Minor punctuation errors have been changed without notice. Printer errors have been changed and are listed at the end. All other inconsistencies are as in the original.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE COUNTRY COMMUNITY
THE EVOLUTION OF
A STUDY IN RELIGIOUS SOCIOLOGY
WARREN H. WILSON
THE PILGRIM PRESS BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
Copyright, 1912, BY LUTHER H. CARY
THE PILGRIM PRESS BOSTON
MISS ANNA B. TAFT
WHO FOUND THE WAY OF
IN SERVICE ON THE NEGLECTED BORDERS OF
NEW ENGLAND TOWNS
The significance of the most significant things is rarely seized at the moment of their appearance. Years or generations afterwards hindsight discovers what foresight could not see.
It is possible, I fear it is even probable, that earnest and intelligent leaders of organized religious activity, like thousands of the rank and file in parish work, will not immediately see the bearings and realize the full importance of the ideas and the purposes that are clearly set forth in this new and original book by my friend and sometime student, Dr. Warren H. Wilson. That fact will in no wise prevent or even delay the work which these ideas and purposes are mapping out and pushing to realization.
The Protestant churches have completed one full and rounded period of their existence. The age of theology in which they played a conspicuous part has passed away, never to return. The world has entered into the full swing of the age of science and practical achievement. What the work, the usefulness, and the destiny of the Protestant churches shall henceforth be will depend entirely upon their own vision, their common sense, and their adaptability to a new order of things. Embodying as they do resources, organization, the devotion and the energy of earnest minds, they are in a position to achieve results of wellnigh incalculable value if they apply themselves diligently and wisely to the task of holding communities and individuals up to the high standard of that "Good Life" which the most gifted social philosopher of all ages told us, more than two thousand years ago, is the object for which social activities and institutions exist.
In one vast field of our social territory the problem of maintaining the good life has become peculiar in its conditions and difficult in the extreme. The rural community has suffered in nearly every imaginable way from the rapid and rather crude development of our industrial civilization. The emigration of strong, ambitious men to the towns, the substitution of alien labor for the young and sturdy members of the large American families of other days, the declining birth rate and the disintegration of a hearty and cheerful neighborhood life, all have worked together to create a problem of the rural neighborhood, the country school and the country church unique in its difficulties, sometimes in its discouragements.
To deal with this problem two things are undeniably necessary. There must be a thorough examination of it, a complete analysis and mastery of its factors and conditions. The social survey has become as imperative for the country pastor as the geological survey is for the mining engineer. And when the facts and conditions are known, the church must resolutely set about the task of dealing with them in the practical spirit of a practical age, without too much attention to the traditions and the handicaps of an age that has gone by.
It would not be possible, I think, to present these two aspects of the problem of the country parish with more of first hand knowledge, or with more of the wisdom that is born of sympathy and reverence for all that is good in both the past and the present than the reader will find in Dr. Wilson's pages. I welcome and commend this book as a fine product of studies and labors at once scientific and practical.
FRANKLIN H. GIDDINGS.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I THE PIONEER 1
II THE LAND FARMER 18
III THE EXPLOITER 32
IV THE HUSBANDMAN 48
V EXCEPTIONAL COMMUNITIES 62
VI GETTING A LIVING 79
VII THE COMMUNITY 91
VIII THE MARGIN OF THE COMMUNITY 108
IX NEWCOMERS IN THE COMMUNITY 123
X CO-OPERATION 142
XI COMMON SCHOOLS 158
XII RURAL MORALITY 171
XIII RECREATION 189
XIV COMMON WORSHIP 208
The church and the school are the eyes of the country community. They serve during the early development of the community as means of intelligence and help to develop the social consciousness, as well as to connect the life within the community with the world outside. They express intelligence and feeling. But when the community has come to middle life, even though it be normally developing, the eyes fail. They are infallible registers of the coming of mature years. At this time they need a special treatment.
Like the eyes, the country church and country school register the health of the whole organism. Whatever affects the community affects the church and the school. The changes which have come over the face of social life in the country record themselves in the church and the school. These institutions register the transformations in social life, they indicate health and they give warning of decay. In a few instances the church or school require the attention of the expert even in the infancy of the community, just as the eyes of a child sometimes need the oculist, but with normal growth the expert is called in for problems which have to do with maturity.
In these chapters the center of attention will be the church, regarded as an institution for building and organizing country life. It is not the thought of the writer that the church be treated in ecclesiastical terms. It is rather as a register of the well-being of the community that the church is here studied. The condition of the church is regarded as an index of the social and economic condition of the people. The sources of religion are believed by the writer to be in the vital experiences of the people themselves. In the process of religious experience the church, the Bible, the ministry and other religious methods and organizations are means of disciplining the forces of religion, but they are not the sources of religion.
The church in the country above all other institutions should see what concerns country people as a whole. If vision be not given to the church, country people will suffer. The Christian churches are rich in the experience of country people. The Bible is written about a "Holy Land." The exhortations of Scripture, especially of the Old Testament, are devoted to constructive sociology, the building and organizing of an agricultural people in an Asiatic country. Many of the problems are oriental, but some of them are precisely the same as are today agitating the American farmer. Religion is the highest valuation set upon life, and the country church should have a vision of the present meaning as well as the future development of country life in America.
The country church ought to inspire. It is the business of other agencies, and particularly of the schools and colleges, to impart practical and economic aims. But these will not satisfy country people. No section of modern life is so dependent upon idealism as are the people who live in the country. Mere cash prosperity puts an end to residence in most country communities. Commercial success leads toward the city. The religious leaders alone have the duty of inspiring country people with ideals higher than the commercial. It remains for the church in particular to inspire with social idealism. Education seems hopelessly individualistic. The schoolmaster can see only personalities to be developed. It remains for the preacher to develop a kingdom and a commonwealth. His ideals have been those of an organized society. The tradition which he inherits from the past is saturated with family, tribal and national remembrances. His exhortations for the future look to organized social life in the world to come. He should know how to construct ideals out of modern life, which are organic and social.
Beyond these two duties I am not sure that the churches in the country have exceptional function. The writer is not a teacher, and what is said in this book about the country school is said solely because of the dependence of all else upon this institution. The patient, detailed and extensively constructive work in the country must be done by the educator. It is well for the church to recognize its limits, and to magnify its own function within them. Vision and inspiration are the duty of religious leaders. The application of these in a variety of ways to the generations of young people in the country is an educational task which the church can do only in part.
But the great necessity of arousing the church at the present time to its duty as a builder of communities in the country is this. In all parts of the United States country life is furnished with churches. Perhaps not in sufficient degree in some localities, but in general the task of religious organization is done. These religious societies hold the key to the problem of country life. If they oppose modern socialized ideals in the country, these ideals cannot penetrate the country. If the church undertake constructive social service in the country, the task will be done. The church can oppose effectively; it can support efficiently. This situation lays a vast responsibility upon all Christian churches, especially upon those that have an educated ministry; for the future development of the country community as a good place in which to live depends upon the country church.
This is not the place to discuss whether a population can be improved and whether a community can be saved. The pages that are to follow will discuss these questions. It is the writer's belief that a population can be improved by social service, that the community is the unit in which such service should be rendered in the country, and that by the vision and inspiration of the church in the country, this service is conditioned. He believes with those who are leading in the service among the poor in the great cities that the time has come when we have sufficient intelligence to understand the life of country people, in order to deal with the causes of human action; we have sufficient resources wherewith to endow the needed agencies for the reconstruction of country life; and we have a sufficient devotion among men of intelligence and of means to direct this constructive social service toward the entire well-being of country people and of the whole commonwealth.
The writer is indebted for help in the preparation of this book to Miss Florence M. Lane, Miss Martha Wilson and to Miss Anna B. Taft, without whose assistance and criticism the chapters could not have been prepared and without whose encouragement they would not have been undertaken; also to his teachers in Columbia University, especially Professors Franklin H. Giddings and John Bates Clark whose teachings in the Social Sciences furnish the beginning of a new method in investigating religious experiences.
NEW YORK, July, 1912.
EVOLUTION OF THE COMMUNITY
The earliest settlers of the American wilderness had a struggle very different from our own, who live in the twentieth century. Their economic experience determined their character. They appear to us at this distance to have common characteristics, habits and reactions upon life; in which they differ from all who in easier times follow them. They have more in common with one another than they have in common with us. They differ less from one another than they differ from the modern countryman. The pioneer life produced the pioneer type.
