Interpreting the life of Michael Korn through his estate & tax records
The voluminous estate records of Michael Korn provide a portrait of his life. The items sold at the December 8th, 1824 public sale of Michael Korn’s personal property (i.e. “goods and chattels rights”) is documented on pages 48-56 of the 1949 book "The Genealogy of Michael Korns, Sr. of Somerset County Pennsylvania". This sale record allows us to step into Michael Korn’s world and have a detailed look around. We can see all his personal items, less whatever he may have given to his children before his death, and less any items that may have simply been appropriated by his wife and children before the sale.
I have consciously avoided making inferences from what was not sold at the public sale, because various items that he had owned could be missing for any number of reasons. As an example of a conspicuous missing item, there was a large quantity of butter sold at the sale, but no butter churn.
Since may people today are far-removed from farm life, and may not know much about early American farm life, I have provided links to pages that provide example photographs of some typical articles that were used on early farms. Such photographs are merely EXAMPLES; none of the items in the photographs are known to be from the Michael Korn, Sr. public sale.
For a brief, two page description of American farm life in the 1800-1833 time frame, click here.
Page numbers referenced below relate to pages in the book “Genealogy of Michael Korns, Sr.”, unless otherwise noted.
THE KORN FAMILY WERE WEAVERS, AND PROBABLY WORE HOMESPUN CLOTHING
Several items tell us that homespun cloth was made on the farm. From this we can infer that the Korn family most likely wore homespun clothes. The raw materials for such cloth were wool and flax, a fibrous plant used to make linen. Sixteen sheep were sold to various individuals (p. 50-51). I suspect that this is a relatively nice sized herd, considering the time and place. Page 56 lists flax sold to John Witt. Page 54 lists the sale of a barrel and flax seed, which is presumably a wooden barrel containing flax seed. This may have been seed for planting, or possibly for making oil.
Page 50 lists a flax brake that was sold to Daniel Korn. Such brakes were used (so far as I can tell from my limited reading to date) to help to break up the woody portion of the stem of the plant to facilitate separation of the woody and fibrous portions. Page 52 shows that Jacob Cook bought a flax hagel (sic) This was evidently a hatchel/hackle, which was a spike-toothed brush-like tool that was used for hatchelling the flax; i.e. to help remove unwanted portions of the stem, separate the shorter fibers, and align the long flax fibers in preparation for spinning into yarn.
Page 52 lists a loom that was sold to John Gaumer. Page 53 lists sets of sheep shears that were sold to Jacob Witt, Gulin Shaffer, and Daniel Lepley. Charles Gaumer and Daniel Lepley bought wool cards (p. 53). A wool card was a hand paddle with wire teeth that was used to straighten and separate wool fibers in preparation for spinning into yarn.
Page 54 shows that Daniel Korn, John Gaumer, John Korns, Peter Close and Henry Martz each purchased one or more sets of weaving/weaver’s gears, and Richard Gaumer bought a set of knitting gears. I’m not sure what weaving gears are, but they may have been used on a loom.
Among and near the list of weaver’s gears are two reels and two wheels, and a spinning wheel. Judging from the position in the list among other weaver’s equipment, it seems reasonable to infer that the reels were yarn winding reels, and the wheels were spinning wheels. Later on, on page 55, we see a wool wheel sold to Peter Clester, a wooling wheel sold to Peter Trautman, and a set of “weven” spools sold to Adam Sturtz. Page 49 lists the sale of “journ” to John Korn; considering that “J” is pronounced with a “Y” sound in German, this may possibly be yarn.
Weaving was a common activity in those days, performed on a small scale by farm wives to clothe their families. The presence of so much weaving equipment in the Korn's home suggests the possibility of commercial activity, rather than simply clothing the family. In other words, they may have performed the service of processing the wool of other farmers into cloth. There was too much weaving equipment for just one person, so it may have been a family affair. According to page 21 of the 1949 Korns book, Michael Korn was listed as a weaver in the 1786 tax list for Maxatawny Township, Berks County, PA.
Click here for a two page description of making homespun clothing, from the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania". Click here for another description of making homespun clothing from the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania".
