Introduction & Yuma County
Transcribed by Lee Zion <email@example.com>, October 2001.
(Photo of Col. A.N. Brown)
The editor and compiler of this special illustrated edition of The Wray Gazette desires to express his grateful appreciation of the generous support accorded the project by the enterprising citizens of Wray and Yuma county. In obtaining the requisite data and preparing the descriptive and other matter for the printers, I devoted my earnest efforts to render the work worthy of its broad-minded, progressive supporters, and I hope it will, in a measure at least, meet their expectations. In accordance with the sentiments of the patrons of the edition, nothing but facts - free from misrepresentations of any kind - have been presented and home-seekers who visit the county will find the actual conditions portrayed truthfully. If you are looking for a home in the West, visit Yuma county in June or July and you will soon exclaim, "Eureka!" in joyous tones.
I owe a special debt of gratitude to the business and professional men of Wray, who gave the enterprise the aid of their invaluable influence as well as their cordial substantial support. Of the nearly fifty businesses and professional firms in the city, all but three or four are represented in this special edition.
This shows a remarkably small percentage for Wray of the drones which infest the average town. It would be just as easy to prevent a certain element of small boys from crawling under the canvas to witness a circus, as it would be to deprive a city of a few narrow minded individuals who are always ready and willing to enjoy the benefits secured by their more enterprising and public spirited fellow-citizens.
It was the intention to use a larger size of type in printing this edition, which would add many more pages to it; but in view of the fact that thousands of copies will be sent through the mails, it was decided to use a smaller type in order to reduce the postage charges.
Yuma county has a grand future before it, and no one will take a deeper interest in its progress and prosperity than the compiler of this edition.
Wray, Colo., May, 1904 A.N. Brown
|THE WRAY GAZETTE.|
|SPECIAL ILLUSTRATED EDITION.|
|Volume II.||Wray, Colorado, Thursday, May 12, 1904.||Number 11.|
Yuma county, which is conceded by all disinterested persons to be one of the most fertile counties in Colorado - equaled by few and surpassed by none - is bounded on the north by Phillips county, Colorado; on the south, by Kit Carson county; on the west, by Washington county, and on the east by Cheyenne county, Kansas and Dundy county, Nebraska. In dimensions, it is forty miles wide from east to west and sixty miles long from north to south, or 2,400 square miles, in round numbers, some sectional fractions along the eastern and southern lines increasing this area somewhat. For many years after its organization, the county was only about one-half its present size, but during the session of the last legislature the eastern part of Arapahoe county was attached to Yuma county, rendering it one of the largest in the state; and by virtue of its natural resources, fertility of soil and salubrious climate, there is no other county in Colorado that surpasses it in the attractions it presents to settlers.
In all probability it is the best watered county in the state, as the three forks of the Republican river and their numerous north and south tributary streams form a liquid network - if we may use the term - of pure sparkling water that diffuses it varied benefits over a large area of the county.
The South Fork of the Republican enters the county near its south-west corner and extends into Cheyenne county, Kansas, flowing almost the entire length of Yuma county. The Middle Fork of the Republican enters this county from the south-west, running through the county and entering Nebraska near its south-west corner. The North Fork of the Republican has its source near the geographical center of the county and it flows through the northern part of the county into Nebraska. Wray, the county seat, is situated on this never-failing stream.
The valleys along the banks of these rivers and their tributaries are not only extensive but exceedingly fertile. They not only furnish the best of grazing for stock and thousands of tons of native hay each season, but they are utilized largely for raising other crops, especially alfalfa and potatoes, as they are susceptible of irrigation.
When Cattle Barons Flourished
Prior to 1886 the vast territory comprising Eastern Colorado, of which Yuma county formed a part, was the almost exclusive heritage of cattle kings since the noble red man had retired to the "happy hunting grounds" or a reservation. The herds of cattle were numbered by thousands instead of hundreds, and the cattle baron who did not own a few thousand animals was considered a "poor, weak sister." Indeed of Eastern Colorado at that time it could be said; "The cattle are grazing, Their heads never raising; There are thousands feeding like one."
