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Bypaths of Kansas History - August 1937

(vol. 6, no. 3, pages 200 to 210)
Transcribed by lhn; digitized with permission of
the Kansas Historical Society.


From the New York Daily Tribune, New York, June 23, 1854.

A correspondent of The Ohio State Journal writes an interesting letter from Council Bluffs, Iowa, under date of June 10, from which we copy the following:

On Tuesday morning I took a seat in a coach, or a thing that was intended to supply the place of one, from Independence through Kansas territory to Fort Leavenworth. My good opinion of Independence, and of the agricultural richness and beauty of the country, is not changed. It is very beautiful. In due time we arrive at Kansas [City, Mo.], at the mouth of the Kansas river. It is not a place of much importance. There are some good store-houses on the shore at the landing, but the site for the town is rough and not at all attractive. It is my judgment that it will not be a second St. Louis.

Four miles from Kansas we came to Westport [Mo.]. This is back from the river and not in sight of it, but the California trade and outfit business has made it a point of some importance. There are several fine large brick buildings going up. But I was compelled to the same judgment about its future as I was about Kansas. I may be mistaken, but it does not seem to me to have a great prospect. The Kansas is navigable for 200 miles by steamers that will carry at least 100 tons of freight, and I think there will be towns up its waters that will be the starting points for New Mexico, and that portion of the emigrants that take the more southern route to the Pacific. The country is rich and well timbered for the West.

Fort Leavenworth is on the west bank of the Missouri and in the new territory of Kansas. It is entirely a military encampment, the only things that look like forts being a pair of block-houses, with musket port-holes. The barracks are extensive and appear to be in fine order. The store-houses, &c., are also extensive, and are substantially built of stone. There is a farm of 1,000 acres that is cultivated by Uncle Sam. It is a beautiful tract and in a high state of cultivation. Corn and oats are raised in great abundance, for the use of the garrison, horses, &c. The attempt was made to cultivate this land by the labor of the soldiers, but it would not work and it has been abandoned. The corn was excellent and was kept in beautiful condition. The landing is of rock, and is one of the finest and most substantial on the river. It is my opinion that Fort Leavenworth is the place for a large town on the west side of the Missouri, and in the Kansas territory. It has a position and a fine country about it that will make it attractive and give it importance. I advise ambitious, enterprising young men who want to get into a new place, with good prospects, to stop at Fort Leavenworth. It will be the capital of Kansas territory.

Between Kansas and Westport we passed an encampment of 3,000 Mormons that were on their way to the Great Salt Lake. They were waiting for the balance of their company, and had been encamped there for several days. They were in a fine forest. Some were sleeping in their wagons, but the most of them had tents, and the woods and fields adjoining in all directions were



covered with these white and fragile dwellings. Oxen are used for teams. Men, women and children were scattered about on all sides. Blacksmiths' hammers were heard, and the hum of preparation came up from all parts of the camp. It was a singular sight, and fraught with many suggestions and reflections upon this strange and deluded people. These emigrants are generally from Europe, and the most of them do not speak a word of English. They have a long journey before them. The cholera is said to be among them, but I have heard so many rumors of this disease out west on the rivers, &c., and have seen so little of it, that I have lost all confidence in the truth of these stories.

Before we passed the Kansas, we came upon an encampment that attracted attention. It turned out to be a grand hunting company for the plains. Sir George Gore, an English baronet, has taken it into his head that it will be fine sport to hunt buffalo, &c., on our great western plains; so he packed up his trunks &c., and started for a regular summer campaign. He brought the most magnificent pack of dogs that were ever seen in this country. Between forty and fifty dogs, mostly greyhounds and staghounds, of the most beautiful breeds, compose this part of the expedition. He had a large carriage, and probably a dozen large wagons to transport provisions, &c. These require five yoke of oxen to each wagon. These, with the horses, men, &c., made up quite an imposing company. Sir George is a fine-built, stout, light-haired, and resolute looking man. But there are other things besides fun in such a trip, and it will try the manner of stuff of which he is made before he returns.

Kansas is a rich agricultural territory. Timber is the great want, and the Shawnees and Delawares in their reservations retain the most of it that is of value. I am constrained to say that I fear slavery will get the start there. I made this a matter of special inquiry through western Missouri, and propose to talk more of this when I have more time. Meanwhile, it is well to remember that no emigration can take place before next winter, and probably not till spring, as the Indians retain possession till that time. Nebraska will of course be free, but I fear for Kansas.

