Contents of Part 4, below:
14 – Frontier Politics. Omaha, Nebraska–July 10-29.
15 – Rock Brook Farm. Omaha, Nebraska–July 30-August 5.
16 – Waiting. Omaha, Nebraska–August 6-20.
17 – Homeward. Omaha, Nebraska to Cooperstown, New York–August 21-September 30.
18 – What Next?. Cooperstown, New York–October 1.
14 – Frontier Politics
Omaha, Nebraska–July 10-29.
Almost every town in the territory seems to be jealous of Omaha and oppose every thing favorable to Omaha.
Friday, July 10
Got a very early breakfast, and went up to Mr. Tuttle’s where the Zollars live and made arrangements to go with them to look at Dick Darlings and other claims, they to come up to Saratoga after me should they get ready in time. Went around examining the Saratoga improvements and staked out for the foundation of another house, reaching my office about noon.
In half hour’s time the Zollers came, three of them. Had a basket of bread, meat, fried cakes, pies and Mohawk butter and cheese for our dinner. As soon as we dispatched the dinner, we started in a southwest direction across the prairie. On reaching the first Papillion Creek, where it was necessary to take the horse from the wagon to cross, we discovered we were going in the direction of a thunderstorm which threatened to be a severe one, and would so wet everything as to be unpleasant tramping in the tall grass after we should reach the claim. Accordingly decided to abandon the trip and come again some other day. The rain overtook us before we reached Omaha, but as each buggy had an umbrella, we were very well protected, the greater part of the storm going west.
At the General’s, I found Judge Ferguson and his wife from Bellevue. They came up to court, which was adjourned. In the evening, B. P. Rankin, another candidate for Congress in opposition to General Estabrook, addressed the citizens of Omaha. The Gen. being up country, could not reply to Mr. R. as we all thought it would be necessary, as Mr. R. has the impudence of a highwayman and will state falsehood as quick as the truth. A letter had been received at the office for the General from one of his friends at Nebraska City. Mr. E. opened it and we all read it. The judge said it must be read at Rankin’s meeting. The substance of the letter was that there had been a very large political meeting at Nebraska City, in which a Mr. Mickles, Bennett, and Rankin tried to have all their own way, got up resolutions pledging the County to go for Rankin. The resolutions were debated four hours and then lost 4 to 1. Mr. Rankin took occasion in his speech in Nebraska City to denounce Omaha and the Ferry Company, said “great injustice had been done Nebraska City by Omaha and the Ferry Co., and he, Mr. R., had always been opposed to Omaha and its interest.”
I took this letter to a Mr. Chippman, late Judge, who said if occasion required, he would read it at the meeting. Feeling a strong interest in the matter, Judge Ferguson and myself went up to the meeting. I never heard such a bragging speech. He said “the whole north and south was going for him, he was a tower of strength.” At Nebraska City, he had the strongest assurance. He produced a letter purporting to be written by Mr. Nuckles and addressed to Dr. Miller of this place. The letter set fourth the pledges of the meeting for Rankin and mentioned that resolutions had been passed. Mr. R. then read the resolutions which he had and stated they were adopted almost unanimously; on this subject he dwelt largely. “He should carry all before him South of the Platte,” and now he was going to work North of the Platte; closed his speech by appealing to Omaha and its interest which he had always advocated.
Mr. Chippman was called for by men in the secret. Asked Mr. Rankin to allow him the privilege of reading another letter that had been received and would throw still more light on the subject of the meeting at Nebraska City. Mr. R. consented after knowing who was the writer of the letter and to whom it was addressed. Mr. Chippman then got up and in the most cool and deliberate manner read the letter. Mr. R. interrupted him a number of times to know who was meant as being opposed to Omaha, &c. Mr. Chippman then went back, read slow, emphasizing every word, and then said, Yes, it is you, it means you. I never saw a man so taken, down it gave the lie to all Mr. Rankin’s bombast and Mr. R. did not try to deny it. Mr. R. lost votes at that meeting, if he has any here to lose, which I doubt.
The storm continued during the evening so that the Judge and his wife stopped with us at the general’s. After glorifying over the meeting a short while, we retired at midnight.
Saturday, July 11
Got up at four o’clock, made a fire then called Mrs. Estabrook and surprised the Judge and his wife with a breakfast, as they must start at five. Judge F. is one of the best men we have in the territory.
