William B. Hazen SHSND# A5103 Melons, pumpkins, and squashes did not mature before frost. Tomatoes did not turn red. “American corn” of an early variety reached only to roasting ears stage (probably “green corn” stage), but did not mature and dry on the ears. Onions, wheat, and oats matured at Fort Berthold. At his quarters, Hazen was able to raise (no doubt with the labor of enlisted men) a ten by forty foot garden of flowers which took three barrels of water daily. The result was a disappointing three weeks of blossoms.
Hazen also wrote about “native Indian corn” with details that would have excited Oscar H. Will if he had happened to read the letter. Hazen stated that native corn matured in ten weeks with ears setting on the stalks about six to eight inches from the ground. The corn has a “soft white grain without a flinty portion.”
The response to Hazen came from Colonel Custer whose post at Fort Abraham Lincoln better prepared him to assess the situation of Dakota agriculture because, unlike Fort Buford, it was actually on the NPRR line. Custer’s letter was published in the Minneapolis Tribune on 9 April 1874 (republished in Stewart, Penny-an-Acre-Empire, pp 82 - 113). During the summer of 1873, Custer was away from the fort on the Yellowstone expedition, so he based his statements on the records and reports of the officers under Major General (brevet) W. P. Carlin who commanded the post in Custer’s absence. Dr. Boughter, post surgeon, actually maintained the records, but they had disappeared by the time of Custer’s letter, so he depended on the collective memory of those who were present at Fort Abraham Lincoln in the summer of 1873.