To this type all their ways of life correspond. They hunted, fought, dressed, traded, worshipped in their own way. Their houses, churches, stores and schools were built, not as they would prefer, but as the necessities of their life required. Their communities were pioneer communities: their religious habits were suitable to frontier experience. Modern men would find much to condemn in their ways: and they would find our typical reactions surprising, even wicked. But each conforms to type, and obeys economic necessity.
There have been four economic types in American agriculture. These have succeeded one another as the rural economy has gone through successive transformations. They have been the pioneer, the land farmer, the exploiter and the husbandman. Prof. J. B. Ross of Lafayette, Ind., has clearly stated the periods by which these types are separated from one another. It remains for us to consider the communities and the churches which have taken form in accordance with these successive types.
Prof. Ross has spoken only of the Middle West. With a slight modification, the same might be said of the Eastern States, because the rural economy of the Middle West is inherited from the East. His statement made of this succession of economic types should be quoted in full:
"The agrarian occupation of the Middle West divides itself into three periods. The first, which extends from the beginnings of immigration to about the year 1835, is of significance chiefly because of the type of immigrants who preempted the soil and the nature of their occupancy. The second period, extending from 1835 to 1890, had as its chief objective the enrichment of the group life. It was the period in which large houses and commodious barns were erected, and in which the church and the school were the centers of social activity. The third period, which began about the year 1890, and which is not yet complete, is marked by a transition from the era of resident proprietors of the land to that of non-resident proprietors, and by the fact that the chief attention of the land owners is paid to the improvement of the soil by fertilization and drainage and to the increasing of facilities for communication and for the marketing of farm products."
Each of these types created by the habits of the people in getting their living, had its own kind of a community, so that we have had pioneer, land farmer, exploiter and husbandman communities. Indeed all these types are now found contemporaneous with one another. We have also had successive churches built by the pioneer, by the land farmer, by the exploiter and by the husbandman. The present state of the country church and community is explained best by saying that it is an effect of transition from the pioneer and the land farmer types of church and community to the exploiter and husbandman types.
The pioneer lived alone. He placed his cabin without regard to social experience. In the woods his axe alone was heard and on the prairie the smoke from his sod house was sometimes answered by no other smoke in the whole horizon. He worked and fought and pondered alone. Self-preservation was the struggle of his life, and personal salvation was his aspiration in prayer. His relations with his fellows were purely democratic and highly independent. The individual man with his family lived alone in the face of man and God. The following is a description by an eye witness of such a community which preserves in a mountain country the conditions of pioneer life.
"It is pitiful to see the lack of co-operation among them. It is most evident in business but makes itself known in the children, too. I regard it as one reason why they do not play; they have been so isolated that they do not allow the social instinct of their natures to express itself. This, of course, is all unconsciously done on their part. However, one cannot live long among them without finding out that they are characterized by an intense individualism. It applies to all that they do, and to it may be attached the blame for all the things which they lack or do wrongfully. If a man has been wronged, he must personally right the wrong. If a man runs for office, people support him as a man and no questions are asked as to his platform. If a man conducts a store, people buy from him because he sells the goods, not because the goods commend themselves to them. And so by common consent and practise, the individual interests are first. Naturally this leads to many cases of lawlessness. The game of some of our people is to evade the law; of others, to ignore the law entirely."
The pioneer had in his religion but one essential doctrine,—the salvation of the soul. His church had no other concern than to save individuals from the wrath to come. It had just one method, an annual revival of religion.
The loneliness of the pioneer's soul is an effect of his bodily loneliness. The vast outdoors of nature forest or prairie or mountain, made him silent and introspective even when in company. The variety of impacts of nature upon his bodily life made him resourceful and self-reliant; and upon his soul resulted in a reflective, melancholy egotism. His religion must therefore begin and end in personal salvation. It was a message, an emotion, a struggle, and a peace.
The second great characteristic of the pioneer was his emotional tension. His impulses were strong and changeable. The emotional instability of the pioneer grew out of his mixture of occupations. It was necessary for him to practise all the trades. In the original pioneer settlement this was literally true. In later periods of the settlement of the land the pioneer still had many occupations and representative sections of the country even until the present time exhibit a mixture of occupations among country people most unlike the ordered life of the Eastern States. Adam Smith in "Wealth of Nations" makes clear that the practise of many occupations induces emotional conditions. Between each two economic processes there is generated for the worker at varied trades a languor, which burdens and confuses the work of the man who practises many trades. This languor is the source of the emotional instability of the pioneer.
The pioneer's method of bridging the gap between his many occupations was simple. When he had been hunting he found it hard to go to plowing: and if plowing, on the same day to turn to tanning or to mending a roof. When the pioneer had spent an hour in bartering with a neighbor he found it difficult to turn himself to the shoeing of a horse or the clearing of land. For this new effort his expedient was alcohol. He took a drink of rum as a means of forcing himself to the new occupation. The result is that alcoholic liquors occupy a large place in the economy of every such pioneer people.
In the mountain regions of the South, where the pioneer remains as an arrested type, the rum jug occupies the same place in the economy of the countryman as it occupied in the early settlements of the United States generally. These "contemporary ancestors" of ours in the Appalachian region have all the marks of the pioneer. Their simple life, their varied occupations, and the relative independence of the community and household, sufficient unto themselves, present a picture of the earlier American conditions. It is obvious among them that the emotional condition of the pioneer grew out of his economy and extended itself into his church.
This emotional instability of the pioneer shows itself in his social life. The well known feuds of the mountain people exhibit this condition. Feeling is at once violent and impulsive. The very reserve of these unsmiling and serious people is an emotional state, for the meager diet and heavy continued strains of their economic life poorly supply and easily exhaust vitality.
The frontier church exhibited emotional variability. It expressed itself in the pioneer's one method; namely, an annual revival of religion. In the pioneer churches there were few or no Sunday schools or other societies. In those regions in which the pioneer has remained the type of economic life Sunday schools do not thrive. Societies for young people, for men, women and children do not there exist. The church is a place only for preaching. Religion consists of a message whose use is to excite emotion. Preaching is had as often as possible, but not necessarily once a week. Essential, however, to the pioneer's organization of his churches is a periodical if possible an annual, revival of religion. The means used at this time are the announcement of a gospel message and the arousing of emotion in response to this message. There is little application of religious imperative to the details of life. There is no recognition of social life, because the pioneer economy is lonely and individual. The whole process of religion consists in "coming through": in other words, the procuring of an individual and highly personal experience of emotion.
"Beneath the surface of life in these people so conservative, and so indifferent to change as it is, there runs a strain of intense emotionalism. When storms disturb the calm exterior, the mad waves lash and beat and roar. And in religion this is most apparent. With them emotionalism and religion are almost interchangeable quantities,—if they are not identical.
"It is in the revival service that you see the heart of the stolid mountain man unmasked. The local mountain preachers know this fact well and use it with great effect. A word must be said about these men who work all through the week alongside of their fellows and preach to them on Sunday. In some places there is a custom of holding service on Saturday and Sunday. These men have generally 'come through'—a term used to describe the process beginning with 'mourning' and continuing through repenting and being saved. And generally they are men of personality. They have a certain power with men, anyway, and they are keen to see the effect of things on their audiences. Some of them have learned to read the Bible after they have been converted. It is not so much what they say that counts. If people looked for that they would go away unfilled. But they have another thing in mind. They want to feel right. They go to church occasionally during revival drought, but always during revival plenty. They go to get 'revived up.' The preacher who has the best voice is the best preacher. He sways his audience. The more ignorant he is, the better, for then the Spirit of God is not hindered by the wisdom of man. The spirit comes upon him when he enters the pulpit. He speaks through him to the waiting congregation. Of course they do not know what he is saying for the man makes too much noise. But they begin to feel that this is indeed the place where religion can be found and where it is being distributed among the people.