Among the notable cattle men at that time in Yuma county were the Benkelmans, the -T company and many others on the South Fork; the American Cattle Co., Bermingham McGavoch & Co., Ruck Bros., Billy Wilson, Daniel Shields, the Middy Cattle Co., and the Reeck Brothers on the Arickaree, and J.W. Boles, C-C Land and Cattle Co., Thomas Ashton and others on the North Fork of the Republican river. The advantages afforded these cattle kings by an almost unlimited area of free range, on which the excellent gramma, buffalo and other nutritious native grasses grew luxuriantly, with an abundance of running water which never entirely froze over in winter, were so great that the arrival of the first settlers was hailed with anything but pleasure, and they continued to handle large herds even after the first considerable army of settlers came in 1886. Since then, however, the very large herds of cattle gradually disappeared, being replaced by numerous smaller herds and the natural advantages of the county diffused among the many, instead of being monopolized by the few.
In 1881 the Burlington railway was completed through Yuma county and stations established at Laird, Wray, Eckley and Yuma, but few settlers ventured here until 1886, when hundreds came from the East to make their future homes here. Some of these pioneers had considerable means while many others had little or nothing, but they all entered homestead, pre-emption or tree claims, or all three, and with willing hands and hopeful hearts commenced the work of reclaiming the virgin soil. And right here it may be stated, as a peculiar phase of this first influx of settlers, that of the scores of these pioneers who still remain in the county, surrounded with every comfort in life, many of those who owned the least when they came prospered the most, and are today in easier circumstances than some of their fellow settlers who came here "well heeled" with the "root of all evil."
Between the main streams of water in Yuma county there are extensive areas of level land called mesas, or flats. These flats, which are exceedingly fertile, are partially occupied by hundreds of settlers, who grow abundant crops of wheat, corn, oats, rye, barley, cane, potatoes and other vegetables, without any irrigation only the natural rainfall. Alfalfa requires much moisture and its growth is confined principally to the valleys along the streams of water, where it can be irrigated.
For twenty-five miles south-west of Wray, the county seat, nearly all the land is fenced, either for cultivation or pasture, and a large proportion of it yields very profitable crops year after year. For ten miles to the south and east of Wray the same conditions exist, and then come the breaks of the Willow creek and the Middle Fork of the Republican, mostly devoted to pasturing stock.
An extensive area of fine mesa land lies between the Middle and South Forks of the Republican, extending from the Kansas border to the west line of Yuma county. This body of land, which is about twenty miles wide, is nearly all level prairie much of it being under cultivation and producing very profitable crops. The unbroken prairie grows luxuriant buffalo grass, which constitutes the most nutritious of pastures. To the south of this tract of fertile land, all the streams run south and east to the South Fork of the Republican, while from the north of it the tributary streams run north and east to the Middle Fork of the Republican, for which reason this broad expanse of productive soil is called "The Divide." As the roads leading north are generally in fine condition, the products of "The Divide" are nearly all marketed at the different stations on the B. & M. railway, principally at Wray.
Near the streams there are considerable undulating and rough lands, but these are considered valuable by stock men, owing to the protection from storms they offer stock in the winter time.
The "Sand Hills"
North of the B. & M. Railway, which follows the valley of the North Fork of the Republican river, and extending about twenty miles north along the Nebraska line, is a triangular area of land called the "Sand Hills," composed of a rich sandy loam. Within this tract, which is watered by many fine spring branches and creeks of water, are large, broad valleys of fertile land, from which thousands of tons of native hay are harvested. It also produces bountiful crops of corn and cane and many have grown wheat very successfully as well as vegetables of all kinds. Where the plow has not been used, these knolls and valleys are covered with a luxuriant growth of buffalo, grama, blue joint and other grasses which are more highly prized by our stockmen the longer they have an opportunity to test their nutritious qualities. As a superior beef producer the "sand hills" constitute a wonderfully valuable portion of our county.
