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article number 374
article date 09-02-2014
copyright 2014 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Homestead and Cheap Acres Still Available, Missouri Farming 1904 Part 1
by Walter Williams

From the 1904 book, The State of Missouri, an Autobiography.

EDITORS NOTE: While we certainly give our author kudos for assembling a book which now gives us a very informative history of Missouri, his writing style could turn away modern readers unless they are forewarned. Our author gloats and is repetitive. Also he sometimes enumerates long lists which you can easily skip over. This book was commissioned for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition by the State of Missouri so we can understand the author’s zeal. Don’t let the style detract from some very interesting discoveries about what crops we farmed, crop prices and land prices.


MISSOURI produced last year one-eighth of all the corn of the United States and more than one-tenth of all tile corn of the world.

One county In Missouri grows more corn than is produced by all the new England Stales combined.

One man in Missouri grew on his farm this year more corn than is reported by the last cenus from the nine States or Utah. Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Rhode lsland, Wyoming and Nevada combined.

Three counties in Missouri grow more corn than these nineteen States combined: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Colorado, North Dakota, Florida, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming. and Nevada.

This is more corn than is reported by the census for either New York, Maryland, or West Virginia; more than either Spain, Portugal, or Austria grows; is twice as much as is grown In Australasila, including Australia and Tasmania and two-thirds as much as is grown In Egypt.

The least productive county In Missouri grows more corn than the States of Nevada, Wyoming. Montana, and Idaho, combined.

Missouri grows nearly three times as much corn as Canada and Mexico combined ; three times as much as all South America; three-fifths as much as all Europe, and nearly one-half as much as is produced in the whole world outside of the United States.

Missouri’s corn crop last year is estimated by the State Board of Agriculture at 314 million bushels, worth, on the farm, $100 million. This was the largest yield of any State in the Union, with possibly one exception, and was the highest average yield per acre of any State in the Union.*

*At the time this article was prepared, the Government and State statistics for 190e were not complete. Therefore the statistics are for 1902 except those taken from the Twelfth Census which are for 1900.


Missouri’s corn crop exceeded the combined production of thirty States and Territories, as follows: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Washington, Oregon, and California.

Missouri produced last year. according to the State board of Agriculture, 62 million bushels of wheat, which was one-twelfth of the entire wheat crop of the United States; the largest yield accredited to any winter wheat State, and the largest average yield per acre of any State, either winter or spring.

The Missouri wheat crop exceeded the combined production of twenty-two States, Including New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and all the New England States.

This is more wheat than is grown by the United Kingdom of Great Britain, including England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; more than is produced by either Ontario or Manitoba, and two-thirds as much as the whole of Canada.

This exceeds the combined wheat crop of Norway. Sweden. Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Switzerland, and It is four-fifths as much as is grown in the whole of South America.

This is more than is grown in Austria or Roumania; more than Bulgaria and Servia combined; exceeds the total production of Australasla, including Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and New Zealand.

This exceeds the combined wheat crops of Siberia and Central Asia; is more than is produced in Africa, including Egypt, Algeria, Tunis, and Cape Colony, and is more than three times the wheat production of Japan.

Missouri’s aggregate annual production of the six chief cereals (corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, and buckwheat) exceeds the combined production of the following twenty-four States: Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire. Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Alabama, Maryland, Louisiana, West Virginia. South Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, and Nevada.


The average production per State of corn last year for the eleven States: Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania, was 147 million bushels. Missouri’s corn crop was 314 million bushels, or more than double the State average of these leading States.

The State average production of wheat for these States was 32 million bushels. Missouri’s wheat crop was 62 million bushels, or almost double the average production of these leading States.

In oat production the State average of the eleven States listed above was 20 million bushels, while Missouri’s crop was 23 million bushels.

The average production of hay in these States is 3.5 million tons, and Missouri’s hay crop was 4.8 million tons, or one-third more than the State average of these eleven leading hay States.

In the production of the six leading cereals (corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, and buckwheat), the average of the eleven States was 399 million bushels or nearly fifty per cent more than the State average of these eleven leading States.

