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WADENA, MINN., September 26, 1891. To A. K. Teisberg, Secretary Railroad and Warehouse Commission, St. Paul:
You need not give yourselves any more trouble on account of cars; think we will not ship any more wheat.
N. M. & S. E. STOWE.
The foregoing telegrams, and letter of N. M. & G. M. Stowe are the only communications received by the commission or any member of it, on this subject.
The commission accepted this as closing the matter on the part of N. M. & J. M. Stowe, and no further action was taken in the matter.
Later, in October, the attention of the commission was called to a letter of J. M. Stowe, of Wadena, published in the issue of the Farm, Stock & Home, of Minneapolis, of date of October 15, 1891, of which the following is a copy:
ROBBING WHEAT GROWERS.
FARM, STOCK AND HOME.
I have had a little experience in shipping wheat and thought it might be well to give your readers a knowledge of it.
I noticed recently that our grain men were buying rye at a 15 cent margin, so I took the liberty to which I suppose an American citizen is entitled and raised the market price of rye 5 cents a bushel. I bought a carload shipped it, and found my net gain to be over $60. I also bought a carload, of wheat, raising the price two cents per bushel. This netted me $51.
But immediately there went up a howl from the elevator companies to the general managers of the railroads, asking to be protected from "street buyers" of grain. The managers sent back orders to one of the railroad agents not to furnish any more cars to street buyers. I then asked farmers to order cars, but they were told that their requests could not be granted if I had anything to do with loading them. One man from whom I bought eight hundred bushels had placed one load in a car, and was ordered to take it out, because I had been seen helping to unload it. He refused to do so, whereupon they sealed the car, but after a day or so concluded to let me finish loading it. Yesterday a farmer ordered a car and the agent told him first that he did not wish him to weigh it, then that if he saw me having anything to do with weighing it he would compel him to take out whatever he had put in, though the farmer was going to haul wheat raised on my farm, in which I had a half interest.
This is the way the Northern Pacific road does business. The Great Northern is a little shrewder. They "would furnish cars if they had them, but haven't them to spare" (?)—with four empty ones on the side track at that very moment. Yet this town has just voted a $10,000 tax to get this road to build in here to give us "competition.” I could put $25,000 into the farmers' pockets on what wheat would be marketed at this point, and then make more money in sixty days than I have made in farming here for eight years; so much less than its real value is being paid for grain here.
To cap the climax, Chief Inspector Clausen goes to Duluth, raises the dockage, and makes the nicest wheat I ever saw grown inspect No. 2, when there were buyers scrambling for it at the grade that it was going at, and when there was a margin of from three to five cents on Duluth prices to ship to Buffalo. But I suppose the Pillsbury-English syndicate at Minneapolis had to be helped out in some way, as there is an export
demand for wheat at Duluth that would probably stop its making ten or fifteen thousand dollars a day. Between the bears in Chicago, those whoopers up of big crops—the Minneapolis and St. Paul newspapers, Chief Inspector Clausen and the general managers of the railroads, all trying to protect the wheat stealers in the elevators along our railroad lines, it looks as though the farmers' wives and daughters would still have to wear garments made of flour sacks ornamented with the four X brand, which is not an uncommon thing in our agricultural districts.
Our railroad commissioners were here recently on other business; I spoke of my grievances to them; they told me to telegraph in case I was again refused cars. I did so three days in succession, and finally got a pamphlet with a letter saying that would show me how to proceed. It says that I am to make a petition to their august body; the railroad company will then have twenty days to answer, with right to adjourn from * time to time. Meanwhile our farmers are being robbed, the crops removed, and I get no cars. I think such transactions as these are what makes the unrest in farming communities, and certainly justify their independent political action.
While we have a nice wheat crop here, there are more acres in Wadena county that will not measure fifteen bushels to the acre than there are that will go over that. A heap of lying is done about this crop in the St. Paul and Minneapolis papers. Wadena, Minn.
J. M. STOWE.
The mis-statements, insinuations, and charges against the commission, and the inspection department, were of such an outrageous nature, that it was deemed advisable to give the public through the paper in which Mr. Stowe's letter was published, the inside history of this transaction, and the facts in the possession of the commission were accordingly communicated to the editor, who, having satisfied himself of the authenticity of the statements made to him, in the next issue of his paper set himself and his readers right by the following article —which shows one of the phases of the grain business in Minnesota, and how some men would subvert the just provisions of a law intended for the benefit of all to the purposes of private gain and uncontrolled greed.
