Report - Kansas State Board of Agriculture, 24(94): 10-11 (1905)


The first settlement of Englishmen in North America was made on the coast of what is now the state of Virginia, in 1585, thus preceding the Pilgrim fathers by thirty-five years. Among those pioneer colonists was one Thomas Hariot, who wrote a detailed account of the natural resources and soil products of that locality. His account was published in book form in London in 1588, and two years later an edition was published in Frankfort, illustrated by De Bry, an eminent wood engraver of his time. From a copy of this last edition the following is taken, says Farm, Stock and Home. It should be found interesting as the first article ever written on Indian corn in North America, and also as a specimen of English "as she was writ" over three centuries ago:

"Pagatour, a kinde of graine so called by the inhabitants; the same in the West Indies is called Mayse. Englishmen call it Guinney wheate or Turkie wheate, according to the names of the countreys from whence the like hath beene brought. The graine is about the bignesse of our ordinary English peaze, and not much different in forme and shape, but of diuers colors; some white, some red, some yellow, and some blew. All of them yeelde a very white sweete flowre; being used according to his kind it maketh a very goode bread. We made of the same in the country some mault, whereof was brued as goode ale as was to be desired. So likewise by the helpe of hops thereof may be made as goode Beere.

"It is a graine of marveilous greate increase; of a thousand, fifteene hundred and some two thousand folde. There are three sortes, of which two are ripe in eleun or twelue weeks at the most; sometimes in ten after they are set, and are then in height of stalke about six or seuen foote. The other sorte is ripe in fourteene, and is about ten foote high; of the stalkes some beare foure heads, some three, some one and two; euery head containing fiue, sixe or seuen hundred graines within a fewe more or less. Of these graines besides bread the inhabitants make victuall eytheer by parching them or seething them whole vntill they be broken, or boyling the floure with watter into a pappe."

The planting of corn:

"Then their setting or sowing is after this manner. First for their corne, beginning in one corner of the plot, with a pecker they make a hole, wherein they put four graines with what care they touch not one another (about an inch asunder), and couer them with the moulde again, and so thorowout the whole plot, making such holes and vsing them after such manner; but with this regard that they bee made in rankes, euery ranke differing from other half a fadome or a yarde, and the holes also in euery ranke as much. By this meanes there is a yarde spare ground between euery hole; where according to discretion here and there, they set as many Beanes and Peaze, in diuers places also."

The disposition to boom a new country was evidently as strong then as now, as the following testifies:

"The ground being thus set according to the rate by vs experimented, an English Acre conteining fourtie pearches in length and foure in breadth, doth there yeeld in croppe of corn, beanes and peaze at the least two hundred London bushelles; When as in England fourtie bushelles of our wheate yeelded out of such an acre is thought to be much."