Work and Industry in the Town of Norway

Herkimer County, NY

Beginning with the 1850 census our ancestors' occupations are somewhat better described. Prior censuses placed un-named persons in a general category, such as agriculture or manufacturing. Most of our Mohawk Valley ancestors were farm owners, farm laborers, or tenant farmers. Some specialized in particular crops or had a place in the local cheese industry. Below are small articles and vignettes about making a living Norway, thoughts about how nature and the greater economy affected making a living off the land in general, and predictions of coming change.

This material comes from the compilation of issues of Norway Tidings, reprinted in 1987 by the Kuyahoora Valley Historical Society. Norway Tidings was a subscription newspaper of history and current events published between January 1887 and December 1890. Most of these excerpts were in current events listings. The headings are ours.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 7, July 1887

Norway is a cheese dairy town. A few hay and dry stock farms, and the butter dairies of Alanson Bly and E. H. Dorn are the exceptions.

The dairies that "make up at home" are C.B. Bullock, Cornelius Murphy, E.C. Ives, Willis Kelly, S.H. Ackley and Morris Hall. C.F. Van Vechten takes in the milk of his neighbor, Griffin Tompkins, to work up.

There are six cheese factories in town, having 129 patrons. The daily product of these factories in the best of the season is about 7,000 pounds. We estimate that during the month of June four tons of cheese per day is the outcome of Norway grass, cows and milk.

The factory statistics of June 10th, ult., will be found nearly correct, and will prove of interest.

Norway Village Factory, Johnson & Nichols, owners, H.C. Nichols, maker, has 34 patrons and made 34 sixty-pound cheese.

White Creek, John Baird, owner and maker, has 33 patrons and made 23 eighty-pound cheese.

Norway Association, Frank Brown, owner and maker, has 19 patrons and made 20 sixty-five pound cheese. This factory skims the night milk and has a butter product in addition.

Gray, Hiram L. Waite, owner, Robt. McVoy, maker, has 20 patrons and made 11 sixty-pound cheese.

Black Creek, Delancy Darling, owner and maker, has 18 patrons and made 14 forty-five pound cheese.

Sweet, J.C. Murphy, owner, Harvey Rice, maker, has 5 patrons and made 7 sixty-pound cheese.

Norway factories, in quantity, quality and price, rank above the average. We intend, at the close of the season, to give the year's production of each factory, and hope to be able to present a historical sketch of each as to dates of erection and changes of ownership.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 8, August 1887

Our bee man, H.C. Nichols, from 10 hives wintered, gets 8 new swarms and 1,200 pounds of honey. One hive yielded 200 pounds and a new swarm.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 8, August 1887

Haying began early and will continue late. A week of wet weather, closing July 27th, slowed up operations and spoilt lots of hay. L.D. Gage finished June 30th and put in 12 tons of as good hay as a barn roof ever sheltered. Gage has cut his grass early for 25 years, and as his crop grows better, it is pretty good proof that early cutting don't "run out" meadows. At this date, July 28, probably more than half the grass in town is cut. The crop is extra good.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 10, October 1887

When the county fair managers stop permitting gambling, horse racing, beerguzzling and side shows, they shall have our annual presence, influence and dollar.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 10, October 1887

James Rathbun was seriously injured the 17th ult., by a cross bull belonging to Jarius Mather, in Fairfield, where he was at work walling. It was a close call for him. Dr. Holcomb attends him.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1888

Farming confers health, comforts and the privilege of attending to the training of children, instead of leaving home early in the morning and returning late at night. It also confers freedom from want. Few farmers ever go to the poorhouse or ask for charity. While 90 per cent. of business men fail, only 10 per cent. of farmers fail. Farming also gives individuality and independence of mind. The man is not confined to one narrow line of work, which eventually dwarfs the intellect, and makes him more of a machine than the machine he tends. There is independence from want and from the dictation of employers. It is the kind of life which fosters intelligence and manliness in the boys and womanliness in the girls.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1888

The tannery premises at Grayville begin to look lonesome. Several of the hands have removed to Harrisville, N.Y., to work in one of Proctor's tanneries. Others have gone elsewhere. Within three months most of the dwellings will be vacant. Our town will lose some first-class citizens. Agent Dutton will doubtless continue to manage some one of Proctor's tanneries.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 1888

