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whose judgment and accuracy could not be impeached by sus. picion of improper bias or self-interest.
He could not but congratulate them that they had been made the honored instruments in carrying out so interesting and im. portant an experiment. He doubted not they would continue to pursue the objects for which they had been appointed, and that they would find their reward in a proper appreciation of their services by a generous and confiding community.
In taking leave of his associates at that Board, over whose deliberations he had been permitted to preside for a brief period, he again assured them of his sentiments of high personal respect, of his best wishes for their success in every pursuit of life, and for their long.continued happiness and prosperity.
He thereupon left the chair, and took leave of the Board.
It was hereupon voted, that the thanks of the Board be presented to His Excellency Governor Washburn for the prompt and efficient manner in which he has attended and presided at its meetings, and that the Secretary be requested to transmit to him a copy of this vote, and request of him a copy of his remarks, to be entered upon the records, and to be printed.
The committee instructed to confer with the owners of lands adjoining the State Farm at Westborough, and procure bonds from them for the sale of such as are needed by the Commonwealth, presented their report through Mr. Lewis, the Chairman, that they had attended to the duty assigned them, and procured bonds running to the first of April, and amounting in the aggregate to the sum of $19,340.
At this meeting it was voted, that a committee be appointed to petition the Legislature to grant an appropriation sufficient to purchase the additional lands, as recommended by the Committee on Improvements, and which the interests of the State, and the increased wants of the State Reform School, require.
Messrs. French, Lewis and Brooks, were appointed as this committee. Voted, also, that the same committee be instructed to ask for an appropriation of six thousand dollars, for the purpose of permanent improvements on the farm, and for agricultural esperiments.
The subject of the most judicious management of the farm was now taken up and discussed; and, on motion, it was voted to appoint a superintending committee of eight to manage the farm. This committee was appointed, consisting of Messrs. Wilder, French, Brooks, Newell, Sprague, Clapp, Nash and Chandler.
A committee was appointed, consisting of Messrs. Brown and Lewis, to consider what action should be taken with reference to the methods of awarding premiums by the societies. This committee reported that some evils had arisen from the practice which had grown up in some parts of the Commonwealth, by which individuals claimed and received several premiums on the same article from different societies, and that it was expedient to petition the Legislature to pass a law by which this practice should be prohibited.
In the preceding pages, I have laid before the Legislature the principal doings of the Board for the past year. Much time has been spent in the discussion and arrangement of minute details, which called for instant attention, and in the investigation, by means of committees, of various subjects in relation to which information seemed to be needed. These could not well be imbodied in a general report; but their results will, for the most part, be found in the account of the management of the State Farm already given, and in the reports of the various committees to which different subjects were referred.
One great and important object, for which the friends of agricultural improvement are now laboring, is to find means of anticipating and guarding against the evils of a disastrous season like that which has just passed. From the nature of his occupation, the farmer, like the sailor, must direct his course somewhat by his judgment of the future. Indeed, so many of the daily operations of the farm are dependent on the state of the weather that he is of necessity a meteorologist; and, from his constant habit of observation, he often becomes more skilful and more weather-wise than the scientific observer with all the aids of science. Meteorology promises some happy results for agriculture hereafter; but at present, investigators in this department of natural science must be rather the historians of
the past than prophets of the future. As meteorological observations are continued, however, from year to year, with the aid of the vast facilities which science has given us, data will probably be obtained, from which we may predict, with some degree of certainty, the character of the coming season.
The climate of New England has never been sufficiently studied by agriculturists. The almanac is the only work on meteorology found on the shelf of the farmer. In this he now and then notes down the state of the weather, but he rarely attempts to keep accurate records of it from year to year, from which some reliable general principles might be deduced. So little attention has been paid to the difference between our climate and that of England, whence most of our agricultural precepts have been derived, that much unjust prejudice has at times prevailed against scientific agriculture, or what has been termed « book farming,” when, in fact, an unexpected result has frequently been owing to this very difference. I shall take occasion to allude to this subject hereafter. For the present, I propose to state some of the characteristics of our own climate, and to give the results of some investigations to which I was led by the long-protracted and disastrous drought of the past year.
Scarcely had the summer opened upon us when complaints began to be heard in all parts of the country of the terrible effects of a drought almost without a parallel in the annals of agriculture.