"Generally revivals occur as they have always done, about three times a year. At these services the method requires that exhorters should be present and perform. Several do so at the same time. The confusion is great but the people breathe an atmosphere that begins to infect them. Sooner or later weeping women are in the arms of some others' husbands begging them to come to the mourning bench. Young girls single out the boys that they like best and affectionately implore them to begin the Christian life. All the time the choir is singing a swinging revival hymn; the preacher is standing over his audience shouting 'Get busy, sinners,' and two or three boys are scurrying back and forth carrying water to the thirsty ones, while little groups of the faithful are hovering over a penitent, smothering sinner, trying to 'pull her through.' During this kind of a meeting which I attended at one time a woman 'got happy' and went around slapping everyone she could get her hand on, and skipping like a schoolgirl."
The pioneer church has not fully passed away. Its one doctrine and its one method have still a place in the more elaborate life of the modern church. Like the rum jug which is preserved for medicinal purposes, the revival has a use in the pathology of modern church life. The doctrine of personal salvation which is of chief concern, in the ministry to the adolescent population of the modern church, is just as vital as ever; though it is not the only doctrine of the church of the husbandman, which has come in the country.
A relic of the pioneer days is the custom known as the "Group System." By this a preacher comes to a church once a month, or twice, and preaches a sermon, returning promptly to his distant place of residence. The early settlers of this country who originated this system were lonely and individualized. They believed that religion consisted in a mere message of salvation, so that all they required was to hear from a preacher once in a while.
But the districts in which the "Group System" is used have grown beyond this religious satisfaction and the "Group System" no longer renders adequate religious service. Religion has become a greater ministry than can be rendered in the form of a message, however well preached.
Like all outworn customs, this one breeds abuses as it grows older. Its value having passed away, it has forms of offensiveness. In sections of Missouri where the farmers are rich they say with contempt, "None of the ministers lives in the country." The "Group System," in a territory of Missouri comprising forty-one churches, organizes its forces as follows: these forty-one churches have nine ministers who live in five communities and go out two miles, ten miles, sometimes thirty miles, in various directions, for a fractional service to other communities than those in which they live. Each of the two big towns has more than one minister and none of the country churches has a pastor. Thus the value of the family life of the preacher is cancelled. After all this organization and division of the men into small fractions among the churches, there are sixteen of these churches which have neither pastor nor preacher.
This "Group System" can be improved, as is done in Tennessee, by the shortening of the journeys which must be made by the minister from his home to his preaching point. Nevertheless, it gives to the country community only a fraction of a man's time. He can interpret religion in only three ways; in the sermon, the funeral service and the wedding. Unfortunately mankind has to do many other things besides getting married, buried or preached at.
The country community needs a pastor. It is better for the minister who preaches to the country to live in the country. There are some parts which cannot support a pastor, but the minister to country churches should know the daily round of country life. Religion can never be embodied in a sermon; and when religion comes to be limited to a formal act it is tinged with suspicion in the eyes of most men. Sermons and funerals and weddings become to country people the windows by which religion flies out of the community. Especially among farmers, religion is a matter of every-day life. What religion the farmer has grows out of his yearly struggle with the soil and with the elements. His belief in God is a belief in Providence. His God is the creator of the sun and the seasons, the wind and the rain. The man who does not with him share these experiences cannot long interpret them for him in terms of scripture or of church.
The policy of the newer territories of the church must be to translate the "Group System" into pastorates. The long range group service should be transformed into short and compact group ministry; the pastor should live in the country community and the length of his journey should never be longer than his horse can drive. A group of churches which are not more than ten miles apart constitute a country parish. Some few active ministers are able to make thirty to forty miles on horseback on a Sunday, among a scattered people. This is well, but as soon as the railroad becomes an essential factor in the monthly visit of ministers to the country, religion passes out of that community.
The service of the country preacher, in other words, is essentially confined to the country community, and the bounds of the country community are determined by the length of the team haul or horseback ride to which that population is accustomed. Within these bounds religious life and expression are possible. Immersed in his own community, the life of the minister and of his family attain immediate religious value. The whole influence of the minister's home, the service of his wife to the people, which is often greater than his own, and the development of his children's life, these are all of religious use to his people.
A recent speaker upon this matter said, "I doubt if even the Lord Jesus Christ could have saved this world if he had come down to it only once in two weeks on Saturday and gone back on Monday morning."
The pastor, then, is the type of community builder needed in the country. The pastor works with a maximum of sincerity, while sincerity may in preaching be reduced to the lowest terms. He is in constant, intimate, personal contact. The preacher is dealing with theories and ideals not always rooted in local experiences. The pastor lives the life of the people. He is known to them and their lives are known to him. The preacher may perform his oratorical ministry through knowledge of populations long since dead and by description of foreign and alien countries. It is possible to preach acceptably about kingdoms that have not yet existed. But the work of a pastor is the development of ideals out of situations. It is his business to inspire the daily life of his people with high idealism and to construct those aspirations and imaginations out of the daily work of mankind, which are proper to that work and essential to that people.
An illustrious example of such ministry is that of John Frederick Oberlin, whose pastorate at Waldersbach in the Vosges consisted of a service to his people in their every need, from the building of roads to the organization and teaching of schools. It would have been impossible for Oberlin to have served these people through preaching alone. Being a mature community, indeed old in suffering and in poverty, they needed the ministry of a pastor, and this service he rendered them in the immersion of his life with theirs, and the bearing of their burdens, even the most material and economic burden of the community, upon his shoulders.
The passing away of pioneer days discredits the ministry of mere preaching, through increasing variation of communities, families and individuals. The preacher's message is not widely varied. It is the interpreting of tradition, gospel and dogma. His sources can all be neatly arranged on a book shelf. One suspects that the greater the preacher, the fewer his books. On the contrary, the pastor's work is necessitated by growing differences of his people. He must be all things to many different kinds of men. In the country community this intimate intercourse and varying sympathy take him through a wider range of human experience than in a more classified community. He must plow with the plowman, and hunt with the hunter, and converse with the seamstress, be glad with the wedding company and bear the burden of sorrow in the day of death. Moreover, nobody outside a country community knows how far a family can go in the path to poverty and still live. No one knows how eccentric and peculiar, how reserved and whimsical the life of a household may be, in the country community, unless he has lived as neighbor and friend to such a household. The preacher cannot know this. Not all the experience of the world is written even in the Bible. The spirit shall "teach us things to come." It is the pastor who learns these things by his daily observation of the lives of men.
The communities themselves in the country differ widely, even in conformity to given types, and when all is said by the general student, the pastor has the knowledge of his own community. It belongs peculiarly to him. No one else can ever know it and there are no two communities alike. In the intense localism of a community, its religious history is hidden away and its future is involved. The man who shall touch the springs of the community's life must know these local conditions with the intimate detail which only he commands who daily goes up and down its paths. This man is the pastor. Except the country physician, no other living man is such an observer as he.
The end of the pioneer days means, therefore, to religious people, the establishment of the pastorate. The religious leader for the pioneer was the preacher, but the community which clings to preaching as a satisfactory and final religious ministry is retrograde. In this retarding of religious progress is the secret of the decline of many communities. The great work of ministering to them is in supplanting the preacher, who renders but a fractional service to the people, by a pastor whose preaching is an announcement of the varied ministry in which he serves as the cure of souls.
The pioneer days are gone. Only in the Southern Appalachian region are there arrested communities in which, in our time, the ways of our American ancestors are seen. The community builder cannot change the type of his people. He can only wait for the change, and enable his people to conform to the new type. For this process new industries, new ways of getting a living are necessary. The teacher or pastor can do something to guide his people in the selection of constructive instead of destructive industry.
In East Tennessee and in the mountain counties of North Carolina lumbering industries are for the time being employing the people. The result will be a deeper impoverishment; for the timber is the people's greatest source of actual and potential wealth. The leaders of the mountain people should teach reforestation with a view to maintaining the people's future wealth.
In a mountain county of Kentucky a minister seeing that his people needed a new economic life, before they could receive the religious life of the new type, organized an annual county fair. To this he brought, with the help of outside friends, a breed of hogs better than his mountain people knew. He cultivated competition in local industries, weaving and cooking; and started his people on the path of economic success of a new type.
In conclusion, the pioneer was individualistic and emotional. These traits were caused by his economic experience. While that experience lasted, he could be made no other sort of man than this. To this type his home and his business life and his church conformed. Within these characteristics the efficiency of his social life was to be found.
