Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation History
The Dust Bowl focused national attention on the need for soil conservation and better farming practices. In Franklin County, Monsignor George J. Hildner of the St. John's Gildehaus Church was already working toward that.
In 1935, Msgr. Hildner helped organize the Dubois Creek Watershed Project which demonstrated how to prevent erosion and other soil problems. He even allowed the church's own 33.5 acre farmland to be part of the project. Equipment and supplies for the Dubois Creek effort were provided by the Soil Erosion Service. Labor was provided by the cooperating farmers and workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Due to the demonstration project and the work of Monsignor Hildner and other community members, the public began to understand the causes of erosion and how it could be controlled. People saw that worn out and eroded soils could be restored, and that profitable farming didn't have to include excessive soil erosion.
In 1936, Federal legislation enacted the legal basis for organizing soil conservation districts. This granted authority for states to permit the organization of districts. Hildner had worked hard for years to get a district enabling act passed by the Missouri state legislature. Msgr. Hildner, along with a number of leaders across the state, had promoted soil conservation for years. They were convinced that soil districts would be the most effective method of reaching the majority of farm owners. These men donated much of their time and energy to get Senate Bill 80 passed by the legislature in 1943.
The organization of the district in Franklin County included the following required steps: First, a petition signed by 364 landowners to hold a public meeting. Second, a public hearing was conducted on Jan. 3, 1944 by one or more of the members of the State Soils District Commission and found favorable for a referendum. Third, a referendum was held on Feb. 5, 1944, with 850 farmers voting for the district and 115 against it. Four district supervisors were elected on Feb. 26, 1944. The county was divided into four areas based on watershed.
- Area I composed of the Boles, Calvey and Prairie townships
- Area II composed of the St. John's, Union and Central townships
- Area III composed of the Boone and Meramec townships
- Area IV composed of the Boeuf and Lyon townships
On March 20, 1944, Franklin County was the second district organized in Missouri. The district board of supervisors developed a district program covering the long range program of work to be done and the annual plan of action. The board requested technical assistance from the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and two trained conservation personnel were assigned to assist landowners in planning and applying soil conservation practices on their farms.
When the soil and water conservation district was first organized, state policy limited technical assistance to land in non-incorporated areas. The main objective at that time was to stop soil erosion on farmland. Eventually silt deposits and erosion problems were recognized in urban areas. The State Commission amended their policy and technical assistance could be given to land in urban areas. Many of the same practices and techniques once used only on farm land are now being used in parks, on roads, school grounds, in subdivision and on individual urban lots.