near Ripon. It
contained 160 acres prairie, 320 acres openings, and 160 acres of
low prairie or meadow land. The advantages of that neighborhood, he
wrote, were these: first, the prospectively near market, by way of
the Fox River Canal to be completed the following spring; second, the
excellence of the soil; third, the ease with which the land could be
made into productive farms. There one need not subject himself to the
murderous toil incident to farm making in the woods. And, fourth, the
healthfulness of the climate and the superb drinking water.

One bit of information which Dames conveyed to his fellow Germans who
were contemplating immigration to Wisconsin, was that the Yankees (by
which term he described all native Americans) and the Scotch settlers
of that neighborhood were becoming eager to sell their partly improved
farms, preparatory to moving into the newer region north of Fox River.
He advised Germans able to do so to buy such farms, which were to
be had in plenty not only in Fond du Lac County but near Watertown,
near Delafield, and even near Milwaukee–prices varying with the
improvements, nearness to the city, etc. He seemed to think the Germans
but ill adapted to pioneering. Let the German immigrant, he said, buy a
partly cleared farm; then he could follow his calling in ways to which
he was accustomed. Moreover, since such farms produced fairly well even
under the indifferent treatment accorded them by the Yankee farmers,
the German farmer need have no fear of failure.

The advice to purchase farms already begun was widely followed by the
financially competent German immigrants. Ownership records of one
Milwaukee County township show that the lands were originally taken
mainly by Irish and Americans, yet in 1850 nearly one-half of the
settlers were Germans; and there is no reason to regard that case
as singular. Probably the Germans who bought improved farms were as
numerous as those who bought Congress land. Many poor men worked as
farm hands for some years and then bought small improved farms in
preference to buying Congress land.

The experience of an 1849 immigrant, Johannes Kerler, illustrates
the less common case of Germans who arrived with considerable means.
Kerler brought with him to Milwaukee a sum, derived from the sale of
a profitable business, which would have enabled him to buy scores of
mill sites and town sites in the public domain. Instead, he limited his
investment to a 200-acre farm seven miles from the city, paying for the
land, including all crops and livestock, $17 per acre. The buildings
consisted of a log house and a cabin. One-half the farm was divided
between plow land and meadow; the balance–100 acres–supported a dense
forest growth. Kerler at once erected a barn for his cattle, and a
good two-story frame house for the family. Then he went to farming and
quickly transformed the earlier crude homestead into a fruitful and
beautiful farm, the show place of the neighborhood.[11]

Social forces are among the imponderables, and yet their influence
in controlling the distribution of immigration must have been
considerable. The fact that nearly all incoming Germans landed in
Milwaukee, where were acquaintances and often friends, tended in
a hundred subtle ways to attach the newcomers to that community.
Before 1850 Milwaukee had come to be looked upon as a German city.
“There,” said one immigrant, “more German than English is spoken.” It
had its German churches, schools, clubs, societies, and recreational
features, all of which constituted powerful attractions. It was the
most important industrial center of the state, with a relatively large
demand for the labor which with farm work was the poorer immigrant’s
sole means of getting a financial start. In addition, it was the
commercial metropolis, and that the German was firmly tethered to his
market has already become clear.

The construction of the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad, begun in
1849 and completed to Prairie du Chien in 1857, partially freed the
German immigrant from his dread of being marooned in the interior.
Desirable government lands accessible to the proposed railroad were
generally taken up several years before the completion of the road,
and among the entrymen in certain districts were many newly arrived
Germans. This was true to some extent in Dane County, but more
noticeably so farther west. In Iowa County and in Grant were sheltered
pleasant and fertile valleys, opening toward the Wisconsin, which would
be served by the railroad when completed, and which had long been in
touch with the world by means of steamers plying on the Wisconsin.
In those valleys, and on the wider ridges between them, the Germans
competed with others for the choicest locations on government and state
lands. Land entry records for two townships in Blue River valley show,
by 1860, out of an aggregate of 122 foreign born families 59 of German
origin, while the American families numbered 93. A similar proportion
doubtless obtained in other towns south of the river.

Directly opposite these townships, in the same survey range but lying
on the north side of Wisconsin River, was the town of Eagle, whose
settlement was almost exactly contemporaneous with that of the Blue
River valley. But Eagle, in 1860, had 20 foreign born families to 108
American, and of the 20 only 13 were German.

Inasmuch as the people on the two banks of the river had a common
market–Muscoda, which was a station on the railroad–and the lands of
Eagle were more fertile and quite as well watered, the question why the
Germans avoided that town and made homes south of the river is surely
interesting, and possibly significant.

There were two important differences between the two districts. In
Blue River the valley land, to use the surveyor’s phrase, was “thinly
timbered with oak,” while in the valley of Mill Creek, or Eagle Creek,
opposite was a dense forest dominated by the sugar maple but containing
big timber of several varieties, and dense undergrowth. In a word, it
was a heavily timbered area. Now the Germans near Lake Michigan had
given ample proof of gallantry in attacking forest covered farms, yet
when the choice was before them of taking such land in Richland County
or easily cleared land of poorer quality in Grant, almost with one
accord they selected the latter.

We cannot be certain that the difference in the timbered character of
the land was the sole motive determining the choice, though doubtless
it was the most important. The railroad ran on the south side of the
river and the principal trading center was on that side. Settlers
in Blue River valley could therefore reach the market by a direct,
unbroken haul with teams over public roads. Those in Eagle at first
were obliged to use the ferry in crossing the river, and later they had
to cross on a toll bridge except in midwinter, if the river was frozen
to a safe depth, when they crossed on the ice. These transportation
conditions might have deterred some Germans from settling north of the
river, even if the lands there had been as lightly timbered as those
on the south side. Taken together, the two causes virtually served to
blockade that district against settlers of their type.

But if the Germans declined the rôle of foresters, by refusing to
settle in a partially isolated town like Eagle, the Yankees did
the same. New Yorkers and New Englanders were scarcer there than
Prussians or Hanoverians. The town was occupied mainly by families
from Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana–with a few from Virginia and
North Carolina; in short, by men who had enjoyed or endured a recent
experience as frontiersmen in heavily wooded regions. So many belonged
to the class described by Eggleston in _The Circuit Rider_, _The
Hoosier Schoolmaster_, and _The Graysons_, that the name “Hoosier
Hollow,” applied to one of the coulees, seems perfectly normal.

To the Yankee, we may be sure, the heavy woods in the town of Eagle
were a sufficient deterrent to settlement there. The Germans shunned it
either because they disliked heavy clearing when it could be avoided
and when no compensating advantages offered, as was the case near
the lake shore; or because they disliked the risk and the expense of
crossing the river to market; or for both of these reasons combined.
Probably either reason, singly, would have sufficed.

By way of summary, we may say that as a land seeker the Yankee’s range
exceeded that of the German. Both clung to the lake ports as their
market base. But the Yankee’s optimism painted for him a roseate future
based on an experimental knowledge of material development for which
the German’s imagination was largely unprepared. The New Yorker had
witnessed, in his home state, the almost miraculous transformation
of rural conditions through the construction of a system of canals;
and canal building affected Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Ohio only less
profoundly than the Empire State. To the Yankee, therefore, who cast
his lot in the favored lands of Wisconsin it seemed that nothing could
halt the march of improvement. The chief point was to obtain prompt
possession of the right kind of farm. Having this, he could count on
doing a big agricultural business as a wheat grower, which promised
generous financial rewards. But if for any reason he failed to get the
right kind of farm, if improvements were unexpectedly dilatory, or if
the land ceased to respond to his demand for wheat and more wheat, he
“sold out” with slight compunction and went elsewhere, confident of
success on a new frontier, especially the great wheat plains. To him
land was a desirable commodity, but by no means a sacred trust.

