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THE HIGHLAND FARMER VS. THE
What a contrast there is in the circumstances of mankind, often engaged in the same occupation, more particularly those who are engaged in agriculture. This may be in a measure owing to the difference in the management of their farms, and the productiveness of the soil. Often do we witness the rough and sterile land on the mountains, while in the valleys below lie beautiful farms, unobstructed by rocky knolls or worthless swamps, and when brought under cultivation affording rich returns to the husbandman, while the farmer on the mountains, practicing the most rigid economy and industry, often has to contend with poverty through life.
We may inquire why is this so ? why are some portions of the country so rough and broken, when a few miles in an opposite direction it is almost destitute, if not entirely, of rocks and stones? The only answer that can be given is, infinite wisdom has made it so.
Situated on one of the highest elevations of the highland mountains, is a farm-house that was owned by one family to the third generation, and the occupant
was called the highland farmer. From his doorsill he could look down on the rich valleys of the Fishkills, and in Summer he could see the golden harvests, and in Autumn the ripening fields of corn stretching through the valleys, interspersed with mellow orchards and flocks and herds. He often inquired of himself why his forefathers settled on the mountains and entailed on their posterity poverty, when land was so cheap in the valley. The highland farmer now was in straightened circumstances, for he had a large family to support. The large forests which covered the farm when his grandfather settled there, had now nearly disappeared, for they were obliged to market a number of cords of wood yearly to help maintain their families. This privilege now was denied him, for he had hardly sufficient fuel to supply his own fire. He was obliged to turn out every haying season, to help the farmers in the valleys get their hay in, in order to obtain a few loads of coarse fodder to enable him to keep his few cattle through the winter, and often he would feed them so scanty that he would lose one or more from starvation. Under circumstances like these, the highland farmer was often depressed in spirits. His old dilapidated dwelling was getting leaky, for the shingles and clapboards were falling off, his children were poorly clad, and his rocky farm produced less every year.
It has often been remarked that man conforms to the country in which he lives. If it is rough and unproductive, he is generally unpolished himself, for he has not the advantages of those who live in countries where wealth and refinement prevails. The highland farmer's opportunities were limited, and often would he go
to the village in the valley to purchase some necessaries for his family, and the rich farmers would congregate at the village store to converse on the topics of the day, when the highland farmer would listen very attentively to their conversation, and he often contrasted his situation and opportunities with theirs, which often times made him very unhappy.
The highland farmer had a well balanced mind, and he often regretted his living there, in that rough and broken country. Had he left there when he was young and emigrated west and purchased new land, he might now have been a wealthy and influential citizen, and his children would have had better opportunities and occupied higher positions in society.
The highland farmer had now arrived at the meridian of life, and the prospect of his ever bettering his condition was by no means flattering, yet he could submit to all this if he could only improve the condition of his family, for this was his greatest trouble, and this no one knew but himself. His wife and children often discovered that he was unhappy, for he would sit houre with his family, during the long winter evenings, without attempting any conversation, and at times he could not refrain from weeping, and they often inquired the cause of his sorrow, but he would not inform them. The winter of 18— was a very severe one.
The snow had fallen the latter part of November and remained till spring, and during the winter months it covered the earth four feet deep on the mountains and more than three feet in the valleys, and at times the wind would whirl it into eddies and pile it up in huge masses along the wayside, rendering the roads often impassi
ble, which caused much suffering among the poorer classes. It was difficult for those living on by-roads to get to mill or store, or even to the woods for fuel. The highland farmer had to cart his fuel on his back, beating a path to the woods with the aid of snow shoes to keep him from sinking through the snow to the earth. The nearest mill to him was in the Highlands, and there too he was obliged to go on foot. The snow had formed a crust on the surface sufficient, with the aid of snow-shoes, to hold up the weight of the heaviest man.
This enabled the highland farmer to take a bag of grain upon his back to the Highland mill and return in safety. The emigration West the following Spring was so rapid, to Chicago and Milwaukee, that produce was shipped from Ohio to those western States to supply the emigrants with food. This rendered the price of grain in the eastern States very high, and enhanced the value of land in our river counties. Land speculation had caused good farming lands to sell for one hundred dollars
and farms on the mountains even were sought after.
A mechanic living in the village in the valley, having a little money, wishing to invest it in land, and not having enough to purchase a farm in the valleys, turned his attention to the mountain. In reviewing the farms there, he concluded to try to buy out the highland farmer. They were not long making a bargain. The mechanic made him an offer, which he readily accepted. An article of agreement was soon drawn up and signed by both parties. After the highland farmer had sold his farm, he began to reflect on what course to take. Everything to him now appeared dif
ferent. He and his parents and grand parents had been reared there.
The place where we have been born and reared, often causes an attachment which we carry with us through life, however uninviting it may appear. Every particular spot calls up before us some tender recollection. Parents, brothers and sisters, all have been born there. The highland farmer now experienced the tender ties which were about to be severed forever. Every rock on the farm he loved, every stick of timber in his dwelling was dear to him, the brook that meandered through the back yard, where he had played with his associates from his earliest recollections, seemed now to him a lovely spot. He had often prayed that he might not end his days on the highland farm, and now his prayer was answered, and he had often wept over his misfortunes, and now could he leave without any regrets, thought he to himself. Oh, no. The highland farmer was yet in the prime of life. He had not reached his forty-fifth year, and he concluded to emigrate to one of the Western States. Accordingly he set out on his journey. Being unaccustomed to travel, the distance alarmed him. The canal and stage-coach were the only means to convey passengers west from Albany, for the railroad from Albany to Buffalo was not then completed. The highland farmer took passage aboard the canal boat to Buffalo, and after reaching Niagara county he concluded to go no further. Lands then were comparatively cheap in Western New York, for the farmers had but recently commenced removing to new States further west, and the country yet was the favorite resort for emigrants. The highland farmer