The western half of the county lies in the Jim" River
Valley and is comparatively level, while the eastern half lies on a plateau and
includes a part of the Coteau Hills, which are rather broken and stony and
extend from southwest to northeast, making an angle of 90 degrees in Pleasant
Valley. Windy Peaks in Victor Township are said to be 2,026 feet above sea
level. Although the hills are stony and broken in localities, there are many
excellent pieces of farming lands and meadows and numerous coulees or gulches
containing timber and springs.
The buffalo, once so numerous, has long since
disappeared and his skeleton only remains to point to his existence. A few
antelope and deer still remain in the hills; foxes, coyotes, wolves, badgers,
skunks, jack and cotton tail rabbits, gophers, squirrels and field mice include
all of the native animals, large and small. Rats have as yet failed to put in
The following is a list of birds noticed by the writer:
The osprey eagle or fish-hawk, swans, pelicans, cranes, wild geese, brants (a
small species of the goose), ducks, mud hens, curlews, prairie chickens, owls,
hawks, crows, wood-peckers, blackbirds, cow birds, meadow larks, robins,
king-fishers, wild pigeons, plovers, snipes, and apparently two species of,
snow-birds, and the bobolink, or rice bird; the wild canary or yellow bird is ft
and in the timber. Mr. Owens, of Waubay, has seen a few quails, abut is of the
opinion that the climate is too severe. Of the above list only the prairie
chicken and snow-bird remain during the winter. Robins are only occasionally
seen. This is truly the sportsman's paradise in the spring and fall; ducks and
geese come in swarms, and in their flights from the lakes to the valleys afford
fine shooting. The lakes are well stocked with pickeral, perch and catfish, and
in the summer time the lakes on the military reservation are favorite resorts
for fishing parties, who usually camp there several days.
The writer has observed only harmless snakes, such as
are common to Iowa and Illinois, but not so plentiful. Lizards, swifts and
turtles are occasionally seen. Batrachia, frogs and toads are not very numerous,
while the large bull frog, of our boyhood days in eastern states, is wanting.
Box-elder, ash, bur-oak, elm, iron-wood, quaken asp,
bass-wood, maple, willow, butternut and cotton woods are native trees. The
box-elder, when planted on our prairies, grows rapidly and is a hardy tree; it
is the favorite for tree-claims. The ash is hardy, but much slower growth.
Currants, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries,
gooseberries, wild cherries, plums, crab apples and grapes are abundant in the
timber gulches and ravines.
There is no reason why the above named fruits will not yield abundantly when
cultivated in our gardens.
Perhaps more has been said concerning the climate of
central Dakota which is applicable to Marshall County, than any other territory
or state in the Union.
Eastern newspapers seem to have a stock of Dakota
"blizzards" ready for immediate use, and from time to time let them loose-on
their readers. This is an injustice to us Dakotaians, and to the patrons of such
The writer can but give his observations and
experience, covering a period of five years in the territory.
Spring usually sets in about April 1st, and frequently
seeding commences two weeks sooner. The summers are truly delightful; the nights
are always cool, and a blanket does not come amiss during a heated term when our
eastern friends are seeking for a breath of fresh air. Our horny-handed sons of
toil can peacefully slumber, and arise refreshed the next morning. The fall
weather, always fine, usually extends into November, and sometimes lingers
During the winter we never have rain or sleet, so
common in milder latitudes, and detrimental to stock. The thermometer may go
down into the twenties or thirties, yet man or beast will not suffer from the
cold. The dry cold atmosphere is not so penetrating as the damp cold of Iowa and
The winter of '81-2 was especially fine with little or
no snow and continual sunshine. March 21st the writer was caught in a "blizzard"
on his way to Huron. It impeded all railway travel for several days, and was
severe on immigrants and their stock; in a few days, however, the snow had
disappeared and some seeding was clone the latter part of March. The winter of
'82-3 was a severe one so far as snow is concerned, still there was no suffering
nor loss of stock. '83-4 gave us plenty of the beautiful snow and cold weather,
yet fifty teams were out every day hauling lumber to the embryo city of Britton
p '84-5 was cold with but little snow and cattle were out feeding nearly every
clay. Last winter we had a few occasional cold snaps but little or no snow to
As to the healthfulness of our climate there is no question. Invalids from other
states coming here in delicate health usually regain their old-time strength if
not already too far gone.
There is generally less snow here than in Iowa or
Minnesota; eon the 16th of October, 1880, there was a terrible snow-storm in
Iowa, while in the valley here, prairie fires were burning. Mr. S. A. King, of
Lowell Township, was at the time in Oak Gulch, in Day County, where some snow
fell, and could see, in a westerly direction, the flames for miles, leaping
skyward. In Iowa there was considerable loss of live stock caused by this early
The prevailing soil of Marshall County is a dark
calcareous loam with an intermixture of clay abounding in mineral salts and
organic matters, better known as vegetable mold. In some localities there is an
admixture of black sand which, however, is earlier soil, and apparently as
productive as the heavier soil.
The subsoil is heavy clay, and all together the writer
has never seen better and more productive soil than we have here. The wild
grasses grow to perfection in our latitude and are the most nutritious in the
world. There are varieties of native grasses-gramra or buffalo grass soon
disappears after settlement; bunch grass and blue joint prevail. Native grass
cut for hay will winter stock better than tame hay in the eastern states.
The years of 1884-5 were productive ones; the yield of
wheat varied, due no doubt to the manner and time of breaking the prairie the
previous year. The yield of 25 bu. and even more was common, while the average
was, perhaps, about 17 bu. per acre; oats yields from 30 to 100 bu. per acre,
the yield depending on the variety and the soil; barley and rye yield largely;
corn of the early varieties matures, while (lent corn does well some seasons;
pumpkins, etc., grow to perfection.
The prices have been discouraging, ranging from 50c to 75c per bu. At present
the price is lower than for years.
The yield of cereals and, vegetables is simply
incredible; all that is necessary is to take a hoe and tickle the soil, and
behold, you have a head of cabbage; and potatoes that weigh 2 lbs. each; beets
weighing 24 lbs. each, or three of them to the bushel' and no Dakota lie either.
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