The reason for my getting up to build the fire this morning was, the hired man and his wife was out on their claim preparing to pre-empt, leaving me the man of the house. This morning’s mail brought me a letter from my wife, which I immediately answered. After dinner, walked up to one of the Pittsburgh houses which is being erected on the south line of Saratoga. Returned in time to save a wet jacket. Lay down and took a sleep, the first time in the afternoon. We [are] having the best of weather; rain just about often enough. Crops never looked better anywhere. One can raise enough here off of a farm the size of Brother Bam’s in one season to support one five years, and do it easier than a single crop can be raised in the town of Franklin.
Br. Cook has his house completed except lathing and plastering, which he does not intend to do until fall. Has got a stove and everything is ready for Lib.
Spent this evening writing directions for Mr. Gridley, who is going to Buffalo in the morning, and will see the Turners and perhaps make a trade with them.
Between daylight and dark, took a walk up town past Mr. Clark’s. The young ladies were out front of the door, but it was too dark to distinguish them.
Steamer New Monongahala in today.
Sunday, July 12
After breakfast, took a walk up to Saratoga to get my washing, which is done there. Cook has not been up before since the first sermon was preached there. The change seemed wonderful to him. He says he thinks my chances are far ahead of his. It may be so, but I should like a little of the results of what the future seems to be at the present time. One advantage Cook has over me is the fact he has a house ready to go into and his family has the money to come out here with and probably soon be here. When we got back from Saratoga, found the folks to church. I took a good supply of rainwater and went to my room, where I had a glorious wash, then commenced writing.
There is now a plenty of places where I could get my board at Saratoga, but I could not get as good accomodations. I now have a room to myself and everything I could ask for, and if I should be sick I should have the best of care. I am well-aquainted with the General’s family and feel at home and do not wish to change for an uncertainty. At any other place I should be obliged to share my bed with everybody and three or four beds in a room and all sorts of people for associates. The General’s family are plain everyday sort of people, although intelligent and educated and their associates are the best in the Territory, including the dignitary and territorial officials. I could not have got another such a place to board in this entire territory. Were I sick at most places I should be neglected or hustled off to the pest house. I shall ever feel under lasting obligations to General Estabrook’s family.
Mrs. E. is none of your hitytity flyaways, but a substantial matter-of-fact woman. And is quite a business woman, one whose acquaintance is worth cultivating, and the better you know her, the better you like her. She is a large woman, almost masculine. Never frets or gets out of patience with her children. Is always the same, decided, firm, calculating, and patient woman, ever sensitive to the wants and sympathies of those around her, whether in her own house of that of her neighbors. Such is my hostess. The description of whom has served to fill this page that I may send it with letters by Mr. Gridley and thereby save time.
Closing up my package of letters, I took them up to Mr. Kellum’s and delivered to Mr. Gridley. He goes over to Council Bluffs in the omnibus this afternoon and stares across the county in the stage at 2 o’clock in the morning. He expects to be with his family as soon as next Saturday. I almost envied him his happiness and it made me quite homesick-like to bid him goodbye. He has got himself fairly established here in a banking house and is doing well, is delighted with the country. Was on the old fogy order when he came here and I did not suppose he would like here. He is, however, strongly attached to the place. Goes East to arrange business and will return the fore part of September.
The steamer Dan Converse came in this morning about daylight.
Monday, July 13
Went early to Saratoga. Spent a very busy day. Returned on foot about two o’clock p. m. and immediately got into a wagon and rode up and back again. Figured some and made a good day of it.
Tuesday, July 14
A threatening storm prevented my going to Saratoga this morning. Spent the time in writing letters. Afternoon, went up and examined improvements. Stopped at Mr. Smiley’s and made arrangements with Miss Smiley for my children to go to school.
Wednesday, July 15
The hottest day I ever knew. Still, the constant breeze makes it very comfortable when compared with the hot days in New York where there is no breeze. The thermometer has ranged to 100 most of the day in the shade. I have walked to Saratoga and back, then rode up and back. Selected a lot for a Union church which is soon to be erected. Received and answered a letter from Br. Frank. The steamers Asa Wilgus and Alonzo Child in today.
