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Chapter III

Having embarked upon the investment of capital in land and pleased with the prospect of their operations, the two Close brothers decided to extend their acreage ; indeed, they would have expanded their holdings in Crawford County if more virgin land had been available at a reasonable price. Finding the best areas bought up in that county, they turned to the counties farther north where they were informed on good authority - probably Daniel Paullin - one of the finest and most fertile portions of the United States had been fearfully scourged by grasshoppers and where the pioneers were then offering to sell their holdings at a sacrifice. (60)

Without waiting to see how the balance sheet would stand in 1879, at the end of the year 1878 the Closes authorized their purchasing agent, Mr. Paullin, to buy the Bloodgood lands in Plymouth, Cherokee, and Woodbury counties. Accordingly, at the rate of $2.40 per acre they obtained 16,080 acres of the most perfect land in Elkhorn, Portland, and Preston townships of Plymouth County - an event which a Le Mars editor greeted with the headline, "Hail Britannia!" They were reported as negotiating for 50,000 acres more, and as planning to make Le Mars their headquarters in February, 1879. A large number of English farmers were expected to occupy at least one-half of these lands, if one may believe the newspaper story which ends with the words that "not only our county but northwestern Iowa will receive an important addition of sturdy, thrifty, well-to-do, law-abiding immigrants that will add materially to our growth and prosperity." (61)

Meanwhile their brothers, John and James Close - who were in England engaged in the banking business of an uncle, Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, John at Manchester and James. at Blackburn - had learned of the probable success of the venture. Because the indoor life did not suit him James threw up his position and joined the boys in Iowa in time to join in the purchase of the Bloodgood lands. (62) John, on the other hand, having a wife and children, resolved to stick to his job in England, eventually becoming very wealthy; but he furnished the three brothers in America with a good deal of money to invest not only for himself but also for his English friends. (63)

It is clear that the Close brothers were convinced that if it was necessary to take chances in order to make money no two risks were in the long run better than those which had never failed man since the world began : the risk of the fruits of the earth and the risk of the spread of population westward. They had learned the lesson that the growing of grain and the raising of live stock in America were still in their infancy. Even in the depth of the commercial depression of 1877, "when about half the American nation was going through the bankruptcy court, and when people were saying the future of trade was loss and not profit", William B. Close realized "that, notwithstanding, the farmers of America as a class were making money." A few years before, corn had been burned as fuel on Mississippi River steam­boats and wheat had been left to rot in the fields of California simply because the cost of trans­portation to places where grain was needed was prohibitive.

Eventually, however, according to a well-in­formed English observer, "the means of trans­portation had been developed to an extraordinary extent. Railways and canals had been made far beyond the traffic requirements of the country, and when in the depression of 1874-8 there was less to carry, the fiercest competition ensued between the companies. Grain was at one time carried from Chicago to New York, 1,000 miles, for 10 cents per 100 lbs., or less than a fourth of the price that had been charged a few years before, and simultaneously freights across the Atlantic were reduced from 10s. to 5s per ton. Of course most of the railway companies went into bankruptcy, but the discovery was made that it is not so much 'the long haul' as the terminal charges which constitute the cost of transport ; and the eventual consolidation of rival and insolvent systems, together with the increased tonnage which followed the reduction of rates, confirmed the policy of cheap freights. "(64)

In the summer of 1879 William B. Close was reported as having purchased from John Bloodgood and wife and Louise Stanton, widow, $34,740 worth of land in Plymouth, Woodbury, and Cherokee counties. Another Englishman, R. G. M. Graham, also invested heavily in lands in this region.(65)

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60 St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 31, 1881, quoted in The Lemars Sentinel, August 4, 1881.

61 The Lemars Sentinel, December 12, 1878. 

62 Letter of Wm. B. Close, November 30, 1921.

63 John Brooks Close was reported as visiting his brothers at Le Mars in the spring of 1881. He accompanied Mr. Sykes of Manchester who had come to look at his lands in Lyon County. - The Lemars Sentinel, May 5, 1881.

64 Macmillan's Magazine (London), Vol. XLIV, pp. 65, 66. 

65 The Iowa Liberal (Le Mars), July 9, 16, 1879.

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