The following record of the rain fall and melted snows is of much more than ordinary importance to the people of Cloud county, as prepared by J.M. Hagaman, who located at Elm Creek, Cloud county, early in July of 1860, the year of the "great drouth," the "famine year" as it was and is still called the world over. The seared prairies, the dried up springs and creeks, parched condition of the earth with cracks into which one could reach the length of an arm, without touching bottom, were sights not at all encouraging to the immigrant, and it is not at all surprising that doubt arose in his mind as to whether farming could be successfully carried on in such a country.
Still there were some redeeming features; for instance along the creeks the trees were robed in foliage of healthy green, clusters of grapes in wonderful profuseness hung on vines that reached to the top of the trees. Black walnuts, large and in great abundance, were seen on every walnut tree. In sheltered places where the fierce sirocco could not reach them, were flowers and grasses and on the low bottom lands of the river was plenty of grass for hay. The soil seemed of unstinted richness, which suggested to Mr. Hagaman and other old settlers, the possibility of raising fairly good crops with a limited amount of rain.
They would try it a few years any way, Mr. Hagaman reasoning in his mind that if he could get two fair crops out of three years' planting, he would be satisfied. But for the first few years, with what anxiety he watched every cloud that floated above him, and with what anxiety he measured the water that fell from them. It was this condition of the country that led him to keep a measurement of the rain and melted snow, and which we herein give to the readers of this volume. It is certainly of great value and if carefully studied it will enable one to form a pretty fair opinion of the future seasons.
In the first seventeen years the agregate only can be given, as the original daily records were destroyed in a fire, and the following are taken from Hagaman's History of Cloud County, and may be relied upon as correct. The first year, 1860, was taken from a record kept at Manhattan.
YEAR. INCHES. YEAR. INCHES. 1860 13 3/4 1869 30 1861 36 1870 28 1862 35 1871 32 1863 34 1872 26 1864 33 1873 30 1865 32 1874 22 1866 31 1875 24 1867 15 1876 29 1868 18
Total precipitation for seventeen years, 475 inches; yearly average, 28 inches. This exceeds the next seventeen years by 107 inches, which was 368 inches, being a yearly average of 21.6. Much of this difference came from the winter snows, which were greater in the first seventeen years than they were in the latter seventeen years.
The seven years succeeding the great drouth of 1859-60 were the best seven consecutive crop years since then. This clearly disproves the popular notion that settlement and cultivation increase the rain fall. The great drouth of 1859-60 was broken the last week in July in the latter year by a two-inch water fall, and after this, until September 12, copious showers fell, reviving the grass and bringing up corn, pumpkins, buckwheat, etc., that had lain in the ground from one to two months.
It was really to the settlers from the north almost summer weather up till January 14, when the county was visited by a snow two feet deep. Of these years 1860-68-70-74 were bad drouths, very little produce being raised in the county. Neither were total failures, however, as there were farms that produced from one-fourth to three-fourths of a crop of corn. In 1870 the early planted corn was a total failure, but the late plant made a fair crop. There were potatoes, turnips and other vegetables produced from timely rains that set in about July 20.
In 1874 there was a visitation of grasshoppers that would have taken everything had there not been a drouth. The subsequent record is made up in three-month periods, excepting the three first winter months, commencing with March, 1877, after that with December. The reason for this is the custom of people saying, "Much moisture in the winter months insure good crops the next year." This failing, a wet spring means the same thing. With the ground saturated at planting time, a fair crop has followed every year except 1891.
The failures, or nearly total failures, have been in 1868-70-74-80-88-90-1900-01, but good crops have not always been harvested in years of the usual and annual rain fall as, witness these figures:
YEARS OF FAIR TO GOOD CROPS. YEARS OF FAILURES AND PARTIAL FAILURES. 1877 21.52 1870 28. 1881 18.32 1880 9.22 1884 16.94 1887 21.80 1895 14.21 1888 32.01 1893 21.24 1890 25.28
The period when there was the greatest precipitation, whether it be before the growing season or after it, had much to do with these failures in some instances, but the chief cause was the prevailing southwest winds, Which have been properly named sirocco. Notwithstanding, the record is not a bad one for the forty years of cultivation of the soil in Cloud county. The average of the cereals, wheat, corn, rye and oats being as good as in any other county of the state or as any state of the United States. The extraordinary richness of the soil making up for the lack of moisture.
