Indiana was a great place for farming in 1836. The land was incredibly fertile and there was a good market for many different kinds of crops. Of course, it was hard work - the land in Indiana was covered with huge trees that would have to be cut down and the soil was full of stumps and roots that had to be cut through. But it was profitable and farming was by far the most common way for Hoosiers in 1836 to make a living.
How would a farmhand in 1836 decide what to grow?
They would first ask, what grows well? What seeds could they get and how could they get them? And, they would consider different strategies – what was the easiest, fastest, most reliable, most popular, rarest and most valuable crop?
Most farmhands who moved to Indiana grew corn for several reasons. The soil was so rich that it would actually burn other plants, and corn was really popular. Most Americans really liked the taste of it and everything else you could make from it. Plus, it was relatively easy to transport in various forms. Of course, the most common way for farmhands to ship corn was by turning it into something else, like pork or corn liquor. Farmhands would feed their corn to their hogs to fatten them up, or make corn whiskey from it that would then be shipped in barrels across the country.
How would a farmhand make money from their crops?
Most crops would be harvested in the fall. Farmhands would have to take their cash crops to a big city in order to sell them to make money. In 1836, the biggest city in this area was Cincinnati. Since Cincinnati was right on the Ohio River, it was a perfect place to bring goods that could then be sold up or down river and distributed through most of the country.
Farmhands wishing to sell their hogs or cattle had to walk their animals from their homes to Cincinnati. Stopping at inns along the way for rest was an option, but that cost money. Most of the time, they were likely to camp outside in the chilly, fall air. On the way down to Cincinnati, they had to be careful to keep their animals from getting injured or caught by wild animals. Once they arrived and sold their goods, their pockets would be full of money. Although the walk home would be a lot easier, they’d have to worry about criminals, bandits and highwaymen who knew all too well that hundreds of farmhands would be making their way home with their riches!