The German, on the other hand, came from a land of very gradual change.
Although agricultural conditions there were actually considerably
modified in the first half of the nineteenth century, he still, for
the most part, looked upon his dwindling patrimony as the basis, not
of a money making business, but of a livelihood. If, by the combined
labor of all members of the household, the family could be fed,
clothed, and sheltered, the heavy obligations to church and state
redeemed, and a few _gulden_ sequestered for times of emergency, the
peasant was content. His land was his home. It had been his father’s,
grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s. The original estate was parted into
ever more and smaller divisions, as generation succeeded generation,
until the tracts of many holders were at last too small to support the
families. These had no choice but to sell and go to the city, or go to
America. This condition was one of the most general economic causes
of the large German immigration to this and other states. When the
German farmer, or other German, came to Wisconsin and bought a piece of
land, one purpose dominated his mind–to make a farm for a home, and
establish a family estate. In the beginning it did not occur to him
to speculate in land, although in this as in other things he proved
an apt pupil. Accustomed to a very limited acreage, he was not like
the Yankee ambitious to secure a large domain. Habituated to intensive
tillage, a partly made farm having ten or twelve acres of cleared land
was to him an ample equipment for making a living in agriculture.
Enlarging fields meant a surplus and mounting prosperity. If he took
raw land, he could count on clearing enough in a couple of winters with
his own hands to raise food crops, and he looked upon the prospect of
spending ten, twenty, or twenty-five years in fully subduing his 80-
or 100-acre farm with no unreasoning dread or carking impatience. The
remark of Diederichs characterized the German preëmptor: “If I once
have land enough under cultivation to raise our food supplies, I will
win through.” Whereas the Yankee wanted to break 40, 60, 80, or 100
acres of prairie or openings the first year, the German contemplated
the possession of a similar acreage of tillable land in ten, fifteen,
or twenty years.

But once in possession of a tract of land, the German tended to hold
on, through good years and bad years, as if his farm were the one
piece of land in the world for him and his. The Yankee, already given
to change in the East, tended in the West, under the stimulus of
machine-aided wheat culture, to regard land lightly, and to abandon one
tract for another on the principle that the supply was inexhaustible
and that one social environment was apt to be as satisfactory as
another. He had before him the great wheat plains, the Pacific coast,
the inland empire and the parks of the Rocky Mountains. Latterly
his range has widened to include the plains of the Assiniboin, the
Saskatchewan, and Peace River. For more than half a century he was
free to roam, to pick and choose land even as he picked and chose in
southern Wisconsin–the slower, more cautious, or more timid German
buying his farm when he was ready to sell.

It was peaceful penetration, involving no sabre rattling but much
canny bargaining, sober casting up of accounts, and cheerful jingling
of specie. The Yankees, more speculative to the last, more imaginative
and space-free, pressed ever toward the borders of the primitive, drawn
by the same lure of wealth quickly and easily acquired which brought
so many of them to the prairies of Wisconsin in the earlier days. The
Germans, fearing distance more than debt, confident in their ability
to make grain crops grow and farm stock fatten if only they had a sure
market for cattle and for crops, remained behind to till the abandoned
fields and occupy the deserted homes. Thus, so far as Wisconsin’s
farming areas are concerned, the shadow of the Yankee has grown less in
the land, while the tribe of the Teuton has increased.

What tendencies may have been induced by the passing of the frontier
and the resurgence of a population deprived of its former temptation
to expand into new regions; what social changes were implied in the
agricultural revolution which compels the daily application of science
to the business of farming; what readjustments in relationships were
involved in the modification of the Teutonic type with the coming upon
the stage of the second and third generations of Germans; how the
Germans in turn have reacted to the competition of groups having their
origin in other foreign countries, like the Scandinavians, Bohemians,
and Poles–all these are questions the answers to which would aid us
to determine “where we are and whither we are tending.” But their
discussion will have to be postponed to later issues of this magazine.

The agricultural traits and peculiarities of the nineteenth century
Yankees were the resultant of partly contradictory forces, some of
them evolutionary, others devolutionary. In England the period of
the Puritan migration to America and the half-century antecedent
thereto was a time of vigorous agricultural change marked by many
improvements in cultivation and in land management. The agrarian
revolution introduced by the transfer of church properties to
laymen was accompanied by enclosures and a widespread tendency to
shift from an uneconomical crop economy to an agriculture governed
by business principles. In this new system the production of farm
animals–especially sheep–the fertilization of the soil, rotation
of crops, and livestock improvement were main factors. Forces and
interests were set in motion at this time which, a century or so later,
made farming the concern of many of England’s leading minds, whose wise
and persistent experimentation benefited the whole civilized world.

The few thousand immigrants to the New England colonies, founders of
America’s Yankeedom, were not all farmers. Some were fishermen, some
were small tradesmen, others craftsmen; a few were professional men
and soldiers. But a goodly proportion were land owners and peasants,
and all had a more or less direct knowledge of the principles and
processes which governed English agriculture. The influence of habit,
always a determining factor in the transfer of civilization from an old
land to a new, caused the occasional reproduction in New England of
some features of English farming, especially under village conditions.
The common field system in Old Salem reflected a disappearing element
in English farm life, while the commons of hay, commons of pasture,
commons of wood, and commons of mast, with their administrative “hay
reeve,” “hog reeve,” “wood reeve,” herdsmen, and shepherds, mark a
natural imitating of the ways of parish life at home.

But there were differences in the conditions “at home” and in America
as wide as those symbolized by the terms “insular,” and “continental,”
applied to the geography of the two countries. Chief among these
differences were the generally forested character of the new-world
land, the necessity of adapting tillage to an unfamiliar climate, in
part to new food cereals, especially Indian corn, and the absolute
dependence upon markets which could be created or opened by the
colonists themselves. It was in fact the problem of a market which so
long subordinated farming proper in New England to a species of country
living in which small patches of arable supplied most of the family’s
food, while forest and stream were the objects of exploitation for
marketable furs, for medicinal plants, and for timber products. Yankee
ingenuity, which justly became proverbial, had an assignable cause. It
was not an inherited quality, or one which was imported and conserved;
it was a distinctively American product, explained by the situation of
the average New England farmer–who was, by force of circumstances,
more of a mechanic and woods worker than a cultivator of the soil. His
house, especially in winter, was a busy workshop where clapboards,
staves, hoops, heading, ax handles, and a variety of other articles of
utility and salability were always in course of manufacture. All the
farm “tinkering” was additional thereto.

In his contest with the forest for a livelihood, the Yankee farmer was
gradually changed from the eastern New England village type to that
of the American “pioneer.” His axmanship was unrivaled, his skill in
woodscraft, his resourcefulness in the face of untried situations
were equal to the best. When the time came for taking agricultural
possession of broad spaces in the northern and western interior, the
Yankee was the instrument, shaped by four generations of American
history, to achieve that object.[12]

This general “handiness” was gained not without a partial loss of
such acquired knowledge and skill in agriculture proper as the
first immigrants brought from England. Close, careful cultivation
was impossible among the stumps and girdled trees of new clearings;
the amplitude of natural meadows and the superabundance of “browse”
relieved settlers from the sharp necessity of providing artificially
for the winter feeding of cattle; the mast of oak trees and the
wealth of nuts, supplementing summer “greens,” roots, grass, and wild
apples, supplied most of the requisites for finishing off pork. Under
these conditions farming even at best was an entirely different thing
from what it had been at home. At its worst, it was a crude process,
affording a vegetative kind of existence, but nothing more. In fact,
farming in the New England states hardly attained the status of a
business until the nineteenth century, though in some portions it
gave the farmer and his family a generous living and afforded a few
luxuries. It made thousands of persons independent proprietors who
could not have reached that station at home; it gave the farmers as a
class a commanding influence in politics and society; “embattled,” it
enabled them to wrest their country’s independence from the awkward
hands of a bungling monarchy. In short, it contributed incalculably
to their importance as men in history. The indications are, however,
that as farmers the fourth generation of _Mayflower_ descendants were
decidedly inferior to the original Pilgrims and Puritans.