Thursday, July 16
A threatening storm prevented my going to Saratoga this morning. In the afternoon, stopped in the store for Cook, under pay, of course. Equally hot today with less air stirring than any day since I have been in Nebraska. We have had an election today to decide whether this county will take $200,000 stock in M. & M. R. R., to be expanded on the west end of the route, terminating at Council Bluffs. This city polled 1156 votes. This vote shows we must have at least a population of 3,000, including Saratoga, which has near 100 voters at this time. The vote was favorable to taking the stock by a large majority. Florence voted largely against it. In fact, they would burn their own town if they could spite Omaha. Almost every town in the territory seems to be jealous of Omaha and oppose every thing favorable to Omaha. The result has a tendency to build up Omaha instead of the reverse as they would wish.
The steamers in today are the Edinburgh, Dan Converse, and Watossa.
Wrote a letter this afternoon to Frankford Mower Co., Minnesota.
Friday, July 17
Guns firing all the morning over the result of the R. R election. Excessively warm. Not feeling well. I attend store for Mr. Cook this forenoon and wrote a number of letters. Received a letter from wife and answered the same hour. Also received advises of the shipment of my goods, stating I ought to receive them as early as the 25th of July. I shall not look for them before the 10th of August.
Four o’clock in the afternoon, rode up to Saratoga with a Lutheran clergyman who wished to select a lot for a church. Made a number of selections to submit to the Company. The steamer Omaha just in.
Saturday, July 18
Walked up early to Saratoga with Dick Darling, to show lots I wished to trade for his claim. Have not succeeded in trading and probably shall not. The price asked for the claim is $800. At the price claims are held here, I consider it cheap and should buy it but cannot unless I dicker. Spent the afternoon and evening with the Secretary of the Saratoga Company, give him my bill for services rendered up to Monday next, and the terms I would continue work upon. We have a meeting on Monday and I shall then know if I am to be paid, and if so, how much, and if not paid, I shall devote no time to the company, but make different arrangements as to what I shall do to keep off starve-to-death.
Sunday, July 19
After breakfast walked up to Cook’s. Found him ready for a stroll, which we both improved. The weather being cloudy made it a treat when compared with the previous hot days when the thermometer ranged at 100. We walked about three miles down the river along the edge of the bluff. Returning, come up the bottom along the margin of the river. It was a region of country I have never before visited and was delighted with it as only this territory can delight one. Found some fine raspberries.
Afternoon clear and hot. Wrote some, slept some, and fretted some. In the evening took a walk. Steamer E. A. Ogden up from St. Louis.
Monday, July 20
Went up early to Saratoga and prepared my report for the meeting to take place at eleven o’clock. After the meeting had convened, I submitted my report, which was satisfactory. Then left my bill for my time and resignation with Secretary to submit to the Company and left for Omaha.
Here I found a letter from Robert Adams from which I am lead to think Frank has accepted my proposition on the Wisconsin land. If so, I shall look for my family within a week unless I hear to the contrary. Resignation was accepted and the payment for services deferred one week. A long talk with Mr. Tuttle this evening resulted. Just as I wished.
Tuesday, July 21
Walked up to Saratoga and delivered the papers to my successor and immediately returned. Contracted to sell the lot and office belonging to Mr. Cackett for $500. Received as the first installment $115. Stopped at the stove store in the afternoon.
The letter received from Robert yesterday under date of the 9th set me to figuring, and I came to the conclusion I should look for my family the last of this week, provided I did not hear from them to the contrary.
Just at dusk, we saw the steamer Minnehaha coming up the river. Cook and myself figured up the time again and decided it was barely possible either of our families might be on board. So down we went to the levee, I for the first to look for my family. Slight as the chances were, the possibility was sufficient to excite us somewhat. We were the first on the boat as she touched the shore. Not finding our friends, we joked each other some, went up town, took some ice cream and retired.
Wednesday, July 22
Stopped this day in the store for Mr. Cook. Being few customers in, passed the time in reading and writing. Received letters from Mitler Orton & Co. and Cousin Benjamin of Tennessee. Watched anxious for the morning mail in the hope of hearing from Frank or wife. Nothing being received, I am lead to look, still with more assurance for the arrival of my family.
