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Johnson Grass

1854 may not have been the year when this grass was introduced into the Kentucky Town area or even into the state of Texas. It is, however, the first appearance of it here.  Johnson Grass has not always been here as one might come to believe with its ever presence in every nook and cranny.

In a letter written by A. M. Bryant, dated May 10, 1854, he makes reference to the "wild rye grass in the bottom lands". This absence of Johnson Grass was not to exist much longer.

George W. Newcome, land-dealer, business man and farmer, read in a seed catalog about a grass that possessed the quality and capacity for permanent reproduction of itself by root or seed without ever needing to be replanted or again sown.  It was proclaimed as the best type of hay for livestock.

Mr. Newcome, knowing the deep black soil on his farm adjoining the east side of Kentucky Town would grown anything.  Thus, he ordered a lot of the seed.  He realized that besides providing hay for his livestock, there was a market for the seen which was advertised in the catalog.

His order arrived by stagecoach.  He chose a two-acre spot in the southwest corner of his farm.  The seed was broadcast by hand from a pouch slung from the shoulders of the broadcaster.

The grass seed advertisement never said anything about the aggressive nature of this plant and its ability to travel on its own. Mr. Newcome's sowing of the grass seed was exactly at the watershed between two great rivers and at the headwaters of their perennially overflowing and flooding Mill, Choctaw and Pilot Grove Creeks.  The Johnson Grass began its invasion of the state of Texas.

Soon farmers to the north along Mill and Choctaw Creeks and to the south along Pilot grove Creek were fighting the invader which was spreading through their corn and cotton.  It left its roots behind to take permanent possession of the area.  It sent its seeds ahead by horse and water to spread into roads, barn lots and fields and to establish beachheads along the shores of creeks and rivers.

The farmers fought the Johnson Grass, passing on the battle to their sons.  Arms grew weary, plows were consumed, horses fought it by day and ate it by night.  The grass could be eliminated but it could not be killed.

In the Abilene Reporter at Abilene, Texas the publisher warned his readers in the September 8, 1883 fissure:
"The REPORTER has begun a campaign to alert residents of dangers of planting Johnson Grass on farms and ranches.  Farmers of East Texas report the spread of the grass in that section is already out of hand".  The article was printed in the September 17, 1883 issue of the Texas News at Austin.

Kentucky Town and Its Baptist Church
Joe W. Chumbley
c 1975
pg 21-22

Johnson Grass, 1925

Flora & Fauna
Elaine Nall Bay
Grayson County TXGenWeb