The third generation were probably less skillful than the fourth. For,
by the time of the Revolution there were farming areas in southern
New England that were looking up. Timothy Dwight, near the end of the
century, found and recorded some of the evidences of a movement to
improve cultivation, to fertilize the soil, to better the character of
farm livestock–a movement which had been going forward under impulses
communicated from England, where the eighteenth century was peculiarly
fruitful in agricultural development. Dwight was enough of an idealist
to appreciate the limits of the improvement thus far reached. Yet he
did insist, with evident justice, that the farming of the Connecticut
valley and of eastern Massachusetts was at least respectable. Fields
were well cleared and carefully cultivated, clover began to be used
as a feeding and green manure crop, the beginnings had been made
of a system of rotation of crops, livestock was of relatively good
quality–especially in certain Connecticut towns which were already
noted for the weight of the bullocks they furnished to the commissary
department of Washington’s army. By that time, also, leading men
in New England lent their influence toward the building up of the
agricultural interest; agricultural societies were organized and essays
on agriculture came to have considerable vogue. Some importations of
purebred livestock from England took place. The first merino sheep
were brought in from France, then larger numbers from Spain by Consul
William Jarvis. In 1810 Elkanah Watson established his Berkshire County
Agricultural Society, with the county fair which became the model for
subsequent county and state fairs the country over.

When Tom Paine predicted in 1776 that an independent America would
prosper “as long as eating continues to be the custom of Europe,”[13]
he assumed one point about which some doubt might in future arise:
Would Europe always have the wherewithal to purchase American
foodstuffs at prices which would compensate our people for growing
them and delivering them to the market? During the continuance of the
long revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, Europe managed to make good
Paine’s prophecy, and prices at the close of the wars ruled high. There
followed the great expansion era which spread American farmers over the
New West, both south and north, into which Yankees entered to a large

The good prices did not hold. Food could be raised cheaply, but markets
were costly to reach, even with the new wizardry of the steamboat, and
something gigantic was called for in the way of internal improvements.
The answer was at first canals, afterwards railroads. At the same
time, something had to be done by the farmer himself if the entire
structure of American agriculture, now becoming conscious of its own
embarrassments, was not to go down. The answer to this was _better
farming_. It was in 1819, the panic year, that John S. Skinner founded
at Baltimore the _American Farmer_, first of the distinctively farm
journals which almost immediately had a small group of successors.
Among them were the _New England Farmer_, the _Albany Cultivator_, the
_Pennsylvania Farmer_, the _Rural New Yorker_, the _Vermont Farmer_,
the _Ohio Farmer_, etc.

Yankeedom was a good social soil for these journals. The all but
universal literacy of the people, their curiosity, their love of
argument and disputation, their habit of experimentation, all tended
both to give currency to the new ideas presented and to sift the
practical and valuable from the merely theoretic and futile. Thus was
introduced, in a period of prevailing “hard times,” a meliorating
influence destined to reach a very large proportion of the settlers
in those sections, particularly Vermont, western New York, northern
Pennsylvania and Ohio, from which the bulk of the Yankee pioneers of
Wisconsin were drawn a quarter of a century later. The effect of county
and state fairs was to deepen and fructify the influence of the new
agricultural press.

It will be understood that the actual “shoring up” of agricultural
practice came about with relative slowness. Yet, it soon began here
and there, and by a kind of mild infection spread gradually over
wide areas. Only in crisis periods, with the introduction of new
methods to suit new market conditions, was progress ever very rapid.
To illustrate, as early as 1820 Josiah Quincy was advocating and
practising the summer soiling of cattle, especially milch cows, and
demonstrating the profitableness of the system for the region near
Boston. It was a long time before soiling became common even in that
district, but this experiment engendered better care of livestock. The
same careful, experimental farmer demonstrated the economy of using
good-sized whole potatoes for seed, as against the practice of planting
seed ends and small tubers; other farmers were slow to adopt the idea,
which is not yet universally followed, yet some improvement doubtless
came from the publication of Quincy’s findings.

What, then, were the general farming habits of the Yankees who form
the background of Wisconsin’s pioneer age? First of all, they lived in
decent houses which were usually of lumber. Dwight contended that not
one New England village in a hundred was disfigured with the presence
of even one log house. He also gives the result of a count made in 1810
of the log houses along the road from New Haven to Windsor in Vermont,
thence across the Green Mountains to Middlebury, and back by a direct
route to New Haven, a distance of over 460 miles, much of it through
new settlements. It showed only fifteen to Middlebury and thirty-two
on the return route. It seems to have been a matter of pride with
the Yankee to desert his pioneer log house as quickly as possible.
His personal skill with tools, and abundance of saw timber, made the
construction of a frame house a family undertaking calling for labor
indeed, but only a minimum of hired skill; and for little material
involving the outlay of actual money. So the frame houses rose wherever
the Yankees settled. Along the great road from Albany to Buffalo,
in western New York, they began to spring up before the settlements
were ten years old. When, about twenty-five years later, travelers
passed that way they saw many houses of squared, framed timbers,
covered over neatly with boards at the sides and ends, and roofed with
shingles.[14] These common frame houses were sufficiently inartistic,
no doubt. Perhaps, as one traveler remarks, they did look like “huge
packing boxes.” Similar architectural designs can be seen scattered
over the West–and the East, too–at this late date. Still, they were
more commodious than the log houses, and improved the families’ living
conditions. The next stage was likely to mark a very distinct advance.
“In the more cleared and longer settled parts of the country,” says a
none too sympathetic English traveler, “we saw many detached houses,
which might almost be called villas, very neatly got up, with rows of
wooden columns in front, aided by trees and tall shrubs running round
and across the garden which was prettily fenced in, and embellished
with a profusion of flowers.” Yankees had the habit of building by the
roadside, whatever the economic disadvantages of such a situation,
because it enabled them to keep in touch with the world–a reason which
is by no means frivolous, and for them highly characteristic.

We have no such definite account of the Yankee farmers’ barns as of
those of Pennsylvania Germans. It is true that Dwight, speaking for the
older New England, suggests that the barn was apt to be a much better
structure than the house. The custom, however, noted by travelers in
New York and elsewhere, of letting cattle run at large all winter
without shelter other than trees and brush, and perhaps the straw pile
or rick of marsh hay, argues that stabling was furnished for only a
minimum number of work oxen, horses–if such there were–and perhaps in
some cases cows in milk. It undoubtedly was not the practice to house
stock cattle, or even–except in isolated cases–to feed them in sheds.
The advocates of careful sheltering who wrote for the agricultural
journals recognized that the weight of opinion was against sheltering
stock. They compromised with that opinion by recommending sheds for
young stock and dry cows, and warm barns only for milking cows and work
animals.[15] Yet, some of the leading cattle feeders of the Genesee
valley, as late as the year 1842, were content to scatter loads of hay
over meadows and through brush patches for the hundreds of beef cattle
they were wintering.[16]

The livestock, except sheep and pigs, was still by 1840 prevailingly of
no breed. Nevertheless, Durhams and Devons were coming into use. The
Patroon stock of shorthorns, introduced in 1824 from England by Stephen
Van Rensellaer, of Albany, gained its first customers apparently among
the English farmers of western New York, but gradually made its way
among the Yankees as well. Other importations were soon made, so that
by 1840 there were several prominent herds of purebreds in that section
of the state. In 1842 it was said of the Genesee County Fair that “with
the exception of some working oxen and one cow not a single animal of
native cattle was in the yard. All were either pure or grade Durhams or
Devons…. Bulls were shown by some six or seven competitors. Among
them were four thoroughbred ones and one of those imported.”[17] It is
clear that by the time emigration to Wisconsin began to take place,
actual progress had been made and the entire body of Yankee farmers
had been indoctrinated with the idea of better livestock. Sheep and
pigs were already largely improved, the former prevailingly through
the cross with the merinos, the latter with Berkshires and other
English breeds. The Morgan horse, a Vermont product, was gaining wide

