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THE BRITISH IN IOWA

PART II: BRITISH INVASION OF NORTHWESTERN IOWA

Chapter V
 A PAMPHLET ON FARMING IN IOWA

William B. Close's marriage to Miss Mary Paullin in New York City took place about the same time that his letters were running in the English press. (72) The newly wedded couple went to England for their honeymoon. After their arrival Mr. Close for several months spent much time in conferences with his fellow countrymen on the subject of northwestern Iowa; and he was flooded with thousands of letters asking for further information. His own letters had opened the eyes of English landowners who could not squeeze more than three per cent out of their property.

At 38 Cornhill, London, and 90 King Street, Manchester, the recently organized firm of Close Brothers and Company set up offices where Mr. Close met or wrote to interested persons daily and encouraged emigration to 'the Iowa "colony". (73) To furnish full particulars he prepared a pamphlet on Farming in North-Western Iowa, of which several thousand copies were printed for distribution in January and February, 1880.

Prospective emigrants were informed as to the best steamship and railroad lines with which the Close brothers had arranged special rates; and they were advised on how to render the voyage as easy and inexpensive as possible and how to fit themselves out so as to save much useless expense and trouble. The actual fare to Le Mars in such cases was represented to be under $55 for travel by steerage and emigrant trains, under $65 by intermediate, and from $75 to $95 by saloon and first-class trains -- children under twelve going for half price and free under one. The cost of living and personal expenses of the twelve or fourteen days' journey from Liverpool to Le Mars generally came to $15 or $20 extra.

English emigrants were urged to allow for plenty of time at Le Mars in order that they might look about and thoroughly satisfy themselves that the country suited them before buying farms. Then, too, it would take some time to get all things in readiness for breaking and ploughing in April. Those who did not mind cold would lose nothing by going early and gaining experience ; but those who were unable to go out before the breaking season opened could nevertheless buy land and have, it improved through the Close firm, thus saving a whole year. (74)

As owners of cattle, sheep, and grain farms, the Closes had acquired considerable knowledge of the new country, of the people, and of farming in general: this experience they now placed at the disposal of Englishmen who had some capital. The firm announced its intention to establish "a colony of English people of the better class, and thus combine Western farming with some English society": artisans or mechanics were not urged to emigrate unless they were able and willing to combine farming with their other occupations in what was a purely agricultural district; and laborers without means were not encouraged to emigrate unless they had friends in America to give them employment immediatly on arrival, otherwise they. would be worse off in the United States than in England. (75)

Thus the Close brothers made their strongest appeal to men with sufficient capital to be able to start good stock farms because stock farming was the thing for which northwestern Iowa was best adapted. They addressed themselves particularly to practical farmers who could emigrate and need lose no time in purchasing their farms and setting to work. To quote further from their pamphlet:

An inexperienced man should not invest his money at once, but should board and lodge on some farm for at least a year. The more a man brings the quicker and greater will be the returns. 500 will enable a man to buy and equip a farm of 160 acres for growing grain, but will leave scarcely any margin for the purchase of stock. To succeed, settlers, unless provided with ample means, must begin by roughing it somewhat and do all the work themselves, employing as little labour as possible, either out-door or in-door. We wish to impress upon them the fact that they must make up their minds to hard work, probably harder than they have ever done before, but at the same time work of which they will directly reap the full return. Women and children must also help to keep down expenses by doing the house work, and looking after the dairy, poultry, &c.

For a man who is used to good living in England, and to a sedentary life, unaccustomed to roughing it, and inexperienced in farming, we consider 1,000 is not too much to bring out. Our experience is that, however willing he may be to rough it and save expenses, it takes time for him to work as a labourer, and thus save as much as possible each year to reinvest. Indeed it is the capital invested in live-stock over and above the first 500 (which is tied up in lands, buildings, &c.) that enables a man rapidly to increase his capital. (76)

It is not clear whether the Closes had organized a partnership in England before they invested in Iowa lands; but a newspaper reporter who interviewed James B. Close is authority for the information that when the brothers made their first appearance in Le Mars in 1878 they "organized as a branch of the London house, making a daily exchange and brokerage business between England and America". (77) Regardless of the date and manner of its origin, the new partnership very early took in Constantine W. Benson, another well-known Cambridge oarsman. The firm at once advertised its general purpose to promote the establishment of an English community among the American inhabitants of Plymouth County. Furthermore, the firm announced that it would transact a general land business: it would not sell the Close farms to settlers or investors, nor was it interested in selling the lands of any particular persons or companies. On the price of Iowa lands, the firm's statement was as follows:

The price of lands varies according to its quality and contiguity to railroads. We have lists of first class lands, within eight or ten miles of railway stations, that can yet be bought, cash down, for 15s. to 1 per statute acre in tracts of 80 to 160 acres, and suitable in all respects for stock or grain farms; but if two or three thousand acres are bought in the same purchase the price would not be more than 12s. to 14s. per acre, cash down. We generally buy lands from non-residents, and have travelled even as far as New York, 1,500 miles, to settle a bargain when we thought it was a good one. In this way we constantly hear of lands for sale 25 per cent cheaper than the lands offered us by the railroad companies, who can afford to hold their lands. (78)

