Those Places Thursday: The Farm of James E. Rickman in Madison County, Missouri

1876 Missouri State Census for James E. Rickman family.
1876 Missouri State Census for James E. Rickman family. (Click to enlarge.)

Whitener Family (Click for Family Tree)

Agricultural schedules are a delightful glimpse into life on a farm in years gone by. The US Federal Census included some, but today’s genealogical surprise was the 1876 Missouri State Census, which also contains agricultural information.

James E. Rickman (1824-1885) and his wife Elizabeth Whitner Rickman (1824-1899), owned a farm in Madison County, Missouri. Here are two records of the land they owned; copies of the actual record are on

Land record from 01 Dec 1851: 40 acres in Madison County, Missouri, Township 31-N, Range 7-E, Section 2, Accession No. MO3600_.219, cash sale.

Land record from 01 Mar 1860: 80 acres in Madison County, Missouri, Township 31-N, Range 8-E, Section 17, Accession No. MO4060_.426, cash sale.

With the available records, it is hard to tell if this was the same land they owned in 1876, but it is likely that it was- once a family had built a barn, outbuildings, silos, and house, and prepared the soil, set up markets for their excess products, etc., it would be challenging to start all over at another farm! Since James and Elizabeth were in their 50s at this census, it would seem even less likely that they would choose to start over. So we can assume that the agricultural information on the 1876 Missouri census might have been for the above farms.

In 1876, James and Elizabeth, both over age 45, lived on the farm along with their children [Francis] Marion Rickman, age 21-45; Eliza Rickman, age 18-21; and Ellen Rickman, age 10-18.

Here is what livestock was held on the farm in 1875 (the year before the census):

4 horses, 5 mules, 1 jack (male donkey; a female donkey was called a jennet but they did not have one listed)

10 cattle, 19 sheep, 17 hogs

The production on the Rickman farm in 1875:

125 bushels of wheat, 600 bushels of corn, 150 bushels of oats

20 lbs. wool, 12 tons hay, and 60 gallons molasses.

At least 2 of the horses were probably big work horses, for pulling the plow, moving the harvest, etc.

Some of the cattle were likely milk cows, especially when the children were young. Milk was needed for butter, cream, and cooking, even as the family aged, so the family likely had at least one milk cow . The rest of the cattle would have been used for family beef and, once the cattle were fattened, many sold for income.

Sheep are fairly easy to raise, and the wool they produced may have been sold after shearing, or spun into yarn by the female members of the household. Wool was sometimes used in quits as well.

Their wheat crop would have been used to produce food for the family, and possibly some been sold for income, or traded for necessary goods they could not produce themselves. The miller would keep some of it in payment for his services too. They would probably have used some of the corn themselves, as well as maybe some of the oats.

The hay and majority of the oats were probably used for the farm animals, and some of the corn may have been used for them as well. Any not needed on the farm would have been sold to provide additional income, or stored for the next year.

Molasses could have been produced from sugar cane, sugar beets, or sorghum. The census did ask for pounds of sugar produced, but the Rickman’s did not list any. Sugar beets could have been grown in the area (but deer love to eat them!), though sugar cane probably did not grow well in that county. Sorghum was easy to grow, the deer don’t eat it all, and making molasses is the easiest way to produce a sweetener to keep for some time (vs. drying it into a sugar), so it is likely that sorghum is what they grew. Sorghum is more a Southern crop, and since this area was more southern than other parts of Missouri, and sympathized with the Confederacy, it is very likely that sorghum was the source for their 60 gallons of molasses.

Molasses is also sometimes added to animal feed, and even used as a fertilizer.

The family likely had a vegetable garden and chickens, geese, or ducks for eggs and meat, as did most farm families.

We are lucky that the Rickmans lived in one of the areas where this census was taken and survived- it helps to give us a hint of their daily lives.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) 1876 Missouri State Census for the James E. Rickman family-

Year: 1910; Census Place: Madison, Missouri; Roll: MOSC_9026. Missouri, State Census Collection, 1844-1881 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Missouri State Censuses. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives.

[Citation is as per, but may be incorrect as it states 1910 instead of 1876.]

2) Land records-

Issued 01 Mar 1860– U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.

Original data: United States. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records. Automated Records Project; Federal Land Patents, State Volumes Springfield, Virginia: Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States, 2007.

Issued 01 Dec 1851- U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: United States. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records. Automated Records Project; Federal Land Patents, State Volumes Springfield, Virginia: Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States, 2007.

3) Agricultural schedules done by the federal government list the number of acres, which helps a bit to tell if the land is the same as in the land records, but the MO census does not list acreage.


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