From what has been said of the care of livestock, it follows that
the possibilities of the farm for the manufacture of fertilizer were
generally neglected. English travelers were apt to insist that this
neglect was universal, but there were, of course, numerous exceptions.
Farming was extensive, not intensive. Lands were cleared by chopping
or “slashing” the timber, burning brush and logs, then harrowing among
the stumps to cover the first-sown wheat seed. In a few years, with the
rotting of the smaller stumps and the roots, the plow could be used,
though always with embarrassment on account of the large stumps which
thickly studded the fields. These disappeared gradually, being allowed
to stand till so fully decayed that a few strokes with ax or mattock
would dislodge them. As late as 1830 many fields in western New York
were stump infested.


From Captain Basil Hall’s _Forty Etchings from Sketches Made with the
Camera Lucida_. London, 1829]

Wheat was the great, almost the sole, market crop, and it was grown
year after year till the soil ceased to respond. From bumper yields
of twenty-five or thirty bushels per acre the returns fell off to
twenty, fifteen, and then twelve, ten, or even eight. The process of
decline was well under way when the immigration to Wisconsin set in,
and already the turn had come toward a more definite livestock economy,
which in large portions of New York soon gave rise to a system of
factory cheese making. A main reason for the removal to the West, on
the part of farmers whose holdings were too small to make successful
stock farms, or who refused to abandon wheat raising as a business, was
that lands in the West could be had already cleared by nature. Many
half-cleared farms, with customary buildings and fences, could in the
forties be purchased in western New York for from four to eight dollars
per acre. Instead of buying these farms, the young men preferred going
to Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, or Wisconsin, those having such farms for
sale doing likewise after selling out to neighbors, usually the larger
farmers, who elected to remain and change their system of farming. In
Vermont we have a similar story, in Ohio the same. The Yankee farmers
who came to Wisconsin were generally at home either small farmers or
the sons of farmers large or small; while a certain proportion of the
larger farmers, by reason of debt or desire to extend their business,
also sold out and came west to buy cheap lands on the prairies or in
the openings.

* * * * *

An agriculture which dates from before the time of Tacitus, and
which acquired permanent characteristics from the influence of Roman
merchants, monastics, and feudatories in Roman and medieval times, was
bound to differ widely and even fundamentally from the agriculture of a
far flung American frontier. The Germans who met the Yankee immigrants
in primitive Wisconsin brought an inheritance of habit and training
analogous to that of the English Puritan emigrants to New England,
but with the difference that the Germans’ training had continued
two hundred years longer, on similar lines. They were old-world
cultivators, the Yankees new-world cultivators.

Tacitus says in one place: “The Germans live scattered and apart, as
a spring, a hill, or a wood entices them.”[18] Nineteenth century
German economists complained that German farmsteads were seated often
most inconveniently with reference to the management of the farm lands
pertaining to them. They had been established, in the days of long ago,
by lakeside, brook, or river under conditions in which access to water
was the most important single consideration. They had never been moved,
although gradually the arable stretched far back from the dwelling, and
the pasture perhaps was located in a wholly detached area.[19] This
description applies to portions of northern Germany where farms were
large and farming had the status of a regular and dignified business.

Many individuals and families came to Wisconsin from districts
like Mecklenburg, Prussia, Pomerania, though in the emigrations of
the 1840’s and fifties the great majority were from southern and
central German states. It will be one of the interesting inquiries
in connection with our study of local influences in Wisconsin towns
(_Domesday Book Studies_), how far the special regional inheritances of
foreign born settlers manifested themselves in Wisconsin communities.
The presumption, about the north German, would be that his farming
operations would tend to be on a large scale, under a business
system which–in this new land–would slough off such anachronisms
as the dislocated farmstead, and present the features of an ideal
establishment. But it may be that the forest was such a powerful
leveler as to obliterate most of the regional distinctions among
immigrants. Our chief concern, at all events, is with that great
body of German farmers, and intending farmers, who came from the
southwestern states of the recent Empire, especially Alsace, Baden,
Württemberg, Rhine Palatinate, Rhenish Prussia, Hesse, Nassau,
Westphalia–to some extent Bavaria and Saxony.

The fundamental facts about the home conditions of these people, so
far as they were farmers at home, were the smallness of their holdings,
their intensive cultivation, and the almost universal village type of
life. Travelers of about 1840 describe the typical middle Rhine country
as a highly cultivated plain without division hedges or fences other
than the tree-bordered roads, with no separate farm dwellings and with
no livestock in sight. The crops of several kinds being arranged in
various shaped fields, patches, and strips, the plain looked like the
proverbial “crazy-quilt.” Villages were huddled at the edges of woods,
and occasionally in the midst of the cultivated area. Their houses,
which were not arranged on a regular plan, were usually large stone
structures, the farm yard, with tools, implements, manure and compost
heaps, occupying a kind of court at the rear.

As a rule, all animals were housed winter and summer. Here was an
important difference to the farming of the north, where large herds
of cattle could be seen pasturing ample meadows, or ruminating in the
shade of buildings or of woods. The soiling system was universally
practiced in summer. Grass land being scarce and precious, feed for the
cows was laboriously gathered along the brookside, in the open spaces
of the forest, along all the roads, in the cemeteries, and the greens
before the houses. The weeds and thinnings from the growing crops went
to the same object. Vegetable tops were a great resource in late summer
and fall, and patches of clover, while insuring green feed, furnished
hay as well. In places the growing of sugar beets for the market was
a leading agricultural enterprise, and the tops of the beets were
carefully cured for winter feed.

The cultivation was intensive both in that it aimed at the maximum
produce from given areas, and in that the crops raised included some
which called for very special care. Some sections grew tobacco, in
connection with which much hand work was indispensable. This crop also
called for care in seed selection, in germinating, and in preparing the
ground for the reception of the young plants. Beet culture for sugar
making involved perhaps not less care, and doubtless more hand labor.
Of similar but less particularity was the growing of root crops for
stock feed, the orcharding, which was general, and the vine dressing,
incident to the business of special districts.

There were, of course, many farmers and farms in the region indicated
and in other contributory regions, which were not so widely different
from the average of those in America. Yet, on the whole, it can be
said that the German husbandman, in training and habit, was analogous
to our modern truck farmer or orchardist, rather than to our general
farmer. He was a specialist in soils, in fertilizing and preparing
them for different crops, in planting, stirring, weeding, irrigating;
in defending plants against insect pests, seasonal irregularities, and
soil peculiarities; he throve by hoeing, dragging, trimming, pruning,
sprouting; by curing and conserving plants, roots, grasses, grains,
and fruits. His livestock economy was incidental, yet very important.
It supplied the necessary fertilizer to maintain soil productivity; it
afforded milk, beef, pork, butter, cheese, wool. It gave him his draft
animals, often cows instead of oxen, and economized every bit of grass
and forage which his situation produced.

Improvement of livestock appears to have affected southwestern Germany
prior to 1850 very little as compared with the pastoral countries of
England, Holland, Friesland, and north Germany. The animals kept by the
village farmers were therefore not remarkable for quality. But they
were usually well housed, and the feed and care they received made up
in considerable measure for the absence of superior blood.

