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twenty years in which to pay. The colony was started as a corporation, with members of the land company already mentioned as officers.
A sawmill was installed by the corporation for the dual purpose of utilizing all the marketable timber on the tract and furnishing the colonists with employment while the land was being improved. At the end of about two years of strenuous existence, during which all the colonists received for their labor was a scant living, the corporation became insolvent. After this venture and the dissolution of the colony as a corporate enterprise, it was decided to let each colonist set out on his own responsibility. About 2,000 acres of the best land was selected and divided among the families who remained.
This selection was made because of the fact that a great deal of the land included in the original tract was totally valueless for any purpose, being the tops and almost perpendicular sides of the high mountains. Each family took as much land as its members thought they were able to pay for, usually 30 to 50 acres, or in a few cases more. The liabilities of the defunct corporation were added to the original purchase price of the land, and the balance of the 10,000 acres reverted to the company which had sold it. This addition increased the price to an average of about $5 per acre. The price depended upon the location and quality of land and ranged from $3 to $7 per acre.
Though the company from which the land was originally bought failed, the holders of the mortgages were very lenient and treated the colonists fairly in every instance. The terms of purchase were especially favorable. The immigrants had twenty years in which to pay for their land, with interest at 5 per cent, on deferred payments only. At the beginning there were many of the colonists who had to defer payments on account of the expense in getting established, but interest was rarely taken, and in many cases considerable reductions from the purchase price were made.
The colonists, with but one or two exceptions, came directly from Italy. They were all mountain farmers from the Province of Torino, North Italy, and understood the care and culture of soil of the character found in this vicinity. They are very fond of the soil, and as agriculturists are far superior to the native mountaineer farmer.
Illiterates are unknown among the colonists. Both French and Italian are spoken, but practically all conversations are carried on in a Piedmontese dialect. The language used in church services is French, and a great many of the parents teach their children this language at home. Practically all the children in the colony speak English, and all the older people can read and write their native language. Among the older people a great many of the men and a few of the women can speak sufficient English to carry on an ordinary conversation, and a considerable number of the men can read and write English.
Some idea of the early struggles of the colonists may be gained from previous statements in this report. While there was no misrepresentation on the part of organizers of the colony, some mistakes were made, especially in starting a colony on land of the quality found in this locality, when neither the individuals nor the organizers possessed enough means to furnish even a scanty living while the land was being put into condition for cultivation. The sawmill venture,
while intended to furnish the colonists with regular employment and to serve as a means of procuring a livelihood while improving the land, proved to be an added burden.
There has been no community organization in the colony since the dissolution of the corporation, but the minister is usually recognized as the leader. When the colonists found themselves in financial straits after the corporation's failure, they did not seek charity, but the head of each household selected what land he thought he was able to pay for and immediately began to make provision for establishing a home.
The land was wild and extremely rough topographically, covered in some spots with loose stones, and heavily forested with timber of first and second growth. This land had to be cleared of trees and loose stones. Houses and barns had to be built. The colonists had absolutely nothing when they began to clear their individual farms, although practically all had brought money to this country. In most instances, however, the amounts were small and had to be used in buying the necessities of life.
After the sawmill was closed there was absolutely no industry in the community where the colonists could obtain employment, not even enough to provide a living while they were clearing the land and making other improvements. Twelve or fifteen families left the community, and those remaining sent their children to work in the cotton mills in North and South Carolina and into other industries over the country, or to private families as domestic servants. The children. sent their earnings back to their parents. In case there were no children large enough to go away from home, the head went, and the wife stayed at home and worked on the farm. In some cases both the head and children over 10 or 12 years of age were away from home for at least part of the year.
