The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.


The 1919 Graphic

Compiled and Edited by Virginia Ross
Registrar for Daniel McMillan Chapter, N.S.D.A.R.1919

Stronghurst Graphic, Nov. 27, 1919 

David Rankin, early pioneer settler of Henderson County was world renown for owning the biggest farm in the world in northwest Missouri.  He was interviewed by Donald Angus for the Country Gentleman magazine and this is part of that story:

BREAKING UP THE BIGGEST FARM: Rankin grew 19,000 acres of corn one year.  This year there were grown on Rankin farms 8000 acres of corn and 2000 acres of wheat.  The corn yielded an average of 40 bushels to the acre and the wheat 18 bushels to the acre.

"There will be no more cheap beef either," Rankin said that day.  "There can't be, partly because of the reasons I have been giving you, which will make corn and corn lands high and partly because the big range country of the Southwest has been cut up into farms and made to produce wheat and beets or alfalfa and sorghum crops.  The shortage in cattle raising that came from that has never been made up and never will in many years.  Farmers of that country can't afford to raise cattle because their land is worth more to raise something else."

When David Rankin died he had scarcely any cash on hand.  His estate consisted of land and what was upon it.  There was never a time when he had much money.  His system was to use the money he made to buy more land with, and then he would borrow on the newly purchased land to carry on farming operations.

"I always did that," he said to me, "I believe it is good business to invest money in more land when land is so cheap.  I have often spent thousands of dollars buying more land and then paid 15 and 20 per cent for money with which to farm it.  The time is coming, of course, when land will be so high a man can't afford to do that.  A farmer couldn't do it, either, unless his land was very productive and he handled live stock with corn growing."

I asked Rankin to tell me his method of growing corn as he had learned it from a lifetime of experience.  I took from my pocket a small notebook to jot down what he said.  He saw this and stopped the team so I could write better and watched while I wrote as he dictated.  I have carefully preserved the book and copy from it the following, which is exactly as he said it: "I never grow corn on land long enough to let it run down; maybe four or five years of corn, and then I sow it to clover and timothy and pasture and feed on it from three to five years, and then it is ready to grow corn again."

"Keep the land rich.  Feed cattle and hogs on it, and use the manure spreaders.  A manure spreader on the farm is next thing to a mint.  It grinds out money.  I always watch the weak spots in my pastures and cornfields and use the manure spreaders on them.

"I plow deep and turn the ground clear over, leaving no skips.  I pulverize the ground thoroughly by harrowing and disking and plant the corn evenly at a uniform dept.

"The selection of seed corn is of the utmost importance.  I don't grow my own seed, but buy it from experts who make a business of selecting and testing it.  I use from 4,000 to 6,000 bushels of seed corn a year, and I consider good seed corn is cheap at five times the price of ordinary corn.  I harrow the corn at least once before the corn comes up and twice if I have time.  I get into it and cultivate as soon as it is up and cultivate it never fewer than four or five times.  Corn ought to be cultivated once a week; the oftener the better.

In August I go over the cornfield and pull up every cockle burr and other weed that has escaped the cultivator.  You never see weeds in my corn.  I am not going to all this trouble and expense to grow weeds where I plant corn.  If I couldn't keep the weeds out of corn, I wouldn't plant it."

Mention of the manure spreader led him on to talk of the value of farm machinery and he said: " I imagine that in my life I have spent close to a million dollars for farm wagons, 1,000 sets of harness; why, it costs me $3,000 a year just for chain harness.  The leather would wear out too soon and I save a good sum by having chain harness.  There are nearly one hundred windmills on my place.  I believe in farm machinery.  I bought one of the first steel plows ever made and one the first reapers ever made.  Whenever I can get a tool of a machine to reduce the cost of labor and do more work than the machine I have, I buy it and discard the old one."

"Many farmers hesitate to buy a machine because of its cost.  They are wrong about that.  The cost doesn't amount to anything compared with what it saves.  Take a steel plow; it will turn two or three acres of sod a day, and if you use it only 30 days a year for fifteen years, it has turned 1,350 acres and cost about $13.50 or about one cent an acre.  A stalk cutter that costs $30 will cut 12 acres a day, and you couldn't begin to do it for that money by hand.  A self-binder will handle from 12 to 15 acres a day at about 10 or 15 cents an acre. 

Those are examples: the same rules apply to all farm machinery.

I made the first straddle-row cultivator ever made.  I didn't patent it and a few years later the manufacturers began making it.  I had to make my own double row listers and other implements of big capacity, and I made four-row stalk cutters and big harrows that it took twelve mules to pull.  I was always after increased capacity.  Why, when I have a corn crop of 18,000 acres a double-row machine will save me $20,000 a year in wages, for it costs just as much to run a single row as a double row.  I use big mowers, binders and gang plows to save labor and cost of production.  Every farmer must figure on how he can do that, and as labor gets scarcer and wages higher he must use more machines and save the wages of a hand wherever he can.  The farmer must use his head more than he does and plan and keep in mind all the time that it is these small savings that make up the profits at the close of the year.

I save the wages of 100 men every day by using machinery. And as soon as a machine or a tool is worn out, throw it away.  Don't waste time tinkering with it, it will cost more than it will save.  Get a new machine in its place.  The best and newest tools and machines are cheapest in the long run."

On that drive I said to him: "Mr. Rankin, you are a big rich farmer and can buy all these things.  How about the small farmer?"

"I had no advantage over the man on 160 acres," he answered.  "The same rules that apply to me apply to him.  He can make just the same profit in proportion that I can. 

But he must be modern, use tools, think and plan, watch his land, not let it run down, rotate crops, never sell a bushel of corn, buy cattle and feed them and hogs.  Of course, I am talking to the farmer in the Corn Belt.  I don't presume to give advice to other than Corn Belt farmers.  That would be out of my line"

As we drove in from the long trip that evening, the old buggy clattering along into the town he pointed to the a Presbyterian church and told of how when there was a protracted drought he and his neighbors gathered in that church and prayed for rain.  The rain came and as a thank offering he gave $53,000 to Tarkio College.  He gave it $265,000 in all.

He told me he had never smoked or drank, and the nearest he ever cam to "cussing" was when he said "Dog gone it!" "I cut that out because of a little grandson I didn't want to hear me say it," he said.

He pointed to the building of Tarkio College standing out against the sunset glow of red and orange and he spoke of how all his life he had regretted his lack of schooling.

"I have often regretted that I hadn't a better education," he said.  "I see the need of it every day.  My advice to every farm boy is to get an education.  Many think that an education is needed only by the boy who is going to be a lawyer or doctor or merchant.  But I say, from 81 years "experience in active farming that the farmer needs all the education he can get.  He needs book learning.  He needs to study the farming bulletins that are issued and find out the new discoveries in agriculture.  He ought to know why his land needs manure or lime, why nitrogen is needed for alfalfa, the science of farming.  No boy can have too much education if he is going to be a good farmer."

Before I bade him good-bye, never to see him again, I asked him this final question: "You have been farming seventy years; what is the greatest farming lesson you have learned?"

Without a moment; hesitation he answered: "The lesson that good farming pays better than any other business in the world; pays not only in money, but in health and contentment of mind. 

It is one business in which a man can live the Golden Rule every day in all his dealing and the longer he lives, the more his satisfaction with it grows; and at the sunset of life he can look back over the years without a single regret, knowing that they have been well spent and the has contributed his best to the sum of human happiness and lived closest to the Scriptural injunction as to how a man should live."

TRAIN WRECK NEAR FORT MADISON: Santa Fe train No.1, the fast California train which passes through here about 4 a.m. and an east bound freight train met in a head on collision on the single track approach to the river bridge at Fort Madison.  The California train was running at a speed of about 35 miles per hour and the impact of the trains is said to have been terrific.  While neither engine was thrown from the track, the cabs were telescoped by the tenders and cars which were back of them and their forward ends badly demolished.

The engineer of train No.1 was caught in the wreckage of his cab and held fast until acetylene torches could be obtained and used to burn away the parts of the engine by which he was held.  He was so badly scalded and other wise injured that he died while being removed to a hospital.  His fireman was also badly injured and late reports say he has passed away.  Before he died, the engineer of train No.1 is said to have admitted that he was responsible for the accident, being asleep when passing the signal board which had been set against him in order to give the freight train time to clear the stretch of single track where the collision occurred.  The baggage car of the passenger train was telescoped and the baggaeman hurt quite badly.  None of the passenger coaches left the track and all of the passengers escaped injury.  This was no doubt due to the fact that the train was solidly vestibuled and made up of heavy steel coaches.  So far as we have learned, none of the members of the freight train crew received any serious injuries; but many of the cars were piled up and more or less badly demolished.  Both east and west bound traffic has been suspended by the wreck and trains are being detoured over the Burlington road from Fort Madison to Galesburg.  This leaves Stronghurst temporarily without train and mail service.  Wrecking train crews are, however, busily engaged in clearing up the wreck and the inconvenience will probably of short duration.

1894 GRAPHIC: C.C.Butler had just finished a term as county Supt. of Schools and was preparing to move to Biggsville where he had purchased F.E.Abbey's stock of general merchandise.  The local W.T.C.U. held a Demorest contest with the medal being awarded to Miss May Lovitt whose subject was "Boys of America." Second prize was won by Miss Edith Miller.  Curt Davidson sold his restaurant on Mary St. to Newt Hardin. Arthur Roberts, who was so terribly mutilated at the free for all fight at the Gladstone dance on Nov.16th, was operated on in Chicago for the removal of the eyeball of the injured eye. Dr. J.G.Evans of Abingdon was here assisting Rev. Rolen in a series of evangelistic services at the M.E.Church.