Corn.Indian corn, or maize, was cultivated by the North American Indians in a crude way before the discovery of America by Columbus, who introduced the plant into Europe. From the earliest settlement of Kansas corn has been one of the principal field crops. Five years after the organization of the territory the farmers along the Kansas river raised large quantities of corn, but found later that it was a difficult matter to get it to market. In the fall of 1859 James R. Mead tried the experiment of transporting corn down the Kansas river in keel boats500 sacks to each boatbut found the water too low and the sand bars too numerous to make the venture a profitable one. At that time there were a few light draft steamboats on the Kansas. The Kansas City Journal of June 17, 1859, contained an item to the effect that the steamer "Col. Gus Linn" left Manhattan early in the month with 2,200 bushels of corn on board and took on 500 sacks more at Topeka, but that owing to the low stage of water was compelled to leave some of the corn on the river bank to lighten the cargo.
On Sept. 21, 1859, the same paper announced that the Col. Gus Linn had arrived from another trip up the river with 1,300 bushels of corn, and also said: "We learned from the officers of the boat that at Manhattan, Topeka, Tecumseh, Lecompton and Lawrence there is not less than 40,000 bushels of corn awaiting shipment. We shall look for this corn down on the first rise in this new stream of western commerce."
The production of corn outran the transportation facilities, with the result that, for almost a quarter of a century after the first settlements were made in Kansas, the farmers realized but little profits from their corn crops. In the early '70s, owing to the scarcity of fuel and the excessive freight charges of the railroad companies, many farmers found it more profitable to burn their corn than to sell it at the low prevailing prices and buy coal. But the grasshopper scourge of 1874 taught them that it was well to have a stock of old corn on hand in case of another such visitation, and after that year not much corn was consumed in the stoves of Kansas farmers. When means of transportation could not be found for getting the corn into market, or when the price has been unsaticfactory, the product of the field has been fed to live stock and marketed "on the hoof."
About 1895 J. M. McFarland, formerly assistant secretary of the Kansas State Board of Agricuture[sic] and statistician in the United States department of agriculture, published a pamphlet showing the production of corn in the eastern part of Kansasthat is east of line drawn from the northern boundary of the state between Smith and Jewell counties to the southern boundary between Harper and Barber countiesas compared with the great corn growing states east of the Mississippi river, for the ten years 1884 to 1893, inclusive. Illinois was the only state east of the Mississippi that exceeded eastern Kansas in every one of the ten years. In 1886 Kansas was exceeded by Illinois and Indiana; in 1887, owing to a marked decrease in the acreage in eastern Kansas, it was exceeded by Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky; in 1890, when the acreage fell off to about one-half that of the preceding year, it was exceeded by Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee.
The greatest corn crop in the history of Kansas was in 1889, when the state produced 273,988,231 bushels, having over 5,000,000 acres in "waving corn fields." This great crop led Gov. Martin to say in an interview: "Corn is the sign and seal of a good American agricultural country; corn is an American institution; one of the discoveries of the continent. It was known to the Indians, and to cultivate it was one of the few agricultural temptations which overcame their proud and haughty contempt for labor. Kansas has corn and so has luck."
The corn of the twentieth century is a different product from that taken to Europe by Columbus. Although it retains its original formonly nature could change thatthe ear of corn raised by the modern hnsbandman would make the ear raised by the Indian in the fifteenth century look like a "nubbin." Scientific agriculturists have spent much time in experimenting to improve both the quality and the yield of corn. Agricultural colleges in the various states and government experiment stations have added to this work by a careful study of the chemistry of soils, the value of commercial fertilizers, etc. In June, 1900, the Illinois Corn Breeders' Association was organized for the purpose of improving the standard of seed corn, it proved to be a success, and similar organizations have since been formed in Indiana, Maryland, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. Members of these associations work in conjunction with the agricultural colleges and experiment stations, and in most of the states money has been appropriated from the public funds to further the enterprise. Verily, "Corn is King."
The corn crops of Kansas for 1910, when over 8,500,000 acres were planted, amounted to 152,810,884 bushels, valued at $76,402,328.Pages 445-447 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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