Thursday, July 23
Remained in the store during the forenoon. No letter from Cooperstown. Going to dinner, heard the whistle of a steamer, hurried to landing, found it was the new ferry Omaha City for this place, built at Pittsburgh, Pa. The Admiral now due, was expected every hour. I thought perhaps my family would be on board, and left directions with Mrs. Estabrook, and after dinner went out to Dick Darling’s and others’ claims, in company with the Mr. Zollars. Had a very pleasant time, considering I was suffering with a boil, the first one I ever recollect of having.
We did not return until about nine o’clock. I was somewhat anxious to know if the steamer Admiral was in, and if so, had my family come? Before reaching the General’s, I discovered no boat had arrived and of course my family could not be here. I was not disappointed as the grounds on which I base my reasons for looking for my family are not the most substantial.
Friday, July 24
Passed a sleepless night, so severe was the pain of my boil. It is located on my backbone between my hips. I think it is a blood boil. Those that have been thus afflicted with Job’s Comforters alone can appreciate the affliction. I did not sleep until after daylight, and then so sound was my sleep, I was called twice to breakfast and heard nothing of it. The steamer Watossa from St. Joseph came in during the time and fired an arrival gun-still it did not awake me. As soon, however, as my boil commenced paining me, again I awoke and was in time for my breakfast, but surprised to learn the above facts.
Oh, such a day I have passed and such agony as I am in. At noon I was obliged to leave the store, since which time I have been unable to sit, walk, stand or lay, been in every possible position only for a moment at a time. How anxiously I have watched for the Admiral, hoping my family might be on board. I am well cared for here, but what a blessing would be the kind hand of a wife to aid in soothing my pains or give me her heartfelt sympathies, and my little children to come around me and express their unaffected sorrow. It seems I could bear my pains with much more fortitude.
I cannot write now. I will have a large poultice made and take a dose of perrigoric or laudinum and try to so stupify myself as to get some rest. Good night.
Saturday and Sunday, July 25 and 26
The poultice relieved my pain the whole night, but the opiate I had taken made me wakeful instead of sleepy, and I did not close my eyes to sleep until daylight. Kept my bed and room all day Saturday, except when the mail came in. Went up and got a paper from Irwin, mailed the 15th. This satisfies me that Frank might have been in receipt of my letter eight days and still write an answer which I should now have. This fact strengthens my convictions that my family are on the way to this place. Could not write any this day, being in constant pain and two nights without sleep. My nerves had become completely unstrung. At seven in the evening, my pain stopped-and such a relief I never before experienced. On going to bed, renewed the poultice, which renewed the pain also. Bore it until midnight, then removed it and found the boil was discharging some. Dressed myself and walked the room about an hour during a storm. Lopped down on the floor and got a good sleep. Crawled on the bed with my clothes on and forgot my troubles until morning.
On waking, heard a steamer puffing. Hobbled down to the boat, which was the Col. Crossman. As she came nearer and nearer, we saw plenty of children that might be Irwin and Sophia, but the ladies all had children in arms. They could not be Mate. Cook was down before the boat got in-not to look for Lib, as he has a letter stating she will not start yet awhile-but equally anxious with me to see my family. We did not have the pleasure, however. The steamers Emma and Admiral are hourly expected. They may be here before night. It is now about ten o’clock a.m. Sunday and I am feeling quite comfortable. My boil has undoubtedly had its ache out. I am, however, about used up myself.
Been up to Cook’s for the last hour, chatting. Came home in the rain. The day has been warm and showery. This evening is cooler and there is a slow rain set in which seems it would continue all night. I have had a very comfortable day of it, my boil continuing to discharge every few minutes. No further information from boats from St. Louis. Now for a good night’s rest free from pain.
Monday, July 27
A delightful day. Rested well last night; have been busy attending to my boil. Sent to Saratoga for my wash, which I had left at a Mr. Grey’s, the man from Little Falls. He had been so careful as to put the clothes in his trunk, and having occasion to go out to pre-empt, took his trunk with him and consequently my clothes, so I am shirtless for a few days. A sad mishap when one has a boil discharging freely on his back.
No letters still from wife or Frank. Have one under date of the 18th from James Crocker in reply to one written a week or more after the one I wrote Frank. I am getting anxious to know his decision and to be relieved of the anxiety with which I am watching the arrival of steamers for my family. The steamer Admiral arrived this evening; left St. Louis the 17th. Had a number of lady passengers and some children. Could not pick out my wife and children in the crowd.
