Sunday, March 12, 2017

1886 - A Visit to Hiram Chapman's Farm

Hiram Chapman made a market for his seeds by wisely capitalizing on the extreme
interest farmers and beekeepers had in creating honeybee pasturage at that time.  I wrote about the interest (well deserved) in his Chapman's Honey-plant the other day.   Echinops sphaerocephalus is now on MY list of plants to add to the garden!  I wish I had acres to play with, but my plantings are more to satisfy my curiosity than to supply a significant amount of nectar to my bees.  Sort of an amuse-bouche rather than an all-you-can-eat buffet for my bees. :-)  

While the major story below does not mention his seed sales, here are two brief mentions from 1888.
Published in 1888 in Gleanings in Bee Culture: 
We have added to our list of five cent packages of honey-plant seeds the mellissa, or bee-balm, described on page 816, and the Chapman honey-plant, or globe thistle. We can furnish the seed of the latter in quantities at friend Chapman's prices, which he quotes as follows: Four ounces, $1.00; ten ounces, $2.00; one pound, $3.00.

Friend Chapman sends us the following:
A. I. Root :—The Chapman honey-plant has been placed upon the "free list".  All persons desiring the Seed can procure it by addressing Hon. Norman J. Colman, Commissioner of Agriculture; or should they desire a larger quantity than the Department of Agriculture furnishes, for experimental purposes, undoubtedly they can get it through their representative in Congress. I have been paid for the seed I furnished the Department, and I want the tax-payers to get the benefit due them. It is to be hoped that all readers of your journal will take advantage of the opportunity, and receive free some of this seed, and not permit it to waste in the Seed Department at Washington.

And here is the good story about Chapman as a farmer that was a fun to read.  It gives a feel for the times and the people involved in beekeeping and farming. It was written by Amos I. Root in 1886 for his journal Gleanings in Bee Culture, Vol. 14 in the midst of an ongoing conversation about whether it made economic sense to devote land to bee plants.  

The article was part of a series where A. I. Root visits well known bee people's farms and apiaries.  I have added the photos; there were no illustrations in the original.  And I edited out a fair amount of preaching. Root was a pious man who spread the word rather thickly.
I AM invited to meet a body of bee-men at to see the Chapman honey-plant in full bloom in York State; and as it is somewhere near father Cole's "Home on the Hillside" I propose to see the "New Agriculture" also, and so off I start this Monday morning, July 26. 

My first move is to call at the Town-Hall and be one of the first to cast a vote for the closing of the saloons in Medina. Thank God that I have at length that privilege, as one of his people, as in our text.  Then Maud takes me in the buggy to a station 12 miles away. Maud is getting to be a horse-woman, and handles Meg nicely, even if the men-folk have let her run away so many times we feared she was spoiled.   Meg went up to a watering trough: and before I knew it Maud hopped out and let down the check, instead of letting me do it. She explained that Meg would put back her ears and bite at me if I went near her, and so I stayed in the buggy.
 Meg even goes better when Maud has the lines, and I begin to suspect there is a sort of freemason understanding between them.  Perhaps Meg means to say by actions, "I have had too many masters; that is why I ran away so many times. I like Maud, and she likes me (she gives me my clover and things), and I want her to handle me."   All right! I am quite willing, if you only make the train between you.
LOC image

We pass through a small town; the storekeepers, grocers, etc.. are sitting out on the walk in easy-chairs, waiting for customers. They might be doing worse; but ought any of God's people, in these days of such great possibilities, to be sitting and waiting for any thing?  Why can't they jump up and push something!  Farmers along the road, many of them, seem content to raise the same crops (no better) that they have done year after year. Why, I couldn't live if I were not pushing on to something new, as each season comes around. In regard to waiting for customers—how can great strong men sit and wait? I would a hundred times rather follow a plow or a cultivator than to sit before a store waiting for some one to come to be waited on.

Out of town we find great fields of tobacco. While I admire the soil, and the wonderful vegetable growth these plants are making with their broad green leaves as high as the fence. I can not see how any who call themselves God's people can give their best land, and their very best manure in raising a narcotic with which to poison their fellow-men. I know it sometimes brings money; but is getting money ever to come before doing right?

Maud remarks, that the tobacco-raisers never seem to have nice houses and barns, even if the business is profitable.I bid good-by to Maud (and Meg) just ten minutes before train time, so Meg has held her reputation. 

