from the Kansas Historical Quarterly, Volume 5, 1936
page 143 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER, 1855-1860
Waites Hotel Prov. Mar. 12, 1855.
I HARDLY know what to write you or what to do. I met James at the depot in Providence and he had found the tickets at the Express Office. I must say I had
really hoped that he would not get them and that would furnish a reason for returning home, -- not that I shrink from any hardships real or imaginary
which I might be called to endure in Kansas but I do find it hard to leave you and Mother & sister, Herbert, &c at home.
I say again I do not know what to do, I have prayed that I might be guided in the right way, and I trust that I shall be thus guided. James seems to
be as eager to go as ever. I shall probably go on to Boston tomorrow, at least, and shall have a plain talk with him and tell him just what I think about it. I may yet see it best to return and not go at all, but if I do go I may not stay -- or but a short
time at any rate. I certainly will not stay -- (and would not go did I know that you felt so) if you feel the need of me greatly at home, and if you think that I ought to come back or that you cannot get along comfortably without me (I did not think that I was so important) I do hope that you will write me so and I will gladly return and be contented and not only contented but esteem it a priviledge to remain with you and mother and try to be a comfort to you as long as you or I shall live.
Mr. Wells was born April 26, 1832, in Hopkinton, R.I., spent his
early life in Kingston and Wakefield and at the academy of East
Greenwich, and as a young man planned to enter his father's bank.
Ill health, however, forced him to leave the Atlantic coast and in
1855 he came West, taking a claim near Juanita, and subsequently
one near Manhattan. On October 30, 1856, he was married to Miss
Eleanor Bemis of Holliston, Mass., who lived on a near-by claim. As
the accompanying letters, written to his father, stepmother, and
half brothers show, Mr. Wells was a Free-State man, on one
occassion joining a party which started to the defense of Lawrence,
and was active in the affairs of his community, particularly in the
work of the Congregational church in Manhattan where he was a
charter member. He died in Manhattan, January 9, 1907.
The originals of the letters published here are preserved in the
Manuscript division of the Kansas State Historical Society. They
were presented by Elizabeth J. and Emily P. Wells, of Kingston,
R.I., nieces of Herbert J. Wells, who is mentioned in the letters.
Included in the series are several letters written by Eleanor Bemis
Wells to her new relatives. Spelling and punctuation as contained
in the original letters have been followed throughout.
I HARDLY know what to write you or what to do. I met James at the depot in Providence and he had found the tickets at the Express Office. I must say I had really hoped that he would not get them and that would furnish a reason for returning home, -- not that I shrink from any hardships real or imaginary which I might be called to endure in Kansas but I do find it hard to leave you and Mother & sister, Herbert, &c at home.
I say again I do not know what to do, I have prayed that I might be guided in the right way, and I trust that I shall be thus guided. James seems to be as eager to go as ever. I shall probably go on to Boston tomorrow, at least, and shall have a plain talk with him and tell him just what I think about it. I may yet see it best to return and not go at all, but if I do go I may not stay -- or but a short time at any rate. I certainly will not stay -- (and would not go did I know that you felt so) if you feel the need of me greatly at home, and if you think that I ought to come back or that you cannot get along comfortably without me (I did not think that I was so important) I do hope that you will write me so and I will gladly return and be contented and not only contented but esteem it a priviledge to remain with you and mother and try to be a comfort to you as long as you or I shall live.
Mr. Wells was born April 26, 1832, in Hopkinton, R.I., spent his early life in Kingston and Wakefield and at the academy of East Greenwich, and as a young man planned to enter his father's bank. Ill health, however, forced him to leave the Atlantic coast and in 1855 he came West, taking a claim near Juanita, and subsequently one near Manhattan. On October 30, 1856, he was married to Miss Eleanor Bemis of Holliston, Mass., who lived on a near-by claim. As the accompanying letters, written to his father, stepmother, and half brothers show, Mr. Wells was a Free-State man, on one occassion joining a party which started to the defense of Lawrence, and was active in the affairs of his community, particularly in the work of the Congregational church in Manhattan where he was a charter member. He died in Manhattan, January 9, 1907.
The originals of the letters published here are preserved in the Manuscript division of the Kansas State Historical Society. They were presented by Elizabeth J. and Emily P. Wells, of Kingston, R.I., nieces of Herbert J. Wells, who is mentioned in the letters. Included in the series are several letters written by Eleanor Bemis Wells to her new relatives. Spelling and punctuation as contained in the original letters have been followed throughout.
page 144 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
But if you find it easier to get along without me than you thought at first then it may be best for me to stay a year or two in Kanzas if I should ever reach that country.
James says that he has learned of two printers who he thinks might suit you and they will probably write you soon.
But I must bid you goodnight Do not be troubled on my account -- I doubt but that all will in the end be for the best though what the end may be I am sure I cannot now tell.
Yours affectionately in haste
T. C. Wells
I have just been to wash my face &c and when I came back I found James just directing a letter to you, and I will add two or three words and more soon.
We have been on the railroad all night stuck fast for three or four hours in a snow bank on Mount Holly in Vermont. A strange way to get to Albany through Fitchburg Mass., Keen, N. H., Bellows Falls, and Rutland Ver., but we shall have a chance to see the country, for the last hour we have been going [through] the Mountain hills -- this is the most broken roughest country I have ever seen. I should think there were as many as three hundred on their way to Kanzas with us, some thirty or forty women some whole families. We expect to arrive at Albany at about six (6) this evening or rather we arrive three or four hours before that and start from there at six. If you wish to write before I get in Kanzas you may direct to the care of Samuel C. Pomeroy, Esq.,2 Kanzas City, Mo. and I shall get them as soon as they can be forwarded. If it should be necessary you can communicate with me by telegraph directing to the care of same person in Kanzas City as there is a telegraph there. Yours affectionately,
Will write more soon as can.
T. C. Wells.
Detroit Michigan Mar. 16-55
Here we are in Detroit Start for Chicago at 1/4 to nine this eve'g. We arrived at Albany at about seven Thursday evening, and a mean dirty place it is -- around the depot at least -- if I am any judge.
We left Albany at 1/2 past eleven at night for Suspension Bridge, Niagara Falls where we arrived at about 1/2 past four yesterday
page 145 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
afternoon; we took a walk up to the falls on the Canada side. I will not attempted to describe them, the pictures which I have seen of them give them as good an idea as you could expect to get on paper. The river below the falls is quite narrow but deep and rushes along furiously under the suspension bridge, two or three hundred feet below the carriage path. Two or three of us went down a long flight of steps and clambered down the bank of the river, clear to the water's edge and drank of the river directly under the bridge. Those standing on the edge of the bank, which was almost perpendicular, looked like mere monkeys in size. The Susp. Bridge is most as great an artificial wonder and curiosity as the Falls is a natural. We left Niagara at 11 1/2 o'clock last night and arrived in Detroit at about 2 o'clock this afternoon. It seems to be a fixed fact that we travel nights and "lay by" if we lay by at all, in the day time.
My health is as good as it has been at any time for a year past, but I shall be glad when we get to Kanzas or somewhere where one can "stretch his weary limbs" once more, for though I am not very tired, yet sleeping for three or four successive nights in the cars is not the most comfortable way of resting, especially when cramped up with two on a seat all night. I cannot write many particulars now as I have hardly time and am crowded up in "Johnson's Hotel," about 75 or 100 men talking all around me.
We have great times with our baggage, hunting for it every time we change cars, and generally, as it has happened, in the dark. I keep a little miniature sort of a journal as we go along, and will write more fully of our journey when I get a chance.
Have you found a printer yet? I hope I shall find a letter from home at Kanzas City when I get there. I might go and back again while we are going, we might as [well] sail around Cape Horn as to go this way. I send a copy of today's Tribune.
Yours in haste,
T. C. Wells.
Steamer Lonora Missouri River
It is several days since I sent a letter to you and I suppose you would like to hear from us once more At about noon last Tuesday we left St. Louis on the "Steamer Lonora" with about 300 passengers on board, and when you know that the steamers this way are flat bottom and those of the larger size among which our boat may be
page 146 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
ranked, are only about one hundred feet long, you will not imagine but know that we are rather short for room and accommodations. This steamboating up the Missouri, where the water is as low as it is now, in a crowded boat is just the meanest way of getting along that ever I tried. By far the greater portion of us have to sleep on mattresses on the floor, and I believe that we should be more comfortable and less liable to catch cold if we slept out of doors. As it is I do not believe there are a dozen on board who have not taken a severe cold and I have not escaped. For two or three days it made me most or quite sick and that is the reason why I have not written before since I have been on the river. I am much better now, however, and feel about well today.
