Digital Macksville

Macksville, Kansas

22- Farm


22- Farm


Macksville, Kansas -- History

Macksville, Kansas Centennial

Stafford County, Kansas


Section of the Macksville Centennial Book dealing with farming.


Macksville History Committee and The Lewis Press


Macksville City Library, Macksville, Kansas


Macksville City Library, Macksville, Kansas











Macksville History Committee and The Lewis Press, “22- Farm,” Digital Macksville, accessed May 31, 2023,

Railroads were deeded, by the U.S. Government, land five miles in each direction of the tracks to enable them to establish the rail lines. As time went on, the railroads sold the land at nominal prices. Farmers were among those purchasing such lands to settle on. The land near Macksville was acquired for settlement in this manner.
On areas further from the railroad land, the Homestead Act of 1862 was a means for farmers to get a start settling the land.
The Homestead Act of 1862 provided anyone who was either head of a family, 21 years old or a veteran of 14 days of active military service, and who was a citizen or had filed a declaration of intent to become a citizen, could acquire a tract of land in the public domain not exceeding 160 acres (quarter section). The federally owned land included land in all states except the original thirteen and Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas. To acquire title to the land, the homesteader was obligated to settle on or cultivate the homestead for 5 years. The law expressly declared that no land so acquired could be levied again-creditors for satisfaction of debts contracted prior to the issuance of the land grant. This act was to provide an incentive to settle the west.
In 1935 the Homestead Act was withdrawn, occasionally since then, small areas in Alaska have been opened to veterans for homesteading.
Times were difficult for the homesteader. Most of them built a dugout to live in to shield themselves from the adverse weather of our area. They had to be very frugal with what little money they had, making every penny count. Many homesteaders would start their livestock program with just one cow or heifer, and build on that. The hard winters were a constant threat. Insect and animal famines totally destroyed the limited acres of crops grown in this area from time to time.
Due to the fact this area was sod in the early days, prairie fires and fear of them was another problem. Disease and early death was common to the homesteader and his loved ones.
Failures of Homesteaders were many. Those who survived were provided an opportunity to expand by acquiring an additional quarter section, called a tree claim. Homesteaders who proved out their homestead quarter received their land grant and then were eligible to acquire a tree claim.
On the tree claim quarter the farmer had to plant 12 acres of trees. Cottonwood trees were planted on most tree claims south of Macksville.
This tree claim endeavor was difficult. The trees must be kept alive to prove out the tree claim quarter section. Water was carried by hand to water the young sapplings in the long, hot summers. Twelve acres of trees are a lot of trees, even by today’s standards.
The work was difficult. All family members were needed to do their part if the early day farmer was to succeed. Funds were usually short. Many farmers lost their farms when they couldn’t pay taxes.
Many of the first farmers of this area were immigrants coming to settle on the prairie. One of the first tasks was to plow the virgin sod. The sod plow was invented in the early 1800’s. Plows made of wood and the early crude iron wouldn’t scour. The farmer had to hand scrape the plow clean every few yards down the field.
In 1837, which was probably 25 years before the first homesteader came to this part of Stafford County, a self scouring plow was born. This first plow bottom was made of a used saw mill blade which was extremely smooth and polished. It was very crude by today’s standards, but would scour itself clean.
The first plow used here was a single bottom, walking plow. It was drawn by a team of oxen, mules or horses. We can imagine plowing the sod must have been extremely hard work, for the farmer as well as the pulling team. Sod plowing is tough with a modern day tractor.
The early farms were extremely diversified. As foundation animals could be brought to the area, the farms were pretty much self sufficient as far as basic needs were concerned. A typical farm had a few beef cows, milk cows, chickens, hogs and a garden for food.
Seeding crops such as wheat was done by hand broadcasting or scattering and covering the seed by hand. The first corn was planted in hills by hand. This practice was adopted from the methods the Indians used. Later corn was hand dropped in furrows and covered with the hoe. Still later a hand corn seeder was used.
During the 1870’s the first small walking grain drills and horse drawn corn planters found their way to this area. The drill was in 3 to 6 foot width. Shortly thereafter, in the early 1900’s, the sulky or riding plows, cultivator, harrow, drill and corn planter came to be.
