First and Second Reports of the Bureau of Agriculture for the State of Tennessee.



Assisted By

To whom local assistance was rendered by
C. W. CHARLTON, of East Tennessee
H. L. BENTLEY, of West Tennessee.

Prepared Under the Direction of the Bureau of Agriculture.

Nashville, Tenn.:
Tavel, Eastman & Howell,
Printers To The State



            Perry county was established November 14, 1821. At the time of’ its organization, it embraced a large part of the present county of Decatur, lying west of the Tennessee River. Subsequent legislation greatly reduced its limits, so that it lies altogether east of the river, and contains only about 400 square miles. Perryville, now in Decatur county, was the original county seat. After Decatur county was established, this place, once very flourishing, went to decay. The deserted public square, with the debris of torn down buildings, forcibly reminds one of Goldsmith’s "Deserted Village." The ancient capital of’ Perry has been reduced to a mere shipping point.

            Towns. Linden, after the erection of Decatur county, became the county seat of’ Perry. It is some ten miles from the Tennessee River, almost due east from the old town of Perryville. It has a handsome court-house, and for an inland town, is a place of considerable trade. Buffalo River flows on the east side of the town, and Buffalo Ridge, with its high wooded crests, lies on the west. The present population of Linden is about 200. It has six stores, four groceries, and two hotels. The other villages, or places of business, are Britt’s Landing on the Tennessee River, Lobleville, thirteen miles north of Linden, Beardstown, and Farmer’s Valley, all of which have one or more stores.

            Geology. Blue and gray limestones outcrop in all the valleys, excepting a few in the northern part of the county. These limestones belong to the formations known among geologists as Niagara and Lower Helderberg. Many of’ the bluffs along the Tennessee River are made up of’ their strata. There is a number of glady places in the county formed by the outcrops of the Niagara limestones, which have supplied geologists at home and abroad with fine specimens of fossils. Many of’ these fossils have been taken to Europe. Above the Lower Helderberg limestones, which by the way are generally thin-bedded, blue, and full of fossils, lies the Black Shale, a formation which everywhere attracts attention, mainly because it is mistaken as an indication of stone coal. This bed ranges in thickness from a few feet to thirty or more. Above the Black Shale, and constituting the mass and tops of’ the ridges, is the siliceous division of the Lower Carboniferous. The lower strata of this division are often silico-calcarcous shales, mixed more or less with limestones. The upper portion contains more limestone, which often shows cherty masses. The latter being liberated, cover more or less the tops of the ridges.

            Topography and Streams. The topography of this county is beautiful from the regularity and great number of the ridges. Buffalo Ridge, west of Buffalo River, rises to the height of 700 feet above tide water, and 300 feet above the adjacent valleys. It traverses the county longitudinally north and south throughout. its entire extent, and sends out westward eight subordinate ridges, nearly to the Tennessee River, a distance of nine miles. Between these various ridges, streams of pure sparkling water flow in parallel lines, and empty into the Tennessee River. On the eastern side of Buffalo Ridge are parallel spurs, running down to the banks of Buffalo River. These spurs are seldom ever one mile in length, and the troughs which they form convey the waters from the eastern slope of the ridge into Buffalo River. The portion of the county east of Buffalo River is also fluted with ridges and valleys, similar to the western side, and many beautiful streams, bordered by fertile lowlands, empty into that stream which is the great artery of the county. Beginning at the southern end of the county, the tributaries of the Buffalo from the eastern side are Coon Creek, Brush Creek, Hurricane Creek, Short Creek, and Cane Creek, the last of which is by far the largest, and has a fine fertile valley. Most of these creeks are rapid in their descent, and slow alternately over gravelly beds and limestone rock. They have a sufficiency of water-power to drive mills. The tributaries of the Tennessee beginning at the southern limits of the county, are Cedar Creek, Marsh Creek, Cypress Creek, Spring Creek, Lick Creek, Tom’s Creek, Roan’s Creek, Crooked Creek, and Blue Creek. The average length of the creeks is about nine miles, and they usually flow through flat wide bottoms, the channels often changing, the water cutting out the bank on one side or the other, and throwing up a wide expanse of rounded pebbles and sand on the other. After heavy and continuous rains, the streams rise with an amazing rapidity, the water sweeping down from the steep declivities on each side, and swelling them until they carry away in their inundation, fences, and oftentimes cover acres of the finest land with gravel and sand to such a depth as to injure them permanently.

