« PreviousContinue »
honey locust, ten years' growth, 1 foot 8 inches; black walnut, ten years' growth, with a circumference of 12 inches, 15 feet high; black walnut, ten years' growth, with a circumference of 13 inches, 15 feet high.
At Dr. Enos Lowe's place, near Omaha, about 300 feet above the water-line of the Missouri, cottonwood trees, ten years' growth, circumference 2 feet 6 inches, 40 feet high ; cottonwood trees, ten years' growth, circumference 2 feet 44 inches, 25 feet high; cottonwood trees, ten years' growth, circumference 2 feet 5 inches; cottonwood trees, ten years' growth, circumference 2 feet 4 inches; cottonwood trees, ten years' growth, circumference 2 feet 9 inches ; cottonwood trees, ten years' growth, circumference 2 feet 10 inches ; common locust, ten years' growth, circumference 2 feet, 1 foot 10 inches, 1 foot 9 inches, 1 foot 10 inches, 2 feet, 2 feet 1 inch, 2 feet, 1 foot 10 inches, 2 feet 5 inches, 1 foot 104 inches; soft maple, seven years old, circumference 8 inches; box elder, ten years old, circumference 2 feet 2 inches; apple trees, ten years' growth, circumference 1 foot 3 inches, 1 foot 1 inch, 1 foot 2 inches, 1 foot 1 inch; twelve years' growth, 1 foot 6 inches, 1 foot 3 inches, 1 foot 64 inches, 1 foot 6 inches ; common red cherry trees, ten years' growth, circumference 12 inches; silver poplar shade trees, seven years' growth, circumference 2 feet 4 inches.
Dr. Lowe's garden shows a most healthy and vigorous growth of the smaller fruits, and he has raised successfully out of doors the following vines : Hartford Prolific, Catawba, Clinton, Delaware, and Concord. These vines are loaded with young fruit at this time. Pears, apples, and cherries abundant; peaches plentiful, but I do not think they will endure the climate. Dr. Lowe has the following evergreens, which are growing finely: Scotch pine, Austrian, Russian, white pine, spruce, balsam fir, white cedar, or arborvitæ, and red cedar.
Near the mouth of the Platte Rev. J. G. Miller raises successfully the Diana grape. Lombardy poplars grow well; four years old, 20 feet high, 2 to 5 inches in diameter. Cottonwood, four years old, circumference 18 inches, and 20 feet high.
Mr. Miller's place is one of the most highly cultivated in the State. He has twenty-five apricot trees, raised froin the seed, which are now loaded with fruit; English red raspberry, blackberry, &c., all bearing thriftily.
At Rev. Mr. Hamilton's, Bellevue, Sarpy county, I saw most of the smaller fruits in a high state of cultivation, as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, &c., and I am convinced that none finer could be produced in any country. On Mr. J. Sterling
Morton's farm, near Nebraska City, I observed a cottonwood tree that had grown from the seed in ten years to a height of 50 feet, with a circumference of 4 feet.
About ten miles south of Platte's mouth there is a fine grove of trees upon a high elevation, composed of cottonwoods, maples, locusts, and black walnuts. Those of ten years' growth are from 8 to 10 inches in diameter, and 10 to 30 feet high. The black walnut trees may be raised from the seed with ease, and, though of slower growth than the others, are very valuable from the fact that the astringent, pungent bark forms their defence, not only against cattle, but the gopher, the most destructive of the wild animals. The gopher gnaws off the roous of some of the most valuable trees, and is a source of great annoyance to the farmer. The native or honey locust is not disturbed by the boring insect, which is destroying the common locust. The borer sometimes attacks the cottonwoods.
I have said enough to show already that most of the hardy northern trees may be cultivated on these western plains with entire success. The cultivated forests will prove much more desirable than those of natural growth, and their arrangement may be made as beautiful as the taste of the proprietor may dictate. The greater portion of the more intelligent and thrifty farmers are planting forests to greater or less extent. This is done so easily that there is no
excuse for a farmer to be destitute of fuel after a few years. Nearly all the common forest trees can be raised from the seed as easily as corn or beans. As soon as it is understood that coal is restricted to a small portion of the State, even if it occur at all, every one will adopt the plan of raising his own fuel. So far as the cultivation of the smaller fruits is concerned, I am convinced that Nebraska will not be surpassed by any other State in the Union. The climate seems to be severe for peaches, though Mr. Morton will have thirty or forty bushels this season. The dwarf fruits seem to do best, A row of forest trees around the gardens and orchards proves great protection from strong winds and cold of winter. The osage orange is used very successfully all over the State for hedges.
