A Correspondent Theorizes about Bountiful Soils in Green Springs, 1843

[John Lewis, “Virginia Agriculture,” American Agriculturalist 2 (1843): 301:]

Dear Sir:—After a lapse of eleven years, I have paid a visit to Virginia, my native state. Feeling a deep and filial interest in her prosperity, and in the welfare of her inhabitants, many of whom are my relations and friends, and all of them a noble race of generous, hospitable, and patriotic men, my attention was naturally turned to their agriculture….

On the southern side of the southwest mountains, clover, tobacco, wheat, and corn, constitute the staples. I call clover one of the staples, because I consider it the basis of all good and profitable cultivation in that region; and it is certainly more extensively used than when I left the state. Hence the lands of those who use it are improving.

In the upper end of Louisa county, there are between ten and twelve thousand acres of land, (once in my opinion the bottom of a lake drained by the South Anna, one of the branches of the Pamunkey river,) remarkable for the production of wheat. There is perhaps no equal area of finer land for wheat in the world. They are called the Green-Springs land. Mingled with the gray argillaceous loam of these lands, there is much comminuted shot-iron ore. Can it be that this, disintegrating and mixing with the soil, attracts and fixes the ammonia, thus rendering the land so suitable for wheat? The intelligent landholders here use clover and grasses, and their lands are improving beyond their great natural fertility.

For some twenty miles below the Green Springs, the lands are very unequal in quality, and in the degree of improvement. Some judicious farmers, husbanding their manure, and cultivating clover, although growers of tobacco, are improving their lands. But the majority, I fear, are still pursuing the old ruinous system of exhausting crops without proper rotation, and without cultivated grasses to cover their naked fields. Such, when their lands are worn to the bone, and from the want of returns to the soil, will be forced to emigrate. These lands are quartz ore, with much silicious gravel.

[Relevant Component(s), National Park Service Thematic Framework: Developing the American Economy--Extraction and Production; Expanding Science and Technology--Technological Applications; Transforming the Environment--Manipulating the Environment and its Resources]

[selected and posted by NGH]

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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