The corn planter was operated by two men and drawn through the field by a team or horses. The field was first criss crossed, marked with the planter then gone over again with one man driving the team and the other man jerking the lever, dropping the seed on the previous marks made criss crossing the field.
Check row planting was used. This involved a rotary drop for metering seed. The drop mechanism was triggered by a wire or rope knotted at regularly spaced intervals. This was anchored at the end of each row to be planted. This was a breakthrough for accuracy of seed placement.
As progress was made in tilling and planting, the natural need for wagons to haul produce proliferated. Wagons and other implements made a lot of repair work for the blacksmiths of the time.
Most communities had a farmer, blacksmith for tool repair. They had hand driven air forges for heating iron to shape and for the fusion of iron hammered on a large anvil. This service was very necessary to the first farmer as they had nothing to work with or for most, the know how to repair their breakdowns.
Much of the produce raised was in turn used to maintain the horses and livestock used by the farmer for his own needs. Consequently, little cash grain or livestock was marketed for cash for needs of the family, that they
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couldn’t provide off the land.
Around 1900 the gasoline tractor was in its infant stage of development in the corn belt area of the U.S. Prior to this time steam tractors, in small numbers were used. Steam tractors were primarily used for belt driven applications, such as powering threshing machines. Few were used for pulling implements and were cumbersome and slow.
Needless to say the gasoline powered tractor was to revolutionize farming up to it’s time. They made steam powered machines obsolete in a few years. The 1920’s saw a proliferation of gas tractors here.
During war time there were always shortages of laborers. This brought about a more rapid change from horse drawn, to tractor powered farming. The 1920’s might be said to have been the beginning of the machine age agriculturally speaking. Manufacturing and dealers distributing machinery abounded. The hay press, the forerunner of the hay baler, appeared on a limited scale in the 20’s. Around 1928 combines began to be used on a limited scale, gradually obsoleting the arderous threshing machine in the 30’.
World War II, like World War I, produced labor, gas, machinery, sugar and other shortages. The loss of life was felt in this community.
Immediately following WWII, excellent farm prices were enjoyed by grain farmers for a brief time. From 1950 to the present time has seen a rapid decline int eh number of farms locally and nationally. This has see a change to larger farms. This period has provided a breath taking change in farming technology.
Commercial fertilizer made dramatic inroads in this area after the war. This naturally increased yields to soil, that was being depleted from 70 plus, years of taking
from, and not replenishing
Another machine to further diminish the amount of labor required, was the self propelled combine. They came into their own in the 1950’s.
Crops grown in this area were essentially the same as today, excepting corn. Corn pretty much disappeared in the 30’s due to devastation of the southwestern corn borer. This area has primarily wheat production.
South of the sand hills has been in the more diversified crops.
The 1960’s provided additional tools for crop and livestock production. Improved control of weeds, insects and technological improvement in livestock feed and disease control were in abundance. All this, in addition to larger machinery necessary to care for increased acres, largely increased financial input to carry on the farming operation.
During the 60’s, irrigation of significance appeared on the scene, primarily south of the sand hills. Gradually this developed in the hard land around Macksville. Much of the produce from irrigated land is utilized by commercial feed lots in a wide area.
The late 70’s and early 80’s has seen much unrest on the agriculture scene. Consternation over government programs of lack of controlled markets and embargos, high costs of production, interest rates, weather cycles are all questions every farmer thinks about.
In conclusion, today farmers are in much the same boat as most every segment of our society. Most every business is, out of necessity, having to operate in as efficient manner as possible to survive. Today’s farmer is on the same situation.
Written by Douglas Lamb March 1985
Thurman Satterlee and Ira Turner hauling wheat to market 1917.
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Harvest crew with cook shack.
Willis Hankla on top of stack at right 1914 Bill Street farm.

First self propelled combine in the area . Owners Chas., Dave and Oscar Johnson.
Fred and daughter Geraldine Hopley. 1936 Minneapolis Moline Tractor.