I have dwelt on this subject here, from the fact that it is a popular notion at the east that trees cannot be made to grow successfully on the western prairies, and especially that the climate and soil are unfavorable to the cultivation of the fruits. I held that opinion until within two years, but I now believe that within thirty to fifty years, forest trees may be grown large enough for all economical purposes.
Mr. Griffen, in ten years' time, is able to supply his own fuel from the limbs and dead trees which would otherwise go to decay, and within four or five years he will have fuel for sale. I will endeavor hereafter to report the results of my labors to you weekly. If you wish to have me elaborate any special point more fully, please give me instructions to that effect.
The great pest of this country appears to be the grasshopper. This year it seems to be restricted in its distribution. I did not observe any north of the Platte, and very few north of Nebraska City. But at the latter place, and for four or five miles around it, the grasshopper is very abundant and destructive.
Mr. Gilmore, one of the wealthiest farmers in the State, has lost seventy acres of wheat and sixty-five acres of clover and timothy grass. Many other crops have been injured-others have suffered in this vicinity.
I am making a collection of them of different ages and intend to investigate their nature and babits with great care. I hope to be at Brownsville, Nemaha county, in a few days, and from that point will report on Otoe county.
OTOE AND NEMAHA COUNTIES. Otoe is one of the most fertile and thickly settled of the counties of Nebraska. The fertility of the soil is shown by the richness and abundance of the crops, which are remarkably fine. The winters are so severe and the snows so thin that winter wheat will not do well, and spring wheat is raised altogether and is grown most successfully in ordinary seasons. Thirty and forty bushels to the acre is not an uncommon yield throughout the State, and last autumn Nebraska wheat brought from ten to fifteen cents more per bushel in the market at St. Louis than wheat from any other portion of the west.
The great fertility of the soil in the river counties of Nebraska is mainly due to the beds of silicious marl which cover those counties to a greater or less depth. This is usually called loess, from a similar formation which occurs along the Rhine, in Germany. The sections which I enclose to you from time to time will reveal the prospect of workable beds of coal in the State, so far as the surface exposures are concerned. One outcrop at Nebraska City has been wrought by drifting in a distance of three hundred yards, and several thousand bushels of pretty good coal have been taken therefrom. The seain was about eight inches in thickness. On account of the scarcity of fuel in this region this thin seam has been made somewhat profitable. At Otoe City, eight miles below Nebraska City, the lithological character of the beds seems to change, so that we have red shales and clays passing up into soft yellow sandstones, with comparatively little rock useful for building purposes. There is here also a bed of slate and coal about eight inches in thickness, which bas been wrought to some
extent and the coal used in a blacksmith's shop. Still higher up in the bank is another thin bed of black carboniferous shale, which has been worked to some extent.
At Peru, about six or eight miles further south, there is another complete lithological change in the beds exposed. The bluffs along the Missouri seemed to be formed of irregular beds of soft sandstone and laminated arenaceous clays. High up in the hills at some distance from the river there is a bed of limestone twelve to eighteen inches in thickness, which is quarried extensively and profitably. On the Missouri bottom, about on a level with high-water mark, a well was dug sixteen feet in depth ; a seam of coal was penetrated, which is represented as four inches thick on one side of the well, and about ten on the other. These beds in the vicinity change rapidly, both in thickness and texture, within very short distances. Again, at Brownsville there is a seam of coal accompanied by many of the plants which are peculiar to the carboniferous rocks in other States. There is from four to six inches of good coal—the whole bed of black shale and coal is about twelve inches in thickness. There is a fine quarry of limestone at this point, which is of very superior quality for building purposes, but there is too much sand and clay in it to be converted into a good quality of lime. The bed is about three feet in thickness near the water's edge, concealed by high water at this time. There is a bed of micaceous, finegrained sandstone which cleaves naturally into most excellent flagstones, which are much used here. These rock quarries are of great value to the people of Nemaha county. The materials for making brick abound everywhere in this region--clays, marl, and sands are abundant and of excellent quality.
Should the future prosperity of the country demand it, there are abundant materials for the manufacture of what is called in England, and recently brought into use in this country, “patent concrete stone." It is composed of small fragments of stone or sand reduced to a paste by a fluid silicate, then moulding the material into any required form and dipping into the chloride of calcium. The little particles of sand are thus cemented together, and it is wonderful how rapidly this rock can be formed and how durable it becomes. This is a matter which seems to me worthy of notice in the final report.
Several kinds of peat occur in small quantities in Otoe and Nemaha counties, which as fuel will rank next to coal. There are several marshes or boggy places about six miles west of Nebraska City, from which I have obtained some excellent specimens. On Long Branch, Franklin, in Nemaha county, twentyfour m les southwest of Brownsville, there are spring places where a pole may be thrust through the peat to the depth of ten or fifteen feet. About ten miles west are several other peat bogs, which have attracted more or less attention.
At Aspinwall, in Nemaha county, we discovered the most favorable exhibition of coal yet observed in the State. The general dip of the beds seems to be up the Missouri, or nearly north or northwest. It is difficult to determine this point with precision. The rocks at Aspin wall are all geologically at a lower horizon than the Nebraska City beds, and mostly beneath the Brownsville beds, so that the inclination must be considerable-eight or ten feet per mile. Two seams of coal are met with at Aspinwall; one crops out near the river, about fifteen feet above the water, twenty-four inches in thickness—very good quality. A few feet above this seam is a second seam-six inches of good coal. Some English miners are sinking a shaft here, with full confidence that the thickest bed can be made profitable, and I am inclined to think that, with the present scarcity of fuel, they will succeed well. Coal commands a ready sale at from forty cents to eighty cents per bushel; and even at eighty cents a bushel coal is cheaper than wood. The miners have already sunk the shaft about forty feet; have passed through the 6-inch seam, and are confident of soon reaching the 24-inch bed, when the work of drifting in various directions will commence and the coal be taken out for market. The beds hold such a position
here that, if these miners are successful, this effort determines the existence of a workable bed of coal for Nemaha, Richardson, Pawnee, and Johnson counties, which will be a most important matter for the whole State. We have very abundant notes in detail, and many specimens to illustrate the geology of the river counties.
Mr. Meek leaves me at Rulo and returns to Washington. The remainder of the year I must perform the field-work alone. My next examinations will be in Richardson and Pawnee counties.
I am informed that excellent hydraulic lime for cement exists in Nemaha · county, section 9, township 6, range 14; but I have not been able yet to make a personal examination of the locality.
FOREST AND FRUIT TREES.
I would again speak of the great importance of planting trees in this country, and the great ease with which these cultivated forests may be produced. I do not believe that the prairies proper will ever become covered with timber except by artificial means. Since the surface of the country received its present geological configuration no trees have grown there, but, during the tertiary period, when the lignite or “ brown coal” beds were deposited, all these treeless plains were covered with a luxuriant growth of forest trees like those of the Gulf States or South America. Here were palm trees, with leaves having a spread of twelve feet; gigantic sycamores—several species ; maples, poplars, cedars, hickories, cinnamon, fig, and many varieties now found only in tropical or sub-tropical climates.
Large portions of the Upper Missouri country, especially along the Yellowstone river, are now covered with the silicified trunks of trees, sixty to seventy feet in length and two to four feet in diameter, exhibiting the annual rings of growth as perfectly as in our recent elms or maples. We are daily obtaining more and more evidence that these forests may be restored again to a certain extent, at least, and thus a belt or zone of country about five hundred miles in width east of the base of the mountains be redeemed. It is believed, also, that the planting of ten or fifteen acres of forest trees on each quarter section will have a most important effect on the climate, equalizing and increasing the moisture and adding greatly to the fertility of the soil. The settlement of the country and the increase of the timber has already changed for the better the climate of that portion of Nebraska lying along the Missouri, so that within the last twelve or fourteen years the rain has gradually increased in quantity and is more equally distributed through the year. I am confident this change will continue to extend across the dry belt to the foot of the Rocky mountains as the settlements extend and the forest trees are planted in proper quantities. In the final report I propose to show that these ideas are not purely theoretical, and that the influence of trees on climate and humidity has been investigated by some of the ablest scientific men in this country and in Europe. A French savant, M. Boussingault, states that in the region comprised between the bay of Cupica and the gulf of Guayaquil, which is covered with immense forests, the rains are almost continual, and that the mean temperature of the humid country rises hardly to 80° Fahrenheit. The author of " Travels in Bulgaria" says that in Malta rain has become rare since the forests have been cleared away to make room for the growth of cotton, and that, at the time of his visit, in October, 1841, not a drop of rain had fallen for three years. The terrible droughts in Cape Verde island are attributed to the destruction of the forests. The wooded surface of the island of St. Helena has extended considerably within a few years, and it is said that the rain is now double in quantity what it was during the residence of Napoleon. A German author remarks, “In wooded countries the atmosphere is generally humid, and rain and dew fertilize the soil. As
the lightning rod abstracts the electric fluid from the stormy sky, so the forest abstracts to itself the rain from the clouds, which in falling refreshes not it alone, but extends its benefits to the neighboring fields."
The forest presenting a considerable surface for evaporation gives to its own soil and the arljacent ground an abundant and enlivening dew. Forests, in a word, exert in the interior of continents an influence like that of the sea on the climates of islands and of coasts; both water the soil and thereby insure its fertility. Sir John F. W. Herschel says that the influences unfavorable to rain are absence of vegetation, in warm climates, and especially of trees. He considers this one of the reasons of the extreme aridity of Spain. Babinet, in his lectures, says : “A few years ago it never rained in lower Egypt. The constant north winds, which almost exclusively prevail there, passed without obstruction over a surface bare of vegetation; but since the making of plantations an obstacle has been created which retards the current of air from the north. The air thus checked accumulates, dilutes, cools, and yields rain.”
I might cite many examples from the African deserts how the planting of palm trees is redeeming those barren sands.
Much might also be said in regard to the influence of woods in protecting the soil and promoting the increase in number and the flow of springs, but all I wish is to show the possibility of the power of man to restore to these now treeless and almost rainless prairies the primitive forests and the humidity which accompanies them.
The counties of Otoe, Nemaha, and Richardson contain more timber land than any other portion of the State, and the aggressive character of the patches of woodland can be seen everywhere. Hundreds of acres have been covered over with a fine healthy growth of hickory, walnut, oak, soft maple, coffee, bean, basswood, &c., within the past ten or twelve years, since the fires have been kept away, and protection afforded the young trees by the settlements.
In the more southern counties the success in planting trees and in raising fruits, especially the smaller kinds, is even more marked than north of the Platte. All kinds of garden vegetables grow better in Nebraska than in any region with which I am acquainted. The crops, when not injured by the grasshopper, are looking very fine at this time. The corn has escaped so far, and is pressing forward with great rapidity. Up to the 1st of July I did not see any grasshoppers, except within a radius of four or five miles around Nebraska City. There they were most abundant and destructive. July 2d and 3d they commenced their flight northward, filling the air as high as the eye could reach, looking much like flakes of snow. They have committed some depredation in South Nebraska, but more especially in Kansas. Whenever counties become more thickly settled and more densely wooded, so that the annual amount of moisture is more equally distributed over the year, this pest I believe will entirely disappear.
I am informed that notwithstanding the grasshopper there will be at least half of a crop of wheat. In Richardson county the harvesting of winter wheat has commenced, (July 8) Last year it commenced June 22. The corn looks finely everywhere. All the crops are late this season on account of the wet weather.
RICHARDSON COUNTY. Richardson connty is in some respects the finest county in the State. It lies in the southeastern corner of the State and borders on the Missouri river, and forms the type of fertility of soil and climate. Being located near the 40th parallel, the climate seems to favor the cultivation of all the hardy fruits and cereals.
The surface is more rugged than many of the interior counties, partly on account of the extreme thickness of the superficial deposit of soft yellow marl and the numerous layers of limestone which crop out along the river banks. The