If we have good luck and don't get stuck in a sand bar we shall get to Kansas City a little after noon today. The Missouri is a strange river, at least it seems so to us Eastern people. Every few minutes we run against a snag which one would think would knock a hole through the bottom of the boat, and every day, and sometimes several times a day we are delayed from half an hour to three or four hours on a sand bar. Yesterday we remained stationary for full half a day on this account and after all had been done that the captain thought best he sent about 250 of us ashore, most of us without our dinner, and we had to [walk] five or six miles around to a point while the steamer worked her way across the bar. We got our dinner and supper together. Our Yankees say that they expected to meet with some hardships in Kanzas and have prepared for it, but such hard times in the cars and on the boat is something that they had no reason to expect. They did not bargain or pay for it, and I assure you they do not like it. We have formed an association among ourselves and shall probably, quite a large number of us, settle together. We expect to hear from Mr. Goodnow3 in Kansas City and can then tell perhaps about where we shall go. The Missourians, some of them, are making a tremendous row about the "pauper Yankees," as they call them, coming out to make Kanzas a free state; but some of them talk very reasonable on the subject. I think there is more danger of being frightened than hurt by them. How do you all do? I want to hear from you very much, and hope I shall when I get to K. C.
It is most time for dinner and the servants, not slaves, will want the tables and chairs, and I must stop writing. We have just been
page 147 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
walking over a bad bar on "stilts," I call them, two long, strong, pieces of timber by means of which they walk over sand bars, sticking one end in the sand, and with rope and tackle raising the boat up while the paddle wheels drive the boat along. I will try to write to mother soon and give a sort of history of my journey. Love to all.
Yours affectionately in haste,
T. C. Wells
Kansas City, Mo. Sunday March 25, 1855.
We did not arrive at this place until after dusk last evening, owing to snags, etc. in the river. indeed we have been behind time and had to wait for trains and boat at almost every station so that instead of coming here in eight days as we ought to and as many do when the trains connect we have been twelve days tossed about with night and day without decent accommodations, and without stoping a single night to rest ones weary bones, even on the boat we had to sleep on the floor, and I doubt not but that I should have felt better and stronger had I remained in a chair by the stove, as, indeed, I did one night. Last night for the first time, more fortunate than some of the company, I obtained a good bed on a bedstead with only three other persons in the room, and I assure you I enjoyed it. It is a luxury which those only know how to value who have been for some days deprived of it. My cold has not entirely left me, I cough a little, but hope soon to be well. But enough of the blue in the past, now for a word on the prospects of the future. We have not heard definitely from Mr. Goodnow, but know that he has gone up the river toward Fort Riley, and the company have good reason to expect to see him in Lawrence, about fifty miles from here, for which place most of them expect to start tomorrow, though I am sorry to say that quite a large number started today. We have a goodly number of very fine men, and women too, but we have also a large number of such as I have no desire to associate with, many of whom I expect and hope will separate from the company and some go back home. I am not yet decided whether to go with the company toward Fort Riley or independent of them start for Council City. Am strongly inclined to the latter place. It is highly spoken of by all who have been there, both as to the character of the people and its situation. It is on an elevated prairie country at a distance from the river, and the low bottom lands having wells of the best water in the territory, and on either side is a stream of clear
page 148 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
running water, and there is a good opportunity for selecting a good claim and a city lot by paying five dollars for a share of the company's stock. I did [not] hear anything from home here. Perhaps you have not received a letter from me, though I have sent three before these and a paper.
I feel rather tired and sleepy and fear that I shall not be able to secure a bed unless I occupy it soon "Squatter Law," or rather grab law is supreme in this part of the country and has been with us ever since we started from Boston.
I hope that the next time that I write I shall be able to inform you where to direct letters to your humble servant and affectionate son, T. C. Wells
Remember me kindly to friends, and tell some of them that I shall try to write to them when I can find an opportunity to do so.
T. C. W.
According to directions I send a feather from the banks of the Missouri and a piece of the inside bark of a tree near the far famed Kansas river.
Hope all are well. Please Write direct Topeka Kanzas Ter. (and I will find your letters)
Topeka, K. T., April 1, 55.
My Dear Mother.
Here I am in the far famed Kanzas Territory, we left Kanzas City on Monday last at about noon, and passing through Westport, a large Missourian town, we soon came upon the Indian reserve (belonging to the Shawnee's) which extends for thirty miles up the Kanzas or Kaw river. We went as far as Mill Creek the first day, called about twenty miles from Kanzas, and there we hired for the night an old log cabin of the Indians, made a good fire in the old fireplace, made some coffee, which we drank with our crackers and gingerbread, and then we all seven in number, spread down our blankets etc., pulled off our boots and overcoats, and, tried to go to sleep. 'Twas a pretty cold night, the wind whistled through the holes in the old cabin, which was thoroughly ventilated, as we could put both hands between most any of the logs, but we fastened our tent up on the windy side, and slept quite comfortably. The next morning we started for Lawrence City about thirty miles further up the river. We found the ground frozen in the morning, but it grew warmer as soon as the sun was well up, and we had quite a good day for traveling. We found no settlements on the road,
page 149 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
except once in a while an Indian cabin, but we saw a plenty of rich rolling prairie, with here and there a ravine skirted with timber, and generally a spring or brook at the bottom. We traveled nearly all day among a large party of Missourians, number about 200, who were going to Lawrence to vote and a pretty rough looking set they were, some on horseback, some in covered wagons, and others on foot, all hardy, sunburnt, frontier men, and all well armed with guns, revolvers and bowie knives. We were often asked what county (in Missouri) we came from, and when they learned that we were from the East we had the pleasure of being called "damned Yankees," etc., but they did not succeed in frightening us or in driving us back, though they assured us that they could fire some twenty shots each, and that they had a six pounder with them. The thing which I was most afraid of was a barrel of whisky which we discovered in one of their wagons. They all stoped at the Wakarusha, where we pased their camp toward Lawrence about five mile distant but I can tell you those five miles were long ones, for although we hired a team to carry our luggage we had to walk ourselves, and thirty miles is something of a walk for a beginer especially when we had come twenty miles the afternoon before. However we arrived at L. at near sunset, a little after and put up at Page's Hotel, the best in the City but poor enough at that. For breakfast, dinner, and supper we had fried pork, and very poor bread, biscuit and cornbread, a little miserable butter, and molasses. We were not able to procure a team to carry us further on our journey, and were therefore obliged to remain several days in L.
I will describe L. to you in my next if nothing prevents. We came here (Topeka) yesterday, and start for Big Blue, where Mr. Goodnow is, tomorrow. We are both well. James has gone to sleep.
Yours affectionately in haste,
T. C. Wells
Cedar Creek, May 28, 1855.
In my letter to mother a few days ago I expressed a wish for you to send me some money and suggested that you send it in your letters to me in fifty dollar notes on Wa[kefield] Bank. But as letters come so irregularly here I do not think it will be safe to send money thus, and I do not know as you can send to me at all unless you can procure a check, payable to my order, on some banking house in St. Louis. I suppose I can get along without the money,
page 150 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
but I am and shall be pretty short of funds until I either raise something on my claim to sell, or else sell the "claim" itself.
As to the last I have thought that I should not try very much to do it until toward fall, as it is hardly safe to go down the river now on account of cholera, and I think it will be much easier to find a purchaser in three or four months from now than at present.
I like the country here very much, it is beautiful now that every thing is green; but I do not like the idea much more the reality of having no letters or communication from home, neither do I like to think that you may be sick and have no one to assist you.
For these reasons I feel often that I ought to come home though if it were not for these I could get along very well here for two or three years, but I should want very much to see you all before the end of that time.
I have no doubt but that letters have been mailed to me from home often but I have received but one as yet -- that dated March 22.
I have also written home about once a week ever since I came here, I do not know whether you receive them regularly or not.