AN EXPLANATION AND A REVELATION O In F. S. & H, for October 15th, was a letter from J. M. Stowe, Wadena, Minn., complaining of his inability to get cars to load grain, because he was paying a few cents above elevator prices, and charging that the railroads refused the cars for that reason, which may have been true. The letter, also, by implication, at least, gravely censured the railroad commission for an indifference to the rights of private buyers and shippers, in the matter of supplying cars, that bordered closely on collusion with railroads and elevators, if it did not in fact reach that point. From evidence furnished by the railroad commission and others, it seems quite evident that, so far as the commission is concerned, the censure was undeserved.
The first telegram from Mr. Stowe that reached the commission was dated September 25th, delivered on the morning of the 26th, and an answer by mail promptly forwarded. The telegram did not state what road cars were ordered from, nor give any other particulars. The reply was a request for information that would allow the commission to act. effectively. On the 26th, and probably before the letter of the commission had time to reach Mr. Stowe, another telegram was received from
him stating that the commission need trouble itself no more about the matter, as he had concluded to buy no more grain.
In the meantime Mr. A. J. Sawyer, president of the Northern Dakota Elevator Co., had complained to the commission about allowing or encouraging private or “huckster” buyers at points where elevator companies had invested money in buildings, etc., and stated that in many instances such buyers are simply blackmailers, go to buying grain on purpose to be bought off by elevator companies. To illustrate this point, he said tbat he now had a case in the person of a Mr. Stowe, of Wadena, who offered to go out of (or not go in the grain business, for $500, but had at last come down to $150, and he (Sawyer) had "sent a man up to close the deal (in the interest of the three elevator companies represented at that place) and get him out of the way” and then he would "expose him," etc., etc.
The matter rested there until the publication of Mr. Stowe's letter in F.S. & H, which the rallroad commission saw at once, and were justly indignant thereat, as the sequel will show. Recalling the conversation with Mr. Sawyer, Commissioner G. L. Becker wrote to him concerning the deal with Mr. Stowe, and received the following in reply:
NORTHERN DAKOTA ELEVATOR CO., 1
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN., Oct. 19, 1891. / G. L. Becker, St. Paul, Minn:
DEAR SIR: Your favor of Oct. 15, addressed to Mr. Sawyer, has been handed to me for reply. Enclosed herewith I hand you copy of the receipt given by Mr. Stowe to Mr. Turner for $150, in consideration of his discontinuing the purchase of grain at Wadena.
A. G. CHAMBERS,
Geu. Manager. COPY OF RECEIPT. Received from A. A. Turner one hundred and fifty dollars ($150), in consideration of which I pledge myself not to buy any wheat or rye, directly or indirectly, or ship or cause to be shipped any wheat or rye from this station, between the dates of Sept. 26, 1891, and May 1st, 1892.
(Signed) J. M. STOWE. Wadena, Sept. 26, 1891. · It will be potced that the receipt bears the same date of Mr. Stowe's last telegram to the commission. The reader will also notice that the promised "exposure" by Mr. Sawyer did not materialize, for obvious reasons, and had Mr. Stowe been as discreet as was Mr. Sawyer, this revelation would never have been made.
The publication of this matter is not pleasant to F. S. & H., for Mr. Sawyer and Mr. Stowe are both personal acquaintances, but it is done in fulfilment of a duty due its great family of readers, and to the railroad commission, that in this instance was upjustifiably censured. It is a duty to let the grain growers of this region see what methods are employed to arbitrarily control the prices of grain, though it will, of course. and very unfortunately, enlarge that distrust of farmers towards professed friends : but it will also go a long ways towards showing why the buyers, transporters and millers of northwestern wheat have so got the start of its growers in the possession of wealth. Such transactions as tbis, and they may be legion in number, not only justify but make imperative organizations after the manner of the Minnesota Grain Grower's Association, noticed elsewhere in this number.
With this history of the case the commission leaves the subject until such time as further comment seems to be necessary, on account of subsequent perversions from the same source.