[Footnote 1: "The Agrarian Changes in the Middle West," by J. B. Ross, in American Journal of Economics, December, 1910.]
[Footnote 2: Rev. Norman C. Schenck.]
[Footnote 3: Rev. Norman C. Schenck.]
[Footnote 4: "Youth," by G. Stanley Hall.]
[Footnote 5: Story of John Frederick Oberlin by Augustus Field Beard, 1909.]
THE LAND FARMER
I shall use the term land farmer to describe the man who tilled the soil in all parts of the country after pioneer days. He is usually called simply the farmer. This is the type with which we are most familiar in our present day literature and in dramatic representations of the country. The land farmer, or farmer, is the typical countryman who in the Middle West about 1835 succeeded the pioneer, and about 1890 was followed by the exploiter of the land.
In the Eastern States pioneer days ended before 1835. The land farmer was the prevailing type throughout New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as early as 1800. In the South the contemporary of the land farmer was the planter or slave holder. The modified type in the South was due to an economic difference. The labor problem was solved in the South by chattel slavery; in the North by the wage system. It is true that throughout much of the South the small farmer held his own. These men conformed to the type of the land farmer. But in the South they did not dominate social and political life as the slave holder did. In the Eastern States the whole social economy was, until a generation after the Civil War, dominated by the land farmer.
The characteristics of the land farmer are: first, his cultivation of the first values of the land. His order of life is characterized by initial utility. He lived in a time of plenty. The abundance of nature, which was to the pioneer a detriment, was to the land farmer a source of wealth. He tilled the soil and he cut the timber, he explored the earth for mines, seeking everywhere the first values of a virgin land. As these first values were exhausted, he moved on to new territories. All his ideas of social life were those of initial utility. The rich man was the standard and the admired citizen. The policies of government were dominated by the ideas of a land holding people. Individualism proceeded on radiating lines from any given center. The development of personality is the clue to the history of that period.
The second characteristic of the land farmer was his development of the family group. He differed from the pioneer, whose life was lonely and individual, in the perfection of group life in his period. He differs from the exploiter who succeeds him in the country today in the fact that exploitation has dissolved the family group. The experience of the land farmer compacted and perfected the household group in the country. The beginnings of this group life were in the pioneer period, but there was not peace in which the family could develop nor were there resources by which it could be endowed. The classic period of American home life is that of the land farmer. The typical American home, as it lives in sentiment, in literature and in idealism, is the home of the land farmer.
Third, the land farmer owned his home. He built upon his farm a homestead which in most cases represented his ideal of domestic and family comfort. He built for permanence. So far as his means permitted he provided for his children and for generations of descendants after them. He consecrated the soil to his people and to his name by setting apart a graveyard on his own land, and there he buried his dead.
Fourth, the land farmer had neighbors. His well-developed family group would not have been possible without other groups in the same community and the independence of the family group was relative, being perfected by imitation and economic competition. The land-farmer type came to maturity only when the whole of the land was possessed, when on every side the family group was confronted with other family groups, and neighborliness became universal. The family group is dependent through intermarriage and relationship upon other groups in the community. Family relationships thus came in the land-farmer communities to be very general. Some rough and crude forms of economic co-operation also grew up in this period, as modifications of the competition on which the land-farmer type is based.
"The farmer type produced a definite social life," says Prof. Ross. "The second period, extending from 1835 to 1890, had as its chief objective the enrichment of the group life."
Fifth, the land farmer competed, by group conflict, with his neighbors. Property was regarded by the land farmer as a family possession. Competition was between group and group, between household and household. The moral strength as well as the moral deficiencies of this type of man flow from this competition. He considered himself essentially bounden to the members of his own group by obligations and free from moral obligations to others. The son received no wages from his father for work on the farm and the daughter did not dream of pay or of an allowance for her labor in the house. The land farmer conceived of his estate as belonging to his family group and embodied in himself. Therefore he had no wage obligations to son or daughter and he felt himself obliged so to distribute his property as to care for all the members of his household. This economic competition compacted the family group and formed the basis for the social economy of the country community. The land farmer had no ideal of community prosperity. His thought for generations has been to make his own farm prosperous, to raise some crop that others shall not raise, to have a harvest that other men have not and to find a market which other men have not discovered, by which he and his farm and his group may prosper. It is hard to convince the land farmer, because of his immersion in this group conflict, that the farmer's prosperity is dependent upon the prosperity of other groups in the community.
The presence of the small group is the sign of normal social life. The group is not complete in itself, but is a unit in human association. So that the farmer economy had its social life and its own type of communities. The economy of the farmer period represents the ideals born in the pioneer nation. The community of the farmer is the destination of the life of the pioneer. The farmer still practises a variety of occupations. His tillage of the soil and his household economy are the most conservative in all American population. He uses modern machinery in the fields, but to a great degree his wife uses the old mechanisms in the kitchen and in the household. The laborers employed on the farm are received into the farmer's family under conditions of social equality. The man who is this year a laborer may in a decade be a farmer. The dignifying of personality with land ownership has been such a general social experience in the country that every individual is thought of in the farmer period as a potential landowner.
The institutions of the rural community of the land-farmer type are the country store, the rural school, and the church. The country store deals in general merchandise and is a natural outgrowth of the stores of the pioneer period in which barter constituted the whole of the commerce of the community. In the pioneer store but a few commodities were imported from the outer world. The greater part of the merchandise was made in the community and distributed in the store. But the farmer's rural economy is the dawning of the world economy and the general store in the farming community becomes an economic institution requiring great ability and centering in itself the forces of general as well as local economics.
The general storekeeper of this type in the country is at once a business man, a money lender, an employer of labor and the manager of the social center. He sells goods at a price so low as to maintain his local trade against outside competition. He loans money on mortgages throughout the community, and sells goods on credit. Judgment of men and of properties is so essential to his business that if he can not judiciously loan and give credit he cannot maintain a country store. Around his warm stove in the winter and at his door in summer gather the men of the community for discussion of politics, religion and social affairs. In addition to all else, he has been usually the postmaster of the community.
The one-room rural school which is the prevailing type throughout the country is a product of the land-farmer period. Its prevalence shows that we are still in land-farmer conditions: and the criticism to which it is now subjected indicates that we are conscious of a new epoch in rural life.
It fits well into the life of the land farmer because it gives obviously a mere hint of learning. It has been the boast of its advocates that it taught only the "three Rs." Its training for life is rudimentary only: it gives but an alphabet. The land farmer expected to live in his group. Secure in his own acres and believing himself "as good as anybody," he relied for his son and daughter not upon trained skill, but upon native abilities, sterling character, independence and industry. Of all these the household, not the school, is the source. So that the one-room country school was satisfactory to those who created it.
In another chapter the common schools are more fully discussed. Here it may be said only that the creation of such a system was an honor to any people. The farmers who out of a splendid idealism placed a schoolhouse at every cross roads, on every hilltop and in every mountain valley, exact a tribute of praise from their successors. The unit of measurement of the school district, on which this system was based, was the day's journey of a child six years of age. Two miles must be its longest radius. The generation who spanned this continent with the measure of an infant's pace, mapped the land into districts, erected houses at the centers, and employed teachers as the masters of learning for these little states, were men of statesmanlike power. The country school is a nobler monument of the land farmer than anything else he has done.
The rural "academy" was the most influential school of the land farmer's time. Situated at the center of leading communities, in New England, Pennsylvania and the older Eastern States, it was often under the control or the influence of the parish minister. It generally exerted a great influence for the building of the church and the community. Its teachers were men of scholarly ideals. Its students were from the locality, being selected by ambition for learning, and by their ability to pay the tuition.
The development of the high schools has generally resulted in the abandonment of the academies. A few have survived and have adapted themselves to new times. But it is to be doubted whether the common schools have so far done as much for building and for organizing country communities, for providing local leadership, for building churches, as did the rural academies of New England, Pennsylvania and other Eastern States.
The farmer's church is the classic American type of church at its best. The farming economy succeeded to the pioneer economy without serious break. The troubles of the country church have their beginnings in the period of the exploiter which is to follow, but the farmer developed the church of the pioneer with sympathy and consistency. The church of the farmer still values personal salvation above all. The revival methods and the simplicity of doctrine have remained, but the farmer has added typical methods of his own.