Three deer ran by the cabin a few days ago, I have seen quite a number since I have been here, but not near enough to get a shot at them.
I shot a turtle in the creek last Saturday which weighed twenty one lbs. I should like to get another of the "Narragansett Times," I heard while down to Mr. Dyer's4 to meeting yesterday that there was a paper there for me, but it could not be found then, perhaps I may get it today. We have preaching somewhere within a dozen miles twice each Sabbath and a Sunday School has just been started at Mr. Dyer's. But we have no prayer meetings here and I miss them very much more than almost any thing else. We are so much scattered here that it is hardly possible to get together more than once in a week, and that of course is on the Sabbath.
Does the interest continue in the meetings at Wakefield? And
page 151 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
how is the state of religious feeling in Kingston? I wish that they might have a real genuine revival there.
James has not left me yet and he may not for some time but if he should I do not know but I should be obliged to give up keeping house as it would be rather lonely for often we do not see another person for several days, sometimes for more than a week, unless we happen off three or four miles to look for them.
Love to all friends, and hoping that you and yours are well
I am yours affectionately,
T. C. Wells
Cedar Creek, June 11/55
My dear Mother,
I found at Mr. Dyer's yesterday, when I went down to meeting, a letter from you, and three papers all "Narragansett Times." I assure you I was not at all sorry to get them all but especially glad was I to get the letter.
James was down to Dyer's this morning and brought me a letter from Lizzie which had lodged for sometime in the P. O. at the Catholic Mission5 and would have remained in those comfortable, quarters, no-one knows how long, if an acquaintance of mine had not passed through there and spying it out brought it up to me. The Mission is about thirty miles from here and why in the name of reason the [letter] should stop there I cannot tell, for it was plainly directed to the care of S. D. Dyer, &c. I was glad to get a letter from Lizzie too and will try to answer it soon. Yesterday was the second time that I have received either letter or paper since I left home and "good news from a far country" is worth having I can tell you. James, too, has been favoured with letters, he received three from Prov. yesterday which were very acceptable though he would have prefered one from home.
A man from Topeka says that there are two or three letters there for me which the P. M. would not let him have as he did not remember my whole name. I am going to start after them tomorrow if nothing happens to prevent. What would you think in the East of going over fifty miles after one or two letters and that on horse back? but we do not think so much of riding fifty miles here as you eastern people would of going two, provided we both have the same mode of conveyance. James has heard that there is a letter for him at the Mission and I can stop and get it for him.
. . . You tell me in your letter of a number of things that you
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"want to know" and I will try to inform you though perhaps, I have already given some of the desired information in previous letters that you have not yet received. But to the point. I do cook myself sometimes James cooks but I generally do that part of the business. We make wheat bread, biscuit griddle cakes, (flapjacks west) puddings, etc., soups out of turtles and squirels, boil duck, snipe and other birds and sometimes ham and also eggs, and we fry ham and fish. Of course I have a good cook stove. We have made nothing but what we could eat and tasted good; have not had sour bread once, neither have we burnt it up, had nothing to throw away because 'twas not good. Can you beat that? We do most of our own washing also though we carry some of our shirts, pants, etc., which need starching and ironing about a mile over the bluffs where we get them "done up" for us at $1 a doz. as for coats and vests they remain in our trunks the most of the time walk out perhaps once a week or so, that's all. I have a very good garden, but more than that I did not get ploughed as the man whom I engaged to "break up" for me disappointed me; he could not make it go. We do have meeting once a day on the Sabbath at Mr. Dyer's also an interesting S. School both conducted by Methodists. There are meetings held in other places in the neighborhood but too far off for us to attend as we should have to go nine or ten miles each way and that takes too long Sunday afternoon. I am glad you and father had an opportunity to take the air while Henry was at home. Every one says that I look much better than when I came here. Indeed, I know that I am better, am not sick at all now. The country agrees with me well, and all the people here to whom I have spoken of leaving say that they don't want me to go, and that I ought not to leave the country but I think I shall come home before Spring. Yours aff--
T. C. Wells
Cedar Creek July 21/55 Juniata Kansas Ter.
Mrs. Thos. P. Wells,
My Dear Mother,
I received two letters last Tuesday morning, one from you and one from Henry both of the same date June 18. May 11th was the date of the last letter which I had received, it was from Lizzie. It seemed a long time since I had heard from home more than nine weeks. I am glad you all had so nice a visit in East Lynne and hope grandfather will soon get well.
So I have two new cousins, have I? That is good but I am sorry
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to hear that aunts E. and L. are so sick, hope to hear that they are better in the next letter. Thus it is joy and sorrow are mingled here below, but even while sad we may yet be really happy and looking beyond above these present sorrows expect a life of eternal joy. May we not only expect but receive that life.
I have received every number of the "Times" as far as June 23rd. No. 8 and they are very welcome visitors, especially when one lives alone. A family moved in above me yesterday, consisting of a father, mother, and four daughters; they are three fourths of a mile from my cabin and out of sight behind the bluffs.
My horse was found a few days after he was lost, about thirty miles down the river. He was not just such a horse as I wanted and I traded him off together with my wagon for a pair of steers and another horse. In less than an hour afterwards I sold the steers for more than the horse was worth, and I can sell the horse that I have now for all that I could have got for the wagon; he is worth more to me than the one that I had before.
I do not like to have father so closely confined and feel badly every time I think about him; but it does not seem to me best to return home quite yet. Even if it was perfectly safe going down the Missouri, I fear that my ill health might return if I should go east now and then I should be of little use to any one, but I am so well here that I hope if I remain until cold weather I shall have so entirely recovered that my health will not be affected by the Atlantic fogs. The Missourians are circulating all kinds of evil reports about Kanzas, to discourage northern imigration, but they are not founded in fact. We feel in no danger whatever from hostile indians or cholera. It is very healthy here, and, in this section at least, the crops look finely and promise a plentiful harvest. I hope the South Kingston people will succeed in establishing a good public Library and erect a suitable building.
I am obliged to Joanna for her kind wishes. Tell her that I get along nicely cooking for myself and dog which is my only companion now. I did cook the turtle I shot and it was very good. Tell father that, Providence permitting, I will come home as soon as I well can and take [care] of the printing office, paper, or bank, and, if possible, all together for a while and let him rest a little. Tell Lizzie if it does not happen before Thanksgiving I will try to be there.
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I am glad father did not send any money. I wrote for him not to send it in another letter immediately afterward. Did he not get it.
We have had a real rainy day just such as we have in the east, here the rain usually comes in thunder showers and rains very hard. Love to all, not forgetting Fanny Burdick. She sent love to me in one of your former letters and I neglected to acknowledge the receipt of it, so I send a double portion now to make up.
Yours affectionately T. C. Wells
Juniata, Kanzas T., Aug. 9, 1855.
Mrs. Thos. P Wells,
I am happy to say that I get your letters quite regularly now; the last reached me in less than a month after it was written.
It would have given me much pleasure to have made one of your picnic party on the fourth no doubt you all had a very fine time. I am sorry, on father's account that I shall not be able to settle up my affairs so as to go home before the middle or last of November.
I still sleep in my log cabin, but take my meals in Mr. Hanna's family, three quarters of a mile up the creek.
I began to get quite lonely and after my cow was gone I decided not to keep house for myself any longer for the present.
I received a very good offer for my horse and cow, and thought best to sell as I might not again get so good an opportunity.
I "reckon" $45 dollars is a good price to get for a cow and calf in Kanzas when you can buy as many as you please for from $15, to $25. in Missouri but mine was a little extra.
The cholera has been raging terribly at Fort Reiley, chiefly among the soldiers who were in the habit of drinking large quantities of whiskey. Some forty five or fifty persons died there last week. I believe there have been no cases since Sunday.
There is but little sickness in this part of the territory--no cholera.
We have not had a "wet" season but have been favored with sufficient rain to make the corn fields look finely.
I picked a ripe tomato in my garden today, the first I have seen this season, I shall have plenty of them soon. I have no lack of garden vegetables, except beans which don't do very well here this season, and I turn them in, in part pay for my board.
You ask -- How long it takes me to go fifty miles. It is about fifty five miles from Topeka here, and I rode home on a very hard riding horse, in a day and half, with an easy riding horse it would not take as long.
