The first pioneers were hunters and traders who brought hogs and cattle with them. This furnished an increasing amount of raw products to trade for store goods and could be freighted in flatboats or keelboats down river, mainly to St. Louis, as articles of commerce. They also shipped corn, ginseng, beeswax, salted pork, tallow, hides, and beef. Raw wool, flax products, deer skins and venison hams were also distinct products that Fulton County settlers produced.
Settlers in the second wave were often men from the south who laid more emphasis on clearing land, building, and making improvements. Trade soon subsided as local industries were established. Saw and flour mills were established on several Fulton County streams to supply lumber for pioneer homesteads and flour for food.
One of the most important early industries throughout the county was pork packing. The industry began with local merchants establishing smoke houses in the rear of their homesteads, to barter-and-trade their goods with the local farmers. Soon, every town would contain one or two merchants who bought corn, wheat, and dressed hogs. The pork was smoked or packed in salt and sent by steamboat or flat boat to Chicago or St. Louis. Railroads expanded and soon slowed the business because farmers could ship live hogs to bigger cities.
In 1838, the first established foundry was built to manufacture coal-mine cars and stoves until about the time of World War I. In 1840, the manufacturing of the Diamond Plow began in a small blacksmith shop in Canton but was short lived because the plow was inefficient. In 1842 William Parlin began the business of making steel plows, and by 1852 there was so much demand for plows that the famous P. and O. Company was formed. The business continued until 1919 when the corporation was sold to the International Harvester Company. At the time it was the largest plant in the world manufacturing plows. In addition to several types of plows, the company made corn and cotton planters, potato diggers, beet harvesters, cultivators, tool bars, and many other implements. The business was finally closed in 1983.