The effect of this individualism is exhibited in the multiplication of churches among farmers. So long as it is admitted that the church is for personal salvation, it does not need to be a social institution. A small group is as effective as a large one for securing salvation for individuals. Two churches or three may as well serve a community as one, if personal salvation be the service rendered. The gospel is for the farmer good tidings,—not a call to social service. The result of the farmer period has been, therefore, the multiplication of competitive country churches. An instance of this competitive condition is: the community in Kansas in which among four hundred people resident in a field, there are seven churches, each of them attempting to maintain a resident pastor. In Centre County, Pa., in a radius of four miles from a given point, there are twenty-four country churches. In the same territory within a radius of three miles are sixteen of these country churches. This condition is satisfactory to the ideals of the farmer. If the farmer type were permanent these churches might serve permanently for the ministry of personal salvation. They are well attended by devout and religious-minded people. Their condemnation is not in the farmer economy but in the inevitable coming of the exploiter and the husbandman with their different experience and different type of mind.
In this period the minister frequently is himself a tiller of the soil. Many of the older churches had land, ten or twenty or forty acres, which the minister was expected to till, and from it to secure a part of his living. A church at Cranberry, N. J., had a farm of one hundred acres until the close of the nineteenth century. But with the coming of the exploiter and the husbandman the minister ceases to be an agriculturist.
Like unto the tillage of the soil by the minister was the "donation" to the minister, of vegetables, corn, honey and other farm products. At one time this filled a large place in the supply of the minister's living. In various communities the custom has remained with fine tenacity in the presentation to the minister of portions of farm produce throughout the year. But the portions so given are fewer, as years pass, and the total quantity small. The donation of vegetables and farm produce has survived in but a few places. The modes of life which succeeded to the farmer economy are dependent on cash for the distribution of values, and the "donation," if it remain at all, is a gift of money. Frequently the "donation" has survived as a social gathering, being perpetuated in one of its functions only, its earlier purposes and its essential form being forgotten.
The church of the land farmer corresponded by logical social causation to the social economy of this type. It was seated with family pews generally rented by the family group and sometimes owned in fee. In the South the slave-holding churches, which have all passed away, had galleries for the slaves, who worshipped thus under the same roof with their masters. The preaching of this period was directed to the development of group life. Its ethical standards were those of the household group, in which private property in land, domestic morality, filial and domestic experiences furnished the stimuli.
The land-farmer's church had some organizations to correspond to the differences in social life. The presence of the children in the family group is represented in the Sunday schools and parochial schools built during this period. The schools are in many cases highly organized, with separate recognition of infancy, adolescence and middle life. In Protestant churches the particular concerns of women and the religious service rendered by them take form in women's societies in the churches, mostly charitable and missionary.
Finally, at the close of the land-farmer period, about 1890, there sprang up the young people's societies, which in the ten closing years of the land-farmer period reached a membership of hundreds of thousands among the Protestant churches. These societies of young people were organized in the churches to correspond to the growing self-consciousness among adolescent members of the land-farmer's household. The young men and women in the maturing of the family group came to have a life of their own. As frequently happens, the family group reached its highest development and perfection just before it was to pass away.
The church of the land-farmer is the typical Protestant church of the United States. So influential has the farmer been in national life that organized religion has idealized his type of church. It has been transported to villages and towns. It has become the type of church most frequent in the cities.
Nearly all the Protestant churches in New York City are land-farmer churches; "and that," says a noted city pastor, "is what ails them." This church centers its activities in preaching, rents or assigns its pews to families, and organizes societies for the various factors of the family group. It has Sunday schools, women's, men's and young people's societies, with only one minister to supervise them all.
The transformation of this type of church, so deeply rooted in the idealism of the whole people, into a church better suited to city, factory, town and mining settlement, has been the problem for Protestant bodies to solve in the past twenty years. The beginning of this transformation, it is striking to observe, came at the end of the land-farmer period, about 1890.
The land-farmer, then, whose period according to Prof. Ross, extended from 1835 to 1890 in the Middle West, is the best known agricultural type. He is the typical countryman as the countryman is imagined in the cities and recorded in our literature. It has been the American hope that he should be the land-owner of the days to come. In East Tennessee the farmer is still the type of landowner in country communities. In some portions of Michigan and Minnesota the farmer type gives character to the whole population, but generally throughout the country the processes described by Prof. Ross have undermined the integrity of the farmer type and broken his hold upon leadership of the country population. Within the last two decades, since 1890, the farmer has been gradually discouraged and has realized that his economy is not suited to survive. The most representative farming communities today are those of Scotch or Scotch-Irish people, whose instinctive tenacity, their "clannishness," has perpetuated longer than in other instances the rural economy and the country community.
In using the term land-farmer I am aware of its close resemblance to the term exploiter. The word itself points to exploitation of land. The land farmer has used the raw materials of the country. He has tilled the soil until its fertility was exhausted and then moved on to the newer regions of the West, again to farm and to exploit the virgin riches of a plenteous land. The planter in the South, possessing frequently more than a thousand acres, was accustomed to till a portion of one hundred, two hundred or four hundred acres, until its fertility had been exhausted. Then he moved his slaves to another section, cleared the land and cultivated it until its power to produce had also been exhausted. The difference between land-farming and exploitation is the absence of speculation in land in the former period.
[Footnote 6: Rev. Charles Stelzle.]
The third type in American agriculture is the exploiter. Between the farmer and the husbandman there is an economic revolution. In fact the exploiter himself is a transition type between the farmer and the husbandman. "The fundamental problem in American economics always has been that of the distribution of land," says Prof. Ross. The exploiter is, I presume, a temporary economic type, created in the period of re-distribution of land. The characteristic of the exploiter is his commercial valuation of all things. He is the man who sees only the value of money.
It was natural that with the maturing of an American population, the exploitation of the natural resources should come. We have exploited the forest, removing the timber from the hills and making out of its vast resources a few fortunes. We wasted in the process nine-tenths for every one-tenth of wealth accumulated by the exploiter. We have exploited the coal and iron and other minerals. The exploitation of the oil deposits and natural gas reservoirs has been a national experience and a national scandal. The tendency to exploit every opportunity for private wealth has characterized the past two decades.
There are those who exploit the child vitality of the families of working people, and the States have put legal checks in the way of child labor. The exploitation of the labor of women has gone so far as to threaten the vitality of the generation to be born, and laws have been passed which forbid the employment of women except within limits. The ethical discussion of the past decade is largely a keen analysis of the methods of exploitation of resources, of men and of communities, and an attempt to fix the bounds of the exploitation of values for private wealth.
There are those who exploit the farm. "Farms which from the original entry until 1890 had been owned by the same family, or which had changed owners but once or twice, and whose owners were proud to assert that their broad acres had never been encumbered with mortgages, since 1890 have been sold, in some instances as often as ten times, in more numerous instances four or five times, and a large part of the purchase price is secured by encumbering the estates!"
Agriculture, especially of the Middle West, is affected in all its parts by the exploitation of land. To a traveller from the Eastern States, the selling and re-selling of farm land, without fertilization or improvement by any of the successive owners, is a source of amazement.
"The new lands opened under the Homestead act of half a century ago were often exploited for temporary profit by soil robbers who were experts of their kind. Owing to such farm management, the yield of the acre in the United States gradually decreased. Very little intensive farming was done."
The commercial exploitation of land dissolves every permanent factor in the farm economy. The country community of the land-farmer type is being undermined and is crumbling away under the influence of exploitation. The pioneers were a Westward emigration, pushing Westward the boundaries of the country at the rate of fifty miles in a decade; but since 1890 emigration has been eastward, and it is made up of farmers who move to ever cheaper and cheaper lands to the East, the tide of higher prices coming from the West. Already in central Illinois the values of land seem to have reached the high water mark. About Galesburg "the Swedes have got hold of the land and they will not sell." Among the last recorded sales in this district were some at prices between two hundred and two hundred fifty dollars per acre.
It is not generally understood that this exploitation of farm lands has extended over nearly the whole country. Its spread is increasingly rapid in the last two years. In the Gulf States and the Carolinas and in Tennessee and Kentucky prices of farm land have increased in the last five years from twenty-five to one hundred per cent. Even in the most conservative counties in Pennsylvania the prices of farm land have increased twenty to twenty-five per cent.