            Timber. The county is heavily timbered. White oaks and walnuts, black oaks and hickories of magnificent size, prevail upon all the slopes and in the bottoms. Chestnut oak, exceedingly valuable for its bark, is very abundant, and large quantities of tan-bark could be collected annually for shipment. Boards, staves and shingles are shipped to St. Louis and New Orleans. The lumber trade is considerable, and rapidly growing.

            Soil and Crops. The finest soils, and perhaps almost the only ones that will remunerate the farmer for his toil in the cultivation, are in these bottoms. Dark in color, they are heavily charged with flinty quartzose gravel, sometimes comminuted until it approaches a coarse sand. These stones serve to keep the land friable, and make it easy of cultivation. By reason of its mellowness, the soil is specially adapted to the cultivation of peanuts, and this crop, for a number of years, has been the principal staple of the county. At the time when the price of peanuts reached its highest limit, one hundred dollars an acre was asked for the best peanut land, the product on an acre sometimes reached, though rarely, one hundred bushels. The introduction of the culture of the peanut in the county, marked a social revolution. Previous to this time almost all the cloth used in everyday wear was manufactured by the wives and daughters of the farmers. But as the labor required to cultivate the peanut was not so confining, nor so arduous, or long continued as the labor of the spinnng wheel and loom, the latter were exchanged for the hoe, with which they were able to buy from six months labor in the field what before required twelve to manufacture within doors. It is no uncommon sight to see women of fairest face and comliest form, with hands encased in gloves, and their faces screened from the rays of a blazing sun by an old-fashioned sunbonnet, hoeing long rows of peanuts, while the sterner sex drives the plow. And especially when this crop is being harvested are the nimble fingers of the women of peculiar value. It is said that a woman can pick from the vines at least one-third more in a dlay than a man. As a consequence of this outdoor exercise, the women of Perry county have a most fascinating beauty in striking contrast to the wan, careworn, pale faces of those who pace to the spinning wheel, or work with tireless patience over the loom. Nor has this change been without other benefits to the community. It is said that the farmers who habitually grow peanuts are in a highly prosperous condition, nearly all of them being free of debt, with money to lend. Cotton was the staple (and still is in some portions of the county) before the introduction of the peanut, but the moist, cold soil, while it induced a vigorous growth of stalk, did not bring all the bolls to maturity, and the yield was, in most eases, small. Sometimes, however, in favorable localities. 1,000 lbs. of seed cotton are made to the acre. Wheat will make a yield of about ten bushels per acre on soils of the many small coves that everywhere run imp into the ridges, and upon the gentle slopes, but it is not a profitable crop for the lowlands, the overflows frequently injuring it. Corn, oats and hay grow well on the bottom lands, but of the latter, though the soil and situation are well adapted to its growth, but little is sown, and of that which is grown, three-fourths is made of the annual grasses. There are very few permanent meadows in the county, though timothy and herds-grass both make a fine return. Clover is rarely sown as a renovater of the soils, but often for pasturage.

            Stock. The number of streams which thread the county with the large extent of bottom land, would indicate stock-growing as a profitable business, and yet stock-growing is in its infancy. A few improved hogs and cattle have recently been introduced into the county, but the long-horned, scrubby cattle that browse upon the scanty herbage which springs up in the woodlands, and the pike-nosed "king fisher" style of hogs that roam the forest, or search the streams in quest of food, feeding upon acorns and devouring the muscles, show too plainly that stock-growing has not, as yet become an art in the county of Perry. Prior to the war, a considerable number of mules was raised for the southern markets, and hogs, in more or less quantities, were driven to various places. Enough of these animals are still raised for home demand, and a few mules are driven to Alabama. The high hills and green valleys make this a county well suited to the rearing of sheep, but the same cause has operated to the injury of this pursuit as in other counties. It is estimated by competent persons, that the loss is not less than fifty per cent annually by dogs. At this rate, all the flocks will soon be exterminated. Sheep can live at least nine mouths in the year without being fed, so great is the abundance of short, wild grasses, ferns and mosses.

            Benefits of Small Farms. The beneficial effects of small farms which are cultivated by their owners are clearly perceptible in this county. There is an unmistakable air of thrift about all the farms. Houses are usually in good repair and comfortable, though not so neat and tasteful as might be desired. The lack of taste about the dwellings is due more to inherited habit than to a want of means. There is but little land in market. Improved farms range in price from $20 to $50 per acre; unimproved, from $3 to $10; ridge lands, $1. In those counties where large farms predominate, and the owners rely upon hired labor and not upon their own strong arms to cultivate them, land is a drug, and immense quantities can be bought at prices which in Perry county would be considered exceedingly low. The farmers of Perry, though not rich as a class, are independent and contented. The farmers in those counties that were considered the most fertile and the most opulent before the war, are usually in debt, land-poor, discontented and unthrifty. The old plantation system, wherever continued in force, is giving discouraging results. No difference is observable in the farms of Perry since and before the war, while the dilapidated appearance and the air of desolation and decay that mark many of the homesteads in the hitherto more desirable portions of the State tell more plainly than the strongest words how miserable has been the failure of the old plantation system. Farming lands in such counties are for sale in great quantities, while in counties like Perry, where the labor on the farm is done by the owner and his family, but little land is in the market. The farms of Perry will not average over 100 acres of arable land, and the comparative scarcity of old fields clothed in a tawny mantle of obnoxious broomsedge, shows that, though clover is not greatly used as a fertilizer, the lands have not been exhausted by bad tillage. Indeed, constantly fed as the valley farms are by the washings of the adjacent hills, it would be difficult to exhaust them, for like the Nile, these streams are subject to annual overflows, and leave a rich sediment upon the land after their subsidence.

            In consequence of the fluted topography of the county, most of the civil districts arc laid off so as to embrace a valley, and the half of each of the parallel intervenient ridges. Neighborhoods are known by the creeks, for it is easier to go eight or ten miles up or down one of these streams than to cross the high ridges that bound them.

            Labor, Rents and Markets. There is a scarcity of transient labor. Farmers hire but little help, and then only in the busy seasons. As a consequence, they have to pay higher for it than the average price paid in the State. From $15 to $20 per month and board is the usual price for stout, able-bodied farm hands. There is but little demand for house servants or cooks, the industrious housewives preferring to do the work themselves. A few, however, are hired at from $5 to $10 dollars per month. Corn land rents for $3 per acre; peanut land, $5; oat and wheat land, lower. One-third of the crop is sometimes given. There are but few renters or croppers. Most of those engaged in agriculture own their farms. Products are shipped by Tennessee River. Peanuts usually go to Cincinnati. This crop, mainly raised in the northern portion of the county, reached 250,000 bushels in 1872. Tobacco is raised to a limited extent. The nature of the soil is very generous towards this weed, growing a fine, silky, small stem leaf, well suited for the manufacturer.

            Minerals. Iron ore is abundant. Blossoms outcrop on the west side of Buffalo Ridge. These blossoms are dark, blackish boulders, whose great weight shows iron to be the predominant ingredient. Before the late civil war, there was a furnace in operation on Cedar Creek that made 1,500 tons of pig metal annually. Nearly every civil district has more or less iron. A rough species of variegated marble, not devoid of beauty when polished, and very valuable as building stone, is plentiful. This red marble overlies a stratum of hydraulic rock, which, from the tests that have been made, will make cement equal in quality to any in the country. The facilities which the Tennessee River affords for the transportation of heavy products will doubtless bring this rock into notice. A kind of soft sandstone is very common. This stone is easily hewn into any desirable shape when first quarried, but hardens by exposure, and is much used for building chimneys, a purpose to which it is admirably adapted. It is cheaper than brick, and will resist the action of fire much longer. The Black Shale is rich in oil, but so far from being an indication of coal, it is the best sign d its non-existence. Petroleum there may be, but coal, which many think exists in the county, has never yet been met with, and a stratum of it in the counties that border the Tennessee River would bean an anomaly as strange as trees growing downward. When the oil excitement ran so high, great expectations were entertained as to the wealth of Perry county in this particular, and nearly all the lands were leased to oil speculators, but we believe no attempt was ever made to find it, at least no successful attempt. Mineral springs are found in various localities, but they have never been improved, and their qualities or healing properties are unknown.

