Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911. 2 v. front., illus., plates, ports., fold. map. 28 cm. [Vol. 2 contains biographical data. Paged continuously.]


CHAPTER XL.

AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE.

Part 1


CROP CONDITIONS - TREES AND NATIVE FLORA - TYPES OF SOIL - LIMESTONES - EARLY FARM METHODS - BARNS AND FENCES - FALL WORK - THE GRASSHOPPERS - THE CENTENNIAL DISPLAY - MODERN FARMING - CEREALS - GRASSES - CLOVERS - FIELD, FORAGE AND SILO PLANTS - FARM TRUCK - VEGETABLE GARDENING - FARM AND CROP STATISTICS - EXPENSE OF RAISING CORN IN KANSAS - HORTICULTURAL STATISTICS.

By H. H. Kern, of Bonner Springs.

Wyandotte county produces more corn than the states of Wyoming and Idaho.

Wyandotte county produces more wheat than the states of Vermont and Mississippi combined.

Wyandotte county produces more oats than the state of Rhode Island.

Wyandotte county produces one hundred thousand bushels of potatoes more than New Mexico, or any other county in the state of Kansas.

Wyandotte county produces more vegetables than any five counties in the state.

Wyandotte county is the second county in the state in the production of fruit, and leads in the production of cherries, grapes and gooseberries.

Wyandotte county leads in the production of milk, other than that sold for butter and cheese.

Wyandotte county has a larger acreage in hardy perennial plants and summer flowering bulbs, producing more cut flowers, plants and bulbs for market than any county in the state. The most important of these are the peonies, Iris Japanese (Iris Kaempferi), Iris Germanica, phlox, shaster daisies, Oriental poppies, day lilies, Tritoma, and many others. In bulbs, dahlias and gladiolus are the most important, and are raised by commercial growers, in large quantities, both for the bloom and bulb.

This statistical information is from the "Year Book of the United States Department of Agriculture," 1909, and the reports of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture and Horticultural Society, 1909, 1910.

The location of Wyandotte county particularly adapts it to agricultural pursuits. On its eastern border is located the metropolis of the southwest, Kansas City, the railroad center and principal distributing point of the west and southwest. Being situated so near the -market, is a decided advantage to the agriculturist of this county, as it enables him to place his products on the market quickly, in the best condition to command the highest prices and at the least expense.

The county lies in the drainage basin of the Kansas and Missouri rivers near their junction and is about seven hundred and fifty feet above the sea level.

CROP CONDITIONS.

The climate is especially suited to agriculture in all its branches, there being no extremes of heat or cold. The temperature varies but slightly from normal throughout the year. The summer temperature usually reaches one hundred degrees during July and August, but rarely in June or September - the highest temperature in forty-one years being one hundred and eight degrees in July. The winter temperature falls to zero or slightly below in January and February, less frequently in December and very rarely in November or March - the lowest recorded in forty-one years being twenty-six degrees below zero in January. Periods of cold are usually of short duration, the mercury seldom remaining below zero for more than a few days at a time. Heated periods being relieved by cooling showers, this part of the state is not subjected to hot winds. I The crop season is long, extending from about the first of April to the middle or last of October, the first frost rarely occurring before the 15th of October and often not until after the 20th or 25th, and the latest in spring from about the last of March to the 5th of April, giving a growing season of about one hundred and ninety-five days. Snow rarely falls earlier than the middle of November, or later than the middle of March, the average annual snowfall being about twenty-one inches.

The rainfall is amply sufficient for the needs of all crops. The average for the last forty-one years being 36.63 inches and the lowest for any one year 23.79 inches. There is an average of one hundred rainy days during the year, of which about sixty-seven per cent occur during the growing season.

The prevailing winds in the spring are from the south and west, bringing the moisture-laden air from the Gulf region and insuring sufficient rain to put the ground in good condition to start the crop. Summer winds are mostly from the southwest, being gentle breezes which help to keep down the temperature, Very little wind blows during autumn, the harvest months being in many ways the most pleasant of the year. Winds of the winter season are almost entirely from the northwest, northeast winds being almost sure to bring rain or snow.

These figures were obtained from the local weather bureau, based on observations, covering a period of fortyone years, taken at the University at Lawrence, this being the closest recording point to Wyandotte county; therefore the observations apply very closely to that section of the state.

TREES AND NATIVE FLORA.