MICHAEL KORN HAD A BARN BECAUSE HE HAD "HAY IN THE MOW"
Several things tell us that Michael Korn had a barn, and probably another outbuilding as well. Page 55 shows that William Korn bought “hay in the mow”. This tells us directly that there was a barn, because a “mow” is the part of a barn where hay is stored. In addition to this hay, five stacks of hay were sold. So many haystacks suggests that barn space may have been limited. Hay is used for winter feed for livestock. Michael Korn had a lot of hay because he had a lot of livestock. This hay was probably European hay, rather than native grass, because European hay was already growing in Somerset County by 1803 .
Samuel Philson, who was still a young Somerset County teenager in the 1820's, wrote the following account of how hay was harvested in his youth: "Very frequently, in passing through the country, you could see twelve to sixteen mowers working abreast, each one cutting about four feet wide...All the grass was cut for hay with German scythes, which were sharpened upon a small 'dengel stick" almost daily, and sharpened by a peculiarly shaped--I think imported--whetstone which each mower carried in a pouch on his waist. Also on his waist strap was carried a cow's horn with water. We boys of 10 to 13 years of age followed the mowers to scatter the grass and to keep them supplied with water and liquor. As soon as the hay was seasoned a number of hands, mostly females, with hand rakes formed the winrows [sic] while the men and boys loaded the wagons and stored away in barns.". Haying on the Michael Korn farm would have been performed in a similar manner. Hay and straw has to be cut and dried in the field before it rains, so it is a time-sensitive process. This must be why large groups of mowers were used.
A straw knife was also sold (p. 49). Such knives were used to cut into loose piles of tangled hay, so that a manageable size could be extracted for feeding. My father Roy had to use one as a boy, before they began to use baled hay on his father Irvin Dietle’s farm. First he would have to saw out a section of hay to loosen it from the tangled hay in the mow of the barn, then he would have to use a pitch-fork to dig it out and feed it to the animals that were located on the ground floor of the barn.
MICHAEL KORN HAD A SUBSTANTIAL QUANTITY OF GRAIN
Page 51 and 55 record that 150 bushels of wheat, 155 bushels of rye, 35 bushels of corn, and 25 bushels of oats were sold, along with wheat and rye that was still shocked in the fields, and 13 acres of un-harvested wheat "in the ground”.
The stored grain totaled 365 bushels. To help to visualize all this grain as a single volume in units that we are familiar with, it would form a cube 7 ft. 8 in. on a side. That represents a substantial quantity of grain, and it would have been stored in some type of outbuilding--most likely a barn. Each type of grain would have been stored in its own bin. As is and was customary, straw from the grain was probably used for livestock bedding.
I can relate to shocking grain in the field, because my Grandfather Dietle was still using that method in the 1960’s, and I had occasion to help with the task. Basically, the process of shocking is stacking tied bundles of cut grain stalks up in the field to dry before threshing. If either straw or grain is stored indoors with too much moisture, mildew will occur.
It is interesting to me that Michael Korn had 35 bushels of corn. According to the book “From Sugar Camps to Star Barns”, it was difficult to grow corn in Somerset County back then because of the altitude-related shortness of the growing season, and not everyone was successful. According to my dad, there were observable farm-to-farm differences in the length of the growing season due to altitude differences. According to the book "Somerset County Outline", Somerset County is one of the coldest in the state, with a growing season that is roughly two weeks to a month shorter than it is in adjacent Pennsylvania counties
The 1846 book "Early History of Western Pennsylvania and the Western Campaigns 1754-1833" incorporates a Somerset County chapter that states "Like its geological features, the soil of this county is of a variety of character. The southern part of the county is best adapted to the raising of corn and wheat; the middle and more northern ortion produce good crops of oats, potatoes and grass; and if ever, scarce any corn crops that repay the labor bestowed, tilling the ground."
