Robert Shane and the Agricultural Census

There are several agricultural census years available at and possibly other sites as well… I got started on Ancestry so my information comes from them.  One of the things that happened was I couldn’t find my ancestor Robert Shane on a consistent basis and it was only after I started using wild card searches that I found Robert “Share” listed along with other neighbors he’d been next to for many years.  The other name spelling derivation was “Shahan.”

On the 1850 agricultural census, Robert Shahan reported that he owned 30 acres of improved land and 170 unimproved for a cash value of $1000.  He didn’t report owning any livestock but production of 300 bushels of oats were listed for Robert.

Daniel Shahan, farming adjascent to Robert reported that he owned 60 acres of improved land and 110 acres unimproved for a cash value of $700.  Daniel also reported farming implements and machinery valued at $300, as well as horses, milch cows, other cattle, oxen and swine for a reported value of $385.  Daniel’s farm also produced 60 bushels of Irish potatoes, 500 bushels of Indian corn, 70 tons of hay and 100 pounds of butter which he reported on the 1850 agricultural census.

If, as I believe, Daniel and Robert were brothers it’s possible they shared much of this land and its crops and livestock.

The 1860 Agriculture Census lists Robert “Shahan” as being the owner, manager or agent of 50 acres of improved land and 120 acres unimproved for a cas value of $1700.  He lists some farming implements, 6 horses, 4 milch cows and 7 other cattle as well as 8 swine.  Value of all livestock given as $750.  Wheat, 150 bushels, Indian corn 500 bushels and 150 bushels of oats are among the crops Robert produced and 15 bushels of Irish potatoes, 25 pounds of butter and 6 tons of hay as well.  Clearly, the farm is gaining in prosperity at this time.

In 1870 the enumerator lists Robert’s holdings as 400 acres of improved land and 20 unimproved.  Value is $1200.  Farming implements value is listed as $300 and according to the census document Robert reported paying out $2000 in wages for the past year.  That seems like a lot and I’m wondering if the enumerator made an error or Robert’s reporting was incorrect.  Robert’s livestock holdings also were increased and the census indicates he owned 6 horses, 2 mules/asses, and 6 milch cows as well as 40 other cattle and 30 swine.  Value of all stock figure is a bit smeared but appears to be $1180.  In this census many of the figures are broken down into spring wheat/winter wheat, etc.  and Robert lists 100 bushels of spring wheat and “0” of winter.  Other crops included Indian corn, oats and barley, 50 bushels of Irish potatoes, butter and cheese. The final category asks for an “Estimated Value of All Farm Production Including Betterments and Additions to Stock.”  Amount listed at Robert’s farm is $1325.

The 1880 Agriculture Census is the most interesting as at this time Bridget and Robert were separated and listed individually on the census. Here’s the data: Robert is listed as owning 60 acres of land that is “tilled, including fallow” etc…. 160 acres is shown as permanent meadows, and 20 acres is woodland.  There are more words in the categories but this gives you the picture.  At this time Robert’s farm is showing a value of $5500 for land, fences and buildings, $225 for farm implements and $1115 worth of livestock.  Robert reports paying labor costs of $175, a much reduced figure from the 1870 census.  The livestock categories are broken down to such an extent that boredom will take over for the reader if I try to list them all, however Robert still had substantial holdings, even after splitting the property with his wife, Bridget.  Estimated  value of all farm production for 1879,  was $1735.

Turning now to Bridget Shane’s holdings: According to the census, Bridget was the owner of 80 acres of tilled land, 120 acres of meadows, and 20 acres of woodlands.  Value of the farm is stated as $6000, with $275 in farm equipment and $1477 in livestock. Bridget seems to be doing every bit as well as her estranged husband Robert.  One clear difference is that she paid out only $30 in labor vs Robert’s $175… but one could assume that the sons living at home provided most of the labor as part of the household responsibilities.  According to the census document Bridget’s income may have from the sale of milk… 1442 gallons is listed as having been produced plus 100 pounds of butter. Bridget also kept 6 swine, 65 poultry and grew corn, Irish potatoes and apples. So her farm was very productive, indeed at least as productive as Robert’s.

So there you have it… I’ve answered some of my questions, namely whether or not the Shane’s prospered during their time of farming in Delaware County, Iowa and it’s clear that they did.  My desire to know more about their day to day life will probably have to be answered through readings of a general nature about life and times in the mid 1800’s.  And as always, when one family history question is answered, up pops another!  In this case I’m still eager to track down Dennis and Daniel and their descendants and find out more about the mysterious Michael Sheahan and where he fits into the picture.

So until next time… that’s about it!  I hope this little study has given you all some insight into our Shane (Sheahan, Shahan, Shehan, etc) ancestors.  More posts when the next batch of information comes down the pike.


Susan J. Edminster, Granite Falls, Washington, August 20, 2010.  All Rights Reserved.

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