It costs $1.25 per day extra to ride in a drawing-room car; but if I don't ride in such car I could not have the nice little table on which I am now writing to you. The roads are full of muddy water, and it is running down in muddy streams, all through Ohio and Pennsylvania, although I have not seen a drop of rain fall.  Innumerable gardens flit by us, but nothing in any of them is ahead of our own at Medina, unless it is rutabaga turnips in Pennsylvania. Next year I will try raising some so early they may be a yard across in July. Buckwheat is looking finely with the recent rains. Some of it is already in bloom, but not a tobacco-plant is to be seen in the whole country.

Olean, N. Y., is an astonishment and a wonder. Huge oil-tanks, big enough to contain large
Tank City near Olean, New York.
buildings, cover the summits and sides of the hills, and dot the valley by the hundreds, and may be thousands. Surely this must contain oil enough to light the world; in fact, Olean takes its name from oleum, meaning oil.  This oil is one of God's latest and brightest gifts to light up "Our Homes " so beautifully and at so little expense. ...

Now the train clatters along part way up the range of hills, and a beautiful valley is spread out before us. Villages, with their clean white churches; shops and stores, and many pretty houses, with well-kept gardens, ...
It has been raining, and so the white clothes are, many of them, still on the line, telling of patient, hard-working mothers, and of many little ones to be cared for.  ...

I am much impressed with the looks of the country and people in the vicinity of Chautauqua; an atmosphere seems to pervade the whole country round about;  ...  The fields are covered with beautiful grain and garden-stuff of all kinds.

The sight of Wellsville, Allegany Co.. N. Y., with its beautiful residences and thriving
This is Wellsville now! (For sale, too.)
business places, reminds me again of our text; and when I go into the house to sit down at the "Home on the Hillside" (after having explored said hillside pretty well) I discover a clean bright fire burning in the grate. As the air is a little bit chilly after the rain, and my feet are somewhat damp from my explorations over the soft soil along the hillside, the warmth seems quite comfortable; and then I discover that it is from natural gas.

"Why, dear friends, is it possible that this is natural gas, and nothing more?  And then I inquired, " And does it really give
Also, Wellsville. Photo by bfanton.
sufficient heat for the most severe winter temperatures?"

In answer to the question, the good lady of the house simply touches a lever with her foot, near the fireplace, and in a second every thing round about the grate is full of flame, and the heat pours forth in such a volume that I feel abundantly satisfied it is equal to zero weather. When the fire-bricks back of the grate began to look as if they would soon be red hot, another touch of the lever with the foot and the fire is as gentle in a second as a lamb.

Of course, I was up in the morning before anybody else (as usual), and the roaring of the fire, soon after, in the kitchen stove aroused my curiosity. Yes, they were getting breakfast with natural gas, in the same way; and when the breakfast was cooked, down went the heat instantly; no wood or coal to be lugged in; no ashes to be carried out, no smoke or litter. The stove looked as clean and innocent as if it were standing in a hardware store, nicely blacked up so as to show off to passers-by. This great and wonderful gift has all this while been slumbering in the bowels of old Mother Earth, waiting for the intelligence of man to let it out and do his bidding. Gas-pipes run along the streets of Wellsville, on top of the ground. There is no need of burying them, as the gas does not freeze up. ...

It is July 27th, in the afternoon, and I am waiting for the train at a country store. They said there was not any place to get supper at the station; but I almost always find suppers, and good ones too, and I did this time. One of the young men who clerked at the store invited me to go home with him to supper, if I would put up with what happened to be on hand. We had a very nice supper, including raspberries and cream, and ice-cream for dessert, even in an out-of-the-way country place. The grounds about this home were beautiful and tasty, and every thing bore evidence of culture and intelligence inside.  ...

NOTE!  To see what is probably this very store, go to this site! How cool is that?!

Pretty soon a pair of horses drew up to the country store, attached to a somewhat odd looking wagon. The wagon was sent by friend Chapman to get the bee-men who were to be at his convention the next day. Friend Chapman has a market-garden, so the storekeeper told me, and this was one of bis market-wagons. Although be is not so much of a market-gardener as he used to be, he has, in years past, made lots of money in the business. I felt glad I had come.

The town of Versailles, Cattaraugus Co., N. Y. is a very pleasant and romantic spot. A great river pours over the rocks, and lulls us to sleep with its roaring. A large flouring-mill, right in the center of business, and many things about the town, reminded me of the village where I lived when a boy. In the evening, boys and girls collected about the post office to get the latest news. Asa matter of course, the girls were dressed in warm-weather costumes, and some of them were very pretty; ...

