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part, and very sweet; horses, which are used to the plains, will graze on this very ground, when loose, in preference to places, where the grass has not been pastured. Another peculiarity of the buffalo grass is, that it only grows in packed ground, and dies out as soon as the buffalo quits the country, and the action of the rains and frosts loosens the soil. After the buffalo have left a portion of the country for good, in a few years single stools of blue stem grass will appear, which increase in size from year to year, until the whole country, which grew once the short buffalo grass, is covered with blue stem, and then has all the appearance of an agricultural country. I have watched this transformation ever since 1855, and it is a fact and no theory. Thousands of tons of prairie hay can be cut now, where ten years ago nothing but buffalo grass grew.
Whoever opens a farm in a buffalo grass region needs to plow his land deep, from six to eight inches at least, so as to prepare it at once for crops. And all this great region in the western part of the state will be thus transformed shortly, and will be found to be the granary of the west.”
Upon receipt of this valuable letter I wrote to the author, requesting him to explain why he confined his remarks to the region north of the Arkansas river, in showing that the country was generally good, and that a few square miles of sand hills had been magnified into a boundless "desert.” In reply, the following letter came to hand :
" When I spoke rather negatively of the country south of Arkansas river, I had in my mind a pear shaped tract of land, with its stem end near Fort Dodge, and the opposite about south of the mouth of Cow creek, which empties into the Arkansas in Rice county, with a width at its broadest part (south of Pawnee Rock, seventeen miles west of Zarah) of about sixty miles, which consists of a series of sand hills, naked sandy flats and bunch grass prairie. This part is entirely destitute of timber, but in most parts well watered, and having considerable salt water branches running through it.
" The Arkansas river is also, with the exception of a strip of about fourteen miles running east from Fort Zarah, destitute of timber from below the mouth of Cow creek to the west line of the state, and beyond to near Fort Lyon. The Atchison, Topeka
& Santa Fe Railroad has been surveyed and located to Fort Dodge, which will open these wide and fertile bottoms to settlement. The sandy district, however, spoken of above, will be a great grazing country, as the grass on it is very nutritious, and the configuration of the country affording a great deal of shelter to stock in the winter. South of this district lays a beautiful coun. try along the tributaries of the little Red river, or Red Fork of the Arkansas. Mulberry, Turkey, Medicine Lodge, Bluff creek, etc., are among these creeks. The soil is here red in all its shades, and every little thaw or rain will color the streams red.
" Two years ago this winter, I found the bottoms covered with the tallest blue stem grass. A great deal of winter grass, which we generally call June grass, grows also here. The country is also timbered with cottonwood, cedar in great quantity on the bluffs, mulberry, elm, walnut, oak, hackberry, and on the South Fork, with china tree. I found bodies of timber containing from forty to eighty acres. Rock is very scarce here; the deepest canyon, as well as the highest bluffs, are devoid of it. In my opinion, it will not be very long before this country will be the great winter quarters of the stock men of western Kansas. As for shelter, there is nothing that will surpass it in these parts.
“Since my last, I learned that about fifty claims are taken on Walnut creek and the Arkansas, in the vicinity of Fort Zarah. So the Star of Empire is moving westward at a lively rate. It is some satisfaction to contemplate that, in fifteen years, civilization has conquered two hundred and fifty miles of wilderness."
More will be found, further on in this volume, on the productions of Kansas in the chapters on her great industries.
SOIL AND SURFACE.
Topography – Climate — Minerals — Soil and Productions.
