|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
The white men who had trading posts established in Kansas at a very early date may have cultivated the soil to a limited extent, but no account appears that any of them ever had even a respectable garden patch about their posts.
The earliest farmers of Kansas were the Kansas Indians. Dr. Say who visited them in 1819, described their food as consisting of "bison meat and various preparations of Indian corn or maize, one of which was called lyed corn, "known among the whites as hulled corn." He also stated that they used pumpkins, muskmelons and watermelons, and a soup made of sweet corn and beans, seasoned with buffalo meat (succotash). By the treaty made with these Indians in 1825, it was, among other stipulations on the part of the Government, agreed to supply them with cattle, hogs and agricultural implements, and to employ persons to teach them agriculture. The Agency of the Kansas Indians was established at the mouth of Grasshopper Creek in 1829. Daniel Boone, the farmer appointed by the Government, commenced farming at this point in 1829 or 1830. Land was broken for farming purposes at what is now Fort Leavenworth in 1828. At "Fool Chief's" village, three miles west of where North Topeka now stands, Rev. Isaac McCoy reported in 1835, that the Government had at that time fenced twenty acres of land, and had plowed ten acres. In the spring of 1835 the Government selected three hundred acres near what is now Silver Lake Township, Shawnee County, and about three hundred acres south of the Kansas River, in the valley of Mission Creek, and carried on farming on quite an extensive scale.
The Osages were farmers as well as hunters, and were farming on the Marais des Cygnes River, fifteen miles east of the Kansas line, as early as 1820. Mr. Sibley, the government Agent, in his report of that year, in describing their mode of living, says:
In February or March, the spring hunt commences - first the bear and then the beaver hunt. This they pursue until planting time, when they again return to their villages, plant their crops, and in May set out for the summer hunt, taking with them the residue, if any, of their corn.
The Padoucas were not inclined to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture. In 1724 M. De Bourgmont visited them and in his journal remarks, that "they sow no maize, they as little plant citriels, never any tobacco."
The emigrant tribes of Indians who came into Kansas from 1825 to 1832 from the East were so far civilized as to have a fair knowledge of husbandry and were really tribes of farmers as well as hunters. With their advent began the dawn of husbandry in Kansas. Good farms were cultivated in Kansas by the members of the various tribes and by the white missionaries who settled among them ever after their arrival.* The earliest cultivation of the soil by white men, to any extent worthy to be called farming, was at Fort Leavenworth, in 1829; at the mouth of Grasshopper Creek, by Daniel Boone, in 1829 or 1830; at the Shawnee Mission in Johnson County as early as 1830, by Rev. Thomas Johnson. At the time of the passage of the bill by Congress creating Kansas Territory, farms were quite common on the Indian reservations, and at the various Indian missions - some of them of large extent. The wonderful fertility of the soil of Kansas, and its peculiar fitness for all the purposes of husbandry, had been experimentally proven, and were well known before the Kansas Territorial bill was passed by Congress. Hence, outside the political motives which turned the tide of emigration to Kansas in 1854, 1855 and 1856, the predominant incentive was the wonderful natural excellences of the Territory as a farming country. A large majority of the early settlers of Kansas were farmers who came to till its broad acres and make it what it has become, the foremost agricultural State in the Union.
During the Territorial period, the political disorders prevented any progress in the peaceful arts. The settlers' claims were made and defended, but the crops sown and garnered were never more than sufficient to sustain the settlers from one harvest to another, leaving no surplus for the inevitable contingency of a failure of crops, which is in all countries and in all climes likely to occur. In 1860, a great drought prevailed throughout the middle belt of farming country in the United States. It was perhaps no more sever in Kansas than in many other States; certainly not confined to that State. But the newness of the country and the lack of any reserve from former crops caused the disaster to fall with peculiar severity upon the settlers. Thousands of them returned to the East impoverished and discouraged, bearing with them tales of want and woe calculated to stop all future emigration and confirm the early popular belief that the country was to be, for all time, the Great American Desert; fit only for the abiding-place of Indians and the homes of buffaloes, prairie dogs, snakes, owls and horned toads. Of those who remained, many were supported by supplies sent from the East, until a new and bounteous crop brought relief and restored the confidence of the disheartened settlers.**
The war of other rebellion, having its beginning simultaneously with the
admission of the State, until its close continued to absorb the entire
energies of the settlers. Nearly every able-bodied man was forced into the
service in defense of family and home against the ravages of the war, which
fell with most, crushing force upon Kansas, open as she was to the relentless
and merciless raids of their former enemies over the border, who, with few
exceptions, were no in the rebel ranks and seeking revenge for their early
humiliations and defeats in a system of guerrilla warfare more uncivilized and
atrocious than that of their Indian allies, whom they had enlisted in the
It was not until the close of the war that husbandry could be called the vocation of Kansas, or could be prosecuted in such a manner as to test or prove the wonderful adaptability and reliability of Kansas as an Agricultural State. The era of modern husbandry did not fairly begin until the harvest of 1865. Since then in 1874, a visitation of locusts has once destroyed the growing crops of the State. The ravages were not confined to Kansas, but extended over a vast area, from the Rocky Mountains, where the insect has its original habitat, as far east as the western counties of Missouri. The devastation was most general in Colorado, in the northern part of the Indian Territory, the western part of Kansas, Western and Northwestern Nebraska, in the southeastern part of Wyoming and the southern half of Dakota.
