|Other County Histories | Civil War | 1886 | 1913 Vol. 2 | 1916 | Depression ||
Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History
by Major A. J. Roof. 1913
During the past two decades a wave of national prosperity in this country has exerted a most important influence upon the American farmer. Few classes of people have reaped the rich reward from these extraordinary commercial conditions as the men on the farm. In a large degree this prosperity of the country has been due to favorable crops and high prices of all farm products. These conditions have enriched the progressive farmer from one end of the country to the other, but more especially is this true of the central and western states. Farm lands have advanced from $20, $40, and $60 to $70, $100 and in some sections to $150 per acre, according to improvements, while the rate of taxation has only kept pace with the advanced prices in land values. The farmer has sold his stock and grain at prices unknown since normal conditions prevailed after the close of the Civil war. As a result his bank account is largely on the credit side of the ledger, thus enabling him, not only to add greatly to improvements on the farm, but by the aid of improved machinery and new and up-to-date methods of farming, to take life easy. Especially do these splendid conditions exist here in Livingston county, where the soil is generally rich, and with few exceptions is dark, rich, and when properly handled "loamy," being from eighteen inches to two feet in depth. To be sure some few tracts are broken but the area is limited. Of this latter we might call it a mulatto soil, sometimes sandy to a few inches in depth. There abounds in the western section of the county what is known as limestone land which produces equally as well as the dark, rich soil but is differently adapted. Some little hilly land is found adjacent to water courses, but this is somewhat limited. Many of these hills or slopes are so gentle that they really are desirable for meadows and pastures. The river and creek bottoms are usually level, the soil fertile, but during wet seasons not desirable for cultivation. This, however, is rapidly being overcome by ditching and tiling, thousands of acres having been reclaimed within the past decade and the work goes merrily on.
The number of acres of upland in cultivation is approximately three hundred and twenty-eight thousand nine hundred and sixty-three, while the number of acres of bottom land now in cultivation, has leaped from seventy-one thousand one hundred and sixty to not less than two hundred and eleven thousand seven hundred and nine acres.
Less than one-third of the county abounds in timber. In the last quarter of a century the best timber that skirted Grand river and all other streams has been felled and sawed into lumber, while the stately and second-growth hickory has been turned into wagon axles, handles and many other useful articles, The oak, ash, hackberry, pecan, maple, and elm has supplied fuel for our people for three-fourths of a century.
From a gentleman, whose three score years as a practical farmer enables him to judge intelligently, we are informed that the surface soil of Livingston county is of the richest variety. The soil, he says, is mostly decomposed vegetable matter - a rich, black mold - equal to the richest valleys of the corn belt states and that it is from twelve to fifteen inches deep, It is strong in the elements of production as everywhere indicated by the rank growth of vegetation to be found. As a proof of this experienced pioneer's opinion, the writer is cognizant of many fields of corn that have been grown year after year for from twenty to forty years, producing thirty-five to seventy bushels per acre according to conditions of the weather and mode of cultivation, while one field of thirty acres in Mound township produced sixty-seven bushels to the acre after having been planted to corn forty-two successive years, and this without any fertilization whatever.
There is beneath this rich, black mold a clay subsoil, apparently impervious while the underlying strata when brought in contact with the air soon breaks up into irregular sections and later into a velvety or ashy heap, not at all like the heavy, soggy and undesirable red and blue clay so familiar to our people who immigrated to this section from some of the eastern states. This subsoil of Livingston county forms a base which is enduring for the production of grains, grasses and fruits and is acknowledged superior as a soil base by the best and most experienced agriculturists in the country. This subsoil deposit underlies the entire county to a depth of from ten to thirty feet and its value to the farmer cannot be overestimated. No section of the United States enjoys a broader range of production than is presented in this part of Missouri. It is a paradise for the husbandman. Here the farmer has the whole field against the specialist of other sections of the country, Complete failures of all crops are unknown. He sows his wheat rye, and oats, plants his corn, some flax, a large variety of vegetables and fruits; he raises horses and mules, cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry; he has blue grass pastures, meadows of timothy, clover and alfalfa and in this manner covers the field as against a single possible winning crop.
The late Hon. H. C. Ireland who immigrated to Livingston county at an early day from the State of Kentucky, once told the author of this work, that the celebrated blue grass of his native state was very fine indeed, but that the blue grass carpet of this county was richer and ranker of growth and contained flesh-building elements not to be found in Kentucky blue grass. This is indeed a grass country. Blue grass and clover are indigenous to our soils and our domestic herds have given both the impulse of the victor or conqueror in the race for preponderance. All stock men admit that blue grass leads all else in the rapid putting on of flesh, but that alfalfa is a close second. There is not a more natural grass country on the continent and in consequence it has been spreading out over prairie, woodland, field and lawn.
The timothy meadows of Livingston county as well as other sections of north Missouri charms the immigrant from many of the older states. The nutritious growth of this grass, so rank, rich and resplendent, its equal is nowhere to be found. The fields when fully headed give forth the appearance of a sea of stately waving grain, producing one and one-half ton to three tons per acre. The seed is also an important staple.