THE STATE of Nebraska has an area of 75,995 square miles and is situated between 40° and 43° N. latitute, and between 960 and 104° W. longitude. It is bounded on the north by Dakota terri. tory; on the east by Iowa; on the south by Kansas and Colorado territory, and on the west by Colorado and Wyoming territories. There are no mountains in the state ; the whole surface consists of rolling prairies, vast table and rich bottom lands in the valleys of the numerous streams. The principal river is Platte -- a wide, rapid, shallow stream, full of sand bars, with divided channel, and although not navigable, it is of inestimable value for the purpose of mill-sites, irrigation, etc. It enters the state in two branches, which unite about three hundred miles west of the Missouri river, and thence pursues an easterly course through the state, dividing it into two nearly equal parts. Its special feature is the unrivalled valley through which it courses from the mountains to the Missouri river. This valley is from five to fifteen miles in width, and is widely celebrated for its picturesque scenery, rich, productive soil, and mild and healthful climate. The Wood, Loup and Elkhorn rivers flow into the Platte on the north side, east of Kearney, and all have extensive, fertile valleys. The Big Blue and Little Blue, flowing southeast, cross the line into Kansas, the former about sixty-five and the latter about ninety miles west of the Missouri. The numerous streams of the interior flow, in a southeasterly course, through valleys rank with vegetation, of loose, rich soil, in which they cut their channels deep and winding, with nothing to mark their course except the fringe of trees that line their margin. The valleys of these streams are generally skirted with a range of low, rounded hills, sometimes abrupt and irregular, but becoming less and less broken as they recede, until they gradually blend with the table land, and keeping about the same level, stretch away in low swells till intersected by another valley. *
Next to the Platte river in magnitude and importance is the Republican, which enters the state from Colorado, at a point five miles from the southeast corner, takes a light curve to the northward, bends back and passes out into Kansas, crossing the line about one hundred and thirty miles from the Missouri river. Its main tributaries in, and partially in, Nebraska are Whiteman's Fork, Willow, Medicine and Muddy on the north, and Beaver, Little Beaver and Prairie Dog on the south. The Republican and its tributaries "water" something over a dozen counties, and the latter affords some of the best mill-sites in the state. For magnificence, fertility and natural resources, the valley of the Re. publican is scarcely second to that of the Platte, and contains many fine groves of timber, an abundance of fine building rock, etc. Not more than one-twentieth part of the area of the state has been turned over by the plough. Nearly one-half the whole is still remaining in possession of the government.
Nebraska is one of the great corn-raising and stock-growing states where lands can yet be had for nothing, or for a nominal sum. Where moneyless men can become land owners by a mere resi. dence, and men of small means, property-holders at once, or by trifling payments, distributed through a long series of years. She presents the anomaly of a state wherein railroads, wagon roads, (we might almost say churches and school-houses), etc., have preceded civilization, instead of following it, after the usual course. Nebraska is a “highland” state, constituting as it does part of the great interior continental slope, which terminates to the westward, as stated, in the Rocky Mountairs. Hence, sweeping winds from the westward and southward occasionally, and light, cooling breezes from one or another direction almost perpetually. Hence the absolute absence of malaria, and the innumerable train of consequent diseases.
In very many of the original settlements made in America daring the last three hundred years, the pioneers have been again and again driven back and out by agues, fevers, and other malarial ailments, by the savages, or by all these calamities. But Nebraska, in less than a decade, without interruption, from an unpeopled waste, straightway grows into a fully developed, struggling community, numbering a quarter of a million souls. The rapid descent of the surface from west to east, together with the presence of the Platte, traversing its entire length and extending back to the mountains, (thus forming a superb conduit for their vast fields of melting snows, in early summer), furnishes a natural system of self-drainage, renders stagnant conditions impossible, and banishes from our borders every semblance of a swamp or morass, every sluggish stream and every putrid pond.
* Compiled from Sketches by Hon. Geo. D. Brown.
Too much cannot be said of the purity of Nebraska air. It is a blessed privilege to be able to lie down at night, within doors or without, on hill or in valley, assured that the atmosphere which surrounds your couch or sighs through your window is free from poisonous taint of death-dealing malaria.
The soil of Nebraska is excellent. An eastern editor truly remarks: “The finest garden mold in the state of New York is not a whit better than the average Nebraska soil, which is light and free from lumps and stones; dark soiled, easily worked and eminently productive. I would advise nurserymen in the east to import a carload of it, to grow their most delicate plants in. They need take no precaution, but send their order to any postmaster or railroad agent, and tell him to dig the first dirt he comes to and send it along.” Another writer says the soil“ may be plowed to any depth required. Under the plow it becomes remarkably loose and mellow, and can be worked to advantage within a few hours after a long rain. From the absence of hard pan, and other impervious substances, it possesses the singular property of resisting both unusual wet and continued drouth ; a failure of crops from either of these causes is an unheard of event. It does not bake after rain, and deep mud is never known. The soil, although easily penetrated with a spade to any depth, has a tenacity that renders the walling of cellars and wells unnecessary.” The superstratum of black mold is usually blended with the underlying yellowish clayey soil at a point about twenty-four inches below the surface. This substratum is profusely impregnated with iron stains and lime seams and concretions, and will produce veg.