- The center of Total Acreage in Farms in the United States is in Missouri.
- The center of Improved Farm Acreage is at the eastern border of the State.
- The center of Farm Values of the United States was at the edge of Missouri in 1899, and may be safely said to lie within the State at this time.
- The center of Corn Production of the United States is at the eastern edge of Missouri.
- The center of production of the six leading cereals, corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, and buckwheat, is in Missouri.
- The center of Gross income from Farms of the United States is at the eastern border of the State.
- The centers of production of wheat and oats of the United States are within a hundred miles of the northern boundary of the State.
- The centers of population manufacturing, education, progress, culture, follow the center of production.


Missouri had in 1900, 285,000 farms, aggregating 34 million acres, or an average per farm of 120 acres. These farms were worth, according to the census, $844 million. This is the largest number of farms reported for any State in the Union excepting Texas.

The increase in the number of farms In Missouri during the last ten years was 19.7 per cent, a larger increase than is reported for Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, or Nebraska.

The increase in the number of persons engaged in agriculture in Missouri during the last ten years is 18.4 per cent; a larger increase than occurred in either Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, or Nebraska during the same period.

Sixty-nine per cent of these farms were operated by their owners, a larger proportion than is shown by Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, or Nebraska.

More people are engaged in agricultural pursuits in Missouri than in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, or Ohio.

Missouri’s annual production of sweet potatoes is 743,000 bushels. This is more than is grown by Illinois and Iowa, combined; more than the production of Arkansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, combined; more than the whole of New England; more than the total of thirty other States.

Missouri’s corn crop loaded into wagons holding fifty bushels each, and allowing twenty-five feet for each wagon and team, would make a procession 36,800 miles long, or long enough to extend once and a half around the world.


Corn Is Missouri’s one hundred million dollar crop. Practically one-half of the annual harvest of the State is corn. Wheat amounts to one-fifth and all other crops to three-tenths. In Missouri, Corn is indeed King.


One man, gathering fifty bushels of corn per day, would be kept busy in harvesting the crop, six million, two hundred and eighty-one thousand days, or over twenty thousand years.

The Missouri oat crop last year was 28 million bushels, or more than the combined crop of Australasia and Africa, or as much as is produced by Spain and Italy together.

Missouri’s potato crop last year was 12 million bushels, or approximately as much as was produced by Massachusetts, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Nevada, combined.

The products sold from the market gardens of Missouri in 1900, according to the census, brought $3.5 million, a gain during the last ten years of 215 per cent. This is approximately as much as the vegetable output of all the New England States excepting Massachusetts, and about the same as the sales from Kansas, Nebraska, the two Dakotas, and Wisconsin, combined.

Missouri has, according to the last census, the largest number of family gardens of any State in the Union, and devoted to these crops 75,000 acres, producing a crop worth over $5 million. This exceeds the combined production of Illinois and New Jersey, and is more than is produced by Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, and California, combined.

Of the twenty-five counties in the United States reported in the census as leading in vegetables and producing about one-tenth of all the vegetables grown in the United States, St. Louis and Dunklin counties are included.

Missouri had, in 1900, 3.1 million square feet of glass devoted to vegetable production, a larger area than was reported for the Stales of Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, combined.

The leading watermelon county in the United States, is according to the last United States census, Scott county, Missouri.

The second county In the United States in the production of watermelons is, according to the same authority, Dunklin county. Missouri.

These two counties produce more than one-fourth as many watermelons as the State of Georgia, and more than either Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Indiana, Florida or Arkansas, and as many as were produced by New Jersey and California combined.

One county in Missouri grows more sweet potatoes than either Iowa, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, or Oklahoma, and more than the combined production of Nebraska, New York, and all the New England States.


Missouri produces the largest yield of cotton per acre of any State in the Union.

Missouri produces as much clover hay, according to the last census, as all the New England States, Iowa, New York and Minnesota, combined.

The State contains 70,000 square miles of land surface, or 45 million acres, of which 34 million acres are included in farms. Of this area 23 million acres are improved. There were, in 1900, 285,000 farms of an average size of 120 acres, which were valued, exclusive of buildings, by the United States census, at $695 million. The buildings were valued at $148 million, making a total value for farm lands and buildings of $844 million.


The figures of Missouri’s annual harvest place the State in the very front rank of agricultural States. At the same time no other State is developing as rapidly and adding to her agricultural wealth at the same rate.

