Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Century Farms: The Moores

(My dad as a toddler and his Dad)

As Kansas celebrated its 151st birthday on Sunday, I re-read a 16-page term paper I wrote in 1979 for History of American Agriculture, a class I took as a senior at Kansas State University. It didn't have a lot to do with my career goals at the time. But it was one of the best classes I took since it encouraged me to learn more about my heritage.

Every person and every family has a story. I did learn that in journalism school.

Today, my Dad and brother continue the story of the Moore family farm, which was established 135 years ago in Pratt County. The photos were gathered by my Mom into a family history book. She presented a copy to each grandchild. I keep telling the kids that I'm holding onto the books for safekeeping.

Excerpts from the paper:

Sometime in the late 1860s, Kentuckian James T. Moore spent a brief time in Kansas as a helper to a buffalo hunter. He was impressed with the potential of western Kansas for cattle grazing and went home to tell his wife, Chalista, that the grass stood as high as the stirrups on a horse.

He couldn't forget that undeveloped frontier. In 1876, the family came to Kansas in a covered wagon drawn by oxen. They arrived in December 1876 in Sodtown, later known as Stafford. A hotel proprietor mentioned to J.T. that he might do well to homestead in Pratt County.

A man whose business it was to locate claims helped J.T. and his family. The son, J.J. who was 9 at the time, later described the trip:
He told us of a place that we could homestead down in Pratt County where Kelly the buffalo hunter had put down a well. We started with an ox team to a wagon and the driver carried a compass as he drove. On the hind wheel of the wagon was tied a rag, and a man sitting in the back counted the revolutions of the wheel. So we came out 23 miles, so far south and so far west. We hit the place all right and found the government corners. We went to Larned and put in the (homestead) papers.
The Moores began living on the claim - located 3 miles east and a half mile north of present day Byers - in spring 1877. They later filed a timber claim which gave them a total of 320 acres of land.

(This was my childhood home for the first 6 years of my life.)

But times weren't easy in this new place. J.T. gathered buffalo bones from the prairie and hauled them to Larned or to Hutchinson to sell for fertilizer. The trip took all day, but he needed the $5 or $6 per wagon load to purchase food and necessities for his family. After delivering the load, he would spend the night in Larned (45 miles away) or Hutchinson (55 miles away). His wife, Chalista, would be scared and lonely while he was gone, so she would take the children to the barn and spend the night there with the horses for company.

My Dad's Grandpa, J.J. Moore, was the second owner/operator of the family farm. Besides farming, he played a part in the founding of Byers in 1914. J.J. also owned the bank in Byers. During the Depression, he lost the bank but was able to save the farm ground.

J.J. had many talents besides farming. He purchased young, strong mules and broke them for work on the farm. When they were well trained, he sold them for a good profit and repeated the process. He was also an accomplished blacksmith, making his own tools, sharpening shears and shoeing his own horses.

My Dad is the third owner/operator of the farm. The family tradition continues with him and my brother, Kent. A year ago, wheat harvest provided an opportunity to take a photo with the 4th, 5th and 6th generations to work on a family farm in South Central Kansas.

6th, 5th & 4th generations to work on the Moore Family Farms
Brian, Kent & Bob Moore


  1. Kim

    Thank You for sharing part of your family story. It is so neat to hear these tales. I think it is also important to know the story behind who we are and where we come from.

    One of my Mom's cousins has traced family history all the way back to before they immigrated to the United States. Farmers ... even in the old country!

    1. I'm not necessarily into genealogy, though I'm thankful for people who are. What I like are the stories about the people - the little tidbits that make every person unique. That's what I always liked about reporting, too.

  2. I will add your Moore information to my research for the book I'm writing about Isaac B. Werner and his neighbors. There are several mentions of the Moores in his journal written during the 1880s and he spoke highly of them. With all the time I have spent with Isaac and his neighbors during the past two years transcribing the journal and researching the neighbors and the events of that time, I almost feel like I knew these people.

    1. I've enjoyed getting to "know" Isaac through your blog. It is a glimpse into life in rural Kansas. Isn't it amazing how much has changed?!