Even before the completion of the Kansas Pacific railroad to Denver in September, 1870, the pendulum started to swing from livestock to the small farmer. The railroad undertook an aggressive immigration campaign as a means of disposing of its land grant. The tide of settlers began to flow in increasing numbers in 1868 and by 1869 assumed the proportions of a boom. The Junction City Union launched a town building campaign in the approved sensational boom style with its issue of February 13, 1869, and continued the booster activities through the year on the subjects of immigration, cleaning up the hotel and vice rackets, promoting buildings, home industries, exploiting crop reports and freight volume, following the building of the Southern Branch through Council Grove to Emporia and the south line and promoting a railroad project up the Solomon. The first reduction in freight and passenger rates as a result of the completion of the Southern Branch came in June, 1870. [1]

     Two highly significant editorials appeared in the Junction City Union, September 11, 1869. The first analyzed the relation of land prices to cattle and cereal production, tracing the center of cattle production across the continent from the vicinity of the Philadelphia market to Kansas-cereals continuously displacing cattle, as soon as the price of land rose beyond profit margin for cattle. He gave the cattle industry of the upper Kansas valley less than ten years of predominance on $25 per acre land before grain would take the ascendancy. The second editorial was directed "To Immigrants" and was designed to dispel doubts concerning water supply and markets for grain, two things which Martin admitted both amused and provoked him. With respect to water he pointed to inexhaustible supplies in wells thirty-five to fifty feet deep, costing $30 to $150 according to construction, and windmills costing $500 that pump water and cut feed for 500 cattle. The markets were for the most

30 Winter Wheat and the Golden Belt of Kansas

part at the farmer's door, surplus corn and hay could be shipped west, flour would be made at home as soon as mills were improved and three of every four pounds of butter consumed was shipped in. He used Clay Center, off the railroad, to illustrate what he meant by a market at home. In spite of a big crop, wheat was selling on the farms there at a higher price than at the Junction City market:

For five years to come, every man who cultivates a farm can safely calculate on the fact that the new and neighboring settlers will gladly purchase his crop, and not even trouble him to hitch up his team.

     The rising influence of the small farmer and stockman made itself evident as the years passed. In Pottawatomie county a meeting was held in September, 1868, to prevent the driving of Texas cattle through that region. [2] Resolutions were adopted June, 1869, by the citizens of the Republican valley above Junction City citing the act of the legislature of 1867 against Texas cattle and warning that it would be enforced by the citizens of the valley. [3] Some stockmen were on the other side of the question, however, one letter of protest being printed at the same time as the resolutions, the editor endorsing the letter. The argument was that farmers should buy up young Texas cattle and calves, winter them, which freed them from the Texas fever, and use them as foundation herds for crossing with Durham bulls. He minimized the Texas fever, insisting he had arrived at this conclusion from experience after first opposing admission of Texas stock. The interest in cattle was emphasized soon after by the comment that investment within the year had tripled in Geary county. [4] Other ground for opposition to Texas cattle was their poor quality, slow response to feed which made them expensive and price discrimination against them when fat. [5] In Dickinson county, after a ]ong campaign a compromise agreement was negotiated May 15, 1871 between the Farmers' Protective Association and citizens of Abilene by which a definite herding ground and a prescribed cattle trail was specified, and a fund was collected to pay damages that might occur. The association reserved the right to prohibit the

Small Farmer, Stockman and Climate, 1860-70 31

trade altogether the following year. [6] The alternative was exercised, the circular to the Texas cattle trade being published in the Chronicle February 22, 1872.

     Paralleling closely the campaign against Texas cattle was the campaign for the herd law; that instead of farmers fencing livestock out of their fields under the fence law of 1868, the stockmen must fence the animals in or herd them, becoming liable for all damage done to fields irrespective of fences. The herd law of 1871 was applicable only to enumerated counties, of which Dickinson was one, but only upon a vote of the citizens. The herd law of 1872 vested the power in the board of county commissioners. Saline and Dickinson counties acted immediately, the provisions of the law becoming effective April 8 and 12 respectively. [7] In Geary county the law was not called into operation until February 19, 1876. [8]

     A new standard of stabilization of the cattle industry resulted from the elimination of the Texas cattle and fencing of pastures. A few blooded cattle had been brought in prior to 1870, but under the new regime frequent notices appeared in the newspapers of such importations, mostly Shorthorns. [9] Sheep had many followers also. A bumper corn crop in 1872, with ruinously low prices, not only stirred the farmers of Kansas to organized agitation and eventual revolt under the banner of the Grange, but gave emphasis to livestock production on a larger scale, and to diversification in which winter wheat became the leading beneficiary. The Dickinson county fair of 1870, the first, offered among its various premiums, one for wheat, making no distinction between the spring and the winter varieties. The second and third fairs, however, gave separate recognition. [10] Diversification became a panacea among the more extreme promoters and the growing of wool, flax, sorghum, hogs, beef and dairy cattle were coupled with woolen mills flax machinery and oil mills, molasses and sugar factories, packing plants, and butter and cheese factories. It was said that "Our people must come down to first principles"; manufacture their own produce. [11]

