SOIL - CLIMATE - AGRICULTURAL AND MINERAL RESOURCES OF HENRY COUNTY
"In ancient times the sacred plow employed
The kings and awful fathers of mankind;
And some, with whom compared, your insect tribes
Are but the beings of a summer day,
Have held the scale of empire, ruled the storm
Of mighty war with unwearied hands,
Disdaining little delicacies, seized
The plow and greatly independent lived."
The resources of Henry County are varied, and their full development brings wealth, contentment, health and happiness. Soil of exceeding richness, its alluvial qualities reaching many feet below the surface, making it almost inexhaustible in its producing qualities. Streams of running waters, timber of various kinds, all of excellent quality, yet limited in supply. but more than compensated by many hundreds of square miles of coal field, illimitable in its productive capacity, prairies undulating and easy of cultivation, and quarries of stone fit for a palace, of the formality of a hood, all these things make the resources of Henry County a fruitful theme, which, to give it but partial justice, would fill many pages of history. It is the home of the succulent grasses; cereals and vegetables are everywhere productive, and with them as a ground work of solid ingredients, it gives it a prominence as a stock raising and dairy country. The latter would certainly flourish here, the equal of any county in the state, or country. The farmers of Henry County have but to give their attention to their farm duties to secure them a home and a competency.
There are few states in the union that combine so great a variety of soil, as salubrious a climate, so rich in agricultural and mineral resources, better adapted to stock, or a more healthy climate for man than Missouri, and of all these qualities certainly Henry County has her full share.
There are many reasons why Henry County should receive a large immigration, and among these is, that in soil, climate and productive capacity it has few superiors in the counties of the state. Lands are not high, and not one-half of her soil is in cultivation. She has room for a hundred thousand people, and in all the element of success has her full share. These things are all to be considered when settling in a new country, and yet Missouri, while a new country in the extent of her immense forests and prairies, is old in all that constitutes wealth, refinement and culture, in the luxuries of life and in her schools and churches. It is because of her great educational facilities and her numerous railroads and waterways, which gives her a preeminent stand over both eastern and western neighbors. She equals the east in all the luxuries of life, of social ties and advancements, with cheap lands and living at less than two-thirds the cost. She surpasses the west and the borders of civilization in everything that constitutes a comfortable home, the necessaries and luxuries of life, and all this without going into the confines of savage life, and enduring the hardships and privations of pioneer life. One and all of these advantages may be found in Henry County, and having thus given the reasons of our faith in the future of Henry County, the future pages will give more in detail what these advantages are and how her people have improved them.
Henry County is situated within reasonable distance of the marts of trade - a very desirable feature to her people. It is in this location which makes Henry County stand among the first in the list of counties as a market for her surplus produce. She has the privilege of three competing markets, and in the near future her railway facilities will be complete. It is 227 miles to St. Louis, about eighty-five to Kansas City, and about 500 miles to Chicago. It is between the 56th and 56th parallels of latitude and belongs to that section of the state known as Southwest Missouri and its northeastern part - a section of country known for great agricultural resources, mineral wealth, and a climate whose health-sustaining and life. giving qualities are not surpassed.
The county has an actual area of 731 square miles, and an acreage of 467,840, about one-fifth of which is timber. These figures are different from others already published, but which are erroneous. The figures here given are from actual measurement as given by its boundaries. The census of 1880 gives the area at 760 square miles, but as no one will say the county is over thirty miles east and west by twenty-four and one-half miles north and south, which would only give 735 square miles, there is no use quoting more than the figures will verify. The west side falls short of being twenty-four and one-half miles north and south, and there are full two sections, or square miles, taken from the southeast corner from the bend of the Osage River.
The largest acreage assessed in any one year was that of 1881, returned January 1, 1882, which was 463,046 acres, and town lots 3,763, or an acreage of about 2,560. This leaves still unassessed 2,234 acres. There are no government lands, the last acre having been sold before the war. No corporations own land in the county, though a large number of acres are owned by non-residents. It is difficult to estimate the price of land. Prices are controlled by the amount sold, amount of timber, extent of improvements, location, etc., etc. It cannot be very wide of the truth to say that improved lands range in price from $12.50 to $40 per acre.
