The decade opened with a Prospectus of an Agricultural Seminary at Andover. Twenty years had elapsed since Dr. Andrew Nichols had voiced his hope that such an institution might be established. Some years later an attempt had been made to introduce an agricultural course at Dummer Academy, but it failed. Prof. Alonzo Gray, of the Teachers’ Seminary in the South Parish of Andover, now presented a course of study contemplated in that school. It was planned to introduce Scientific Agriculture as a regular department. Botany, Physiology, Mineralogy, Geology and Chemistry were included, and the opportunity of witnessing practical farming under the direction of a teacher. No labor would be required, but if any chose to work a fair remuneration was promised. Nothing came of this scheme, though the Prospectus was accompanied by a strong essay on Scientific Agriculture by Dr. Nichols. John W. Proctor, the Secretary, and later President, in his address in 1844 alluded to these frequent demands, and made an eloquent appeal for a course of instruction in the common schools, to teach the elements of the science of agriculture, the constituents of soils and manures, the physiology of plants and the philosophy of vegetation. A notice had come to him that the State of New York had made a liberal appropriation for a State Agricultural School. He deplored that Massachusetts should be outdone in a work so essential to her best interests.
The Cattle Shows were very popular at this period, taking the place of the former training days of the militia as an autumnal holiday. Year by year new exhibits varied the familiar series. Fruits and flowers had appeared in 1835, bees and honey in 1844. Home industries in infinite variety made a fine display. As Mr. Gregory had begun the cultivation of the tomato in 1841 this novelty probably had a place of honor. The new breeds of cows were contending for supremacy. Col. Moses Newell of West Newbury, one of the finest farmers of his day, favored a cross of the Ayrshire and Alderney, and the North Devon for oxen. Daniel P. King of Danvers, farmer and statesman, and John W. Proctor claimed that the Ayrshire was best adapted to this climate.
But tree culture was perhaps the most engrossing theme. The apple orchard, it was claimed by some, was a neglected asset on most farms. But there were brilliant exceptions to this rule. William Thurlow of West Newbury was gathering a thousand barrels a year, worth $1,200, as early as 1824, from his 2,500 trees, the largest and most productive orchard in the County. In 1843 George Thurlow received the first premium for his West Newbury nursery, with 20,000 apple trees on a single acre, and Joshua H. Ordway’s nursery in the same town received a premium the year before. The building of the railroad had facilitated competition, the price of butter was depressed, farm products did not find so ready a market. Allen W. Dodge of Hamilton, lawyer and farmer, discussing the outlook in 1843, saw great promise in the growing of the apple. “The apples of Essex may yet be as widely celebrated as the oranges of Havana. Great credit is due to our Manning and Ives for their indefatigable zeal and judicious skill in stocking their gardens with such choice descriptions of cherries, plums, peaches and pears. Thanks, too, should be awarded them and other gentlemen in Salem and its vicinity for the excellent Horticultural Society, which they have so successfully established.” Robert Manning of Salem, “the great pomologist of America,” had gathered into his own collection nearly 2,000 varieties of fruit. From that collection, 240 varieties of the pear were shown at an exhibition of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The Essex County Natural History Society invited displays of fruit in its weekly exhibitions from Spring to Autumn. John M. Ives of Salem, one of the most skilled pomologists of his time, in his enlarged edition of Manning’s New England Fruit Book, recommended the finest varieties of pears and apples in 1842. His essay on The Apple, in the Transactions of 1847, was a valuable contribution to the literature of the orchard. He was a constant exhibitor at the Cattle Shows. Renewed attention to Forestry was also apparent. Allusion has been made to the State grant in 1819 to pro- mote the raising of ship timber. Dr. Andrew Nichols had urged the cultivation of the locust in the bare and rocky pastures. But the offer of premiums had elicited no response.
At the Lynn meeting in 1847, Richard S. Fay of Lynn made an offer of a hundred dollars for the best acre of white, black or yellow oak, planted from the acorn, that should be entered in 1852. In the same year, Rev. Gardner B. Perry of Bradford, one of the wisest and strongest members of the Society, contributed an essay on The Cultivation of the Oak. Mr. Fay, as chairman of the Committee on Forest Trees, made a report of great value, regarding the profit of tree culture, in 1848, and appealed to the farmers to plant. Upon the death of Henry Colman, on August 14, 1849, by his bequest the Society came into possession of his valuable private library of agricultural works, European as well as American, 518 volumes and many pamphlets. Pickering Dodge, the Salem merchant, donated 53 volumes, and 37 volumes had been received in purchase. This library was kept at the City Hall in Salem for a time, then removed to the Court House, and some years since was deposited with the Essex Institute In Salem. John W. Proctor’s statement, in his Address in 1844, regarding the abolition of the drink habit on the farm, is of especial interest : Twenty-five years since, and nine-tenths of our farmers were more or less in bondage to alcohol. I do not mean so many of them were intemperate, in the ordinary sense of the term, but that they were in the habit of using that which was not necessary to be used — to the great detriment of themselves and their estates. Where will the farmer now be found, who will unblushingly say, before he commences his haying, that he must lay in as many gallons, or even quarts of spirit, as he expects to cure tons of hay? Or that his men cannot commence mowing in the morning without their hitters; — proceed at eleven o’clock without their grog; — or load in the afternoon without their bumper; — not to mention the grosser indulgences of the evening. Time was when these customs, by whatever name they were called, were as familiar as household gods. But manners have changed with times.