This has been a boss sugar year. From March 30th to April 26th there has been over half a dozen good runs. Elmer C. Ives tapped near 400 trees, and Western & Tompkins a greater number. Each party will make about 2,000 pouns of maple sweet. The price varies from eight to ten cents for sugar, and form 85 cents to $1.25 for molasses according to quality.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 2, No. 9, September 1888

If the tariff is revised and changed according to Democratic notions, our manufacturing interests will be wrecked, wages will go down to the pauper rates of Europe, and the country will be ruined. So say all the Republican papers. On the other hand, if the present protective tariff is continued, a few manufacturers will be enriched, while the masses will be taxed into pauperism, and the corrupting influence of a great surplus will bring certian ruin. So say all the Democratic papers. Most of this tariff talk on both sides is full of falsehood slightly flavored with misleading truth. Moral issues don't seem to worry our old party politicians to any great extent.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 3, No. 7, July 1889

The Norway village cheese factory of Johnson & Nichols, makes up more cheese than any factory in the world. During the past month over 18000 pounds of milk has been daily received. June 15th 18606 pounds was the biggest day's record. This factory has 35 patrons, and begins to receive milk before six o'clock in the morning, and it is after nine o'clock before the last cans are weighed into the vats. Often twelve to fifteen teams are awaiting their turn to unload. The quality of the cheese manufactured needs no praise.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 3, No. 11, November 1889

Woodin & West from Herkimer, will open a knitting mill at Newport in December, and employ 50 hands. They have the factory building gratis, and will doubtless make a success of their enterprise.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 3, No. 12, December 1889

In 1816 it took one bushel of corn to buy one pound of nails, now one bushel of corn will buy ten pounds of nails. Then it required sixty-four bushels of barley to buy one yard of broadcloth, now the same amount of barley will pay for twenty yards of broadcloth. It then required the price of one bushel of wheat to pay for one yard of calico, now one bushel of wheat will buy twenty yards of calico.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 4, No. 2, February 1890

Numerous changes with farm tenants Feb. 1. Among others, Geo. Bunnell goes to Herkimer, Grank Netheway moves to the Delevan farm, Wm. H. Morse goes back to this farm, Edgar Gage moves to the Collins place in the village, and Wm. Topper has rented a farm near Grant.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 4, No. 6, June 1890

May has been a good month for grass only - the frequent rains have delayed barley sowing and corn planting, the early sowed grain looks sickly, and at this date the 27th, but few gardens are plowed. Seldom have the streams been so high as after the two day's rain of the 19th and 20th ult., roads and plowed field were badly gullied. On the whole the 1890 May has been a cold, rainy, gloomy, backward month.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 4, No. 6, June 1890

From the Peoples Friend of Little Falls dated Jan. 22, 1823, we copy the following item:


On the 20th of December last Mr. Parks Enos, of Norway, chopped six cords of green hard maple wood in six hours and twenty minutes. The wood was cut three and one-half feet in length and measured to the entire satisfaction of the employer.

The wood, we think, was cut for Col. D.C. Henderson. Enos was a famous chopper and enjoyed boasting of his big day's work. We have no doubt of the truth of the above statement as we have often heard it related by old townsmen. Enos lived in town many years but died, we think, in Fairfield. He has a son living in Herkimer.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 4, No. 8, August 1890

Norway's population is 816, a loss of 229 since 1880. All the adjoining towns show losses. We give the figures of 1880 and 1890:


Rural districts with few exceptions show a decrease. There are two causes for this; first, babies are out of style; second, farm business is depressed and don't pay. Village and city life has attractions for country lads and lasses. If this state of things continues for the next fifty years, the 1940 census will show most of our population living in cities, and country districts abandoned to wild beasts and growing up to forests. Before that time perhaps some Edison will invent an electrical machine to pump food from the air; all labor will be forbidden by law, and everybody draw a pension. What a fine time our grand-children will enjoy.


From Norway Tidings, Vol. 4, No. 9, September 1890

The writer remembers when hemlock lumber sold in Norway village for five dollars a thousand, but now it is scarce at $10. The large tanneries have been a curse to northern Herkimer county. Millions of feet of splendid hemlock timber have been cut, peeled and left to rot. There is but little left. The timber that has been destroyed and wasted since the settlement of this town would to-day be worth more than the land on which it grew. The vandal work still continues.

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Created: 8/20/97
Last Updated: 2/12/99
Text Copyright© 1987 The Kuyahoora Valley Historical Society
Copyright ©1997, 1999 Bill McKerrow
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