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Pilgrim
posted
I just got back from a trip to California in which I covered the coast south to north and stopped at all the missions along the way to look at artifacts. Several had some old grub hoe blades. Well mountain men used grub hoes to dig a cache. I have a Maddox with the pick end sawed off that is a "grub hoe" but the thing weighs a ton. These museum grub hoes had 7" x 7" blades and a collar through which a handle was run. Strong but a lot lighter in weight. I eventually got up to the Napa Valley (Calistoga) and saw a brand new grub hoe blade sold by Seymore that looked just the same.
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sey...783442&wl13=&veh=sem

Well I bought it but then I got thinking....maybe these museums just tossed in a 20 year old blade that "looked historical". Does anyone have any documented grub hoe blades from the late 1700's to about 1840?
 
Posts: 54 | Registered: 14 November 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of Notchy Bob
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Howdy

This is an interesting topic. First off, the hoe blade in the link looks more like a "planter's hoe" than a grub hoe, although there is a grub hoe head or blade in the "Customers also looked at..." section at the top of the page. It may be possible that somebody put old-timey looking hoes in the displays you saw to substitute for genuine antiques. This sort of thing happens. One of the most aggravating examples is with the "canoe awls" of the fur trade. These were forged, with tapered, double ended shanks and a forged-in offset in the middle. Nowadays, folks take a piece of 1/8" square stock, bend a "dogleg" in it, sharpen the two ends, and tell everybody it's authentic. It isn't.

But I digress...

The missions you visited in California were probably Spanish, and there actually was a very distinct type of hoe forged by the Spanish blacksmiths. This had a poll on the top of the eye, and I don't believe the American or British or French hoes did. Some of these were shown in an article in the MOFT Quarterly a few years ago, and I think there were a couple in Gary Hendershott's "Comancheria Collection". Check out the lower right corner of page 83 of the online catalog in the link. Four of the six hoe blades pictured have polls, two do not. I think they all have round eyes. The caption discusses types of hoe blades and their importance in colonial times and the Indian trade.

However, those would be Spanish hoes. I know a lot of the old trappers visited California and New Mexico, and could have gotten Spanish-style tools, but they may have been at least as likely to have British or American made hardware. Here are links to a couple of "trade" hoes: Dismal River Culture and American Science. One of these days, maybe I'll figure out how to post the picture directly, but for now just check the links and look for the photographs of trade goods. There is a hoe blade shown on both sites. This may even be the same blade, shown in two different pictures. I could not find any provenance for it, but we are led to believe it is an old trade hoe from the upper Missouri. It does in fact resemble the Seymour hoe blades somewhat, although the spine down the center of the blade is more prominent, and the "shoulders" of the blade don't go as high up the eye. I suppose you could come pretty close to the original by grinding the shoulders of your Seymour hoe blade down some, and by burning off the paint. You could then brown the blade, to give it a patina.

I'll take your word for the fact that mountain men carried grubbing hoes to dig their caches, although I have not run across mention of that in the limited reading I have done. We do know that the blacksmiths on the frontier made hoes, at least in the Spanish settlements, and that iron hoe blades were important trade items for the farming tribes. Either way, hoes could have been available on the frontier.

I have an old grubbing hoe. I have no idea how old it is, but it was certainly an antique when I first got acquainted with it half a century ago. I have not weighed it, but I would estimate the head weighs five pounds. It has an egg-shaped eye, and the handle is a friction fit, like a tomahawk handle that drops in from the top, except a lot bigger. The original handle appears to be curly hickory, and is gently curved. It's actually very ergonomic. I still use the old boy, although I'm only good for about half an hour of swinging that dude. There's no doubt it's going to outlast me. However, for clearing a garden space, it works as well as it ever did... which is more than I can say for myself.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob


"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us. Should have rode horses. Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife
 
Posts: 313 | Location: Florida | Registered: 24 May 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Pilgrim
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THANKS- great information. I think the style on the Nebraska Site would be most accurate. My thinking is the goods on an inventory list being sent up the Missouri would be British or American in manufacture. It looks like a bar was doubled to form the eye and spine and then turned sideways to make the blade.
I plan to take the paint off a new Seymore and give it a Clorox treatment and then rust it to make it look old.
On the lists mentioned- I got those at the old X-mission site. There would usually be only one hoe listed so it wasn't used much. I doubt a couple of trappers would have one, it would be with a large outfit with goods to cache. Miller has one painting, "Digging the Cache" or some similar title and a mountain man is using a grub hoe.
Well the humble grub hoe isn't ground central in being a mountain man but I get enjoyment in trying to have every piece of equipment as accurate as possible.
Thanks again. That Comancheria Collection- I'm going to try to get that book.
 
Posts: 54 | Registered: 14 November 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Hmm,The only pic of something I would identify as a hoe was something I grew up calling a broad hoe...What I was told was a grub hoe is also known as a mattock,only with a pick blade on one side of the head,with the other side being a narrow (perpendicular to the handle)heavy weight hoe blade.I don't see very many of these types of hoes these days.Can't think of any that I've seen that were of new manufacture.


Beer is proof that God loves us,and wants us to be happy-B. Franklin
 
Posts: 1485 | Location: Oreegun Territory | Registered: 24 March 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of Notchy Bob
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My link to the "Dismal River Culture" webpage doesn't go to the right place. Anyway, if you click the link and go to the webpage, look at the "menu" in the sidebar on the left and click the entry that says "Dismal River Culture." Scroll about halfway down the page and you should find a photo of an iron "trade" hoe blade next to a blade made from an animal scapula. I apologize for the error.

Bubba, thanks for the information about the use of grubbing hoes for cache-making. I had missed this, and will look for the Miller illustration. Minor details like this really bring the fur trade to life. Also, please check your message box. I sent you a PM regarding the Comancheria Collection.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob


"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us. Should have rode horses. Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife
 
Posts: 313 | Location: Florida | Registered: 24 May 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Pilgrim
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Thanks, will do. I think the grub hoe was sort of the army entrenching tool of the day. Most caches were dug along a stream and near a landmark (tree) so they could later be found. This meant ground with roots. A shovel or garden spade is not as good at chopping through roots as something like a grub hoe. You would not want to use an axe as the soil was full of rocks and would destroy the blade for wood chopping purposes.
 
Posts: 54 | Registered: 14 November 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Bubba,That's what I was told was the reason for the heavy duty axe-type blade combined with thehoe type blade in a mattock.The variant with a pick type blade combined with the heavy narrow hoe type blade was for digging in rocky soil,I was told.This last type was identified to me by old New Englanders as a "grub hoe".The hoe head shown in the pic with a bison scapula was identified to me as being a "broad hoe".....It occurred to me that maybe I hadn't been clear about what I was referring to....I've used all types,and they are all very useful when used for what they were intended.The broad hoe especially I can picture as being popular for moving dirt fast.


Beer is proof that God loves us,and wants us to be happy-B. Franklin
 
Posts: 1485 | Location: Oreegun Territory | Registered: 24 March 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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There are many similar tools in this line. There is the common garden hoe, the heavy duty grub hoe, the mattock, pickax, pulaski, and more.

A pulaski is the one that has a heavy hoe-like blade on one side and an ax blade on the other. We use them on the trail maintenance crew for digging in the rocky soil and for cutting out roots.

I'm told that the double-bit ax was designed to cut down trees with one sharp blade while the other blade is left dull and used to cut roots in the dirt.

I can't imagine a bunch of mountain men hauling a heavy grub hoe into the wilderness for the few uses they might have for it. A large animal scapula would do the trick.


Know what you believe in. Fight for your beliefs. Never compromise away your rights.
 
Posts: 895 | Location: Cherokee Land, Tenasi | Registered: 06 January 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Heh,yeah there's lots of terms for these tools.It occurred to me that my "knowledge" may just reflect a regional tradition.
I do know that the pulaski is a very useful piece of equipment.


Beer is proof that God loves us,and wants us to be happy-B. Franklin
 
Posts: 1485 | Location: Oreegun Territory | Registered: 24 March 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Pilgrim
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That thought had occurred to me, that what was being referred to was a mattock however if I recall the Miller painting just shows a heavy duty hoe. It was in the book with Miller's notes, "Art of the West" or a similar type name.
I thought that book contained all his art of the area but I recently found out he did other paintings as well.
 
Posts: 54 | Registered: 14 November 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of Notchy Bob
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I found a painting by A.J. Miller which may be the one. Click here: Making a Cache

If you click on the image, it will enlarge. You can then use your up/down and across functions to move it around on the screen. The subjects of interest are in the lower left corner of the image. To me, the man with the tool appears to be swinging a pick. This is hard to see unless you enlarge it. The lower end of the pick is darker, and without enlarging, the tool does look a lot like a grubbing hoe. However, I don't really see very well, and you guys may form your own opinions when you examine the picture.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob


"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us. Should have rode horses. Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife
 
Posts: 313 | Location: Florida | Registered: 24 May 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Yup,that could be what my Dad called a "grub hoe"


Beer is proof that God loves us,and wants us to be happy-B. Franklin
 
Posts: 1485 | Location: Oreegun Territory | Registered: 24 March 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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I don't know if I would want to use a grub hoe. I clicked on the site selling them and saw the warning from California that materiel in it may cause cancer, who knew. What doesn't cause cancer in California?
 
Posts: 278 | Location: Pocono Mts. in PA | Registered: 12 June 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Short answer.....Nothing....Just living there will do it....


Beer is proof that God loves us,and wants us to be happy-B. Franklin
 
Posts: 1485 | Location: Oreegun Territory | Registered: 24 March 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Not to flog a dead horse, but I found another old grub hoe picture. This one is from 17th-18th century Maine: New England Artifacts

If you browse through the thumbnail images on the link, you'll find the grub hoe head is the one on the far right in the second row. It is also shown with a Biscayne axe head in the image second from the left in the second row. Click on the thumbnail to isolate and enlarge the picture.

I'm always interested in figuring out how things were made. In studying the photo, it looks to me as if the grub hoe head must have been forged from a long strap, likely folded around a mandrel to form the egg-shaped eye. The caption notes "Steel edge added," meaning the bulk of the hoe is probably wrought iron, with a tougher, harder steel bit forge-welded between the lapped ends of the strap. It looks to me as if it must have been forged in the form of an axe or tomahawk, and the blade was then twisted 90º to make it into a "hoe" form. I think I can see a twist in the metal at the point where the blade joins the eye.

I hope you enjoy taking a look.

Notchy Bob


"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us. Should have rode horses. Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife
 
Posts: 313 | Location: Florida | Registered: 24 May 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Yup,that fits my understanding of a "grub hoe"


Beer is proof that God loves us,and wants us to be happy-B. Franklin
 
Posts: 1485 | Location: Oreegun Territory | Registered: 24 March 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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