            Fruits and the Smaller Industries. The large extent of rolling lands, their elevation, and the variety of exposures which they present, would indicate an unusual adaptation of the county for fruit-growing. Nearly every farmer has a small orchard of apples and peaches, but most of them are planted in the valleys, and the fruit is liable in such localities to be killed by the hate frosts. On the tops of the ridges, and especially on the crest of Buffalo Ridge, fruit often escapes this danger. Dried fruit, it advantage was taken of high elevations in the planting of orchards, could be made as remunerative as the growing of peanuts, and the condition of society is such as to make this branch of husbandry peculiarly agreeable to the farmer. The apple orchards that are planted in the valleys have a thrifty appearance, but the fruit often specks before coming to maturity. The blackberry grows in the valleys and the huckleberry on the hills in every part of the county. Honey in sufficient quantities for home consumption is made. Nearly every farmer has a few hives of bees, and they are healthy and prolific. The thousands of blossoms that with their bright hues garnish the sides of the ridges and lend their fragrant perfumes to the valleys, supply material in abundance for honey. The facilities for the cultivation of the smaller industries are great, and an impulse given in this direction would add much to the wealth of the county.

            Water-power. It might naturally be inferred from the large number of streams, that water privileges are abundant, but such is not the case. The character of the stream beds is such as to unfit them for milling purposes. The channels of a majority are not encased with limestone or other rock banks, but are cut out of the alluvial soil, and are constantly changing. The thick beds of sand and gravel absorb the water during the summer months, so that no reliance can be put in a constant supply. Though this is the character of the greater number of streams, the Buffalo has some admirable water privileges. At a point a mile or two south of Linden, there is one of the best water-powers in the State. The main stream makes a circuit of about three miles, forming a peninsula. A tall, inaccessible bluff, 300 feet in height, forms the neck of this peninsula, but a subterranean passage has been eroded under this bluff and the water pours through this in a volume large enough to run a dozen mills. So rapid is the fall after its emergence that scarcely any mill-dam is required. The supply of’ water is constant, the volume being measured by the calibre of the underground channel. Neither wet weather nor dry has any perceptible effect upon the quantity. When the river is high the surplus water flows around the bluff, and when low the larger quantity passes through the subterranean passage. At this point a flouring and saw-mill have been erected. There are a few mills on the other streams, but the number is not sufficient for the convenience of the county.

            Immigrants and Emigrants. Though Perry county offers sonic fine inducements for an industrious population, but few immigrants come to it. This is doubtless owing to a want of railroad facilities and of school advantages. The want of the latter has caused many good citizens to heave the county and seek other locations where their children can enjoy the privilege of attending good schools. This want is scarcely felt by a large proportion of the population. Generally with limited education, they do not recognize what a powerful lever it is to building up the prosperity and greatness of a community, in attracting population, in diversifying pursuits, in awakening dormant energies, in multiplying the effectiveness of labor, in softening manners, in nursing manly sentiment, in mitigating ferocity, in harmonizing the different shades of society, and in beautifying, adorning and ennobling private life and manners. Schools, without which in this age there can be no permanent progress, meet with but little favor. No additional tax was ever levied to supplement the scanty pittance received from the State, which of itself will run free schools a month or two, only long enough to inflict a grievous wound upon private enterprises, without rendering any effective service in the cause of education.

            Public Improvements. Perry county has no poor house. Paupers are put out to the lowest bidder. There is not a macadamized road within its limits. Streams are not bridged. Public spirit and enterprise are at a low ebb. A tax for public works is so obnoxious that to advocate it is to render one extremely unpopular. The convenience of the public is made secondary to the convenience of an individual. Money paid for public improvements, in the opinion of the many, is money abstracted to benefit all others except the tax-payer. It is to be regretted that a county which has so many of the elements of wealth within its limits should be so indifferent or unmindful of the step necessary for its development. To work up their vast treasures of iron ore there must be skilled labor. To have skilled labor there must be schools. To have schools there must be a public sentiment created which will view the taxes paid for such a purpose in the light as investment. Were there twenty furnaces in operation in Perry, or twenty cotton factories, the increased revenues which the farmers would derive by reason of the home markets thus created, would pay the tax demanded for the support of a good school system twenty times. The whole community would be benefitted, and the stagnation that an reigns over the county like an incubus, would be replaced by activity, zeal, public spirit and awakened enterprise.

            Statistics. Perry county has eleven civil districts. The number of acres of land assessed, 220,139; value, $1,011,850; number of town lots, 79; value, $12,2295; value of’ horses, mules, mills and other taxables, $210,940; number of polls, 956 ; total value of all property, $l,235,085; total State tax, $5,896.34. Population in 1860, 6,042; of which 556 were colored. Population in 1870, 6,925; of which 472 were colored, showing a dimunition in the number of the latter class. School population, White, 2,143; colored, 171; total, 2,314.


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