A letter from Mrs. Cook received by the Deacon today informs him as a reason for her not coming as requested. She had been and was very sick then, but fearing to give Cook unnecessary uneasiness, she did not say the worst, but made various excuses about the warm weather, &c.
Propositions have been made to me to day I will not mention at present.
Tuesday, July 28
Received a letter this morning from Mr. Cockett, from which I learn that my wife and children are still in Cooperstown. This fact, together with one other probably decides that I shall not see my family here very soon. The proposition I wrote of yesterday cannot be accepted or executed on account of my wife’s not being in the territory. Particulars I will give at another time.
It is quite provoking to me to have Frank delay answering my letter so long as he has. He may have a reasonable excuse; I cannot, however, conceive its nature if he has any excuse to offer. I wrote him today.
Walked up to Saratoga and back this afternoon. Found many new improvements going on. The landlord for the “Central House” had arrived and was arranging the furniture and carpets. Has his help all with him; will open the first of next week. Has a number of rooms engaged already. Is to run his omnibus regular to Omaha, fare a dime a head.
This evening had a talk with Dick Darling. He says he will accept one of my previous propositions for his claim. I think I shall arrange matters with him and go out at once and pre-empt.
Received pay for my services for the company this morning and paid assessments on three shares and settled up my board bill.
Wednesday, July 29
Received letters this forenoon from wife and Brother Frank. It appears Frank has written me a letter I have not received, which has caused all this anxiety I have felt, and been the cause I [was] expecting my family when they were still in Cooperstown with no thought of even starting. I have no doubt all will be for the best, I think so at least.
Closed my bargain with Dick Darling this morning and passed papers. We are making preparations to go out in the morning to live on it five days and then prove up and pre-empt. Expect a happy time among the mosquitoes.
Answered letters this afternoon, and in the evening went up to Mr. Tuttle’s and had a chat with him. It is now bedtime and I will retire. Tomorrow night expect to sleep out at the farm. Goodnight.
At the General’s ten o’clock at night
July 29th 1857
- F. Beadle
15 – Rock Brook Farm
Omaha, Nebraska–July 30 – August 5.
The same continued death-like stillness prevails, as at the beginning of time.
Rock Brook Farm
Six Miles West of Omaha
July 31, 1857.
On the Big Papio Creek and Nin-na-bak. In township 15, range 12, East section 28. North half of South East quarter, and East half of South West quarter.
Two o’clock p.m.
Our cabin being finished, preliminaries arranged for an actual residence, and having had a short nap, after lunch I will commence to bring down my diary to date:–
July 30, 1857
Immediately after breakfast, set about collecting supplies for “the farm.” Borrowed a sheet-iron cook stove of the deacon, an old coffee pot, plates, cups and saucers, knives and forks, pepper, salt, flour and a little butter of Mrs. Estabrook. Bought a fourteen-pound chunk of dried beef, 7 lbs. crackers, 4 loaves bread, 4 lbs. sugar, one quarter tea, and four pound nails. These we packed into a tea chest, adding the contents of Mrs. E.’s cake box. Nest, we supplied ourselves with two blankets and two Buffalo robes, Hickory shirts, the poorest pair of pants we had, a revolver, a bowie knife, and fowling piece. Stowed all into the lumber wagon of the General’s, and with his man Jake for driver, started via Saratoga. Thermometer at 100. At Saratoga, we took in some dozen pine boards for roof to cabin and a glazed window sash, also two bottles Turner’s Blackberry Brandy. For the information of my temperance friends, I would state that this brandy is not intoxicating. Is used more as a cordial or for medicinal purposes.
Leaving Saratoga, we struck across the prairie, intersecting the Elkhorn road some two miles from Omaha. At the first Papio, we succeeded in crossing without unloading, which we did not expect when we started. Two miles more across the prairie brought us to the Big Papio opposite the farm or claim. Here Mr. Darling, who is to be my witness, forded the stream and fell three trees across the creek, all together, forming a fine crossing. In a half hour’s time we had our lumber packed across and landed on the south side of the Papio together with our supplies. Our man Jake returned with his team. Darling and myself commenced packing our effects over to the cabin, a distance of one fourth of a mile. Two packloads each and we sat down and took our dinner and supper together. After this we had five packloads each before our lumber was all on the ground. Now came the putting up of the shanty or cabin. The one previously erected by Darling never had a roof, and had consequently blown down. We worked like men to get up our cabin as the muttering thunder and heavy black clouds at the south and west threatened a storm, which would make a shelter comfortable. It was sundown, however, before the roof was on our cabin. This being completed, we crossed the little brook to where some German people had been making hay on my claim and took the liberty of taking what we could carry. This we arranged in one corner of the cabin and spread thereon our robes and blankets and straightened ourselves out to sleep, two as tired men as ever saw the sun go down. To prevent sickness from drinking an excess of water we tried a little of the blackberry juice.