While these figures in regard to acreage and prices may vary a trifle, it is the nearest that can be arrived at without a survey of about every foot of the county. This is, at all events, a magnificent domain, and one which the people of Henry County may well feel proud of. It needs but the inspiring hands of labor and a liberal supply of active capital to place it in the van of the municipal divisions of the state. Home capital has not exhibited the enterprise and far-seeing judgment which the resources of the county plainly indicate, and it may be that foreign capital will reap the largest share of the wealth which now lies hidden in her soil.
This county is gently undulating in its surface, abounding in rolling prairie, with little timber, except along the banks of its streams. The soil is generally what is termed limestone, or alluvial, of great depth and productiveness. The southeastern portion, however, where it approaches the Osage River, inclines more to what we call sandstone, and has numerous streams of living water. Two of these are classed on the Government returns as rivers; Grand River, which runs directly through the center of the county from west to east, and the Osage, which forms part of the southeastern border. They vary in depth from five to twenty feet, with a medium force of current. Of creeks we have a goodly number: Deep Water, Big Creek, White Oak, Tebo, Honey Creek and Bear Creek, all tributaries of Grand River, and durable streams, upon the banks of which good timber is found in abundance. Many of these streams might be made available for manufacturing purposes. There are two flouring mills upon the banks of Grand River, also many fine saw mills located upon the banks of the different streams. On the whole, no one who has make himself acquainted with its locality and peculiarities, but considers Henry County a healthy, productive and valuable county.
The prevailing species of timber is the oak. All the varieties of this tree are found in greater or less abundance, but the white oak is probably more prevalent than any other. There are, also, black walnut in abundance, ash, hickory, elm, maple, linn or basswood, pecan, locust, sycamore and perhaps others. Shrubs and wild fruits consist mostly of wild plum, pawpaw, persimmons, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, crab apples, hazel, redbud, black and red haws, and probably others less common. Besides the wild grape vine, which largely abounds in the forests along the streams, there are the ivy, honeysuckle, bittersweet, wild cucumber, pea vine, and several other "creeping things," for which no names are given. Timber has generally been considered scarce, but coal largely compensates for the seeming deficit in that direction, by furnishing plenty of fuel, and timber is increasing rather than diminishing within the bounds of the county.
The cultivation of the soil was the first and is the most ennobling of all callings. When the first happy pair was created they were placed in a garden, the most delightful spot upon earth; their physical employment was its cultivation, their mental exercise to admire and adore the wisdom and goodness of God, that appeared in every shrub and plant that flourished throughout the garden. In this department of labor the whole realm of truth is spread out before us, and invites our inquiry and investigation. The composition of soils, the laws that govern vegetable life, are wide and pleasant fields for the exercise of the mind, and while contemplating and studying nature's laws, the mind takes a pleasing transit from nature's works up to nature's God. Cowper has beautifully poetized the sentiment:
"To study, cultivate, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar, yet fruitful lands,
The grain, or herb, or plant that each demands;
To cherish virtue in an humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create;
To mark the matchless workings of the power
That shuts within its seed the future flower,
Bids these in form of elegance excel,.
In color these, and those delight the smell;
Sends nature forth, the daughter of the skies,
To dance on earth and charm all human eyes;
To teach the canvas innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet.
These, these are arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of time."
Who stands in so enviable a position as the owners of the soil and producers of bread? They feed the teeming millions of our population; they supply their most pressing wants. Agriculture is the basis of all our material relations. More than one-half of the population of our country are engaged in tilling the soil, and over three-fifths of the permanent wealth of the country is in their hands. The prosperity of the country is based upon the prosperity of the owners and tillers of the soil. Truly, then, is agriculture the mother of all arts, the foundation and basis of every other calling.
Agriculture, like every other art, must be educated. We educate for the law - we educate for medicine - educate for war - for war upon the land and war upon the sea. We educate for all arts and sciences, save, but in a limited degree, that art or science which is the noblest of them all, and upon which all other arts and sciences depend.
