Monday, February 8, 2016

C.W. Post--A Great Man With a Tragic Life


I grew up in the Fifties in West Texas--on the South Plains of the Panhandle--in a small oil and farming community named Levelland. Seventy-one miles Southeast just below the majestic Caprock, lay another small community named Post, Texas. 
Somehow during my young years, I learned the Grape Nuts my daddy ate were invented by a man named Post—C. W. Post, as I now know. An author in a book titled “Tales From Out Yonder,” described Grape Nuts as “a cereal with the appearance of creek gravel.”
C.W. Post was an intriguing man, but not only for inventing Grape Nuts and Post Toasties. No. As a young man, his ability to invent and create was notable.
He was born on October 26, 1854, in Springfield, Illinois. After graduating from the Springfield public schools he entered Illinois Industrial University (now the University of Illinois) at Urbana. He remained only two years before abandoning school "for hard physical work."
At seventeen he went to Independence, Kansas, where he worked as a salesman, clerk, and store owner. He returned to Springfield in 1872 and worked for the next fourteen years as a salesman and manufacturer of agricultural machines.

SULKY PLOW-DRAWN BY ONE HORSE
During this period he invented and secured patents on such farm equipment as cultivators, a sulky plow, a harrow, and a haystacker.

On November 4, 1874, Post married Ella Letitia Merriweather of Battle Creek, Michigan but lived apart for several years before divorcing. They had one daughter named Marjorie Merriweather Post.
    After a nervous breakdown in November 1885 caused by strain and overwork, he moved to Fort Worth, Texas with his family.
    There, he became associated with a group of real estate men who were developing a 300-acre tract in the eastern part of the city, an area known today as Riverside. Other members of the family, including Post's brother Rollin, followed C. W. to Fort Worth.
In 1888 the Posts acquired a 200-acre ranch on the outskirts of the city and began the development of a subdivision on their property; they laid out streets and lots for homes and constructed a woolen mill and a paper mill.

However, only three years later, Post suffered a second breakdown and moved with his wife to Battle Creek, Michigan, where he entered a sanitarium. With rest came recuperation, and soon he was experimenting with a cereal drink he called Postum. Next, he developed Grape-Nuts and Post Toasties, breakfast foods that by the end of the century made him millions of dollars.
In 1906, as a result of a desire to own a farming community in Texas, he purchased some 225,000 acres of ranchland along the escarpment of the Caprock in Garza and Lynn counties.  He designated a central site as the location of his new town.
In 1907 Post City, as it was called until after the developer's death, was platted, farms of 160 acres were laid out, shade trees were planted, and a machine shop, a hotel, a school, churches, and a department store were constructed.
Post tried various forms of automatic machinery in developing dry-land farming techniques and introduced varieties of grain sorghums such as milo and kafir. One of his most spectacular experiments was his rain-making effort through dynamite explosions. From firing stations along the rim of the Caprock four-pound dynamite charges were detonated every four minutes for a period of several hours. Between 1911 and 1914 he spent thousands of dollars in this endeavor, which met with little success.

Post's main contribution to Texas was opening the plains region to agricultural development.

His health failed again in 1914. He passed away at age 59--presumably by taking his own life with a gunshot wound.
Post’s genius was clouded by mental problems his entire life. Before the psychological terms manic-depressive and bipolar disorder were tossed about, Post was merely considered peculiar, a gentleman with wild mood swings. From his psychological highs, Post’s inventive mind conjured up new products that made him a household name and launched wildly ambitious projects. His low points often terminated in a visit to a sanitarium, from which he would emerge many months later rejuvenated and would begin anew.

Note: To read about his daughter, Marjorie Merriweather Post, who inherited the company General Foods in Battle Creek Michigan—see Previous Posts titled “The Richest Woman in America.” January 8, 2016.
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Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West.


NEWEST RELEASE:
ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS
PUBLISHER: PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS
Now available on Amazon

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

SOURCES for C.W. Post:
The Handbook of Texas On-line: Texas State Historical Association
Wikipedia
Wikimedia
“Tales From Out Yonder”-Ross McSwain

23 comments:

  1. Interesting story... I was familiar with his name in relation to the cereal but nothing of him.

    Denise

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  2. Thanks for visiting, Denise. I didn't know him either, but I've known about Post, Texas most of my life. I did not know he was an inventor and land developer, in addition to creating cereals.

