Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Turkey Red

As we continued across Kansas, it would have been impossible to not be reminded that the American Plains are called the breadbasket of the world, but we may need to be reminded where this wheat came from.

Horsepower to bread.
Credit: Google images & hotrodcowgirl
Beginning in the 1760‘s, German Mennonites were encouraged by Catherine The Great to migrate to the Russian Steppes (plains) from the German states. The Mennonites would get free lands along the Volga River, along with religious freedom, exemption from high taxes, and exemption from military service. They continued to thrive as wheat farmers, as well as being grain merchants and mill operators.

Credit: Google images & Chuck Haney
Their lives began to change in the 1860’s when Czar Alexander II started drafting them into the military, and Alexander III began exerting tighter control over their colonies in 1871.  Throughout the 1870’s, large numbers began migrating to the Great Plains of the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas that would remind them of the Russian Steppes. However, they were forced to rent farm lands. Starting in 1889, the ability to move onto their own homesteads in the Unassigned Lands had them moving south into what would become Oklahoma. With the opening of the Cherokee Outlet in September, 1893, numerous colonies were established in Oklahoma, as in Meno and Fairview. Along with their Mennonite faith and the establishment of numerous Mennonite Brethren churches, they also brought something else. That would be the Turkey Red Wheat that they had carried from Russia, the wheat that along with its derivatives would turn the plains gold at harvest time.


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