The Hanover County Historical Society's quarterly meeting took place on Sunday, April 6, at the Mechanicsville branch of the Pamunkey Regional Library. The speaker was Dr. Walter P. Hempfling, biologist and Hanover Master Gardener, who presented Pages from Hanover County's Rich Agricultural History: Edmund Ruffin.

Some thirty people attended the event. A number of Edmund Ruffin's descendants were there, including Jane Beverly Ruffin, Marion Ruffin Jones and Tilghman Broaddus. 19th century farming practices were illustrated by three period ploughs, provided by Society President Art Taylor.

Hanover County resident Edmund Ruffin (1794-1865) is mostly remembered today for his association with the US Civil War. Before he involved himself in politics, however, Ruffin was an extremely innovative and successful farmer.

Ruffin learned to add lime to the acidic soil of his farms, primarily through the application of marl, a fossilized mudstone, and utilized inventive methods of irrigation and drainage. His original techniques greatly increased his corn and wheat yields on land that had been worn out by two centuries of tobacco monoculture.

Through a monthly publication called Farmers Register (printed and distributed for a time from his home), Ruffin spread his hard-won knowledge to other farmers in Virginia and beyond. On the cover of each issue of Farmers Register was printed the following quote from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift:

And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever would make two blades of grass or two ears of corn grow on a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve more of his country than the entire race of politicians put together.

Please click on any of the pictures to the right for a full-sized image.