Page images





To the General Assembly of the State of Missouri :

The Missouri State Board of Agriculture was organized on the 13th of March last, (1865) pursuant to an act of the Legislature. At a subsequent meeting held on the 28th following, the board adopted by-laws for its government, and at that time the office of Corresponding Sectary was created.

The seventh section of the act of incorporation requires the annual report of the Board of Agriculture to embrace, among other matters specified, "a general view of the condition of agriculture throughout the State." Owing to the facts that the board was organized but a few months since, and with no means to prosecute the work thoroughly; that nearly all the county agricultural societies were broken up during the war by the ravages of contending armies in our State; and that the great majority of the counties have failed to respond properly to the circulars which were sent to them asking for the necessary information, it will be impossible to give such a full and correct view of th condition of agriculture throughout the State as the law undoubtedly contemplates and as would be interesting and useful.

The report from St. Charles county, which will be found in another part of this voluine, gives a very complete and interesting history of the agriculture of that county from its first settlement to the present time. The writer, Mr. Jos. H. Alexander, has performed a very important service for the county and the State. The history of the early settlement of that county by the French will be read with interest. A similar review of the past and present condition of agriculture of Missouri would be valuable. Much of interest and instruction would undoubtedly be found in even a brief review of the past. In the brief space of time since the Board of Agriculture was established and the office of Corresponding Secretary created, and with the numerous duties devolving upon the office in the beginning of the enterprise, it would have been too great a tax upon one individual to have gained the


information necessary to treat of the past satisfactorily. Information in regard to the history and success of the various agricultural organizations of the State has been asked by circular and by letters, but only in a very few instances has such information been received; thus leaving us to infer a degree of apathy that does not speak very favorably of the agricultural enterprise of the parties concerned, or else a want of knowledge of, or appreciation of the importance of the duties imposed by the Legislature upon the Board of Agriculture.

Under the circumstances, little more can be done than to allude to some of the more prominent features of the past. Probably it is quite as well that it is so, for indeed, with the exception of some of the more important counties, very little of a creditable character can be said of the past agriculture of the State. It has been chielly of the pioneer style, and not the best phase of that. The present is full of encouragement and bright prospects, promising a rich harvest and a glorious future.

By an act of the Legislature, approved February 24, 1853, the Missouri State Agricultural Society was incorporated—the first society of the kind ever organized within our limits under the patronage of the State. This society held its first fair in the same year at Boonville, and appropriated one thousand three hundred and fifty-one dollars and fifty cents in premiums. The annual address was delivered by Urial Wright, of St. Louis. It was a very valuable and appropriate address, well worthy of preservation, and we accordingly give it a place among the essays of this volume. It is no less valuable or appropriate now than it ever was, and should be read with no less interest on account of the fact that its author has since, unfortunately for himself, gone to rebeldom. He alludes with stirring eloquence to the greatest patriots and statesmen of the nation—the proprietors of Fort Hill and the Hermitage, Marshfield and Ashland, Monticello and Montpelier, and, rising high above them all, Mount Vernon, and says: “Differing widely as to the actual adjustment of power in our federation system, and sometimes apart upon the measures of policy-no dissension ever came between them as to the true position of agriculture. They loved the fields, and with a love that defied the intoxicating influences of power and the seductive spell of high station. Their graves are farmers' graves."

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the address to us at this time, is the author's earnest advocacy and powerful arguments in favor of agricultural education, delivered more than twelve years ago; the good seed seems to have fallen upon stony ground, for not much of a harvest is yet perceptible. It is an instance of the patient and prolonged effort required to effect great improvements in agriculture.

The second annual fair was held at the same place in the year following. The amount appropriated in premiums was two thousand six hundred and fifty-two dollars and eighty-eight cents. The annual address was delivered by General James L, Minor, of Jefferson City. It is a thorough argument in favor of progressive and improved farming, and treats pointedly of many of the errors in our present system of farming, among them, the common one of cultivating too much land; the insane desire of adding acre after acre to our possessions; the superficial tillage and the wasteful methods of gathering and feeding. The author is still upon his farm near Jefferson City, the same earnest friend of agricultural improvements and a contributor to this report.

At a May meeting of State Society in 1854, a resolution was adopted appointing a committee to memorialize Congress on the subject of agriculture, and the establishment of a school of agriculture, and for a donation of the public lands for the endowment of the State Agriculral Society.

At the October meeting in the same year, the following resolutions were adopted upon an important subject, which should demand the attention of the Legislature at this time, and upon which we shall have something more to say in another place:

"Resolved, That the General Assembly of this State is respectfully requested to direct the State Geologist to give special attention to the agricultural interests of the State ; to examine the mechanical and chemical properties of all soil and fertilizers ; point out the several varieties of soils and the capacities and peculiar properties of each, together with the crops and culture and fertilizers adapted to them respectively, and designate the trees and other plants which grow upon and characterize them, and lay down upon the map, so far as may be, the territory occupied by the several soils.

Resolved, That, in our opinion, the office of State Geologist should be continued until the survey of the whole State is completed.

Resolved, That the foregoing resolutions be referred to the committee heretofore appointed to memorialize the Legislature on the subject of the interests of this Society."

