1838, a village blacksmith named John Deere created a plow from
a worn saw blade. Amazingly, the new design blade sheared the soil
cleanly and the moldboard laid the new soil aside in long, neat
It was a great improvement over previous plows where soil clung
to the blades. By 1848, thousands of Deere's plows were being sold
This simple, horse-drawn device consisted of a hooked beam, a plow/moldboard
blade and two wooden handles. Called a walking plow or stubble plow,
the name was derived from the fact the operator walked behind to
steady and guide the work. Though the furrow left behind was small
and narrow it had a great impact on the history of the West.
The economy of the young nation was based on horsepower, the four-legged
kind. Tilling the soil for food production was absolutely necessary
for survival. Farm equipment of the time was crude and slow. Deere's
new plow made breaking the virgin soils of the land easier thus
helping to provide the food and crops needed.
When settlers reached the Great Plains to find few building materials
available, they turned to the plow to cut ribbons of grass sod to
lay the walls of soddies and dugouts. The freshly stripped areas
became gardens and fields.
plowing large parallel circles around their homes then carefully
burning the grass between the furrows to protect against the many
prairie fires coming their way during the long dry spells and in
In Kansas, during the late 1870s and 1880s, settlers plowed parallel
furrows, burned the middles, then forced trail herds carrying Texas
tick fever to stay between the furrows when passing through their
area so they wouldn't affect local herds. Riders patrolled the furrows
with rifles to enforce the rules.
northward to Montana in search of new grazing lands found millions
of acres with no fences nor materials to build fences. Laws were
passed by the state whereby a landowner could plow a furrow along
his boundaries, place signs designating ownership thus becoming
the legal boundary between properties.
The location was
hard to find so the man plowed a furrow from Amarillo
to the new town. One merely followed the furrow to find the place.
I hope to verify this story someday.
A chapter in early Panhandle of Texas history I have heard many
times but have not been able to verify, states a man founded a new
town southwest of Amarillo,
thought to be close to Farwell.
Seems I spent most of my young life sitting on a tractor following
an endless furrow left by the discs of a Krause one-way plow.
At wheat harvest time we kept a tractor pulling a three-row lister
sitting near the combines in case a fire broke out. A swift pass in
front of a wheat field fire leaving three wide black-land furrows
usually stopped the blaze in its tracks.
Let's give a salute to the simple plow furrow and it's many uses down
through the years.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
June 7, 2006 Column
Subject: Deere's plow
This brings to mind a statement James B. 'Jim' Gillette made in his
autobiography for juveniles, titled THE TEXAS RANGERS. It's an abridgement
of his autobiography for adults, SIX YEARS WITH THE TEXAS RANGERS,
and in the 1930s it was a school textbook in Texas. It contains far
more about Gillette's boyhood than the adult version. In it Gillette
talks about early settlement. According to him, the sod was so thick
around Austin his father had to use a steel plow hooked to ten yoke
of oxen to break it. Apparently the elder Gillette made the beginnings
of his fortune by hiring out to break the sod on farms so families
could begin planting crops. - C.
F. Eckhardt, June 07, 2006