The history of the introduction and acceptance of hard winter wheat involves several obscure questions. During the eighteen-seventies experiments were made with a number of varieties of wheat, but as there was no issue then between soft and hard wheats, the texture of wheat kernel was seldom the subject of comment. It might have been soft, semi-hard or hard. On account of confusion in the use of variety names, there is difficulty in identifying some varieties with any degree of certainty. Sometimes names were used interchangeably for the same variety, sometimes to designate different varieties, and on occasion a name had only a local significance. Many varieties of wheat were introduced into the United States, or distributed within the country, bearing the names derived from southeastern Europe; soft and hard, red and white, spring and winter wheats. Names having a particular application to the hard winter wheat problem were Bulgarian, Hungarian, Russian, Crimean, Odessa, Turkey and Mennonite. [1]

     One story attributed the introduction of hard winter wheat to a colony of French settlers in Marion county prior to 1873. [2] Thus far in connection with this study no contemporary confirmation of this allegation has been encountered. About the same time a hard spring wheat was being raised in Marion county, but no record of a name has been found. [3] The name Crimean was applied to a soft spring wheat imported from Russia and grown in Marion county in 1873. [4] Another type of wheat, called Odessa, was distributed by the United States Department of Agriculture as early as 1865 and one or more strains of this name and general description were found in Kansas as early as 1874 and were planted either as a spring or a winter wheat. [5] In Dickinson county a strain of wheat was introduced by M. Dowling in the late seventies under the name of Bulgarian. [6] A number of Russian wheats were the subjects of experimentation at the Kansas State Agricultural College, the first mentions occurring in 1881 and 1882, accompanied

The Introduction of Hard Red Winter Wheat 163

in the latter instance by the explanation that there were several strains to which the name applied. The generally accepted story of hard winter wheat attributes the introduction to Mennonite, settlers from Southern Russia in the mid-seventies. The first four of these cases need not be considered further in this connection, but the latter three require careful examination.

     The first mention of the name Bulgarian in the four-county area was in the fall of 1880 when an announcement was made that Major Michael Dowling of Abilene would plant 600 acres of this wheat introduced into this country two or three years ago (1877 or 1878), "and has shown, so far, to be peculiarly adapted to this climate." [7] The language of the statement is ambiguous on the point of whether the introduction referred to was into the United States or into the Kansas river valley. Probably it meant the former. With respect to the introduction by Dowling into Dickinson county, the stories are not quite clear, he may have planted a trial field earlier than 1880, [8] but at any rate a regular field sowing was made the fall of 1880.8 At harvest time 1881 his field of 600 acres was reported as promising a large yield, but a later statement indicated that only 200 acres was Bulgarian. [9] A newspaper statement of 1881, evidently a disguised advertisement prepared by Dowling himself, recited its merits:

The Bulgarian wheat which was introduced by Mr. Dowling, of Abilene, is attracting a good deal of attention, not only in Dickinson county, but throughout the State at large. The history of this new variety, which has attracted so much attention from its fine fresh appearance on the field in 1880, when all other varieties were badly damaged and many entirely destroyed by protracted cold weather, induced Mr. Dowling to sow 200 acres. He is not a man to blow without he he has a good horn to blow on, and from his conversation on the Bulgarian wheat question we should think he was satisfied with his subject. He says that he had the strongest stand of straw he ever saw on any field, and every straw had a head and well filled. Parties would do well to investigate this peculiar wheat before sowing their full crop, as it will stand hardship and will not freeze out. [10]

     A signed statement had appeared two weeks earlier and explained the supposed origin of the wheat:

No person should sow his land without investigating. The seed was originally imported from the prize farm of the late Sultan Abdul Aziz of

164 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

Turkey. It stands on the ground as thick as hairs on a dog's Lack. Does not winter hill and stands drouth as well as rye. The under signed and many others, thinks it is the wheat adapted for this country." [11]

     As he was absent from the county when the wheat was threshed, no report of its yield was advertised, but seed was offered for sale through his agent. He claimed, however, that others who had the same variety had threshed 25 to 30 bushels per acre. [12]