One thing is certain, the eastern home-seeker who visits Yuma county for the first time, especially during the summer months, will find much to interest him. From the north and west, where he will view a broad expanse of green carpet in the shape of rich grazing lands on which thousands of fine cattle are feeding, he may extend his observations to the wonderfully fertile mesa lands extending for thirty miles south of Wray, where tens of thousands of acres of golden grain and growing corn are waving in the sunbeams, and he cannot fail to be impressed with the beauties of nature as well as with the almost unlimited possibilities for health, happiness and prosperity presented by Yuma county.
Of the 1,590,000 acres of which Yuma county is composed, 552,369 acres are now owned and largely occupied by settlers, leaving 1,037,631 acres of government and school lands. There are 88,320 acres of school lands in the county, which leaves 949,311 acres of government land open for settlement; enough to give nearly three thousand families a productive comfortable home of 320 acres each, all being open to homestead and pre-emption rights. That these vacant lands can be made profitable is illustrated by the experience of hundreds of men who have been wonderfully successful in farming and stock raising in Yuma county during the past eighteen years. The vacant lands are situated in the different sections of the county, just as fertile and as valuable as the claims on which hundreds of pioneers made comfortable homes and amassed a competence, and the home-seeker can select exactly the kind of land he wants. Land owned by individuals can be purchased at from $3, up, for choice grazing lands, dependent on location, from $5 to $10 and acre for unimproved farm lands and improved farms $10, up, according to location and improvements.
A Paying Investment
While it is not claimed that a farm in Yuma county will yield as bountiful crops of some kinds as they obtain in some sections of the East, we emphatically affirm, and it is easily susceptible of proof, that the Yuma county farmer makes much more money, in proportion to the capital invested, than his eastern brother does. If the average farmer in the East computes the interest on his investment in a $75 or $100 an acre farm as part of the cost of his crops, his net revenue from his farming operations will prove somewhat of a barren reality.
Each Crop Pays for Land
But here in Yuma county it is different. Any industrious farmer can come here and after he secures a farm make much more than enough profit from each year's crop to pay for the land on which it grew, even under unfavorable conditions. The usual good crops yield sufficient profits each year to pay for the cost of the land on which they grew several times over. This is why so many Yuma county farmers who came here sixteen or seventeen years ago in very poor circumstances - many of them with almost nothing and some of them worse than nothing - are now enjoying the desirable comforts of life and worth from $10,000 to $20,000 each.
Costs Less to Farm Here
One important reason why Yuma county farming yields more profitable returns than can be obtained in the East is the fact that the conditions here are more favorable. Owing to the light snowfall, early spring and absence of excessive moisture in the soil, the Yuma county farmer sows much of his wheat and other small grains in February and when vegetation responds to the influences of warm weather that portion of his spring work is finished and he is ready for other phases of his farm labor. Then during the season he is not hampered with excessive rains and there are very few days that he can not cultivate his corn and attend his other field crops. Those who have farmed many years in Illinois, Missouri and other eastern states maintain that one man can plant and cultivate 100 acres of corn in Yuma county easier than he could thirty acres in any state of the East. The soil and climatic conditions require less plowing than in the East. For instance, land on which corn grew is simply gone over with discs and the wheat sown without plowing. In short, it is claimed by those who have had large farming experience in both sections of the country, that one man can accomplish more in general farming in Yuma county than two men can in the East.
Yield Per Acre
The yield per acre in Yuma county, like other farming sections, is largely owing to the season and the care the crops receive. Under ordinary conditions, with an average rainfall, wheat runs from fifteen to twenty-five bushels per acre and some farmers have harvested over fifty bushels per acre in years that were especially favorable; barley goes from thirty to sixty bushels; oats, twenty-five to forty; rye, about sixteen bushels; and cane and millet from three to four tons per acre. All this on land that is valued at from $2 to $10 per acre.