March to June 3.51 1890-91. June to September 12.44 December to March 1.99 September to December 5.58 (No rain or snow in December) Total for last nine months 21.53 March to June 10.34 June to September 9.53 1877-78. (June 5.64 July 3.27, Aug. .57) December to March 2.57 September to December 7.32 March to June 5.06 Total 29.18 June to September 19.40 September to December 2.90 1891-92. Total for the year 29.93 December to March 3.61 March to June 12.27 1878-79. (May 8.34) December to March 8.4 June to September 5.77 March to June 4.33 (June .92) June to September 10.89 September to December 1.31 September to December 7.55 Total 22.96 Total 23.61 1892-93. 1879-80. December to March 1.58 DeCember to March 8.7 (Jan. .06 Feb. .29) March to June 3.49 March to June 3.83 June to September 10.28 (March .62, April .66) September to December 4.58 June to September 12.80 Total 19.22 (June 6.85) September to December 3.23 1880-81. Total 21.44 December to March 3.74 March to June 5.44 1893-94. June to September 7.09 December to March 1.37 September to December 2.05 March to June 6.64 Total 18.32 (March .28, April 2.86, May 3.50) June to September 12.63 1881-82. (June 11.36, July .87, Aug. .40) December to March 1.18 September to December 3.35 March to June 8.34 Total 23.99 June to September 9.60 September to December 2.32 1894-95. Total 21.44 December to March 2.48 (February 1.68) 1882-83. March to June 1.43 December to March 1.17 June to September 8.58 March to June 4.34 (June 3.64, July 1.02, Aug. 3.92) June to September 11.09 September to December 2.21 (No rain in August) Total 14.70 September to December 5.15 Total 21.75 1895-96. December to March .70 1883-84. (No moisture in December) December to March 1.54 March to June 7.67 March to June (June .60) 6.66 (March .38, April 1.92, May 5.37) June to September 5.83 June to September 11.02 September to December 2.91 (June 1.50, July 6.86, Aug. 2.86) Total 16.94 September to December 6.83 Total 26.22 1884-85 December to March 3.93 1896-97. March to June 7.61 December to March 1.38 (March .12, April 5.36) (No moisture in Dec.) June to September 9.47 March to June 4.33 September to December 5.08 June to September 15.56 Total 26.09 (June 7 39, July 6.02) September to December 7.82 1885-86. (Sept. .92, Oct. 6.89, Nov. .71) December to March 3.52 Total 29.09 March to June 10.51 June to September 8.36 1897-98. September to December 6.29 December to March 3.16 Total 28.68 March to June 5.36 June to September 7.68 1886-87. September to December 6.33 December to March 1.86 Total 22.53 March to June 8.33 (March .06) 1898-99. June to September 8.56 December to March 2.62 September to December 2.84 March to June 8.49 (October no rain or snow) (May 5.65) Total 21.89 June to September 12.30 (June 6.75, July 3.65) 1887-88. September to December 6.83 December to March .61 Total 29.62 (December only a trace) March to June 7.85 1899-1900. (May 5.45) December to March 2.62 June to September 11.12 March to June 7.96 (June 4.80, July 1.50) June to September 7.64 September to December 2.43 September to December 7.06 Total 22.01 Total 25.28 1888-89. 1900-01. December to March 1.62 December to March 1.99 March to June 9.22 March to June 7.52 (May 4.86) June to September 4.46 June to September 14.34 September to December 4.44 (June 2.01, July 8.66, Aug. 3.67) September to December 4.14 1902-03. Total 29.32 *December to March 1.97 **June to September 17.08 1889-90. ***March to June 10.46 December to March 1.47 September to December 6.66 (No rain or snow in December) December to March 2.70 March to June 4.47 June to September 6.52 * From Nov. 1, 1900, to April 21, 1902, (July 12, August 3.13) the total waterfall was 2.06, which September to December 3.31 was the least for that length of time (Disastrous drouth this year.) in the history of the county. Total 15.77 ** For May the fall was 9.46 inches. *** For June the water fall was 9.21 inches.
