Agricultural History Series
Agricultural History Series
 Missouri State University

Agriculture in Post-Civil War Missouri 

Polk County

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On June 23, 1862, General Order No. 3 was filed in Missouri.  This law stated that all rebel sympathizers in Missouri were to be held responsible “in their property, and, if need be, in their persons” for all lawless acts.  They were to pay $5,000 for every Union citizen killed, $1,000-$5,000 for everyone wounded, and the full value for all property damaged.  Those that could not pay would have their property taken and sold in order to make payment for the damages done.  Most of the people who were accused of breaking this law were unable to pay these outrageous sums of money, and therefore fled from the state of Missouri.  For example, on November 14, 1862, Col. Coffees Rebels were convicted of stealing horses from Union citizens.  The group was fined $90.00.  This same group was also accused of stealing mules and was fined $140.00.

Polk County, located in southwest Missouri, was a land known for its prairies, lush grasses, good timber, and good people.  According to the Bolivar Herald Free Press, 1869, Polk County had a population of 10,000 people.  It held the third largest population out of all the counties in Southwest Missouri. 

The price of land was very low in Polk County.  Prices for “improved lands” ranged from ten to fifteen dollars per acre, including both timber and prairie lands.  The “unimproved” lands were bought at four to six dollars an acre.

Mohawk Valley Clipper Plow

Polk County was home to many different crops and livestock.  Corn and wheat were the two largest crops grown.  Other crops grown included oats, barley, rye, flax, broomcorn, sorghum, tobacco, millet, and cotton.  Fruits were also grown with great success. Grapes were very well suited for Polk County.  Apples, peaches, cherries, plums, pears, and apricots were also grown in this area.  Many gooseberries and blackberries grew in the wild.

Polk County was very well adapted to raising livestock.  Native grasses covered the prairies and the abundance of streams were adequate for watering animals.  After the war, however, the native grasses were being taken out and being transformed into fields of timothy, bluegrass, and clover.  Cattle, sheep, and horses were the main livestock grown in the county.  Some sheepherders from Illinois and Iowa would drive sheep to Polk County to graze on the surplus of pasturelands.  Dairy farms were on the increase.  Because of the abundance of pasture and the new railroad access for transportation to St. Louis and Chicago, farmers were lured into the dairy business.

The November 11,1869, Bolivar Retail Market Report showed the following prices:

Wheat $  .80 per bushel
Corn     .50 per bushel
Oats     .30 per bushel
Flour   3.00 per hundred weight
Corn Meal     .75 per bushel
Butter     .20 per pound
Lard     .16 2/3 per pound
Eggs     .10 per dozen
Chickens   1.50 per dozen
Pork (hog round)   8.00 per hundred weight
Beef   5.00 per hundred weight
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  • Bolivar Herald Free Press, 1869-70.  

  • Dunaway, Maxine.  1862 Rebel List of Polk County, Missouri.

  • History of Hickory, Polk, Cedar, Dade, and Barton County, Missouri, 1889.

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