AUGUST F. MECKFESSEL. Another chapter of pioneer experience may be written from the ups and downs, the fortunes and misfortunes of August F. Meckfessel during his long residence in Pawnee County. There is nothing that brings respect so much as substantial success. Mr. Meckfessel has become prosperous and successful on the western plains of Kansas, though his beginnings were most inauspicious. He has done his duty well and the world is some better for his having lived.
Mr. Meckfessel was born in St. Clair County, Illinois, May 23, 1855, and grew up in a home of sturdy but not wealthy German parents. He had a common school education and a few months in a German school. After he was fourteen his school days were finished, and he and the other children of his parents were then required to take a hand on the farm. He lived in Illinois until he was twenty-five years of age. He became a farmer and knew how to raise crops in the region where the rainfall was plentiful.
With such experience and capital as he was able to muster he came out to Kansas and arrived in Pawnee County March 14, 1880. He was a single man at the time, and brought with him as equipment an emigrant car loaded with mules, farm implements, and other goods. It was the intention and resolution to locate in Western Kansas permanently and acquire a home. His very first location was in the community where he has lived ever since in Pleasant Ridge Township.
He contracted to buy a quarter section of railroad land according to the terms at which the company was then selling it. The terms provided for a payment of $6.25 per acre. For the first year and a half Mr. Meckfessel lived in the home of his brother Frank H. Meckfessel, who had preceded him to Kansas. In the meantime he put in forty acres of his railroad land in wheat the second year, and at the harvest time gathered 600 bushels. In November, 1881, Mr. Meckfessel established his own home. It consisted of a sod dugout 16 by 20 feet, making a single room. Into this "half hole in the ground" he brought his bride, and they lived together in the dugout ten years, sharing all its privations as well as the happiness that they now remember better than the misfortunes. The dugout remained unchanged in size or form for ten years. Mr. Meckfessel finally took out the sod walls and substituted stone, and in 1892 he built his frame residence on top of the dugout, which thus became a basement. His home of six rooms stands on the very spot where he and his wife began housekeeping. In the meantime trees set out by him have grown to large size and afford shade and shelter from the winds. In 1895 Mr. Meckfessel erected a barn, and has added to it since until it is now 58 by 72 feet with space in the mow for fifty tons of feed. Two silos have raised their cylindrical forms near the barn, and for the past five years Mr. Meckfessel has found the use of the silo one of the most profitable adjuncts of farming.
During the first ten years in Pawnee County Mr. Meckfessel barely made a living. Had it not been for his cows and chickens he could not have prospered even to that extent. His home is on the southwest quarter of section 8, township 22, range 18. In that one locality he has worked out his salvation since 1881. He also took up a timber claim and proved it in the same section, and his homestead, timber claim and railroad lands were the nucleus of his splendid estate. After he had been in Kansas about eight years he bought the northeast quarter of section 8, and subsequently acquired 200 acres more. Another quarter came to him as a gift from his father, and altogether he now has about 1,000 acres which he can survey with the air of proprietorship. Six hundred acres have been brought under the plow.
Mr. Meckfessel's most profitable experience has been wheat growing. The best yield he had was thirty-two bushels to the acre in 1914. In that year 300 acres gave him 10,000 bushels of grain. Only a few complete failures have been registered in his enterprise as a wheat grower, and these failures were due entirely to lack of sufficient moisture. The grasshoppers came occasionally, and while they did damage to his corn they were not dangerous to his wheat crop. For a time he had to contend with the ravages of the chinch bug. But he and his neighbors made use of the discoveries of science, and especially the great scientist at the University of Kansas, and fought fire with fire by setting a little group of parasites upon the larger parasites, the chinch bug, and the latter soon disappeared. Another effective remedy was the burning out of the roads and all the trash which furnished favorable locations for the breeding and propagation of the chinch bug. Mr. Meckfessel does not contemplate with equal pleasure his experience with corn. However, he admits that the fault is not with the land, but entirely to the lack of moisture when corn needed it most. During his thirty-seven years in Kansas Mr. Meckfessel has gathered only two crops of corn which compared at all with his crops back in Illinois.
As a cattle man he has been handling graded animals, with thoroughbred males of the Aberdeen Angus breed. Recently he stocked his place with the nucleus of a herd of pure bloods of this strain. He has also experimented extensively with alfalfa, and has found that to be a true friend of the farmer. From his field of alfalfa he cuts frequently four times a year and gets a ton and a quarter to the acre at each cutting.
Mr. Meckfessel is a son of Henry and Elizabeth (Gausman) Meckfessel, both of whom were born in the Town of Dissen, in the Kingdom of Hanover, Germany. They came to the United States when young people and were married at St. Louis, Missouri, and then moved just east of St. Louis into St. Clair County, Illinois. They were practical and substantial farmers in that district and spent the rest of their days there. Henry Meckfessel was a republican in politics but never held any official position. The family were members of the Lutheran Evangelical Church. His death occurred in 1890, at the age of sixty-eight, while his wife passed away in 1899, aged seventy-two. A brief record of their children is as follows: Annie, who married Frank Meyer and died at East St. Louis; Frank, who came out to Pawnee County and died there leaving a family; Minnie, wife of William Suever, of O'Fallon, Illinois; August P.; Mary, who after the death of her sister Annie became the second wife of Frank Meyer and now lives in East St. Louis; William, a farmer in St. Clair County, Illinois; Lizzie, wife of Dietrich Kuhman, of St. Clair County; Henry, who died in Illinois; Fred, who also died in that state; and Edward, a resident of East St. Louis.
Mr. August Meckfessel is not only one of the largest land owners and most successful farmers of Pawnee County but is a director of the Union Grain Company of Rozel and of the Sanford Grain and Supply Company of Sanford, Kansas. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Solid Rock Creamery Company of Larned. His home is in School District No. 23, which had already been organized when he came to Pawnee County. For a number of years he served as a member of its board of directors, and for nine years was township clerk, one of his sons holding that office at present. Mr. Meckfessel began voting as a republican in 1876 in his native county in Illinois. After coming to Kansas he joined the Alliance movement and from that became a democrat. While not a church member, his affiliations are with the Congregational Church and he is a strong believer and supporter of religious work.
In November, 1881, he was married in Pawnee County to Miss Annie C. Haege. Mrs. Meckfessel was born in Illinois and came to Kansas in 1879 from St. Clair County, Illinois, with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Haege. Mr. Haege and wife spent the rest of their years in Pawnee County as farmers. Four children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Meckfessel. Ernest now occupies a part of the old family estate, and by his marriage to Mina Gibson has three children, named Earl, Harold and Glen. Mary, the only daughter, is the wife of Wilmer E. Gibson, of Rozel, Kansas. The two sons, Vernon and Loren, are still at home with their parents.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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