According to Penn State University climatologic web page, the elevation of Somerset County generally varies from 2,100 to 2,200 feet above mean sea level. The topographic map that includes Michael Korn's farm indicates that the house was at an elevation of about 1,780 to 1,800 feet, with the edges of fields dropping down to as low as about 1,640 feet. The lower elevation of Michael Korn's farm apparently made it better for growing corn, compared to other areas in Somerset County.
DUNG HOOKS & FORK INDICATE A BARN OR STABLE
Page 49 records that there where two dung hooks and a dung fork sold. I don’t know what a dung hook is, but a dung fork I am all-too familiar with from personal use in cleaning manure out horse and cow stables and chicken coops in the 1960's (for as much as $1.00 an hour!). Barn manure is typically a thick, matted compaction of bedding straw and animal feces. The tines of the fork penetrate the manure, so that a fork-full of manure can be laboriously torn out and loaded for hauling away. Manure has to be cleaned out of a stable from time to time, or else it fills the stable so full that people no longer have enough headroom to walk upright. The manure was typically hauled to a manure pile outside the barn, then later spread on fields and gardens as fertilizer. There is very little need for a dung fork unless you have a stable to clean out. Considering the hay in the mow and the dung fork, it is a pretty safe bet that Michael Korn had a barn and an integral or separate stable.
MICHAEL KORN HAD MUCH MORE CLEARED LAND THAN HIS PEERS
In the 1820 census records for Southampton Township, the average taxable individual had 23.38 acres of cleared land, and by 1830 this average had dropped to 22.25 acres. The 1824 assessment records for Somerset County indicate that Michael Korn had 70 acres of cleared land, which is 3.07 times the 1820-1830 average. Click here for summaries of the 1820 and 1830 Southampton Township census. It would be interesting to revisit the 1820 census to see how many family members were still living there near the end of Michael Korn's life.
CLEARING LAND FOR FARMING
There were 5 axes sold at the auction (p. 49, 55, 56), three being described as being old. It is safe to assume that these were used for clearing land in preparation for farming, along with other tasks such as building fences, chopping firewood and preparing building timbers. Clearing activities were commonly performed in the wintertime, when other farmwork was slow . A common way to start a new field was to girdle the trees to cause them to die, in order to allow sunlight to get to the crops . In 1797, John Heckewelder wrote in regards to Somerset County "much dead timber is to be seen standing upon the fields" . Circa 1817, Joshua Gilpin, a merchant from Philadelphia who was visiting Somerset County, wrote "a great deal of girdled timber yet remaining in the fields" . A similar state of affairs was likely present on at least the more-recently cleared parts of the Michael Korn farm.
The clearing of land is described on page 134 of the 1906 "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania" as follows: "The small undergrowth was dug up with a grubbing hoe and burned. Whatever was of too large a growth to be taken out in this way was cut down with an axe as close to the ground as was possible. Trees were either cut down or deadened by girdling them. When cut down a part might be split into rails. The remaining parts were cut into lengths, rolled together into heaps, and burned. This part of the work was so heavy that the settler was under the necessity of calling in the help of his neighbors when he had any. A day would be set for the log rolling, and there was always a ready response, because all of the settlers were in need of more or less assistance of this sort in bringing their lands under cultivation. In the early days much of the heavy work on almost every improvement was done by the united efforts of the entire neighborhood, now for one, then for another. These log rollings of the pioneers were their busy play days. While there was not a little of hard and heavy work, it was always seasoned by plenty of fun and frolic. For years, these log rollings were looked upon as the gala days of the settlement. Year after year this work was kept up until the forest was cleared away, and the landscape everywhere dotted with the smiling fields that now greet the eye.".
HOW WERE CROPS RAISED
Various farming implements that were sold give us a glimpse into farming operations. A number of livestock-drawn farming implements were used to preparing the ground for planting. Page 49 lists a plow share. Page 50 lists two plows, a harrow, and a shovel plow. These implements were apparently horse drawn. There were no oxen or ox yokes sold at the public sale, but a colt and four horses were sold (p. 51, 55), along with various accessories including 5 sets of horse gear (p. 52), a horse collar and a blind bridle (p. 55), and hobbles (p. 56). It is my understanding, from what I was told as a boy, that a blind bridle was used to prevent a horse from being frightened by things beside it. In the 1820 census records for Southampton Township, the average taxable individual owned 1.09 horses, and by 1830 this average had dropped to 0.93. Michael Korn had many more horses than his peers.