Missouri possesses more natural advantages and adaption of soil and climate for agricultural pursuits than any other state in the west or in any other part of the country. It has a soil and climate that will grow in the greatest perfection the peach, apple, pear and cherry, together with all other fruits that succeed in this latitude. While portions of the state are better adapted to the successful culture of the vine than any state in the Union, unless it may be California, we have soil well adapted to the growth of tobacco, hemp, cotton, and all the cereals and bulbous and tuberous roots grow to great perfection.
Wheat is grown to perfection and the average yield is exceeded but by four states in those years that turned out the heaviest crops. Henry County has not given full attention to this cereal, yet more than enough is raised for home consumption, and it is of late years becoming more of a leading product, the crop of 1879 being 191,457 bushels. Corn, however is the great staple of Henry County, and in that respect there are but a few counties that exceed her in the gross yield. In 1879 Henry County had a yield of 5,002,216 bushels of corn and but four counties in the state gave a larger yield. These were Bates, Carroll, Nodaway and Johnson, and with the exception of Nodaway were not greatly in advance. Nodaway is the banner corn county of the state, having harvested for 1879 no less than 6,961,556 bushels.
The people of Henry County may be classed as an agricultural one. Out of a population of in round numbers, 24,000, only about 5,500 are located in towns, leaving 18,500 as the agricultural population of the county. In fact there is far more enterprise exhibited by the agricultural people of the county, than the capitalists or those living in towns. The breeding of fine stock has become quite general, and combined as it is with cereal products are facts placing the farmers and stock raisers in an enviable position in the matter of finance. Oats are a leading crop, and yield from thirty to forty bushels per acre - to feed in connection with corn to horses is considered better than feeding either alone. Buckwheat is but little raised, and the same can be said of barley. Rye is also a light crop, but little of it being raised. Corn, oats and wheat, in the order named being the principal crops. Hemp and flax yield heavy returns, but are not extensively cultivated. Sorghum is an institution that is growing in favor, and in the number of acres planted, there are few crops that pay better another crop, that of broom corn, has been much cultivated of late, and the year 1882 returned a crop that more than paid the full value of the land upon every acre upon which it was grown. Tobacco could be cultivated with profit, but it has not taken the fancy of the farmer as a staple crop. Potatoes can be raised in almost any quantity. The soil is adapted to them, and it only requires care to raise an enormous crop. Then the turnip is another root that it is hard to tell how many can be raised to the acre. A turnip "patch" is about all that is seen planted or sown of this root. The "patches" vary in size from an eighth of an acre to an acre, and but few ever exceed that space of ground. There is nothing in the line of roots and and vegetables, but what yields handsomely on Henry County soil.
The natural resources for grasses are very great, and this for many years was a great drawback to the cultivation of tame grasses. For years the pastures were the open prairies, or, if necessary, the prairies fenced in. Of late years, however, timothy meadows have increased and will continue to increase as the stock interest grows. Timothy, when sown, yields abundantly, an average of three tons to the acre having been produced. The prairie, when cut, yields from one to two tons per acre, that on wet soil yielding the heaviest, and if properly cured is a pretty fair hay for cattle. But for pasturing the blue grass ranks the highest, while timothy is the leading hay grass. Redtop and clover is raised, but not to a great extent; the former act, however, as a filling on a timothy meadow.
When you come to take the great yield of the grasses, the prolific returns of corn and oats, the abundance of water, it is not much of a wonder that within the past few years the farmers of Henry County have turned their attention to stock. The wonder is that it has not been a leading industry for the past twenty years. Even now it is only in its infancy, and it will be found that money invested in Texas, Colorado or New Mexico will show no greater profits than in our own state of Missouri in the matter of cattle raising.
The great ranches of these Western States have made their profit by grazing their stock on government land, and when free pastures are no more, the chances for large profits will be much curtailed. To be sure, large capitalists have Combined and purchased a large number of acres of land at a nominal cost, and will make money, but the stockmen whose capital is limited will not fare better in those states than here, where a market can be found at his door.
