Friday, February 12, 2016

Daniel Webster Jennings' Farm

I participated in Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge in 2014 and 2015. Last year Amy provided optional themes for each weekly post. For Week 34, the theme was the census non-population schedules. I wrote about the farm of my great great grandfather, John Wesley Riggin, and used the 1880 agricultural schedule as the source for a description of the farm.

Writing that post got me thinking about how to use those schedules to better understand how an ancestor's farming operation evolved over time and if I could discern economic conditions in their area using those schedules. I ran a report of the sources used in my family tree and discovered that I had three agricultural schedules for Daniel Webster Jennings, my great great uncle, for the years 1850, 1860, and 1880. In addition, a products and industry schedule for 1860 included an entry for him. He lived in Virginia during a time the commonwealth experienced great economic and social upheaval during and after the Civil War. It would be a good case study.

Daniel Webster Jennings was born about 1807 in Buckingham County, Virginia. His father was John William Jennings, Sr., a War of 1812 veteran, moved his family to Amherst County in the mid 1800s. By 1840 Daniel had married Martha Ann Staples and lived in Amherst County. They had one child and a young female slave.

When the 1850 census was enumerated, Daniel and Martha had six children ranging in age from 13 years old to two. Daniel owned 200 acres of land, 150 of which were improved, and his real estate was valued at $2,700 on the population schedule. He valued the land at $1,600 on the agricultural schedule. He had farming equipment valued at $75. While he owned 6 horses, 4 milk cows, 10 head of cattle, and 10 sheep, most of his livestock were swine, of which he had 160 animals. He valued that stock at $600. On the farm he grew wheat, Indian corn, oats, and Irish potatoes. His wife, Martha, oversaw the making of 200 pounds of butter.

By 1860, Daniel's farming operation had grown. He now owned 500 acres of land, of which 200 acres were improved, and he valued his farm equipment and machinery at $200. He owned 8 horses, 3 milk cows, 14 head of cattle, 25 sheep and 150 swine. He continued to grow wheat, Indian corn, and oats, as well as a small amount of peas and beans but his cash crop was now tobacco. He harvested 1,500 pounds in 1859.

Daniel also owned a mill in 1860. He invested $1,000 in the operation and hired one worker, who he paid $16. They milled 3,000 bushels of corn and Daniel valued that production at $3,300. It appears that Daniel owned another type of business, but I could not decipher what it may have been. The mystery business is the second entry underneath Daniel's name on the snippet below.

1860 Schedule 5--Products and Industry entry for Daniel W. Jennings;
image courtesy of

The next year the Civil War began. No battles were actually fought in Amherst County, but there was a lot war related activity. Fort Riverview was constructed in Madison Heights to protect Six Mile Bridge, which was an integral part of a major Confederate supply route. At least three of Daniel's sons fought in the war.

According to the 1870 census, Daniel's real estate was valued at $1,000 and his personal property at $330. His oldest son lived next door and a younger son lived nearby. Their census entries did not include a value for real estate or personal property. Perhaps, the war did have a negative financial impact on Daniel or perhaps he had begun distributing his assets to his children?

In 1880, the Census Bureau changed the agricultural census quite a bit. Much more detail for each farm listed was now required. Daniel owned 350 acres of land, 150 less than in 1860. He farmed 175 acres and the remaining land was unimproved. He valued his farm equipment and machinery at $150 and his livestock at $500. The big change in the farm animals was that Daniel was no longer raising swine. However, he had many more sheep. He had reduced his tobacco growing to two acres, but the other crops remained the same. This agricultural schedule asked about orchards, chickens, and other farming related activities. Daniel had 50 chickens, raised apples and peaches, and kept bees for their honey. He also made a small amount of money from his forest land.

By using several non-population schedules over a period of 40 years, I was able to identify changes in Daniel's livelihood. What was less obvious, was the reasons for those changes.

I used two Census publications to decipher the meaning of the non-population schedules used as sources in this post:

Agricultural Schedules: 1850 to 1890
Instructions, 1860 Decennial Census (products and industry)

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