- A GREAT AGRICULTURAL STATE
Iowa is, and always has been, a land prized by
its owners and praised by all visitors. The Indians fought
many desperate battles to control the land that is now Iowa.
They never gave up their claims to Iowa willingly. The early
trappers and traders knew Iowa land abounded in valuable furs.
When they went back East, or to Europe, they told stories of
marvelous prairies and woodlands.
Early settlers left homes in eastern states
and in Europe to settle on the rich lands that today
constitute Iowa. They learned to love their land because they
knew its value.
Others realized the great possibilities in
Iowa. Rich men from eastern states came and invested millions
of dollars to develop Iowa in a commercial way. They built
approximately 10,000 miles of railroads because they had
confidence in its future.
But the development of Iowa has not been an
easy task. We owe much to the sturdy pioneers who braved the
hardships of early days. The first settlers brought but
little farm machinery. A plow, a shovel or spade, and a hoe
was about all they could find room for in their covered
wagons. Only a few acres could be cleared for planting the
first year. And what a task it was to harvest the crop! Only
the simplest tools were used. All in all, the pioneers' life
was a hard one. Nevertheless, they were happy because they
believed that better days were ahead.
All of the early reports concerning Iowa land
were not favorable. Lieutenant Stephen W. Kearny made a trip
in 1820, from the present site of Omaha, Nebraska, to that of
Fort Snelling, Minnesota. He and his men crossed the Big and
Little Sioux rivers and two branches of the Des Moines River.
In his reports to the Government, Kearny said that the land
which is now northwest Iowa would never have many settlers.
At a later date congressmen still spoke of this section of
Iowa as part of the "great American desert."
It is doubtful if many other pioneers had as
many hardships as those of northwest Iowa. They had to fight
against cutworms, gophers, grasshoppers, chinch bugs,
hailstorms, June floods, drought, strong winds, and prairie
fires. In 1851, the Government sent a party of surveyors into
northwest Iowa to lay the territory out in townships. We are
told that "They were unfortunately surrounded by a prairie
fire and burned out, teams, wagons, camp equipage, provisions,
field notes, and records of survey."
Prairie fires were the worst terror of
pioneers on Iowa's treeless plains. The rate of speed varied
greatly but was usually from 8 to 10 miles an hour. Flames
often leaped fifty feet into the air. One person, telling of
a fire, said, "We could read fine print for one-half mile or
more." S. H. M. Byers wrote, "I would travel a hundred miles
to witness a prairie fire, to see a sea of flame and
experience the wild excitement of those times long gone."
The worst grasshopper years were in 1873 and
1874. A committee in Emmet County reported in 1874, "In this
county, containing the well-tilled farms of formerly
well-to-do settlers, there remain not to exceed 50 acres of
poor wheat, and 100 acres of poorer oats and corn."
Today all true Iowans are grateful for the
sacrifices and the courage of the rugged pioneers who endured
hardships in order that a great state might be developed.
Agriculturally, Iowa abounds in "firsts." She is first in
corn, producing 18% of the United States total; first in oats,
with 22% of the United States total; first in hogs, having
27.5% of the total number slaughtered in the United States;
and first in horses, with 8% of the United States total. On
January 1, 1937, she ranked first in the value of all
livestock, amounting to $366,524,000. She was first in the
number of fat cattle, number and value of poultry, and the
number and value of eggs produced. The income from poultry
and eggs was nearly as great as the income from corn.
Iowa is the world center for popcorn and for
timothy seed. She is also first in the total value of grain
crops, of land and farm buildings, of farm implements, of
farm-owned automobiles, and of farm-owned telephones. She has
the highest per cent of improved farm land and her people rank
lowest among the states in their per cent of illiteracy.
It is said that "no single 'civilized' area in
the world of comparable size has such consistently fertile
soil as Iowa. It is a vast, unbelievably rich garden,
beautiful beyond description."
The total wealth of Iowa is over ten billion
dollars. The per capita annual income in Iowa is $600 as
compared with $390 for the United States.
But the efforts of Iowa's people have not been
entirely devoted to producing wealth. The state has over
18,500 acres in state-owned parks, preserves and lakes. She
ranks seventh in paving and no place in Iowa is more than
twelve miles from a railroad.
Ray Murray, former State Secretary of
Agriculture, in an address said of Iowa, "A land that produces
more corn than any other state or any foreign nation. A land
that produces more hogs than any two other states. A land
that produces more dressed poultry and eggs than any other
state. A land whose soil produces, each year, more wealth
than all the gold mines in the world and over twice as much as
the silver mines."
A TRIBUTE TO IOWA
In concluding his address, Mr. Murray paid a
glowing tribute to Iowa. The authors believe that his words
are a fitting conclusion to this book. He said: "To me, Iowa
is the great North Star among the constellation of states.
And of my state I want to say-
"Here's to Iowa - a land of smiling sunshine
and copious showers, of babbling brooks and of fertile fields,
of golden corn and cheerful people;
"A land of schoolhouses and of colleges and of
prosperous communities, rich in optimism and outlook and
"A land of promise, where nothing is good
enough today, but must be better tomorrow, where despite what
has been and is now, still better is yet to be;
"A land rich in its yesterdays, proud of its
today's, but ever looking into the future;
"A land whose citizens feel deeply, speak
plainly, and live comfortably;
"A land that is first in most things that men
call good, a land that smiles a bouteous welcome.......and
where only the good are great;
"Let me give you an Iowa Creed:
"I believe in Iowa, I glory in her growth, I
marvel at her abundancy, I appreciate her beauty, and I
rejoice in her strength and lavishness.
"I believe in our Iowa people, in their
independence of action and their freedom of thought, in their
love of country and their faith in our ideals, in their
ambition and in their courage, in their achievements and in
their devotion towards the promotion of all that is good in
government, society, education, or mutual helpfulness.
"I believe in Iowa's institutions, in Iowa's
ideals, and in Iowa's idealists, in the character of her
people, in the wealth of her harvests, in the beauty of her
country sides, in her fertility, her productivity, her
capability, her adaptability, her reality, and in her glorious
"I believe in Iowa, Iowa the beautiful, Iowa
the land of plenty."