Adams County produces its first bumper crop of wheat in 1897.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 2/22/2003
  • Essay 5272

In 1897, Adams County produces its first bumper crop of wheat. For the first time, raising wheat predominates over cattle ranching in the county. The "Big Crop of '97" inspires a major influx of new settlers to immigrate to the county by the turn of the century.

The grain was sacked and stored in warehouses, which sprang up all over Adams County. (Eventually sacking was superseded by bulking the wheat in grain elevators.) By 1904, Ritzville was the largest initial shipping point for wheat in the United States.

By 1910, Adams County had a population of 10,920 people. The county also had 16,000 horses and 1,700 mules. Combines were pulled by 32-horse teams. The team would have two lead horses and the driver would guide the entire team with two lines to direct the lead animals. The lead animals would guide the rest of the team.

By 1920 there were still 15,939 horses and 2,239 mules working in the wheat fields of Adams County. But trucks and tractors, running on new gravel roads, were beginning to replace them. Grain elevators were beginning to replace wheat sacks. Farmers trucked their wheat in bulk to the elevators to be stored.

Note: This article is part of Cultivating Washington, The History of Our State’s Food, Land, and People, which includes more agriculture-related content, vidoes, and curriculum. 


Kirby Brumfield, This Was Wheat Farming (New York: Bonanza Books, 1968), 40-41, 122; Ruth Kirk and Carmela Alexander, Exploring Washington's Past: A Road Guide to History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990), 98.

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