Early Cash Crops of Lewis County
In the late 1800’s, gathering spruce gum was a seasonal business. In 1887, gum pickers were coming out of the town of Greig’s woods with 25 to 100 pounds of gum each. In 1888 Spruce gum was manufactured by the Adirondack Spruce Gum Company of Port Leyden.

In 1890 blackberries was a cash crop. 30,000 quarts had been harvested and processed at the Turin canning factory.

Hop growing started during the late nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century and was a cash crop in and around the Lowville area. In the spring the hops were planted with about twenty foot poles so that the plant could grow up the pole. The hops was harvested in the fall. In the mornings, pickers were picked up in farm wagons and taken to the fields and in the late afternoons, the pickers were taken back to town. The hops were stored in hop houses for curing. Breweries in Utica and Rome, NY would purchase the cured hops. In 1907 the farmer received about 10 to 12 cents a pound for the hops. In 1952 the last hop house, which was on Edward Rittis’ farm, was torn down. Before the 1900’s, in West Turin there were several families who operated hopyards; the Potter family at Potter’s Corners, Robert Plunkett on Route 26, and several by the families of Emory Allen on West Road.

Potatoes were raised in the town of Watson when the Black River Canal was in operation. The farmers could take their potatoes to a storehouse on the northern bank of the Black River. The potatoes were easily shipped by boat to the city markets. But when the Canal ceased operation, the farmers no longer had a profitable way to get their potatoes to market.

Poultry farming
An incubator, named “Climax”, was perfected by Samuel L. Hirschey in 1902 for the hatching of chicken eggs. The “Climax” won awards at competitions and in 1904 was being manufactured at Castorland.

Maple sugar and maple syrup were and continue to be important cash crops for Lewis County. This history goes back to the Indians. A few miles north of Lowville, trees were found that had tappings like those of the Indians. Early settlers made maple sugar for their own use, and like everything else as farming progressed, so did maple syrup production for sale.

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