This book was originally printed circa 1940, and most likely written on a typewriter very much like this. (Herald / Joe Schriner)
This book was originally printed circa 1940, and most likely written on a typewriter very much like this. (Herald / Joe Schriner)

SCIOTO MARSH AREA — Inflation has now elevated to 9.1%, which is the highest it’s been in four decades. The “Consumer Confidence Index” slipped another 2.7 points in July, the third straight month of decline for this. The housing market is slowing.

The amalgam of these factors, and many more, has the American economy incrementally, and steadily at this point, moving toward a recession. And consumers, seeing the mounting indicators, can, in turn, brace in various ways for the possibility of a recession,

Not so on October 29, 1929.

It was this day (“Black Tuesday”) that the U.S. Stock Market went into free fall altogether and totally collapsed – instantly plunging the country into The Great Depression. The fall-out was dramatic.

With many factories, and other businesses, in metropolitan areas, for instance, being forced to close, employees found themselves instantly out of work, and desperate to take care of their families.

Necessity had some of these families pick up and move to the country to be closer to food sources, trying to eke out a living, any kind of living, off the land.

A significant number of these people moved to the Scioto Marsh area in Hardin County. The large, sprawling marsh had been drained decades earlier and the black soil left behind was perfect for growing potatoes and onions.

In fact, this area near McGuffey, Alger, Harrod… became known as the “Onion Capital of the World.” And people moving from all over Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, took up residences in these small towns, or in makeshift shanty towns on the edge of the marsh.

Many of these people didn’t know the first thing about agriculture and found themselves in a steep learning curve. Enter the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

According to the book A Complete History of the Scioto Marsh, there were local FSA agents who helped the immigrants to this area, basically, live off the land.

Farm planning was handled by local FSA Supervisor Paul Dickey. He helped people, not only with the logistics of planning farms, but he also helped them apply for small loans, and such, to help get the farms going.

Concurrently, the FSA’s “Home Economist,” Jeanette McCoy, held classes on canning, gardening, cooking, medical care…

This, indeed, helped some families get a lasting foothold in transitioning to farming here. However, the book also noted that for some, they just couldn’t make a go of it.

“Some transients took out loans, ran into a bad year, threw up their hands – and moved to Michigan [although it’s not clear what they did there],” the book notes.

As an addendum, after several years early on, Mr. Dickey came up with a backstop idea for some small farmers in the marsh area who were barely making it. The farm planning started to include some small “upland farms” with cows, chickens and hogs.

If the “cash crop” of onions and potatoes in the marsh area, say, failed one year, the farm family could still fall back on the other farm to at least get by.

Note: Originally published in 1940, the McGuffey Memory Historical Society has recently reprinted the book: A Complete History of The Scioto Marsh by Car Drumm. It can be ordered by calling MMHS representative Mariana Watts at 502-552-0231.