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I had an invitation to go on a grape hunt last Monday, with about a dozen young people of both sexes and had a nice time. I may tell you more about it some other time. They were the smallest grapes I ever saw, not much larger than our whortleberries, but when ripe are quite good.
Wild plums grow about here, I have found some plum bushes up the creek that hang very full indeed but they are not yet ripe. Our Missouri Legislature has adjourned without accomplishing anything. The governor would not recognize them as a legal body while at the Shawnee Mission, and the people will not trouble themselves to obey any laws passed by such a sham Legislature.
The truth is many of the members were Missourians, elected by fraud and mob force, and some of [them] now live in Missouri.
Juniata, Kanzas T.,
I have neglected writing to you for some time past, waiting to receive a letter from you first, but it does not come and I will put off writing no longer. It is eight weeks tomorrow since your last letter was written and the mail will not be here again under ten days or a fortnight.
I soon became tired of sleeping alone in my cabin and taking my meals, so far away, and so I determined to move up to Mr. Hanna's altogether and for the last three weeks have been "camping out" with them.
I am now in the little tent that I brought from home, it has been quite useful both to me and others. If I should tell you how we live here you would think we had rather a hard time -- you could not bear it, -- 'twould kill you, etc., but I like it very well especially in pleasant weather 'tis not quite so pleasant when it storms. The cooking is all done over the fire out of doors, something as yould cook at a picnic in the east. We set our table under a large oak tree and under it's shade we sit and talk or read when we have nothing else to do. We had a wedding here last week out of doors! one of Mr. Hanna's daughters was married to a Mr. Dyer who lives at Juniata about four miles from here, he is a son of the old man Dyer who is spoken of in Boynton's "Journey through Kanzas," which you saw while I was at home. The knot was tied at four o'clock last Thursday evening.
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Everything was prepared before hand as well as could be done under the circumstances. A long table was set under the trees, loaded with cake of various kinds, tarts made from native grapes, which by the way are much smaller than the wild grapes of the east, custards, preserves etc., while at a side table was roast pork, mutton and chicken in abundance. At about three o'clock the bridegroom and his friends with the "preacher" came a part in two large two horse wagons and others on horse- back. The bridegroom was dressed in black coat and pants with white vest and the bride in pure white with a head dress also of white. At the appointed hour the relations and friends formed a semicircle; the bride and bridegroom stood up alone in front and the minister before them. After they had promised to love, respect, obey, etc., as long as they both should live they were pronounced man and wife. The minister then made a prayer commending them and their friends to the care of God and asking his blessing upon them. Then all the party were invited to partake of the refreshments prepared for them. Two young men were selected to carve the meat etc., for the first table. When they were through others who could not find room at first together with the carvers took their places and were waited on in turn. After dinner all were invited to the "infare" or second wedding at the house of Mr. Dyer on the morrow.
After a little while most of the friends went home, but the bride and bridegroom with one of his sisters and two or three others remained all night.
On the next morning I had the pleasure of riding down with them to the infare where we remained until nearly night. This time the table was set in a large log house, a story and a half high, containing four rooms with a kitchen built on one side, this is a first class house in Kansas.
We were supplied with a greater variety of nice things than we had the day before. More than fifty persons were there to take dinner with them.
After dinner some of the company took a walk to the water melon patch, eat as many as they wished and went back loaded with melons for those that they had left behind. We had no dancing, no instrumental music but considerable time was spent in singing sacred songs. So you have a brief description of a wedding in Kanzas.
They say that there will be a number of weddings more in a short
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time, as all of the young men have become tired of keeping batchelor's hall.
A number of [us] went a plumming yesterday, I have been once before. We had a pleasant time and came home loaded with as many plums as we could bring.
They grow on bushes not much larger than our current bushes, they would grow larger, but the prairie fires keep them down. The plums were very thick and so ripe that we could scarcely touch the bushes without shaking them to the ground. These plums are of a yellowish red when ripe, are nearly as large as our tame plums and are very sweet and good. I have saved some of the seed to carry east.
I have had about six acres of prairie broken and shall probably have ten or twelve in all, which will make quite a good start for some one next spring. It may possibly be me for if my health should not continue good in the east this winter I do not know what I can do better than return here and go to farming in earnest. I have spoken with two or three physicians and they together with all the old people who have lived in different parts of the country, say that I am very foolish to think of returning east to live and that the first cold I catch there will bring on my former sickness as bad or worse than ever. I intend however to go home this fall, and try it next winter, though I do not expect to be as well in the east. I have made up my mind not to sell my claim this fall unless I am offered a very good price but leave it in the care of some friend until spring and then if I remain in the east I can get them to sell it for me or if I decide to come back it will be ready for me. If I should return here again I wish you and father, etc, would come too. It would be much better for father's health and I think you could all be happy. It will not cost much to live out here after the first year, and it may be good for your health too. There have been one hundred and thirty or forty deaths of cholera at Fort Reilly but in this part of the country it has continued quite healthy. The cholera has not appeared at all here I believe.
I hope to hear from you soon.
My health continues good and I expect to be on my way home in a little more than two months. I have written to Amos [?] but have not yet heard from him. Love to all,
page 158 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Juniata, Kansas Territory
I was very glad to receive a letter from you about ten days ago, the first you have written me since I have been in Kansas.
I received five or six other letters at the same time and as many papers. I have not been well for a part of the time since having had two pretty severe attacks of fever and ague, I have also had to spend considerable time in my garden, gathering beans, fixing fence etc., and have not had an opportunity to answer your letter before now.
I have got over the ague entirely I hope for there is nothing pleasant about it.
A lot of unruly oxen broke into my garden and destroyed some thirty dollars worth of things -- most too bad!
Your paper takes so much of your time that I am almost sorry that you ever commenced publishing it for even if it paid well your health is worth much more to you than money.
Had I known two months before how you felt about my remaining here I would have made arrangements to stay here a year or two at least for although I have been much better here than I was in the east yet I do not feel that I have entirely recovered, and to tell the truth I am almost afraid to return home. I intend to start next month however and spend the winter with you if I am able but I think I will have to return here in the spring. We will talk about this when we see each other if we are permitted to meet again.
You ask about Mr. Goodnow; -- he and his wife live about ten miles from me, but I see them occasionally, they both have been sick for sometime past. Mr. G. has got pretty well but his wife is very poorly yet. Three claims have been taken on our creek since I first settled here -- two above me and one on a small branch half a mile southeast of my claim.
The emigration comes in rather slowly this fall as yet, owing to our political troubles, the doings of our sham legislature and the border ruffians under Atchison and Stringfellow, but people need not fear to come to Kanzas the Missouri laws are a dead letter to Kanzas freemen, their hirelings dare not enforce them There are eight free state men to two who are in favor of slavery in the territory and the ratio is constantly increasing in favor of freedom Kanzas must and will be free. Nearly every one who comes here
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wants a claim and so houses are seldom built nearer than half a mile of each other, but at Manhattan, ten miles from me, there are fifteen or eighteen houses and there is a good prospect of soon having quite a town there.
There are but two or three families very near Mr. Dyer's but he has a fine situation for trading and probably others will build near him. He lives 2 1/2 or 3 miles from me. Nearly all our meal and flour is ground in the States 110 to 130 miles from here, but there are mills at Lawrence, 80 miles, and at Topeka 55 miles, and we shall have mills here this fall. There are persons who make a business of going to the States after provisions, of course we purchase here
Cattle will sometimes get there [sic] living here without feeding, but it is best to allow them about a ton of hay to the head, which is quite sufficient for them to winter on. We can cut plenty of hay here on the prairies. Do not direct any more letters to me at this place, as I shall not be here when they arrive. I hope to write mother soon. I have also unanswered letters from Henry, Amos, and Theodore which I will try to remember soon.
Juniata, Kanzas Ter.
If you had ever spent a month or two "camping out" in tents you would excuse me for not being more regular in writing home of late.
But beside living in tents I have had two or three touches of fever and ague within a few weeks and have not felt much like writing or doing much of anything else for a good part of the time.
I have now three unanswered letters of yours before me, but have received none since I wrote father a few days ago. The last letter I have had was from Henry, dated Sept 11.
We have just moved into a house, that is a pile of logs with a roof on the top of them. The spaces between the logs are not filled up yet, but we have a tent cloth, wagon cover, quilts, comforters, etc hung up around the sides to keep off the wind for the present, and have, also, a tent set up inside of the house; we have no chimney but build our fires on the ground in one corner of the house. Of course we have no cellar or second story, and old mother earth serves us for a floor. But this is a great improvement on "camping out" as we have done Now we are quite comfortable although we
page 160 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
have some cold, frosty, weather. I suppose however, that if you could look in upon us and see just how we live, you would think that you could not endure it for a week, " 'twould kill you."
. . . My letter will not be very well connected this time for I read your letters and then write down whatever thought they suggest in the same order that they come into my head.
You say I have written nothing about the flowers in this country. We have some that are very pretty, and I have saved seeds of as many as I could so that if nothing happens to prevent you may yet see some of the Kanzas flowers in the east. I intend, also, to bring with me some garden seeds. . . .
You and Henry and Theodore keep wishing me to write for the "Times", but really that is out of my line of business. I know not what I could write that would be interesting to the people, the newspapers are all so full about Kanzas that I could hardly write anything new on that subject, and I conclude that the "Times" has correspondents enough without me. . . .
The two Kansas elections have just come off, the pro-slavery election, called by the sham Legislature occurred one week before the free state election which was called by the people assembled in convention.
We did not have pro-slavery men enough in our precinct to hold an election, but there were seventy nine Free State votes east.
In the whole territory the pro-slavery people report 1,800 votes cast for Gen. Whitefield [John W. Whitfield] and probably half of them were foreign votes.
Gov. Reeder the free state candidate received more than 4,000 votes! I think congress will hardly refuse to receive him as delegate from Kanzas, if they do there will be a fuss.
You may not get any more letters from me, as I shall probably start for the east in a few days, and shall be able to travel as fast as a letter. I may be delayed on the way, however, and you need not expect to see me much before the first of Dec. I shall not bring home but a few of my things as I shall expect to come back in the Spring even if I remain here only through another summer.
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Mrs Thomas P. Wells
We arrived here at about half past one this P. M. four hours behind our time owing to the immense length of our train. I think we had on fourteen cars.
We crossed Susp bridge at about midnight and last night, we did not have time to go to the falls but caught a glimpse of them as we crossed the bridge a little before dark. I made a mistake in saying above that we crossed at midnight that was the time that we started for Detroit.
We were behind on the Hudson River R. R. and have been behind ever since, so that we have to lay by and wait for trains in the day time and travel nights in order to reach St Louis before Sunday which we wish to do if possible.
Theodore gets so excited at what he sees sometimes that he can hardly control himself; coming through western Canada this morning he almost jumped up and down at the sight of the prairie we were passing through, I don't know what he will do with himself when he sees the immense prairies of Illinois, the Missisipi and Missouri rivers etc. etc.
Detroit is a beautiful city in my opinion, it is regularly laid out in straight, wide streets, well paved and good side walks, and contains several very fine churches, and hotels. I hope I shall get a letter from you as soon as I reach Juniata and would like very much to receive letters from father, Henry, and others in Wakefield whom I might mention Write me what father is going to do about the Times as soon as he decides.
Do you feel any better than when we left? -- you were most sick then I hope all are well.
We are not sick, but are rather tired of traveling night and day in the cars; we shall finish that business, however, for the present, in two or three days.
Theodore is so full of seeing that he thought he
could not write now. There is a great deal of snow
in western N. Y. and in Canada, and I am afraid
that we are too early to drive stock up into the
territory if so we shall go right along and attend
to something else first and come down to the States
again in a few weeks to get our cows oxen etc
Yours truly, in haste
page 162 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Apr 3, 1856,
My dear Mother
I believe my last letter home was written from Detroit Mich. but Theodore has written you since. We left the beautiful city of Detroit one week ago to-day, at six o'clock P. M. and arrived in Chicago, the "Garden City of the West," at about eight o'clock the next morning.
As we had two or three hours to ourselves before the train started for St. Louis, we went to the American Hotel and took breakfast. Theodore and myself then started up State St to find our old friend Benj Watson while, our companion Mr Wilson went in another part of the city to hunt up an old acquaintance of his.
We found Ben at the store door and as may be imagined somewhat surprised to see us; for though he had heard that we were coming and had expected us two or three weeks before he had, I think, quite given us up, thinking that we [had] gone some other rout or passed through the city without seeing him. After talking a few minutes he started with us for the Depot which is about a mile from his store, and there he introduced us to one of his partners, the younger Mr. Otis, who happened to be on the spot.
I received a much more favorable impression of Chicago this time than -- at either of my previous visits -- the mud was all frozen up and I had a better opportunity to run around.
At half past nine we started on the Chicago, Alton, and St Louis R. R. for St Louis and were accompanied for thirty or forty miles by Mr Otis who had business in a little village at that distance from Chicago. We found him very sociable and agreeable.
We arrived among the one hundred and forty thousand inhabitants of St Louis at a little before three o'clock A. M. and immediately proceeded to the Missouri Hotel, went to bed and slept soundly until late breakfast time. This was the first time we had enjoyed a bed since we left the Commodore's berths in L Island sound.
On Saturday we spent the time in hunting up a Missouri River boat, and doing some of our shopping. Sunday was quite unpleasant, cloudy damp, and in the afternoon it snowed hard for two or three hours, accompanied by considerable thunder and lightening, a new thing in my experience -- thunder and lightening in a snow
page 163 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
storm. I did not feel at all well, having taken a very bad cold, on my journey, and did not go to meeting in the day time, but was persuaded [to go to] Dr. Rice's church in the evening by a young man who had heard the Dr. preach in the morning and was very much pleased with him. I was disappointed in not hearing him as a stranger preached in the evening.
We went on board the Steamer J. H. Lucas on Monday Morning and engaged passage for Kansas City. The Lucas is a very fine boat, the fastest on the river, has a very gentlemanly Master and clerk and good accomodations. We were so fortunate as to obtain good State rooms, many of the passengers have to sleep on mattresses on the floor. As the[y] did not advertise to start until Tuesday at 4 o'clk, we had plenty of time to walk about St Louis, spend as much money as we chose at the stores and hear more swaring and profane talking than we could in the same time in any other city with which I am acquainted.
An immense quantity of business is done in St L. I can liken the appearance of the levee to nothing than B. Way in N. Y. in a very busy time, only instead being enclosed by two rows of buildings, it is bounded of one side by a long line of splendid Steamers on the Missisippi river.
St L. is a good market, anything can be purchased there for money, though sometimes a good deal of that useful article is required.
We live finely on board the boat. The table is set nearly the whole length of the cabin, and at dinner time is loaded with almost every thing in the eatable sort. Beef, pork, ham, veal, turky, chicken duck fish etc cooked in every style, pies of apple, peach, plums, prunes, blackberries, cranberries, etc various kinds of puddings tarts, fruit, nuts, etc. Today we had fresh greens, yesterday lettuce, you would enjoy it I know especially as you would not be seasick on the river.
Quite a number of people are on board from South Carolina and Georgia going to Kansas. What think you of that? I will tell you what I think. Nine tenths of them will return home, or at least leave Kansas before they have been there three months. They have left their old homes in beautiful Springtime, all nature looking green and luxuriant -- their warm and suny homes in the South, for the windy plains of Kansas, as yet brown with the frosts of winter. They have taken the wrong time to emigrate and the new country will not suit them.
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And of those who do remain, nine out of ten will before long turn free state men. They will find it for their interest to do so, and when their interest decides against slavery they will both see and acknowledge that the whole system is entirely wrong. We anticipate no trouble from them. And indeed we expect that the worst trouble is over and that we shall be left comparatively to ourselves, at least we hope so.
The free state people must eventually conquer -- the South cannot compete with the North in sending emigrants, and -- very few of the small number who come from the South dare to bring Slaves with them Theodore is not very well but is better than he has been.
Remember me to inquiring friends, I shall try to
write some of them when I get to the end of my
journey, and should in the mean time be very happy
to have about a dozen of them write me. The jarring
of the boat makes it quite difficult to write
distinctly and I have written considerably in haste
in order to finish before supper time
Juniata Kansas Ter.
I expected to have sent this letter long ago, and you will doubtless wonder before you get it why I do not write.
The mail leaves here tomorrow and I will just write a little more, and send this and write again some other day and give more particulars. We landed at Leavenworth City, instead of Lexington or Kansas. Leavenworth is 50 miles further up the river than Kansas City, and is 15 or 20 miles nearer the Blue than K. The road is also much better, it being the Government road from Fort L. to Fort Reiley. I was quite sick at Leavenworth had a little touch of the chills and a pretty high fever, together with a very bad cold and cough which I caught in the ears. I felt so miserably that I did not undertake to write or even send this letter which I had already partly written on the boat. Theodore was not much better off. I wrote you that he was not very well, and he was [missing] care of himself while at Leavenworth but he is getting better now quite fast. I did not buy any cows or oxen in Missouri as the grass was not high enough to keep them.
I bought a waggon in St Louis and also a plow, harrow, cultivator etc and at Weston Missouri I purchased two very good horses which brought us and a part of our things up from Leavenworth. I have got to go down to L again in a few days and get the rest of our things. There has been more trouble in Kansas this winter than I
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had supposed; the wrongs of the free state people have not been exaggerated in the papers. The Lawrence people especially have suffered immensely. For a long time no one could go to or from Kansas City without having his baggage searched, and even now the Missourians frequently break open heavy trunks or boxes to search for Sharps rifles of which they stand in great fear. I think they must feel rather cheap at times, however, when the[y] find what the contents of the boxes really are. One which they opened in Kansas contained a piano, and a chest which they had opened at Leavenworth while we were there was full of books, surveyor's instruments and a few articles of clothing, and this was done at the request of the mayor and marshall of the city -- shame on such proceedings.
When we arrived at Juniata we found the Government bridge across the Blue had been carried away by the ice. We have to cross on a ferry boat now which is rather expensive and not very pleasant business. Mr. Dyer has turned strong pro slavery and they have got a pro slavery minister there of the Methodist Church South, who says "he would as leave sell a nigger as an ox." They have organized a church under pro slavery influence and intend to do all they can to bring slaves into Kansas and drive out the yankees "for," they say, "they do not want eastern men to rule the territory."
They may do their best however, and they will not succeed, they have a class of people to deal with that are not frightened at trifles, and not withstanding their threats and their struggles Kansas will be a free state and and [sic] the territory will be ruled by eastern men.
I do not consider my claim half as valuable as I did last fall and I think I shall sell out and take one on the other side of the blue.
The claim is really an excellent one but the society is not such as I would choose it being mostly composed of western and Southern people, some of them very good neighbors in their way, and others pretty strongly tinctured with pro slavery notions, while the greater part of the settlers on the west side of the Blue are eastern men.
I have an excellent opportunity to get a claim little way from Mr. Goodnow's with eleven acres plowed land and a good spring on it. There is no wood on it, but in a few years if it is not already it will be more valuable than my old claim.
I shall be much nearer churches -- schools, stores, Post Office etc than if I remained on my old claim. I have written much more than I intended to when I commenced, but I have hard work to write
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any thing straight. I must either be thick-headed
today or my mind if full of something else, in
either case I had better stop. I hope I shall get
another letter from you soon.
Juniata, K. T.
I commenced to write a letter home last Friday noon but had to leave to go to plowing and have had no opportunity to finish it until now, so I concluded to begin again and write a new letter. It rained nearly all night so that the ground is too wet to work today and I am going to improve the time in writing two or three letters
I believe I wrote that I was going to sell my old claim and take another on the prairie. My new claim is situated about three miles west of, or rather south-west of, the ferry across the Big Blue at Juniata and about one or one and one half miles NN.W. of Manhattan which in all probability will be much the largest town any where in this vicinity. There are at present not more than twenty five homes in Manhattan, including two stores, and one very good saw-mill with grist-mill attached which work very well. Quite a large number of houses are going up very soon, some of them will be built of stone, and another saw mill is going up within two miles of the "city". We expect that a Cong. Church will be built in Manhattan during the summer.
I did not remain here but two or three days after I first arrived before I again returned to the "States" to get the rest of my things which I left at Leavenworth City.
The distance from Juniata each way is about 110 miles and I assure you it is no small undertaking to make such a journey in a two horse wagon, putting up nights at any little cabin you may chance to find on the road, making your supper and breakfast of corn-bread and bacon, with strong coffee to wash them down and eating crackers and cheese, by the roadside, for your dinner. We generally have good appetites, however, and can make a hearty meal out of the plainest fare and are tired enough at [night] to sleep well on the hardest beds even though we should be obliged to roll ourselves up in a blanket or buffalo skin and lay on the floor. Mr. Wilson went down to L with me and bought four yoke of oxen, which we took turns in driving up, and I assure you we were both
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pretty well tired out by the time we got back to the Blue, one week ago last Friday evening. I had a hard chill next day, and a worse one Sunday. Monday I got some quinine etc had only a very light chill and have had none since.
I hope I shall not be troubled with the chills any more, I enjoy better health now than I have done before for two months at least.
I was very glad to find some letters waiting for me when I returned from L one each, from you (enclosing one from Mr Goodnow -- Did you attempt to read his hieroglyphics? -- and a sort of one from Henry for which I enclose a one cent stamp -- please deliver it,) Lissie, and N. A. Reed, Jun. I am sorry you have been so unwell and hope that now you have got better you will continue to improve You seem to have poor luck in getting help. Have you found no one to suit you yet?
We have received two copies of the "Times," the last first, and also two copies of the "Puritan Recorder"
We were surprised to see a notice of Mr Reynolds' death in one of the "Times." You ask about Mr Wilsons family, they did not come out with him and he will return east again in the fall.
I shall not get much if any more for my old claim than I shall have to give for my new one. There are no improvements on my new claim except eleven acres of broken land which I intend to plant mostly in corn this season. I want to get twenty-five or thirty acres more broken this summer and sow a part of it in wheat in the fall. I want to put a good fence around the whole which will cost me from two hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars; and I must put me up a little house which will cost me as much more. The house will be small (good size for this country) only 16x24 and a story and a half high, but it costs a sight to build here where poor lumber is worth $40. a thousand and carpenter's wages are $2.50 per day. I must also build a small stable ln the fall, large enough to shelter two horses and one or two cows.
I believe I wrote that I bought a wagon and harnesses at St Louis and two horses in Weston Mo. My whole team costing me nearly $400. so you see that it costs something to start even in this country I find that I shall come short of cash and I wish father would sell ten shares of my stock in Landholders Bank as soon as he can and send the proceeds out by Amos if he concludes to come this way, in bills of Wakefield Bank if he chooses and I will give it as good a circulation as I can. If he can not send it by Amos he may send it by letter in hundred dollar cheeks on Hanover Bank N. Y. and I can get them cashed here.
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We are boarding for the present, and until my house is finished, which will be ten or twelve weeks perhaps, with a young couple by the name of Browning from Fitchburg Mass. We like them very much they are both members of the Cong Church organized here a few weeks ago and have family prayers morning and evening. They live in a stone house on the claim just east of mine, belonging to Mr. Wilson Mr. B. will not be able to get. a house up on his own claim, which is a little further north, before fall.
We have to pay three dollars, each, per week for board and get pretty plain fair at that, but Mr. B. expects to get a cow in a few days and then we shall live somewhat better. We could board ourselves for half the expense if we had a place to live in.
The season is much more forward than it was last year; the trees have put out their leaves and the prairies are covered with the green grass and flowers. Changing claims and going a second time to the states has made me late with my garden. I have planted nothing as yet except a few seeds in a box, but as we are boarding we shall have no need for a very early garden. I intend to commence planting tomorrow. Mr & Mrs Browning and Theodore have all gone six or seven miles up the Wild Cat Creek today to get some seed corn and potatoes. The corn costs $1.50 and the potatoes only $4.00 per bushel.
I will stop now and write to some one else, but as this letter cannot go until next Monday I shall probably add a few lines before I send it.
Sunday, May 11th, I have been so busy plowing and planting my garden, and drawing lumber for my house, that I have not been able to add anything to this letter until now, and as it is Sunday and we have about two miles to go to meeting this morning I shall write but little today. Our mail goes out Monday mornings and comes Friday afternoon.
I recd another letter from Henry yesterday morning and quite a good one too which I will answer as soon as I can get time. I'll send no stamp now.