The general surface of Wyandotte county is undulating and bluffy. Of the land twenty per cent is bottom and eighty per cent upland; upland, ten per cent forest and ninety per cent prairie. The average width of the bottoms is one to two miles. Timber abounds to a greater or less extent throughout the county; its entire surface was formerly heavily timbered except the extreme northern part. The varieties, most abundant were red oak, black oak, burr oak, hickory, sycamore, mulberry, cottonwood, bass wood, walnut, white elm, red elm, hackberry, Kentucky coffee bean, iron wood and ash. The native wild fruits and nuts are walnuts, hickory nuts, hazelnuts, persimmon, pawpaw, wild grapes, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, plums, crab apples, red and black haws, dew berries, wild cherries, elderberries and service berries; native shrubs-wild rose, red bud, dogwood, wild currant, wahoo, buckeye, buckbrush, prickly ash, sumac, Indian cherry, hop tree, etc.; and native climbing plants - morning glory, silk vine, wild cucumber, pea vine, hop, bittersweet, moonflower, etc. There are more than two hundred species of native flowers, annuals and perennials. Of these the most popular are goldenrod, hardy asters, verbena, tiger lily, violets, morning glory, larkspur, bleeding heart, shaster daisy, blazing star, peas, iris, moon flower, phlox, milk weed, immortelles, etc.

TYPES OF SOIL.

The five most important and abundant types of soil found in Wyandotte county, well recognized crop producers the world over, are about equally distributed over its surface. They will produce all crops adapted to this climate. These soils contain a large amount of humus and decayed vegetation, obtained from the native forests which have been cleared. All the uplands are naturally drained. Those soils are best adapted to agriculture, which consist of a mixture of sand with a moderate quantity of clay and vegetable matter. The more humus or vegetable matter soil contains the blacker it is. The Wyandotte county soils are classified as follows: first, clay loam (rolling prairie); second, sandy loam; third, loess; fourth, limestone clay; fifth, alluvium.

Alluvium soils are found along all the banks and streams in the county, the deposits varying in depth from five to sixty feet. The river bottom lands vary in width from one to two miles, and the creekbottoms from one fourth of a mile to one mile in width. The principal rivers are the Missouri and Kansas; the creeks, the Wolf and Conney. These soils, which are produced by running water and floods, are composed of clay, sand, gravel, lime, silt, etc. The drift soil along the banks of the Missouri, produced by glacial action, is of a finer formation, while the soil of the Kansas river, composed of the washings from the hills and mountains, contain a large amount of decomposed granite, and is a coarser formation, the sand being white in color and larger grained. The soils of the creek bottoms contain more loam and humus, and are darker in color. The bottoms lands, in the aggregate, comprise twenty per cent of the total area of Wyandotte county, and abundantly produce the finest Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes, cabbages, melons and farm and vegetable truck.

The loess soil extends chiefly through the northeastern portions of the county, along the Missouri river, and varies in depth from ten to thirty feet. It withstands droughts, and yields its moisture readily and fully to growing crops. Alfalfa roots measuring twelve feet have been dug from this soil and all crops grow well in it. It is especially adapted to growing fruits and vegetables. It rests on a lime-rock formation, and along the river the soil is sixty feet deep, with surface rolling.

Clay loam, is somewhat more rolling than the black prairie soil. It is a black soil, varying in depth from one foot to ten feet, and is composed of clay with sufficient sand to make it friable, and embraces the northern and northwestern portions of the county, covering about twenty per cent of its area. It is naturally drained and holds moisture exceedingly well; all crops thrive well in this soil, but it is especially adapted to corn, Kaffir corn, broom corn, grass, wheat and forage plants of all kinds.

Sandy loam, with surface rolling and color dark, is from two to ten feet deep. A mixture of clay, sand and humus predominates, and is heavy when the clay is in excess. This soil extends over an area extending from Muncie to the west county line, along the Kansas river, and from the Kansas river on the south almost to the northern line in localities. This soil produces vegetables, farm truck and fruit of all kinds to perfection; is easy to cultivate and well drained.

Red limestone clay is a clayey limestone soil, red or grey in color, found in the timber sections of the county and contains a large amount of humus or decayed vegetation. Clay soils require more labor in their preparation, and often manuring and frequent subsoiling, and should be well drained. The red clays in the southwestern portion of the county produce fine fruits, grains, etc; in the north-central portion clay of an excellent quality is found. For several years past brick have been manufactured from it on a large scale.

