Do you suppose we’ve had many changes since 1892? Sometimes an amazing treasure appears. This happened with the discovery of a dated local newspaper, The Adair County Democrat. It was printed in 1892! If we were to go back to that era, it could seem as a foreign land. Sometimes, understanding the past can be a key to how our world works. Let’s take a trip to visit that time!
First of all, it was amazing that a newspaper of this vintage was flexible. I could handle it without it breaking into crunchy tidbits! Secondly, this paper, rather than utilizing color photography, was illustrated with lithography of prominent buildings and citizens.
Population Changes 1892 to Present
This edition informs us that “in 1860 the inhabitants numbered 984, in 1870, 3,372.” “In 1880 the population had increased to 11,667.” Adair County, Iowa in 1890, had a population of a whopping 14,534 people! The railways were credited for the population growth and development of the area in the late eighteen hundreds.
When we contrast those numbers to the 2019 census, Adair County had 7,085 residents. Inversely, transportation caused the decrease of the population in the area. A complex system of interstate highways with faster modes of travel was one of the reasons for the population decrease. Economic factors also beckoned people to the larger metropolitan areas.
Changes Since 1892 in Land Usage: Past
Let us listen to the poetic description of the lay of the land. “The surface is an undulating prairie broken by occasional strips of timber along the streams. The soil is such as is found in her sister counties of the famous Blue Grass Region of Southwestern Iowa and is characterized by an inexhaustible richness and fertility.”
As a side note, the Dust Bowl of the nineteen-thirties informed us that our rich topsoil was unfortunately not an endless supply.
1892: “Almost every acre in the county is tillable and fully nine-tenths of the acreage is now under cultivation. The leading productions are corn, oats, potatoes, wheat, rye, barley, millet, flax, clover, timothy and blue grass and all vegetables found in the temperate zone are cultivated. Fruit culture is receiving special attention and everywhere orchards of apple and cherry trees abound.”
Changes in Land Usage: Present
There have been many changes since 1892. Contrasting those days to now, corn and soybeans are the current major field crops grown here. Today’s massively large agricultural equipment would be compared to yesteryear’s horse drawn implements. Certainly this would be a factor in less diversification of crops on today’s farms. Many people still have gardens. There is now a trend of Community Supported Agriculture with producers growing organic vegetables and fruits for those who purchase a share.
In 1892, there were real estate transfers for farms ranging from 80 to 240 acres. The per acre cost was $30. Market Reports listed corn at 34 cents per bushel. Oats brought 24 cents per bushel.
Nowadays, the average farm land value is $5,634 per acre in this area. Depending upon the resource, the average Iowa farm ranges from 360 to 444 acres. Some farms have upwards of 2,000 acres. A bushel of corn today would be shelled rather than on the cob and bring $5.70 per bushel. Farmers in the late eighteen hundreds would not have had storage facilities for shelled corn, nor a mechanized way to shell it.
The Adair County Courthouse pictured above was completed on March 25, 1892. The cost, including furniture was $26,768. This stately structure is still in use today. The tower, however, is no longer there as it was at one point declared unsafe. The courthouse has been updated through the years. It now has a large elevator to enable easy access.
The paper had ads for such businesses as a livery barn and a blacksmith shop. A livery barn was a stable for horses. Wrought iron gates, railings, furniture, tools and horseshoes could be made in a blacksmith shop. Modern day transportation changes dictated businesses such as car repair shops as well as garages for rent. These served to replace the livery barn. As to a blacksmith shop, much of this type of iron work was taken over by larger city manufacturers.
There were train schedules for local and cross country travel printed in the paper. Those sorts of schedules for trains as well as planes are now available on the internet.
An 1892 pharmacy ad also included, “Pure wines and liquors for sacramental and medicinal purposes.” The last I checked, pharmacies no longer sell these products!
It was intriguing to see a newspaper section of so called “Secret Societies”! These were organizations for veterans, sisterhoods, churches and philanthropic groups. The most fascinating aspect was how a number of them fixed their evening meeting dates by the full moon! For example, one group would meet the first Tuesday night on or before the full moon. Perhaps it helped a horse and rider to find their way more readily. Currently, I am not aware of any local organizations who set meeting dates by the moon!
Well, it is time to park our horse and buggy to return to our current time. I hope you enjoyed our peek at the past to discover changes since 1892!