Jacob Ramer Blackshere

JACOB RAMER BLACKSHERE was one of the men who laid the foundation of Kansas' great agricultural prosperity. He was a pioneer both in point of time and in point of achievement. The history of Kansas ought to give recognition and honor to such men, and that is the purpose of this brief article.

One of the greatest sources of Kansas wealth is alfalfa. It is not strange, therefore, that many should have been mentioned for the premier honor of having introduced that crop into the Sunflower State. No doubt the controversy has been settled for all time in favor of the late J. R. Blackshere. All the facts necessary to substantiate this claim are in the possession of the Blackshere family and some account of his pioneer work in this direction will be found in the columns of the Topeka Daily State Journal, the issue of January 12, 1907. A paragraph from the article that appears in the Journal reads as follows:

"According to P. C. Jeffrey, who has written to the State Journal, the first alfalfa seed to be brought to Kansas was in 1875 by J. R. Blackshere, who owned and lived on the Clover Cliff Ranch southwest of Elmdale, Chase County. Claims that were made for the late Harrison Parkman, former owner of Sunny Slope Farm near Emporia, will have to give precedence in favor of Mr. Blackshere, who purchased and introduced the first alfalfa seed seven years prior to the shipment brought to Sunny Slope by Mr. Parkman. Mr. Blackshere secured his seed in San Francisco through the firm of J. M. Griffith and brother of Emporia, who at that time were in the hardware and implement business. The first purchase made amounted to 1 1/2 bushels and the bill which Griffith and brother presented and which is still preserved in the family of Mr, Blackshire[sic] gives the cost at $32.25. The bill states, '1 1/2 bushels alfalfa clover seed.'"

The late Jacob Ramer Blackshere was born in Marion County, West Virginia, September 2, 1834, though his native state was really Virginia, since West Virginia was not made a state until nearly thirty years after his birth. The death of this pioneer Kansas rancher occurred November 10, 1894. He married Melissa A. Martin, also of Marion County, West Virginia.

Some time after their marriage they came to Kansas, in 1860, locating in the fertile cottonwood valley of Chase County. Mr. Blackshere from a modest start as a farmer added to his holdings until Clover Cliff Ranch at the time of his death comprised 4,635 acres. For many years cattle was the chief product, but he was also a pioneer in the introduction of new crops as well as livestock, and in a few years after planting his first alfalfa had a considerable acreage on his ranch. His experiment attracted considerable attention among the farmers, and no doubt his example proved widely beneficial in making alfalfa one of the staples of the state. As high as 1,200 acres of the Clover Cliff Ranch, while it was owned by the Blackshere family, were devoted to alfalfa.

It was one of the most noted of Central Kansas ranches. Early in his career as a Kansan. Mr. Blackshere introduced the first black Galloway cattle to that locality and thereafter bred and raised that type almost exclusively. He was also the first to introduce and successfully grow kaffir corn and sorghum as forage crops in Chase County.

This sturdy pioneer Kansan was well content to confine his achievements to the field of agriculture and stock raising, and as such he deserves to be remembered. While a democrat, he had no ambitions in politics, and many times refused nomination. His participation was consigned to attending conventions and he was a delegate two or three times to national conventions.

In the family of J. R. Blackshere were six children. Carl E. and Cora B. are now both deceased. Earl M. was for many years the active manager of Clover Cliff Ranch, until that property was sold three years ago, and since then he has had his home on East Douglas Avenue, College Hill, Wichita. Another son is Frank R., a physician at Colorado Springs, Colorado. Jesse R. and Harold M. are both well known farmers in Chase County. Mrs. Blackshere the mother of these children, died February 3, 1911.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed October, 1997.
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