Sandy loam, with surface rolling and color dark, is from two to ten feet deep, and is a mixture of clay, sand and humus. It is spoken of as light when the sand prodominates[sic] and as heavy when the clay is in excess, and in the aggregate comprises fifteen per cent of the total area of the county. This soil area extends from the Kansas river north to the prairie lands. In the same locality you will also find clay, sand and limestone soils. The sandy loam soil is rich in humus and well adapted to the growing of fruits, vegetables, wheat, oats, etc.

Sandy soils, almost pure white in color, predominate on the banks of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. The river sand is used in the manufacturing of gray brick for building purposes and for sidewalks; also as a mortar for plastering, and in the erection of buildings and railroad bridges.

There are more than twenty-five distinct types of soil in the county.

Immediately beneath the soil or stratum of earth, which affords nourishment to plants, is a mass of earth or rocks, unmixed with decaded vegetable matter, to which the term subsoil is applied. The subsoil may or may not be similar in its geological constitution to the soil, and, from the absence of vegetable matter, is lighter in color than the true soil. The subsoils are yellow, gray and red, or blueish, from the greater preponderance of the iron oxides, Subsoils are also more compact and tougher, being commingled with stony debris. In the western portion of the county, in the Kaw bottom as far east as Edwardsville, they are of a clayey nature, while in the eastern portion they are sandy. On the uplands the greater portion of the subsoil is of clay, and is best adopted to fruit growing.

Wyandotte's soils have stood the test of more than half a century, and will not wear out with modern methods of farming. Her soils are productive without artifical[sic] fertilization and her rainfall is sufficient to insure large crops. Soil fertility is, in fact, one of our most important resources.

The late John G. Pratt located on section 10, town 30, range 23, sixteen miles west of Kansas City, in 1837; his farm has been in cultivation for sixty years and is producing good crops at this time. With the rotation of crops system it should still produce well for five hundred years to come.

Lands that are valuable produce large crops; soils that produce large crops are rich, for they contain a large store of plant food. If we are to retain our land in a high state of productiveness and at a high value, we must maintain in our soils a large supply of every essential element of plant food.

NATURAL GAS.

There have been bored in the county in the last ten years about forty wells, striking gas at a depth of from four to five hundred feet. About twenty of these wells are in operation. In the western part of the county, near Bonner Springs, this gas is used as fuel for light and heat in that place and surrounding country. The strongest gas wells are found below the Mississippi lime rock at a depth of from one thousand to fifteen hundred feet, but to the present time no drillings have been made to this depth.

In drilling some of these wells, at a depth of four hundred feet, salt water was struck, which yields about four and one half ounces of salt per gallon of water - the salt being free from impurities.

In two wells small quantities of oil were found, and in one well traces of sulphur were present.

LIMESTONES.

Hydraulic limestone in immense quantities, covered with shale, is used for the manufacturing of Portland cement. At Bonner Springs it is found on the bluffs of the Kansas river, between Forest Lake and Bonner Springs, and the deposits cover several hundred acres.

The Bonner Portland Cement Company, incorporated, erected a plant with a capacity of 1,200 barrels per day. The shale on the surface is twelve feet deep and the rock for the manufacturing of the cement is fifty-eight feet deep, or a total of seventy feet shale and rock.

A light limestone, making a good lime, is abundant on the hills of the Kansas and Missouri rivers and along the small streams throughout the county. A blue limestone is found in limited quantities, used for building purposes, and a gray or a granite limestone, of inferior quality, is found in immense layers throughout the county. Sandstone, not very compact, is quarried in the central and most elevated portions of the county. Brick clay is found in the central portion of the county.

EARLY FARM METHODS.

The old timer, in selecting a location for a new home, would settle near a good spring, if it was possible for him to do so, or near a good stream of water as a second choice; close to timber, or in the timber, near to a range for stock grazing purposes. The timber would serve as fuel and as material for the erection of buildings and fences; it also abounded in game. With easy access to water, timber, range and game, he lived a compartively easy life. He would build either a box or log house. If there was a saw mill within a reasonable distance and he decided to build a box house, he would cut the logs and haul them to the mill, have the logs sawed into lumber and erect his house. This was a plain affair that was neither lathed nor plasttered. As the house was constructed of green lumber, the cracks would widen as the lumber seasoned and thus admitting plenty of fresh air. While the house was being constructed, the family usually lived in a covered wagon.