The storm continued threatening with tremendous thunder and vivid lightning. It passed around to the southwest, not more than a dozen drops falling on our cabin. During the night, we had a constant serenade, so that we could not sleep. The numbers of the troop were countless. Their music was very romantic and extremely fine-toned, but the multitude of the performers made the whole air vocal for miles around. At first we were delighted with such sweet music to sleep by, and all would have passed off pleasantly had not our serenade troop become too affectionate, and were determined every one of them to salute us with a kiss before they would allow us to go to sleep. We allowed a few to try it by way of experiment, but they kissed so warmly, the effect was painful for a half hour after, and we determined to fight them off, which could only be done by “smoking them out,” and it was near daylight in the morning before we could sleep at all.
Friday, July 31
Our serenaders left us about daylight, and we improved the time until 8 o’clock in sleep, when we got up so weak we could hardly stand. Put up our stove and made a fire. Cooked a little dried beef and made some tea in a large basin, our coffee pot we found leaked. Laid our window sash on the tea chest for a table and took a hearty breakfast, our tea tasting fine. After breakfast, walked over to see our German friends who were cutting our hay. Mowed a little for exercise. The company making hay consisted of two men and one woman. The woman used the scythe just as well as the men. Leaving the hay makers, I started off to find the limits of the farm. At the southeast corner I was met by the German woman of the hay-field, who came up to see that I was not going to claim a portion of her farm. I satisfied her all was right. She invited me to her cabin, which was but a quarter of a mile south, her land joining mine. I went with her, but declined going in. Went to the spring and got a drink, and borrowing a spade, started off to find other corners and mark them. Returned to my cabin at noon, took a bath in the creek, a lunch, a snooze, and then commenced writing while Dick Darling mowed some grass to enlarge our bed. Dug out the spring and commenced ditching for a drain from the spring.
During the afternoon the German woman came to our spring for water for the men making hay. She agreed to sell us some milk at night if we would come for it to the cabin.
About four o’clock it commenced as it did yesterday afternoon, clouding up and thundering. The wind blew severely, making our cabin tremble. It rained on all sides of us, but not sufficient here to test the utility of our roof, which we fear will serve as a poor protection during a rain-storm. At half past seven we concluded it would not rain here, so we took each a loaf of bread and spoon and started for our German neighbor, when we each disposed of a quart of new milk, sitting out doors with a barrel head for a table. Coming home we saw some splendid sights in the way of lightning, which performed such freaks as I never before saw.
Saturday, August 1
Another night of torments from our serenaders has just passed. Still, we managed to get more sleep than the previous night, much to the gratification of our tormenters, who covered the walls of our cabin when daylight came, gorged with our best blood, giving the cabin the appearance of being ornamented with red beads.
Another trial as cook succeeded most admirably and we had a fine breakfast of dried beef with thickened gravy, bread, crackers, cake and tea. Dishes being washed, Darling went to work on the ditch while I resumed my writing.
Three years ago this day, Dick Darling first saw this claim. At the time there was but one house in Omaha, and much of the time for a few weeks he was the only white man this side of the Missouri River among the Indians, then more plenty than the white men are now. He came out here from Omaha alone to see the country, traveled all along the Papio and fixed upon this spot as being the most desirable and lovely anywhere in this region and determined to be the possessor at some future day if in his power. On or about the 24th September following, Darling and a companion came out and marked the limits of his claim, including all the most valuable portion, comprising near 600 acres. Since the government surveys were made last summer, he has given 80 acres to one man, sold 160 to another and 40 to a third in order to piece out each one’s claim, he having more than he could hold. The original claim was made sufficiently large to be sure to comprise in one claim, when surveyed, all that most valuable portion. The claim I have purchased comprises three eighties, 240 acres. I can only pre-empt 160, this however, includes all the timber and rock. The remaining 80 is bare prairie with the Min-na-bah running through it. It is pre-empted on all sides and there is no danger of its being jumped. I shall hold it by claim club, improving that part, and as soon as the land comes in market, cover it with an 80 acre land warrant, thus securing 240 acres for the best farm in Nebraska Territory.