Theodore seems to really like the country and he is very well. I think I am getting stronger and in better health every day.
I do not remember whether I wrote you that I had had a private surveyor run the lines on my claim. I do not suppose that they will correspond exactly with the government lines, but they will not probably vary more than a few rods, so that I may be pretty sure to get all the improvements which I make before the regular survey on
page 169 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
my own claim. There is a prayer meeting at Mr
Blood's this afternoon and a church meeting of the
Congregational Church. A Mrs Flagg is coming
before the church as a candidate for admission. She
has experienced religion within a few weeks. I
expect to unite with the church (by letter) at the
Juniata, K. T.
I received a letter from you a long time ago, and it should have been answered long ere this, but my time has been very much occupied and besides your letter has been mislaid and I cannot find it.
Perhaps you laugh because I make want of time an excuse for not writing and say that there are odd times enough when I might write if I chose to write a little at a time even if I could not finish a letter at once.
All that will do very well to talk and, indeed, I frequently have to improve such odd times or write Sundays, which I do not like to do, if I write at all, but I find very few leisure hours when I have nothing else to do but write letters.
But enough of such talk no doubt you would like to hear how we get along and the Kansas news.
Just now we are getting along finely Both of us enjoy excellent health, you would hardly know either of us. We are strong and hearty, in good flesh and burnt as black as Indians. Our corn field and garden looks well except that the grasshoppers have eaten up some things that we planted in the beds. Although every thing was planted very late, we already begin to get things from the garden -- shall have peas fit to pick in a week or ten ds.
Shall commence to build my house next week -- will not finish it off very nicely at present -- will move into it as soon as 'tis done which will probably be in a month at most after it is commenced.
We have had pretty hard times in our territory since we have been here. The "border ruffians" accompanied by a large number of Southerners have been over here with the intention of either driving the Yankees home or making them submit to the laws of the bogus legislature neither of which they have been able to do. Gov. Shannon has enrolled the names of these mob-ocrats as part of the Kansas militia -- some 500 of them, though they do not claim to be citizens of this territory.
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1700 of them according to there own reports, but probably not quite so many, have been for a long time encamped in the vicinity, commiting all sorts of depredations, stealing cattle, robbing private houses, and searching, and taking whatever they wished from, every wagon or individual that attempted to pass by them, and they killed several men and took others prisoners. About the middle of May they threatened to destroy the city of Lawrance and drive the inhabitants from the territory, and we received a call from the Lawrance people for help. Although it was a very busy time for farmers and it seemed almost impossible for any one to leave, about forty of us from this vicinity took what arms we could muster and started for Lawrance. After we reached Topeka 55 miles from here and within 25 of L we heard that the Missourians had done nothing more than threaten the destruction of the town etc and probably would not as Col Sumner at the head of a large number of U. S. troops had threatened to fire upon the party that made the first attack.
This prevented an open fight and as we could not afford to remain a long time at Topeka for nothing we returned home, but the Missourians were permitted to remain where they were committing every kind of outrage upon the free state people.
But not content with robbing the emigrant and baggage wagons that passed along the road, and the private homes near them, and taking prisoners whom they chose of the passers by, they got five men (?) Shannon, Atchison, the U. S. Marshall, Gen Stringfellow, and the bogus Sheriff Jones to lead them on, marched upon Lawrence, and demanded the public and private arms of the people and the privilege of making what arrests they desired. The U. S. Marshall was premitted to make arrests and the public arms were given up, but the people refused to give up their private arms.
So these five men (?) with these foreign highway men to back them destroyed the free state hotel, worth with its furniture which was also destroyed $28,000., the two printing offices and the House of Dr. Robinson with all its contents, and ransacked and robbed private dwellings.
There has been some small skirmishing, but nothing of much consequence has occurred within two or three weeks that I have heard of We hear various reports -- that Shannon has been removed, that Col. Sumner is at the head of affairs, and that the Territory is now under Marshall law, but do not know what to believe.
As yet all is peaceable where we are, but we know not how long it will remain so, yet it seems that the present state of things
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cannot last long or if it does there will be civil war between the whole North and South and then we shall be as well off here as elsewhere.
We can but hope however that these troubles will soon ease, and we trust that Christians in the east will unite their prayers with ours to the great Ruler of the Universe for a return of peace and prosperity to this part of our country and for the removal from our midst of that great evil which has caused so much disturbance -- American Slavery.
The prairies look beautifully now, and you do not know how I wish father could come out here and spend two or three weeks, at least, with us. It would do him good, and I really believe he would want to move out here immediately.
I wonder if he has sent the money that I sent for on the first of May? The letter may have been miscarried. I wanted him to sell half my stock in Landholders bank and send me the proceeds either in Wakefield bills, or drafts payable to my order on Hanover bank, N. Y., I am expecting the money every week and need it very much. It costs considerable to start the first year, but if father should come out here it need not cost him half what it has me for obvious reasons.
Our last letter from home was mailed May 28th. We were very sorry to hear that Mr Burdick was so dangerously ill -- is he no better?
Our letters and papers are sometimes unaccountably delayed but we have no reason to believe that the mail has ever been robbed.
Give my love to inquiring friends and tell them that when I get over my hurry (poor prospect at present) I intent to write lots of letters
Please write again soon
Sunday morning, Juniata
I used to think it wrong to write letters of any kind on the Sabbath day, but I have somewhat changed my opinion of late, and although I would not spend Sunday in writing business letters, I do not think it wrong to spend an hour or two in writing letters to your friends any more than it would be to spend the same time in talking with them.
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We recd a letter from you a week ago last Friday written just after your return from a visit to Lynne; also a note from Henry enclosed. We are glad you had a good visit. I should love to look in upon you and have a little talk with you all. I could tell you more in half an hour than I could write in all day.
Sorry the Kanzas flower seed did not come up -- will try to send more this fall. I am glad you think that ambrotype so good. I wish that you and father and Herbert would have yours taken all together and send to me in the mail; it would cost but little and I should be very glad of it indeed. Theodore likes the country as well as ever, talks a little about going home once in a while, but generally sets the time as far off as a year from next fall.
We recd a letter from bro Samuel and Lissie last Friday, also one from father, both which we were very glad to get and I will try to answer them soon. Father's letter contained a draft on N. Y. for $1329 97/100 which I very much needed just then. I wish father would write oftener.
The cabins or houses here are so small generally that we frequently have our meeting on the Sabbath under a tree in the woods when pleasant weather and find it much more agreeable than to be shut up in a small room. Last Sabbath the Methodists held their quarterly meeting in a grove two or three miles from here, and as there was no other preaching a great many were there. They had a "love feast," preaching by their presiding elder, (very good) administered the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper and invited all members in good standing of every evangelical church to partake, and then another sermon by the Rev. Mr. Lovejoy who has just returned from a tour to the east to raise money to build churches for his denomination in Kansas The day was pleasant and the services very interesting.
We are enjoying a time of comparative peace and quiet, though the Missourians, Georgians, etc seem to hold a grudge against Manhattan and threaten to destroy the town and arrest those who went down to Topeka, but we do not feel much in fear of them. Our field and garden look nicely and we get along with our house very well but slowly.
What do you think of what I wrote father in my last letter home? I do not think I shall keep batch a great while in my new house think it will be much pleasanter having a home, and so does--somebody else. The more I know her the better I like her. I be-
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lieve she is truly a good Christian and think that you and father would both love her if you knew her.
I hope you will write often, we expect a letter from home every week.
Love to Herbert and tell him he must write once in
a while to his brothers in Kansas.
Juniata, Kanzas T.
You speak of your garden and say that you do not see that we have vegetables any earlier than you do. Our garden was planted very late, some of our neighbors had vegetables three or four weeks earlier than we. I plant in all this season about eleven acres; nine of it in western field corn, and an acre and a half is a garden planted with potatoes, sweet corn, beans, vines, etc, etc and Browning has about half an acre in one corner for a garden I keep no other stock at present than two horses, 1 cow and calf some hens and a dog which last is almost indispensable here to keep off the prairie wolves from the chickens etc.
We board not more than quarter of a mile from the eastern line of my claim.