     The most serious difficulty with these accounts is that they are all from Dowling, who appears to have been a somewhat eccentric Irishman. He did not inform his public by whom the wheat was imported into the United States, or give references by which his claims could be verified. [13] The significant arguments in favor of the wheat, however, were that it stood drouth, severe cold, high altitudes and yielded 25 to 30 bushels per acre. [14] He clinched his argument in 1882 with the boast that those who had "pooh-booed" him as "merely a sidewalk farmer" or "an amateur in Adam's legacy to the human race, now however, acknowledge him to be certainly a public benefactor to the farmers in introducing that celebrated variety of Bulgarian wheat. . . he is the original introducer of that celebrated farmers' friend. . . . [15]

     The extensive Mennonite immigration to the United States and Canada during the seventies came primarily from Southern Russia, but some came from Germany. Many of those who settled in Kansas had lived in the government of Taurida, bordering the Crimean peninsula. The Mennonites as a German religious group were not strangers to the Western Hemisphere, a number having settled in the middle colonies, especially Pennsylvania, in the eighteenth century. In the westward movement, Mennonites had established themselves in Indiana and Illinois and other states. A few were already in Kansas when the new wave of immigration, beginning in 1873, became interested in cheap land in the west. In that year five new families were credited to Marion county, Kansas; fifteen to Minnesota; and others to Dakota territory. The migration gained momentum in 1874; something over a hundred families to Dakota; eighty families to Nebraska; three hundred ten families to Kansas, mostly credited to Marion county; fifty families stopped off in eastern states tem-

Introduction of Hard Red Winter Wheat 165

porarily and about eight hundred families went to Canada. [16] The migration continued for several years and in Kansas most of the settlers were in Marion, Harvey, McPherson and Reno counties.

     The publicity concerning them early emphasized their interest in wheat. One story reported that they had been shipping 10,000,000 bushels annually to London and Liverpool and that "their wheat brings ten cents per bushel more than almost any other." [17] A story, written after a visit to their Marion county settlement, stated that in Russia "they engaged in the cultivation of cereals, wheat being the staple production, and the superiority of their grain, enabled them to obtain the maximum price in the European market." [18] It is worthy of note at this point that no curiosity was shown concerning the kind of wheat they grew and the characteristics which gave it this supposed distinction in the world's markets. On the other hand, it may be that these references were mostly a form of boom talk, such as made of every man who stopped off in a frontier town a personage of distinction who was about to honor the place by settling there. Just as American pioneers took with them seeds, tools, household articles and livestock, these German Mennonites brought with them many of the things to which they were accustomed.

     Thus references are found to Russian sheep, Russian oats, Russian threshers, Russian ovens, and the Mennonites shipped the first flax from Marion county. [19] The strangest aspect of the whole situation is, however, the absence of any reference to Russian wheat during the first years of this migration. In 1876 a visitor to Marion and McPherson counties observed that every head of a family was breaking land for 40 to 100 acres of wheat for the next season and that he had sold them over 100 reapers. [20] Although engaged in selling harvesters, this observer did not remark upon anything unusual in the variety of grain to be cut. In his auto biographical statement, Jacob A. Wiebe referred to wheat preparations for the first fall (1874) at Gnadenau, Marion county, and that single reference to wheat was the purchase of American seed to plant their first crop. [21]

166 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

     According to recent Mennonite historians it was this colony of twenty-four families, of whom Wiebe was one, that is credited with the introduction of Turkey hard winter wheat, each family of whom had brought about a peck of it, planting it in the fall of 1814 and harvesting it in 1875. Such a story of exclusive credit is possible, but scarcely seems to meet the first test of historical criticism, that of reasonableness. It would seem that, if the Wiebe group brought a remarkable new wheat, and no other Mennonites did, he did not realize its significance, not yet being blessed with sufficient wisdom of hindsight. In view of the extensiveness of the migration, it would seem more probable that many families brought wheat with them from Russia. Furthermore, it is probable that more than one variety or strain of Russian wheat was included in the impedimenta of these German Mennonites in their transit to America.