The various states of Germany, by 1840, were maintaining schools of
agriculture, a species of experiment stations for the dissemination
of such scientific agricultural information as was then available. To
some extent, therefore, farming was beginning to be scientific. But,
prevailingly it was intensely practical, the appropriate art connected
with the growing of every distinct crop being handed on from father to
son, from farmer to laborer.

One could almost predict how farmers thus trained would react to the
new environment of the Wisconsin wilderness. Taking up a tract of
forested land or buying a farm with a small clearing upon it, their
impulse would be, with the least possible delay, to get a few acres
thoroughly cleared, subdued to the plow, and in a high state of tilth.
Exceptions there were, to be sure, but on the whole the German pioneers
were not content to slash and burn their timber. After the timber was
off, the stumps must come out, forthwith, to make the tract fit for
decent cultivation. Was it the Germans who introduced in land clearing
the custom of “grubbing” instead of “slashing”? This meant felling
the tree by undermining it, chopping off roots underground at a safe
depth, taking out grub and all, instead of cutting it off above ground.
In timber of moderate growth this practice proved fairly expeditious
and highly successful, for once a tract was grubbed, the breaking
plow encountered no serious obstruction. A good “grubber” among later
immigrants could always count on getting jobs from established German

To the American, who was content to plow around his stumps every year
for a decade, to cultivate around them, cradle or reap around them,
it seemed that his German neighbor was using some kind of magic to
exorcise his stumps. The magic was merely human muscle, motivated by a
psychology which inhibited rest so long as a single stump remained in
the field.

The German not only used the heaps of farm yard fertilizer which, on
buying out the original entryman, he commonly found on the premises,
but he conserved all that his livestock produced, and frequently,
if not too distant from town or village, became a purchaser of the
commodity of which liverymen, stock yard keepers, and private owners of
cow or horse were anxious to be relieved. The manufacture of fertilizer
was a prime reason for stabling his livestock. The other was his fixed
habit of affording animals such care. Not all Germans built barns at
once, but the majority always tried to provide warm sheds, at least,
whereas Yankee and Southwesterner alike were very prone to allow their
animals to huddle, humped and shivering, all winter on the leeward side
of house or granary, or in clumps of sheltering brush or trees.[21] The
German was willing to occupy his log house longer, if necessary, in
order to gain the means for constructing adequate barns and sheds.

Germans were not one-crop farmers. The lands they occupied, usually
forested, could not be cleared fast enough at best to enable them to
raise wheat on a grand scale, as the Yankees did in the open lands of
the southeast and west. Their arable was extended only a few acres per
year, and while that was being done the German farmers grew a little
of everything–wheat, rye, corn, oats, barley, potatoes, roots. Clover
was to them a favorite forage, hay, and green manure crop. In growing
it, they used gypsum freely. This policy of clover growing, adopted
gradually by all farmers, was one of the means finally relied on by
the wheat farmers to restore the productivity of their abused soils.

In ways such as the above, German farmers helped to save Wisconsin
agriculture in the period of stress when wheat growing failed and
before coöperative dairying entered. They were not the chief influence
in popularizing improved livestock. Credit for that innovation must
be awarded to the Yankees. They had resumed in the eastern states the
English tradition of breeding, and brought it into Wisconsin where, by
means of state and county fairs and an active agricultural press, it
was ultimately borne in upon the minds of all farmers, Germans among
the rest.[22]

Neither did the Germans lead in developing the new agriculture,
of which coöperative dairying was the keystone. Yankee leadership
therein, too, was the dominant influence. Yet, it was the Germans,
Scandinavians, and other foreigners–and numerically Germans were
in the majority–who, by virtue of their agricultural morale, their
steadiness in carrying out plans, their patience and perseverance, have
made the dairy business of Wisconsin the great industry it has become.

Above all, the Germans persisted as farmers. They prospered not
dramatically, like some of the more successful of the Yankee farmers,
but by little and little they saved money, bought more land, better
stock, and built better homes. When Yankee farmers, discouraged or
impoverished by the failure of wheat, offered their farms for sale
preparatory to “going west,” Germans who had managed their smaller
farms more carefully stood ready to buy; when Yankees who were tired
of being “tied to a cow” wanted to go to Montana, Oregon, or Wyoming
to raise steers by wholesale, on the ranching plan, they sold out to
Germans who made the dairy farms pay larger dividends year by year.
When Yankee farmers retired to the city, or went into business, which
in recent decades they have done by thousands, Germans were among
those who were the keenest bidders for their farm properties. In a
word, the German has succeeded agriculturally through the more and
more perfect functioning, in this new land, of qualities imparted by
the training and inheritance which he brought with him from the old
world. On the whole, Germans have kept clear of speculation, preferring
to invest their savings in neighboring lands with which they were
intimately familiar, or to lend to neighboring farmers on farm mortgage
security. In the aggregate, German farmers in Wisconsin have long had
vast sums at interest. The Institute for Research in Land Economics
(University of Wisconsin) has completed investigations which show that
the nation’s area of lowest farm mortgage interest rates (5.2 per cent
or less) coincides very closely with the great maple forest of eastern
Wisconsin, which has been held, from the first, predominantly by German

We have no desire to minimize the factor contributed to Wisconsin’s
agriculture by the Yankees. They were the prophets and the organizers
of the farmers’ movement. Their inherent optimism, their speculative
bent, their genius for organization were indispensable to its success.
“Anything is possible to the American people,” shouted the mid-century
American orator from a thousand Fourth of July rostrums, therein merely
reflecting what the mass of his hearers religiously believed. When
agriculture had to be remade in Wisconsin, the Yankee’s intelligence
told him in what ways it must be improved, and his tact, courage, and
address enabled him to enlist and organize the means for remaking it.
When the Yankee was convinced, by his farm paper or by the exhibitions,
that a purebred animal was a good investment, his speculative spirit
sent him to his banker to borrow a thousand dollars, and to a distant
breeder to make what his more timid German neighbor would call a
“mighty risky investment”–for the animal might die! Finally, when
local organization was required to secure a cheese factory, a creamery,
or a dairy board of trade, the Yankee by virtue of his community
leadership was usually able to effect the desired result.

Wisconsin’s almost unique success in agriculture is due to no single
or even dual factor. But among the human elements which have been most
potent in producing the result, none is of more significance than the
fortunate blend in her population of the Yankee and the Teuton.

Harriet Martineau, the English traveler who in 1837 published a book
entitled _Society in America_, was deeply impressed with New England’s
concern for education. “All young people in these villages,” she says,
“are more or less instructed. _Schooling is considered a necessary of
life._[23] I happened to be looking over an old almanac one day, when
I found, among the directions relating to the preparations for winter
on a farm, the following: ‘Secure your cellars from frost. Fasten loose
clapboards and shingles. Secure a good schoolmaster.’”

We do not know what almanac Miss Martineau consulted. But a glance
at a file of the _Farmer’s Almanack_, begun in 1793 by Robert B.
Thomas and circulated by him for more than half a century all over New
England, shows her quotation to be fully justified in spirit if not
in letter. As early at least as the year 1804, Mr. Thomas included
in his directions for the month of November, the indispensable item
of education in connection with other activities: “Now let the noise
of your flail awake your drowsy neighbors. Bank up your cellars. Now
hire a good schoolmaster and send your children to school as much as

The nation was young in 1804. Parts of it were new and for that reason
had made but meager educational progress; other parts were backward
for different reasons. But in the older states of New England popular
education had flourished for one hundred and fifty years. This point,
stressed by a score of writers, illustrated by legal enactments,
court decrees, town records, and anniversary sermons, cannot be
over-emphasized in a summary of the social contributions which the
Yankees made to the new western societies they helped to build.
Notwithstanding all that has been written to prove the priority, in
this or that feature of American educational progress, of other social
strains or geographical areas, history may confidently assign to the
Yankee priority in the attainment of universal literacy on an extensive

Once the Puritan had convinced himself that the temptation to ignorance
came from “ye old deluder Satan,” whose fell purpose was to keep men
from a knowledge of the Scriptures and thus the more readily win them
for his own, he hesitated not to require the maintenance of schools
in all towns and neighborhoods under his jurisdiction. He was also
concerned to recruit an “able and orthodox ministry” to take the places
of the aging pastors who had come from England and to supply the needs
of new settlements. Harvard College could turn out the ministers, if it
had properly prepared young men to work upon. So the larger towns were
required to maintain grammar schools in addition to the common schools.
Thus we have, as early as 1647, provision for schooling from the lowest
rudiments up through the college course.

