(Re: History of DeKalb County, Indiana; B. F. Bowen & Company Inc., Indianapolis, 1914, pages 278 to 285

Submitted by: Arlene Goodwin,

Upon the agriculture of a county are based the prosperity and welfare of the people. Other sources of revenue, such as railroads, manufactures, public institutions or mines, are valuable, but no so greatly as the yield of the native soil. It was the search for productive soil that brought the first settlers to DeKalb county, and led them to banish the native Indian to the westward. History does not grow fluent with the description of the early crops; methods were primitive and implements crude, and the sowing and harvesting had not reached the scientific point that they now occupy. The hoe, hand rake, scythe and small sickle were the tools and sheer force of labor was responsible for a good crop, if such were had. The task of clearing the land precluded any attempt at systematic farming during the early days, but the stanchness and courage of the first tillers made possible the versatile farmer of today, who understands crop rotation and farm science as an engineer knows his machine.

On the average, the soil of DeKalb county is the equal of any of the Northwest, being very fertile and tillable. John Houlton is remembered as the first pioneer, and as he planted potatoes in 1834, he might be said to have been the first farmer. The early forests dropped their leaves in the autumn, and these, decaying, left a heavy loam upon the ground that has provided this excellent soil for the farmer of today. Th pioneer found this extreme fertility when he was enabled, from a small bit of land, to raise sufficient grain to keep his home well stocked. It is related in another portion of this book how an early settler planted five bushels of potatoes, and in the fall of the year dug eighty-six bushels from the earth. The grain which the pioneer could not use was transported by wagon and ox-team to Fort Wayne, Toledo and Hillsdale, and we already have a few accounts of the hardships under gone upon a journey of that kind.


Pages 278 & 279

It is interesting to note the statistics in relation to the present DeKalb county, First, it might be well to say that the population of the county is twenty-five thousand and fifty-four people, according to the last census. The number of farms in the county is two thousand five hundred and eighteen, sixty less that there were ten years ago. Of native white farmers there are twenty-four hundred and twenty-nine, and of foreign born while, eighty-nine.

There are four farms in the county of an area under three acres; from three to nine acres, there are one hundred and ten; of ten to nineteen, eighty-eight; of twenty to forty-nine, four hundred and twelve; of fifty to ninety-nine, one thousand and twenty-eight; of one hundred to one hundred seventy-four acres, seven hundred and thirty-five; of one hundred to one hundred seventy-five to two hundred fifty-nine, there are ninety-nine; of two hundred and sixty to four ninety-nine, there are forty-two farms.

The approximate land area of DeKalb county is two hundred and thirty-six thousand eight hundred acres. Of this amount there are two hundred and twenty-one thousand nine hundred and three acres in farm lands. The improved land in farms amounts to one hundred and seventy-eight thousand six hundred and forty-nine acres, and increase of over ten thousand acres in the last ten years. Woodland in farms totals thirty-five thousand five hundred and eighty-four acres and all unimproved land in farms is seven thousand six hundred and seventy acres in farms. Thus the per cent of land are in farms is ninety-three and seven-tenths; of farm land improved, eighty and five-tenths; average acres per farm, eighty-eight and one-tenth; average improved acres per farm, seventy and nine-tenths.


Pages 279 & 280

The value of all farm property in DeKalb county, irrespective of kind and quality, is nineteen million seven hundred twenty-two thousand five hundred and eighty-five dollars, being an increase of over eight million during the last ten years, a percent of increase of seventy-six and nine-tenths. The value of lands is twelve million six hundred and thirty thousand four hundred and sixty-eight dollars; of buildings, four million three hundred and forty-nine thousand seven hundred and twenty-one; implements and machinery, seven hundred and four thousand five hundred and sixty-one dollars; domestic animals, poultry and bees, two million thirty-seven thousand eight hundred and eighty dollars.

The per cent of value of all property is: In land, sixty-four per cent; in buildings, twenty-one and one-tenth; in implements and machinery, three and six-tenths; in domestic animals, etc., ten and three-tenths.

The average value of the land per farm is seven thousand eight hundred and thirty-three dollars; the average value of the land per acre is fifty-six dollars and ninety-two cents.


Page 280

There are twenty-four hundred and seventy-nine farms reporting domestic animals. In DeKalb county there are sixteen thousand two hundred and fifty-six head of cattle, the value being four hundred and sixty-seven thousand seven hundred and forty-nine dollars. There are eighty-five hundred and ten horses, representing a value of one million ten thousand three hundred and ninety-eight. There are one hundred and fourteen mules, value fifteen thousand nine hundred and twenty-five dollars. There are thirty-six thousand three hundred and thirty five head of swine, with a value of two hundred and fifty thousand six hundred and sixty-five dollars. There are forty-two thousand sixty-three sheep, valued at one hundred and eighty-six thousand eight hundred twenty-three dollars. Of goats, there are thirty-one, valued at sixty-three dollars. There are one hundred and eighty-nine thousand nine hundred and ten pieces of poultry, worth one hundred and four thousand one hundred and four dollars. There are eight hundred and nineteen bees in the county, valued at two thousand one hundred and fifty-three dollars.