Henry County farmers, with but few exceptions, have not gone largely into sheep, yet of all the stock which go to make up a profitable return, the sheep has not a superior for this section of the country. The returns for 1881 gives 15,289 as the total in the county. This is not half the number raised in the leading county, Livingston, in 1879, and many other counties double this number. Yet Henry County is eminently a sheep county, in its adaptability to this industry and for its successful and profitable production.
In the year mentioned above the Rev. L. C. Marvin, a Universalist preacher, who as an emancipationist, was elected speaker of the general assembly in the year 1862, a man of culture and varied experience, wrote to the Missouri Agricultural Society, at their request, matters agricultural of Henry County. Of that letter and report the following has been taken, which seems to bear upon its face the condition, views and actions of the farmers of the county, and in a concise form tells much that is of interest at this day. From this report and the present condition of the farming population, the advance made in some departments can be readily seen.
The following is from the last two pages, or closing of his letter: He says of hogs, cattle, horses, no statistics ever having been attempted previous to the war, and the irregularities which prevail now and during the past few years preclude the possibility of giving anything reliable under this head. In general terms, it may be stated that few counties in the state, and none in the southwest, have been more prolific in producing the kinds of stock above enumerated for market. Men whose judgment is seldom at fault in estimates of this nature, are of the opinion that in 1863-4 as many as 15,000 hogs were fattened and marketed from this county alone. The weight, on an average, it is supposed would be about the same as the average of hogs which find a market at St. Louis. Taking into the account the fact that a bloody and relentless bushwhacking war was carried on within our bounds during that and other years, and the altogether unsettled condition of things generally, with the indications as above stated, and some estimate may be made of the capacities of our county in a time of profound peace, with none to molest or make us afraid.
Beef cattle in immense numbers were also driven from our county during the first years of the war, and, seemingly, horses and mules enough have been stolen and driven away to outfit an army for the occupation and conquest of the Peninsula. There are various kinds of stock of the improved breeds among us, but the most common is the Durham in the cattle line; and of hogs, the Berkshire is the favorite, with intermixing of other kinds. Durhams do well, but require far more care and better keeping than the natives. Crosses between the Durham and native, with some, are a favorite kind of stock, giving more weight on the one hand, and requiring less care and feed on the other.
No person has ever undertaken to raise stock especially for the dairy. Farmers simply make their own butter, when they have any, and, incidentally, a few pounds for the market. There is the commencement of one cheese dairy in the county, belonging to Mr. John Baker, where the cows number about eighty. I think he makes a profitable business in this matter, selling his cheese readily at high prices. His cows are mostly natives, with a small percentage of Durhams. Considering the price paid in this region for cheese, and frequently for an inferior article, and the facilities offered for keeping dairies, it is not seen what business could possibly pay better than the manufacture of good cheese for the market. One hindrance seems to be that few people here know the secret of cheese making.
Considerable attention has been paid to the raising of apples and peaches, both of which do well and repay the farmer a large return for his labor. Almost every farmer, at present, and some in the past, are intent upon raising fruits of various kinds, and in the future, from present indications, a large increase will be visible. The best winter fruit in all this region is the geniting, an apple, I believe, unknown in the north, but one of the very best, as conceded on all hands in this vicinity. There is no difficulty in raising fruit, if the trees are only planted, and a reasonable amount of care taken of them, and no labor pays the farmer a larger percentage. The oldest fruit raiser and nurseryman in this county is Augustus Dana, of Calhoun. Though not largely employed in the propagation of fruit, it is believed he has done much to introduce good and valuable fruit into the county. Large numbers of fruit trees, just previous to the war, were bring introduced from New York and other eastern and northern states. It is generally thought, however, that nurseries in this state are to be preferred to those a great distance north or east. Some are of the opinion that trees, by being transplanted so far from home, are apt to change the character of fruit, like a youth who goes far from home is apt to fall into bad company, and in the end contract bad habits.
Vines and Vineyards
There are, properly speaking, no vineyards in the county. There are, however, in many gardens a few vines, rather incidentally or accidentally than with any well defined intention on the part of the planter. The location of the county and the character and tastes of the people will be apt to preclude much wine making in our midst, probably for a long time to come. No reason is known why, if properly cared for, pruned and cultivated, the winemaker might not do as well here as in other localities within the boundaries of the state.
