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Address delivered at the Smith County Fair, Smith Centre, September 24, 1885.


It has always seemed to me singular, not to say inappropriate, that lawyers, journalists, ministers, physicians and other men having no practical knowledge of farming, should be invited to deliver addresses at agricultural fairs. About plowing, planting, or harvesting; about soils and their treatment; or about any of the every-day work of farmers, such men have little or no practical knowledge. Yet it seems to be the rule to invite them to deliver the addresses on occasions of this character; and, in appearing before you today, I plead this custom as my excuse. I came, not because I hoped or believed that I could instruct you in the work or duties of your vocation, but because your committee gave me an invitation so courteous and so kindly, yet so urgent, that I could not, without seeming rudeness, refuse to accept it.

At the beginning, therefore, I desire to say that I am neither a practical nor a theoretical farmer. It occasionally happens, that a man living in town or city has a real love for farm life. Such a man, if he cannot gratify his bent, delights to study the literature of farming, and thus accumulates a great harvest of theory, which, if practically applied, would probably result in the production of enormous cabbages and potatoes, and large crops of cereals, all costing their producer three or four times their market value. A Kansas friend of mine who has this sort of a penchant for farming, and wealth which enables him to gratify it, owns a large farm in one of the eastern counties of the State. Some years ago a number of his friends from the Eastern States came to visit him, and he took them out to see his farm. After they had admired its finely-cultivated fields, its blooded stock, and other attractions, the proud owner escorted the party to the farm-house, where an elaborate luncheon had been prepared for his guests. The bill of fare included delicious milk and—this was before the era of prohibition—sparkling champagne. When the company had assembled, the host said: “Now, gentlemen, here is milk and here is champagne; help yourselves to either; it makes no difference to me—they both cost the same!”

I cannot, however, claim to have even such knowledge of farming as these city farmers may be possessed of. My whole life, except some years of my boyhood, has been passed in towns or cities, where my work and my duties have happened to be. I have never even attempted to conduct a farm. I have, of course, indulged in that universal day-dream of the dwellers in cities or towns—the aspiration for a country home. The merchant in his counting room, the professional man at his desk, the artisan in his workshop, all indulge in this dream of a quiet, peaceful home in the country; a home embowered in trees, where the birds sing, and the breath of the morning is sweet with the perfume of flowers; where the horizon is broad, and the view over meadows, woods and fields is as restful as it is beautiful; and where the roar and clangor and fury of city life are shut out. There is something in the nature of the whole human race—in the blood from our first parents, perhaps, or that of our not far distant progenitors who wandered over the fresh earth, living in tents and pasturing their flocks—that whispers of the green fields and the quiet woods, and fills all our hearts with longing for their beauty and their repose.

Very few, however, realize this dream: I have never been able to. It would be absurd for me, therefore, to talk to practical farmers about the business of their lives, or to assume to instruct them concerning the best methods of farming. You need have no fear that I will attempt to do this.

But there are some things connected with farm life about which I may be able to present suggestions of interest, if not of value. First, then, it seems to me that too many Kansas farmers fail to appreciate the cash value of pleasant surroundings at home, the real worth of farm adornments, the dollars and cents that multiply in flowers and shrubbery on well-kept lawns, and especially the wealth that is accumulating in trees that are growing while they are sleeping.

There is a material and pecuniary side to this question of home adornments, as well as an æsthetic side. The value of a farm—its cash value, I mean—cannot be measured entirely by the fertility of its soil, nor by the crops it produces, nor by the springs and streams that rise or flow upon it. Its market value is affected, far more than many farmers imagine, by the surroundings of its owner’s home. If these resemble the environments of a wretched hovel on the outskirts of a town; if the front door-yard is a pig-sty, and the back door-yard a cattle-pen; if the farm-house stands, bare and desolate, like a brown rock in a desert, beaten upon by sun and storms, by rain and wind, do you think the value of the farm is not impaired? To say nothing of the personal discomfort of such surroundings, do they not involve, also, a cash depreciation of the land?