It is obvious that the future is secure of any State that grows successfully and profitably in every county, every year, corn, wheat, oats, timothy, clover and blue grass. In addition to these staple crops Missouri grows commercially a larger variety of valuable crops than any other similar area in America, or the world. No state is less afflicted with drouths, floods, insect pests, blighting winds or crop failures.

The Missouri farmer has more time in which to plant, cultivate, harvest and market his crops than has his northern neighbor. The mild climate affords more working days in the year and a longer growing season so that the efficiency of the workman is increased. The plow may be kept going in almost every month of the year. The soil is thus prepared without haste and at a minimum expense.

In the East, high-priced land and costly fertilizers reduce the margin of profit. In the West expensive irrigating plants and high-priced water affect seriously the cost of production. Missouri’s soils are productive without artificial fertilization and her rainfall is sufficient to insure large crops without irrigation.

Missouri’s soils have stood the test of more than a half century and will not wear out, burn out or leach out.

When the population becomes so dense as to demand the highest possible production, Missouri’s farms may be brought under artificial irrigation at far less expense and with greater assurances of an abundant and regular supply of water and with a far greater variety of valuable crops to grow than any country now under irrigation.

* * *

The soils of Missouri may be divided into ten principal classes as shown by the accompanying map and represent:
1. Alluvium
2. loess
3. limestone clay loam (black prairie)
4. clay loam, slightly gravelly (rolling prairie)
5. clay loam (level prairie)
6. limestone shale loam
7. sandy loam
8. red limestone clay (slightly flinty)
9. limestone clay (flinty)
10. red limestone clay.


Alluvium occurs along all rivers and creeks in the State, and varies in depth from 6 to 200 feet.

The large bodies shown on the accompanying soil map are along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and in the southeastern corner of the State.

Soil Map of Missouri, The Missouri Commission, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis 1904.
2000x1666 size available. to open in new window.

Geographical Map of Missouri, The Missouri Commission, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis 1904.
2000x1651 size available. to open in new window.

The large body of alluvial soil in southeastern Missouri covers the counties of Mississippi, New Madrid, Scott, Stoddard, Pemiscot and Dunklin, the eastern half of Butler, the southeastern corner of Ripley and a narrow strip on the south side of Wayne and Cape Girardeau. This represents two separate belts divided by a band of loess known locally as Crowleys Ridge.

The western belt is alluvium mixed with clay overlying a white sand at a depth of from 6 to 18 feet. The eastern half is a mixture of silt and fine sand forming a typical alluvium deposit. Large areas of this very productive soil have not yet been brought into cultivation and are covered with a dense growth of valuable cypress, tupelo and sweet gum, cottonwood, elm, ash, and oak.

Until recently much of this land has been too subject to overflow to be brought Into cultivation. It has been abundantly demonstrated, however, that all of this land may be rendered arable and productive at a relatively slight expense by means of large open ditches. There are already in New Madrid count alone, 233 miles of these ditches made at cost of from $2 to $3 per acre.

In other counties of this district, ditches are being constructed so as to reclaim in a short time the whole of this valuable area.

Underlying all of this land at a depth of from 10 feet to 12 feet is a porous stratum of sand through which the water readily flows so that the ditches will drain the land effectively for a distance of one-half mile. This means that a ditch along each section line will remove every obstacle in the way of cultivating this land, which is so well adapted to the production of all classes of farm crops, particularly corn, wheat, cotton, cowpeas, clover, alfalfa, timothy. bermuda grass, watermelons, cantaloupes, potatoes and tomatoes.

Alfalfa Is perhaps more productive and more easily grown in southeast Missouri than anywhere else in the country. Land that in a few years will be worth from $50 to $75 per acre may be purchased at from $10 to $15 per acre.

Smaller areas of very productive alluvium are found along the Osage, Grand, Chariton, Platte, Salt, Crooked Loutre, One Hundred and Two, Fabius, Merimac, White, James, Bourbase, Black, St. Francois, Current and Elevenpoint rivers. In many localities this class of soil is selling at from $50 to $60 per acre while similar land in other States sells for from $100 to $150 per acre.

The value of loess is well known all over the world. Wherever it occurs a highly developed agriculture is found. The densest agricultural population in the world is supported by the loess soils of Asia. It is friable and easily worked, of texture coarse enough to drain well and yet fine enough to withstand drouths and yields its moisture readily and fully to growing crops.