As intimated in this article, stock raising was a prominent and profitable industry here even before the county was invaded by the early farming settlers. Since 1886, however, immense herds owned by single individuals have been replaced by hundreds of smaller herds of cattle and horses and now nearly every farmer makes stock-raising a prominent feature of his farm life. Owing to the vast extent of free ranges to be found in every part of the county, it costs absolutely nothing to graze the cattle, which thrive on the open range during the entire year, requiring hand feeding only during the most inclement winter weather. But as native hay can be stored at little expense and from three to four tons of cane are produced on an acre, the average farmer keeps a herd of cattle ranging in number from thirty or forty to several hundreds.
When the assessment of 1903 was taken there were in Yuma county 5,000 horses, 60,834 cattle, 6,000 sheep and 2,300 swine.
Horses have realized good prices during the past few years, and those engaged in the industry have been amply rewarded. The demand for good horses caused some of our enterprising stock men to purchase a number of very fine thoroughbred stallions of late years, which greatly improved the quality of horses raised for the market. This is equally true of the cattle interests. Within the past few years much money has been expended in bringing Herefords, Shorthorns and other desirable thoroughbreds into the county, and the results are unusual growth and development, as well as a marked increase in the value of the stock. The cattle market has been in a demoralized condition during the past year, but up to that time Yuma county farmers have found the cattle industry a very profitable feature of their farm life. While the western part of the county is devoted almost entirely to the stock interest, the experience of Hon. John S. Gardner, Conley & Hatcher, John Cochrane, Joseph Brower and a number of others who have been engaged in general farming in that section for many years proves that wheat and other cereals can be grown there successfully and profitably.
There is no other section of the country where the climate and nearly all other conditions are so favorable to the sheep industry as in Yuma county. While the animals thrive in any part of the country, the bluffs and hills adjacent to the streams of water are especially adapted for the sheep raising business. The most discouraging element in this industry is the large number of coyotes which still infest different sections of the county, especially along the streams and ravines and prowl around seeking for prey. With herders, however, the sheep industry could be carried on extensively and successfully. The labor attendant upon the care of sheep is very light and the experience of others has demonstrated that the business is profitable. It offers great inducements to persons who seek restored health though out-door exercise in a health-giving climate, while enjoying the comforts of a home in a county that is characterized by law-abiding conditions and refining influences.
The Dairy Industry
Until recently, owing to the assured profits derived from raising cattle for the eastern markets, the dairy possibilities presented by Yuma county received but little, if any, thought. Within the last year, however, a marked change has occurred in regard to this important industry. Cream stations have been established in the county and scores of farmers have acquired separators with which to extract the cream from the milk. They realize that, in this county where the nutritious native grasses grow so luxuriantly, the dairy industry presents a wealth producing source of revenue that is almost unlimited. New settlers, especially, many of whom have made dairying profitable on the high-priced lands of the East, are delighted with the favorable conditions the find in Yuma county for engaging in this business. As one gentleman remarked in answer to a question asked by the writer of this, "Make it pay! Why, I made the dairy business pay in the East and I guess I can do so here where it can be carried on with little expense - only the original cost of the milch cows." On another page of this edition we publish an article devoted to more extended investigation of what the dairy industry can accomplish in Yuma county.
Fruit and Vegetables
While extensive fruit culture has not been attempted yet, it has been demonstrated that our soil and climate are well adapted for the profitable growth of the fruits usually produced in this latitude. Apples, plums, cherries and berries of all kinds produce generous yields and it is seldom that a failure is recorded when proper methods are pursued.
All kinds of vegetables grow to perfection and the returns are exceedingly profitable. Potatoes, especially, are becoming an important branch of agriculture in the county. For instance Mr. Hulquist, a sketch of whose career appears elsewhere in this edition, made $1,000 clear of all expenses from eight acres of potatoes in 1903, and many other farmers have grown large crops of "spuds" for the market, the returns in cash presenting handsome profits on the labor invested. The size of Yuma county vegetables is only equaled by their excellent quality and this branch of industry is an ever-increasing source of wealth to the county. Watermelons, cantaloupes and muskmelons find natural conditions here exceedingly favorable for their growth and no better flavored melons can be found in the United States than those produced in this county. The Yuma county fair, held in Wray last autumn, had a magnificent display of fruits and vegetables which, for extent, variety and excellence, would have been a credit to any county in any state.