In Michael Korn's day, crops were tended and harvested with hard manual work . Four scythes are listed (p. 48, 49); these were used for manually cutting hay and perhaps other crops. Page 49 also lists two cradles sold one after the other. These are interpreted to be grain cradles, since one was sold along with one of the above-noted scythes. According to pages 41 and 252 of John C. Cassady's 1932 book "Somerset County Outline", the grain cradle was not used in Somerset County until about 1840. Here we apparently have documentation of two in use at a much earlier date.
Samuel Philson, who was still a young Somerset County teenager in the 1820's, wrote the following about how grain was harvested in his youth: "The reaping party was generally composed of the farmer himself and his neighbors, and the apprentice boys...[The reapers were] followed by boys to gather and old men to shock the reaped grain neatly to protect it while seasoning before being stored".
Grain was typically threshed manually with a flail, or by the trodding of horses in those days . Pages 135-136 of the 1906 "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania" states "Grain had to be cut with a sickle, and grass was cut with the common Dutch scythe, as it was called. Threshing of grain was usually done with a flail, the grain being spread out over a rude floor. Sometimes, when the settler had two or three horses, the grain was trodden out by making them walk over it. The separating of the grain from the chaff was oftentimes a work of more trouble. If there was no windmill, it could only be done by tossing the grain into the air and allowing a strong wind to carry away the chaff. Sometimes, a crude windmill would be constructed by the settler himself, or one might be borrowed from a more fortunate neighbor.". Page 51 lists the sale of a windmill, which seems likely to have been used for the purpose of separating the wheat from the chaff.
Page 51 lists a wagon, which would have been used for bringing various crops in from the field. It may have also been used to transporting products to market.
In so much as timber can be considered a crop, page 50 lists a log sleigh and chain. A few woodworking tools were also sold, including 5 augers, a saw, and a drawing knife (p. 48), as well as a hammer (p.53). The presence of so many augers seems curious to me, and may indicate commercial activity.
Page 53 lists a watering pot, which was probably used in the then-ubiquitous vegetable garden. Pages 48 and 49 list four hoes, which would have been used for weeding and planting (For an example of an early American hoe from a nearby Southampton Township farm, click here.). Two shovels and a “pade” (possibly a spade) are listed on p. 48, 49 and 56. These would have been used for harvesting potatoes, among other tasks.
From the articles sold at the public sale, it is very clear, and not at all surprising, that horses were used for transportation. As noted above, there were four horses and a colt sold at the auction. Page 40 lists two saddle bags. Page 50 lists a large sled, which would have been for farm transport. (In the 1950's, the rotting remains of such farm sleds were still present on my neighbor's dairy farm in Mercer County.) Page 55 lists a saddle, and most surprisingly to me, page 51 lists a carriage—the most expensive item sold at the auction. I am surprised that at least part of the local road network was apparently good enough to accommodate the use of carriages by 1824. After all, the road up to Michael Korn's farm is still in a fairly primitive state today. The carriage also supports the notion that Michael Korn was a relatively wealthy man, for his time and place.
A SUBSTANTIAL HERD OF CATTLE AND HOGS WERE SOLD.
A Substantial herd of cattle was sold at the public sale, including 6 calves, 6 steers, four heifers (young female cows), one bull and 6 cows (pages 50 and 56). Steers are castrated male animals raised for meat. The calves, heifers and cows suggest a dairy herd, especially in view of the five buckets and a cow chain or cow “Jane” recorded on page 48, a large quantity of butter recorded on page 49, the strainer (possibly a milk strainer) recorded on page 52, and the cheese press recorded on page 54.
The bull indicates that Michael Korn was engaged in cattle breeding, and this activity likely extended to the breeding of some of his neighbor’s cows. There were also 8 hogs, two sows with their young pigs, and 14 other pigs sold (page 50). Some of the pork was converted to sausage, as evidenced by the sausage funnel sold to George Harden (p. 52). As mentioned above, there were also 16 sheep sold.