It varies in depth in this State from 20 feet to 200 feet, and will produce large crops without artificial fertilization for an indefinite period of time.

This soil occurs chiefly along the Missouri river forming a belt beginning at the mouth of the Osage river and widening westward to a maximum of 60 miles in Saline and Carroll counties. Here it begins narrowing and is reduced to a width of about 12 miles at Kansas City, then extends to the north line of the State with a width of about forty miles. Smaller areas occur along the Mississippi river in the counties of St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, Perry, and Cape Girardeau, and a narrow belt in southeast Missouri extends across New Madrid, Scott and Dunklin counties.

The timber growth is elm, linden, black walnut, backberry, red oak, burr oak and pawpaw. All crops of this latitude such as corn, wheat, oats, alfalfa, timothy, blue grass, red and white clover and all classes of fruits and vegetables reach the highest development and produce maximum yields on this soil.

The surface is rolling, but level enough to be practically all cultivated. On this soil corn is planted with the lister, thus dispensing with the cost of plowing the land before planting. Alfalfa thrives as well as in any portion of the United States.

Limestone clay loam (black prairie) is an admixture of clay, silt, sand and limestone clay, resulting from a mixture of glacial soil with the decomposition product of the limestone bed rock. It is black In color, owing to the large amount of vegetable matter it contains, and varies in depth from four feet to twelve feet.

The surface is undulating and is for the most part prairie, forming the high plain of northwest Missouri, and embracing the northern parts of Ray and Clay counties, the whole of Caldwell and Clinton, eastern Nodaway, northern Carroll and southwestern Livingston. The timber growth, in fringes along the water courses, is elm, black walnut, cottonwood and mulberry.

This land produces all crops adapted to this climate, but it is especially suited to corn and grass, has great drouth-resisting powers and will be highly productive without artificial fertilization for an indefinite period of time.


The clay loam slightly gravelly (rolling prairie) is a triangular area with a maximum width at the northern line of the State, where it extends from the Chariton river on the east to the western line of Worth county on the west—a distance of nearly 100 miles.

In the valleys the soil is similar to that of the black prairie region.

The upland is a black soil varying from two feet to five feet in depth, and is composed of clay with sufficient sand to make it friable, easily cultivated, warm and quick. It contains somewhat more water courses than the black prairie region and the surface is somewhat more rolling.

Along these water courses are splendid bodies of alluvium. All crops thrive well on this soil, but it is especially adapted to corn, wheat, blue grass and clover. The land stands heavy cropping for a long time and recuperates with great rapidity when allowed to rest, or when changed to grass or clover.

The timber growth is hazel, sumach, elm and white oak. The section embraces the counties of Putnam, Sullivan, Linn and Mercer, eastern Grundy, northern Harrison, northeastern Gentry, Worth and Chariton; western Randolph, Macon, Adair and Schuyler.

The clay loam comprises the portion of northeast Missouri drained into the Mississippi river by the smaller streams and rivers, and embraces the following counties: Scotland, Clark, Lewis, Knox, Marion, Shelby, Ralls, Monroe and Audrain; the southern portions of Boone, Callaway, Montgomery and Warren; the eastern portions of Randolph, Macon, Adair, and Schuyler; western Lincoln and Pike.

The upland is a gently undulating prairie with a clay limestone soil, varying in depth from one foot to five feet and is dark in color. It is productive. drouth-resistant and comparatively easy to cultivate. This soil is well adapted to corn, oats, timothy, blue grass, clover, broom corn and wheat. Like the other classes of Missouri soil, experience has demonstrated that it remains productive for a long period of time even under excessive grain cropping and recuperates quickly when grown in grass or clover. The surface is such as to enable this land to be cultivated conveniently and cheaply in large bodies. Large areas of very rich bottom land are found along all the rivers and creeks.

The limestone shale loam is a rich friable soil, dark in color with an undulating surface, was originally prairie and covers the following counties: All of Cass, the south halt of Jackson, southwestern quarter of Lafayette, southwestern two-thirds of Johnson, the southwestern portion of Henry and northern Bates. It is well adapted to corn, all varieties of grass, wheat, clover, flax and castor beans, and can be made to grow alfalfa successfully.


