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History of Cass Co. 1877


The emigrants who passed over Cass county on their way to California, in the years 1853, 1854, 1855 and 1856 were numerous, especially so during the two years first named. These emigrants used up all the surplus corn and hay that the county produced, and produce of all kinds during the years named brought a good price. In fact our farmers made money then, selling their surplus crops at their own homes and getting their pay in hand in the world's currency -- gold. In the spring of 1853, corn was hauled from Rockport and other points in Missouri, to Indiantown and Iranistan and sold at $2.50 per bushel, (and small measure at that, we add by request of one who bought some at that price, and who has since burned corn for fuel.) Hay sold then for $20 per ton. During the years 1853-4-5 corn averaged from seventy-five cents to two dollars per bushel; while hay ranged from $10 to $15 per ton. These prices prevailed at all the settlements in the county on either side of the emigrant roads.

Those were buoyant days for the county. But the Civil War came on, emigration ceased and produce of all kinds became valueless, almost. In 1862 farmers were glad to sell corn at eight cents per bushel and wheat at 25 cents, and take their pay in merchandise. In the Summer of 1862, R. D. McGeehon hauled wheat to Council Bluffs, and sold it at thirty-five cents per bushel and took "goods" for it, and as part of the "goods" he took one barrel of salt at $9.00. In the fall of 1862 John Keyes and R. D. McGeehon bought about four hundred head of fat hogs for Stewart & Haas, of Council Bluffs, paying 1 3/4 and 2 cents per pound, gross, for them delivered in Lewis. In he fall of 1863 Messrs. Keyes and McGeehon bought again for the same parties, paying 3 1/2 and 4 cents per pound. In the fall of 1864 Mr. McGeehon bought hogs at Grove City for James Moor, of Guthrie county, paying from five to six cents per pound. Those hogs were driven to Iowa City, and shipped from that point by rail to Chicago.

During the year 1864, the average prices for goods at Lewis or Grove City were as follows: Coffee, forty-five to fifty cents per pound; tea $1.75 to $2.50 per pound; sugar, 15 to 20 cents; dried applies, 30 to 35 cents; dried peaches, 30 to 35 cents; calico, 40 to 50 cents per yard; unbleached cotton goods, 70 to 80 cents per yard, other articles of merchandise were in proportion. All produce the farmer had to sell was low and all goods he had to buy were high, which is a worse condition than that of the present when everything is tending downward in price.

From the Cass County Gazette of August 31, 1861, the following price current is gleaned. These prices prevailed at Lewis at that time, being furnished to the Gazette by M. T. Jones, a merchant:
Wheat per bushel .25 
Corn per bushel .15 
Oats per bushel .121/2
Flour, per cwt. 1.25 
Corn meal, per cwt. .60 
Butter, per lb. .08 
Eggs, per doz. .06 
Cheese, per lb. .08 
Sugar, per lb. 10 @ .12 
Molasses, per gal. .75 
Tea, per lb. .65c @ 1.00 
Salt, per sack 3.00 
Bacon, per lb. .07 
Lard, per lb. .08 

Mr. Jones' advertisement in the Gazette of that date offers calicos at from 7c to 12 1/2c; muslin the same.

The following was the Lewis Price Current, given in the issue of the Gazette, dated April 20th, 1861:

Corn, shelled .22 
Flour, per cwt. $1.50 
Corn meal, per cwt. .75 
Butter, per pound .121/2
Eggs, per doz. .05 
Bacon, per lb. .07 
Lard, per lb. .08 

In the Gazette of September 25, 1861, the following were the Lewis prices, which show a great falling in produce:

Wheat, per bushel.25 
Corn, per bushel .15 
Oats, per bushel .121/2
Flour, per cwt. $1.25 
Corn meal, per cwt. .60 
Butter, per lb. .08 
Eggs, per doz. .06 

In September, 1862, wheat, in Lewis was worth 30 cents per bushel; oats, 20 cents; corn, 10 cents; bacon, per pound 3 1/2 cents; hams, 4 1/2 cents; sides, 4 cents.

It was not an infrequent occurrence for farmers to haul produce to Lewis during the years of the war and be unable to sell it at any price. In the winter of 1861, a Mr. Stipes, living a long distance from Lewis, went there with a wagon load of dressed hogs, was unable to sell them at $1.25 per hundred and had to haul them home again.

In 1861 and 1862 a good milk cow was worth from $10 to $12. It took fifty bushels of corn then to buy a pair of eastern-made stoga boots.

From the History of Cass County, Iowa Together With Brief Mention of Old Settlers
by Lafe Young, Atlantic, Iowa:  Telegraph Steam Printing House, 1877, pp. 29-31.
Transcribed for Cass County by Cheryl Siebrass, August 2013.

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