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Agricultural Prospects in 1859
Letters to the Nebraska Farmer

The first issue of Robert W. Furnas's Nebraska Farmer was published in October of 1859 in Brownville. Furnas (who had established the Nebraska Advertiser, also at Brownville, in 1856) asked for contributions from farmers, mechanics, educators, and "every lady in Nebraska and adjacent thereto," and included several letters in the first issue.

T. N. S. of Nemaha Valley noted in his letter dated September 6, 1859: "Nebraska is destined to be an agricultural State of no little importance. Look at her soil, her water privileges, her climate, and her central location in the great nation. Then look at her success against every adversity: drouth, excessive rains, early and late frosts, careless and slovenly farming; and see her prodigious crops. Where is the country that can compare with it, in furnishing the emigrant with a happy home?

"All branches of agriculture do well here, corn, wheat and oats yield abundantly; rye has been tried with the best of results. I have succeeded beyond my fondest expectations in raising flax and tobacco the present season. Rye, barley, hemp, flax, and tobacco, should become leading branches in our farm crops, as it is certain it will not pay to raise corn and wheat to ship. Wheat, this year, although the yield was abundant will not pay expenses; corn will probably be the same now and forever, unless we feed it to stock.

"Perhaps a little of the improvements of the Nemaha Valley may interest some of your readers. In January 1857 I located six miles southwest of Brownville. Then all around was one uncultivated prairie[;] there was perhaps fifty or sixty acres broken within two miles of me, but no house in sight. Now there are hundreds of acres in sight in a high state of cultivation, with a surplus of several hundred bushels of wheat, and several thousand bushels of corn. So much for the improvements of the Valley. Other places perhaps have done as well.

"But in one thing we are sadly lacking, we have learned to raise weeds faster than we have grain. We felt secure of good crops without much labor, and we got not only good crops of grain, but weeds also. We must redeem ourselves, plant and sow a little less, and work a little more, then Providence will bless us with abundant crops and less weeds."

Another correspondent, Joseph Griffing of Table Rock, noted the condition of crops in his locality and added, "Agriculture in Nebraska is yet in its infancy and as it is the foundation on which our future prosperity is to rest, it is important that it be firmly laid."

(February 2006)



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