James Clemens was one of the most prosperous farmers in Longtown. For over half of the 19th century James owned more land, held more livestock, and farmed more crops than almost anyone else in Longtown. By 1850 the Clemens farmstead lay across 550 acres of rolling farmland and woods at a time when the average Longtown farmer held only 60 acres. Like his contemporaries, Clemens focused his attention on producing several key crops and livestock animals. With the onset of the industrial revolution, machines called threshers were beginning to ease the work of the farmer. An early form of combine, threshers, streamlined the work of bringing in the harvest. Clemens was at the center of a group of farmers who used a thresher communally. This was known as a threshing ring. At harvest time, neighbors and friends would gather and work together so that everyone would benefit from either the community labor or the thresher.
Daily life in Longtown was centered around farming, an activity that required the cooperation of the entire family, as seen in the photograph on the right. Probates obtained from Darke County show that the majority of items that Longtown residents owned were farming tools and equipment. Other than farm items, most families owned only other items of necessity such as kitchen supplies, furniture, and clothes. This suggests a simple way of life, and while it is true that most Longtowners led plain lives, it was not always true.
Trips to Richmond, Indiana, were not unheard of and many of the probates included receipts for debts from stores based in Richmond. While basic goods were available locally, there were many items and services available only in the city. Newspaper ads from the Richmond Palladium show that everything from medicine to jewelry to dental services was available. As the city grew so did the variety of goods available, as seen in the graph. The graph is misleading however, for the style of ads began to change towards the end of the century. Small specialty stores began to give way to larger department stores which would advertise all of their goods in larger ads, decreasing the number of ads while the number of goods continued to increase.
If you are interested in reading more about Longtown and how it came to be visit the Union Literary Institute Preservation Society website.