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A Glimpse of Iowa in 1846
By John B. Newhall

Pages 50-59

Page 50.

portion of the Territory, possesses dome of the finest soil and the best timbered land. The county is quite new, and offers a tempting field to the enterprising. Eligible locations can be made, consisting of choice lands, for those that are willing to make the sacrifice for a few years, of the comforts to be obtained in the more densely populated portions of the country. Game will be found in abundance in the forests. The streams abound with all the varieties of fish usually found in the clear streams of the north, and every autumn the adventurous pioneer will be richly rewarded in his annual peregrinations of "bee hunting."

     Among the new counties recently laid off on our western frontier may be enumerated the counties of Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Warren, Wayne, Marshall, Story, Lucas, Clark, Decatur and Boone. The general features of these new counties are similar to those previously described; so much so, that a detailed description might appear superfluous. They are generally salubrious, dry and elevated, affording abundant range for pasturage; equally susceptible of producing all the various grains and fruit that yield so abundantly elsewhere. Thus, another wide and unoccupied field is laid open to the advancing tide of emigration that is annually spreading over our fertile prairies, and which is destined, ere long, to render Iowa not merely prosperous and happy, but, form irresistible causes, to place her in an elevated position among the States of this vast confederacy.



     I commend the mighty reader's attention to the following article. Men's minds are now turned to this interesting subject: "Can wool-growing be pursued with profit in the West?" This is the question. The rapids changes that are now annually taking place in filling up the western


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prairies with fine wooled sheep, render it very evident that wool is, henceforth, to become one of our most  important articles of export, and one of our greatest sources of wealth. It will, and must be a cherished interest, (with us in the West,) and there is now cause why it may not continue for ages.

     Many people appear to entertain and idea that we (in the West) can grow nothing but Indian corn and wheat. How often some friend in the Atlantic States has remarked to the writer," What signifies your productive country, without a market?" Let us glance at this subject for a moment. Our country is as happily adapted for the culture of hemp, wool-growing, tobacco, hops, the castor bean and the raising of all kinds of stock, as any portion of North America-not to enumerate our vast mineral resources. It is by no means merely the field of Indian corn, or even wheat, that will constitute all the sources of wealth to the Iowa farmer. For instance, wool-growing is one of the most profitable enterprises the emigrant could enter into; and what branch of rural life can be more agreeable than the superintending of a thousand head of sheep, with a boundless range before them?

     Adaptation of our country to the rearing of Sheep- The thriftiness of sheep on our prairies is remarked by every observer; and wool-growing commends itself to the interest of every farmer; in the first place, because the home market furnished in the West, and in the second place, because of the trifling expense of getting wool to the principal markets-say New York or Boston.

     Another advantage the Iowa wool-grower possesses, is the low price of his land. he can the more easily compete with the eastern farmer in wool (because of the small cost of transportation) than almost any thing else, and for the present, while his flocks can have the unlimited range of the prairies without expense, there is no question but he can deliver his wool in New York or Boston, at a cost much less than the eastern farmer. And, for many years, the greater interest on land at the East will more than cover the cost of transportation.

     An able correspondent of the New York Journal of Commerce, (and one of the most extensive wool dealers in America,)

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thus speaks of the future prospects of the West, in regard to wool-growing:
          "The growing of wool in this country is receiving from year to year, more and more attention. Hundreds of thousands of sheep, instead of being slaughtered as formerly, are now annually driven from older and cultivated lands, as fast as their increase exceeds their pasturage, to newer grounds, where they are distributed to emigrants from the older States, accustomed to take care of them and there they form the germs of other flocks growing up in a million. An impetus has thus been given which must long continue, because consistent with the interest of those concerned. The room and the inducements are sufficient. In the northwest, between Alleghany and the Rocky mountains, we have a vast region, stretching over the extent of empires, where the soil is composed mostly of vegetable mould, the accumulating deposit of various herbage from year to year since the Creation. The earth contains nothing approaching it in vastness and fertility. This deposit is a mine of material which may be turned into wheat by planting wheat upon it, or into wool by pasturing sheep upon it. It lies open to very hand that will partake of it.

     "Its position is secure from the desolations of war. Its extent and quantity are such that it must pass to other generations of men before exhausted. But, like all great tracts of interior territory, the transportation of its products to the ocean, and the markets of other climates, is laborious, costly, hazardous,  and uncertain. Wool forms the only exception. Wool, which is worth ten times as much as iron of equal weight, may be sent forward from the place of its growth thirty times cheaper than wheat of equal value. The necessities of densely peopled countries insures its steady consumption. Of all the articles of commerce, wool is the most staple in its nature, and has always been the most generally used by civilized man, from times the most remote, of every nation, tongue, and race. Of all the staple articles of the world, wool requires the least labor to produce it, the least care and cost in its preservation and transportation, and is the most suitable, profitable and reliable production for the great interior of the country, where labor is scarce and dear, and fertile lands cheap and plenty. Hence, its growth will long continue to be a cherished interest, and the export demand, at the prices of other countries, will last for ever."