There is no enumeration of stock found prior to the year 1867 of record, and therefore the growth of the county in stock wealth will be dated from that time. There were few head of fine cattle or sheep in the county at that time, and the era of shorthorns, Hereford and Jersey stocks are of a later period. In the matter of hogs the desire for fine breeds commenced earlier. When the land became settled and the savages curtailed, the old slab-sided rail splitter gave way to the Berkshire and the Poland-China, and these two breeds now predominate, with a slight preponderance perhaps on the side of the latter breed. There is but little difference in reality between their value. The Berkshire will hunt its food and is not lazy in that particular, but the Poland-China is a genuine hog all over. He will go to his food, but if he could have his way the food would be brought to him. He despises exercise and get fat because he can help it, having the appetite of a born hog.
Sheep have, of late years, attracted more attention, both as to the breeds and to their raising. The farmers of Henry County would have been better off today (but perhaps that is unnecessary) if they had given their attention earlier to this department of farm stock. It is not yet too late, and the sheep is beginning to assert itself as a staple of farm production. The horse is another animal that has seen far less attention in Henry County than it should. Not but that there are many fine horses in the county, but they are the exception and not the rule. It would pay to take a deeper interest in this best of all farm stock. When it comes to cattle, of late the farmer has exercised commendable energy and desire to improve the common stock arid the scrub, for something, that without being, if any, more expensive, will sell on an average at three times the value of the aforesaid scrub. The shorthorns lead at this time, and will, doubtless for sometime to come, but that farmer will be wise who also takes an interest in the Hereford for the market, and looks after a thorough Jersey for the dairy. The value of the short horns none will deny, but a very plain fact is also observant, that they do not combine in themselves all that is desirable in cattle. There are several breeds, both of cattle and sheep, which it would be well for the farmer to experiment with, and while the situation and liking of one might suit him, it does not follow that others would, under different circumstances, find the same breed as profitable or desirable.
And right here a very pertinent question might be asked: Why does not Henry County support and foster a first-class agricultural society? The want of one certainly reflects upon the intelligence and enterprise of the farming population of Henry County and certainly is a mistake.
As before stated, the year 1867 was the first that record was found of the assessment of live stock. That year they numbered as follows; Horses 3,979; mules and asses 1,132; neat cattle 12,520; sheep 9,241; hogs 5823.
1870 - The number increased rapidly to this date, as will be seen below, except in mules and sheep: Horses 6,069; mules and asses 1,137; neat cattle 15,662; sheep 9,478; hogs 28,005.
1871 - Horses 7,681; mules and asses 1,388; cattle 20,567; sheep 10,331, hogs 28,617.
1874 - Horses 9,301; mules 1,965; cattle 27,540; sheep 13,589; hogs 37,369.
Shipments of 1877
While the wealth of Henry County has increased over 25 percent the past five years, what she contributed to the outside world during the business season of 1876-77 will be found of interest.
The following is a tabulated statement of the shipments of live stock and produce from the different stations in Henry County, Missouri, for the seven months ending May 15, 1877.
The exhibit is taken direct from the shipping books of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway, and is true in every particular:
Under the head of the miscellaneous is included beans, oats, stoneware, hides, bran, wagon material, etc. The total value of the above shipments foot up the handsome sum of $1,552,998.
The census returns of 1880 gives the cereal crop of the year 1879, and the number of acres planted to each crop. In this exhibit Henry County is well to the front.
The 1880 Census Crop
Assessor's Returns - January 1, 1883
The following condensed statement of the returns of 1882, and returned January 1, 1883, is taken from the Clinton Democrat of February 15, 1883. Total valuation of livestock, moneys, notes, bonds and other personal property, for the year 1882, arranged by townships:
This closes the resources of Henry County, and from this date on it will be easy to trace the growth and true prosperity of the county. Here it is found tabulated from 1840 to date, of such years as the same was placed upon record, and from this history the past can be gathered. This alone will make it a valuable reference to every citizen for all future time.