     There is a story that Turkey wheat was relatively new to the Mennonites and was raised only by those of the Molotschna district, having been introduced by Bernard Warkcntin, Senior, about 1860. [22] A satisfactory perspective on this phase of the question requires a study of the wheats of Southern Russia and the Balkan region. When M. A. Carleton was in Russia searching for new varieties of Russian wheats he reported on the general-wheat situation in Southeast Europe as of 1900. Hard winter wheats were grown from the Ural mountain region on the east to and including Roumania and Hungary on the west. This area is comparable in distance east and west with that from the Atlantic seaboard to the Rocky mountains. Budapest was Hungary's milling center and turned out hard wheat flour which rivalled the Minneapolis hard spring wheat flour. Roumanian White Chaff and Odessa white and red chaffs, Carleton considered the best of the varieties of that region and similar to Turkey. Clark said that "Hungarian is the name under which many introductions of hard red winter wheat have been made. Most of these strains are identical with Turkey, as were almost all of the introductions from Hungary." [23] With respect to the name Turkey, the same author insisted that "Crimean is the name properly used for this whole

Introduction of Hard Red Winter Wheat 167

group of hard red winter wheats." [24] It is in the light of this well established and far flung background of wheat distribution in Southeastern Europe that the doubt is here advanced as to the reasonableness of the Mennonite claim to a virtual monopoly by a small group of them on the hard winter wheat introduction into Kansas in 1874 or sometime during the middle seventies. Whether true or false, provincialism and the wisdom born of hindsight have established a tradition which will long resist any substantial modification. [25]

     In a practical sense probably the question is not important. If the Mennonites were not the first or the only ones to introduce the hard winter wheat, at any rate, they grew it extensively. At the same time, however, the fact should be recognized that there is no reason to assume that without the Mennonites there would be no hard winter wheat in the Middle Great Plains region.

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1. Cf., Clark, Wheat Varieties. Consult the index.
2. Hugh P. Coultes, "The introduction and dcvelopment of hard winter wheat in Kansas," Fifteenth Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture ... 1905-06, 70: 945. The same article is reprinted in Wheat in Kansas, 217-219, Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture for the quarter ending September 1920.
3. Marion County Record, Marion, Kansas, May 30, 1874.
4. Ibid., January 31, 1874.
5. Cf., Chapter 9.
6. Abilene Chronicle, September 3, 1880, July 1, 15, 1881.
7. Ibid., September 3, 1880.
Major Michael Dowling owned section 33, township 14 south, range 1 east and offered it for sale in November 1884. Apparently he had arrived in Dickinson county about 1875 and died March 5, 1887. (Abilene Gazette, November 21, 1884, Abilene Reflector, March 10, 1887.)
8. Abilene Chronicle, September 3, 1880.
9. Abilene Gazette, July 1, 1881.
10. Ibid., July 15, 1881. His claim that it had attracted attention throughout the state has not been verified as yet, as the present author has not found mention of Dowling or his wheat elsewhere than in Dickinson county.
11. Ibid., July 1, 15, 1881.
12. Abilene Democrat, August 23, 1881; Abilene Gazette, August 19, 1881.
13. The flavor of the advertisement suggests that he may have derived his seed and story from some eastern seed house. The ethics of the seed business was not all that it should have been and frequently the advertising was wholly fraudulent. A comprehensive historical study of the wheat seed business is needed.
14. Abilene Gazette, July 15, 1881, June 9, 30, 1882.
15. Ibid., June 30, 1882.
16. Marion County Record, Marion, Kansas, November 21, 1874.
17. Ibid., April 18, 1874.
18. Wichita Eagle, September 24, 1874.
19. Marion County Record, January 16, 1875, June 4, 1875; Chase County Leader, Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, August 3, 1882; McPherson Independent, March 21, 1883; Newton Kansan, November 15, 1877; Junction City Union, June 10, 1876; Abilene Chronicle, May 3, 1878.
20. Junction City Union, June 10, 1876.
21. Glen D. Bradley, The Story of the Santa Fe, 122. The original is in the Archives of the Santa Fe Railroad.
22. W. E. Connelly, Editor, Kansas and Kansans, 5 volumes, (1918) 5: 2291. The authorship of the biographies is not identified.
23. Clark, Wheat Varieties, 143.
24. Clark, Wheat Varieties, 144-147.
25. R. G. Gaeddert, a member of the staff of the Kansas State Historical society, is making an intensive study from Mennonite sources of their relation to the problem. The present author is of the opinion that there must be a substantial volume of contemporary correspondence in the hands of Mennonite families that should clarify the role of that sect in the introductions made by them. Furthermore, only careful studies of the agricultural history of Southeastern Europe during the nineteenth century will give a satisfactory answer to the problems of the distribution of the different varieties of wheats at particular dates pertinent to the several introductions of wheats into the United States.