Next morning, with Prof. McLain, our friend L. C. Root, W. T. Falconer, of Jamestown, N. Y., and some others whose names I have forgotten, it was my pleasure to go out among the honey-plants, even before the bees had commenced working.  Friend Chapman is a genius, and, like many other geniuses, is somewhat eccentric, he has about 175 hives of bees; and although he is progressive enough to have planted fully two acres of the Chapman honey-plant (with enough more that will have blossomed next year to make ten acres) he does not use a movable-comb hive—says he does not want any. 

Shall I tell you how he markets his honey? Well, he markets it a good deal the way he does garden-stuff. He has it stored in large boxes. He puts these boxes into his wagon, and drives to some town when there are many people on the streets. Then he cuts out his honey in chunks, puts 10 lbs. in one of a lot of cheap tin pans bought for the purpose, and tells the passers-by, "Here, you can have ten pounds of this beautiful nice honey, tin pan and all, for an even dollar."  The price is so low, and friend Chapman is such an old hand at the business, that he sells out his whole load in a couple of hours, and goes home with his pocket full of dollars.  It is cutting down prices, I know; but it is his way of doing. 

Well, I was a little incredulous about finding that 175 colonies could gather honey enough from two acres from any plant so the bees would store honey in sections. By the way, friend Chapman now uses one-pound sections in place of the large boxes he formerly used; but his hives are still box hives; that is, the brood apartment is. The honey-plants stand in long rows, and are cultivated like other market-garden stuff the first year. When they first begin to bloom, but little attention is given them. The plant is so hardy that he says the drought killed all the weeds, but did not hurt the plant, and I guess he is right about it. They were growing finely on hard hillside gravel. 

Friend Chapman has, however, some beautiful land for market gardening, and I think he had the finest patch of cantaloupe muskmelons I ever saw in my life. Although there were several thousand hills, each hill was planted under a box perhaps a foot square and six inches high. Over this box a pane of glass is laid. Melons used to be one of his great specialties, before they brought in so many from the South; but he still makes considerable money from them yet.

At one side of the house, and near the street, I noticed, under a grove of maples, some queer-looking tables painted white. One table was square, with an opening inside, where a workman could stand; the other table was round, with a similar opening. Both tables were surrounded with beautiful maple-trees, evidently planted expressly for the benefit of the tables, for those around the square table were planted at regular distances, in the form of a square; those at the round table in the same way, only they were in the form of a circle. Some of these trees were eight or ten inches in diameter. 

Friend Chapman remarked, in answer to the question, that these tables were for washing and packing garden-stuff. They did excellent service on this 28th day of July, for our bee-convention. Seats and chairs were arranged for the company. Sections of honey, gathered from the Chapman honey-plant, were on the tables—enough for all. An organ placed on the porch, a little on one side, was well supported by singers of no mean talent; and between the speeches we had good music. 

The audience was mostly composed of the people from the country round about—friends of Mr. Chapman, and anybody who cared to come, who bad heard of his famous honey-plant. Prof. McLain spoke first, and gave us many facts that were new and valuable. He is employed by the U. S. government, as you may know, to investigate and develop whatever is worthy pertaining to bee culture. Our friend L. C. Root also gave us one of his happiest talks, and I felt sorry all through it that we could not have had a shorthand writer to give it in full to our nation of bee-keepers. Your humble servant spoke briefly between the two. He tried to tell the people of God's various gifts to mankind; of the honey to be had for the gathering; of the fruits of the soil, and, later, of the oil and gas of which I have spoken before, and finally of the new honey-plants that bear honey of such quality and quantity that it will pay to raise them for the honey alone.  I spoke of the way in which God seems to call us to exercise our talents and abilities in different field. and of the peculiar way in which these calls sometimes come. 

Friend Chapman, with his oddities, feels called upon by some invisible power to use his rare skill in market gardening, toward introducing and disseminating this wonderful new honey-plant. Prof. McLain had told us that its name is Echinops sphaerocephalus signifying "round - headed hedgehog" and that the place of its nativity was in the south of France. 
How should it come here? Even friend Chapman could not tell us, further than that he presumed it was among some specimens be had collected while on a visit to Florida or the Bermuda Islands. 

While traveling it had been his habit to save specimens of plants. Well, after these dried-up specimens had lain a long time in an old sack in the garret, or some such place, Mrs. Chapman suggested, like a good housewife, that it might as well be thrown away or burned up. Accordingly the sack was turned inside out, and shaken on one corner of the garden. Finally this queer plant came up, and friend Chapman noticed how eager the bees were to visit it. 

Mr. Hubbard, a neighbor of his, who has been assisting him in his experiments with his honey-plant, told us, in a brief little speech, that he just counted, for an experiment, the bees that visited a single ball of the Chapman honey-plant during just one day. How many bees do you suppose came to this one blossom, or ball of blossoms? Well, it was 2135. 
Of course, an assistant watched the blossom while be got his dinner and supper.

 To further test the quantity of honey secreted, some paper bags had been tied over the blossoms, two days before the convention. These papers were taken off, and the balls seemed as if they had been dipped in honey —good thick honey too. Since coming home I have tried the same experiment. The honey, as it first oozes from the nectaries, is first thin, like sweetened water; but during 48 hours of our hot July and August days it becomes as thick as honey in the comb. The flavor is a very pure sweet—much like simple syrup, only it has a slight flavor, which we all pronounce very pleasant. I think it will rank equal to white clover or linden. In closing my talk I spoke of all these valuable qualities belonging to this plant, and repeated my text in connection with the thought of God's promises and purposes to us his children. 

As friend Chapman has expended a good deal of money experimenting with this plant, he prefers to control the sale of the seed—at least for several years. This year it will be offered in packages of half an ounce each for $1.00. No smaller quantity is to be sold. Below we give a cut of it.

In regard to the plant (to the right) I submit the following letter from friend Cook:

Dear Mr. Editor:—You will remember that Mr. Chapman, of Versailles, N. Y., exhibited at the Detroit meeting a honey-plant which he said commenced to bloom just at the close of the basswood season, and was of rare excellence as a honey-plant, both as regards quantity and quality of honey which is furnished. 

          Video of bees working basswood.
Upon examinationI found this to be Echinops spherocephalus of Central France. I am indebted to Dr. W. J. Beal for the determination. 
Through the kindness of Mr. Chapman I secured a number of the plants in the spring. These were set out the last of April, and though the season has been terribly dry they have grown on light sand most vigorously;  are magnificent plants, and are loaded with globe-like flower-heads. The plant looks some like a thistle, as we might expect, as it is a composite plant. The flowers opened July 30, and each ball has a great many flowers, each of which must be visited many times a day by the bees; indeed, the flowers are alive with bees from early morn till late in the evening. Surely this thing of beauty is a joy in a double sense. A. J. Cook.Agricultural College, Mich. July 23, 1886

The name is from the Greek, echinops, signifying hedgehog, and the plant is almost exactly like a big thrifty thistle, only it bears round balls, as seen in the engraving. The latter part of the name means "roundheaded." Now, if this plant furnished honey right along, day after day, for as many months as the figwort does, it would probably be ahead of any plant known on the face of the earth. The spider-plant furnishes a larger quantity of nectar, but it is secreted only in the night, and gives us nothing in the daytime. It is also so thin and watery that the amount of saccharine matter is probably not as great as in the Chapman plant. 

 The Chapman plant yields honey about 20 days; but by mowing off the tops it can easily be made 20 days later; it is also much hardier than the spider plant, and would probably grow on poor soil where even the figwort would not amount to much. There have been more bees at work on our patch of figwort for the last 60 days than I ever saw anywhere on the Chapman honey-plant; but the honey is not nearly so thick as that from the latter. 

It may be a nice point to determine which plant would be most profitable. The Chapman plant will continue to blossom and yield honey for three years, after it is once started. Dr. C. C. Miller, who has experimented considerably, can probably aid us right here; and in any case we can thank God for this new revelation in regard to the possibilities of cultivating plants for honey alone. Of course, friend Chapman's bees were not all at work in sections; but colonies having young queens just commencing to lay were storing at a pretty fair rate, and the sections of honey placed on the table for examination were taken from one of these colonies.

The social element at friend Chapman's model bee-keepers convention was a decided success; and I echoed the thought of our friend L. C. Root, that it would be an excellent thing if we could have more just such informal open-air meetings of beekeepers. "By this shall ye be known of all men, that ye have love one to another." And how better can we demonstrate to the great Father above that we are trying to look up in the spirit of our text to-day than by showing our good will to each other