The sign of this exploitation is a rapid increase in the market values of farm land, due to frequent sale and purchase. This increase is independent of any increase in essential value to the farmer. The net income of the farmer may have been increased only five per cent, as in the State of Indiana, whereas the values of farm land have increased in the same period more than one hundred per cent. That is, the speculative increases have been twenty times as much as the agricultural increase.
Along with this change in farm values goes the increase or decrease in the number of tenant farmers and the shifting of the ownership of land to farm landlords. In some parts of the country this exploitation has taken a purely speculative form. In all parts it is speculative in character, but in some sections of the country the exploiters are themselves farmers and the process is imposed upon the farmers themselves by economic causes. This is true of the Illinois and Indiana lands, which are under the influence of a system of drainage, but there are other portions of the country in which the process is chiefly speculative. In some Western States the exploitation of farm land is in the hands of speculators themselves, doing real estate business purely as a matter of trade. It would be a mistake, however, to attribute a process so general as this one to the power exerted by a class of real estate agents. Its causes are deeper than the commercial process. They go into the very roots of modern life. This should be clearly understood, because when frankly realized it compels the adjustment of social, educational and religious work to the period of exploitation.
The effect of this process is upon all the life of country people. It has created its own class of men. There was no intention in the mind of earlier Americans that we should ever have a tenant class in America. The assumption on which all our ideals are built has been that we would be a land-owning people, but we are confronted with a tenantry problem as difficult as any in the world. The process of exploiting land has added to the social and economic life of the country the farm landlord, whose influence upon the immediate future of the American country community, church and school, in all sections will be great, and in many communities will be dominating.
The exploitation of land has produced the retired farmer. He is a pure example of the weakness of the exploiter economy. Originally he was a homesteader, or perhaps a purchaser of cheap land in the early days. He expected not to remain a farmer, but hoped for removal to the East or to a college town. The motives which animated him were varied, but among them none was so prominent as a desire for better education than was provided for his children in the country community of the farmer type. So that at forty or fifty years of age he seized an opportunity to sell his land, as the prices were rising, and retired to the town with a cash fortune for investment.
Immediately the economic forces to which he had submitted himself made of him a new type, for the retired farmer in the Middle West is a characteristic type of the leading towns and cities. Some whole streets in large centers are peopled with retired farmers. The civic policies of scores of small municipalities are controlled in a measure by them, so that journalists, religious leaders, reformers and politicians have very clear-cut opinions as to the value of the retired farmer.
The analysis of this situation is as follows. While the land which he sold continued to increase in value, his small fortune began to diminish in value. The interest on his money has been less every ten years; whereas he formerly could loan at first for six and sometimes seven per cent, he cannot loan safely now for more than five or six per cent.
Meantime the prices of all things he has to buy are expressed in cash,—no longer in kind as on the farm; and these cash prices are growing. In the past decade they have almost doubled. This means that he is a poorer man. His money has a diminished purchasing power and he has a smaller yearly income.
In addition to this, his wants, and the wants of the members of the family are increased two or three times. They cannot live as they lived on the farm. They cannot dress as they dressed in the country. The pressure of these increasing economic wants, demanding to be satisfied out of a diminished income, with higher prices for the things to be purchased, keeps the retired farmer a poor man. The result is that the retired farmer is opposed to every step of progress in the growing town in which he lives. He opposes every increase of taxation and fights every assessment. He dreads a subscription list and hates to hear of contributions. Although an intelligent and pious man, he has come to be an obstacle to the building of libraries, churches and schools and opposed to all humane and missionary activities. He is suffering from a great economic mistake.
Before leaving the exploiter it is to be said he also has his church. The exploiter has built no community. He has contributed the retired farmer to the large towns and small cities of the Middle West. It is natural, therefore, that few exploiter churches are found in the country. But in the larger centers there are churches whose doctrine and methods are those of the exploiter. Indeed, at the present time the exploiter's doctrine in ethics and religion is highly popular. It is the doctrine of the consecration of wealth.
There are in the larger cities churches whose business is to give; Sunday after Sunday they hear pleas and consider the cases of college presidents, superintendents of charities, secretaries of mission boards and other official solicitors. These churches have systematized the discipline of giving. Their boards of officers control the appeals that shall be made to their people. Such churches are highly individualist in character, and the preacher who ministers in such a church has a doctrine of individual culture and responsibility.
The exploiter's doctrine of systematic giving has gone into all of the communities in which prosperous people live. It has become a moral code for millionaires, and the response to it is annually measured in the great gifts of men of large means to institutions which exist for the use of all mankind.
But not all the farm exploiters retired from the farm. The stronger and more successful have become absentee landlords. These men have invested their cash in farm lands. Distrusting the investments of the city market, and fearing Wall Street, they have purchased increased acreage in the country, and when the local market was exhausted, they have invested in the Southwest and the far West, buying ever more and more land. They have proven that "It is possible to maintain a vicious economic method on a rising market."
These landlords have leased their land in accordance with mere expediency. No plans have been made in the American rural economy for a tenantry. The lease, therefore, throughout the United States generally is for only one year. This gives to the landlord the greatest freedom, and to the tenant the least responsibility. Neither is willing to enter into a contract by which the land itself can be benefitted. The landlord is looking for the increase of the values of land, and is ever mindful of a possible buyer. Moreover, he is watchful of the market for the crop and of the size of the crop, so that he desires to be free at the end of the year to make other arrangements.
The tenant on his part is somewhat eager to do as he pleases for a year. He expects to be himself an owner, and he does not expect to remain permanently as a tenant on that farm. He reckons that he can get a good deal out of the land in the year, and is unwilling to bind himself for a long period. "The American system of farm tenantry is the worst of which I have knowledge in any country."
It is true that in some parts of the country leases of three and five years are granted to tenants by the landlords. At Penn Yan, New York, a reliable class of Danes secure such leases from the owners. I am aware, also, that in Delaware, in an old section dependent upon fertilization for its crops, where the land is in the hands of a few representatives of the old farmer type who have held it for generations, that the tillage of the soil shows specialization. The landlord and the tenant co-operate. The leases, while they are for but a year, specify how the land shall be tilled, how fertilized. They require the rotation of crops and the keeping of a certain number of cattle by the tenants. The landlord personally oversees the tillage of several farms. This seems the beginning of husbandry, instead of exploitation of the land.
Another instance of the landlord who is more than a mere exploiter is that of David Rankin, recently deceased. In the last years of his life Mr. Rankin owned about thirty thousand acres of land in Missouri. It was said in 1910 that he had seventeen thousand acres of corn. He had a genius for estimating the values of land, the expensiveness of drainage, and the possibilities of the market. He was an expert buyer of cattle, and a master of the problems entering into progressive farming on a large scale.
From his vast acreage Mr. Rankin sold not one bushel of corn. All his crops "went off on four legs." "He drove his corn to market," as they say in the Middle West. He bought cattle from the ranches, for none were bred on his own land. He fattened them for the market, translating corn into beef and he was well aware of the values of pork in the economy of such a farm. Nothing went to waste. According to the formula in Nebraska, "For every cow keep a sow, that's the how." Mr. Rankin made large profits from his cattle and hogs.
It is true that he cared nothing for the community or its institutions. On his wide acres family life was replaced by boarding-houses. Schools and churches were closed, and many farmhouses built by the homesteaders rotted down to their foundations. But David Rankin was a husbandman, if not a humanist. His tillage of the soil was successful in that it maintained the fertility of the soil, that it produced large quantities of food for the consumer, and that it was profitable.
The following is a description of community life under the influence of such great landlords, by a Western observer:—
"The city of Casselton, North Dakota, was originally started about the year 1879. Thirty years ago the first settlers came to this great prairie region from the New England and Central States. It was shortly before this or about this time that the Northern Pacific Railroad was built across this western prairie. The government gave to the road every other section of land on each side of the railroad for thirty miles as a bonus. That land was sold in the early days by the railroad to purchasers for fifty cents an acre. It was some of the finest farming land in the wide world. Out of those sales grew some of the immense farms that have been so famous over the country and while they are great business concerns managed with fine business ability, yet they are not much of a help in the settling of the country. Here within one mile of Casselton is the famous Dalrymple farm of twenty-eight thousand acres. This farm employs during the busy season what men it needs from the drifting classes and puts no families on its broad acres. These men are here a short season in the summer, then are gone. They are rushed with work for that season, Sundays as well as other days from early morning to late at night, making it almost impossible to touch their religious life or even to count them a part of the community life.
