Non – Population – William C. McKelvey and the Agricultural Census

Non population schedules can be just as informative as population schedules, especially if one is interested in the everyday lives of ancestors. Many of my ancestors were farmers, so many of the non population schedules I have looked at are agricultural ones.

William C. McKelvey, my 4th great grandfather, was the son of an Irish immigrant. He was born in Pennsylvania on 26 April 1821, and in 1845, he married Jane Walter. He and Jane had five children: Elizabeth Ann, Cora Isabel, Elmira J., James Smith, and Emma Sarah. The first 2 children were born in Pennsylvania, but the 3 last children were born in Ohio, which means the family moved to Morgan County, Ohio by 1854.

William McKelvey, 1870 Census

In 1860, William’s real estate was valued at $3500 and his personal estate at $600, according to the population schedule.

1860 Agricultural Census

The 1860 agricultural schedule breaks down those numbers further. William owned 65 improved acres and 128 unimproved, for a total of 193 acres valued at $3500. William used the improved acres to grow crops, and the unimproved may have been used as pasture for animals. His farming equipment – plows, etc. – were valued at $75. His farm also relied on animals, so he owned 4 horse, 4 milk cows, 8 beef cows, and 2 pigs valued at $400. The farm produced 40 bushels of wheat, 200 bushels of corn, 200 bushels of oats, 18 bushels of buckwheat, 220 pounds of butter, and 4 tons of hay. William’s production was comparable to his neighbors in his township that year.

I do not have the 1870 agricultural census, but I have found 1880. William had acquired more land, 107 acres of tilled land, 8 acres of pasture/meadow/orchard, and 125 acres of woodlands, for a total of 240 acres. The total value of the farm was $4000. He hired men to help on the farm for 10 weeks in 1879 and paid them a total of $50. The farm now produced 5 tons of hay, 350 bushels of corn, and 32 bushels of wheat. My favorite part of this census was the recording of orchards that people owned. On 8 acres of Williams farm, he grew apple trees, 1000 apple trees  to be exact! I can’t imagine how many apples were produced each year and what they did with all of those apples. Apple pie? Apple butter? Apple cider? Yum! William also owned more sheep than in 1860. The flock had grown to 51, 20 of which were new lambs born in 1879, and in total produced 140 pounds of fleece. He also owned 3 horses, 3 milk cows, 7 beef cows, and 8 pigs. The 3 milk cows helped produce 300 pounds of butter. William and Jane’s 30 chickens laid 200 eggs, and the 23 other fowl helped to provide a varied diet for the family.

William C. McKelvey’s land in 1875

I find the details of the farm so interesting. William, his son James, and hired men probably tilled the fields and managed the larger animals. Jane and the girls likely milked the cows and cared for the chickens and fowl. What a busy life they all must have led! I’ve never visited the town where William, Jane, and their daughter and my ancestor, Isabel, lived and farmed, but exploring the workings of the farm has inspired me to take a trip!

On 24 December 1898, William hastily made a will, which he was unable to sign. It was likely he was very ill as he died shortly after. He could read and write, so he must have been in bad shape. Only three of his children were living by this time – James, Cora, and Emma. All three were left land, James 120 acres and his two daughters 60 acres each. His son was named executor, and his personal property was sold and would be divided among his heirs. Unusually, no mention was made of his wife Jane, though she was named as his widow in the probate information. The remainder of his personal property – including the farm implements and animals – were to be sold and split between his children and four children of his deceased daughter Elizabeth. So, that is what happened to the 240 acres, farm equipment, and animals recorded in the 1880 agricultural census. As to what happened to Cora, James, and Emma’s shares of the property, I don’t know. I assume Cora sold her portion as she lived in Nashville, but James remained on his land and based on Emma’s residence in the early 20th century, I believe she did as well.

Isn’t it wonderful how one document can help shed so much light on multiple generations of a family?