Page 280

The principal crop in DeKalb county is corn. There are thirty-three thousand four hundred and ninety-six acres devoted to this grain, and the yield is one million two hundred and forty-five thousand five hundred and ninety-two bushel. Twenty-five thousand five hundred and one acres are devoted to oats, which area yields nine hundred and sixty-six thousand one hundred and thirteen bushels. Twenty-one thousand four hundred and ninety-eight acres are sown in wheat, producing three hundred and ninety-one thousand and eighty-four bushels. There are eight hundred and forty-six acres of barley, producing twenty-one thousand four hundred and thirty-two bushels. There are fourteen hundred and eighteen acres of rye, producing twenty-three thousand eight hundred and fifty bushels. Twelve hundred and fifty-one bushels of clover seed comprises this crop. Potatoes cover ground to the extent of two thousand one hundred and ninety-one acres, and make two hundred and twenty-four thousand two hundred and five bushels. Hay and forage is gathered from thirty-six thousand six hundred and thirty-four acres, weighing forty-eight thousand and thirty-nine tons.


Page 281

There are one thousand seven hundred and twenty-two farms in DeKalb county operated by owners, and representing a value of eleven million one hundred and ninety-five thousand two hundred and sixty-four dollars. There are seven hundred an eighty-two farms operated by tenants, value, five million five hundred sixty-seven thousand four hundred and twenty-five dollars. Farms operated by managers number fourteen, valued at two hundred and seventeen thousand five hundred dollars.


Pages 281 & 282

It is said that the first attempt to hold a fair was a small exhibit made on the old Baker farm, then owned by Thomas Ford. Leonard Hoodlemire built the fence enclosing and during the fair the main attraction was a foot race. In the fall of 1855 a fair was held on the court house grounds, at which a horse race was a sensation. The next fair was held in the same place in the fall of 1858.

Realizing the advantages to the farmers of association and the benefits naturally to be enjoyed at Auburn of a fair ground and an annual fair at which competitive exhibits could be held and improvement in stock, machinery and handiwork encouraged, Wesley Park on April 2, 1859, leased to the directors of the DeKalb County Agricultural Society about seven acres of ground lying north of Park’s addition to the town plat, or just west of the public road running from Auburn to Waterloo. The lease was for a term of eight years, and was made in consideration that the society should within sixty days build a substantial board fence seven feet high along the north and east sides of grounds and the remainder within one year. Shade trees were to have been planted and track laid out. At the expiration of the lease the ground and fence were to be given up. The society reserving lumber, sheds and such fixtures. At this time J. N. Chamberlain was president of the society, and M. F. Pierce, secretary. The president before Chamberlain was S. W. Sprott, and succeeding the former was W. W. Griswold. The opening of the Civil war in 1861 obviated any attempt to hold a fair and consequently for a time it was abandoned.

In 1871 leading citizens of Waterloo and elsewhere, prominent among them being J. N. Chamberlain, John and A. S. Leas, R. J. Lent, S. J. Locke, C. A. O. McClellan, R. M. Lockhart, B. B. Long and R. W. McBride, organized the Northeastern Indiana Agricultural Association on the stock plan. A tract of land comprising thirty-one and one-quarter acres, adjoining Waterloo, was bought and fitted up for holding fairs. The fair was held annually in October, and the stock of the association was fixed at ten thousand dollars.

The first fair here was held on October 15, 16, 17 and 18, 1872, and was a big success. Prizes were given for exhibits, racing was held, and large attendance was had. The county fairs continued during the years until the early nineties, when they were abandoned for various reasons. The DeKalb County Free Fall Fair has taken the place of these exhibitions, and is quite as successful, if not more so.


Page 282

The DeKalb County Free Fall Fair is promoted by Auburn business men and merchants and manufacturers, and maintained and supported by the Commercial Club.

It is held each autumn in Auburn, and is similar to the county fairs in other counties, but is held about the court house square and in the main streets of Auburn. It is absolutely free.

A large list of premiums is annually donated by the merchants and business men. The farmers, manufacturers and others exhibit their best products, and it is claimed that the fair by its exhibitions has brought about a raise of ten to fifteen per cent in farm values in this county.

It is not merely a street carnival, but is a real county fair. It has been held in Auburn each year except 1911, when it was held in Garrett. Many amusements are provided in the way of shows, brass bands, etc., and on the closing day a Mardi Gras parade is held. The fair is attended usually by a crowd of fifteen to twenty-five thousand people daily. The Purdue Agricultural Experiment Station and School of Agriculture sends and exhibit, and Prof. G. E. Christie, or another from the faculty, assists in judging the exhibits. The premiums range in value up to one hundred dollars. Every year some noted man of the state attends and delivers a lecture.