"Another farm is the Chaffee farm of thirty-five thousand acres. Mr. Chaffee is a thorough business man but is a fine Christian and places a good family on each section of land. He allows no Sunday work. Has a little city kept up in beautiful condition in the center of his land where he lives with his clerks and immediate helpers. Here they have a neat little Congregational church and support their own minister. His fine influence is felt all over the country. The partners in this farm also have a land and loan corporation and also a large flour mill in Casselton which employs about twenty-eight men, running day and night during the busy season.
"There are many farms smaller, from one thousand acres and up. Many also of a quarter section. Casselton was built simply as a center for this beautiful and rich farming region. It is in the center of a strip six miles long and twenty-five miles wide which is said to be one of the finest sections in the land. There are other towns sprung up in the same section also. Through the past thirty years farmers have retired, well to do, and moved into the city. Here are now maintained excellent schools."
In conclusion: the exploitation of farm lands is a process with which the church in the country cannot deal by persuasion. It is an economic condition. They who are engaged in this process or are concerned in its effects are in so far immune to the preacher who ignores or who does not understand these economic conditions. Their action is conditioned by their status. They will infallibly act with relation to the church in accordance with the motives which arise out of their condition. That is, they will act as tenant farmers, as retired farmers or as absentee landlords. They must be treated on these terms. Their whole relation to organized religion will be that of the condition in which they live and by which they get their daily bread. This is a matter independent of personal goodness. The church is dependent not on personal good influences, but upon the response which a man makes in accordance with his economic and social character.
For instance, in Wisconsin a church worker found that thousands of acres in a certain section were owned by a Milwaukee capitalist. He found that the tenant farmers on these acres were poor and struggling for a better living, and he could not, among them, finance an adequate church. He promptly went to Milwaukee and secured five minutes of the time and attention of the absentee landlord. When he had stated the case and the reasons why this large owner should give to the country church on his acres, the man promptly said, "You have stated what I never before realized and I will give you a contribution of one hundred dollars per year for that church until you hear from me to the contrary."
In contrast to this there is in Central Illinois a large estate of five thousand acres. The owner lives in a distant city and his son tills the land. It is known among the neighbors that the son has orders to oppose all improvements of churches and of schools, "because there is no money for us in the church or the school."
It is useless to complain of the position in which a man is. The minister's duty is to utilize him in his own status and to enable him to practise the virtues which are open to him. The retired farmer can become an active and devoted evangelist, preacher or organizer. He should be made a leader in the intellectual development of the farmer's problem of the region. He has leisure and intelligence and is often a devout man. It is the business of the minister to transform this into religious and social efficiency. The temperance movement in the Middle West has had generous and devoted support from the retired farmers living in the towns. The families of these one time farmers are seeking after culture. The literary and aesthetic aspects of the community can well be committed to members of these families. Their value for the community is probably in these directions. Above all it is the business of the minister to sympathize with the life they are living and to enable them to live it to the highest advantage.
The energies of the church should be devoted to the tenant farmer. Of this more will be said in another place. He also must be treated in sympathy with his social and economic experience and the religious service rendered to him must be the complete betterment of his life as he is trying to live it. He is not a sinner because he is a tenant and what he does as a tenant is therefore not a misdemeanor, but a normal reaction upon life. The church can help him in purging his life from the iniquities peculiar to a tenant and a dependent. The noblest motives must be brought out and the life he is to live should be given its own ideals.
Above all the period of exploitation must be understood by the teacher and the preacher to be a preparation, a transition through which country people are coming to organized and scientific agriculture. Gradually the influence of science and the leadership of the departments and colleges of agriculture are being extended in the country. Little by little, whether through landlord or tenant, farming is becoming a profession requiring brains, science and trained intelligence. The country church should promote this process because only through its maturity can the country church in the average community find its own establishment. The reconstruction of the churches now going on corresponds to the exploitation of the land. The duty of the church in the process of exploitation is to build the community and to make itself the center of the growing scientific industry on which the country community in the future will be founded.
The religion of the exploiter moves in the giving of money. Consecration of his wealth is consecration of his world and of himself. The church that would save him must teach him to give. His sins are those of greed, his virtues are those of benevolence. His own type, not the least worthy among men, should be honored in his religion. No man's conversion ever makes him depart from his type, but be true to his type. Therefore the religion for the exploiter of land is a religion of giving, to the poor at his door, to the ignorant in this land, and to the needy of all lands.
[Footnote 7: The Conservation of Natural Resources in the United States, by Van Hise.]
[Footnote 8: J. B. Ross—"Agrarian Changes in the Middle West."]
[Footnote 9: Secretary of Agriculture, James Wilson at the United States Land and Irrigation Exposition, Chicago, Nov. 19, 1910.]
[Footnote 10: The Rural Life Problem in the United States, by Sir Horace Plunkett.]
[Footnote 11: Dean Chas. F. Curtiss, State College of Iowa.]
The scientific farmer is dependent upon the world economy. He is the local representative of agriculture, whose organization is national and even international. He raises cotton in Georgia, but he "makes milk" in Orange County, New York, because the market and the soil and the climate and other conditions require of him this crop.
He is dependent upon the college of agriculture for the methods by which he can survive as a farmer. Tradition, which dominated the agriculture of a former period, is a disappearing factor in husbandry of the soil. The changes in market conditions are such as to impoverish the farmer who learns only from the past. Tradition could teach the farmer how to raise the raw materials, under the old economy, in which the farmhouse and community were sufficient unto themselves. But in a time when the wool of the sheep in Australia goes halfway round the world in its passage from the back of a sheep to the back of a man, the sheep farmer becomes dependent upon the scientist. He cannot afford to raise sheep unless the scientific man assures him that in the production of wool his land has its highest utility. "The American farm land is passing into the hands of those who will use it to the highest advantage."
The dependence of the scientific farmer or husbandman upon the world market and upon the scientists who are studying agriculture enlarges the circle of his life from the rural household to the rural community. In the rural community agriculture can be taught; in the household it cannot. The only teaching of the household is tradition; the teaching of the community is in terms of science. The country school and the country church take a greater place as community institutions just so soon as the farmer passes out of the period of exploitation into that of scientific husbandry.
The husbandman is the economist in agriculture. He is to the farm what the husband was to the household in old times. One is tempted to say also that the husbandman is he who marries the land. American farm land has suffered dishonor and degradation, but it has known all too little the affection which could be figuratively expressed in marriage. The Bible speaks of "marrying the land."—"Thy land shall be called Beulah for thy land shall be married." Side by side in this country we have the lands which have been dishonored, degraded, abandoned, dissolute, and the lands husbanded, fertilized, enriched and made beautiful.
The husbandman or rural economist cares more for qualities than for quantity. He works not merely for intensive cultivation of the soil, but also for the preservation of the soil and use of it in its own terms, at its highest values.
The principle at work is not the increase in the farmer's material gains or possessions. The husbandry of the soil is not a mere increase in market values. It is a deeper and more ethical welfare than that which can be put in the bank. "Agriculture is a religious occupation." When it sustains a permanent population and extends from generation to generation the same experiences, agriculture is productive in the highest degree of moral and religious values. In the words of Director L. H. Bailey, of Cornell, "The land is holy."
This is especially true at the present time, when the land is limited in amount. Already the whole nation is dependent upon the farmer in the degree intimated by the statement of Dean Bailey. "The census of 1900 showed approximately one-third of our people on farms or closely connected with farms, as against something like nine-tenths, a hundred years previous. It is doubtful whether we have struck bottom, although the rural exodus may have gone too far in some regions, and we may not permanently strike bottom for sometime to come."
The service of the few to the many, therefore, is the present status of the husbandman. The very fact that one-third of the people must feed all the people imposes religious and ethical conditions upon the farmer. The dependence of the greater number for their welfare upon those who are to till the soil brings that obligation, which the farmer is well constituted to bear and to which his serious spirit gives response.
