In the fall of 1866 Charles Wadsack sowed a few acres of wheat, which he harvested. the following summer; this was probably the first wheat crop raised in the county. There was, no threshing-machine here at the time, and he was compelled to thresh it by a more primitive method, which was by having his horses tread upon it. When he got it to the mill, it was so dirty that it would not make flour very palatable; however, it was the best that could be done, and it furnished him with something in the line of breadstuffs during that year.
Quite a number of farmers had enough ground in cultivation by the fall of 1867 to enable them to put out fairly good crops of wheat, and in 1868 the first machinery for harvesting and threshing was brought to the county. The first threshing-machine was brought into the county by Ed and George Cubbison. There were so many parties having wheat threshed who were all anxious to get it done early, that some of them had to be disappointed, and occasionally when the machine was through with a job, the neighbors would take possession of it and put it at work at the next nearest place instead of allowing it to go out of the neighborhood.
In 1870 Martin Jackson brought on a new reaper and Thomas Phillips a threshing-machine; these were probably the first machines of this kind south of Hackberry.
The first mill in the county, so far as I have learned, that was prepared to do anything at grinding wheat, was John Hart's mill, on the Labette. In addition to the corn buhrs which he had been using, he put in wheat buhrs in the fall of 1868, and was able to grind wheat for the farmers in that community. It was not until about 1873 that self-binders and steam threshers appeared.
It is said that W. W. Robbins, in Pleasant Valley, was the first person in the county to raise a crop of castor beans. This was in 1873. The yield was so good that the following season many others planted, and since then this has been one of the largest crops raised.
On July 8, 1873, Col. F. Swanwick brought a load of timothy to Oswego, which he sold to B. F. Hobart, at $8 per ton. The next day he sold a load of clover to H. C. Draper, at the same price. This was the first tame hay marketed in the county. At that time very few farmers had commenced to raise tame grass. Since then its production has; generally increased, until now the crop of tame grass is quite an item in the annual production of the county.
In the spring of 1873 G. W. Everhart procured the seed and distributed it among the farmers along Labette creek, and secured the planting of quite a large acreage of cotton in the vicinity of Parsons. Mr. Everhart put in a small cotton-gin that fall, which he continued to operate some two or three years, when it was removed to the Indian Territory. On February 5, 1874, a cotton convention was held at Parsons which resulted in awakening quite an interest in connection with the raising of this product. After 1876 there was nothing done in the way of raising cotton until 1879, when an enterprising colored man from Texas who was living on David Romine's place, a few miles southwest of Oswego, planted several acres of cotton and induced several other colored men living along the Neosho river to also put out a few acres. Mr. Romine assisted in the erection of a cotton-gin at Oswego that fall, and it was found that the crop was large and profitable, considering the small number of acres that had been planted. In 1880, 98 bales were ginned and shipped; in 1881, 145 bales; in 1882 a very much larger acreage was planted, but the fall was so wet that it cut the crop short, and but 70 bales were ginned. The prospect was good again in 1883 for a large crop, but this year, as the year previous, it was cut short by the wet fall, and but 45 bales were ginned. Two years of partial failure rather discouraged those who had been engaged in the business, and very little if any was planted thereafter in this vicinity. In 1889 the Oswego gin was taken to Chetopa, in the vicinity of which a few colored men had raised small crops, but the amount that has been raised the last few years has been inconsiderable.
In the fall of 1866 grasshoppers came in great quantities. Of the little crop that was raised that year most of it was matured so that they did not damage it, but everything that was green was devoured by them. They stayed until cold weather came. A rain in the fall filled the little brooks, and so washed them down stream that in places wagon-loads of them could be gathered up. The following February was so warm that the eggs hatched, and a hard freeze coming on in March killed the young hoppers; so they bothered no more at that time. The next visit they made this county was in September, 1874. They came in one day in such myriads that what was green in whole fields of corn was devoured by them in a single day. All the trees were stripped of their leaves, and fruit trees we're left bare of all foliage, hanging full of ripe apples. They laid their eggs and disappeared in the fall, so that the wheat crop then sowed was not all destroyed. About the last of March in the following spring they commenced hatching, and during April and May ate the young crop about as; fast as if came on. Corn had to be planted two or three times, the last planting extending into July. About the last of May they commenced moving, and during the fore part of June they were nearly all gone. In September, 1876, there was another visitation of them, but not to as great all extent as there had been two years preceding.
