Monday, January 21, 2013

Concerning Charcoal, Hops and Muskrats

GEORGETOWN, Jan 2 – Collin’s coal pits near here have been in operation barely two months, but have fully demonstrated to their enterprising owner that fine timber pays much better converted into coal and sold at 20 cents a bushel than the wood at $2.25 per cord.  Townsend, the Angola charcoal burner has made a Sussex county fortune - $15,000 is the figure  - in a few years, although the incidental expenses are comparatively heavy.  Collins has from 15 to 20 pits burning, and cared for by attendants who live at the kiln.  Here the wood is charred from full cord length sticks, differing from the methods of the Carolines, where it is charred from small sawed billets.  The coal is brought to town in wagons, carrying a hundred bushels and shipped north by rail.  The average life of a “pit” or “mound” is three weeks, and the work, though exceedingly dirty is very healthy to any one troubled with weak lungs, dyspepsia and kindred affections.
Sussex is to make a new departure.  The question has been asked before this, “if hops will flourish in New York State, why not in Sussex, so much futher south?”  A northern man, a physician I believe, has purchased a tract of land on the McColley farm four miles out of town, for his son, who will engage in hop culture.  The gentleman says he can make more money in one year on one acre of the ground planted in hops, than three Sussex farmers with three times the amount of land planted in corn, can make in the same time.  This is a tall statement, very tall; but, nevertheless, some one may yet live to see as flourishing hop gardens in old Sussex  as were ever seen in the hop districts of England.
Very few of the city readers of the GAZETTE probably know anything of muskrat hunting on the Sussex marshes.  When the marsh is frozen over nicely the sport is very enticing and not without its spice of danger a broken leg or arm, or even a dislocated neck, provided the rat hole you slip into is large and deep enough.  The spear is the weapon used, and in expert hands never fails to bring the rodent impaled on the point from its hole.  Down in Cave Neck the marsh farmers, besides making a snug sum of money by the sale of muskrat hides, use the meat on their tables with great relish.  Out a brace of fricasseed rats before a Wilmington epicure and the odds are that be couldn’t tell ‘em from rabbit.

The first snow here of the season, of any depth, fell Saturday.  Not enough for sleighing, though.

From The Wilmington Gazette January 3, 1883

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