Three years ago, the Omaha’s village was about six miles below here, and the day Darling first came out here, Aug 1, 1854, the Omahas started on their annual buffalo hunt, passed through this claim within three rods of where our cabin now stands. The party went in Indian file and were a half day in passing. Each Indian had a pony, heavily packed, which he led by a lorette or lasso. The path they made is visible today and can be followed in the night. It is known as the Omaha Buffalo Trail and can be followed into the heart of the Buffalo country. This trail of one summer will be visible for five years to come. Where they crossed the Min na bah is a fine gravel foot path and is in the shade of some splendid elms, just the place for a summer house. I shall gather some curiosities from the spot.
This morning when we first got up, we saw six large swallow-tailed eagles sitting on the dead branches of a black walnut tree. They were a beautiful sight. Were too shy to get a shot with the fowling piece. If we had had a rifle, we would have brought one down.
Darling having worked at ditching until he was satisfied for the time, gave me up my boots he was wearing and I devoted two hours to tracing the course of the Min-na-bah and transferring it to paper just as it passes through the farm. Found otters in great plenty along the Papio and Minnabah. Should I be here in the fall or winter, I could trap enough to rig my family out in fur of the costliest kind with little trouble.
The middle and latter part of the afternoon we whiled away in our cabin, reading, laughing, joking, storytelling, and snoozing. Thundered a little toward night but was very distant and threatened no approach in our direction.
About half past six we took our spoons and a loaf of bread and started over to the Germans to take our supper of bread and milk. In our route we passed over the highest point on our claim, if not the highest anywhere in the vicinity. The prospect was grand and sublime, unlike anything I ever saw or my fancy ever imagined. In a northwest direction the eye could follow for twenty miles the course of the Papio, marked by the few trees that skirted its banks. In every other direction, as far as the eye could see, was a wide expanse of rolling prairie, unmolested by the hand of man. It lay in silent slumber, just as it was left at the creation. No signs of human life was visible. No lowing herd was seen on the hills. No tinkling bell of the flock was herd as it wended its way to the fold. No tired husbandman sought his cottage on the prairie. No domestic fowl was heard to crook or cackle, not even the robin or sparrow is known here–no sound save one’s own breathing is heard. The same stillness characterizes the morning, noon, and night. You rise with the first approach of light and listen until the sun has commenced his march in the heavens. No crowing cock salutes the morn, no rumbling wheels or baying watch dog is heard. The same continued death-like stillness prevails, as at the beginning of time. Who shall mark the change, ten years hence, in this garden of the world? Enough of this.
Our German friends (the only family in this region), had our milk ready, and we were soon on our return. Stopped at an old camping ground of the Omahas and gathered a few limbs to start our smudge to drive off the serenaders. Darling cut a lot of grass and soon had a thick smoke pouring up which drove off our tormenters, enabling me to go to sleep while Darling kept up the smudge. I had the best night’s rest yet.
Sunday, August 2
Breakfast being disposed of and the dishes washed, I gave my boots over to Darling, who went to work on his ditch while I continued my writing. An hour finished the ditch to Darling’s spring, a job done worth ten dollars to the spring. Being again in the possession of my boots, I wandered in the Ninnabah, exploring among the rocks and trees, found some curious stones and a wild turkey’s quill. Gathered a lot of pipe clay; took it to the cabin and manufactured a pipe in true Indian fashion, and prepared some of the clay to take east with me. While Darling was making the ditch this morning I made a pencil sketch of the cabin, which I enclose by way of illustration. I consider it a master production.
We had the promise of a visit from some of our friends in Omaha today. Waited for them until three o’clock, and thinking they would not come we started off for a tramp up to a Mr. McCardles, an Irishman living some two and a half miles up the Papio. Followed the Indian trail to the place, found the family enjoying themselves over their “sod corn whiskey.” The next day was to be election and the polls for this precinct was to be held at McCardles, including McCardle, his four sons, Dick Darling, and myself. It was supposed they would poll 20 votes in some eight or ten townships. We decided to come up and vote.