This means that with the growing consciousness of the need of scientific agriculture there will arise, indeed is now arising, a new ethical and religious feeling among country people. The church which is made up of scientific farmers is a new type of church.
A notable testimony to the influence of the church in developing husbandry is by Sir Horace Plunkett, who testifies to the religious influence that led to the agrarian revolution in Denmark.
"My friends and I have been deeply impressed by the educational experience of Denmark, where the people, who are as much dependent on agriculture as are the Irish, have brought it by means of organization to a more genuine success than it has attained anywhere else in Europe. Yet an inquirer will at once discover that it is to the 'High School' founded by Bishop Grundtvig, and not to the agricultural schools, which are also excellent, that the extraordinary national progress is mainly due. A friend of mine who was studying the Danish system of state aid to agriculture, found this to be the opinion of the Danes of all classes, and was astounded at the achievements of the associations of farmers not only in the manufacture of butter, but in a far more difficult undertaking, the manufacture of bacon in large factories equipped with all the most modern machinery and appliances which science had devised for the production of the finished article. He at first concluded that this success in a highly technical industry by bodies of farmers indicated a very perfect system of technical education. But he soon found another cause. As one of the leading educators and agriculturists of the country put it to him: 'It's not technical instruction, it's the humanities.' I would like to add that it is also, if I may coin a term, the 'nationalities,' for nothing is more evident to the student of Danish education or, I might add, of the excellent system of the Christian Brothers in Ireland, than that one of the secrets of their success is to be found in their national basis and their foundation upon the history and literature of the country."
Every observer of these Danish Folk High Schools testifies to their religious enthusiasm, their patriotism and above all to the songs with which their lecture hours are begun and ended. A graduate of these schools living for years in America, the mother of children then entering college, said, "Those songs helped me over the hardest period of my life. I can always sing myself happy with them." The spirit which pervades the schools was influential in Danish agriculture, as expressed in the title of Grundtvig's best known hymn, "The Country Church Bells." Under such an influence as this has the agricultural life of Denmark taken the lead over its urban and manufacturing life.
The modifying influence of husbandry upon the church and its teaching is illustrated in the following incident. A farmer in Missouri had a good stand of corn which promised all through the summer to produce an excellent crop. Abundance of sun and rain favored the farmer's hope that his returns would be large, but in the fall the crop proved a failure. The farmer at once cast about for the cause of this disappointment. He had his soil analyzed by a scientist and discovered that it was deficient in nitrogen. The next year he devoted to supplying this lack in the soil and in the year following had an abundant return in corn. "Now that experience turned me away," said he, "from the country church, because the teaching of the country church as I had been accustomed to it was out of harmony with the study of the situation and the conquest over nature. I had been taught in the country church to surrender under such conditions to the will of Providence." The country church of the husbandman must therefore be a church in harmony with the tillage of the soil by science. Like the farm households about it, the church will possess a large wealth of tradition, but the church of the scientific farmer must be open to the teachings of science and must be responsive, intelligent and alert in the intellectual leadership of the people.
A church of this sort is at West Nottingham, Maryland. The minister Rev. Samuel Polk, had been discouraged by the inattention of his people to his message. He had come to feel that this is an unbelieving age and had surrendered himself to the steadfast performance of his duties, the preaching of the truth faithfully and the ministry to his people so far as they would receive it. In addition he had the task of tilling forty acres of land which belongs to the church. This he was doing faithfully, but without much intelligent interest.
An address on the country church in an agricultural college sent him home with new ideas. He saw that his life as a farmer and as a preacher had to be made one. He determined to preach to farmers and to till his land as an example of Christian husbandry. He began as a scholar by studying the scientific use of his land. He found at once that the farmers about him were forced to study the tillage of their soil, because it had been exhausted of fertility by methods of farming no longer profitable. In the first year the preacher raised, by means of a dust mulch through a dry summer, a crop of one hundred and seventy-five bushels of potatoes. Meantime his preaching had been enlivened with new illustrations and he was enabled to enforce, to the amazement of his hearers, new impressions with old truths. The Scripture teaching which had become dull and scholastic became live and modern, as he preached the Old Testament to a people who were recognizing the sacredness of land. His audiences began to increase. His influence on his people very shortly passed bounds and reserves. When at the end of the season his potato crop came in, the farmers gave sign of recognizing his leadership as a farmer and as a preacher. Within a year this man had taken a place as a first citizen, which no one else in the community could hold. Because he was a preacher he could become the leading authority upon farming and because he must needs be a farmer he found it possible to preach with greater acceptance.
This pastor gave up the methods of bookish preparation for preaching. He preached as the Old Testament men did, to the occasion and to the event. He spoke to the community as being a man himself immersed in the same life as theirs. On a recent occasion when a woman was very sick in one of the farm houses and had suffered from the neglect of her neighbors, his sermon consisted of an appeal to visit the sick. That afternoon the invalid was called on by thirty-eight people and sent a message before night, begging the minister to hold the people back.
There are a few ministers throughout the country who are successful farmers. Many ministers are speculators in farm land. They belong in the exploiter class. One more instance should be given of the preacher who promotes agriculture. In a recent discussion the writer was asked, "Do you then believe that the minister should attend the agricultural college," and he replied, "No. The agricultural college should be brought to the country church."
At Bellona, New York, the ministers of two churches, Methodist and Presbyterian, united with their officers in a farmers' club, to which others were admitted. This club under the leadership of Rev. T. Maxwell Morrison, makes the nucleus of its work the study of the agriculture of the neighborhood and the improvement of it. Lecturers from Cornell University are brought throughout the year into the country community to take up in succession the various aspects of farming which may be improved. The market is studied, by chemical analysis the nature of the soil is determined, and the possibilities of the community are raised to their highest value by careful investigation.
This farmers' club has social features as well. Other topics besides farming are occasionally studied but the business of the club is economic promotion of the well-being of the community. Incidentally, it has furnished a social center for the countryside. The churches which have had to do with it have been enlarged, their membership extended and even their gifts to foreign missions have been increased in the period of growth of the farmers' club.
The elements of permanent cultivation of the soil are found in greater numbers among the Mormons, Scotch Irish Presbyterians, Pennsylvania Germans, who are the best American agriculturists, than among the more unstable populations of farmers. Those elements, however, are, simply speaking, the following.
A certain austerity of life always accompanies successful and permanent agriculture. By this is meant a fixed relation between production and consumption. Successful tillers of the soil labor to produce an abundant harvest. They live at the same time in a meager and sparing manner. Production is with them raised to its highest power and consumption is reduced to its lowest. This means austere living. Such communities are found among the Scotch Irish farmers. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is peopled with them and their tillage of the soil has continued through two centuries.
A notable illustration is in Illinois. The permanence of the conditions of country life in this community is indicated by the long pastorate of the minister who has just retired. Coming to the church at forty-eight years of age, after other men have ceased from zealous service, he ministered forty-two years to this parish of farmers, and has recently retired at the age of ninety, leaving the church in ideal condition. "The Middle Creek Church is distinctly a country charge, located in the Southwest corner of Winnebago Township, of the County of Winnebago.
"The church was organized in June, 1855, in a stone schoolhouse. The present house of worship was erected and dedicated in 1861. Five ministers served the church as supplies until 1865, when the Rev. J. S. Braddock, D. D., became the pastor and carried on a splendid work for forty-two years, when he laid down his pastorate in 1907, at the age of ninety."
"This community was settled by homesteaders and pioneers in the early days of the West. Many of them came from Pennsylvania and some of them were of Scotch descent. The history of the community has been but the history of the development of a fertile Western Prairie country. It was settled by strong Presbyterian men, and their descendants are now the backbone of the community. There has been little change, but steady growth."
The second element in the community of husbandmen is mutual support. Professor Gillin of the University of Iowa has described to me the community of Dunkers whom he has studied, being deeply impressed with their communal solidarity. Whenever a farm is for sale these farmers at the meeting-house confer and decide at once upon a buyer within their own religious fellowship. In the week following the minister or a church member writes back to Pennsylvania and the correspondence is pressed, until a family comes out from the older settlements in the Keystone State to purchase this farm in Iowa and to extend the colony of his fellow Dunkers. Reference is made elsewhere to the communal support given to their own members who suffer economic hardship. The serious tillage of the soil necessarily involves mutual support and the husbandman's life is in his community.