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1893-1895 Drought Years in Brown County, Nebraska
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“About one-half of each homestead was broken up by 1893. Crops had been good, and you would find lots of cattle south, with some north and west of town. In 1893 the drought started in July. It was dry and hot. Corn that year averaged about five to six bushel, small grain about fifteen bushel.
In the spring of 1894 it was very damp. Wheat stood on the ground, and got very thick. Again the drought hit in May and June the wheat died before it headed out. Corn tasselled out, but tassels fell off, and there was not an ear in the entire field. Some wheat made two bushels per acre. No oats were cut. In the heat of the day corn would roll up like a cigar; at night would uncurl and look fine.
In 1895 crops were little better. Just raised enough so the people managed to get through. People left Brown County by wagon loads. Very few farms occupied on Bone Creek. Some couldn’t get away because they couldn’t sell what they had. A cow wouldn’t bring $15, and shoats sold for 50 cents to $1.00.
“In 1893 and ’94 aid was sent to this county food supplies and clothing. R. S. Rising and J. Kingery were the committee in charge. Rations were issued to all who were in need, just enough to last one week. Dan Woodward had charge of the store with Rising and Kingery over him.
Those who left here found good crops around O’Neill and Neligh, but west of here was as dry or dryer than ‘here. Not a great deal of stock died as there was some moisture in the spring, and one found some hay in the low ground of the south country. Hogs were turned out in the oats and corn, and most of them butchered while they were shoats. Ainsworth had no sidewalks during these years. There were a few stores. During these trying times many stores closed and their owners left town.
In the fall of 1894 about 300 people were all that remained in Ainsworth. Charles N. Swett (Ainsworth’s “Relief Store” was located at the northeast corner of Third and Main streets. Mrs. L. K. Alder, Mrs. Adeline Smith and Rev. T. W. DeLong were ethers who worked in the store.)
Those who stayed in Brown County were well repaid in time for so doing. Gradually the rainfall increased and the labor of the farmer was rewarded by good crops. Very slowly prosperity returned, by the strictest economy and most diligent labor were the debt ridden people able to pay off their obligations. The same was true of the county. Payment was often deferred but never defaulted.
A few of the former citizens returned to the homes they had left. Each year a few new settlers came, but not until after the turn of the century was there ever another rush of immigration. The central and northern portions of the county were fairly well settled as here is our richest farming land. The sand hill regions, considered suitable only for grazing were largely government land with here and there an isolated ranch home.
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