I am not talking of the homes of farmers who, lately arrived, and possessed of limited means, have located on quarter-sections of raw prairie, and are devoting all of their energies to the work of producing crops. The patient heroism, the true nobility that has been illustrated in the daily lives of thousands of Kansas farmers and Kansas farmers’ wives—men and women who, coming here with hardly a dollar, live in rude dug-outs or cabins, in cruel isolation and bitter poverty, toiling, saving, and enduring patiently the most trying privations, in order that they may at last own a farm and a home—this sort of Kansas heroism, so common and yet so splendid, may justly challenge the applause and admiration of the world. I am speaking of and criticising, not this class of farmers, but the farmer who, having secured a good farm and a fair competency, goes on living his old life of monotonous drudgery, and compels the faithful wife, who has been the companion of his toils and his struggles, to live it with him.

Of what benefit is money, if it does not purchase some of the comforts of life? Of what value are expanding acres and luxuriant crops, if they do not bring in their train the delights of a pleasant and cheerful home?

I know farmers in this Statemen abundantly able to build comfortable homes, and to surround them with all that makes life opulent and happy—who seem content to exist amid the meanest and most squalid surroundings. The charm and glory of a beautiful land is all about them, but it touches no responsive chord in their hearts. Their houses are not homes—they are simply places in which to eat and sleep. Summer suns and winter winds blaze and beat upon them. No overhanging trees throw around them the refreshing coolness of their shade. No verdure of grass or perfume of flowers encircles them. No birds make the air about them vocal with music. There they stand, lonely and desolate, avoided by every sweet and beautiful thing in nature; and even the fresh breath of the morning and the gentle breeze of twilight come to them tainted and impure. Every burden and trial of human life must be multiplied and intensified by such dreary surroundings. Yet I know, and all of you probably know, farmers’ homes like unto this I have described.

There is, as I have said, no excuse for the farmer who, after a residence of four or five years in Kansas, continues to live amid such surroundings. He may not be able to build a fine house, but he can at least plant a few trees around his home, and let the rich grass and the lovely flowers of our prairies grow and blossom about his door-yard. All these beautiful things can be had, by every son and daughter of Kansas, without wealth to buy them; and with them will come the music of singing birds, and shelter against sun and wind, and comfort, rest, and a larger and broader view of the beauty of life and the bounty of God.

I have noticed, too, that the farmers who continue to live amid such squalid surroundings at home, are those most likely to indulge in prodigal extravagance, or, more properly, reckless waste, in other directions. They buy expensive reapers, and leave them in the fields where they were last used, to be consumed by rust and rot. Their wagons are never housed, and their plows and harrows are consigned to the first convenient fence-corner. Their horses and cattle shiver in the wintry winds, or find shelter only by gnawing holes in straw-stacks. They have no granaries for their wheat, no cribs for their corn, and so are compelled to sell their products at once, generally at the lowest prices of the year. And having thus invited poverty by waste or carelessness, they call it bad luck, or attribute their misfortunes to the contraction of the currency, or to railroad monopolies, or to any other cause except the real cause—their own lack of order, system, and intelligently-directed energy.

The question of selling farm products, or rather the problem of selling them at the right time, is one of vast importance to farmers. Every farmer ought to study carefully and intelligently, not only the current market reports, but the reports and statistics of the food products of the world—their probable supply, their probable demand. He should know when to sell, and he should have a place in which to store his grain until the right time to sell it comes. Kansas is to-day the most prosperous state in the Union. I make this statement deliberately, and am confident that statistical and census reports will sustain it. But Kansas would be far more prosperous if the barns of her farmers were as creditable to Kansas agriculture as our school houses are to Kansas intelligence. Kansas will never be as prosperous as the State ought to be, until every prairie slope within her borders is adorned with a Pennsylvania barn. You all know what a Pennsylvania barn is, I suppose. I mean one of the great double-decker barns, built on the side of a hill, the first story capacious enough to stable all the horses and cattle belonging on a section of land; the second story—on a level with the ground on the upper side—vast enough to take in all the hay and grain of the farm, and furnish, also, storage room for all its vehicles and implements. A noble barn is the old Keystone double-decker, and the Kansas farmer who has one of them is fully armed and equipped, not only against the elements, but against the “bears” of the grain markets. Forehanded, and with such a barn, he can wait until he gets his price for his grain or his stock. He is not compelled to accept the prices fixed by the gamblers in options. With such barns scattered all over the prairies of Kansas, the Kansas farmers would rule the markets, would make the price of their own products.