The size of Michael Korn’s herds was very substantial, compared to his peers. In the 1820 census records for Southampton Township, the average taxable individual owned 1.44 cattle, and by 1830 this average had dropped to 1.33. Michael had 23 head of cattle in 1824, which is 16.6 times more than the 1820-1830 average owned by his peers.
THIS WASN'T MERE SUBSISTANCE FARMING
The above-noted size of the herd of cattle, swine and sheep goes far beyond mere subsistence farming, and indicates that meat and possibly other farm products were being produced commercially. Page 52 lists the sale of two stilyards (sets of scales for measuring weight), which also suggests commercial, rather than subsistence farming.
Two obvious markets for farm products would have been the town of Cumberland, and the many western-migrating travelers on the Turkey Foot Road, the Braddock Road, and what would during Michael's lifetime be built nearby, the National Road. (Click here to see a portion of the 1823 Lucas map of Pennsylvania that shows the Somerset County area and the nearby National Road.) An expanding, westward moving population would have helped to create a huge market for his farm products, as it did for others in Somerset County . He would have had access south to these markets via the nearby "Old Cumberland Road" that is described on pages 194-195 of the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania". Also, the original draft of the Michael Korn farm from the "Genealogy of Michael Korns, Sr." book illustrates a road traversing his property that is marked "Road to Cumberland" in one direction, and "Road to Berlin" in the other.
Click here for a description of the Braddock Road and the later National Road, from the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania". In regard to the National Road, this article states "It was, therefore, the outlet for our southern townships, both to the east and the west. Their produce found its way eastward to Baltimore over this great highway, and all goods and merchandise that were brought into that part of the county came over the same route.". If this market to the south benefited Somerset County farmers, as indicated by Reference  and the above reference, then it is logical to assume that Michael Korn benefited. He lived near the Mason-Dixon line, and was in closer proximity to such markets than most Southampton Township farmers.
In 1790, the center of US population was about 25 miles east of Baltimore. By 1820, it had moved approximately as far west as Michael Korn's farm. In other words, in 1790 he was a pioneer in the western wilderness, but by 1820, half of the US population had migrated west past him; click here for a population map. During the same time 1790 to 1820 period, according to the US census, the population had increased from 3,929,214 to 9,638,453. This massive population increase and migration was an important market for local farm products. Volume I of the book "A Century of Growth: or, The History of the Church in Western Maryland" describes the effect the National Road had on the locale near Michael Korns, Senior, as follows: "the number of travelers passing east and west consumed a great quantity of mutton, veal, and venison, and needed hay and grain for their teams."
A PEEK INSIDE THE KITCHEN
Two stoves are recorded (page 51 and 52), which may have been for cooking as well as heating. This probably tells us that Mrs. Korn did not have to cook in a fireplace. Compared to a fireplace, a stove would have meant less bending and heavy lifting .With two stoves (and likely at least one fireplace as well), they were either very well set up for cooking in, and heating the house, or there was more than one building with a stove. Perhaps one of the stoves was set up in a detached kitchen that would have been used for messier, rougher cooking tasks. Another plausible theory is that in addition to the house, there may have been an earlier-built cabin or log house that contained the second stove. The house that is associated with Michael Korn had a hole in the fireplace chimney to receive a stove pipe.
Page 49 records the sale of four ginger cake pans, which tells us that someone liked to bake, and tells us that such articles could be acquired in the area.
Page 52 lists various kitchen items included 5 tin cups and one lot of tin ware, three knives and forks, a ladle (either from the kitchen, or a dairying item), a coffee kettle, and a coffee mill. Page 51 also lists a gallon tin.
Page 53 lists another set of tin ware, another coffee mill, a tin bucket, a salt box, another coffee pot, a tin dish, seven spoons, three pewter dishes, three pewter plates, three other plates, an old coffee pot, and an old mug, and another “plat” (plate). Clearly, with several coffee mills and coffee pots, someone in the family liked coffee, and evidently had access to it through international trade that extended into Somerset County.
