During the same year that the Mennonite colonies were establishing themselves in western Marion county, they were locating also on Santa Fe railroad lands in Harvey, southern Mcpherson and northeastern Reno counties. The Turkey wheat seems to have been identified quite early with all these colonies from southeastern Europe and the four-county Mennonite area appears in central Kansas as the diffusion center for hard wheats.

     Chase county borders Marion on the east and in 1880, Fred Pracht, on Middle creek, reported that after four year's trial he thought Southern Russian wheat just the wheat for that county. Apparently he had sown it first in the fall of 1876. [1] The following year the editor was shown a sample from the same farm: "The straw is about five feet high with heads over four and a half inches long. It is called the Russian variety." [2] It should be noted that both the straw and head were quite long for Turkey, and especially in a severe drouth year. Later in the season an observer from Chase county made a tour of several counties; Chase, Butler, Marion, Morris, Lyon, Douglas and Johnson, and reported

The west half of Marion county has the best wheat; in some localities going up to 25 bushels per acre, the farm over. In this locality too, a new kind of wheat, known there as Russian wheat excels all others, -a large grain and well matured. This, I am told, was introduced by the Russians (Mennonites). All good wheat has been sown on new or nearly new land. [3]

     In Saline county, in the spring of 1880, forty-five farmers were interviewed by the journal with respect to the wheat prospects and varieties. The Early May dominated the field, but one farmer mentioned Russian as the best variety of six. [4] This meant that the field of Russian wheat referred to had been sown in 1879

     The dry, windy years at the opening, of the decade of the eighties imposed upon the winter wheats the supreme test of their hardy character. On April 15, 1881, the editor of the Abilene Chronicle editorialized upon the general "Wheat Prospects":

On the sixteenth day of March the wheat fields were in fine condition. The plant looked strong and vigorous, and the soil was so thoroughly soaked

174 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

with moisture that no fears of failure in the crop from drouth was apprehended. But ten clays of frosty winds blowing persistently day and night, has considerably lessened the average of the yield in this section, and we fear all over the county.
     Last year wheat on new sod suffered the most. This spring, the wheat on old ground has suffered the most. The whole of the surface was one complete network of fissures, through which the wind entered and froze the roots.
     It is too early yet to speculate as to which variety has stood the test the best to which they have been subjected the past week, but we will watch carefully as the season advances and report. We hope our readers will do the same. North of the river we have still some fine fields of White Genesee, Early May, Walker, Fultz, Orange and Russian.
     All the wheat sown on sod is looking well, and we do hope that the rain which is now falling as we write, will so change the aspect of our fields, that our fears for the future crop will be dissipated.

     Already there were several fields of hard wheat being grown in Dickinson county, but the one which attracted the editor's attention particularly was that of Samuel Zook, bishop of the River Brethren church:

Last September Mr. Zook, residing on section ten, Buckeye Township, sowed eighty acres of a variety which he calls Russian wheat, which was introduced into McPherson county a few years ago by the Mennonites who emigrated from Russia. We have been interviewing that field very closely all winter and spring and we have come to the conclusion that it is by far the hardiest wheat we have seen in Kansas.
We have failed to see a discolored leaf on the plants during the past severe winter; and when the last snow drifts melted away the plants looked as green and healthy as a field of rye in the immediate neighborhood. In the early month of spring, it began to stool out and cover the entire ground. It passed through the terrible winds of March unscathed while other varieties suffered so much and today it is worth a day's journey to see its vigorous growth. We hope many of our readers may be induced to visit this beautiful patch of wheat and judge for themselves. When this wheat is thrashed we hope to be able to give our readers the amount of bushels per acre which this new variety yields.'

     The promised report came in the issue of August 26: "The crop in this field was threshed last week. The product was seventeen bushels per acre-machine measure." This was a high yield

Spread Into the Kansas Valley Counties 175

for a year in which the official county average was set at 9 bushels. The following year, 1882, the comment was again favorable: "Samuel Zook has one of the finest pieces of Russian wheat in the county. This was a good season, however, and other varieties, both early and late, and white and red, were reported fine as well as Russian (Bulgarian). [7] In this comment the name Bulgarian was used explicitly as a synonym for Russian. John Taylor, owner of the famous "Gold Hill Farm" in eastern Dickinson county, had 1600 acres in wheat of his own and a landlord interest of one-third of the crop in 500 acres rented to tenants. Once the advocate of Clawson in the seventies, he had turned to Fultz which was still his principal variety in 1882, but he was trying out the Russian which he pronounced equal to Fultz. [8] The fact should be emphasized that the Turkey was not yet accepted generally.

     A severe test for winter wheat occurred again during the winter of 1882-1883 and "We find the Russian still maintains its character for hardiness; the plant looks strong and thrifty." Other varieties which also gave a good account of themselves were White Genesee and Orange. The usual hope was expressed that fields that were apparently winter-killed would revive with favorable showers and yield a fair crop. [9] Late in May the finer, tender varieties were spotted, and late planting was not promising, but fields sown the first week of September were "very thick, rank and luxuriant."