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  3. Celia, what an interesting story. I think one of the things we don't really consider is that mental illness has probably been with us for quite a while but since we have only begun to deal with it the past couple of decades it makes perfect sense that Post would be considered peculiar. I think his life would make interesting case study in mental illness field. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Smiles
    Steph

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    1. I agree, Steph. I have an acquaintance here in town who is Bi-Polar, married with two grown boys. But Lord have mercy, has she wreaked havoc in all their lives and those of us who were in closer contact were affected, too. Then in a month or two, she'd be normal, return to the church choir, and take her role as a mother and wife. My heart broke for her all the time..and others felt the same way. Thanks.

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  4. How interesting. There's always a price for greatness, it seems.

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    1. Yes, I hated to learn this about him. Some sources would not admit he had killed himself. Instead, they would say "He died under unusual circumstances."...not suspicious...unusual. I found numerous old photos of him, and he was a very handsome man.

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  5. I think we'd be amazed by how much of what we have came from people who would now be called mentally disabled or be tagged with a mental disorder. The trick seems to be to learn how to balance the greatness that can come of mental differences. I have a bipolar character featured in one of my WIPs, based partly on what I read from a past associate with a bipolar daughter. It's so hard on the family, but can you imagine living with it yourself?

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    1. I think you're right. The bipolar women I know says she is never unhappy. When she's sick, she says that's when she's the happiest. She simply does not know the havoc she wreaks on her family and friend. She says she's never unhappy. Odd, isn't it?

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  6. It does appear that certain creative brains work differently than the norm. That can be a good or bad thing.

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  7. Interesting post, Celia. Post was a complicated man.

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    1. He was indeed. It's a mystery, how someone can do so much during mentally ill episodes.

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  8. I am so impressed by this informative article. As familiar as Post cereals are to me, I had no idea of the genius or the mental torment the man went through. With all the things he accomplished in spite of his mental health, I admire his entrepreneurship and the strength he had. Dang, makes me wonder if the Post office is named for him. I'm glad at least that he had a child to pass his wealth and empire on to. It must have been hard on his wife dealing with his mental condition. I feel for both of them.
    I loved reading this post, Celia.

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. Sorry I took so long to answer...I'm slightly cross-eyed and a bi discombobulated...whatever that means. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  9. Celia, I really enjoyed reading about Marjorie previously in your other blog and this one about C.W. was even more interesting. Thanks for both. It's a shame that the man was such a genius and had so many worthwhile inventions, etc., yet led such a life of upheavel and a bitter, pitiful end. A delightful read however. I wonder what C.W. stood for and if he went only by C.W. if that might indicate something not quite right with his mind set. Hmmm. Have your All my Hopes and Dreams and eagerly looking forward to reading it. Wishing you much success with it and in everything you do.

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    1. I can't recall what CW stood for, but yes, it's interesting that he didn't even sign his last name..just CW. Thanks for reading and especially thanks for getting All My Hopes and Dreams.

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  10. Interesting post (no pun intended), Celia. I had no idea he had such a difficult time with his mental health or that he died relatively young because of it. A rather sad end to an inventive man.

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  11. We go through Post whenever we visit family in Lubbock. I set one book there and my WIP is also set there.

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    1. Caroline--I never would have thought to set a book in Post. It was probably most interesting than it is today. I'll be interested in seeing how you used the town.

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  12. Very interesting read, Celia. I've eaten Grape Nuts all my life and now when I reach for the Post box, I'll sure think about the man who created the cereal and the brilliant, but complicated life he led.

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    1. Cheri..probably you will remember. And maybe remember one author said Grape Nuts resembled creek gravel! My daddy love those.

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  13. We were lucky to have this inventive man in our midst. He certainly has helped with breakfasts across the nation. Sorry he had anxiety problems. He died so young. Loved reading this, Celia.

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    1. Thanks, Paisley. He certainly left his daughter well off!

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