18th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century, Agriculture, farming, History, Intercession, Minnesota

Sugar Beets and Migrant Labor

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Beta Vulgaris

1917 to 1919
Labor shortages in the U.S. during World War I and political unrest in Mexico draw many Mexican workers north to the sugar-beet fields of the Red River and Minnesota River valleys. Many return year after year; others move to the Twin Cities to find permanent jobs.*

As a backstory, the sugar beet came to prominence in 18th century Silesia through experiments subsidized by Frederick William III (the King of Prussia) to extract sugar. These findings were furthered by scientists Andreas Marggraf and his star pupil Franz Karl Achard. Their work led to the selection of ‘Weiße Schlesische Zuckerrübe’, meaning white Silesian sugar beet, and boasted about a 6% sugar content.**

The Red River Valley of northwestern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota had perfect conditions for the growing of this specis of beta vulgaris. Mexican migrant workers entered the scene just as local sugar beet growers and the American Crystal Sugar Company had need for their hand-harvested crop. The Great War had commandeered local labor, leaving room for displaced Mexicans.

Jim Norris, a local expert on these relations, stated the following in his book “North for the Harvest”:
“Though popular convention holds that corporations and landowners invariably exploited migrant workers, (the author) reveals that these relationships were more complex. The company often clashed with growers, sometimes while advocating for workers. And many growers developed personal ties with their migrant workers, while workers themselves often found ways to leverage better pay and working conditions from the company.”

And so, Lord of the Harvest, we find ourselves in a triune relationship; the company, the farmers, and the field workers. We invite Your illumination of these events, and Your insights. Come and lead our meditation!

We thank You for beta vulgaris and the sweet taste it brings to our lives. We thank You for the research done for centuries that yielded such fine results, and provided an alternative to sugar brought into existence by the slavery of the sugar cane fields! We thank You that You provided opportunity for Mexicans amidst the tragedy of the Great War!

Next, we thank You for Your example of a three-sided relationship creating balance. Your roles incorporate our experience of simultaneously living out three roles, yet being one person. We are mothers, daughters, and wives simultaneously! We are fathers, sons, and husbands at the same instant!

Therefore, we can find security that companies, farmers, and fieldworkers can play three roles that serve one united purpose in sugar beets or the production of any commodity. Will You be the guardian of these relationships in Minnesota? Will You forgive our offenses to You in our imbalances in these relationships?

Will You forgive us as field workers for negating the needs of our farmers to produce results without fail? Will You forgive our farmers their dehumanization of laborers? Will You forgive those that own the company of their drive to power and market position? Will You forgive us as farmers and field workers our fearful judgments of Wall Street? We do not know the pain of finding a buyer or fair price for huge quantities of a perishable product. Have mercy on us!

May we find sweetness in being a three-legged stool! May we see the imbalance should we remove one leg of our relationships! May we be one in purpose regardless of position: migrant, farmer, or president!

 

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_beet
***Dig deeper on the impact of migrant workers in Minnesota and the Midwest in this excellent book. “Mexican Workers, Growers, and the Sugar Beet Industry” by Jim Norris
http://muse.jhu.edu/book/5421

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19th Century, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, Native Americans

Farmers Flee Ojibwe

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1891
Fearing an Indian uprising, throngs of people flee the Red River Valley. The sheriff of Kittson County requests rifles, the roads jam, and panic ensues. The gathering of Ojibwe turns out to be a peaceful annual ceremony.*

Lord this seems like a very human reaction: fearing the unknown neighbor. I acknowledge this fear, of this moment, as sin. This judgment of the Ojibwe celebration appears quite rash, and based on incomplete information. Will You forgive us our judgments then and bring blessing to all descendants of those who panicked or were simply preparing a party; a pow-wow? Will You rebuild to the trust, neighbor to neighbor in Kittson county?

Also, forgive us in the present! We often suspect those of a differing upbringing, thereby not giving them the benefit of the doubt we do to those who are more familiar. We make assumptions based on incomplete facts that unnecessarily alienate us from each other. Christ have mercy! Will You give us the grace to know each other in Minnesota?

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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19th Century, Business, Civics, Exploration, History, Industry, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, Transportation

Hill’s 1st Railroad 1879

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James J. Hill and his Canadian partners buy the near-bankrupt St. Paul and Pacific Railroad and rename it the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba. This is the beginning of the railroad career that will earn Hill the title “Empire Builder” and cement the importance of the Twin Cities as a commercial center.

Hill’s career didn’t begin with railroads. He came to Minnesota at age 18, convincing a steamboat man to hire him as a clerk. From making sure freight reached the right people, he expanded into handling freight by boat, stagecoach, and wagon. By the time his empire was built, he was one of the nation’s leading industrialists.

In 1891 James J. Hill will crown his success by building a house at 240 Summit Avenue in St. Paul. As massive and well-built as its owner’s railroad empire, the mansion will take three years to build and cost $931,275.01, furnished.*

Lord, thanks that You deal with us so patiently. You allow us to learn from our errors and seek You for mercy and truth. Thank You for the blessings of James J. Hill and his railroads. However, we still feel the weight of the curses aimed at his business! He was alleged to be duplicitous in his business dealings. He allegedly manipulated land grants or sales from cities, tribes, states, and the nations of Canada and the United States. He may have wreaked havoc on the stock market in his battle with Harriman of the Union Pacific line. He was said to be cursed by farmers across the nation for his punitive charges for shipping commodities.

Lord, You are the righteous ruler and justice of North America. Will You remove the curses we have laid on James J. Hill? Will You forgive his debts to the people of North America? Will You forgive us our injustices and betrayals of Your trust? We kill and covet and build empires in our hearts’. We plunder our enemies in our thoughts, and do not see our brothers and sisters as precious lives that You died and rose for! Have mercy on us: the ambitious, the coward, the sluggard, and the average! Remove the curses brought on us, our generations, the land, the property, and our homes both now and until Your return! May the pathway of this railway become a track of blessing to both Manitoba and the Twin Cities! Amen!

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

 

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19th Century, Agriculture, Business, farming, government, History, Industry, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, State Government

Bonanza Farms 1875

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Investors grow wheat on a grand scale in the Red River Valley. Their “bonanza farms” cover thousands of acres and are harvested by huge crews and the latest machinery.
A financial panic in 1873 stopped the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad to the Red River Valley. In order to pay back its Eastern investors, the bankrupt company allowed its investors to exchange their bonds for land. As a result, large urban investors immediately became owners of thousands of acres of land (unlike homesteaders who had to live on the land for five years to get 160 acres). The new owners turn the land into large-scale commercial farms run by hired managers with cheap labor and expensive machinery.

Lord, You hate corruption of any sort in any relationship. “The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.” Proverbs 11:1* This panic of 1873, again at the hands of the railroads under federal authority, really stole land from the homesteaders. (The principle of sowing and reaping? The homesteaders just years before may have been party to land being swindled from the Dakota.) Anyway, we are people capable of both sharing and defrauding land from our neighbors.

Will You forgive us this debt? Will You cause restoration and repentance to grow in the hearts of this state and nation? Will You forgive Minnesotans’ resentments against the Federal Government? Will You forgive the Railroads for manipulating the Panic of 1873 to their benefit? Will You remove this curse from our land, skies, waters, and hearts? Thank you that You deal with us in such a generous manner!

*http://biblehub.com/proverbs/11-1.htm

 

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