Should the settler decide to build a log house, he would cut and hew the logs, and when this task was completed he would notify his neighbors that there was to be a house-raising on a certain day, at such and such a place, and invite them to assist in the raising. They would all attend and help until the last log was in place, and if it was still daylight they would assist in shingling the house. The shingles were home-made. Logs were cut; these were sawed into lengths of about two feet, and split two feet long, six to ten inches wide and nearly two inches in thickness. These shingles would wear for ages. The settler would then chink his house with pieces of wood to fill the cracks; then he would fill, or cover these, with clay or plaster, and the house was completed.

BARNS AND FENCES.

Barns were usually constructed along the same line and of the same material, except that their roofs were covered with native grasses or straw. If the settler did not wish to be put to any extra labor he would plant a few poles in the ground, throw brush and poles on the roof and cover this with any material most convenient - corn fodder, sorghum stalks, grass or straw. He could also stand fodder on the outside, or pile up straw, to break the wind. This style of barn also had its advantages, as the owner was not compelled to remove the manure. When so filled that stock could no longer get into it, it was easier to move the barn than to move the manure. Fertilizers were unknown and manure, as a farm by-product, had no value.

Fencing in those days was both expensive and laborious, the rail fence being most common. A laborer would cut and split on an average of one hundred rails a day, at two cents each. These rails were cut into lengths of eight or ten feet and were laid eight to ten rails high, and staked and ridered to hold them in place, at a cost of sixty to seventy-five cents per rod. On the prairie, Osage orange, known as "hedge," was planted for fences, fence posts and wind brakes. These plants sold at the low price of three dollars per thousand. They are very hardy and thrive well on any well-drained soil.

Having completed the farm buildings, the farmer would proceed to clear the land. He furrowed the land with a jumping plow, with a cutter in front and a share similar to a shovel plow. He would drag the ground with a brush harrow, mark the ground with a single shovel, drop the corn by hand and cover with the hoe. The cultivation consisted of plowing the crop with a double-shovel plow.

FALL WORK.

In the fall the farmer would cut his corn; shock it in the field; sow his wheat in the corn stubble between the rows - the rows all running one way - and cover it with a one-horse double-shovel plow. During the winter he would husk his corn, feed it to his horses and other stock, or haul it to market. When the farmer cut his wheat with a cradle, two men with a cradle and hand rake would cut and bind, on an average, two acres per day. By this method of farming he would protect the chinch bugs and other injurious insects from year to year. As soon as the weather became warm, they would prey upon his wheat, and as soon as the wheat was cut the chinch bugs would leave that grain and migrate to the oat field. After the oats were cut they would attack the tame grasses or corn field, rapidly increasing from year to year. The first barbed wire invented was flat, about half an inch wide, with barbs on the upper and lower sides, and was first used by the Kansas Pacific Railroad in the latter part of the seventies.

THE GRASSHOPPERS.

In September, 1874, the Rocky Mountain locusts, or grasshoppers, appeared in great swarms. They came like a fall of snow, covering and devouring every living plant; destroying gardens, orchards, meadows, trees, shrubs and vines. They ate the bark off the trees; even the tobacco plant did not escape the greedy insect. The insects continued to deposit their eggs from the time of arrival until they crossed the eastern line of the state into Missouri, late in the season.

The grasshoppers deposited their eggs in the ground, the number varying from thirty to one hundred by each female insect. From the first hatching to the developement of the wings is about two months. The first winged locust was observed about June 4, 1875, and the last departed June 15th. The pests disappeared almost as hastily as they came. The Rocky Mountain locust differs from the common variety in being stronger and therefore capable of longer flight. Chickens and hogs fattened on the locust diet; they, only, were benefitted.

By June 18th every farmer was busily engaged in plowing, sowing seeds, or planting corn, beans, buckwheat, melons, millet or garden. The locust having eaten all the vegetation, there were no weeds, and truck. The season was an ideal one, with plenty of rain and sunshine, every living plant seemed to grow without much effort on the farmer's part. The first killing frost occurred on November 11th. The crop harvested was an immense one. Watermelons weighing sixty pounds, squashes ninety pounds, sweet potatoes twelve pounds, stock beets ten pounds, Irish potatoes two pounds. Irish potatoes sold for ten cents per bushel, corn planted late in June and early in July did not thoroughly ripen and sold at ten cents per bushel. There were thousands of bushels piled in the fields that looked like white and yellow hills. Prairie chickens roosted by the hundreds on board fences in the western part of the county, and there seemed to be an abundance of everything except money. There was no demand for farm products and the best farms sold for ten to twenty dollars per acre. No one was seeking land as an investment.


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