The original religious motive for maintaining these schools persisted.
But other motives were added as the Puritans perceived how notably
secular interests, as well as religious, were served by schooling.
For one thing, young persons who could read, write, and cipher had a
distinct advantage in worldly matters over those who could not. Cheats
and “humbugs,” of whom every community had its share, made victims of
the ignorant, while they fled from the instructed even as their master,
Satan, was supposed to flee from them. Many New England stories were
designed to carry the lesson, especially to parents, that the best
legacy children could receive was good schooling, without which wealth
and property would quickly melt away.[24]

Apart, also, from such negative worldly advantages as we have named,
one who had enjoyed good schooling might thereby hope to share in many
special social privileges from which the unlettered were debarred. New
England life on the religious side centered in the church, on the civic
side in the town. Each of the two institutions required a full set of
elective officers, ranked according to the importance of the offices
filled, and all of these were chosen from the instructed portion of
the community. To be a deacon in the church or a selectman on the
town board might not be financially remunerative, but it imparted a
dignity to the individual and a social status to the family which
caused these offices to be highly prized. The older theory was that
only good churchmen could fill either type of office. Gradually, the
town offices, which paid something in cash and yielded considerable
political power, came to be sought with increasing frequency by men
who might have no interest in the church. “Jethro Bass” was typical,
not unique, in his scheming to be chosen selectman, and the training
offered by the district school was looked upon as a minimum basis for
such preferment. Said the _Farmer’s Almanack_ for November, 1810: “Send
your children to school. Every boy should have a chance to prepare
himself to do common town business.”

The great majority were satisfied with the elementary training
afforded by the district schools, kept for a few months in winter.
But the presence of learned men in every community and the existence
of secondary schools and colleges tolled a good many on the way to
advanced instruction who had no plans for professional careers.
From farm, factory, and counting-room, even from among those before
the mast, went boys to academy and college, while female seminaries
springing up here and there took care of the educational interests
of selected groups of girls. Such schools were not free, but their
benefits were easy to attain, the principal requisite being pluck
and a willingness to work both at earning money and at the studies.
Girls and boys alike could usually earn their way by teaching in the
common schools. Thus the educational system propagated itself, with
the result that men and women of intelligence, culture, and refinement
became widely dispersed through Yankeedom, and learning was recognized
as an aid to the good life as well as a guarantee of the successful
life. This was a fundamental condition of that literary flowering
which marked the middle decades of the nineteenth century. It insured
the poets, historians, orators, and novelists an audience which waxed
ever larger as province after province in the West was added to New
England’s spiritual empire.

Let us not, however, picture to ourselves a Yankee society wholly
suffused with intellectual and spiritual light. The Yankees had no such
illusions about themselves. Listen to Timothy Dwight’s description of
a class of New Englanders who could not live “in regular society. They
are too idle, too talkative, too passionate, too prodigal, and too
shiftless to acquire either property or character. They are impatient
of the restraints of law, religion and morality, grumble about the
taxes by which rulers, ministers and schoolmasters are supported–at
the same time they are usually possessed, in their own view, of
uncommon wisdom; understand medical science, politics, and religion
better than those who have studied them through life….” He represents
the type as the pioneering or _forester_ class, who had “already
straggled onward from New England” to far distant settlements, and
whose going he was not disposed to lament. “In mercy,” he says, “to
the sober, industrious, and well disposed inhabitants, Providence has
opened in the vast western wilderness a retreat sufficiently alluring
to draw them from the land of their nativity. We have many troubles
even now, but we should have many more if this body of foresters had
remained at home.”[25]

The above citation doubtless contains an element of exaggeration, due
to Dwight’s ingrained conservatism. He was outraged by the radical
views no less than by the erratic and ignorant harangues he heard “by
many a kitchen fire, in every blacksmith’s shop, and in every corner
of the streets….” Yet we must not lose sight of the fact that he
here sketches for us some Yankee social traits of rather extended
application which were important in the building of the West. These
people belonged to the outstandingly non-conformist type. They were
sufficiently independent–contemptuous, one might say–of established
customs and institutions to be willing, with what ignorance or
awkwardness soever, to bring about changes, some of which were sadly
needed. Religiously they were apt to be _come-outers_. It was largely
among this class that were recruited the Millerites, Millennialists,
and original Latter Day Saints, together with many other minor sects
and factions. In politics, when all orthodox New England was Whig,
they were mainly Democratic; many, however, backed the program of
Nativism; in the person of John Brown they exemplified the principle
of direct action as applied to slavery. The social innovator, the
medical quack, and the political demagogue found among them welcome and
encouragement, sometimes to the temporary distress of society, often to
its ultimate benefit. Not unlike the original Puritans who represented
“the dissidence of dissent and the protestantism of the protestant
religion,”[26] they constituted a dynamic social element although
wanting in the intellectual and religious training, the political
morale, and perhaps the heroism which distinguished the original
planters of Massachusetts Bay. They had the spirit of the revolutionary
New Englanders, who were described, not inaptly, as “hard, stubborn,
and indomitably intractable.” They were the backbone of Shays’s
rebellion. In many ways they illustrate the qualities which, at various
times in our later history, have served as the fulcrum of revolutionary

Dwight’s _foresters_ were merely the extreme manifestation, the
caricature, of a much larger class of heady, self sufficient,
opinionated, and troublesome persons who equally with the sober,
church going, instructed, conformist type were the product of New
England conditions. The cords of restraint were drawn so taut in the
parishes and towns, that the person who was determinedly “different”
was compelled to break them and become a kind of social pariah in
order to gain the freedom his soul craved. It was not an accident
that so large a proportion of that class went to the frontier. They
found there a less rigorous church discipline, freedom from taxes for
the support of the established church, and a more flexible state of
society in the midst of which they might hope to function. In western
Massachusetts and Connecticut, in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine,
they were numerous at the opening of the National period. Soon large
numbers emigrated to western New York, to northern Pennsylvania, to
Ohio, thence throughout the West. They made up an appreciable part of
the thronging Yankee immigration which seized upon Wisconsin’s prairies
and oak openings between 1835 and 1850, and their presence has left
its impress upon our social history. Still the experiences of older
frontiers, such as western New York, had already modified the type.

When all necessary deductions have been made, however, the church
remained equally with the school a dominant note in the Yankee’s
social landscape. His “meeting house,” not infrequently in New England
a gem of ecclesiastical architecture, fulfilled his artistic ideal; the
congregation was the “household of faith” which claimed his undeviating
loyalty; the pastor was “guest and philosopher” in his home whenever he
chose to honor it with his presence. To men and women alike, attendance
upon the church services was the principal Sabbath day duty and the
chief physical and mental diversion of the whole week. It was an old
custom to linger after the morning sermon for a social chat either
in the church yard, when the weather permitted, or else at a near-by
tavern; and while the talk was ostensibly about the sermon, gossip,
bits of practical information, and even a shy kind of love making were
often interwoven, tending to make this a genuine community social hour.