The Close firm also acted as an agent for lending money at eight per cent on the security of first mortgages on improved farms, no loan exceeding twenty-five per cent of the value of a farm. In preference to investing capital in mortgages, however, the firm recommended investments in lands; for besides "getting a good yearly return, which depends as much on the crops as does the interest from loans, there is the profit from the rise in the value of the lands." Accordingly, the Closes undertook to act as agents for English investors who could not go out to Iowa: they offered not only to buy lands for such persons, but also to improve them, obtain tenants, and give them the same attention as their own farms. Owing to the fact that lands were rapidly being taken up and steadily rising in value due to renewed immigration, the firm asserted that "no combination of circumstances could make it a better time to invest", and prophesied that in a very few years the prices of lands in the superior agricultural region of the Missouri water-shed would nearly equal those in the older portions of the State. (79)

Another object of the Close firm was to serve prospective emigrants as agents and help them on arrival in Iowa. Those who wished to join the "Close Colony", as it came to be called, were offered the following advantages:

Should the inquirer place himself under the guidance of our firm, he will be shown immediately on his arrival at Le Mars lists of the best and cheapest lands from which to select a desirable farm, thus avoiding the useless expense of hotels, and the waste of time and money occasioned by travelling about the country. We have also arranged with a number of farmers in our neighborhood, with any of whom a new-comer, by paying for board and lodging to the amount of twelve to fourteen shillings a week, could stay until he had made up his mind whether the country and mode of life would suit him or not. Or, if he should be totally inexperienced, we would help him to find a stock farm, where, if he makes himself sufficiently useful, he will be boarded and lodged in exchange for his work, and in time perhaps get wages; thus he could, before laying out his money, get a practical insight into farming, although for this he must make up his mind to a good deal of roughing it. Until sufficiently experienced he could always come to the firm for advice and guidance. Should the settler (in any of the above cases) decide on buying any of the lands he sees, we will help him to buy them at the lowest price, look to the title - a most important item, and one that requires considerable experience (it being a frequent practice throughout the United States and Canada to sell lands to settlers with bad titles)' - and see that the deed is made out correctly, and properly recorded. Then, after the land is bought, we advise him as to the building of the house and the sheds; also show him how to superintend the "breaking," or first ploughing of the land, which requires considerable care (bad "breaking" showing its effect for several years afterwards); and generally look after the new-comer's interests until he is fully settled on his farm. (80)

The Close firm undertook to make the best bargains possible for all those who had dealings with it. Owing to the fact that raw young Englishmen found it difficult to deal "with the natives of a country where everything has its price", and owing to the further fact that "to buy land from an Iowa agent, or stock from a Minnesota farmer, and not get the worst of the bargain, requires a peculiarly level head, and a fool and his money are parted at least as easily as in the old country", the Closes worked out a system of cooperation to which they called particular attention: having dealt far more extensively in lands than anyone else in the country and being always advised when cheap land was on the market, the firm could buy land three to four shillings an acre cheaper than the local agents, and by buying land for several English purchasers at the same time,  the firm could make still further savings.

The Closes could, moreover, obtain wholesale rates from large lumber firms who shipped direct, so that English settlers were enabled to effect a great saving on the cost of constructing houses and barns; and if the improvements on a large number of newly purchased farms were covered in, the same contract, the firm could build fully one-third cheaper than the local agents and carpenters. Finally, the Closes were in a position to obtain machinery, implements, stoves, furniture, and other articles from the manufacturers at wholesale prices.

For all these services in the immigrant's behalf, thus saving him a large sum in actual expenses besides preventing him from falling into the hands of unscrupulous agents, the Close firm charged a commission of $250, or five per cent on the minimum sum of $5000 which the firm required "those to have who wish to form part of the colony, which includes the commission on purchase of land up to 160 acres", and other items of expense enumerated above. If more than 160 acres were wanted by anyone, a further commission of five per cent was charged. The firm also required a deposit of $125 before the emigrant left England, but if on arrival in Iowa he was dissatisfied with the country and left within one month without purchasing land, the deposit was returned - otherwise the settler was required to pay: the balance when he purchased his farm. (81)

In this connection it is interesting to note that the Closes offered to take some pupils on their own stock farms "at a fixed premium" because it was "desirable for those who have sufficient capital to start a large stock farm to learn thoroughly how to lay out their money before they actually do so, and avoid many of the mistakes which new comers are apt to fall into." (82)

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72 The Lemars Sentinel, April 14, 1881.

73 The Iowa Liberal (Le Mars), December 3, 1879.

74 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, p. 28.

75 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, p. 2.

76 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, p. 1.

77 The Lemars Sentinel, September 29, 1881, quoting an article on "Iowa's Millionnaires" in The Dubuque Telegraph.

78 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, pp. 2, 27.

79 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, p. 28.

80 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, pp. 2, 3.

81 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, p. 4.

82 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, p. 28.

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