Another thing the farmers of Kansas want to pay greater attention to, is road-making. Years ago, when the farms were scattered, and the roads ran along the divides, we had, without cost or labor, the best natural highways on the continent. But the occupancy of the country, and the fences or the herd law, have diverted the roads to the section lines, and, as a result, our highways are generally execrable. The losses entailed upon the farmers of Kansas, growing out of these wretched roads, are enormous. They foot up in a dozen different directions—in loss of valuable time, in injury of horses, in breakage of vehicles, in destruction of harness, in a multiplication of trips, and in many other ways. Above all other men, the farmers of Kansas require good roads. Increased tax levies for public highways, and an intelligent expenditure of these levies, is one of the great needs of Kansas. A marked decrease of the prevalent Kansas mania for new railroads, and an equally marked increase of public interest in the construction of decent country roads, would be a wholesome reform of incalculable advantage to the farmers of Kansas. The law most needed in this State is a good road law—an act that will put the building or repairing of our public highways under competent direction, and furnish ample means for such work, and thus give to Kansas a system of durable roads, macadamized wherever the ground is soggy, and with solid stone culverts or bridges wherever these are necessary.

The four questions I have thus discussed—the pecuniary value of home adornments, the exposure of farm implements to the mercy of the elements, the importance of commodious barns, and the necessity of improved roads—are of direct personal and practical interest to every Kansas farmer. And what interests the farmers of Kansas, must be of moment to every citizen. For Kansas is an agricultural country. The prosperity of this State is based upon its farm products. Our mineral resources are, in comparison with our agricultural productions, small and unimportant. We have some lead in the southeast; we have coal in many sections, and the supply is equal to the wants of our people; we have salt and gypsum in abundance. But the wealth of Kansas lies in our harvest fields. Our prosperity is based, primarily, upon the plow. Kansas embraces over fifty-two million acres of land. Fully fifty million acres of this vast area of country is capable of producing luxuriant crops. Only a little over thirteen million acres—less than one-fourth of the entire area—is now under cultivation, and the land classed as “under cultivation” includes nearly five million acres of prairie grass. Practically, therefore, only about seven million acres of Kansas soil have been touched by the plow. Yet the products this year will aggregate fully ten million bushels of wheat, two hundred million bushels of corn, six million bushels of rye, three million bushels of oats, and seven million bushels of Irish potatoes—making two hundred and twenty-six million bushels of these five crops.

It is not possible, as yet, to estimate the value of the field crops of Kansas, including grasses, for the year 1885; but their value for the previous year aggregated $104,945,773.

Kansas had last year 5,444,391 head of stock, valued at $115,645,050.

We have planted nearly twenty-two million fruit trees, and have over one hundred and thirty thousand acres of artificial forest trees.

The assessed valuation of the property of the State, for the year 1885, aggregates $248,820,262, an increase over last year of $11,806,505. The real estate aggregates in value $123,000,000, an increase of nearly six millions over the valuation of last year. The railroad property of the State is valued at $30,367,820, an increase of $1,911,912; and we have 4,180 miles of completed railway within our borders.

This is all the growth of thirty years. I could, perhaps, more accurately say of twenty years; for Kansas hardly began to grow until the spring of 1865, when the home-returning soldiers and the railroads came together. The development of Kansas during these two decades challenges comparison with that of any country in the world. An irresistible impulse seems to have brought hither the best blood and brain of all the nations of the world. Our schools, colleges, universities and churches rival those of the oldest countries, and railways, traversing nearly every organized county, bring a market to every farmer’s granary.