The tradition that the minister must be a man of learning was of
incalculable social importance. His advice was called for under every
conceivable circumstance of individual and community need. He assisted
about the employment of schoolmasters and was the unofficial supervisor
of the school. He enjoined upon negligent parents the duty of sending
their children, and he had an eye for the promising boys–lads
o’pairts, as the Scotch say–whom he encouraged to prepare for
professional life. He fitted boys to enter the academy and sometimes
tutored college students. In the rural parish the minister occupied
the church glebe, which made him a farmer with the rest. He was apt to
read more widely and closely in the agricultural press, or in books
on husbandry, than his neighbors, thereby gaining the right to offer
practical suggestions about many everyday matters. Some ministers were
writers for agricultural journals. Many contributed to local newspapers
items of news or discussions of public questions in which their
parishioners were interested with themselves.

The home missionary idea was inherent in the New England system
both as respects religion and education. Older, better established
communities always felt some responsibility for the newer. Since
settlement proceeded largely by the method of planting new townships
of which the raw land was purchased by companies from the colonial
and state governments, it was possible for the larger community to
give an impetus to religion and education under the terms of township
grants. This was accomplished by reserving in each grant three
shares of the land–“one for the first settled minister, one for the
ministry forever, and one for the school.” Other grants of raw land
were made for the support of academies. Here we have the origin of
the system of land grants in aid both of the common schools and of
state universities, in the western states. The grants for religion
necessarily were discontinued after the adoption of the national

The religious unity established by the Puritans, and maintained for
a time by the simple method of rigorously excluding those holding
peculiar doctrines, gave way to considerable diversity in the late
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Episcopalianism made some
progress in the older settlements, and Unitarianism created a great
upheaval, while toward the frontiers the Methodists and Baptists
flourished more and more. These several elements, by 1820, were
powerful enough politically to secure the abolition of the ancient tax
for the support of the established (Congregational or Presbyterian)
church–a tax which had long caused ill feeling between West and East,
and no doubt had contributed to the growth of dissenting churches.
These frontier churches had the characteristics of the frontier
populations. Their ministers were less learned, their morale less
exacting, their religion less formal and ritualistic, their ordinances
less regularly and habitually enforced. But there was an emotionalism
which in a measure compensated for defects of training, for looseness
of habit and negligence in the practice of religion. In a word, the
camp meeting type of Christianity prevailed widely along the frontier,
and that type entered Wisconsin Territory with the numerous Methodist
and Baptist settlers from New York and New England. As early as August,
1838, such a camp meeting was held under Methodist leadership in the
woods near Racine; it was attended by hundreds of pioneer families
drawn from the sparsely settled neighborhoods for many miles around.
Its appointments were of the typical frontier kind, though one would
expect less boisterousness in the manifestations of emotion among
those people than seems to have accompanied similar gatherings in the

The stated religious services in early Wisconsin, as in every frontier
region, were apt to be less frequent than in older communities.
Ministers were too few in number and neighborhoods too impecunious to
justify each locality in supporting a minister. The circuit riding
custom prevailed generally among all denominations. One preacher
traveled, on foot, six hundred miles, making the round in six weeks.
Each group of churches also had its conferences, which were occasions
for planning missionary effort, for unitedly attacking special
religious or social abuses, and for promoting constructive community
effort. The ablest speakers addressed such gatherings; the membership
of the churches concerned and others attended, in addition to the
delegates; and important religious, social, or moral results sometimes
flowed from them.

Another peculiar Yankee institution allied at once to the school and
the church, was the lyceum or local coöperative organization for
bringing lecturers to the community. The settlements in southeastern
Wisconsin had their lyceums at an early date, and many distinguished
public men from the East had occasion to visit this new Yankeeland
in the capacity of lecturer. Among them were Horace Greeley, Bayard
Taylor, and James Russell Lowell.

Reform movements, however, though usually receiving valuable aid
from churches, lyceums, mechanics’ institutes, and other permanent
organizations of men for public discussion, had a way of creating
special organizations to propagate themselves. That was true of the
temperance movement, which by the time of the Yankee immigration into
Wisconsin was under vigorous headway. Beginning, in serious form, about
1820, the intervening years witnessed the creation of hundreds of local
temperance societies in New England and New York, and the federation
of these societies into state societies. These central organizations
stimulated the movement by sending out lecturers, conducting a
newspaper propaganda, and issuing special publications. Some of their
tracts are said to have been scattered “like the leaves of autumn,” all
over New England and New York.

One of these tracts affected the social history of Wisconsin very
directly. It is known, traditionally, as “The Ox Discourse,” because
it was based on Exodus 21:28-29: “If an ox gore a man or woman, that
they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not
be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. But if the ox were
wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified
to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a
man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be
put to death.” The sermon on this text produced a great sensation and
gained many new adherents to the temperance cause. Among these were two
brothers, Samuel F. and Henry Phoenix, who were storekeepers in a New
York village and sold much whisky. They publicly destroyed all the
liquor they had on hand and became crusaders in the temperance cause.
In the spring of 1836 Colonel Samuel F. Phoenix selected in Wisconsin
a “Temperance Colony claim,” on which he settled that summer. Then he
rode to Belmont and induced the first territorial legislature to set
off from Milwaukee County a county to be known as Walworth, in honor
of the chancellor of the state of New York, who was a noted temperance
leader. He named the village begun by him Delavan, in honor of E. C.
Delavan, pioneer temperance editor and at that time chairman of the
executive committee of the New York State Temperance Society. Colonel
Phoenix lectured on temperance, helped to organize early temperance
societies, rebuked his neighbors–especially the New Yorkers–for
employing whisky at raisings, and, before his death in 1840, had
succeeded in giving a powerful impulse to the movement in southeastern

Another dramatic figure in early temperance annals was Charles M.
Goodsell, who in 1838 settled at Lake Geneva and built the first mill
operated in Walworth County. He was of Connecticut birth, and his
father owned and managed, among other properties, a whisky distillery.
Goodsell, however, when he came west from New York State, was a most
determined opponent of the traffic in intoxicants. Soon after opening
his mill a local company erected in Lake Geneva a distillery for making
corn whisky. Goodsell warned them, he says, not to expect him to grind
their grain and they installed a grinding apparatus of their own. But,
their machinery proving inadequate, they finally sent a grist of corn
to Goodsell’s mill, demanding, as under the law they had a right to
do, that it be “ground in turn.” Goodsell refused, thereby producing
a tense situation, for the pioneer farmers looked to the distillery
as a cash market for their grain. Finally, the distillers brought
suit, won a verdict, and Goodsell appealed. But meantime, he rode to
Madison, where the legislature was sitting, and procured the adoption
of an amendment to the law regulating milling, to the effect: “Nothing
in this section contained shall be construed to compel the owners or
occupiers of mills to grind for distilling, or for sale or merchant
work.” This proviso, adopted in 1841, remained a feature of the statute
for many years.[29]

It must not be supposed that pioneer Yankee society, even in Walworth
County, was prevailingly of the temperance variety. All testimony, both
of the reformers and of others, tends to show that a large majority
was at first in the opposition. Frontier history would indicate that
excessive indulgence in whisky was apt to be more common during the
primitive phase of settlement than later, due perhaps to the looser
social and religious organization.

Wisconsin may be said to have been born to the temperance agitation
which, in a few years’ time, produced societies pledged to total
abstinence all over the southeastern part of the state and in many
other localities. In March, 1843, a legislative temperance society
was organized with a list of twenty-four signers. The house of
representatives at the time had twenty-six members, the council
thirteen, or a total of thirty-nine. So a decided majority was aligned
with the movement. Moses M. Strong was chosen president, which was
considered a triumph for the cause, and much interest was aroused by
the adherence of William S. Hamilton, who is reported to have addressed
one of the society’s meetings.[30]

The temperance agitation everywhere received a notable impetus from
the adoption in 1851 of the prohibition law by the state of Maine.
Immediately other states moved for the same objective, and in Wisconsin
a referendum vote was taken in 1853 which resulted favorably to
prohibition, though no enactment followed.[31] In that election the
southeastern counties were overwhelmingly for the Maine law. Walworth
gave 1906 votes for it and 733 against, Rock 2494-432, Racine 1456-927.
Milwaukee at the same time voted against prohibition by 4381 to 1243.
This shows where was to be found the powerful opposition to legislation
of this nature, which was destined to increase rather than diminish
with the strengthening of the German element already very numerous.

