During the Depression it was very difficult to obtain water, both for the livestock and for household use. Many cisterns and wells that had produced plentifully in the normal years were now dry. For the many, these were their only source of water.

Hardships caused by the lack of water are etched into the memories of many who lived during the Depression. Often when a family’s well went dry, the family would take buckets and teakettles and pack water from elsewhere in their family, to a grandparent’s house or others — anyone who could share.

Watering the livestock was also difficult. The small ponds and the small creeks and rivers were nothing but hard, cracked ground. Sometimes, a farmer would be lucky enough to have a small watering hole in the riverbeds where the bawling cattle could be driven to be watered.

Some farmers used their teams to pull sleds and wagons loaded with barrels to the water holes to obtain their water. Often, farmers would band together and form relay lines to pass buckets back and forth.

In 1934, the small dairy herds in Daviess County were reduced in number or eliminated all together due to the heat and lack of pasturage and water. One example of this occurred in 1934 when 26 carloads of cattle were shipped out of the county in a 3-week period.

Daviess County and surrounding counties were among the multitude of counties still affected by the severe depression’s heat and the lack of water as of 1934. Due to being located by the Grand River, there had always been plenty of water for Gallatin. Now, with the mounting temperatures and the lack of water, no water was to be taken out of town to be used elsewhere. Up to June 1934, June had the highest demand for water anyone could remember.

In a few areas, it was reported cattle were dying in the fields due to a lack of water. In other isolated localities, where their water resources had dried up, water for human consumption was carted into towns in tanks. In the small communities such as Gallatin, people were encouraged to help themselves by building ponds, damming creek beds and draws in order to conserve any water that did fall.

As an emergency measure to provide forage for livestock in these dry times, the relief administration provided large quantities of soybeans for seeding purposes. Now, up to this time (June 1934) the beans had not been planted because the lack of moisture prevented proper soil preparation. The farmers feared they would be unable to raise forage for their livestock before winter set in.

Yesteryear farm scene in Daviess County, MO (date unknown)

The water shortage was so critical, geologists had been hired to advise people in the Gallatin area where new wells should be dug. But due to the drought some of these areas were diminishing in regard to water. Some areas reported springs, which had never gone dry in memory of the people, were now dry.

Among other towns that had made restrictions in regard to the water shortage were:

  • Marceline — each house, business, and residential had been allotted so much water per day, and violators of the rule were subject to fine.
  • Hamilton — no water was to be hauled from town, no lawns were to be watered, no sidewalks or streets were to be washed.
  • Bethany — residents were prohibited from using unnecessary water including car washing and sprinkling. Fines were imposed for violations to the rules in the amounts of $10 for the first violation, $100 for the second violation as well as their water cut off

— written, researched and presented by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin, MO (2003)