Part IV


Timber-Forest and Fruit Culture

Most of us were born in a wooded country.  In childhood we were accustomed to look out upon a landscape diversified by forest, mountain and valley.  Transported to a region whose features are so different, with a surface stretching out in vast plains covered with a rich growth of vegetable green, either level or undulating like the waves of the sea, where the only timber to be seen is a long line of trees bordering a stream; transferred to such a scene, we are utterly confounded, so foreign is it to all our early associations.  But the rapid development of the western prairies prove that the prejudice against

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this scarcity of timber is without foundation.  To subdue a heavily timbered country and bring it under cultivation is a Herculean undertaking, and requires the labor of a generation.  A far greater area has been subdued upon the prairies of the West, producing ampler supplies of human food, and sustaining a larger population, within  the memory of men yet living, than on the Atlantic slope in over two centuries.

We are connected by rail with the extensive pine forests of Minnesota, and the price of lumber or expense of building and fencing here is not greater than in Northern Illinois, Indiana or Ohio.  For the present, fencing is almost entirely dispensed with, as stock is herded upon the vast tracts of vacant land.

The Rock and Sioux Rivers are bordered by fine groves of timber.  The principal varieties are white maple, cottonwood, white ash, willow, elm and black walnut, and the supply is sufficient to last, for fuel and other purposes, until increased by the growth of artificial timber.  Our farmers find that the time required in preparing and hauling wood may be more profitably employed in other labor; that our Iowa coal, which is delivered at the railroad stations at five to six dollars per ton, is a far better and cheaper fuel than wood.

The rapid growth of artificial timber on our prairie soil is astonishing.  A grove of cottonwood or white maple of three or four years' growth is large enough for a shade or a wind-break.  At six years it may be thinned out for fuel, and from that time on the tree grower may have an abundant supply of fuel and fencing material.  The citizens of Lyon County are giving much attention to forest culture.  During the past season they have planted millions of cottonwood, white maple, black walnut, ash, larch and box elder trees.  In this manner a supply of timber is rendered certain for the future, the fierce blasts of winter are stayed, farms are rendered more valuable, and the country is adorned and beautified.

Fruit culture has not yet been sufficiently tested in Lyon County to enable us to give many results; but, there is no doubt that all varieties usual to this latitude may be successfully cultivated.  Such hardy varieties of apples as the Duchess of Oldenburg, Utter's Large, Tetofski, Red Astraehan, Famcuse, Northern Spy, Golden Russett, Siberian and all the small fruits, have been grown with perfect success for two years.

The wild fruit of our valleys, among which are many varieties of grapes, plums and strawberries, are delicious and abundant.

The immigrant from the East need not fear that he is bidding good-bye forever to those fruits that have been a comfort and a luxury in his former home.



There is no stone on the prairies in Lyon County.  A farm of a thousand acres may be cultivated without so much as once touching a stone with the plow or the hoe.  Plenty of boulders suitable for the walling of wells, cellars and cisterns are found along the banks of the Rock, Little Rock, and Big Sioux rivers.  Lime stone is found on the Sioux, and is there converted into excellent lime in large quantities.

But in our great quarries of quartzite rock, lies buried our principal wealth in stone.  These are situated at the extreme northwest corner of the State, and crop out at a number of places, over an area of about two square miles.  The largest exposure occupies a space of about two acres, and extends into the Sioux river at the State corner, causing a fine fall and water power at that point.  This is a hard, stratified rock of a beautiful reddish color.  The State Geologist, who visited these quarries in 1868, gives it the name of "Sioux Quartzite," and ascribes its formation to the Azoic age.  He states that is the only out-crop of this rock in the State, and pronounces it "absolutely indestructible."

This rock at present is rendered practically useless, owing to want of transportation, but we look forward to the time when it will enter into the construction of works of art, and enduring homes for the people of Lyon County.



No railroads are now in operation within the limits of Lyon County, but we are deriving all their substantial benefits from the Sioux City and St. Paul Road, which runs along our eastern boundary.  Other lines are also being pushed rapidly forward, and will cross the county both north and south, east and west.

The Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad is one of the most important lines now being operated in Iowa.  It connects us directly with the pineries of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the coal fields of Iowa, and with Duluth and Chicago.

The McGregor and Missouri River Railroad, now completed to Algona, is being rapidly extended westward to Dakota Territory, and is expected to run entirely across the county from east to west.  By this road the great advantages of the Milwaukee wheat market, and a direct connection with the East, will be secured to our people.

The Iowa and Dakota Railroad, also, will probably pass through a portion of the county in a westerly direction.  A tax to aid in its construction has been voted in Lyon and other counties, and we are informed that its building will be commenced early in the coming season.  This road will connect us directly with the Iowa coal mines, and will be of the greatest benefit to Northwestern Iowa.

The Sioux City and Pembina Railroad has its southern terminus at Sioux City.  It follows up the valley of the Big Sioux along our western border, crosses the great continental water shed to the Red River of the North, and connects with the Northern Pacific Railroad at Brainard.  The building of this road has been commenced, and when completed it will open up one of the finest valleys in the West, and secure us the advantages of the now important markets of the western mining regions.

The projected Rock River Railway will follow up the valley of the Rock through Lyon and Sioux Counties, Iowa, and Rock County, Minnesota.  The route for this road is one of the most feasible ever proposed, and its construction as certain as the development of this extensive valley.

These roads are not imaginary; one has been completed, two are under construction, and the others are questions of time only.

Important as is production, the progress of an inland country will be measured by its railroad facilities.

The railroad is the power that is transforming the wilds of the great West into the most productive portion of the earth, and is revolutionizing the commerce of the world.  The intelligent pioneer now asks of a locality, "How far is it from the railroad?" with even more interest than "What is its soil?"  We invite attention to our railway prospects.


Population and Educational Advantages

The present population of Lyon County numbers about 1,500, the greater portion of whom are former residents of Illinois and Wisconsin, with a share from the eastern States.  A colony of Norwegians are located on the Sioux, who find our sunny slopes and fertile valley far more congenial than the gloomy pines and lefty mountains of Norway.  A number of Germans have settled in different portions of the county, and are among our most prosperous farmers.

The society of Friends have a fine settlement in the southeast corner of the county.  They hold out, we believe, more pleasing and substantial inducements to their brethren who may desire to settle in a new country, than are offered elsewhere in the West.

As a whole our citizens are intelligent, generous and enterprising, and we doubt if a happier people may be anywhere found.  The early settlers of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin now look back upon the day when they were pioneers as the happiest period in their lives.  So it is here.  Gladly do we journey a dozen miles to raise the log cabin of a settler, or to join in a social gathering.

Our people take an active interest in the advancement of agriculture, manufactures, education, the growth of our towns and villages, and above all the settlement of the country.  Those who come among us to find homes or engage in business pursuits will be greeted with a hearty welcome, aid and encouragement.

A county agricultural society has been organized which will hold its first fair during the present fall.

Several Christian societies have been organized, and measures are being taken for the erection of churches.

The orders of Free Masons and Odd Fellows are represented among our citizens, and their early organization is proposed.

Our early settlers foresaw danger in the neglect of education.  To guard against the evils of materiality they have adopted the common school system which has so long vitalized the eastern states, and which has followed the pioneer as inseparably as his shadow.

Seventeen school buildings, costing from one to three thousand dollars each, and provided with all the modern conveniences, have already been built in Lyon county.  Not only are the common branches taught, but, wherever numbers will admit, graded schools may be established.  Our public school system is closely connected with the State University and the many colleges in Iowa, and our educational advantages are not surpassed in the older states.

The revenue for the support of these schools is ample.  First, there is section sixteen in every township granted by the general government for school purposes.  This grant in Lyon county amounts to 11,520 acres of choice lands which will be sold to actual settlers, for the support of schools.  To this may be added the interest annually received from the permanent State School Fund--now amounting to over four millions of dollars--and revenue from taxation.  The large quantities of non-resident and railroad lands in the county may be taxed for school purposes and internal improvements.  The latter gives an advantage over localities where the lands are largely in the hands of government and are non-taxable.




Webization by Kermit Kittleson - Aug. 2006