From the time of the Maine law agitation the communities dominated
by Yankees were generally found arrayed in favor of any proposal for
limiting or suppressing the liquor traffic, although, as we shall see
in later articles, no large proportion of their voters ever joined the
Prohibition party. They did not succeed in abolishing drunkenness,
though it became very unfashionable to indulge heavily in spirituous
liquors and the proportion of total abstainers among the younger
generation steadily increased. Yankees furnished a very small per cent
of those who gained their livelihood through occupations connected
directly with intoxicating liquors, except as such traffic was carried
on incidentally as a feature of the drug business. The disfavor with
which saloon keeping, brewing, and distilling have long been regarded
among that class of the population is explained by the fervor and
thoroughness of the early temperance campaigns.

Because of their attitude on the liquor question, on Sunday laws, and
other matters pertaining to the regulation of conduct, the Yankees have
always been looked upon by other social strains as straight-laced and
gloomy. In this judgment men have been influenced more than they are
aware by the traditions of Puritanism which it was supposed the Yankees
inherited. They recalled the story of how Bradford stopped Christmas
revelers and sent them to work; they pictured Puritan children as
forbidden to laugh and talk on the Sabbath day; and some may have heard
the story of how Washington, while president, was once stopped by a
Connecticut tithing man who must be informed why His Excellency fared
forth on the Lord’s Day instead of resting at his inn or attending
public worship.[32]

Two remarks may be made on this point. First, while Puritanism
unquestionably had a somber discipline, there was not lacking even
among Puritans the play instinct which persisted in cropping out
despite all efforts of the authorities at repression. Second, the
nineteenth century Yankees register a wide departure from early
Puritanism in their social proclivities, and the difference was
particularly marked in the West. Even church services were modified to
fit the needs of the less resolute souls. Music became an important
feature and it was adapted more or less to special occasions.[33]
Sunday Blue Laws were gradually relaxed, though never abandoned
in principle. Well-to-do city people allowed themselves vacation
trips, visits to watering places, and to scenic wonders like Niagara
Falls.[34] In town and country alike dancing became an amusement of
almost universal vogue, though protested by some religionists, and
rural neighborhoods found bowling such a fascinating game for men and
boys that the almanac maker thought well to caution his readers against
over-indulgence therein.[35] Ball playing, picnicing, sleighing,
coasting, skating were among the outdoor sports much indulged in
by Yankees, while family and neighborhood visiting, the quilting
bee, donation parties, church socials, and the like furnished indoor
recreation. The circus and the “cattle show” were events in the western
Yankeeland equal in social significance to Artillery Day in Boston.

Thus, while it is true that Yankees were a sober people, of
prevailingly serious mien and purpose, they were not averse to the
relaxations of play and recreation. The question whether or not the
Yankees were fun loving cannot be answered by yes or no. If we mean by
fun the rollicking joviality characteristic of irresponsible, carefree
folk, the answer is no. Many Yankees found their best fun in work
or business. To the David Harum type, which was fairly numerous, a
horse trade was more fun than a picnic. Some Boston merchants were so
immersed in their business that, though very pious, they nevertheless
spent Sunday afternoon going over their books and writing business
letters.[36] Being serious minded, they tended to make their chief
concern an obsession, and could hardly be happy away from it. But the
majority were quite as ready to amuse themselves out of working hours,
as are the Italians or other social stocks that have a reputation for
fun and frolic.

The Yankees also found intellectual enjoyment in cultivating quickness
of retort, in giving utterance to clever if homely aphorisms, and in
a kind of whimsical humor. These traits emerge in their vernacular
literature like “Major Jack Downing’s” _Thirty Years out of the
Senate_, and especially Lowell’s _Biglow Papers_. “The squire’ll have
a parson in his barn a preachin’ to his cattle one o’ these days, see
if he don’t,” said one of “Tim Bunker’s” shiftless neighbors by way
of summarizing the squire’s over-niceness in caring for his Jersey
cows. “Ez big ez wat hogs dream on when they’re most too fat to
snore”; “that man is mean enough to steal acorns from a blind hog”;
“the coppers ain’t all tails”; “pop’lar as a hen with one chicken”;
“quicker’n greased lightnin’”; “a hen’s time ain’t much”; “handy as a
pocket in a shirt”; “he’s a whole team and the dog under the wagon”;
“so thievish they had to take in their stone walls at night”; “so black
that charcoal made a chalk mark on him”; “painted so like marble that
it sank in water”–the above are all Yankeeisms of approved lineage and
illustrate a characteristic type of Yankee humor. The example below is
of a rarer sort. “Pretty heavy thunder you have here,” said the English
Captain Basil Hall to a lounger in front of a Massachusetts tavern.
“Waal, we do,” came the drawling reply, “considerin’ the number of the

About the time that Yankees began to emigrate to Wisconsin a talented
French writer, Michel Chevalier, gave the world a brilliant and on the
whole favorable characterization of them. “The Yankee,” he says, “is
reserved, cautious, distrustful; he is thoughtful and pensive, but
equable; his manners are without grace, modest but dignified, cold,
and often unprepossessing; he is narrow in his ideas, but practical,
and possessing the idea of the proper, he never rises to the grand.
He has nothing chivalric about him and yet he is adventurous, and he
loves a roving life. His imagination is active and original, producing,
however, not poetry but drollery. The Yankee is the laborious ant;
he is industrious and sober and, on the sterile soil of New England,
niggardly; transplanted to the promised land in the west he continues
moderate in his habits, but less inclined to count the cents. In New
England he has a large share of prudence, but once thrown into the
midst of the treasures of the west he becomes a speculator, a gambler
even, although he has a great horror of cards, dice, and all games of
chance and even of skill except the innocent game of bowls.” Chevalier
also says: “The fusion of the European with the Yankee takes place
but slowly, even on the new soil of the west; for the Yankee is not a
man of promiscuous society; he believes that Adam’s oldest son was a

The Yankee was not more boastful than other types of Americans, though
his talent for exaggerative description was marked. Yet he had a
pronounced national obsession and was uncompromising in his patriotism:
“This land o’ourn, I tell ye’s got to be a better country than man ever
see,” was put into a Yankee’s mouth by one of their own spokesmen and
represents the Yankee type of mild jingoism. It is full cousin to that
other sentiment which also this writer assigns to him:

Resolved, that other nations all, if set longside of us,
For vartoo, larnin, chiverlry, aint noways wuth a cuss.[37]

These are but cruder expressions of ideas dating from the Revolutionary
War, and of which Timothy Dwight, who was not a poet by predestination,
gave us in verse a noble example:

Columbia, Columbia, to glory arise,
The queen of the world, and child of the skies!
Thy genius commands thee; with rapture behold,
While ages on ages thy splendors unfold.
Thy reign is the last, and the noblest of time,
Most fruitful thy soil, most inviting thy clime;
Let the crimes of the east ne’er encrimson thy name,
Be freedom, and science, and virtue, thy fame.

It need not be supposed that all Yankees who came to Wisconsin or
other western states were familiar with these glowing lines. But it is
almost certain that, in the common schools of Yankeedom, most of them
had thrilled to the matchless cadences of Webster’s reply to Hayne.
What more was needed, by way of literary support, to a pride of country
which, if a trifle ungenerous to others, was based on facts all had