The summer of 1894 was a disastrous one for Nebraska. Faced with almost total crop loss due to drought, farmers sold or mortgaged property, turned loose livestock to grub for what little fodder the barren land provided, and ate the seed they had planned to use for the next spring planting. Many abandoned their farms altogether.
The following letter reflecting agricultural conditions on one farm in Buffalo County is excerpted from Where the Buffalo Roamed, Stories of Early Days in Buffalo County, Nebraska (Kearney 1967). Written by B. S. Gitchel to "Dear Mother and all the dear ones," and dated October 15, 1894, it painted a bleak picture.
"Well, mother, you asked us to write all the particulars in regard to our circumstances. Our condition is not the brightest for the coming winter . As I wrote, all we raised was 5_ bu. of wheat, cut one load of oats for hay, cut all our corn for fodder. It has no ears on it, stood about 2_ feet high. We have to winter on that, seven cows, 4 yearlings, 4 calves, 6 horses. The boys take turns herding the cattle on the prairie and go to school, but that will last only a month longer and whether the feed will carry the stock through or not is to be told. It takes part of the butter money to buy ground wheat to feed the cows to keep them giving milk. If they fail, our supply is cut off, for it is all we have to go on. Have bought some feed to feed three hogs so I can sell them to pay for the feed and pay our taxes. . . .
"Have been drawn on the jury, was gone three days. The court adjourned then until 13th of November. Will get some money out of that sometime, but when I do not know. There is no money in the county treasury, but it will come sometime. I will close with much love to all the dear ones. B. S. Gitchel"