I spent the night at Weston, on the east side of the river. It is a flourishing place, and does an immense business in the hemp trade. It has about 3,000 inhabitants. At that point I determined to take a passage in the stage for Council Bluffs. The distance is about 180 miles, but it will give me a fine chance to see the country. The ride was a rough, hard one, but I was amply compensated by the sights I saw, and the facts I learned about the country. The northern counties of Missouri are prairie, like Iowa. But I must devote a separate chapter hereafter to a detailed description of north-western Missouri. It is clearly destined to be a wealthy and valuable part of that immense State.

I have been over the river to Nebraska, and find it very beautiful. Prairies are rich and boundless. There is no limit to their capacity for production. But the great drawback to this region exists in Nebraska. Timber is scarce. Till this defect is supplied, either by raising a crop, which can easily be done in a few years, or by bringing it down from the upper waters, this will be the great obstacle. Were timber lands in sufficient quantities to be had, this country would improve more rapidly than any other on the face of the earth. As it is, it is destined to go ahead with wonderful rapidity. Iowa is fast filling up with a hardy, valuable population.



From the Manhattan Express, July 21, 1860.

Our citizens have been charmed during the past week, by two opportunities of seeing this meritorious work of art recently executed by Mr. Gardner, a young artist of rare talents for landscape and scene painting.

The sketchings from natural objects and other preliminary arrangements, have been in progress for two years, though the representations of the Kansas towns and cities show them just as they are at present.

The scenes as at present arranged commence at Fort Leavenworth and embrace all the points of any interest down the Missouri river to Wyandotte, thence up the Kansas, giving all the various places so notorious from having been the theatre of the "Border Ruffian War," to Junction, and then commences the jaunt over the plains; during which we see many of the interesting phases in emigrant life-to Pike's Peak, where we see all the towns of importance in that wild and sublimely picturesque region. Passing from these scenes, all of which so fully engross the public mind, the spectator-or traveler, ratherfinds himself confronting the enchanting vistas in the far-famed valley of the Great Salt Lake, with the beautiful scenery of those gorgeous hills and valleys so vividly and truthfully delineated upon the glowing canvas before him that he is involuntarily transported in propria persona to that interesting country.

Among other views in Salt Lake City is one which gives the observer a little insight into the unusual and somewhat extensive family arrangements of the notorious Brigham Young and a personal acquaintance with a few (200 or so) of his charming little household.

This gigantic work is in four sections, occupying in all over 2,000 yards of canvas, and we venture the assertion that if not the very largest panorama extant it embraces the most diversified and interesting scenery ever depicted upon canvas.

     The work was gotten up with especial reference to exhibition in Eastern cities and is now on its way East where the proprietors will doubtless meet with the success their enterprise and skill so eminently deserves.


A view of Lawrence on the morning of Aug 21, 1863, when William Quantrill's band of raiders ransacked and burned the town is found in the letter of Elise Engelsmann, of Lawrence, to Mrs. Christine Fliesen, published in a German book in 1926. The letter was discovered by Dr. Joseph Schafer, superintendent of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, on pages 56 and 57 of Geschichte der Familie Fliesen, Und der Anverwandten Familien (Karl Fliesen, Grünstadt, 1926). Doctor Schafer presented a photostatic reproduction to the late Dr. Frank H. Hodder, head of the history department of the University of Kansas. This translation was made by Doctor and Mrs. Hodder some time before Doctor Hodder's death.


LAWRENCE, Nov. 10, 1863.

Dear good Aunt!

We received your dear letter of September 30th several days ago. I know well, that we should have written you immediately after the terrible massacre, which took place here, but you must excuse us since our place of business, our dwelling and everything we possessed was burned; a few weeks before we had fitted up the house almost entirely anew and were so comfortably situated, that there was almost nothing left to wish for. For the first eight days after the fire with two other families we moved into a sort of stable where for the first week we had to get along without chair, bed or table and besides my cousin Philipp (Uncle Wilhelm's youngest son) mortally wounded, who died of his wound the second day after the massacre. Our joy was great when he came here so unexpectedly, but it was not to be of long duration, for he was here not four full weeks when he had to lose his young life and find such an untimely grave.

You write, dear aunt, that the first terrible news, which you received through the newspapers, was softened by the second. We take many newspapers Eastern and Western but not one of all even comes near describing the horrors which were committed here, no one who was not present himself, can form any idea of it, of what happened here, only think how in the short space of three hours out of a population of 3,000 souls over two hundred unarmed innocent men were murdered, all the business houses and at least two-thirds of the dwelling houses were reduced to ashes. The appearance of the town, after the Barbarians were gone, was more than heartbreaking, women with their hair flying ran through the streets, calling loudly the names of their husband, father, brother or other relatives. I saw one woman carrying home the remains of her burned husband in a pail. But let me break off here I cannot keep back the tears, when I think of that horrible morning.

