Those Places Thursday: Robert Woodson Daniel’s Iowa Farm in 1879

1880 Agriculture Schedule excerpt for Robert Woodson Daniel(s), Jasper County, Iowa.
1880 Agriculture Schedule excerpt for Robert Woodson Daniel(s), Jasper County, Iowa, available on and (Click to enlarge.)

Daniel Family, Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

[Edited to add- Oops! This was supposed to post next week, after the Workday Wednesday posts- sorry.]

Robert Woodson “R.W.” Daniel was the husband of Margaret Ann Hemphill and the father of Ella V. Daniel, who married George A. Roberts 16 April 1885. Ella V. and George had two children who provided them descendants: Ethel Gay Roberts Robinson, and Edith Roberts McMurray Luck.  R.W. and Mary Ann also had another child who lived to have children: Lily G. Daniel, wife of George Washington Walker. If you are descended from any of these folks, R.W. and Mary Ann are two more ancestors who tilled the soil. (See the postWorkday Wednesday: Tilling the Soil, Part 2“)

The 1880 US Federal Census Non-Population Schedule for Robert Woodson “R.W.” Daniels tells us that he owned 80 acres of Jasper County, Iowa farmland in 1879-80. The land was worth $2000 total, plus they had $110 of farming implements and machinery, and livestock worth $670.

Using an inflation calculator to compare R.W.’s farmland value indicates it would have been worth about $47,600. in 2014 dollars, or $595 per acre. Today’s Iowa farmland goes for ten times that price per acre, and more. Land was not quite as valuable in 1879, however, since there was still so much of it available in the West.

R.W. paid $3 in 1879 for farm labor, which included value of board (food). His expenses also included $17 for building and farm repair in 1879.

The Daniel’s farm production for 1879 was valued at $1072, which included any commodities consumed, on hand, or sold. This amount was equivalent to about $25,500. in 2014 dollars, which does not seem like a lot of income for a family. They did, however, grow most of their own food, so their farm income would stretch a lot further than it seems.

Acreage included 6 acres mown, 10 not mown, and those grasslands produced 6 tons of hay. On the 35 acres planted in Indian corn in 1879, 1,700 bushels were produced (48.5 bu/ac; today we get 4-5 times that amount with our high intensity farming practices); 514 bu. of oats (for the working horses?) were produced on 16 acres; 8 acres sown with rye seed produced 150 bu., and 8 acres of wheat resulted in 96 bu. of that essential grain, probably much of it to be ground for home use for flour.

R. W. also planted 3 acres in potatoes, providing 400 bu. for the family and for sale, and they most probably had a vegetable garden as did most families in rural areas, although that would not have been listed in the schedule.

Interestingly, the number of acres listed above totals 86 acres, but only 80 were listed as his total.

R.W. and Margaret Ann had 7 horses on hand to do the farm labor and provide transportation. On 01 June 1880, they had 2 “Milch” cows (Margaret Ann probably milked them) and 4 ‘other’ head of cattle. In the year 1879, 2 calves were dropped (born) on the farm, 3 cattle were sold living, and 1 died, strayed, or was stolen.

The milch cows produced enough rich milk to make 250 lbs. of butter that was churned in 1879, probably by Margaret Ann and her daughters, Ella and Lily. R. W. and family also owned 17 swine and 100 chickens on 01 June 1880. In 1879, their chickens produced 300 eggs; caring for the chickens and gathering eggs was probably also a part of the chores of Margaret Ann and the girls.

R.W.’s daughter, Ella V. Daniel Roberts, and her daughter Edith Roberts McMurray Luck mentioned in Workday Wednesday: Tilling the Soil, Part 1, did a thriving business in eggs and butter in their days, too, on the Old Homeplace. They sold them in town, to a grocer named William Elmer McMurray… who just happened to be the father of Edith’s future husband.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Robert Woodson “R.W.” Daniel (1843-1922), Margaret Ann Hemphill (1839-1915).

2) R.W. Daniel 1880 Agriculture schedule: Census Year: 1880; Census Place: Mound Prairie, Jasper, Iowa. Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. (OS Page:11, Line No. 09, Enumeration date 10 July 1880.)

3) Inflation calculator- Inflation calculators take a lot into consideration, and may vary widely in the values calculated because of those factors.


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