The Russian (Turkey) variety is making a fine growth, and bids fair to repeat the large yield of last year. . . [Even late October sowing was promising]. Our advice is to sow a larger breadth of this hardy variety next fall. If elevator men and millers will insist upon having the finer but more tender varieties let them rise up and out of their easy chairs, take to a farm and grow these tender varieties themselves. They ought to take some risks as well as the farmer. [10]

     A slightly less favorable report came from the Prairie Hill community in Dickinson county where the best yield in history was expected: "The beardless wheat is doing well. The Russian also, but hardly as forward.": [11]

176 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

     In the Junction City area in 1885 one estimate credited hard wheat with 70 per cent of crop. [12] In 1883 it was said to be raised in McPherson county more extensively than any other variety. [13]

     There are no formal surveys of the distribution of wheat varieties over the state and such data as are available are in no sons complete. In 1880 the county reports to the State Board of Agriculture listed Turkey or Russian wheat in eleven counties, and from newspaper sources two other counties may be added making thirteen. Wheats called Crimean and White Russian were also reported. [14] Probably the Turkey was being raised elsewhere as the reports varied with the local acquaintance of the correspondent with his community or county. At the end of the first quarter it was listed as among the two to eight varieties, as the case might be, in the best condition at that time in seven counties, and was mentioned favorably in one other. In the third quarter report Turkey was listed among the best in five counties and favorably in one other. During 1881 Turkey was reported in eighteen counties. In the first quarter it was rated in best condition in two counties, Marion and Reno, among the best varieties in eight, and among the varieties grown in four others. The second quarter reports were less complete, but Turkey was listed best in two counties, Harvey and McPherson, and among the best in four others.

     To emphasize the vagaries of crop reporting, it should be pointed out that Turkey wheat was not even listed in Reno county, where the first quarter report had specified it as in the best condition. The third quarter report was the last applying to the 1881 crop year and reported Turkey best in two counties, Harvey and Edwards, and among the best in five others. Obviously the variety survey was incomplete. In Dickinson county Early May was specified as best, in Saline Early May and Fultz, and in McPherson county Turkey and Early May. During 1880 and 1881, taking either the Central Wheat Belt or the state as a whole, Early May and Fultz were clearly the leaders, but the third place probably belonged to Odessa grown as a winter variety. In several counties, however, in both years, it was listed as best, and

Spread Into the Kansas Valley Counties 177

these years represent the peak of the Odessa boom. It was a semihard variety and it is a question how widely it differed from wheats sometimes called Turkey, and possibly, on occasion, the name applied to Turkey.

     In the crop survey for 1882, the first quarter report included Turkey among the best varieties in seven counties, but in no county was it singled out as best. In the third quarter the listing of successful varieties reported Turkey, Russian or Bulgarian in thirty-five counties, or upwards of half the organized counties of the state at that date. In only one county, Barber, was it listed as the only variety. For the state as a whole, or the Central Wheat Belt as a whole, the state favorites were May, Fultz and Walker, in that order. In Saline county, in addition to Early May, Fultz and Walker, the Oregon variety was well liked and one correspondent claimed that it excelled all others. [15]

     The State Board of Agriculture did not succeed in collecting satisfactory data on variety distribution in 1883, but for the first quarter, Davis (Geary) county reported Russian as in the best condition and Dickinson listed Turkey along with Orange, May and Bluestem. In Russell county the wheat was very backward, the Early May and Turkey not yet having come up on account of drouth. In the first quarter report for 1884, the last attempts to survey the variety situation, Turkey (or Russian) was named in thirty-seven counties and was named first among two or more in sixteen counties, but in two of these and one other the qualification was made that it was best only in yield, while May was best in flour quality. In Pratt county it was the only variety reported and in Rice county three-fourths of the wheat acreage was Turkey. The July monthly report had data on rust damage. The varieties most affected in the east central counties were Fultz and May; in Sumner May; in McPherson, Saline and Dickinson, Russian or Turkey. In making this report the comment was added that the early varieties and the early sown wheat of any variety was less injured than late varieties and sowings. The Turkey seemed to be among the later maturing varieties, and in a wet season like 1882, the rust tended to weaken the naturally weak stem of

178 Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas

Turkey wheat causing heavy growth to go down and lodge badly. [15]

     Even though these reports are too incomplete to possess much, if any, statistical value, nevertheless, the increasing frequency with which Turkey (Russian or Bulgarian) was named by the county correspondents, shows to some degree the growth of their consciousness of the Turkey and of the changing varietal situation. In conclusion, however, the fact cannot be overemphasized that, although the Turkey wheat was spreading rapidly, in 1884 it was not yet the variety that gave the character to the Kansas wheat crop. That honor still went to Early May and Fultz, in spite of the fact that the crown had been transferred already in some central-western counties and rested uneasily upon the heads of those royal families in other counties of the Wheat Belt.

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1. Chase County Leader, May 13, 1880.
2Ibid.,. June 9, 1881.
3Ibid.,. September 8, 1881.
4. Saline County Journal, April 29, 1880. 5 Abilene Chronicle, June 17, 1881. Buckeye township lay just north of Abilene, which was about the center of Grant township.
6. Ibid., June 9, 1882.
7. Ibid., June 23, 1882; G. W. Cable expected 35 bushels per acre from his Fultz and Russian. Ibid., July 7, 1882; One phenomenal yield of 55 bushels per acre from a ten acre field was reported; Abilene Gazette, August 4, 1882.
8. Abilene Gazette, June 23, 1882.
9. Abilene Chronicle, April 6, 1883
10. Ibid., May 25, 1883. Here Russian and Turkey were identified as interchangeable names.
11. Ibid., June 1, 1883.
12. Junction City Union, March 21, 1885.
13. McPherson Independent, April 25, 1883.
14. Quarterly and Monthly Reports of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture for the years mentioned.
15. Salina Herald, August 2, 1882.