Most Widely Accepted Project in Harvey County

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

The creation of shelterbelts and windbreaks in the late 1930s and early 1940s, involved the cooperation of individual farmers, the US Forest Service, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. During the Dust Bowl years, the effects of years of over working the prairie became obvious.

Wind & Soil Erosion on C.F. Wilmore Farm in Lakin Township, Harvey County, Ks.

While campaigning for president in Montana,  Franklin D. Roosevelt came up with the idea of wall of trees to combat hill-side wind erosion.  His initial idea was a single solid wall of trees several miles wide running from the Canadian border to the Texas panhandle. A more realistic plan called for a series of walls from North Dakota to Texas.

Shelterbelt Project, major planting areas, 1933-1942. Credit: US Forest Service, Wikimedia Commons CC.

By 1942, there were 220 million trees, stretching 18,600 miles from North Dakota to Texas. The Shelterbelt Project was a successful federal program.  The goal was to reduce erosion and lessen water evaporation from the soil of farm lands across the United Sates, in addition to reducing the amount of dust pollution from the wind storms.

Forest History Society, Durham, NC

Agroforestry Poster created by Joseph Dusek, 1936-1940, WPA Poster Collection, Library of Congress.

Harvey County, Ks

The Harvey County Extension Office played an important role in providing farmers with the information and trees to implement these measures in Harvey County in 1939-1943.  The Annual Reports written by H.B. Harper, Harvey County extension agent, provide insight into the farmers that participated, the demonstrations given and the success of the program in Harvey County.

“Windbreaks have Become Rather Popular” 1939

In 1939, a section titled  Farm Forestry is included in the Annual Report of the Harvey County Extension Agency.  H. B. Harper, Harvey County Agricultural Agent, noted that Harvey County was involved with the Prairie States Forestry Project with the purpose to “promote the planting of trees.” With cooperation from  the Forest Service, Harvey County farmers were  able to plant 284 acres of trees on forty-seven farms.

List of Farmers Participating in 1939


Harper also reported that “trees planted for windbreaks have become rather popular.”  In 1939, 4,200 trees from the Fort Hays Nursery were planted on eighteen farms in Harvey County.

List of Participants in 1939.

He noted that the purchase of the trees was possible  under the Clark-McNary distribution program.

Letter to H.B. Harper, County Agricultural Agent from W.G. Baxter, US Dept of Agriculture, Forest Service. 23 September 1939. Harvey County Extension Collection, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.


“More Enthusiasm Must Be Mustered” 1940

In 1940, Harper reported that 40 farms had shelterbelts “using 133,252 trees is a major accomplishment.” Demonstration planting meetings were held at two farms, Jonas Voran’s farm, located in Garden Township, and Waldo Voth’s farm in Pleasant Township. Despite Harper’s optimism in his opening reports, the tone for section on “Farm Forestry” was subdued.  He noted that “more enthusiasm must be mustered into 1941 if Harvey County is to achieve as much as it should in the worthwhile project.” 

1940 Annual Report Projects

“It might happen here.
“But it can’t happen here.”

“Good care . . . will insure any farmer an excellent wind-break”

“Needed to Prevent Erosion”
“Demonstrating the planting of a windbreak”

“Must be protected from rodent injury.”

In 1940, nineteen miles of trees were planted on forty-two farms.  Adding the number of trees to the 1939 number, a total of 40.4 miles of trees planted on 89 farms. Harper concluded his 1940 summary noting that “land use planning is a new baby in Harvey  County. Through community and county planning committees, we are assured of a real progress in 1941.”

“Popular This Year” 1941

In the 1941 Annual Report, Harper noted: “The program instituted through the forestry service four years ago has been very popular this year.”

“Demonstration on the Correct Method.”

“Farm Shelterbelt”

A.C. Dettweiler, Halstead Township, received acknowledgement for his farm and the successful shelterbelt that was 3 years old in 1941.

“Tremendous damage” 1942

In 1942, the report included a list of farms participating in the program, noting that “tremendous damage was experienced on many shelterbelts and windbreaks June 12, 1942, but all have recovered.”

“Most Widely Accepted Project” 1943

The 1943 report was the last one to specifically mention Farm Forestry, Shelterbelts & Windbreaks. Harper noted briefly that there were “73 miles of shelterbelts growing on 154 farms . . .. this was one of the most widely accepted project of this nature to be promoted in Harvey County.” Harper concludes by noting that the project will be available again next year.

Great Plains Shelterbelt Project

Today, the Great Plains Shelterbelt Project continues to promote this  proven conservation practice across the U.S.


  • Harvey County Extension Agency Collection, Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks.
  • Orth, Joel. “The Shelterbelt Project: Cooperative Conservation in 1930s America.” Agricultural History, vol. 81, no. 3, 2007, pp. 333–357. JSTOR, JSTOR,

The Mystery Arch

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Several weeks ago we posted this photo on our Facebook page. The photo in our collection did not have any information with it. Scanning the Evening Kansan Republican did not yield answers.  The answer was found a recently added archival collection of Harvey County Extension Annual Reports.

Buried in the Harvey County Extension Annual Report for 1926, the same photo.

“The Festival Arch entrance to the agricultural booth exhibit of the Harvey County Fall Festival, 1926”

The next year, the arch was even grander.

“Entrance Arch to Agricultural Displays at the Harvey County Fall Festival, 1927.”

The Harvey County Extension Collection was recently added to HCHM’s Archives.  The annual reports often included photographs and detailed information on the farming community of Harvey County.  The collection is available for researchers at HCHM Archives.

“Enthusiastic 4-H Girls:” Harvey County Extension Office Collection

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

There is a wealth of information in the Archives at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives in Newton, Ks.  As the repository for Harvey County, records from various agencies and eventually find their way to us. One collection contains the Annual Reports from the Harvey County Extension Office from 1913 to 1968.


The Reports begin in 1913 and include statistics, descriptions and photographs related to farming in Harvey County. Many of the reports feature the activities of the Harvey County 4-H Clubs.



John Whitlock, photo curator, has been working his way through a collection scanning the photographs that were often included.

Front Cover of the 1913 Report.

Front Cover of the 1920 Harvey County Extension Annual Report.

These are just a few.

An Enthusiastic 4-H Girl”

“Helen Sharits, an enthusiastic 4-H girl, who has the ambition of becoming a leader.  She attended the 4-H round-up and has attended a number of community meetings since her return, helping entertain with games and recreation.  She was also one of the leaders of the 4-H stand at the Wheat Festival, August 6th.  At the reorganization meeting she was elected secretary of the Newton 4-H club.”

Helen Sharits, 1928.

Helen Sharits, 1928.

“Helen Sharits and Irene Wantland . . . both are good leaders and very enthusiastic over the work.”

Helen Sharits & Irene Wantland, 1928.

Helen Sharits & Irene Wantland, 1928.


“These Women are Interested in Remodeling Woolen Garments”

IV Unit of Clothing, 1929.

IV Unit of Clothing, 1929.

“Miss Loretta McElmurry holds her IV Unit of clothing with her clothing leaders in the Chamber of Commerce assembly room.  These women are interested in remodeling woolen garments.”


Millinery Class, 1928.

Millinery Class, November 1927.

“A group of women wearing fall hats made a s a result of the training school held at Newton, Kansas by Miss Maude Deely, Millinery specialist of K.S.A.C., the early fall of 1927.  This picture was taken at the Farm Bureau Women’s Annual Picnic held at Halstead, November 9, 1927.  Miss Deely is standing to the extreme right of the group.”


Household Management, 1929.

Household Management, 1929.

“Miss Harper, Household Management specialist and her leaders rest long enough to have their picture taken. They are making ‘Whatnots’ and hooked rugs.”


Carmen Gillmore, Walton Club with her blue ribbon ;Shropshire ewe, 1934.

Carmen Gillmore, Walton Club, 1934.

“Carmen Gillmore, Walton Club, with her blue ribbon Shropshire ewe.”


Margaret & Lois Spangler, State Representative at National Dairy Show, 1935.

Margaret & Lois Spangler,  1935.

Margaret and Lois Spangler, State Representatives at National Dairy Show.”

These are just a few of the photos related to activities of women and girls as reported by the Harvey County Extension Office during the 1920s and 30s.  As John works through the collection, we will share more photos and activities that give a glimpse into life in Harvey County.


  • Harvey County Extension Collection, 1913-1968, Harvey County Local Government, HCHM Archives, HCHM, Newton Kansas.