To one wholly unacquainted with our climate, with its extreme alternations of heat and cold, it would be difficult to describe the effects of our droughts, or to give an idea of the gloom which they cast over the face of nature. The heavens over our heads are literally as brass. A look of despair takes the place of the green, smiling aspect of spring. The pastures are dried up, the leaves are scorched, and the flowers wither'; even the golden corn, the pride of New England, which so generally luxuriates in the fierceness of our summer sun, curls and sometimes withers beyond recovery. Meantime, the power of the cloudless sun is intense. The panting animals in our fields vainly seek some shelter against the intolerable heat; the springs die; the lakes and ponds sink in their beds, or become infected; the living stream shrinks to a thread-like rill; and the very fishes die for want of water. There is no rain by day, no dew by night; for the refreshing vapor, we have but the choking dust, which floats in the air till respiration even is impeded, or falls on the parched and juiceless herbage, to rise an impalpable powder at every step. And still day after day the cloudless sun looks down upon the fainting earth, as if to draw from it all strength for the present, all hope for the future.
And while the fields are thus destroyed by the burning heat, fires run through the forests with frightful and irresistible rapidity, destroying the growth of centuries, and sweeping away every thing in their course, till only the blackness of ashes marks the site of bridges, houses and mills, and the hopes of the farmer seem to be utterly prostrated. This is but a feeble and inadequate picture of the suffering and despair which attend a long-protracted New England drought.
But the immediate ill effects of a long drought are not its only evil consequences. It is too often followed by a distressing scarcity of hay, and materially raises the prices of all provisions for the consumption of man, thus bringing great suffering upon all not prepared to meet a long-continued drain upon their resources.
But while, in many instances, the complaints and apprehensions of a failure of the harvest are real and well founded, it often happens that a panic is created for the purpose of effecting the prices of produce, or making a sale of large stores of grain. The facilities for spreading such an alarm are great, and there are always enough who are ready to use them. It seems, therefore, peculiarly appropriate, at this time, to inquire into the cause, the frequency and the severity of droughts, in the past history of the agriculture of New England, that we may see with what regularity the harvest follows the seedtime in the fulfilment of the promise that they shall never fail, and may appreciate fully the importance and necessity of guarding against these seasons of suffering.
The difficulties of such an investigation cannot easily be estimated by those who have never attempted it. No accurate meteorological records were kept till within a comparatively recent period. The thermometer was not invented till the year 1590, thirty years before the settlement of New England, and was not brought to any degree of perfection till the year 1700; and we cannot rely upon the accuracy of observations made by it previous to 1750. But few meteorological journals were ever kept in this State till within the last century. In order, therefore, to bring together all the information of value and interest on the subject, many old manuscript diaries must be found, and carefully read from beginning to end, and compared with each other. The information obtained in this way, though it cannot be regarded as scientifically exact, will yet be found to be sufficiently accurate for the purposes of this investigation. It will also give us a clear idea of some of the trials to which the early cultivators of the soil of New Eng. land were subjected.
The climate of New England is well known to be far drier than that of England. The first settlers had some experience of this, as early as 1623 when a drought commenced whose sererity was well nigh destructive to the hopes and plans of the infant colony. The drought lasted from the third week in May till the middle of July. Little rain fell for six weeks, and the weather all the while was exceedingly hot. The corn, planted, as usual, with fish in the hill, began to wither, and the high lands all parched up.* After this it is probable that what would now be called a severe drought did not occur for several years. The dense forests that covered nearly the whole country, the only openings being a few clearings made by the Indians for cultivation, must naturally have afforded some protection against the intense heat which we often feel. The hardest trials of the early English settlers appeared in another shape, and it is not till 1630 that we find it noticed that “the summer is a good deal hotter than in Old England," and from the fact that, in 1634, it is recorded that “the summer is hotter than many
* The fish used were alewives, at that time called “shads."
“ According to the manner of the Indians, we manured our ground with herrings, or rather shads, which we have in great abundance and take with great ease at our doors.” “You may see in one township a hundred acres together, set with these fish, every acre taking a thousand of them; and an acre thus dressed will produce and yield so much corn as three acres without fish."- Chronicles of the Pilgrims.