There was almost a total failure of the corn crop in 1900, notwithstanding a good crop has been raised years of less timely seasons. The reason Is found in the prevalence of the intensely hot south and southwest winds the latter being a genuine sirocco.
The surface of the county presents a beautifully diversified view of bottom and uplands, the latter stretching away for many miles and affording many standpoints from which a fine panoramic view can be obtained of the fine cultivated farms, the river courses, the winding of the creeks with their banks of foliage, all contribute to the vista of rural beauty. Cloud county has no lakes except Lake Sibley; there are no swamps or sloughs like in the south and Middle Eastern states, and consequently escapes noxious exhalations so conducive to malaria and its attendant ills.
The soil of Cloud county, generally speaking, is of a fine rich loam, varying in color, darker or lighter in the different localities, and all infused in a greater or less degree with sand. The extent of the soil is deep, averaging upon the highlands three feet or more, and on the bottom lands near the rivers and creeks it reaches a depth of from ten to a dozen feet of alluvial deposit, ranking with the most superior land of the known world, and the best adapted to corn. Many contend the uplands are the best for wheat growing. The highlands are fertile, being enriched with a vegetable mold. In favorable years only an approximate limit could be fixed on the productive possibilities of either. Potters' clay has been found in several localities, particularly in the vicinity of Clyde.
Notwithstanding the fruit industry has sometimes met with repeated failures, this branch of enterprise is successfully carried on by many people of Cloud county, and in various instances with excellent returns, as referred to in many personal sketches. There are many apple orchards which yield abundantly and possess as fine a flavor as could be found anywhere; peaches and plums also do well.
Lake Sibley is the only similar body of water in Cloud county. It runs nearly parallel with the Republican river. It is somewhat wider than the river, is about three miles distant from it, is semi-circular in form, and is approximately three miles in length. Its banks are covered with a fine growth of trees, which lend a special charm to its serene beauty. At one time it was supposed the town of Sibley, which was located about a quarter of a mile north of this pretty sheet of water, would become a city of some magnitude, - a more beautiful site for a town could not be found. The water of the lake is cool, the result of being fed by many springs, and is well stocked with fish, mostly of the carp specie. The water varies in depth from three to twelve feet. The land surrounding the lake is high and not marshy, as might be inferred, and the soil is of great richness.
In March, 1890, the community in the vicinity of Lake Sibley were startled by a rumor of the drowning of two women. Upon investigation it was confirmed and the names of the unfortunate victims were Adell and Hannah Poore. Coroner Dr. Pigman and County Attorney S.D. Huston were notified and at once drove to the north shore of the lake, where the bodies were found in about three feet of water and about ten feet apart. A Jury was summoned and an investigation had, which rendered a verdict of "suicide by drowning." Many theories were given as to the cause leading to such a desperate act, but the only one rendering any degree of probability is that they were tired of living. They were aged respectively thirty-two and thirty-five years, and both unmarried. They boarded with a family in the neighborhood and had a brother who, with a family, lived near by, and with whom they were on friendly terms. The affair was a very peculiar one. They were in good circumstances financially, having cash in hand, real estate in Concordia and Beloit, and a good farm in Cloud county. It was also reported that they had eastern property.