Pages 53 and 54 also list 2 chairs, four arm chairs, two broken kettles, and a jug in close proximity in the list, which suggests that they came from the house. These may have been large outdoor kettles from the basement, or small kettles from the kitchen, but at least some of the chairs and possibly the jug were from the kitchen. The kettles could have been used for many different purposes, including production of maple syrup and sugar.
Page 54 also lists a cupboard that may have been from the kitchen, and one or two pans (if a “puhan” and a “pan” can both be assumed to represent pans), a pot hook, two buckets, an iron pot, a Dutch oven and a chopping bench. According to a 1909 book, "The Dutch oven is a heavy flat iron pot with short legs and an iron top which fits within a high flange. It is heated by coals beneath it and heaped on the top." . In other words, it was for cooking in the fireplace, or over an outdoor fire.
Page 55 lists a table, and page 56 lists another table. The presence of two tables suggests a large kitchen, or a separate kitchen, or the possibility that one of the tables was used in another room for another purpose besides eating (for example, indoor work (more likely), or even possibly for indoor decorating of a room (less likely). Page 56 also lists a dough trough, which tells us that they had access to ground grain and could make bread. The flour would probably have been ground at one of the local mills. According to John C. Cassady's 1932 book "Somerset County Outline", in 1809 Jacob Korn (Michael's brother) built a gristmill where the town of Wellersburg was later built, and in 1810 Jacob Uhl built a grist mill somewhere in Southampton township. Page 49 lists two additional iron pots and a pan.
The Korn family was well-supplied with kitchen articles.
WHAT DID THE KORN FAMILY EAT?
From the above paragraphs, it is clear that cake and wheat and rye bread would have been available, along with milk, butter, cheese, pork, ham, sausage, bacon, lamb and beef. Coffee was clearly someone’s beverage of choice. Page 49 lists a kraut tub and 6 crocks, so sauerkraut was eaten, which would be expected in a German family. The crocks would have been used for fermenting and storing sauerkraut, and were probably also used for preparing pickled cucumbers, and possibly some of them were used for milk storage in the spring house (if it existed in the day of Michael Korn). Page 51 lists "1 Cuting box" and "1 slay box and cutting box" and page 53 lists a “cabage cutig”. I’m not quite sure what each one of these terms means, but I suspect at least one was an article for chopping cabbage for making colesaw and sauerkraut. Click here to see an example photograph of such an item.
Page 54 lists three bee hives, so honey was probably part of the diet. Page 54 also lists 10 bushels of potatoes, and beans, which at the time of the auction in December would have been dried beans. The beans and potatoes were probably home grown in a family garden plot. The potatoes would have been stored in a cool place, most likely the "Keller" (cellar/basement).
Page 54 lists a bag of snitz (dried apples), an unspecified container of snitz, and 3 barrels of dried apples. The presence of so many apples suggests that the family may have had an apple orchard of bearing age. If they had an orchard, it is likely that they also made apple butter. The fact that the listed apples were dried reminds us that one goal in those days was to store enough food for the garden for the cooler months, using the limited storage/preservation methods available at the time, such as drying (beans, apples), fermenting (sauerkraut and pickles) and cool storage (potatoes)
Pages 49, 51 and 56 each list a cask, and these may have been for storing wine or liquor in the basement, as the use of liquor was common in those days, even as a field beverage. Circa 1810, for example, strong drink was a traditional aspect of farm work and social life; people had long-believed that liquor provided the strength needed to accomplish hard work .
Page 55 lists the sale of 1 gage & hops. Hops was a plant that was used to make beer, or as a rising agent in the baking of bread. Hops was grown locally. In November, 2007 my father Roy stated that when he was a boy, an adult pointed out where hops was still growing on his father Irvin's farm in Larimer township, from where a previous owner of the farm had planted it.