In 1875 farmers learned that very much could be done towards destroying the hoppers and saving the crops. Several methods of destruction were used, among others plowing a deep furrow into which the hoppers were driven and then covered, either by refilling it with dirt or by putting straw over them and burning them up.
All the streams of the county are well supplied with fish. They are more numerous, of course, in the Neosho than in the smaller streams. Many have been taken from the Neosho measuring from four to six feet in length and two and one-half feet in circumference, weighing from 60 to 100 pounds.
On July 5, 1875, a large catfish of about the size just described got into a basin on the riffle at Motter's Ford, east of Oswego, and could not get away. Two men who were crossing caught it, and brought it to town.
In the early settlement of the county large numbers of wild animals of various kinds were caught, and added very much to the stock of provisions of the early settlers. Deer, antelope, wild geese and turkeys, and prairie chickens, as well as other birds and animals, were found in abundance. Coyotes, badgers and other carnivorous animals were here in larger numbers than was desirable to the settlers. As the county became settled they became less numerous.
On July 11, 1877, the county commissioners passed an order putting into operation Chapter 76 of the Laws of 1877, giving a bounty on scalps of certain wild animals. Under this order, almost an innumerable number of scalps; was presented during the years the law was in force, and large sums of money were paid as bounty therefore. The law remained in operation under the above order until January 13, 1885, when the commissioners made an order revoking their previous one. For several years no bounty was paid on the scalp of any wild animal, but for a number of years past the county has paid a bounty on wolf scalps.
In January, 1886, G. J. Coleman, of Mound Valley, created something of an excitement in the neighborhood by dehorning his cattle. This was the first instance in which that system of treatment of stock had been practiced in this county. A party who was not friendly with Mr. Coleman caused his arrest on the charge of cruelty to animals. On the trial he was acquitted, having convinced the jury that his process was one of mercy rather than of cruelty to animals. Ever since that time this system of treatment has been generally practiced.
In 1897 a law was passed authorizing counties to vote on putting into operation the requirement for the trimming of hedges and the cutting of weeds in the public roads. The commissioners submitted this to a vote in 1898 and it was carried, but on account of some omission in the action of the commissioners, it did not go into effect. It was again submitted to a vote at the general election in November, 1899, and was again carried. Thereupon, the commissioners caused it to be proclaimed and in operation.
For a number of years past, a belief has quite generally prevailed that our county is within the natural gas belt, and various efforts have been put forth to discover it. The first gas found in the county was in Mound Valley, in 1883, while prospecting for artesian water was going on. While some use was made of this, the amount was not sufficient to furnish either light or heat to any number of families. In 1894, Oswego did some work at prospecting but with no practical result. In 1900, an other effort was made, and in December gas was struck at a depth of about 500 feet; but still the pressure was not sufficient to justify its use. At the time of this writing, prospecting is still progressing. In 1898 gas was found at Chetopa, not in a large quantity, but with sufficient force to be used for lighting and heating to a limited extent. Near the close of 1900, farther prospecting was done at Mound Valley and with better results than theretofore. It is now believed that they have it in a sufficient quantity to justify its use. Those interested are still hoping that farther prospecting will discover it at some point in the county in much larger volume than has; yet been secured. In 1897 Parsons secured gas for its inhabitants by contracting for its being piped there from Neodesha.
Transcribed from History of Labette County, Kansas and its Representative Citizens, ed. & comp. by Hon. Nelson Case. Pub. by Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill. 1901
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