1890 Drought of Brown County, Nebraska
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The progressive spirit of Brown County, Nebraska was very suddenly checked when crops began to fail for lack of rains. In 1890 many farmers failed to raise enough to feed their stock and family, and appealed to the county for relief. The county, in turn, appealed to the state. Small amounts of money received afforded some help for the needy, but there was need for very rigid economy everywhere.
The dry seasons continued and each year more families were obliged to ask for relief. Many became completely discouraged and left the county. Farms were deserted, stock was sold at low prices, given away or turned out to die. Banks began to fail, which made times more strenuous for the county, the farmer and businessman. Many firms were forced to close their doors. By 1895 the population had dwindled to about one half of what it had been before the dry years.
No one starved, but there would “have been great suffering had it not been for the aid from outside the drought-stricken counties.” Supplies of food and clothing in car load lots were distributed in “Relief stores” to all who would accept them. These were sent by people of eastern states. Our own citizens gave generously of their time and money to those less fortunate, and the state furnished seed grain so that the farmers who had the courage to put in another crop each spring were enabled to “Carry on.”
One of our early homesteaders, Charles N. Swett, once wrote a very vivid word picture of farming conditions during the drouth years. (Mr. Swett, now deceased was granted the first patent for land now included in Brown County, to be issued from the Valentine land office. His patent (or deed) was dated August 13, 1883.) His description follows: