E. T. McFarland's Memories of Kansas Settlement
This is a reminiscence that Edna Tilton copied by hand. Since our Bottom, Clements, and Johnson ancestors settled in Jackson Co., Kansas about that time, some before, I was very interested in it. -- Georganna Tilton
[Kansas Collection editor's note: The following article, developed from an aged handwritten record of a long-ago newspaper story, contains noticable errors. In this present imperfect version, spelling and punctuation flaws have been remedied in a few paragraphs; however, some wording defects remain intact. Without benefit of examining the original article, attempts to repair the text produced mixed results. Regardless, this account is a wonderfully interesting pioneer narrative of Kansas history.]
The Havensville Register 1
By E. T. McFarland
(A personal observation of the settlement of the county).
During the month of March 1865, I was persuaded to read a circular sent out by the U. P. R. R. Co. who at that time was who owner of a large tract of land resembling on the map the black spots of a checker board, such spots being separate and independent of the other and covering a belt of country long known as the plains or desert of America. This circular described the country as a fertile region undulating surface thickly interspersed with streams of clear running water and belts of timber sufficiently abundant for all purposes. A land of rich grasses, beautiful flowers, a seasonal climate and an invigorating breeze where the lame were made to walk and the blind to see and the consumption supplies with a new set of lungs.
So taking Horace Greeley's advice to "Go West Young Man" I was not long in getting two other young men whom I will call John and Ed who were like myself, desirous of going west to grow up with the country. Ed simply wanted to travel, while John, who had a relative in Kansas, wanted to come and see him and also take a claim as he called it. For myself, I did not know what I wanted, I had no more idea what a prairie looked like than a Kickapoo Indian would know about a steamboat.
Being all ready we bade our friends good bye and pulled out: At Cincinnati we purchased tickets for Atchison, Kansas and secured passage on a immigration train. Nothing of importance occurred on the trip to mar the pleasure of ourselves or fellow passengers other than the usual conjecture, hopes and fear indulged in by young and old alike.
We arrived at Corning just as the sun was going down and if ever there was a time in lives history that we three felt blue it was then. Corning consisted of an old barn about 16 feet by 24 feet which served as a depot, and not another house in sight. Our romantic ideas had not come in contact with the reality and our inspirations were knocked into moonshine. Fortunately there chanced to be a fellow passenger who had been in the country before and kindly proposed to pilot us to America City where he had hoped to find a refuge for the night. The station agent had skipped out on a pony as soon as the train passed and we gladly accepted the offer and started out afoot, our guide informed us it was 7 miles to America City and he himself was a stranger there and could not tell us where John's uncle lived.
The strange roaring noise of the prairie chicken and howling wolves were all strange to us and even the bright light of the prairie fire some 20 miles distance created an alarm and we anxiously inquired of our guide if there was any danger either directly on indirectly from the source as we thought it might create a stampede of wild animals as we had seen in the geography.
We reached America City about 10 o'clock at night and found the only store in town but could not get a bite of anything to eat. America City at that time was the hub of this part of the country and was laid out in the year 1856 by a few enterprising families who sought homes of themselves, and here on the external border of civilization, they had driven their stakes and braved the perils of border ruffians, drought and all the discouragements inclined to pioneer life were now comfortable situated and enjoying the fruits of their labor.
We were told by the merchant that the man that John was looking for, we would find about a mile south and he would take us in for the night, thus encouraged we started feeling much better. We walked and chatted away in the dark until we discovered a dark object loom up in the dark quite near us and was delighted to see dim light showing from the window of a house we approached nearer and soon hearing the fierce growling of a dog. The family had retired for the night and we felt very much like retiring from the house but finally John called for a few times and was soon answered by the head of the house who quieted the dog and cordially invited us in. Shaking hands with each of us and playing us with questions. He was glad to see us, and you bet we were glad to see him. He would not hear a word of excuse by called up the good wife he declared that no man ever went to bed hungry at his house. The good wife partook of the same generous spirit and in a very short time the table was spread and we three hungry wretches were making glad the inner man.
Although we retired late we were up early for our host who seemed to have on other delight that to serve us and talk over the years gone by when as a boy he lived on the bank of the Ohio River. He declared it made him feeling young again.
As the sun came up we were carried away with the sight it seemed as though we were standing on a high hill with the universe at our feet, nature came forth in grandeur and beauty. The good old man realizing our feelings would say. "Now boys, what do you think, and don't this beat being penned up there in Ohio?"
Of course, we could not realize what it meant to pioneer -- a new country and as we partook of a substantial breakfast such as none other than a bountiful country could provide. We could not have the remotest idea what it cost those brave old settlers to provide the necessaries of life, but we learned later by our own experience, that it is no child's play and to subdue desert and cause them to bring forth at our pleasure. It was a beautiful April morning the sun just raising when we started on our Journey in search of work. Our host told us to always consider his home our home and keep courage and pointing south told us to go in that direction about 30 miles where we would find St. Mary's Mission, a white Catholic settlement and never mind the Indians as they would do us no harm. The later advice done considerable toward bracing up our nerves, before we got through the Indian Reserve. We were however put on the right track by one of the Buckeye Ridge boys who showed us two groups of Cottonwood trees on English ridge. We started off very brisk at first but when noon came we began to feel pretty tired. Indians appeared in numbers. As John said, every white man we met was an Indian. They would not talk to us or answer any questions.
John was one of those short heavy set fellows that can never keep up with company while on a long walk but would follow along just so far behind. When we were about 10 miles from the mission we observed a number of broken bottles along the side of the road and about 75 drunken Indians who were riding at neck breaking speed and whooping like demons. They passed around us in a half circle each one waving his arms about his head and trying to show their respect for us.
John could keep up after with little trouble. We arrived at our destination about sundown, The next day we went to Topeka, the capital of the state, a neat little town of 800 to 1000 inhabitants. There was no North Topeka but a blacksmith shop, saloon and perhaps a store or two. It was then called Eugene. We were successful in getting a pass on a construction train and had a ride to the end of the road, the terminal being at Carbondale. We then walked 15 miles further and found work with Anmel and Blsh Contractors. We will not give our experience while at work on this trip we went to Emporia a town almost as big as Topeka. Workmen were engaged in laying the foundation for a court house and new residence building were put up in every direction. The Santa Fe road suspended work about May 1st. We were compelled to look elsewhere for work.
Fortunately a friend from near American City invited us to ride to that place with him, an invitation that we were not slow to accept. There were two of us now as Ed had got enough of the West and had gone. Our friend had a good team and a large covered wagon which we found very pleasant and comfortable.
While looking over a map of Kansas I found that the center of civilization was rather limited as there were places north of Emporia where we could look as far as eye could see and not see a house. We observed as we came back two new houses clustered together and learned that was Osage City. The citizens had put down 60 feet deep and struck salt water and were hauling water from Cherry Creek for drinking purposes.
While driving across the prairie one evening we observed a small hay stack which looked so lonesome. I told the driver to stop and I would take part of it for feed and bed. John went with me and we were soon going for the hay, each trying to get the most, when we were startled by an outburst of profanity coming from the midst of the stack and meant to shock the nerves of a couple of mules that were quietly browsing about 80 rods distance away as well. If the reader could have seen the ridiculous expressions that came over our faces, and the extra speed that we needed on reaching the wagon, the hearty hew-haws of the driver, it would have been a sight never to be forgotten.
To the old settlers there is nothing strange about this but for two dudes to ever think of placing wagon bows in the ground and covering with hay to make a house was the last thing we thought of, but we learned afterwards that the pioneer is always at home and can devise ways and means for [how to find] shelter and food where there seems to be no material to work with.
We reached the end of our journey late at night and put up with our friend who lived about 80 rods from the present town of Havensville. By this time we had begun to think Kansas was not so bad as we first thought. The people were quiet and very intelligent, prices were moderate, school houses and churches were apparent in the settlements, all rowdyism and thriving was shut off in short order, and sometimes a horse thief was done for but the peaceable law abiding citizen need know no fear.
Early next morning we started out to see John's Uncle. There was no settlement to amount to anything on the prairie and we enjoyed our tramp. We stood on the divided between Vermillion and Struit Creeks and viewed the glorious landscape. Looking southwest we could see one log house, directly west a school house and north one stone house and a dug out, east 3 houses and south 2. We soon reached the home of our old friend who seemed to be glad to see us as if we belonged to the family.
We made a very short stay this time as we learned there was a railroad being built through Brown and Nemaha Counties. As our friends who had conveyed us from the Santa Fe road had prepared his outfit for this trip and gave us an invitation to go with him, we desided that was our chance. We traveled a northeast course from America City and traveled on until nightfall without seeing fence or crossing a cultivated farm.
About sundown we came to Champion 2 a small village a few miles south was Sabetha where we encamped for the night. The next day we went to Hiawatha, but finding no work we turned west following the line of the railroad until we were about 8 miles east of Seneca where we secured work.
So far the country had the appearance, as John expressed it, of the biggest clearing he had ever seen. Sabetha consisted of one blacksmith shop, one store and drug store, about two miles north could be seen a church and several dwellings. I think it was Albany. While working there we paid a visit to Seneca, the county seat of Nemaha County. They claimed to have 600 inhabitants but appearances were against them. Saloons were numerous and an old saw mill stood in the midst of the town which did not add much to the appearance. For some reason work was discontinued on the road and we pulled out of Salem, Nebraska and found work on the Rule and travel Rool R.R. about three miles west of the town of Salem. At the time it was very neat little village snugly located among the bluffs of the great Nemaha River, while Hombolt 3 some 15 miles west had not as yet acquired the title of village as one blacksmith shop, a residence, and one saloon and several rows of stakes marked the town site.
The white settlement of Nemaha Valley was principally made up of Missourians who were more behind their Kansas neighbors in hospitality. The Sac and Fox Indians were very numerous and when reinforced by the Kickapoo and Pawnee visitors and a goodly number of Coccannco as they called it and the flavors of cooked dog meat and skunk covered the entire valley.
We worked on the road until the middle of September when we learned we were duped by an adventurer who had taken the opportunity of lining his own pockets at the expense of our labors and the only thing we could do was to get up and get out and look for other fields more fair. Fortunately there were several American City boys on the work with their teams and just about sundown on the evening of September 15, 1870, we pulled out for America City. We followed the divide between Sabetha and Seneca all night by the light of the stars there being no road or settlements.
About daylight we heard a deep rumbling noise coming toward us from the north and directly behind us, and as the sound drew nearer the horses became almost unmanageable. None knew what it was, I thought it must be a body of Cavalry, some said Indians, others buffalo, but we did not have long to wait before there appeared a cloud of dust and then a vast moving mass of horns and tails.
By the time we thought the whole affair almost too interesting for our health.. With a mad plunge the horses were off like the wind. The driver turned them off to the southwest and for about five minutes it seemed as though the mad animals that were after us could find no other direction to travel except the way we were going but by doubting our course we finally pulled out of danger and drew up rein while our company passed on.
They proved to be a herd of Texas cattle that had escaped from their owners and were on the trail back to Texas. After enjoying a hearty laugh over our adventure we concluded to take inventory of our finances to see whether it would pay us to take in the town of Corning which appeared in the distance and had made some improvement as some enterprising individual had put up a shanty, about 10 feet by 16 feet, and stocked it with cheese, crackers and canned fruit.
Finding that our crowd of six persons possessed about 45 cents we soon came to a halt at the door of the grocery. Corning at that time was located about one mile west of the present town site and said to be the highest point of eastern Kansas at 680 feet above Atchison.
Nothing of further interest transpiring we soon reached the end of our journey for the present, I will remark here that John had got all that he wanted of Kansas and had gone back east so I was now left alone, John said there was too much country for him and he didn't believe in one generation starving themselves for the purpose of feeding the next, but for myself those broad and beautiful sunny plains held a binding influence that was irresistible while the intelligence and unbounded hospitality of the people all served to make me proud of Kansas and her people.
I made my home near America City during the winter of 1879 and 1880 and during this winter my occupation was such that I made a wide range of acquaintances, extending as far as Centralia Colony, Neuchatel, Lincoln, and down the Vermillion. The settlements were generally close to the timber while the prairie was open and unsettled and while a few of the old settlers were in fair circumstances yet provisions were scarce and groceries, the common kind, were considered luxuries, there being no fruit of any kind, the absence of many delicacies common to the poorest people of other states.
I have known children to bring their dinner to school day after day, that consisted of baked squash, simple and plain.
We were present at a meeting called for the purpose of organizing a singing class at a school house when a youth approached the teacher and asked him if he would take gopher pelts in payment for the term of lessons. The teacher thinking it a Kansas joke and having no knowledge of what the gopher pelts worth, answered "yes." Judge of his surprise when a few evenings later the boy came in and handing the teacher a regular tuition fee and said, "I took them there pelts to Seneca and got me bounty for 'em and here's your money." The Bounty obtained on the scalps of wolf and gopher and by trapping mink and other fur bearing animals was the chief source of revenue.
The farms had not yet begun to furnish the scant market and the farmer was considered well off when he was able to raise a subsistence for his family. Farm machinery was unknown or almost unknown. I don't remember seeing one double cultivator and very few double plows. The farmer who was owner of breaking, stirring, or shovel plow was far in advance of 3/4 of his neighbors, and yet the people were happy generally and had their amusements; literary societies, singing schools, spelling matches, all were enjoyed by young and old alike. The doors were open to all who chose to go to those meetings and it was no strange sight to attend a spelling match and see the gray haired old father on one side of the house and the mother with a baby in her arms on the other side.
The same can be said of the religious meetings. All were in attendance and the best of attention was manifest, sometimes there would be an incident occur that would be considered out of place in church at the present time. I will give one illustration that happened at America City. The minister had closed his sermon on Saturday evening and inquired if there were any appointment to make when suddenly a young man stood to his feet and said, "Yes, there is a dance down on the corner immediately after church." The minister so announced the meeting closed.
Before we left the Limestone creek the Tate boys told us at there were no Indians in the country, but if we should see any we could be certain that they were hostile and by no means should we admit them in our presence or try to be familiar with them.
The grass was different kind from any we had ever yet saw in Kansas, be very short and soft as wool and was pleasant to walk on as soft carpet.
The bones of buffalo seemed to almost cover the ground once in a while we would find a huge old Elk horn.
There were no prairie chickens to be seen but curlew appeared in great numbers, they would gather in large flocks, flying about our head and following us in our causer for miles. Sometimes they would rise high in the air then droop their wings and descend with trembling motion, while each would join in a plaintive, "cur-le-on" that was very apt to give one the blues.
The curlew is a bird almost as large as the prairie hen, some what resembling a snipe with a long crooked bill. I walked most of the time quite a distance ahead of the wagon and once in a while I was about a mile ahead of the wagon. I had just passed over a small hill when I saw a large furry mound about 20 rods in my advance, thought at first it was a huge ant nest, I stood and watched it awhile when I noticed the dust flying from under each side at short intervals. I thought I would go up and examining more closely when it suddenly gave a snort and threw up its head. It was an old buffalo and I knew enough not to try to put a ball through his thick skull. With a concrete of about three inches of sand embedded in the thick wool of his head. It would be a folly and to be truthful I was afraid to run and not brave enough to stay but much to my relief the old fellow gave a snort and galloped off while I made for the wagon to tell how near I came to getting a buffalo.
The night of the 13th, we made our camp on a small dry creek and had some difficulty in getting water. The timber was confined to the creeks while the banks of the creek were so steep that we were compelled to remove the horses and draw the wagon across with ropes. We had not traveled far after leaving this camp until we met a blizzard in the shape of a snow storm.
The wind blew a gale while the snow became so dense that we could not see only a few rods, we labored along until about noon when the wind slacked a little. Once we discovered the dark outline of timber directly west of us. We turned in that direction and by shoveling snow from two or three draws we reached the timber. By crossing the east branch of what appeared to be three creeks we went into camp on the center or main creek. I think the creek is called Oak Creek and our camp was as I figured at the time located in the northeast corner of the northeast quarter of the second township 3 of Range 11 W. 6th p.m.
As soon as we came to a halt the boys commenced to unhitch and care for the horses while I took up a pail and turned down the bank of the creek to get water. I soon found a convenient path and filled my pail, when glancing across the creek I saw a log on fire, springing across to get a better view I discovered fresh tracks and three pieces of bark used as seats told their number, another look and pieces of bark used as seats told their number, another look and another group of small fires appeared. To say that I was alarmed would be a weak expression, I went up the creek bank, several feet in a jump, expecting a arrow or bullet every step. As I reached the wagon and found the other boys absent, my feelings can better be imagined than described. In a short time one of the boys appeared leading the horses, when he first came up his words were, "Folks live hard in this country, I saw where about thirty of them crossed this creek barefoot." I told him if we did not look out these barefoot boys would soon have our pelts. Tom soon came in and said the woods were full of Indians and if we expected to do the fair thing for ourselves we had better prepare a warm meal before we lost our scalps. We went to work at once setting the wagon and fortifying and getting up our dinner and supper combined. The storm had passed over. The sun came out causing the snow to disappear as fast as it had come. While we were thus engaged we discovered a covered wagon coming toward us on the east side of the main creek, as Indians could sometimes become possessors of covered wagons, we prepared to meet them and we felt much better to have our foe in sight than to know nothing of their where about. However the proved to be white men. They drove their wagon up near ours and with very cool courtesy with a pocket compass and chain. The corner stones had been broken down and hammered out of shape, but those fellows knew what they were about and seemed very much afraid that we would get there ahead of them. They left one of their number to do the cooking and I called his attention to the moccasin tracks and mysterious fire.
He was as much alarmed and called his comrades. While they were investigating there appeared six antelopes on the hill west of us and as the stood facing us they had the appearance of Indians, I called the attention of the new comers to the strangers sight, they declared they were Indians and commenced to hitch up and to get out of that part of the country. They tried to get us to go with them but we concluded that the sun was to near down for us to venture out on the prairie. We stayed and took our chances.
Our company had no more got out of sight than we began to think that perhaps it would have been better for us if we had gone with them, but we were in for it now and could not back out.
Our camp was situated on a level place of bottom land almost in the shape of a horseshoe and had the appearance of being the camping ground for Indians, as large lodge poles almost covered the ground. Directly west of us was a stone bluff and east of the small branch was a prairie dog town.
We made our camp as safe as we could and prepared to keep guard through the night, lying awake until late telling stories and cracking jokes. Nothing occurred to alarm us except when the horses would frighten and snort like a steam whistle. There is no doubt in my mind but that the Indians were near us all the time but for some reason concluded the game was not worth taking. One of the boys kept saying, "Now boys, if the Indians do me up, just salt me down in the corner of the wagon and haul me back to Aunt T."
We learned when we got to Lake Sibley that President Grant had given permission for 600 of those Indians to enter the west end of Kansas to hunt and that they were committing transgression in several places.
However they were followed by the settlers and attacked of Prairie Dog Creek, several of their number being killed and many stolen cattle recovered.
We passed through to the town of Clyde on Sunday and was surprised to hear an organ in the church as we thought we were beyond the organ line, but that is one of the strange things in the settlements of Kansas. Churches, Schools houses and organs with the latest music books on the market followed close in the wake of the earliest settlers.
We traveled as near east as possible, the few settler we saw lived within dugouts or in sod houses. Before we could reach Irving on the Blue River we could see Waterville about 10 miles northwest.
We arrived at America City in due season where we expected to rest a few days and then look up work, but my pony had got in a rambling way and strayed off, consequently I was compelled to borrow another and go on a hunt for him. I soon obtained one from my old friend that I have so frequently spoken of and struck out southwest as I learned that the pony was raised in Manhattan.
I passed down near the present site of Onaga and soon left all settlements but was fortunate enough to find an aged couple living on the ridge east of Westmoreland where I took dinner. I also met a minister who was going to teach on Rock Creek and who kindly promised to announce the loss of my pony. I traveled on until night came when I found I was out of sight of any habitation. The country was very hilly and could see no better show than to crawl under a small cliff and pass away the night fortunately at about 10 o'clock I heard a hound baying in the distance and made in that direction as fast as I could over stony bluffs. I soon had the pleasure of finding myself in a barn yard with plenty of hay and corn handy. I soon fed the pony and as the dog did not seem to want me to sleep on the hay, I went to the house. The house was frame with a stone basement and door to the south side. I knocked and the door was opened by a man who never said a word but turned and went back through a partition door leaving me alone. There was a small stove in a corner of the room and a bed in the other corner. I sat down by the stove and warmed as no one appeared to advise me what to do I went to bed and was enjoying a comfortable sleep. About daylight I heard my host remark to his wife that he had oversleep himself. He then came to my door, opened it and shouted "John", I raised up and asked if he was talking to me. I never saw such a look of astonishment as he had on his face. "Who are you and where did you come from?" Just then the hired man came in and wanted to know who tied the pony to the haystack.
I soon explained matters to the satisfaction of all and stayed with them until after breakfast. The gentleman is still living in the same place near Rocky Ford on the Blue River. I retraced my steps the next day and met the minister who made the announcement for me and he told me that my pony was taken up by a young married couple who lived about six miles east by south of Westmoreland.
I soon found the place, recovered my mischievous pony and reached home by sundown.
The pony that I road on this occasion is still alive and can be seen trotting along hitched to a buggy. He had not changed ownership during all those years but remains the family property of my friend James Armstrong.
I did not stay long at America City but in company of a young friend from Kentucky who had been one of my companions on our trip west concluded to go down south of Emporia as we learned that work had resumed on the Santa Fe R. R. We concluded to travel on foot to Topeka. It was hard to make my friends believe that here were several hundred Indians on our route and although they had the reputation of being civilized I had no desire to remain as their guest any longer than the circumstances would permit. We tramped on until dark and so far had not seen a house or an Indian, it seemed as though they had hid, my comrades began to kid me about my prairie band of Indians, but became more serious when he found that we would be compelled to stop for the night with no accommodations in sigh.
When it became quite dark be discovered to haystacks that had been put up for some time and concluded to make our bed of hay having traveled about 30 miles. We were very tired, each carried a double blanket and by working under the edge of a stack we soon had comfortable quarters expecting to have a quiet rest for the night, however about 9 o'clock we were startled by the most unearthly whooping we ever heard. It seemed as though the whole tribe had broken loose and from the manner they traveled we knew they were mounted. They were coming from the south and as our camp was some 80 rods off their course we did not have much fear of being molested, yet we concluded to leave our present quarters and go over the east ridge.
When we reached the ridge we heard the Indians returning at a gallop, each trying to out do the other in making a noise. They came directly back to our stacks and formed a circle around them whooping and singing for about five minutes then they all went south again. Of course we enjoyed our circus and as we could not better ourselves, made our bed on the prairie and tumbled in, but our Indians friends were not sleepy, they returned to the stacks several times, again going though the same maneuvers each time and once they extended their circle until they came near taking us in, my comrade could not express his disgust for the government to allow such a set of heathens to carry on such conduct within 15 miles of the city, the Capital of the state!
Between scares I rather enjoyed the proceedings as I could return the guying of my comrade about the prairie band Indians.
We left our camp early the next morning and traveled about 8 miles when we came to a log house occupied by a white family where we took breakfast. There were no men about the house as they were over at Topeka. The lady told us that they had heard the Indians and thought they had been drinking, and it was not safe to be near them when they took such tantrums. She also told us how they had disposed of one of their children by placing it in a basket and hanging it up in a tree. They had also placed a vessel with some kind of eatable into it for the child to eat until it reached the Happy Hunting Ground. But the child never reached there because the wind blew it down and "my children now have its skull in their playhouse!"
After breakfast we continued our journey and reached Topeka without further trouble. The first attraction for us as we reached the town was a sign on the east side of the Avenue which read, "If you want to get a cake, like your mama use to bake, file left, march..." Of course, we tried the cake. Topeka had grown so much that I was almost lost but we soon found the Santa Fe depot and secured tickets for Emporia. It was surprising to see how the country had settled, towns and villages appeared every few miles and where our old camp was marked with stakes and a board nailed up to a post told us that hereafter would be called Reading.
Emporia had already become a city and a large brick normal school building stood on the foundation that was laid out last trip, (and not a court house as we wrote in out prior letter).
We will not impose upon the reader with the history of this trip as it is presumed too much and not in accord with the intentions of this Reminiscences but we will mention one incident that I think is worth of note.
While at Emporia I attended Sunday School in a small stone church and was very much interested in the young man who conducted the singing: after two years have had the pleasure of meeting this young man (only a few weeks ago) during the political campaign. He was one of our political speakers at this place, Mr. Cunningham.
We now returned to our Company: after we returned form the south we walked from Topeka to St. Mary's Mission. When we came in sight of the town we were surprised to see the whole place a moving mass of red blankets. We stood and viewed the scene for some time and was at a loss in every conjecture as to the meaning of this after the experience that we had been through with the Indians, we were ready to believe that they had done up the whole settlement. But we continued to approached until we could see several blue coats, then we felt safe. It so happened that we had struck the place on payday as there were several thousand Indians present, also a circus show and long tables of all kinds of goods for sale.
It looked as though we had struck the universe. There seemed to be plenty of drunks of all shades and colors. Bill Hickory (Wild Bill) was present as U.S. Marshall and gambling was the order of the day.
We were advised to till morning as we would be more likely to avoid drunken Indians which we did. Several free fights were indulged during the afternoon. While a drunken mob made the old jail noisy throughout the entire night but considering the collection considered it a very harmless affair. Before night came on some of the American City boys came down and we returned with them.
By this time we had begun to look upon America City as our City of Refuge and it was with no small degree of satisfaction that we were once more permitted to visit our many friends in this vicinity. We followed our usual occupation during the winter of 1871 and 1872 and found that there had been considerable immigration to the country since the previous winter and many new faces appeared at the various gatherings. This being leap year there was no lack of parties, dances, and other social meeting. My business kept me employed five evenings a week, but I was generally on hand when amusement was going on.
A dance in those days meant a free pitch in and was well attended, the best of order good humor prevailed. The ceiling was some times very low for tall men which made them look quite comical as they would circle in the waltz with their heads bent down on to a line with their shoulders. It was customary to furnish supper on such occasions and the young men could spare no pains to make the supper a success by buying such luxuries as they could.
On some occasion there was a dance at a big house, with a shed roof addition, near America City. The house floor was about one foot higher than that of the kitchen which in fact had no floor, except Mother Earth. In consequence a space of six inches appeared under the house. The dance was progressing nicely while two or three ladies were preparing a long table in the kitchen with a bountiful repast (repast meaning, meal). A small boy sat by the stove where he could obtain a view of the oysters and chicken. About this time a wandering polecat appreciating the situation stuck its head out from under the house floor and began to take observations.
This was to much for the boy, he gathered on to a long handled skillet and let it drive at the innocent cat. Of all the loud sounding instruments engaged for the occasion this little performance discounted them all. Such as other stamped and so provoked, the supper was spoiled. The dance broke up, while the interest was equally divided between the boy and the cat. We have forgiven him now, since he has grown to about 6 feet in height.
I taught Singing School at America City, White Hall, Greenwood and the stone school house north of America City and Soldier Creek during the winter, and never missed an appointment although the winter was very cold. Several blizzards (or invigorators as we called them) came howling across the prairie but they never discouraged the members of the singing class. They were always on hand, old and young, and they made it a business to learn.
We made our home with the family of D. C. Parsons, and the winter will remain ever in memories as one of the most enjoyable periods of our younger days. During the long busy days of this winter we were not so overrun with business but that we could find time every two weeks to make a trip about 15 miles north west where there was an attraction that was by natural for one of my age. And when spring had fairly come with sunshine and song, and as we had read some where in the Bible that it was not good for man to be alone, and taking Cain for an example, I went into the land of nod and took unto myself a wife.