Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/494

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468
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

eleven hundred and forty acres, and is owned in plots of from thirty to fifty acres. The Bauermeister, or head of the village, owns one hundred and fifty acres, but he is exceptionally wealthy. The church lands are two hundred and eighty acres, and there are also two hundred and ten acres owned by a noble family, non-resident. The tillable church-lands are let to factory and railroad laborers in small plots, and the women of these tenants form a part of the general laboring force in the harvest-season.

Twenty acres is the least amount of land that a peasant, who lives on the produce of his farm alone, can cultivate profitably in this region, and the living thus obtained is so miserable that those who own so little generally eke out their subsistence by renting land from richer farmers. Sixty acres of the land around E—— have been set apart, by old usage, as common, on which those of the villagers who own "village rights" graze their animals, and from which they get clay and stone for building and a certain amount of hay for winter use. The extreme subdivision of the land around E—— is the result

of the laws which govern the inheritance of land in the province. At the death of the head of the family his land is divided equally among his children, his wife having first taken out of the estate the amount of money or land she brought her husband at marriage, and, in addition to this, a part equal to the share of one of the children. The mother's property at her death goes to the children in the same way.

Church-lands can be sold when the consent of the minister, church trustees, and church government has been obtained, but such sales rarely take place. Land belonging to the commune as commons can not be sold unless special authority has first been given by the state. The highest value I heard set on any land in E—— was three hundred dollars an acre for a garden-spot in the village itself. Land near E—— is not worth so much as near some of the towns around it, because it has never been verkoppelt or "married," as the process is called, by means of which a peasant obtains one compact farm in exchange for a dozen or more widely scattered, small fields. This Verkoppelung and the laws and customs which make such a process necessary show so much of the German farmer's mode of life that I will explain the manner in which it is carried out: In accordance with the laws which govern inheritance, each daughter must receive either at her marriage or at the death of her parents a certain share, varying with the number of children, of all the land belonging to her parents. The chances are, of course, very much against the land which she thus inherits adjoining that of her husband, so that, in the first generation, the family have two fields which may be a mile or two apart. Now, when this couple die, each one of their children receives its share, not of the whole, but of each field owned by the parents. Suppose this process to go on for a century, and it will be readily understood that a peasant may own thirty or forty fields, each containing but a small