Agriculture in Post-Civil War Missouri
In 1865, Lawrence County had about 70,000 acres of Government land. The land was not considered suitable for grains, but was good for growing fruits and pasture. The Southwestern Branch of the Pacific Railroad owned another 70,000 acres.
During this time period improved land was selling for as high as $20, $10 being average. Unimproved land sold for an average of $2.50.
The major agricultural commodities in the area were fruits, such as wild grapes, apples, peaches, pears, and timber.
In 1865 wheat was raised averaging a yield of fifteen bushels per acre. Corn was also raised for mostly animal consumption averaging 100 bushels per acre. Sorghum was usually cultivated for home use only. It normally averaged about 75 to 100 gallons per acre. Cotton was not known to be grown in this area, except small amounts for home consumption. Tobacco was also only grown for home consumption, but was considered a high quality producer.
The war affected the sheep industry in Lawrence County. It drove off and destroyed hundreds of sheep in the area and many others were sold in Sedalia and St. Louis. The merino was introduced to the area pre- 1865, but after the war some still remained in the area, but not in their purity. It was said that because of the war, wolves became troublesome to the sheep herds.
The war also greatly affected the hog production in Lawrence County. It was said that the war nearly annihilated the hogs in the area, making them very scarce in number. Many cattle were driven to St. Louis and New Orleans and there were no dairies in the area.
The Osage Orange was first introduced about 1855 in Lawrence County. It was believed that hedge trees would be the best and cheapest fencing, but not the quickest because it required about five years of growing. It was stated that the only drawback of the hedge was that it required proper attention and culture, and the winters never injured it.
Census records were gathered about Lawrence County agriculture from 1850, 1860, and 1870.
In 1867 the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of Lawrence County was established. In the first year of the fair membership fees gathered equaled $340, and a percentage of that went to fair premiums. Many participants who received premiums generally donated it back to the society.
In 1870 a new fair grounds was built in Lawrence County.
During the fair, all types of displays were small in number except horses.
Ante-Bellum Cattle Marks
In 1845 the first record of ear notching cattle in Lawrence County was by Alfred Moore of Mount Vernon. After Moore, the trend spread throughout the county. Each farmer created their own unique earmark for their cattle. L. Williams, Leroy Mullins, and M.B. Phillips recorded each in 1864. When they were sure the war was over, men came to Mount Vernon to report their marks and brands so to protect their herds from travelers through the county.
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