It is asked now and then, Can this wonderful growth continue? Why should it not continue? Less than one-fourth of the entire area of Kansas, as I have stated, is under cultivation; there are millions of acres yet unoccupied; the immigration to Kansas this year is unprecedented; and the human energy which is assembling here with such unprecedented rapidity, must produce results even more remarkable than those wrought during the past two decades. The development of the present is only the dawn of that which is to be. The Kansas of to-day only foreshadows the Kansas of the future.

I make this statement with a full realization of its meaning. I know there are many, even of our own people, who believe that a very large section of the western third of our State can never be successfully tilled. But actual experiment is shattering this theory. The line marking the western boundary of agricultural productiveness is a myth. It goes westward with the settlements. The rain-belt travels with the plow. It has been located on half a dozen degrees of longitude. It was on the Blue River when I came to the State, nearly thirty years ago. The valleys of the Republican, the Arkansas and the Solomon were then regarded as rainless deserts. But the line moved westward, year by year, until it reached the hundredth meridian. Beyond this, by almost universal assent, it was declared that successful farming was not possible. Yet in the northern tier, three counties lying west of that line, and running through to Colorado, are teeming with a busy and aggressive population; and these people point to crops of wheat and corn equaling any ever grown elsewhere, as the most convincing answer that can be made to the assertion that western Kansas is sterile and rainless. On the far southwestern line the development and the harvests produced are equally astonishing and convincing. The same wide and beautiful valleys, the same rich uplands, the same deep and productive soil, the same luxuriant vegetation, are the characteristics of these far-western counties, as they are of the counties watered by the Delaware, the Kansas, and the Neosho; and the same blue sky and pure air bends over and envelops the whole of this great State of ours, from the Missouri to the Colorado line.

With this fair land as his home, with this productive soil as his workshop, and with the rare and healthful atmosphere of Kansas to stimulate his energy, the farmer of this State ought to be contented and prosperous. Certainly, in no other State have the opportunities for securing pleasant homes and productive farms been so favorable and so numerous as here in Kansas. Certainly, in no other land has so much material wealth been dug out of the earth in so brief a time, as here in Kansas. Certainly, in no other country under the shining stars have so many poor and struggling men won modest fortunes by honest industry, as here in Kansas. And certainly, the future of Kansas promises a growth and development as rapid, and as substantial, as that of the past.

I speak of the future thus confidently, because, after all, the richest heritage of Kansas is the imperial manhood of its citizenship. No State in the Union, no country in the world, can boast of a braver or more intelligent, enterprising, liberty-loving, and law-respecting population. From the date of its organization up to the present time, Kansas has been receiving the best blood and brain of the civilized world. Hither, thirty years ago, came thronging a host of bright and generous men, to protect this fair land against the aggressions of slavery. Here, six years before Mr. Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers, the war which was to strike from the slave his shackles, began; and here, defying alike the power and blandishments of the National Administration, the opponents of slavery won their first victory. Hither, the Union saved and freedom nationalized, thronged a great army of soldiers—men who had fought on every battle-field of the late war, and who, during four years of peril and of hardship, had illustrated by calm and patient endurance, and by the most magnificent courage and patriotism, the grandest virtues of American manhood. Here is a people who have wiped a desert from the map of the continent, and replaced it with a garden. Here are the men who have pushed the plains to the foothills of the mountains; who have dotted the treeless prairies with forests; and who have made the solitudes of the bison the home of the plow.

Of what achievements or conquests in the arts or industries of peace is such a population not capable? Where are the limits that bound the progress and development of a State having such a citizenship?

I do not believe that anyone now living can guess or gauge the possibilities of this great State of ours. A century hence Kansas may reach the full stature of its material growth; but not during our lifetime will this maturity of development be witnessed; not during our day and generation will this young commonwealth reach a point where further advance is no longer possible. The Kansan of the future can say of his State, as does the Kansan of today:

 “This is the land of every land the pride, Beloved by Heaven o’er all the world beside; Where brighter suns dispense serener light, And milder moons imparadise the night; A land of beauty, virtue, valor, truth, Time-tutored age and love-exalted youth. This is the spot of earth supremely blest— A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.”