The overwhelming majority of settlers in Ohio in the early 1800s were farmers. Initially, they cleared the land and raised crops to fill their own needs. By the early 1820s, however, many farmers in the state’s rich river valleys were raising substantial surpluses of cattle, hogs, and grain, much of which was converted into whiskey at local stills. Most of the surplus agricultural produce was shipped along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. Sometimes livestock was driven eastward over Appalachian trails to be sold.
By the early 1820s it was clear that Ohio’s potential for agricultural production could not be fulfilled without better transportation. The state’s navigable waterways could serve only a fraction of the farmland.
Although a network of unpaved roads crisscrossed the state, transportation was difficult, slow, and expensive. In 1825 the legislature passed a law to build navigable canals. Two major canals were built during the next two decades. The Ohio and Erie Canal opened in 1832, carrying traffic between Portsmouth, on the Ohio River, and Cleveland, on Lake Erie. The Miami and Erie Canal opened between Cincinnati and Dayton in 1830 and between Cincinnati and Toledo in 1845. A number of smaller canals also were constructed, often financed by private funds, to serve as feeders to the main canals or to connect with transportation facilities in Pennsylvania. This extensive network spurred settlement and cultivation of vast interior regions of Ohio that previously lacked easy access to major Eastern and Southern markets. At the same time, farming became more efficient through use of newly developed farm machinery, such as reapers, threshers, and improved plows, as well as scientific farming and breeding techniques. By 1850 Ohio led all states in the production of corn, wool, horses, and sheep, and was one of the four leading states in production of wheat, cattle, oats, potatoes, and hogs. "Ohio" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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