The officers of the fair are: H. G. Judson, chairman; Miles Baxter, secretary; U. S. Rant, treasurer; H. R. Culbertson, C. M. Brown, George Bishop, Pres. Wilcox, H. H. Strole, J. R. McDowell, board of directors. Culbertson and M. Boland are members of the committee on judges.


Page 283

In the early part of 1874 the farmers began to organize what has since been known as the Grange movement. The growth was wonderful and enthusiasm, unbounded. The movement spread like wildfire. Granges were formed in every township, councils in each county, and were given direction and force by state and national Granges. Interest was increased by gatherings, where oratory and food abounded; and entire families gave the day to enjoyment with the object of consolidating their power. Middlemen were deemed superfluous, and steps were taken by appointing of purchasing agents and stocking Grange stores, to buy supplies at approximately wholesale prices.

Along in February, 1874, the impulse made itself known in DeKalb county. On the 17th a Grange was constituted at the Husselman school house with R. N. Crooks, master; S. Kutzner, secretary; W. Lessing, overseer; C. W. Scattergood, lecturer; J. C. St. Clair, treasurer; R. S. Reed, steward, and Mrs. Reed as his assistant.

Smithfield farmers organized on the 10th, electing F. Kelley, E. R. Shoemaker, S. B. Mottinger, J. Hemstreet and Henry Hood as officers.

Four days later Jackson Grange was formed with John Cool, James McClellan, J. G. Lawhead and M. Owens as officers. In rapid succession others followed, until the territory was fully occupied.

A county council of Patrons of Husbandry was organized on May 8, 1874, in Grangers’ hall, Waterloo, by delegates from subordinate Granges. At this council R. N. Crooks was chosen president; Ephraim Boyle, vice-president; M. Waterman, secretary; F. Kelley, treasurer; and J. G. Lawhead, doorkeeper. The board of trustees was composed of A. D. Moore, John Lowe and Hugh Nelson. A committee was appointed to elect a purchasing agent, and the objects of the order were stated to be the welfare of the farmer and to "bring producer and consumer together to the exclusion of the middleman."

However, the Granges in this county soon stranded, went out of existence after a brief but brilliant and suggestive career. It taught farmers their strength and encouraged them to persevere, and trust in co-operation, and believe that "in union there is strength."


Pages 284 & 285

(By J. M. Widney)

In the early history of our county apples, pears, peaches and all other tree fruits adapted to temperate climes grew when planted and produced abundant crops of the finest fruits. Little care was observed by the planter. Little did our pioneers know about the coddling moth, San Jose scale, or any of the many fungus diseases at that time; the only purpose in those days when planting a tree was to produce a home supply of the much needed fruits for the betterment of health conditions in the home, and the giving to the youth the food demanded by nature. So, all of the earliest orchards of our county were planted from the home-supply standpoint, and those who thought of the commercial side of the question were but few. However, these orchards grew beyond the expectation of those who planted, and it has not been many years since the apple-buyer was expected each year to greater the surplus and pack the same in barrels, then ship to some distant city market. The peach was never so fortunate in those days, and many who are yet with us can tell stories of wagon loads of big, luscious, yellow peaches lying on the ground, rotting for want of a near market, a market close enough to warrant the owner caring for them and marketing them. Pears and plums grew well, but were never planted in such quantities as the peach and apple. A more natural climate for the production of tree fruits than our county in pioneer days would be hard to find. But for the fact that cities were but villages, towns but country cross-roads and the present villages unknown, the demand would have been vastly beyond the resources of the time. Horticulture remained to a great degree undeveloped. If demand at that time had been as it is now, Hood River would have blushed with envy at the product of old DeKalb.

Thus, in the early history of fruit growing, no worms, no fungus and no scale plant attacked the tree. The rich virgin soil and protected conditions made by the forests gave the fruit-bearing trees and ideal home, and the result was a luscious, perfect crop, with but little effort. But as the county became better settled and orchards more plentiful, the natural enemies came also. Near the seventies came the coddling moth, who, by his habits, gave us the wormy apple, the curculo, who robbed us of our plums and ruined our peaches; then the fungus enemies to scab over our apples, pears and peaches; then, seemingly bent on utter destruction, the San Jose scale, to kill outright the trees. But it has been said that "necessity is the mother of invention." Our county has developed, our towns are now cities, and so man studies the conditions. He replaces the humus and fertility that our forefathers unconsciously robbed from our soil; he plants tress now because he can see great financial returns in the future for so doing; he has learned how to meet the enemies curculo, the fungus diseases and the San Jose scale. These marauders must submit to the science of man. Thus, while for a time the fruit product of DeKalb county was a disgrace to her name, we now can truthfully boast of her wonderful progress in developing this department of her agricultural life, and her sons should always see to it that her banner floats near the top, and then their recompense will be plenty.