I hope Henry will be successful in finding business, and when he gets a good situation I hope he will stick to it long enough to do him some good Please remember me to Morton Sweet Much obliged for the papers that you sent.
I find that it costs a great deal more to get started here than I supposed, and I shall have to raise yet more money than I have heretofore sent for. You may think that I could get along with less, but I will mention some of the principal items of expense which I have had and shall have to meet and then you may judge for yourself whether I can well get along with less.
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for my claim, due next Month............................ 150
I would love dearly to see you out here and talk over my plans with you and would love to have you make us a visit -- I might say mother and Herbert too -- but suppose it would be useless to think of their coming.
A very fine man living in our vicinity formerly from Wonsocket, R. I. is going east in a week or two after his wife and sister and will return as soon as possible. I think he would be perfectly willing to take charge of any dfts that you may want to send me and I would like to have you go up there and see him if you can, as he could give you more information about Kansas affairs and how I am geting along etc in an hour or two than I could by writing a week. I will write you when he is expecting to reach R. I. or give him a letter to you to drop in the P. O. when he gets there so that you may know when to go. His name is Ambrose Todd.
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I have written in much haste, you will please
excuse the unsightly appearance of the letter.
Love to Mother, Herbert, and friends.
Juniata, Aug last, 1856
We were so glad to receive a letter from you last Friday, dated Aug 10th. We received one from Henry a week or two ago and have not answered it yet -- we do not know where to direct.
I feel almost ashamed to date most all of my letters to you on Sunday, but I get very little time to write during the week, and am obliged to remain at home half the day each Sabbath because, for fear of the cattle we dare not leave the corn, therefore I frequently take that time to write.
So you think it "surprising news," do you, that I am "really engaged" to be married? Did you think that I was going to remain a bachelor all my days, and live and improve my claim alone among these western wilds? If you did you are much mistaken, why I never thought of such a thing.
To be sure I tried that way of living last summer, but 'twas only an experiment and an experiment tried of necessity and the result proved, to my mind at least, that "it is not good for man to be alone."
Were I in different circumstances I might, perhaps, have chosen a wife among my acquaintance in the east, but one who would have made a very pleasant companion for a man in an eastern village, in the midst of schools and churches and the comforts and conveniences of civilization, might be poorly suited to endure the hardships and privations incident to a border life and illcontented withal.
And now I suppose you would like to have me write you a "full description" of my lady -- I will try and do the best I can, and first I will endeavor to answer your questions.
She is the youngest of quite a large family of children, all of whom with the exception of herself continue to life, either married or single, near their native place not far from the centre of old Massachusetts.
Her father is still living but she lost her mother when only eleven years of age I think her father and her brothers and sisters are in comfortable circumstances though not wealthy -- I have not asked
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and do not know the business of any of them. She is nearly as tall as myself and well proportioned neither very light nor very dark complexion, and according to my notion very good looking. Her name is Eleanor S. Bemis. Your questions are answered.
At an early age she lost her mother as I have informed you, her health was very poor until sixteen and for four years from that time she was employed in keeping house for her father consequently her advantages for obtaining an education have been very limited in comparison with those of most young Ladies in New England, though I believe they have been well improved. She is a woman of good sense and good temper and I doubt not a Christian. She is a member of the Methodist E. Church
She has no relations in Kansas but many friends. I can write no more about her at present as 'tis about time for me to go to church, and send this letter to the P. O.
We both are in good health. Theo. says he does not care much whether he goes home this fall or not but I think he would be much disappointed if he should be obliged to remain here though it may be best that he should.
My love to all the friends and please write where
Henry is, and write often as you can. Yours truly
Juniata, K. T.
We were very glad to get a letter from you last Friday, and to hear that you were well etc.
We are and ought to be thankful that the mail continues to come quite regularly in these troublous times. I have no reason to think that we have not recd every letter that has been sent to us from home as yet -- I have recd but one, however, from N. A. Reed, Jr. and no papers, and but one from Amos, both of which I have answered but it is probable that Amos left the west before his letter arrived at Hastings Min. the place to which it was directed.
I will endeavor to write Nathan again soon and would write to Amos too did I know where to direct. Where is Henry now? We had a letter from him a week ago Friday written while he was in Beloit, Wis.
You must not think too much of the newspaper accts of what the pro-slavery people are going to do in Kansas, or of what either party have done or are doing here very many of them have little foundation in fact; for instance, in the last N. Y. Tribune we saw
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it stated that a large party of Southerners had been up in this part of Kansas, had a battle with the people of Reilley County near, Manhattan, were defeated, driven back, etc etc all of which is false, except that a party of armed Southerners did march up the Blue a few weeks ago and have returned without doing any damage that I have heard of.
There have been several battles down below between the free State and pro slavery parties in which I believe the free State parties usually if not always came off conquerors, but our news from below is rather indefinite at present and we do not know exactly what is the state of things. It is said that our new Governor has come and is intending to enforce the bogus laws, which [he] or any other man cannot do, the people will not acknowledge them as binding on them and they will remain a dead letter do what they may. We that is Ella and myself are not prepared to leave Kansas yet. we still live in hope and believe that we shall soon see the end of these troubles -- as soon as we get another President at least if not before; but should this state of [uncertainty?] continue still longer we would endeavor to seek some more peaceable though we would not expect to find a more healthy or fertile, country. Really I did not think of being uncle to any body quite so soon, but I suppose it is so.
I am afraid it will be quite a long time before little Susan will see her uncle Thomas, but she may see uncle Theodore this fall. Theodore is very impatient to hear your decision with respect to his coming home this fall.
He ought to be somewhere -- where he will be under authority! we get along pretty well together, generally, but once in a while he will get some foolish notion into his head which I can neither coax or reason out of him. for he is of just that, age when young lads think that they know a little more about every thing than any one can tell them; but after all T. is a pretty good boy.
You complain that I have written very little about my lady Ella, but really I was not aware that I had been so very silent, yet I should doubtless have written more if I had not had so much else to attend to and consequently but little time to write, and I would want considerable time to give a full description of her. But really I do not know what to write, I answered a lot of your questions about her a while ago and wrote much more besides. What shall I say now?
Do not think that I have lost all my common sense (I trust I had a little though none to boast of.) since I have been in Kansas: and
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that in my haste to get a wife I have engaged myself to one unworthy of me or of whom after longer acquaintance I am ashamed Truly such is not the fact. The more I know of Ella -- the better I become acquainted with her -- the better I like her, yes the more I love her and am satisfied that she is just the woman to make me happy -- to be, indeed, a help to me both in a temporal and spiritual sense. I surely have no reason to regret my choice and trust that I shall never have. I only wish that you could see her and get acquainted with her. I believe you both would love her and the more the better you knew her. I do not suppose that every one would like her, and I doubt not many would think me a foolish young man to choose a young lady for a wife without property or even a finished education, but I beg leave to be my own judge in such matters, and shall be satisfied if every body is not suited, so long as I believe that we are suited to each other. If Ella has not wealth, she has what is better an affectionate heart and good sound sense; and if her school education has been somewhat deficient, she has an independent and energetic mind that knows how to think for itself and turn to good advantage the knowledge it does possess, and she has a home education that few of our eastern girls possess.
Did father go to Wonsocket and see Mr. Todd? I really hope he did for he is well acquainted with Ella and has seen her folks in Mass. which I have not, and could give him more information in a conversation of a few minutes than I could in a dozen letters. He could tell also just how I am situated. I would rather give ten dollars than that father should not see him. It is strange that aunt Marian did not get her letter before I wrote her about affairs in particular at about the same time that I wrote you.
In seeking some business by which he can pay his own way Henry has done just as I would have done myself, only I think I should never have attempted any other way at first. I really hope he will be successful.
It is very dry here now, we have had but very little rain for a long time I have just had a well dug and stoned up near my house -- an excellent time now it has been so long dry -- and have seven feet of very good water in it. I think it will not dry up very soon. This the worst month for sickness here, in the whole year very many have bilious fevers and fever and ague in various forms. Theodore continues well, and I am well too. I had a little chill about ten days ago, but my health has been very good throughout the whole summer.
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Excuse the blots on the first page I do not know how they came there.
Mr. Thomas P. Wells
I send you two flowers that Ella pressed; the larger one is called the "devil's shoe string" on acc't of its long tough roots which are troublesome in plowing