In only three instances have the farms been paid for without money earned by either the head or the children of the family through outside employment. In at least one of these three cases money was received from children in Italy to aid the parents to live while getting the land into condition to return a living to the owner. The colonists cleared the land very thoroughly. In most cases the brush was grubbed out as the land was cleared, and in many instances, all stumps were removed in the beginning. This necessarily made the process of clearing the land rather slow. The natives in the community clear land by chopping all trees and brush off with an ax and permitting the stumps to remain in the ground until they decay. In general from two to five years were required before the land could be solely depended on to maintain the family. This was due to the poor quality of the soil and to the fact that so many of the working force had to work outside to maintain their families, thereby preventing them from giving all their time to the land.
Within the first three or four years about twelve families left the colony because of the limited opportunity afforded to make a living. Most went in 1895, about the time the corporation failed, and immediately after. Of those who went, six or seven families returned to their native land, and the remainder migrated to other parts of the South or to the West. The majority went to neighboring parts of the South, as they did not have money enough to move far. Several of the deserters, both those who returned to their native land and
those who went to other sections of the United States, have since returned and purchased land in the colony.
Within recent years, four or five families have left the colony and gone to other sections of the country. These were people who had acquired a title to their land. They moved away chiefly because of better opportunities to find employment, and because they found the soil so unproductive that scarcely more than a living could be made from it.
On the whole the progress made by the colonists has been remarkable. All of the old settlers and all except one or two of the families who have come to the colony within the past two years have paid for their land, possess substantial buildings, good orchards, and vineyards, and many of them have added to their original purchases. They have made considerable improvement on the methods of agriculture employed by the farmers in this section who work on the same quality of land. It has always been the custom of the native mountaineer farmers to clear a track of land, and by the addition of commercial fertilizer secure as many crops from it as possible before the soil has been washed away. They then clear more land. By thorough cultivation and by employing intelligent means to prevent washing, as well as by planting more crops which add humus to the soil, the production per acre has been increased and the natural fertility conserved and increased on the farms operated by immigrant farmers. In some instances not more than 3 to 5 bushels of wheat were made on new land, while now the same land will yield from 12 to 16 bushels per acre.
Besides the 50 farmers in the community at the time the Commission's inquiry was made there were five families owning land in the colony and living elsewhere. Several of the young people who were working in the North were buying land and expected ultimately to come back to the colony to live.
SOIL AND CLIMATE.
The climate is salubrious. Owing to the high altitude and the proximity to the higher mountains, the summers are cool and pleasant. The winters are cold, though not severe. The average temperature for December, January, and February, the coldest months, is about 37° F. June, July, and August are the hottest months, with an average of about 73° F. Frosts have occurred as late as the 10th of May and as early as the 25th of September, but the average duration of the growing season is from about April to October 20. The rainfall is usually sufficient for ail crops grown in the locality and is fairly well distributed by seasons although occasionally crops suffer on account of drought. The greatest rainfall usually occurs in January and February, but in July or August, generally the latter month, the precipitation is very heavy.
The general topography of the country varies from rolling to rugged and mountainous. A considerable area of the land first purchased by the colony is mountainous and the slopes are precipitous, but the portion finally retained consists of intervening round-topped hills and lower mountains and the intervales near the drainage courses.
The country is drained by many small streams,
which have cut rather deeply into the earth and run in very narrow valleys.
The surface soil is for the most part Conowingo" clay, a grayishyellow, gravelly loam about 8 inches in depth. The surface is strewn with small pieces of magnetite iron and fragments of talc schistthe latter sometimes in large quantities. The subsoil is a reddish clay loam, running into solid rock at from 2 to 5 feet below the surface. It is a residual soil, derived from the weathering of tale schist.
The soil is mellow, friable, and easily tilled, and seldom clods or bakes to any extent. When intelligently cultivated it gives a fair yield of staple crops. Owing to its location the natural drainage is excellent. The rainfall flows rapidly from the sides of the hills, leaving the soil well drained soon after a rain. Where the timber has been cleared off, erosion is very active, because of the power of the loose gravel carried along by the surface water, and especial care has to be exercised when this soil is brought under cultivation to prevent its washing.
