Agriculture in Post-Civil War Missouri
Phelps county was combined grazing land and forests with few cultivated crops. Grape production was the biggest cash crop produced. This was also excellent ground for growing hay. The pastures were good for grazing cattle and this was a good environment for raising sheep because there was plenty of shade in the summer and protection from the wind in the winter. In 1865 improved land could be purchased for 6 dollars an acre and undeveloped land for 4 dollars an acre. The land also possessed a rich supply of minerals that could be mined. The timber was of a high quality and there was an abundant supply of water.
In 1869 prices per bushel were reported from the county seat as follows, wheat $1.00, rye 50 cents, oats 30 cents, corn 50 cents, potatoes 50 cents, hay $15.00 a ton. E.W. Bishop president of the Phelps County Agricultural Society developed his own grading scale to explain the yields of crops for his county. Crops in this year on general were very good with an average crop. Corn, wheat, rye, and oats were above average with barley, buckwheat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, sorghum, and tobacco average. In 1865 it was reported that it was a wet spring with a dry summer and a pleasant autumn. Peaches were fair with few cultivated pears and apples. Grapes grew well and were free from blight. The cultivation of fruit was increasing steadily. Corn, wheat, barley, and oats were all reported as average. At this time there were many sheep being produced with few cattle, horses, and mules available.
Another day at the mines
Mining of minerals was the mainstay of Phelps county during this time. Meremac Springs ironworks was a booming business until 1872. The community at the mines was nearly 500. The Union army was stationed at Rolla during the war and at one time there were nearly 20,000 soldiers stationed there. So during this time agriculture in this county was mainly subsistence.
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