When the people came to North America they expected to find either a way to India, or mines like those discovered farther southward. But when they found that they could not secure either the spices of India or the gold and silver of Peru, they turned their attention to the soil, to see what could be got by farming.
In 1612 John Rolfe, (the husband of Pocahontas) learned from the Indians how to grow tobacco. He was very successful and began to sell it to the English market. Before this time the English smokers and got their tobacco from the Spaniards. The plant was well suited to the Virginia climate, and it was easy to ship tobacco from the farms, which were all on the banks of the rivers.
Gold and silver coins were scarce in those days, and so tobacco became the only money of Virginia. Almost everything bought and sold in Virginia and Maryland, before the Revolution, was paid for in tobacco.
The colony of South Carolina made due by shipping lumber to the West Indies and by making tar and pitch (which was a sort of resin).
In 1696, a gentleman named Thomas Smith was living in Charleston and who had previously observed rice being cultivated in Madagascar and began to get an idea that he might grow some in America.
One day when a sea captain, an old friend of Smith's, sailed into Charleston Harbor from Madagascar, Thomas Smith got a bag of seed rice from him. He then carefully grew these rice seeds in a wet place in his garden in Charleston.
It grew! Soon Carolina was changed into a land of great rice plantations. The raising of rice spread into Georgia when that colony was settled.
In 1741 an enterprising young lady named Miss Eliza Lucas began to experiment in growing the indigo plant in South Carolina. A frost destroyed the first crop that she planted, and a worm cut down the next; but by 1745 this persevering young lady had proved that indigo could be grown in South Carolina, and in two more years hundreds of thousands of pounds of the plant was being exported.
It was a leading crop for about fifty years, but, when the growing of cotton was made profitable by the invention of the cotton gin, that crop took the place of indigo.
The settlers got Indian corn from the Indians and from this crop most of the bread eaten by Americans before the Revolution was made. It was also shipped to the West Indies from Virginia and North Carolina.
New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania formed the great wheat region of the colonial time. These colonies sent wheat, flour, and "hard-tack" bread (crackers!) in large quantities to the West Indies and the countries on the Mediterranean Sea.
Potatoes had been brought to Europe probably from South America; but they were unknown to the Indians in what is now the United States. They were taken to Virginia at the first settlement of Jamestown, but were not planted in New England fields until 1718.
Cattle and hogs were brought from England very early, and were raised by thousands in the colonies. For the most part they ran in the woods, having marks on them to show to whom they belonged. Many cattle grew up without marks of ownership, and were hunted as wild. There were "cow-pens" established for raising cattle in the wilderness, something like the "ranches" in the Western country to-day.
The horses of that day were small and hardy. When not in use they ran at large in the woods, and some of them quite escaped from their owners, so that after a while there came to be a herd of wild horses.
The English plow of that time was very heavy, and drawn by six horses or an equal number of oxen. Efforts were made to introduce this to the colonies, but it was not suited to a new country.
The plow most used in the colonies was a clumsy thing, with thin plates of iron nailed over the rude wooden plowshares. There were many stumps and few plows. All the tools were heavy and awkward.
The middle colonies raised wheat, the colonies on Chesapeake Bay tobacco, and the Southern colonies rice and indigo; but the soil and climate of New England were not suited to any agricultural staple of great value. So the New-Englanders were driven to follow the sea.
They built immense numbers of ships, some of which they sold to English merchants; others they used in fishing for codfish and mackerel. These fisheries became very profitable to them.
When the Long-Islanders discovered the art of taking whales along the coast, the New England people learned it, and became the most prosperous whalers in the world. The products of their fisheries were sent to many countries, and New England ships were seen almost all over the world. Boston and Newport were the chief New England seaports.
The people of New York also built many ships which were remarkable for their great size and the long voyages they made. Philadelphia, which was started later than the other leading cities, grew fast and became the greatest of all the cities in the colonies.
There were many pirates on the coast and some of them were daring and bold enough to stop the trade ships and rob them. When caught they hanged.
Captain Kidd, of New York, who was sent to put down pirates, became a pirate himself, and was taken to London where he was hanged. The most noted of the pirates was a cruel man called Blackbeard, who was killed after a bloody fight in Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina. Steed Bonnet, another famous pirate, was captured about the same time and executed in Charleston.
|Unit 14 – Farming and Shipping|
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