In 1855, the third, and we believe the last annual fair of the State Agricultural Society was held. Afterwards, four or five district associations were formed, for the purpose, mainly, it is presumed, of holding fairs which would more perfectly represent the different sections of the State. We do not know what degree of success attended these district organizations, nor do we know why the State society was abandoned. One great defect in the organizations referred to, we think, may be plainly inferred from the fact that so little is now generally known of the results of their labors. Organization is very important. There are many things that cannot be accomplished by unaided individual enterprise. All things within human power may be accomplished by systematic organization and combination. This has been found as true practically, in regard to agriculture, as any. thing else. The purpose of organization with us, is to develop important facts; to excite interest; to elicit information by various means in regard to our calling; and then last, but not least, to spread a knowledge of the same among the producing classes. The holding

[ocr errors]

of fairs is but a part, perhaps we may say a small part, of the important work which should be done by agricultural organizations. It is the publication of proceedings and results which has contributed chiefly, beyond a doubt, to make the agricultural organizations of other States immensely useful and prosperous.

From the time of the organization of the State Agricultural Society to the breaking out of the war, numerous county societies were organized. Most of them have been successful. One, the Gasconade County Society, organized in 1857, has continued to hold its annual fairs without interruption up to the present time. A large proportion of these societies have been organized on the joint stock principle, and many of them complain of want of success financially. In my opinion this plan is not the best one for county societies. Such societies should receive a fair amount of aid, annually, if necessary, from the State, or from the county treasury, and the law of the State provides for it. In addition to this, it is believed to be better to depend on annual and life membership fees for support. In this way a larger number of the farmers and mechanics may be made more directly interested, and they will naturally regard the institution as more essentially theirs, and the fairs as their fairs. If there is not interest enough taken to support a society successfully on this plan, it is doubtful whether they can be well sustained on any other, except, perhaps, where there are quite large towns. The joint stock plan has undoubtedly been adopted by many counties in consequence of the eminent success of the “St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association.”

This association was chartered by the Legislature December 7, 1855. It has held five annual fairs, appropriating about sixteen thousand dollars annually in premiums. Its annual receipts, in 1860, reached the sum of forty-seven thousand two hundred and thirty-one dollars and eighty cents, and it was estimated that one hundred thousand persons were on the grounds on the day of the visit of the Prince of Wales and the royal party. The fairs of this association have obtained a world-wide fame. Since the commencement of the war the grounds and the buildings have been occupied by the military authorities, and no fairs have been held, but it is presumed that the association will resume operations again, with the energy and enterprise of former times, in the coming year.

The agriculture of Missouri may be said to be in a transition state, although not the kind of transition which has been observed in some of the older states eastward of us. There the transition has been made, or is going on, from a system of depletion, a constant drawing of wealth from the soil, with little or no effort to secure continued fertility, to a system of "improved agriculture," which recognizes the great law of nature that the soil cannot continue to give without being replenished with the material. The former system prevails in all new countries where labor is scarce and manures not plenty, and where the virgin soil produces abundantly without manure and with comparatively little labor. And again, the class of pioneers are not generally men of the most advanced ideas of farming. They lead the way, open up the country, make improvements, establish schools and churches, do a vast deal of good, and flourish like a “green bay tree," " until population thickens around them and their lands begin to fail to yield remunerative crops with the same skill and labor formerly required, and then they seem to know no resource but to sell out and go further west, get new land and repeat the same system. A useful class of people they are, and if they are satisfied with their system, it is not easy to see why any one else should find fault with it. Among the great mass of immigrants now flocking to Missouri, it remains to be seen what proportion belong to the class of pioneers who have worn out the soil elsewhere. In all older settled countries an improved system of agriculture is adopted per force as it were, because without it the land would not sustain the increased population.

In a large proportion of Missouri, agriculture has been nearly or entirely prostrated during the war; buildings and fences demolished, and the inhabitants obliged to flee from their homes for safety. From that prostration we are now recovering with astonishing rapidity, under the benign influences of peace, and doubtless by the energy and enteprise inspired by the new regime. We have been undergoing the transition from a slave labor system to one of free labor. The effect upon many of our farmers has been discouragement and prostration. Having a large amount of property in slaves, which they have suddenly found to be not property, they have felt very much as a man does who has been robbed. Having all their lives long depended greatly upon slaves, and having lived comparatively “free and easylives, they have lacked the enterprise and mental resources which seem to be generated by the more energetic life of the free states, and which was so much needed to enable them to meet successfully the great change. Some instances of the kind referred to could but have been expected. Agriculture probably suffers little in consequence, rather gains ultimately, because such men sell or rent at the first opportunity to men of more enterprise. The great majority of our slaveholding farmers, however, it is believed, met the change in a different spirit-welcomed it, in fact, and gained by it. Not a few rejoiced at it. A new and lively interest has been manifest in agriculture; many of the old county societies have been revived and fairs held, and these social reunions of the farmers have been enjoyed with all the zest of former days.

Some of the evils and defects of the past it may be well to consider, because these evils must be rooted out in order to insure prosperity in the future. This subject we must present briefly, leaving the more important considerations of the kind to a future time, when an opportunity shall have been afforded for becoming better acquainted with the wants and necessities of agriculture in the State. The few remarks submitted should be received with due allowance for the circum

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »