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Four Great U.S. Wheat Belts Yield a Rich Harvest

"Four Great U.S. Wheat Belts Yield a Rich Harvest." Life 3, no. 5: 2 August 1937, 20.


There are some 275 standard kinds of U.S. wheat grown in four great regions. Hard spring wheat (see map), grown in the Dakotas and Montana, is a shade the best. Sown early in the short northern spring, its flinty pith and high protein content make it ideal for bread flour. Hard winter wheat, planted in autumn in the warmer South Central States, is almost as good for bread. Together these two belts, stretching from Canada to northern Texas, form 68% of all U.S. wheatlands. From the eastern wheat belt comes soft winter wheat. Having more moisture and less protein, it fetches a lower price, is used mainly for pastry flours. The soft white wheat of the Pacific belt is likewise of a lesser grade.

Harvest time for the wheatlands starts in the Texas Panhandle in mid- June. It then moves northward at the rate of about 100 miles per week. Two weeks later it has reached Kansas. By mid- July it is going full blast in Nebraska. Late July and early August find it in the Dakotas, late August in Montana. As soon as grain is threhed, it flows to its great regional shipping and milling points: Minneapolis, Duluth and Chicago in the North; Enid, Kansas City and Omaha in the South; St. Louis and Buffalo in the East. This year, for the first time since 1933, it may be shipped in quantities to Seattle and Portland for export to the Orient; to Galvesten and New Orleans for export to Europe. On August 1, the world market, indexed at Liverpool, officially records a new world crop. Since blight- stricken Canada will have the smallest harvest in years and Europe havests are generally lean, the U.S. wheat market this year will have to drop but little (approximately 10¢ a bushel) to meet the world price.

 

Eureka, S.D. Was Once The World's Wheat Mart

Forty-five years ago, Eureka, S.D. was the "wheat capital of the world." At the farthest end of the new Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Ry., it became the funnel into which the wheat fields of the Dakotas emptied. Into this prairie terminal came also trainload after trainload of Russian-born German immigrants. Of fine farm stock, intelligent, sturdy and pious, these pioneers, who for three generations had withstood the efforts of the Czar to Russianize them, found in South Dakota the freedom they coveted. They staked out claims, built sod houses and broke the prairie soil. In their new-found freedom they thrived, grew well-to-do, raised large families, husbanded big farms. So prosperous was their community that 32 commission houses had agents there to buy in the grain crop. With 42 grain elevators handling 4,000,000 bushels a year. Eureka became the Milwaukee's most profitable station, with earnings of $100,000 a month. Railroad expansion soon sapped the little city's trade, but it remains a thriving wheat community, so loyal to the railroad that gave it glory that there are no auto-truck lines to Eureka. On June 16-18, Eureka relived the grandeur of its past. For three days it celebrated its Golden Jubilee with parades, banquets, speeches and special homage to the silver-haired pioneers of its wheat fields.

Eureka in 1892, when it was the largest primary wheat-shipping point in the world, was crowded day and night with horses an wagons loaded with sacks of grain. Farmers hauled their wheat, often by ox team, from 75 miles around.
Eureka today (below), though shorn of prestige, is a neat little town of 1,400, with a ball park (left foreground) beside the Eureka Lake and a main auto highway (right). Its grain elevators line the railroad track (above, centre).
Pioneer grain merchant of Eureka is Solomon Isaak who, with his wife, Maria, had 14 children, owned several grain elevators. Now 72, he is beridden.
Eureka's grain elevators, on a siding of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific R.R., still thrive. Some of the 42 once so busy, have vanished. One of Soloman Isaak's sons manages Isaak Grain Co. (left)
A new tractor has just been bought by Adam Preszler, Eureka wheat farmer. With a bumper crop yielding farmers an average of $1,000, farm- machinery sales will go up in 1938.
A parade opened Eureka's Golden Jubilee June 16. Ox teams and covered wagons recalled the western migrations. Young Eurekans grew beards to impersonate their pioneer fathers.
A typical wheat farm, three miles north of Eureka, is here caught by the airplane camera. The land is flat and fertile. The rockier parts (left) are pasture. A dirt road leads to its cluster of buildings: barns, dwelling, sheds and outhouses. There are two ponds for cattle. In early days most Eureka farms boasted 700 acres of more. Each son of the large pioneer families received, on marriage, 160 acres, four horses and necessary farm implements. Today, Eurkea farmers no longer have large tracts of land to give their sons.
This is the face of the man who broke the northern plains. He is Wilhelm Schumacher of Eureka, S.D. Eager for freedom in the new world, he and a large party of German settlers in South Russia sailed to America in 1889, came in a body to Eureka, then at the spur end of the C.M. & St. P. He chose his land, filed his claim and built himself a sod house with shiplap finish inside. His first stove was of sod and stone built in the ground. His first farm tools were a yoke of oxen, a secondhand wagon, and a breaking plow bought on credit. His first trip to church services at a neighbor's was made on a steamboat driven by oxen. Despite poor land and tornadoes, Wilhelm Schumacher prospered moderately and raised eleven children. One of them, August, is today mayor of the town to which his father came as an immigrant. Two years ago, on his 90th birthday, 200 people gathered at the old Schumacher homestead to revere this gizzled old pioneer of the wheatlands. Most of them were his children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren. Today, at 92, he is the Patiarch of Eureka.
The cattle pond of the Schumacher farm, after years of drought, is full again. Here Christian, son of Pioneer Welhelm, looks over his green pastures, sheep, and cattle and finds them good. His farm, not the original homestead, is 18 miles east of Eureka. Wheat is no longer his sole crop. He now grows secondary grains, sells wool and mutton, relies for a good share of his profits on his purebred dairy herd. Like the rest of the Schumachers, he is successful in all he undertakes and is respected in his community.
The Shawl Club marched in Eureka's parade to honor the city's pioneer German women. The Kopftuch (headcloth) custom came from South Russia. Note the grain elevator in backgound.
A pioneer couple are Martin and Christina Grosz, who came with one of the early bands of German- Russians. Christina cuts a loaf of homemade bread in "old- country" fashion.
Shawl wearers to whom the shawl is native are these old Eureka women, who, in pioneer days not only cooked, sewed and reared children, but worked in the fields beside their men.
Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
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