Two Years of Hardship
In this special edition of the Wray Gazette we have given extensive details - truthful details too - of the magnificent material progress achieved by the Yuma county pioneers. We have told how their persevering industry literally made the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose, with prosperity, but as there are few roses that to not diffuse their sweet fragrance among thorns, it is only proper that we should refer to the dark days of gloom which tried the souls of the Yuma county pioneers. In 1893 - that year in which disaster and ruin permeated almost the entire business interests of the United States - Yuma county was afflicted by an additional plague - one however not controlled by human agencies. The farmers had not relaxed their energy and, as usual, they sowed their grain and planted their corn; hoping for the accustomed generous returns for their labor. But alas! Day after day, month after month, passed with bright sunshine and cloudless skies, the parched earth killing vegetation and filling the farmers with consternation. The crops were complete failures and yet the hardy pioneers retained their courage.
Next year, however, was a repetition of 1893 - no rain and another complete failure of crops - and it was then that many of the despondent victims of the drouth lost all courage and peering though the business gloom the seemed to murmur, sadly: "The day is done and the darkness, Falls from the wings of Night. As a feather is wafted downward, From an eagle in his flight."
Scores of families left the county but hundreds of others displayed their faith in Yuma county by remaining on their farms to give the situation another trial. Fortune smiled upon them and today these men who displayed such remarkable fortitude in the midst of disasters that might well chill stout hearts, are enjoying happiness and prosperity as a reward for the courageous faith that was within them. They have made money - they have prospered beyond their most sanguine expectations- and the industrious pioneers who passed through such hardships and trials merit all the substantial bouquets which kind nature and a beneficent heaven can bestow upon them. They were tried as if by fire and they emerged into the sunshine of contentment more than conquerors.
Of course these two years of crop failures are only links in the chain of disappointments and discouragements that encircles the globe and makes its presence felt in some shape in every clime, in every country and in every state, at some period in their careers. Aside from the couple of years to which we refer, the history of Yuma county since its first settlement in 1886 up to the present time, is bright with prosperous conditions, abundant harvests and gratified hopes that cheered the heart of honest toil. It is significant that of the scores of farmers whose careers are discussed in this special edition, only about one-half dozen want to sell, and for the very good reason that they have made enough money on their ranches to enable them to live an easier life, free from the hard labor and anxieties of farm pursuits.
Realizing that there is no evidence so convincing as the testimony of what has been done, regarding the resources of a community, in this special edition of the Gazette we give brief sketches of the careers of scores of the Yuma county farmers and the home-seeker ought to find food for profitable reflection in their experience. These pioneers were in very moderate circumstances when they came, some having practically nothing only strong arms and stout hearts, with a firm confidence in their new home, and today they are enjoying the rich rewards of their persevering industry and faith. We have given the plain, simple story of each man's career without any equivocation or misrepresentation, and we invite the keenest scrutiny regarding the reliability of our statements in every respect. It must be remembered too, that all this prosperity has been achieved under natural conditions as the only irrigation known in Yuma county is confined to small valley areas along streams on which alfalfa is grown; but the extent of irrigated land is very limited.
Further west in Colorado there are many counties entirely dependent on irrigation. In these irrigated districts they can raise larger yields to the acre than we can in Yuma county, but when they pay for the water and the almost continuous labor involved in irrigation, it more than counterbalances the extra yield per acre. And then too, it is a common occurrence in counties depending on irrigation, that when the farmers need water most they cannot get it owing to a scarcity, although they have paid for their water rights. This condition made the crops almost a total failure in some of the irrigated counties last year. And it must be remembered, as an important phase of life, that an irrigated district is never as healthful as it is where natural conditions prevail. Yuma county, with its pure water, invigorating air and almost perpetual sunshine presents health-giving attractions which cannot be surpassed anywhere. This feature we discuss at length on another page of this edition.