    It will be of importance that the emigrant judge correctly as to the breeds best adapted to our prairies; that, in commencing the wool growing business, those breeds be introduced which will be most profitable. I should recommend the emigrant's attention to the introduction of the Cotswold and Southdowns, as being the best adapted to the lands.

     Traveling, somewhat extensively, in the south of France, and through Belgium, towards the frontier of Prussia, during the summer of 1844, I could not perceive our flocks upon the prairies would suffer, by comparison, with those on the continent of Europe.

     Mr. Gay, in speaking of the American fleeces, remarks that "the wool itself is of superior staple, and, while upon the sheep, is inferior to no other in the world, of equal grade," but suffers, in the foreign market, in consequence of the unclean condition in which it is put up and shipped.

     Probably one of the most successful and experienced wool growers of the western States is Geo. Flower, Esq., of


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Albion, in the southern part of Illinois. For twenty-five years, Mr. Flower's flocks have, for seven months of the year, pastured on the wild grasses of the prairie, and have kept fat and in fine health. Mr. Flower has exercised much skill, as a breeder, and the results of his experiments show, conclusively, that our prairies are well adapted to the production of the finest wool.

  It may be interesting to the reader to learn the history of Mr. Flower's flock: and as I consider his experience and statements entitled to the highest consideration, I will give his own words:

     "The history of my own flock, kept in the southern part of Illinois, is favorable to the fine wooled breed. They are from the Merinoes of Spain, procured just before the French overrun the country. Sir Charles Stuart, the English Ambassador, purchased the Royal flock. He shipped them, after a hurried drive, scarcely out of reach of the pursuing enemy, some hundreds of miles. Six thousand, only, reaching the shores of England; and, after the lapse of a year, two thousand sheep survived. These were purchased by my father. Some additions were afterwards made from the Paular and Escurial flocks. When I emigrated to this country, in 1817, I brought with me six of the finest animals of the wool bearing species ever brought to this country. This is the origin of my flock; they have been kept on the same district and on the same farm, where I now reside, ever since. No deterioration of the wool has taken place; on the contrary, the wool fiber of them is somewhat finer. Eighty ewes, purchased of Mr. Beecher, at Lancaster, Ohio, formerly from the Steubenville stock, has been the only addition to the pure bred stock."

     In 1842, Mr. Flower carried his wool to Lowell, Mass., where it was purchased and stapled by the Middlesex Company. The wool proved to be of a superior quality and received the highest prices.

     The cost of transporting Mr. F.'s wool, from his residence, in Illinois, to Lowell, Mass., was $2.12 per hundred pounds, (inland navigation) or $42.50 per ton.

     Compared with the cost of transporting the same value of any other product, this sum, the reader will perceive, is a mere trifle, and shows, most conclusively, how little effect of distance from the market affects the value of this article,


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    Advice, &c., concerning the Preparation of the Fleece for Export- The first important operation, in preparing fleece wool for export, is to properly cleanse it before shearing. The sheep should be washed in clear running water- the water must run freely through every part of the fleece and the wool and every part of it should be pressed and worked with the hands while under water, until the dirt and oil are removed, and the water runs off clear. The shearing should then take place as soon as the sheep becomes dry after washing.

     In most prairie countries there is a fine black dirt, which becomes closely incorporated and matted in the wool, frequently making the fleece look worse than it really is. Too much attention cannot be paid to a thorough washing of flocks, in a prairie country.

     Advantages of Keeping the Flocks in Good Condition.- Sheep should be kept, as nearly as possible, in uniformly good health and flesh, because every portion of the staple or fibre of the wool which grows while the sheep is very poor, or from disease or want of food, has so little strength as to break in working; and, if this weak growth takes place in the fall of the year, it destroys the fleece for many valuable purposes.

     Let the western wool-grower attend to these instructions, and, my word for it, he will never have cause to complain that he has embarked in an unprofitable pursuit.

     Many of our enterprising agriculturalists, both in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, have embarked extensively on the raising of sheep, and, in most cases, the enterprise has proved eminently successful. [See article on the Introduction of Sheep into Lee county, Iowa: page 22.]

     Although  treating somewhat at length on the advantages of wool-growing, the territory of Iowa is equally adapted to neat cattle of every description, swine, &c. Hogs are raised with little or no trouble, having almost a boundless range, both in forest and prairie, and feeding upon grass, roots, acorns and the various nuts of the forest, which are very nutricious. Little difficulty is experienced, as the time approaches for slaughtering, (each owner having his respective marks); he hunts them up from the range, and feeds

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them for a few weeks with Indian corn, before slaughtering or driving them to market.

     Until recently, tobacco was considered a staple exclusively adapted to the southern States; a doubt had existed in the minds of most people respecting its successful cultivation as far north as the central portion of Iowa and the river region, Illinois. Experiments, however, in both States, have proved it a most successful crop. I think I never beheld finer fields of tobacco than those upon the rich margins of the Des Moines river, in Iowa Territory, or more promising indications of a favorable soil and genial climate for its growth and excellence. The castor bean is likewise easy of cultivation, and is susceptible of becoming a source of great profit.

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