32 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

     These years of rapid change in the upper Kansas valley aroused anew an interpretative analysis of crops and prairie-plains environment. In this connection the views of T. C. Henry, of Abilene are of more than ordinary importance. Born in New York state he had gone south after the war but gave up cotton planting and came to Kansas in 1867, going into the real estate business and local politics in Abilene and soon gained control of both. In 1870 at twenty-nine years of age he was a leading citizen and delivered the principal address at the first Dickinson county fair. In the course of his remarks he described his ideal of a model farm, eighty to 160 acres selected "with the view to rearing stock"; starting with young Texas cattle and improving them by breeding. They must be provided with shelter and feed, and if necessary dam a draw to provide water, growing "only so much grain as I needed for consumption upon my own farm" and if "I found myself with a surplus, I should retain it for provision against a possible scarcity in the future. I should sow winter wheat, but do so early and in season. . . ." He would sow rye and oats for stock feed to provide against a more or less complete corn failure once in every three or four years. He emphasized especially the importance of deep plowing to conserve moisture and the hazard of planting corn after a dry winter and spring.

     The most significant portion of the address was his views on adaptation to environment, a candid admission of the deficiencies of climate and a challenge to capitalize on the fact that Kansas is different. He disavowed any attempt to present anything new, only to call—

a greater attention to the advantages that peculiarly belong to our section and locality, so that a system of agriculture-distinct and apart-as our necessities are distinct and apart, may be created, and which shall secure to our farmers a success commensurate with their unrivalled opportunities.

     There were on the globe three great rainless areas, the deserts of Sahara and Central Asia, a small region in South America, and the American Southwest, but Kansas lay in the transition belt be tween humid Leavenworth and arid Denver. He emphasized that-

Small Farmer, Stockman and Climate, 1870-72 33

     This important fact necessarily creates a continuity of atmospherical conditions that compel our agricultural operations to conform to them if we would attain the highest success. I repeat, that we discover an arrangement of the laws of nature here, unlike those to a considerable extent that we have been accustomed to in the Eastern States-and I am persuaded that the methods and practices in farming that arc suitable to those states, are in very many respects out of place and not adapted to the peculiarities of this locality and this climate. The sooner we recognize and acquaint ourselves with these differences and place ourselves in harmony with them, the sooner may we avail ourselves of the unequaled and exclusive opportunities our country affords. . . .
     We must take it for granted that the average yearly rainfall here, is less than in the States we arc most familiar with, and we must farm accordingly. It does not follow because we have this peculiarity that our advantages are inferior. What should we think of one accustomed to the swamps of Carolina, and coming here commence a clamor against the country because it is not adapted to raising rice. So of the man that is accustomed to the corn growing advantages of Illinois-what right has he to set up a standard of superiority, when as a wheat growing state it is scarcely to be considered in comparison with our own.
     No, we have advantages as well as disadvantages, but I insist that while we avail ourselves of the one, we must remedy the other, and in so doing create our own Kansas farming. . . .
     It behooves him [the farmer] then to study the nature, condition and quality of his lands; observe closely the great laws about him that have shaped the local and climatic peculiarities of his geographical position, and by his knowledge, experience and judgment, be enabled to adapt the crop to the soil, or to prepare the soil for the crop. He must read and reflect, experiment and discover new methods of overcoming the obstacles and hindrances that arise about him. In this great work we want for leaders nun whose examples and precepts will excite the enthusiasm, and secure the confidence of their fellow laborers in this field of agriculture. . . . .

     As Henry was placing his greatest reliance at this time on livestock and diversified agriculture, his views on livestock and environment require emphasis. The disadvantages of the humid and forested East had imposed upon the pioneer the burden of clearing off the trees that light might penetrate to the earth and of digging ditches to drain off the water "in order that the earth may bring forth grass. . . . The best and greater part of many a brave-hearted man's life has been consumed before he could possess himself of a meadow" comparable to the natural prairie

34 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

pastures of Kansas. And the Eastern farmer found it necessary to incur the expense and labor of a continual "renewal of his grass field." Kansas did not have forests nor heavy rainfall, but in that Kansas was fortunate in his estimate, "let us admit these facts and turn our attention to our own exclusive advantages." These were "our dry, healthy winters, so admirably adapted to the comfort of our stock"; also "these prairies, abounding in an unnumbered variety of rich and nutritious grasses" and "if we can't raise corn as well, we can wheat, rye and oats better."

The culture and growth of grass insures a diversity of agricultural employment and occupation that otherwise cannot exist . . . Then the greatest means of fertilizing and recuperating the soil is withheld and instead of the beautiful system of rotating crops. . . the entire attention is directed to the simple cultivation of some one or two staples. [12]

     The general interpretation of agriculture and environment which Henry presented became a permanent part of his thinking, but his livestock theme is in sharp contrast with his reputation only five years later as the wheat King of the Golden Belt. His views on livestock were more or less typical, however, of the time and circumstances.

     Another interpretation of "Kansas the stock state" set forth other aspects of disadvantages and advantages, pointing out that rapid railroad construction had made money easy but that was past and now, 1872, Kansas was getting down to bedrock.

Money is scarce, farm produce is low, taxes are high, debts are numerous, mortgages are becoming due, and the wolf is unpleasantly near too many doors. What shape, then, shall our industries and economies take in order to make the most of our State and its resources? These resources are unbounded. There are no richer soils or sweeter skies than ours. But we are destitute of the adventitious advantages out of which many people suddenly and easily acquire wealth. We have no exhaustless mines of gold and silver, no lordly rivers upon whose broad, elastic backs the broods of commerce ride, no inland lakes and seas, no forests resounding to the strokes of the woodman's axe, and not even any present prospect of a great city, a commercial emporium, within our borders, where the more adventurous and speculative might gather for quick returns and hazardous ventures. We have our unsurpassed soil and climate, and that is all.
     Now what shall we make of it? . . . We think we have answered our question in the heading of this article. We must raise stock. . . . [13]

Small Farmer, Stockman and Climate, 1870-72 35

     The extent of the author's ambition was to excel Kentucky, and like that state make such a reputation for excellence that people would come from all parts of the United States to buy, and like the Kentuckian, the Kansan would not need to hunt for customers; they would hunt for him; "now then, all we want is the same STOCK SPIRIT, the same ambition to have the best. . . . in order to equal and finally excel them. . . ."

     Reporting for Saline County Agricultural and Mechanical Society in 1872, the secretary, A. Sheldon, presented effectively the problem of settlers derived from different environments reeducating themselves in terms of Plains agriculture:

Our community is composed of farmers from all sections of the United States, and although educated to some theory in agriculture, and combined with large experience in practical farming in the sections from whence they come, owing to the difference in the chemical properties of soil, water and atmosphere, it has been and probably will be for some years to come, necessary to resort to experimental farming before perfect success is fully attained. We are improving steadily in acquiring knowledge of the best kinds of seed and the best mode of tillage in this section of the State. Much attention has been given to the planting of fruit and forest trees as well as the growing of the Osage orange. All of which, when properly cared for, thrive remarkably well. [14]

     The year 1872 seems to close a period in the development of the upper Kansas valley, with soft winter wheat a proven crop, but only one of three leaders, the others being corn and cattle. The winter wheat boom and the fame of the "Golden Belt" lay in the future.


     An attractive human-interest story, once in circulation, has a way of becoming an accepted tradition. That the story is contrary to all canons of reasonableness as well as to the historical facts seems to make little difference once repetition has accomplished its acceptance. Already Kansas has acquired a number of winterwheat legends, one of which has its focus in Dickinson county and is associated with the name of T. C. Henry of Abilene. Stuart Henry told the story, in praise of his elder brother, that he was inspired by the market leadership of the comparatively new Minne-

36 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

sota winter [sic] wheat and determined to save his Dickinson county from "impending bankruptcy" by experimenting with winter wheat in Kansas. To avoid the ridicule of the "town cynics," he pledged his family to keep the secret of a five-acre field of winter wheat sown in the fall of 1870 on river bottom Land. The wheat was a success and "it proved to be the epochal event for the Plains." Henry planted several hundred acres of valid land in the fall of 1871, according to the story, began to advertise "the news of his discovery," and was invited to speak before a convention where he was "nearly booed. . . off his feet," because he had aroused the opposition of the stockmen and even the farming element feared his activities would react unfavorably against "sensible endeavor." [15]

     In the light of the historical narrative of the development of winter wheat growing in the upper Kansas valley, the Stuart l Jenny story breaks clown of its own weight. Winter wheat had (been raised on both bottom lands and uplands for years prior to 1970. Henry's activities which, according to his own story prepared for the Kansas State Historical Society in 1904, [16] began in 1893, and e secured his seed from James Bell who had grown it on his farm adjoining Abilene on the south. The ridicule by Plains people of experimentation, stressed by Stuart Henry, was conspicuously out of character and the numerous examples of recognition of fundamental differences in environment and the necessity of making adaptations upon the basis of experiment amply demonstrate that author's fallacy.

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1. Junction City Union, July 2, 1870.
2. Manhattan Independent, September 12, 1868.
3. Junction City Union, June 12, 1869.
4. Ibid., July 24, 1869.
5. The Nationalist, Manhattan, June 9, 1871.
6. Abilene Chronicle, January 12, 19, 26, February 2, 1871, covers the preliminary campaign. A summary of the agreement was published in Ibid., May 18, and the text, June 8, 1871.
7. Ibid., March 12, April 11, 1872.
8. The Salina Herald, February 26, 1876.
9. Junction City Union, October 7, 1871; Abilene Chronicle, July 11, 1872, January 2, 1873.
10. Ibid., September 22, 1870, September 28, 1871, August 1, 1872.
11. Ibid., January 16, 1873.
12. Ibid., November 10, 1870.
13. The Kansas Spirit, Lawrence, April 6, 1872.
14. Transactions of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture . . . 1872, p. 239.
15. Stuart Henry, Conquering Our Great American Plains (New York, E. P. Dutton &Company, Incorporated [c1930]) 197, 198, 218, 303-313.
16. T. C. Henry, "The Story of a Fenceless Winter-Wheat Field," The Kansas Historical Collections, 9:502-506.