Trailblazing Captured Beyond the Tracks: An Agricultural History of Clay County, Minnesota, 1870-1893

Group of men pictured swathing grain with their team of horses connected to swathers for harvestWith significant construction of  railroads in early 1870, Minnesota experienced stronger waves of the previous period of industrialization which expanded the country’s technology and geographic reach(1). Minnesota farmers developed new agricultural knowledge and growing methods due to new transportation opportunities, machinery, and science agriculture all creating a prosperous business out of farming by 1893.

Transportation technology increased westward expansion, aiding the development and growth of agrarian communities and connecting them with the national market. New machinery added to acreage production and allowed for harvest at a cheaper cost, and this growth from self-sufficiency to mass production created a necessity for science agriculture and experiment stations. This new science built upon the knowledge of creameries, live-stocking, and crop diversification, all aiding the movement of Clay County, Minnesota away from a wheat monoculture and toward a stronger economic balance of agricultural items.

Group of men pictured swathing grain with their team of horses connected to swathers for harvestThe Flaten-Wange photograph collection at the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County reflects industrialization’s influence through the county, capturing the experience which defined Clay County in its development regarding agriculture, manufacturing, industries, and distribution for most of the twentieth century.


1. Library of Congress, “The Rise of Industrial America, 1879-1900,”, (accessed 26 October 2017).