Agricultural History Series
Agricultural History Series
 Missouri State University

Agriculture in Post-Civil War Missouri 

Bates County

Missionaries from New York settled the first community in Bates County, Harmony Mission, for the purpose of educating Indians. Later, in 1841, Harmony Mission was selected as county seat due to its central location. The county seat was later moved to Papinville, three miles southeast of Harmony Mission. However, when Vernon County was established, Papinville was no longer centrally located, so the county seat was later moved to Butler where it still remains.

On August 25, 1863, Civil War Order No. 11 ordered all citizens to leave Bates County within fifteen days. During the Civil War, Bates County was burned to the ground. It is said the Walley Inn in Butler was the only thing left standing.  At the end of the Civil War, Bates County citizens returned to a devastated county. Some of the once flourishing villages were never rebuilt, but for other communities the years following the war were considered a period of great development and prosperity. This county's success or failure was in large part due to the coal industry, railroads, and agriculture.

A Missouri Farm Home

 Bates County Agriculture in 1865

During this time sorghum and corn were extensively raised in Bates County. Corn averaged about fifty bushels per acre. This corn was generally fed to cattle, and when the cattle were fat they were driven to Pleasant Hill to be put on the Missouri Pacific Railroad to go to St. Louis to be sold.  The sorghum was manufactured into syrups for individual use. Rye, oats, buckwheat, and potatoes all grew well in the county; however, no records of exact amounts per acre were recorded. Wheat was not extensively raised due to farmers not really knowing enough about it at this time. Cotton, hemp, flax and tobacco had all been grown in the county.

Sheep of all different breeds were easily raised in the county. Horses, mules, and hogs were raised; however, due to the war no definite information on breeds had been collected.

Peaches, apples, pears, and plums all grew very well in the county. There was said to be several professional fruit growers engaged in the fruit business before the war. Due to the destruction of the war, these individuals were put out of business.

Blue grass and clover grew well. However, due to the destruction of the war blue grass covered a majority of the fields.

Bates County Agriculture in 1866

 At this time improved farms were selling for twelve to sixteen dollars per acre, and wild (timber) lands sold for three to five dollars per acre. Coal seemed to be abundant in the land. Near the town of Parkerville there were several springs, and during warm weather the surface was covered in petroleum. A company purchased a lease, and intended to sink a well for oil.

The implements used for farming during this time consisted of the Diamond and Clipper plow. Also, the Sattly’s and other gangplows had been introduced in the county. All varieties of cultivators from the single shovel to the sulky cultivators were being used.  The Ball reaper and mower, the Hubbard mower, and the Russell combined machine were also used during 1866.

Only about one-twelfth of the land was cultivated, being evacuated by a military order during the war. Prairie fires sometimes swept over the country destroying everything.

Wheat was still not grown extensively but some farmers were trying it. If  broadcast, it averaged about fifteen to twenty bushels per acre. No wheat drills were in use in the county at this time. Corn tended to average fifty bushels per acre and was still considered the principle crop of the county.

There were no vineyards in the county as of yet but wild grapes were thriving in the woods.

Farmers tended to have trouble with grasshoppers during this year so between the war and grasshoppers comparisons between yields could not be made.

Also during 1866, three thousand head of Texas cattle attempted to pass through the county. However, once they reached six to eight miles into the county they were turned back by the citizens of the county. Bates County was trying to avoid exposure to the deadly Texas fever.

Bates County Agriculture in 1868

Since the war, the citizens of Bates County believed that no other county in the state presumed to be so prosperous and no other county had received the immigration that Bates had. In 1866 there were only 312 registered votes. In 1868 there were 1,510 qualified voters and 500 unqualified voters.

The land and town property of Bates County was valued at $2,600,000: personal property $560,000, making a total taxable property of $3,160,000. The population of the county was about twelve to fifteen thousand who were said to have immigrated or settled in the last four years.

Firewood sold for $3.50 to $5.00 a cord.  Coal at that time sold for twelve to fifteen cents per bushel. Wheat if given proper attention was thought to average between twenty-five to thirty bushels per acre.  It was reported that in 1868, there was never a better crop of wheat harvested in the county. Some fields averaged as high as thirty-five bushels per acre and one field average thirty-seven where it was said that no wheat could grow until the Yankees invaded the county.

Next page.   Reference: 
  • Missouri State Board of Agriculture First Annual Report 1865 (Second Series). Bates County Report.
  • Bates County Missouri Sesquicentennial 1841-1991
  • Missouri State Board of Agriculture First Annual Report 1866 (Second Series). Bates County Report
  • Missouri State Board of Agriculture First Annual Report1868 (Second Series). Bates County Report

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