Now I want to write you, how it has gone with us. The 20th of August we went to bed all peaceful and carefree but Oh I how frightful was to be our waking, a half hour before five o'clock we were suddenly awakened by a shooting and yelling, but even then it was already too late, Quantrill with his band was already in the middle of the town, there may have been perhaps 350 men, each with a rifle and two revolvers, indeed many had four revolvers consequently 25 shots without loading, all were well mounted. If at any time a man even let himself be seen on the street or at the door or window he was shot. Father and Uncle instructed us to remain quiet in-door and if this band asked for anything to give up everything they wanted, as for ourselves we would be safe and they would do their best to save themselves, Father, Uncle and Philipp sought safety in flight. They were not yet far from the house four other men joined them to save themselves as best they could, but they had not gone far, when they were pursued by nine men and hunted like dogs. Of the seven men Father and Uncle are the only ones saved and they in truth as by a miracle. The other four men fell to the ground and poor Philipp was so severely wounded, that he died the second day. Up to the last moment he had great hope that he would get well again but it was to be otherwise.

Now I want to come back again to Mother and myself, and write you how it went with us during this time. We knew well, that they would do nothing


to women, moreover at the beginning we believed they would confine themselves to plundering, we were just on the point of hiding things of value when about eight men stopped in front of our store, pushed in the door with a few throats and entered but soon thereafter went away again. We did not know what to think of it, however we expected every moment, that others would come in, we feared constantly hearing any one on the steps, we did not dare to go outside, until suddenly Mother called: My God something smells of smoke here, after all they have set our store on fire, thereupon I ran to the balcony when a neighbor woman called to me, go right out of the house it is already burning underneath in bright flame, I saw too at the same time, that awoke was already rising everywhere in other houses, then of course no other choice was left but to go outside. A few clothes is all that we saved, we couldn't save even the business books. Father and Uncle have started a store again, this is the second time already, that it has happened to us here in Kansas. Business is good again in spite of all, but it is no small matter to start with nothing.

Mother, thank God, has borne the shock better than I had feared. For my part my happy disposition has helped me luckily over this shock, what is the use of worrying over things, that have once happened and are not to be changed, I pity only my parents that in their old age they must meet with such a misfortune and my Uncle, he hardly realized having one of his children here when in so horrible a way he had to be snatched away again forever.

Of my trip to Germany perhaps nothing will come, although Uncle thinks, if it is at all possible I should have the pleasure, of visiting you. I hardly believe however that anything will come of it. Now in closing do not be troubled about us. The shock was hard to be sure, we are doing everything possible to get through and the damage if not entirely yet in part will be made good again in a few years. Tell Elsie Presser and Anna Feldmiüller they should write to me again some time and greet them both very heartily from me.

Greetings and kisses many times over from your truly loving Niece

Elise Engelsmann (later married Willemsen.) (Daughter and only child of Luise Fliesen of Kaiserslautern and Fritz Engelsmann.)


From the White Cloud Kansas Chief, May 28, 1863.

The West Wind [Missouri river steamer] passed up, on Wednesday evening, crowded with Minnesota Indiana, on their way to Fort Randall. They were having a good time generally, and kept up their dancing and yelling as long as the boat was within hearing distance. A crowd of Iowas who stood on the levee, could not contain themselves, but got up a fandango of their own. One of them expressed his admiration of the performance on the boat, in the following elegant language: "Hurrah for you, God damnl"



From the Kansas Daily Tribune, Lawrence, December 10, 1863.

Major Miller, paymaster, and Ira Olds, Esq., his clerk, arrived in Lawrence yesterday morning, after a long and perilous journey to Fort Lamed, owing to severe cold and a terrible snowstorm. From these gentlemen we gather the following facts in relation to the storm:

The snow fell from Fort Riley to Santa Fe from one inch to fifteen. It was very cold, and the snow drifted so as to make the ravines almost impassable. The coach on the Riley proceeded to within seventy-five miles of Fort Larned, and there had to stay, and the passengers constructed a sled, and took off the bed from the stagecoach, and putting it on the rude sled, went on their way to Larned. In many places they had to drive around the ravines, the snow being too deep to get across.

Between Larned and Santa Fe, the snowstorm was still more heavy. The Santa Fe coach and passengers were caught out in it, and detained so long that they got out of both provisions for passengers and feed for the mules. Five out of nine of the mules died.

Lieutenant Dodge, of the Wisconsin battery, tried to get in to Fort Larned on one of the mules. The animal gave out, and then the lieutenant tried to get in on foot. He arrived within three miles of the fort, became exhausted, and laid down. The officers at the fort were looking out with glasses, and observing an object on the prairie sent out assistance. Had it not been for this fortunate circumstance, probably the whole of the passengers would have perished.

Between Larned and Santa Fe there are two hundred and fifty miles without a human habitation, and, of course, trains crossing, getting out of provisions, and having no feed, with the snow drifted so that they lose the road, there is but little chance of getting through safe.

Some of the old Indian traders, who have been in the country for thirty years, say that they never witnessed such a storm in the month of November before.

Large herds of buffalo were continually met with, almost paralyzed with the cold. In the day-time they kept a short distance from the coach; but at night, for miles, the coach was interrupted by their being in the way, and the driver was continually hallooing at them, like a man driving cattle, to get them out of the way.

A train known to be out has not been heard from, and it is feared that it has perished.



Copied from an early-day broadside.


To Whom it May Concern

Union Pacific Railway, E. D.
Office of Gen'1 Superintendent, Wyandotte, Ks., Oct. 15, 1866.

On and after this date, the Union Pacific Railway Co., E. D., will pay, to the owners thereof, one-half of the appraised value of all Stock killed on the Track by the Trains.

W. W. WRIGHT, Gen'l Superintendent.


From the Guilford Citizen, Guilford, July 9, 1870.

The Osage Mission Journal, under the head of "Weston Outdone," says: "An Osage Indian named Gnew-can-steze-Long Pole-in the fall of 1856, walked from the mission to Fort Scott and back in one day-a distance of eighty miles. He started from the mission at 6 o'clock a. m., and returned the same day, making his eighty miles in about 13 hours. He was the bearer of an important dispatch from Major Dorn, agent of the Osages, to the commander of the military forces stationed at Fort Scott. We learn the above facts from those connected with the mission, and they say it was not an uncommon occurrence for Long Pole and other young braves to walk to Fort Scott and back in one day. Long Pole is still living, but we fear his pole ain't long enough to accomplish that feat now."


Editorial in the Walnut Valley Times, El Dorado, March 19,1875.

Stop the prairie fires! In the name of all that is good, stop the prairie fires at once! Stop the prairie fires and you stop drought, hot winds and parched crops. Stop the prairie fires and you will save the country from another visita tion of grasshoppers. Stop the prairie fires and you produce regular rainfalls. Stop the prairie fires and you fill up our springs, cause the streams to flow, fill the earth with moisture, cause thousands of young trees to spring up over the earth and enrich your lands an hundred fold. Stop the prairie fires and Kansas is a garden of Eden. Continue them and it will ever continue to be an American desert. For Heaven's sake, stop the prairie fires!


From the Topeka Daily Blade, Topeka, November 6, 1876.

A large number of people were present at the Santa Fe depot Saturday noon to see the Sioux delegation that passed through here on their way to the Indian territory. There were 76 Indians, including squaws and half-breeds. The


train arrived about one hour behind time. People were a little disappointed upon seeing them, for all expected to see them in their war costume, with their bloody tomahawks and dripping scalping knives. They had, however, their tomahawks, but the people thought they were pipes, and some really were smoking their hatchets. Upon arriving at the depot a number of bucks with tin buckets made a break for the eating house where they got hot coffee and returned to their cars, where they partook of their frugal meal, which consisted of boiled beef, without seasoning, and coffee. They gorge themselves when they eat. They all eat out of the same pan and drink coffee out of the same can. This is the reason they are not allowed to go into hotels to eat. They don't know how to behave themselves. This applies to a majority of the Sioux and the Indiana in general. However, a few of the "big injuns" were allowed the privilege of setting at the white man's table. Messrs. Spotted Tail, Red Dog and Fast Bear were taken to the railroad eating house, where they partook of double rations. They got away with everything set before them, in fact, everything that was within reach. They exhibited some of the traits of a human by using knives and forks, and blowing their coffee to cool it. They also mopped their mouths with napkins which they forgot to put in their pockets after using. Mr. Tail understood the uses of the knives and forks. He held the piece with the fork while he severed it with the knife, and with his fingers ha placed the largest piece on the knife and dumped it into his mouth. Mr. Dog, wiped off his goo's with his tongue after eating enough for three big men like John Carter. But old Pap Bear gave the crowd away. After getting up from the table he reached over and grabbed up all the apples he could hold in his big hands, which were about four apiece, probably under the sweet impression that he was stealing them. There were some ladies at the depot who considered it a great honor to grasp these dusky murderers of the forest and plains by the hands. Red Dog was so struck with the beauty of a lady there that he returned to the room to get a look at her.


From the Dodge City Times, May 12, 1877.

