July 27, 1995
Donald E. Green, an author, historian and college professor, was the speaker the other day at the Cherokee Strip museum here on the general topic of "Rural Oklahoma," with special emphasis on the year 1910. A small but very appreciative group gathered to hear what he had to say, and they found his insight fascinating.
His appearance here was arranged by the Oklahoma Historical Society, which operates the Perry museum. The local Historical Society cooperated by providing hospitality. The event also served to help introduce the museum's newly completed exhibit, "Life in the Outlet: Building a New Community, 1893-1925." Too bad more could not have been on hand for the lecture, but be advised that the new exhibit is more or less permanent. Go see it if you haven't made it out there yet.
Dr. Green chose to concentrate his remarks on the year 1910 in order to have some focus. He showed the relationship between technological and industrial developments and their impact on rural families. The De Laval cream separator, invented by a French scientist, revolutionized Oklahoma farm life. Automobiles and pickup trucks likewise changed the way farm families lived. In both cases, crossroad general stores began disappearing as farmers took their cream and crops to town and did their shopping there.
Extension agents from agricultural colleges were not warmly welcomed at first by independent-minded Oklahoma farmers, who had learned how to grow crops by doing it their own way for years. When the first white settlers staked their claims in the Cherokee Strip, few acres were planted in crops so they had to figure things out by trial and error. Gradually the young agents gained acceptance as their methods proved to be beneficial, and more profitable, and a revolution began.
As part of the day's program when Dr. Green was here, the local and state historical societies provided a brochure containing excerpts from U.S. census statistics on agriculture for Noble county, comparing the years 1910 and 1920. To illustrate the extent of the changes sweeping through the farm industry in that decade, consider these fact
In 1910, Noble county had 2,035 farms. By 1920 that number had dropped to 1,780, and the average acres per farm grew from 212.1 in 1910 to 234.3 in 1920. Average improved acres per farm went from 128.4 in 1910 to 148.8 in 1920. But -- the value of all farm property increased from $15,968,631 in 1910 to $23,236,376 ten years later. That included a land value of $11,386,120 in 1910 against $17,146,323 in 1920. The total value of all crops leaped from $2,003,469 to $6,336,427 in that decade.
But perhaps the most significant shift during that period was in the kinds of crops raised by Noble county farmers. Corn was king in 1910, with 94,747 acres planted to that crop. The same year, only 30,328 acres were in wheat. By 1920 the wheat acreage was 135,429 and the corn crop came from only 7,421 acres. Cotton was rapidly diminishing as an important crop here, falling from 6,254 acres in 1910 to 1,351 in 1920.
"The factors that affected farming as a business also changed the very social and cultural fabric of rural life," the brochure notes. "At the end of the 20th century, agriculture remains one of Noble county's most important industries. The realities of Oklahoma's climate, the world's economy and ever-changing technology continue to influence agriculture."
You owe it to yourself to make a trip out to the Cherokee Strip museum on West Fir avenue and enjoy some of the engrossing displays waiting for you there. Copies of Dr. Green's book, "Rural Oklahoma," published by the Oklahoma Historical Society, also are available in the museum gift shop for $8.50. The trip, and the book, are well worth your time. Thanks to the museum staff and the state and local historical societies for providing us with this marvelous link to our area's heritage.