Four years prior to their suicides, they had taught in the high school of Concordia and ranked as first-grade teachers. Miss Adell Poore, the elder of the two, taught in the Clyde school in 1889. It is a remarkable case and singular, that the two sisters should arrive at such a tragic fate without an apparent cause. They were easily tracked and by the footprints, it was plainly discerned that the younger of the two women had faltered or showed a disposition to hesitate; the elder going to her doom first, as she was further from the shore and perhaps the first to drown. "Rough on Rats" was found to have been in their possession, ostensibly for the purpose of ending their lives if drowning became too formidable. They walked deliberately into the lake, laid down and were suffocated. The evidence showed that melancholy and gloom had settled upon them, rendering life not worth the struggle. They were honest women, who bore unblemished reputations and were absolutely without the association of the opposite sex. The father, mother and three sisters had succumbed to a lingering consumption, and knowing for them a similar fate was destined, they resolutely determined to curtail a long illness by committing this terrible deed.
About three miles north of Lake Sibley is a high point of ground known in the early settlement of the county as "Sibley Butte." From this prominence a birds-eye view for twenty miles or more can be obtained - one of the finest views in the country. The meanderings of the Republican river, Buffalo, Wolf and Oak creeks are plainly outlined by the markings of timber that fringe these streams.
From the summits of the twin mounds, two cone-shaped elevations situated near the source of Elm creek, a fine view is gained for many miles around, also a magnificent view of the Republican river valley, stretching far away upon either side, a vast undulating plain of rich, cultivated fields.
The Republican and Solomon are two beautiful water courses and almost every acre of land in Cloud county can be utilized. Much of the soil has an underlying strata of lime and sandstone, the former predominating, and is supposed to impart a strong fertilizing quality to the soil. The bottom soil is alluvial in character and the upland a vegetable mold, both very rich in quality and capable Of producing almost everything known to the vegetable kingdom.
The Republican river runs in a southeasterly direction through the northern part of the county. Its tributaries are Elk, Upton, Salt, Hay and Camp creeks from the north, and Mulberry, Beaver, Elm, Plum, Oak, Lost, Wolf and Buffalo creeks from the south, The Solomon river runs through the southwest slope of the divide; its tributaries are Fisher, Criss, Mortimer, Yockey and Pipe creeks; of the latter there are three streams bearing that name, viz: Big Pipe, Middle Branch and East Branch; the two latter are tributaries of Pipe creek.
The surface is undulating, with numerous draws and depressions, which carry off the surplus moisture, and as a result, there are no pools of water left standing to stagnate and breed malaria. The general altitude of Cloud county is one thousand five hundred feet above the sea level and the air is dry and rare; hence a healthful and salubrious climate.
There is a total of 460,800 acres in the county and the staple products are wheat, corn, kaffir corn and oats. Sorghum and broom corn grow splendidly in this locality, the soil being specially adapted to their production. There is rarely a total failure, but sometimes fall short of an average crop in exceeding dry seasons. The soil does not wear out, for nature has furnished an inexhaustible fertilizer.
The stock industry is carried on extensively and successfully. The herd law has been in force since 1877. To A.J. Shelhammer belongs much of the honor of having Cloud created a herd law county. He was one of the original herd law men.
In the southeast part of the county is an abundance of building stone. There are quarries of red sandstone well adapted for building purposes. It is easily worked when fresh from the quarry and hardens when exposed to the atmosphere. In some parts of the county a beautiful white magnesia limestone is found overlaying a sandstone in inexhaustible quantities, and when dressed bears a strong resemblance to marble. Coal has been found in some localities in paying quantities. There are beds of potters' clay near Clyde and in Shirley township. At one time there were potteries in each of the localities named and the manufacturers turned out excellent work, but owing to the scarcity of wood for fuel they could not compete with the eastern factories and discontinued the industry.
Cloud county is justly proud of her educational facilities and there is no excuse for illiteracy, as all the territory in the county has been organized into districts.
Concordia, the county seat, is one of the most progressive and solid towns in the northwest. It is particularly fortunate in numbering so many among its citizens and business men who are so enthusiastically interested and who always have the welfare of their metropolitan city at heart.
Clyde is the second town of importance in the county and is an up-to-date thriving little city, beautifully situated on the east bank of the Republican river.
Glasco, in the southwestern part of the county and on the Solomon river, and Jamestown, in the northwestern part of the county in the beautiful Buffalo creek valley, are the next in importance, and Miltonvale, in the southwest corner.