It would seem that Yuma county is not confined to its rich agricultural resources alone, because the indications are that it holds unlimited stores of mineral wealth. A few months ago Prof. Keircher, a noted mining expert of many years' standing, spent a week in Yuma county prospecting for minerals. He located both coal and oil in a wide scope of country on the Black Wolf Creek, ten miles south of Wray, and staked his reputation that in the locations he pointed out, an abundance of both coal and oil could be found. Prof. Keircher is the gentleman who located the Boulder oil fields and has been employed as a mining expert by the large mining companies of this state for many years, so that his professional opinions carry weight. After the visit of Prof. Keircher a company was organized and incorporated under the laws of Colorado to sink a shaft. A drill was purchased and the work of sinking a shaft is now in progress. Charles E. Kellar, one of the prominent farmers in that section of the county, is sinking a shaft on his farm, and other parties are drilling on the Arickaree, two miles further south. At this writing the drills have reached a depth of about three hundred feet and the mineral prospects are encouraging.
While the main line of the Burlington road, which crosses the northern part of the county, gives excellent passenger and shipping facilities east and west, there is a large area composed of the southern part of the county which is not so favorably situated in regard to transportation facilities, as some of the farmers are compelled to haul their produce forty miles in wagons in order to reach a market. As the prospect of building a standard line of railway through this section is not promising, there is a project under way to construct an electric line of railway extending south from Wray to Burlington, on the Rock Island road, a distance of about seventy miles. Owing to the level country through which it would pass, such a road could be constructed for comparatively little money, and there is no question but it would prove a profitable investment. It would pass though the richest sections of this county and would be assured of a large and remunerative business in both passengers and freight from the beginning. It would prove a wonderful boon to those who live in the southern part of the county.
Financially, Yuma county is in excellent condition, owing to the admirable manner in which its business affairs have been managed. A new court house, which cost $12,000, was erected and paid for during the past year, and all current expenses are paid promptly. The entire debt of the county amounts to only $5,600, part of an old bond issue, and there is ample money in the treasury to pay these bonds when they mature, so practically the county has no debt.
The total assessed valuation of all property in the county in 1903 was $2,059,486, but the actual value is far in excess of this amount. The rate of taxation is 17 mills for county and state purposes, and the school tax ranges from one to 15 mills, according to school district requirements. This makes the tax very reasonable, when it is considered that property - especially personal - is assessed at much less than its value in this and all other Colorado counties.
The population of the county is about 5,000 and while the majority of our citizens are composed of native born Americans from the various states, there is a considerable element of foreign born citizens in the county. The latter hail principally from Germany, England, Sweden and Switzerland, with a few Russians in the western part of the county, and a better class of citizens than these foreign born farmers cannot be found in any county. The people of Yuma county are especially intelligent and progressive, and you will find almost every home generously supplied with newspapers, magazines and periodicals of various kinds. The population is moral and law-abiding in every essential particular and the county has been always remarkably free from that wild element of humanity which has been such a curse to many sections of the West. The people of the county possess broad minds and generous hearts, extending the warmest welcome to those who come to cast their lot among them. The county is blessed with great resources and vast possibilities, requiring only a few thousand more industrious, energetic farmers, stockmen and dairymen to develop them. There are more than 900,000 acres in the county open for settlement, and a few years of industrious honest toil on these lands will achieve a competence that would require almost a life-time to amass in the East. We do not mean to convey the impression that this rapid progress can be accomplished without capital, but if you have a little money with which to commence, the possibilities to be obtained from Yuma county lands are unlimited. If you are seeking a new home where you will find pure water and an invigorating, health-giving climate, come to Yuma county and investigate the advantages it presents, before you decide to locate elsewhere.
You will find every statement made in this edition of the Gazette to be absolutely true.
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