The swarms came from the mountains, flying from northwest to southeast, completely destroying vegetation in the territory above described, and doing immense damage farther east. In 1875, they appeared in such numbers as to create serious apprehensions of a repetition of the calamity. Their ravages were, however, confined to detached localities, and since that year they have not appeared in sufficient numbers to be considered as a depleting element in the general volume of the Kansas harvest.
The locality and extent of the disaster and the destitution arising therefrom was shown in the report of the State Board of Agriculture to Gov. Osborn, made January 23, 1875. The report divided the State into five groups of counties, the first group being comprised of the extreme eastern and oldest counties; the second, lying west and adjacent thereto; and so, numbering westward to the fifth group which comprised the counties, organized and unorganized, along the western frontier. The classification was as follows:
First group - Atchison, Bourbon, Brown, Cherokee, Coffey, Crawford, Doniphan, Ford, Franklin, Greenwood, Johnson, Labette, Leavenworth, Linn, Lyon, Miami, Montgomery, Neosho, Shawnee, Wallace, Wilson, Woodson, Wyandotte.
Second group - Allen, Anderson, Chase, Clay, Davis, Dickinson, Douglas, Howard, Jackson, Jefferson, Marion, Marshall, Nemaha, Osage, Pottawatomie, Riley, Saline, Wabaunsee, Washington.
Third group - Butler, Cloud, Cowley, McPherson, Morris, Ottawa, Republic, Sedgwick, Sumner.
Fourth group - Ellsworth, Harvey, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, Pawnee, Reno, Rice.
Fifth group - Barber, Barton, Comanche, Ellis and unorganized counties of Ness and Rush, Harper, Kingman, Norton, Phillips, Pratt, Rooks, Russell, Smith.
The summary of destitution reported, and the estimated relief required for
the succeeding four months, until a new harvest, was as follows:
From the foregoing summary it appears that the absolute destitution in Kansas was confined to the western part of the State, where the incoming settlers, generally poor on their arrival and dependent on their first crop, had met disaster before they were prepared for it. In the older counties, although the crops were depleted, the destitution resulting did not increase the poor list materially above that of ordinary years. The percentage of impoverished citizens to the whole population, in the several groups was as follows: First Group, .0069; second group, .049; third group, .133; fourth group, .252; fifth group, .449. The aggregate percentage of destitute to population of the entire States was .061.
It would thus appear that the destitution and suffering should be attributed no more to the grasshoppers than to the peculiarly helpless and unprepared condition of the frontier pioneers when the pest destroyed their first crops, on which they had counted for subsistence. A repetition of a like calamity in Kansas is not now reckoned among the possibilities. Kansas has become self-supporting, should an entire crop be cut off throughout the State, something which, within the memory or traditions of white men, has never occurred.
The history of husbandry is barren of events wherefrom to weave a narrative. Its growth and development is as silent as the growth of the wheat or corn, and as gradual as the increase of the herds and flocks. It can only be measured by comparative results and returns from year to year, and can only be embodied in statistical reports. No reliable reports are preserved prior to 1865, and it was not until that and subsequent years that statistics of the aggregate crops of the State were kept approximating sufficiently to accuracy to be of value.
FARM PRODUCTS TABLES, PART 1.
The following tables show the growth of husbandry in Kansas from its admission into the Union to 1883: