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Volume Four Number Four

Elements Plague Wheat Growers

Pacific NW 1870-1880

Wonderful Wheat Country
--Willamette Valley--

Portland, Nov. 1875 -- We have been in the habit of supposing that the Willamette Valley was the greatest wheat growing country in the habitable globe and have felt like indulging in an indefinite amount of vain, glorious boasting over the record of fields producing 50 bushels or more to the acre, and whole farms averaging 35 or 40 bushels. But our beautiful valley and our farmers must look to their laurels henceforth. From a gentleman of undoubted veracity, carefulness and accuracy, we receive some items concerning wheat raising in Eastern Washington territory which surpass the best reliable showing we remember to have seen in this section. Mr. C. Maier, living near the base of the Blue mountains, in Walla Walla valley in 1873, raised on a 60 acre field 4,020 bushels of wheat, an average of 67 bushels to the acre; and in 1875, from a 60 acre tract, 3,420 bushels, or 57 bushels to the acre.

Mr. Masterson, residing four miles south of Walla Walla, raised on 10 acres 850 bushels — 85 bushels to the acre. Mr. Kennedy, whose farm is on Dry creek, six miles from Walla, harvested 5,252 bushels from 150 acres — 35 bushels average; and this was a volunteer crop, that is, the second crop from one sowing.

These crops, says our informant, were produced on ordinary wheat land, land that is considered good,“but no better than hundreds of thousands of acres now lying vacant in Walla Walla and Whitman counties, especially north of Snake river, where there is a country vast enough to produce more than 25,000,000 bushels per annum, and where a failure of crops has never been known. The Daily Oregonian

Wheat Damaged by Rust
--Condition of Spring Wheat--

Aug. 14, 1879 -- It may be doubted, indeed, whether there is in the Willamette Valley a single field of spring wheat which is safe from rust. The question now is how far the injury will extend. There are many fields as yet not much affected but many others are wholly ruined.

Where the rust has appeared, but is not yet very bad, farmers are waiting to see what the result will be - whether they will lose all, or save a part. From what we learn the inference may be drawn that all wheat sown since February in Willamette and Umpqua valleys, is more or less rusted. The wheat sown prior to that time was so far advanced when the sudden change came from the cool and unusually rainy weather of June and the first part of July to hot, dry weather that has prevailed since, that it is not at all affected by rust and every where makes a good crop. But that which was still green when the hot weather began is all more or less injured; and this comprises pretty much all the spring wheat of Western Oregon.

The extent of the loss can not yet be determined, only by approximation. In some localities it will be much heavier than others, and the aggregate will be quite large. But winter wheat was never better. Threshers find that it yields well, and is very full and heavy. It has been estimated that from 60 to 75 percent of the whole area of wheat this year is winter grain. We still hear no report of rust east of the mountains. --The Oregonian


The stories above are from Front Page of this edition. Several other stories are in the Number Four edition of our Pacific Northwest Wheat series. An old wood-cut advertisement for a combine adorns the Front Page, on Page Two is another advertisement from the 1870s. Throughout our series we have used original artwork by our friend Chigusa Ohtsuka, a Japanese artist, to illustrate our wheat stories. Some archival photos are used when available, often from the Oregon Historical Society's photo archive. Our series was sponsored by The Wheat Marketing Center.


More history of wheat awaits in Our Number Five

Of the series: Pacific NW Wheat (1880-1890) Grain Growing Business of Wheat.


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Bridget E. Smith, editor & publisher

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