We yesterday witnessed an exhibition of the African national game of "lap jacket," in front of Shall' harness shop. The game is played by two colored men, who each toe a mark and whip each other with bullwhips. In the contest yesterday Henry Rodgers, called Eph for short, contended with another darkey for the championship and fifty cents prize money. They took heavy new whips from the harness shop and poured in the strokes pretty lively. Blood flowed and dust flew and the crowd cheered until Policeman Joe Mason came along and suspended the cheerful exercise.

In Africa, where this pleasant pastime is indulged in to perfection, the contestants strip to the skin, and frequently cut each other's flesh open to the bone.



From the Wichita Eagle, April 15, 1880.

The probability is that the individuals in this valley are scarce who would have the temerity to assert that the Eagle has ever proven remiss in blowing for Kansas. But we come now to acknowledge that the blowing she has done for herself the past week has nipped our blowing pretentions in the bud. It may as well be asserted here and now that Kansas as a paradise has her failings, not the least of which is her everlasting spring winds. If there is a man, woman or child in Sedgwick county whose eyes are not filled with dust and their minds with disgust, he, she, or it must be an idiot or awful pious. From everlasting to everlasting this wind for a week has just set on its hind legs and howled and screeched and snorted until you couldn't tell your grandfather from a jackass rabbit. And its sand backs up its blow with oceans of grit to spare. We saw a preacher standing on the corner the other day with his back up, his coat-tails over his head and his chapeau sailing heavenward, spitting mud out of his mouth and looking unutterable things. He dug the sand out of his eyes and the gravel out of his hair and said nothing. It wouldn't have been right. But we know what he thought. As for our poor women, weighted down with bar lead and trace-chains as their skirts are, their only protection from rude gaze is the dust, which fills up the eyes of the men so that they can't see a rod farther than a blind mule. Dust, grit and sand everywhere -in your victuals, up your nose, down your back, between your toes. The chickens have quit eating gravel-they absorb sand enough every night to run their gizzards all next day. Out of doors people communicate by signs. When they would talk they must retire to some room without windows or a crack, pull out their ear plugs and wash their mouths. The sun looks down through fathoms of real-estate in a sickly way, but the only clouds descried are of sand, old rags, paper and brick bats. We haven't done the subject justice, and we didn't expect to when we started out, but it blows, you bet.


From The Republican Citizen, Atwood, September 17, 1880.

J. F. Copier came to Rawlins county in June, 1879, and took a claim in township 5, range 34, between the North and the Middle Sappa. He could do little last season, and returned [to] Phillips county to winter. He moved his family on his claim the 17th day of last March, and began operations in earnest. Since March he has broken fifty-one acres of prairie, and in addition has gathered and hauled bones to the aggregate value of 1180. His corn crop was a failure from the start-the squirrels ate it up. He then planted the land to millet, and has a good crop. He has been out this week haying, and has put up a good quantity. It is hard work and an eye on the main chance that wins. Mr. Collier has Providence and bone-hauling as reserves for every emergency. He will weather the gale and come out on top at last.


FOR THE SANTA FE SCRAPBOOK From the La Crosse Chieftain, July 7, 1886.

The Santa Fe has surveyed across the line of the K. &. C. in 29 different places, and are still at work, but the K. & C. had the right of way in every instance. This is evidently done to find some point to locate a road where the K. & C. has not secured the right of way, and then enjoin them from crossing, but they will not succeed.


From the Argonia Clipper, April 9, 1887.

The ladies of the W. C. T. U. called a caucus on Saturday night last, at which the following officers were nominated as the Equal Suffrage ticket. For mayor, S. P. Wilson; police judge, Jos. Arnold; and for councilmen, J. E. Carr, M. L. Smith, N. A. Springer, O. B. Harlan and S. W. Duncan. Monday morning the People's ticket was brought out, the only change being in the head of the ticket, Mrs. Dora Salter being substituted in place of S. P. Wilson. The result of the election is as follows: For mayor, Dora Salter 71, S. P. Wilson 24; for judge, Jos. Arnold 86; for councilmen, J. E. Carr, 82, M. L. Smith, 84; O. B. Harlan, 95, S. W. Duncan, 93. Only 98 votes were cast, of which 20 were by women.


From the Wichita Daily JournalSeptember 3, 1888.

One of the marble monuments placed in the Wichita cemetery last week contained the startling Kansas maxim, "Ad Astra, per Aspera," by the way, on an inscription under the name of the departed one. Inquiry revealed the fact that the deceased had been blown to pieces by a boiler explosion and as they had never found much of his body his widow had stumbled upon the epithet as the most fitting one for the occasion.