PLOWING BUFFALO GRASS SOD IN THOMAS COUNTY KANSAS IN 1906


| January/February 1954



Mr. E. Shirk

Here is the outfit of Mr. E. Shirk of Lebanon, Pa. Ed. is a good workman and keeps his machinery in good condition.

Salina, Kansas

Colby, the scene of action described in this sketch, is the County Seat of Thomas County, located on the Rock Island Railroad and 204 miles nearly west of Salina on the Colby Branch of the Union Pacific. At Colby, the Colby Branch extends southeast and connects with the main line of the Union Pacific at Oakley, 26 miles from Colby.

The population of Colby in 1903, was about 1000, but Colby, then, was the town of northwestern Kansas. Businessmen of Colby were wide-awake, worked enthusiastically for Colby and business went to Colby for many miles.

The O'Pelt Hotel, a three story brick structure and modern, was owned and operated 43 years by the Parrott family. The O'Pelt was the Hotel of northwestern Kansas, because of its location and accomodations. Traveling men, who remained on their territories over the weekend stopped at the O'Pelt. During the winter of 1905 and 1906, when steam plow business was at the crest in Thomas and adjacent counties, the O'Pelt was headquarters for many steam plow equipment salesmen. Colby trains were mostly night trains and those arriving on them, without reservations, were fortunate not to sit up the remainder of the night and if they slept not to sleep in their chairs.

In 1905, much land in Thomas and other northwestern Counties, remained buffalo grass sod. Plowing cultivated land or sod with horses was a slow process. Three acres a day with a single plow and six with a gang were day's work. Larger crops were being planted. The problem was, to prepare larger acreage, within the proper time. Other than horse power, steam was the only available power.

In the 1880's, Geiser Mfg. Co., built an engine plow and the Q Peerless engine for plowing. This engine was rear mounted, with live axle, built before the time of the clutch, a useless thing on a plow engine and without an intermediate gear, a source of trouble, on an engine. The gearing was cushioned with hard rubber washers and coil springs. The flywheel turned about a revolution before the engine moved on the ground, because of the cushion. The engine was slow but powerful on the traction and would arrive at its destination, if allowed time. Steam did not come into use, as a plowing power for many years after the coming of the Q Peerless engine and then for a short time only.