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Historical Tidbit
Taken from Michael Upchurch 1624-1681

Grubbing Was Hard Work!
Clearing the Land in Colonial Days
by Mae Davenport Cox

Grubbing (v.) To dig up and remove all plants, roots and stems, in order to clear the land for planting or other use. To dig in the earth. To dig up by or as if by the roots. To toil arduously, drudge.

The life of a farmer wasn’t the easiest occupation, yet nearly every colonist was in some way involved in farming. Most had to rely on themselves and their children to do the backbreaking work.

Today we think of clearing a field as being done by earth movers and dynamite. In the Colonial days, the task was called grubbing, meaning to dig out stumps of trees and bushes when clearing land for planting. This was dangerous and arduous work.

Trees had to be felled and removed. Some trees were kept for the lumber to build needed barns or other structures; the rest was burned or piled to the side. Work of this type was quite slow. Felling a single large tree could take two men most of the day.

Then came the task of removing the stumps. Smaller tree stumps could be chopped, dug out, or pulled out with a team of oxen. Larger stumps were often burned, or just left to rot over several years before they could be removed.

Brush and prairie grasses had to be manually dug out. Debris and stones were removed. Once the land was cleared, work began to prepare the soil for planting. This too was no easy task as this was land that had never been touched and was frequently packed hard and tight.

The farmer, using a team of oxen or mules, drug simple plows through the fields turning the soil over. They then went back through it again and again digging deeper each time and breaking large chunks apart.

Once the clods had been broken into smaller pieces or reduced to just dirt, another implement, the harrow, was drug across the soil leveling it out. Now they were ready to begin planting!


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