Home - Table of Contents - Next Chapter
To the small capitalist class of England, the Closes made Iowa as attractive as possible. They were careful to point out that but little over one-third of the State was under cultivation, although ninety-five per cent of its total area was tillable; that it had a healthful climate, a fertile soil, and an abundance of pure springs and running brooks; that it was the first State of the Union in the production of wheat and hogs, second in corn, third in barley, fifth in the number of milch cows, and second to none in dairying; and lastly that Iowa had no Indians or negroes, but a thoroughly settled and orderly people who never carried or wanted "fire-arms, revolvers, bowie-knives, and such playthings". The possible objection that Iowa was a frontier wilderness was answered in this wise:
Emigrants to Iowa must not imagine they are going beyond civilisation. They will find the habits and customs of the people in Iowa in a great measure similar to those in England, and will not be called upon to abandon their ordinary comforts and conveniences or to encounter the hardships and privations of a frontier life. Pioneering, the forerunner of permanent improvements, has gone beyond Iowa, and is now only to be found in Western Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and other newer portions of the great continent of America. In Iowa are orchards and vineyards, planted years ago, and the whole country is well supplied with roads, bridges, mills, shops, stores, and hotels, as also with churches, colleges, and schools. And it is almost impossible to get more than twenty miles from a railroad. (83)
The physical geography of Iowa in general, a brief description of Plymouth, Woodbury, Cherokee, and Sioux counties, the weather and rainfall, and the extremely rich and easily cultivated soil were truthfully presented to prospective settlers. The silicious marl or bluff deposit of northwestern Iowa, declared to have originated as an accumulation of sediment in an ancient lake which was afterwards drained and closely resembling the loess deposit of the Rhine Valley, was alleged to be superior in quality to the black loam of the counties which ' drained toward the Mississippi. The soil of the Missouri slope was alleged to combine "perfect natural drainage with a surface accumulation of from two to six feet of decayed vegetable growth for manure." (84)
Englishmen who were interested in sheep raising were advised of the special advantages of the cheap bluff lands overlooking the Missouri and the Big Sioux rivers, with hillsides "clothed with the most excellent grasses, even to the summits", resembling in general the celebrated "Downs" of England. (85) Here sheep could be raised at an inconsiderable cost.
Settlers in northwestern Iowa were assured of a good supply of wood and coal from Iowa fields. It was pointed out also that educational advantages were abundant, while the burden of local and State taxation was not heavy. There were assurances of excellent highways, "as the prairie makes admirable roads and the streams are easily bridged"; of "plenty of good doctors in the towns, and no want of doctors in the country, who combine farming with their profession, and who would be useful in an emergency and until more experienced aid was procured"; of a demand for good, industrious, and intelligent girls who "are looked upon more in the light of helps than servants"; of capital small game shooting - any quantity of prairie hens, snipe, woodcock, and American quail - and splendid wild duck and goose shooting in the autumn and spring, with a few deer; and of streams and lakes, especially near the Minnesota boundary, "full of an, extraordinary number and variety of fish, of wall-eyed pike, cat-fish, and bass". Such were the colors which were used to make the picture of northwestern Iowa attractive to Englishmen. (86) These accounts aroused the interest of many English farmers.
While the Closes gave Englishmen no flattering description of western farming methods, they did convey an idea of what good farming promised in the following terms:
Farming in the newer portions of the Western States is generally carried on in the roughest and rudest way, in spite of the fact that the best machinery is used for everything. Except among the very best class of farmers, no one thinks of utilising waste which is burnt on the prairie, or of manuring their lands; and when the manure heap gets so large as to be in the way, the stables or sheds are pulled down, and put up in a fresh place. There is not much science in Western farming, but good farming always pays; and an Englishman, who knows how to combine some of his old country farming with the best points of American farming, will easily double the average yield, and must turn out a successful man. (87)
Many prospectuses of agricultural schemes in foreign lands seem to have been circulating in England in the year 1880, each vaunting its own locality and offering a golden road to distressed British farmers, small capitalists, and cadets. This fact led one English writer to call it "a sort of beggar-my-neighbour game of fortune-making", and the wonder was how there could be so many Paradises and how Englishmen had been left "so long in benighted ignorance of them." (88)
The Close brothers, however, did not hesitate to point out the drawbacks of the new country which they were promoting. They made it clear that every new settlement had its difficulties: wheat growing in Iowa had suffered from grasshoppers and sometimes from blight; and stock raising necessitated winter feeding, a fact which in their judgment was more than offset by "our entire immunity from droughts, the cheapness and abundance of grain and hay, our nearness to market, and the superior condition of grain-fed cattle to grass-fed on arrival at their destination after a long journey." Cold weather might also be considered a drawback; but even that was not minded, except for an occasional blizzard, because it was a dry cold, just as the extreme heat in summer was a dry heat and not oppressive. Furthermore, "the lack of society, which is inevitable to a new colony, and which the first ladies who went out have felt a little, is being rapidly obviated by the class and the number of the people going out"; and as for the want of trained servants, one of the best societies in Scotland for training young girls had offered to supply good families going to northwestern Iowa. (89)
That the picture was not more alluring than the facts warranted was adequately attested by Englishmen who had gone to Iowa and had already had sufficient time to make up their minds about the country. One gentleman who had lived in Iowa several years and spent many more in other parts of America and Canada wrote that he did not know of a single foreign settler who regretted coming to Iowa; nor was he acquainted with any part of America which presented such great advantages as did Iowa for stock raising and sheep farming.
After eight months' residence, Robert G. Maxtone Graham was thoroughly satisfied: he enjoyed the life in Iowa, and found himself in better health than when he was in England. W. H. Statter, W. Roylance Court, Jr., Henry Garnett, and H. Grey de Pledge declared that the Close description of northwestern Iowa was fully borne out by the facts, that the accounts were not a bit exaggerated or too puffed up, and that it was a grand country. Edward T. Wright, Philip Barnett, W. P. Bridson, the Hon. H. F. Sugden, and Arthur Gee had visited the region and were convinced of its advantages. During an extensive tour in the summer of 1878 Rudolph C. Lehmann of London passed through Plymouth County and obtained some very good first-hand information. To quote from a letter on his travels:
During the greater part of this tour we kept clear of hotels, and put up at night at the house of the nearest farmer: thus my opportunities of acquiring information were better than those of the ordinary traveller by railroad. Every farmer with whom I talked spoke in the most enthusiastic terms of the soil, the richness. and inexhaustible fertility of which must seem remarkable to anyone accustomed only to English agriculture and necessary rotation of crops. To employ the expression of one farmer, "You scratch the ground with a toothpick, and reap two harvests a year."
R. P. Kay wrote to the Closes that it was with great. regret that he had left Iowa - although he still had a farm there - because Mrs. Kay could not stay, adding: "It is, as you told me, rather rough for ladies. " (90)
Home - Table of Contents - Next Chapter
83 Close's Farming in North-Western, Iowa, pp. 4, 7-9, 10, 13.
84 Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. XLIV, p. 66.
85 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, p. 8.
86 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, pp. 10, 11, 13.
87 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, pp. 6, 7.
88 Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. XLIV, p. 63.
89 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, p. 14.
The Women's Emigration Society was founded in 1880 to give information and loans for the emigration of capable, educated women to the colonies. This society seems also to have had a branch in Iowa. - Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. XLV, p. 315.
90 Close's Farming in North-Western Iowa, pp. 29-31.
Home - Table of Contents - Next Chapter
Copyright 2003. These electronic pages are posted for the benefit of individuals only who are researching their family histories. These electronic pages may NOT be reproduced in any format for profit or presentation by any other organization or persons. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the written consent of Gayle Harper