Agriculture in Post-Civil War Missouri
County is the extreme southwestern county in Missouri.
In 1867 the western part of the county was part of the Cherokee
Nation and the southern part bordered the unreconstructed state of Arkansas. There were thirteen streams and rivers supported by numerous
springs throughout the county providing some of the purest of drinking
water for animals and man. Many
farms were located in the valleys of rivers and streams.
Many of these farms were built on bottomland, made of a rich
dark moist soil mixed with gravel.
McDonald County was said to be extremely fertile for cultivation and early
top of having profitable farmland McDonald County was well supplied
with different varieties of timbers; including pine, cedar, all oaks,
hickory, ash, hackberry, dogwood, the gums, walnut, maple, locust,
mulberry, sassafras and many other species of forest. The abundance of trees and streams supported four steam saw and gristmills
and two water powered saw and gristmills who flourished using the cheap
fuel. The unimproved land
could be purchased for three to ten dollars per acre; improved land
went for five to twenty-five dollars per acre after being cleared.
county residents had no reapers, cultivators, or
mowers. Farm labor was
accomplished by the simplest of implements - muscle and mule. The
population was about five thousand; only one-twentieth of the county
was in cultivation and only about one-tenth successfully tilled.
principle crop production in 1867 was corn, averaging fifty bushels;
wheat at twenty; oats, fifty; Irish potatoes, one hundred; sweet potatoes,
two hundred bushel; and tobacco, 1000 pounds per acre.
It was stated that these reported yields per acre could
be doubled with good cultivation.
Hungarian grass, sorghum, and fruits such as grapes flourished
throughout the county.
climate was said to imitate the sunny lands of Italy and Southern
France. It was
predicted that it would become the Italy of America, the grape and
fruit region of the world. The
winters were mild and open.
Cattle and swine were said to require little attention, living the winter months on the "luxurious herbage" along the valleys. Frost seldom entered the valleys allowing the lush grasses to be available all winter. Bordering the famous Mason - Dixon line the boundary of free labor, McDonald County was said to be free from the stigma of slavery. It was near the geographical center of the United States and in close proximity to the great national thoroughfares, the railroads that were uniting the North with the South.
McDonald County had excellent range. The small farms had access to this range. Livestock of all varieties are easily raised and for the most part disease free. Horses, mules, sheep and cattle were profitable, cheaply raised and cared for.
There was a need for better grades of livestock. The county offered such a good climate and range favorable for cheap and profitable stock raising. It is amazing that the area did not already have the best varieties introduced.
McDonald County’s invitation was extended to farmers, mechanics, investors and fruit growers to come and settle among the citizens of extreme Southwest Missouri. McDonald County had rugged hills, bold cliffs, each covered with cedars and pines, deep valleys viewed from higher points, showing a vista of small cultivated farms, clear winding streams, cascading rivers, cold gushing springs.
This page was designed by Lane Truman
For more information, contact Lyndon N. Irwin