GENERAL HOUSEHOLD FURNISHINGS/ITEMS
Four Bedsteads (i.e. bed frames) and three beds are listed on pages 49 and 55. It appears that this means four bed frames and three mattresses, but it isn’t entirely clear. Either way, it seems to suggest a larger house, rather than a smaller house. One bed cord is listed on page 53; this is evidently the cord used to support the mattress of a rope bed. Page 56 lists a dresser. Things like chairs, tables and stoves are listed above in other sections of the sale record. A looking glass (i.e. mirror) and picture are listed on page 53. Four tubs, one specifically a washing tub, are listed on page 49. Page 55 lists the sale of soap; this may have been homemade lye soap that some backwoods Somerset County people were still making for laundry purposes in the 1970’s (I know because I bought some at a Southampton Township household auction in the 1970’s).
Pages 55 and 56 list six chests. Some of these may have been used in the house for storing things like blankets, and some may have been used in the barn for storing various gear. Two candle molds are listed on page 52, so we can presume that some of the nighttime lighting was provided by homemade candles. Page 53 lists the sale of bees wax, which may have come from the hives listed above. I don’t know for sure if bees wax is useful for candle making or not. One source of Somerset County history that I read appeared to indicate that candles were made from tallow produced from hogs .
A desk is listed on page 55; this is where Michael Korn would have kept track of his various business transactions. Pages 45 to 48 of the book "The Genealogy of Michael Korns, Sr. of Somerset County Pennsylvania list a great many people who owed Michael Korn money at the time of his death. These debts were typically recorded in scrupulously maintained "book accounts", however the larger amounts due to Michael Korn were in the form of "notes". For a good example of a book account of a Somerset County resident weaver from the same time period, see the English translation of "The Peter Leibungutt Journal", published by Mennonite Family History in 1991, pertaining to Peter Livengood (also my ancestor). This is the type of business paperwork that we can picture Michael Korn taking care of at his desk. For an excellent description of book accounts, see page 18 of the book "From Sugar Camps to Star Barns". Page 51 lists a clock, which would have been a relatively expensive item. Page 52 lists a conch shell, which would have been a household novelty decoration.
HUNTING, TRAPPING AND SELF-DEFENSE
Three firearms were sold at the auction, a pistol (p. 53), a rifle and a gun (page 55). Page 55 also lists a powder horn. A pistol was, and still is, solely a personal close-range defensive weapon, which may tell us something about the mindset of Michael Korn. The rifle and gun (the “gun” presumably a smoothbore fowling piece or musket) were hunting arms, which also would have had utility for defense if ever necessary. A trap is listed on page 53. Taken together, we can observe that hunting and trapping were likely winter time activities at some point in Michael Korn's life to provide things like meat, fur and animal skins. Hunting and firearms ownership are still strong traditions in Pennsylvania in the twenty-first century, and are activities that many people proudly trace back to their pioneer ancestors. To see examples of locally made firearms, see the 1991 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties" that was written by Whisker & Whisker. During Michael Korn's lifetime, the closest gunsmith that I am certain of was Benjamin Franklin Troutman. Click here for an example of a flintlock rifle that was locally made by Benjamin's son after Michael Korn's death. Although Adam Lepley lived near Michael Korn, and was definitely a gunsmith, I haven't seen references yet that prove that he was a gunsmith during Michael Korn's lifetime.
Page 52 lists quite a few books that were sold, including a Bible, and page 53 lists a manuscript book. These confirm literacy within the family. A lot of these books were sold to Daniel Korn, so it is possible that one of them is the old undated German Psalm book that is documented on this website.
Page 53 also lists a pocket book, which probably means money wallet, but could also mean a small book for taking notes regarding accounts & etc. Page 52 lists a razor, and page 53 lists another razor and a lance, which tells us that someone in the family shaved his beard, and tells us that bloodletting may have been used for medicinal purposes. Page 53 lists cupping glasses, which were vacuum cups used for medicinal purposes. Page 53 lists to (2) shaving tools, whether for wood or whiskers, I can’t tell, but the next item in the list was one of the previously-listed razors.
Page 55 lists tobacco, which suggests that Michael Korn may have smoked or sold tobacco. Page 52 lists two spectacles (eyeglasses). We can speculate that these were Michael’s glasses, because if they belonged to his second wife or minor children, it is unlikely that they would have been sold at auction. Page 56 also lists an umbrella. Charles Gaumer is listed on page 52 as buying a pair of “Saysers”, which is probably a phonetic spelling for scissors.