Much of the prosperity in the early settlement of Cloud county was due to the fact that it lay west of the sixth principal meridian, over which the land speculator could not go, but the whole domain, except what was given to schools and the railroads, was supposed to be sacredly preserved for the actual settler who rapidly occupied every available quarter section.
Cloud county as shown by the state board of agriculture for the year 1884, had a crop of 131,576 acres of corn, giving it 2,469 acres more of corn than any other county of the state. In 1896 the banks of Cloud county had on deposit $200,000, of which the least per cent. belonged to the farmer. In 1900 they exceeded $640,000, of which over 60 per cent. belonged to the tillers of the soil.
The brilliant success in our cities and great mining fields and the various speculative deals attract attention. When we hear of some lucky fellow rolling up a fortune in a few years, many are seized with a desire to cease plodding, toiling on the farm, when he might with less labor make thousands as a speculator, politician, business man in the city, or in the fabulous mining districts.
But no surer road to financial gain and success can be found than through the avenues of farming and stock raising in Kansas. We say fortunes, for we have the assurances from numbers of farmers that the profits on the sale of grain from one hundred and sixty acres of fertile land, in either the Solomon or Republican valleys, raised in one year, has paid for the land. Where is there a country that an investment can yield better returns than this? Cloud county is purely agricultural and almost every farmer has a comfortable bank account.
While perhaps the first and second bottoms are to be preferred, there is much desirable land on the uplands, and. where quite rough and the tops of the numerous mounds are almost a solid mass of rocks, on the hillside is found a rich and alluvial soil.
When driving through the Solomon and Republican valleys the thought often presents itself, how delighted the first comers must have been with the view of the landscape as presented from one of the many prominences overlooking these beautiful valleys with their ever changing lights and shadows. What a feast for the eye of an artist, what an inspiration must have filled their souls, and one cannot wonder at the Indian for so reluctantly yielding this vast hunting ground. The landscape is diversified by cultivated fields, intersected by little creeks, whose banks are skirted by trees, bottom lands, plateaus and hills.
The author has witnessed these valleys in their happiest moods - Springtime, autumn and Indian summer, all of which are beautiful beyond description.
In the springtime when the air was laden with the perfume of leaf and blossom and a chorus of birds discoursed their sweet warblings, the orchards lost in a wealth of bloom, and the brown hills and pastures donning their robes of green.
In the autumn when the first frost lightly touches the foliage, nature vies with and outrivals the alluring springtime, the mellow opal sky melting into gold and crimson in the west, the windows of the farmhouse aglow with the flame of the sunset, which serves as a calcium light to the great panorama of undulating hills, sweeping far away in a long stretch toward the Solomon or the Republican rivers. Nature never smiled on a fairer scene or where one could lose themselves in sweeter reverie.
And again, in the Indian summer, when the wide landscape is overspread with a soft mellow haze, just after the breath of the hot summer days have died away, and the autumn is advancing, summer having gathered her last blossoms, and the leaves of the quivering cottonwoods being swiftly hurled to the earth, there is a subtle witchcraft in the smoky atmosphere and every sound is one of harmony. The departed summer looks backward with a sigh of lingering regret, as if to delay the early frosts of winter.
From these promontories the writer has enjoyed some of the most gorgeous sunsets. As the sun sinks low in the west a flood of color overspreads the earth and sky. shading from softest pinks and grays to the most intense crimson and gold. As the twilight deepens they change to softer gray. The purple hills are outlined at the horizon, making a background of charming effect.
If one could transfer to canvas all these lovely impressions, all this profusion of light and color that delights the eye and gives inspiration to the soul, the result would be magnificent. Restful contentment comes with the dying day when the evening shadows fall, in the country remote from the busy mart when labors and cares are thrust aside for the time being and the twilight deepens, the whole atmosphere thrills with melody.
Sometimes it comes to us in the midst of care and the irksome routine of business. It turns the dull prose of life into poetry and showers of Sunshine are flung over the weary hours.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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