Sandy loam is a clay ameliorated by a mixture of sand, dark in color, deep and productive. It covers the counties of Barton, Vernon, southern Bates, eastern Henry and Johnson; the western portion of Pettis, St. Clair and Cedar; northwestern Dade and northern Jasper. It is well adapted to corn, wheat, timothy, flax, broom corn, orchard grass, blue grass and alfalfa.

Red limestone clay is the border of the Ozark region and covers the counties of Cole, Moniteau, Lawrence, Polk, Newton and Greene, nearly all of Dade; the eastern portions of Cape Girardeau, Perry, Ste. Genevieve, Jefferson, St. Clair, Pettis, Miller and Cedar: the western Part of St. Louis, Franklin, Gasconade, Osage, Hickory and Dallas: northern Crawford, McDonald, Christian and Stone; southern Cooper, Laclede and Morgan; northwestern Barry and Douglas; southwestern Webster; southeastern Maries; northeastern Phelps and a small portion of Wright, Ripley, and Butler.

It is a limestone clay soil with a slight admixture of flint, red in color and varies in depth from one foot to four feet. In the river and creek valleys occur large bodies of alluvium. The surface is rolling, but is for the most part level enough to be divided into large, regularly shaped fields on which the most improved machinery is operated.

This section is especially adapted to wheat, producing a plump berry of fine color and very high milling quality. In addition to wheat it is adapted to the production of corn, clover, blue grass, orchard grass, tall fescue, English blue grass, timothy, all classes of fruits and vegetables, cotton in the southmost parts and on a considerable portion of this soil alfalfa will succeed.

Limestone clay (flinty) is the Ozark plateau. It is a clay limestone soil with an admixture of flint, is red or gray in color and varies in depth from one to three feet. The area comprises the counties of Texas, Shannon, Dent, Reynolds, Howell, Oregon. Carter, Ozark, Taney, Wayne, Iron and Washington; nearly all of Camden and Pulaski; the southern part of Stone, Phelps and Crawford; southeastern Barry and Benton; southern McDonald and Morgan; southwestern Jefferson and St. Francois; northeastern Webster; eastern Dallas; western Ste. Genevieve, Perry and Cape Girardeau; northern Ripley and Butler.

The surface is hilly with narrow valleys. A relatively small proportion of the upland is well developed, excepting in the southern and western parts. The valleys of the streams contain a rich alluvial soil, already in a high state of cultivation. This is the timber reserve of the State and comprises the whole area of Missouri that is capable of growing pine.

The undeveloped parts, wherever the timber is thin enough, are covered with blue stem grass and Japan clover, furnishing excellent grazing for all classes of live stock. When cleared, nearly all of this land will grow red and white clover, cowpeas, orchard grass, tall meadow oat grass, tall fescue, red top, and timothy.

On much or this land It will be possible to grow alfalfa successfully. With the rich valleys for the production of corn and considering the mild climate and the very few months in which it is necessary to feed stock, the whole of the section will in the near future be converted into pastures, or live stock farms. Much of this land may now be purchased at from $1.25 to $2.50 per acre.

Red limestone clay, flint free: A comparatively small body of exceedingly productive soil described as a red limestone clay, free from gravel, occurs in Iron, Madison, St. Francois, and Washington counties.

This soil is deep red in color, varies in depth from one and one-half to three feet and is adapted to all crops grown in the State. It is especially suited to the production of wheat, clover, corn, fruits and vegetables of all classes and all kinds of grasses and forage plants. The surface is rolling, affording excellent natural drainage but level enough to be cultivated cheaply.



There remain in Missouri subject to homestead or cash entry about 422,000 acres of Federal Government land, thus located:

Table: Acres federal government land still subject to homestead or cash entry (by county).

Homestead entries may be made for 160 acres and an additional 160 acres may be secured under cash entry. The homestead entry fees and commissions on lands not within two and one-half miles of a railroad are $14 for 160 acres, $13 for 120 acres, $7 for 80 acres, and $6 for 40 acres.

On lands within two and one-half miles of a railroad the fees are $18 for 160 acres, $16 for 120 acres, $9 for 80 acres, and $7 for 40 acres. Under each entry the land costs $2.50 per acre within railroad limits and $1.25 per acre outside of the railroad limits. United States land offices are located at Boonville, Ironton, and Springfield.

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