The farms of the colonists range in size from 30 to 150 acres, with probably 50 to 60 acres as an average. In practically all cases less than 50 per cent of the land owned is under cultivation, first, because the country is so rough that a great deal of land is not tillable, and, second, because the use of improved farm machinery being practically precluded, only small areas can be cultivated.
The yields of field crops are small, as a rule, the average yield per acre for this county in 1899 being: Corn, 15.34 bushels; wheat, 5.08; oats, 7.63; Irish potatoes, 38.51; sweet potatoes, 59.67; hay, 1.26 tons. Probably the yield has been increased somewhat since the census of 1900; it is known certainly that the present average production per acre on the farms of the colonists is greatly in excess of the average indicated. The immigrant farmers are very successful, considering their opportunities, often realizing from two to three times the yield of the native American farmer on the same quality of soil. The farms of a majority of the American farmers have become impoverished from constant cultivation and failure to protect the soil from the atmospheric forces by adequate cover crops through the winter months.
The native farmers are all one or two horse farmers, and practically all land is prepared and cultivated with small one-horse plows. It was formerly the practice to break the land to an average depth of 2 to 4 inches, and very shallow plowing is still their rule; this method is frequently responsible for the small yields. The immigrant farmers cultivate fewer acres, plow more deeply, prepare their soil more thoroughly, and diversify their crops to a greater extent.
It will be noted that it has been the custom of native American farmers to pay very little attention to permanent soil improvement. Crop rotation in any systematic or intelligent way is seldom practiced.
a United States Department of Agriculture. Field Operations of the Bureau of Soils, 1902 (Fourth Report), pp. 249-250.
Twelfth Census of U. S., Census of 1900, Vol. VI.
Very little care is taken of barnyard manure, and crops of known soil-enriching value rarely are grown.
The crops occupying the greater area of each farm are wheat and corn. Oats have been grown for only a few years by the colonists and the yield is fair. The whole of this crop is used on the farm, a greater part being fed unthrashed, in the sheaf. The colonists have been fairly successful in grape culture; but owing to the abrupt changes in temperature in the spring and late frosts, due to the high altitude, the crop is often killed or seriously damaged. None of the grapes are sold for table use, because of poor market facilities, but instead each farmer makes his grapes into wine, and when the crop turns out well nearly all have some wine for sale.
The colonists raise a great many cowpeas, which, as a rule, follow both wheat and oats as a second or inter-crop. If grown for seed, they are planted in drills and plowed once or twice and the pods picked off, but if planted for hay they are usually sowed broadcast and the vines cut and cured green; in either case the roots add a great deal of fertility to the soil. Rye is used on a small scale by some for green manuring. It is the practice of the Italian farmers to improve the soil by more systematic methods of crop rotation and by use of barnyard manure rather than to add commercial fertilizer to stimulate the soil.
The average immigrant farmer rarely cultivates more than 15 or 20 acres, and from this a good living is provided for the family, and sufficient grain and hay are raised to furnish feed for the live stock kept usually one horse, from one to three cows, and a few hogs. Usually each farmer sells a few bushels of wheat or corn, or both, and some Irish potatoes. Each year from one to three hogs and about the same number of cattle are marketed. In this way money is provided for taxes, clothing, and other necessities which have to be bought for cash.
MARKETS AND MARKETING FACILITIES.
Farm products when sold are usually hauled to Hickory, Connelly Springs, or Morgantown, small villages 15, 4, and 6 miles from Valdese, respectively. The roads are very bad as a rule, being hilly, and often in spring and winter very muddy.
The railway transportation facilities are good. The Southern Railway runs through the colony, and, if other conditions were favorable, farm products could be shipped to Asheville or to the northern or eastern markets. However, so much of the land has to be devoted to the production of crops for use on the farm that the small quantity of produce which is available for market does not make a profitable shipment. The greatest needs are a good local market and good roads over which to haul the surplus which farmers happen to have.
All residents of the colony are landowners, and all except two are practically without debts of any kind. This is an especially creditable showing, when the many hardships they underwent in starting and the poor condition of the soil are considered. Some of those