Page 48 lists a bell, but whether it is a cow bell or a farm bell, we cannot know. Page 49 lists a jack screw, which might have been used for changing wheels on vehicles, as well as other typical uses for a jack. Page 49 also lists a grind stone, which would have been used for sharpening cutting implements such as axes. Page 53 lists a “smoothing iron”, which sounds as if it is a description of a clothes iron. Page 55 lists rope.
Aside from the containers previously listed, there were many other containers sold, including 4 baskets, 6 buckets of unspecified construction, 3 tin buckets, 4 barrels, 10 bags, 2 tubs (one of which being a soap tub), and 1 half bushel container. These containers suggest a high level of industry. Barrels could be used for storage of various things, including sauerkraut.
The quantity of buckets suggest that, as common to the area, maple sugar and syrup production may have been pursued in the springtime. As my Grandfather Dietle still did in the 1960's, back then maple syrup was produced in a big kettle hung between forked posts . Sugaring is done in the early spring when the sap is running, and other farm work is still slow. Maple sugar was an important part of the local economy in Michael Korn's day, as a compact trade item, and was also used for curing meat .
In terms of real estate, page 56 lists 3 acres of new ground sold to Daniel Korn.
The following items are listed from the sale that I cannot identify yet:
1 Tave box (p. 49)
2 Gags (p. 49)
1 hay lathers (p. 51) (I don't know what hay lathers were, but the term shows up in other Pennsylvania estates. For example, see the 1787 inventory of Benjamin Landis of Lancaster County, PA, and the 1850 inventory of James Crabbs of Adams County, PA.)
4 of “1/2 sett of susors” (p. 52)
1 marshel (p. 52)
1 Stone peha (p. 53)
gum (p. 54)
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS / INTERPRETATIONS
Michael Korn lived in a sparsely populated agrarian community, in what was then a patricarchal society . Men controlled property and family member income, adn women had practically no property rights .
The area where he lived was hemmed in by mountains to the east and west, and was and is still dominated by forest. Wellersburg had not yet been founded, and therefore did not represent a market for Michael's farm products.
From the size and content of his estate, we can characterise Michael Korn as an ambitious man, relatively well-to-do for the area, with a relatively high social status, and an industrious family. During the region's settlement period he started out on a small nearby farm in Maryland, and by the time of his death he was farming at a significantly larger scale, and was more prosperous, than the typical local farmer of the day. Certain items, such as the carriage and clock, appear to indicate a desire for a bit of refinement and sophistication. We can also conclude that the family had good connection to an extensive trade network with the outer world, and had access to, and could afford various consumer goods.
The lives of early rural Somerset Countians such as Michael Korn were defined largely by interaction with their peers and relatives within the local community . The nature of the work was governed by the seasons, and was focused on accomplishing certain tasks, rather than the present day focus on time spent at work . In the early days of Somerset County settlements, neighbors had to rely on each other for help, and farm work was accomplished by interdependent communal and family effort . As decades went by, this sense of community would have been fostered by the increasingly complex network of kinship resulting from marriages. Traces of this community-based lifestyle were still present during my parents childhood, and even mine. During my father's childhood, neighbors still gathered to help each other butcher hogs, as they did during the lifetime of Michael Korn . During my childhood, it was commonplace when visting the Allen Korns farm to be drafted into farmwork, such as bailing hay or cleaning a chicken coop, and I was aware of some equipment sharing among local farmers.
During the 19th century, there was a gradual transition in Somerset County from inter-dependent communal work, to a more of an impersonal, cash-oriented market economy which gave people more independence . Judging from the size and commercial implications of his large herds of livestock, and his various consumer goods, it appears that Michael Korn was an active and willing participant in the economic transition.
L. Dietle, June 5, 2008
 From Sugar Camps to Star Barns, Sally McMurry, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001
 Military Hygiene For Officers of the Line
Return to the Korns family genealogy home page