Returning to our cabin, we found our friends had been there. Brought with them two bottles of porter, which they had emptied, and made a good show on our provisions. Got out my pencil sketch, wrote under it and posted it up in the cabin, took out my writing materials and wrote a letter calling upon us to “be at the polls the next day and look to the rural districts.” “Vote for Hickney” (one of the persons who came out) “and our names should be handed down to posterity.” We regretted very much not seeing them; consoled ourselves by going over to the Germans and finishing the last of our bread in a bowl of milk. The German walked out on my farm to show me where there is a road to pass between us, running in a direct line from Chicago, a little town west of us, to Omaha. Advised with him where I should have some breaking done, also arranged with him to look after my farm and keep the fire out of the timber, all of which he will do, as he has cut $100 worth of hay on my farm. The land is much better for having the grass cut as it will not burn over in the fall or spring and will yield double the amount another year. He says after all the bottom land has been mowed once, I can cut 150 tons of hay every season. Bottom land is so scarce here, hay is a cash article. After a long talk about farming generally, &c, we parted and I went to the cabin when Darling had a good smudge, so I curled down and had a good night’s sleep.
Monday, August 3
Got up an hour earlier than usual. Got the breakfast ready and ate it alone, Darling not wishing to get up. After breakfast, prepared our cabin to leave it for election. Our German neighbor and his man came along about eight o’clock when we armed ourselves with our revolvers and bowie knives, and taking the trail in Indian file, started for the polls. The judges of the election had not arrived. We here first learned we were entitled to two constables and two justices. We accordingly nominated our German neighbor and Dick Darling as constables and one of the McArdles and O. P. Ingles as justice. Said Ingles is an old acquaintance of mine, formerly in the shoe business in Buffalo. About half past nine, the judges arrived and one notary public to swear them in. Two McArdles and a McQuin were the judges. One of them could not write his name; had to make his mark in signing his affidavit. The notary public and the old man McArdle were appointed clerks of election. One of this number had to have a deputy to write for him, and still he had to keep the poll list. The ballot box was an old sugar box imported from Omaha for the occasion. It was tied together with a string and a hole cut in the top with a table knife while the judges were at breakfast. There was some 500 votes sent out and most of them different, still it took about an hour to get the votes ready to suit the twenty voters. At last, the voters were sent out doors and the breakfast table dishes and all was shoved up to the door and the polls declared open, and I had the great honor of casting the first vote that was ever cast in the Papillion district. I am the first man that ever voted in this precinct. I had many chances to immortalize my name, all of which I respectfully declined.
Having deposited our votes, as every honest man who has the good of his country at heart should do, Darling and myself started back to our claim, taking with us a man whom I engaged to break up 20 acres of prairie to have it ready to put in my crops next spring. Returning, I finished the course of the Papio as it crosses my farm and sit down to close up my writing on the claim.
Last evening when we went to the Germans to get our bread and milk, we noticed they had company who had come three miles from the northwest: one woman and a little girl about twelve years old I thought I had seen before and inquired there they were from and learned they were from the east somewhere and were of German descent. Made no further inquiries after they left. I learned the woman and little girl had been inquiring who I was and where I was from. They, of course, got no more information than I did.
This morning, the little girl came to the election with Mr. Ingles, who proved to be her father. Mr. Ingles said his wife told him she saw a man down on the prairie she had seen somewhere before. The mystery was now solved. They used to live in Buffalo and the little girl took the Casket and she and her mother used to come to the office for it. The little girl’s dress did not compare with other children on the prairie; she looked like a rose among thistles. It seems go where you will, even on the wild prairies of Nebraska, you will find someone you have seen before.
It is now past one o’clock p.m. and I will put up my writing and stow away things ready to start for Omaha about ten tonight, so as not to get in until after midnight, as I have to swear I have lived on my claim five days and nights and slept regularly there, as well as cooked and eat and at this time it is my residence.
Instead of waiting until ten, we left at four p.m. and passed around to the west to look at some other claims and arrive in Omaha between eight and nine at night. Much to my surprise, I only found two letters and both those were unimportant, one from Mr. DePuy and Mr. Hall. Did not sleep well this night.
Tuesday, August 4
Got up early, waited at the land office until 8 o’clock a.m. Found my turn would come until tomorrow. Filed on the land and got an attorney to make out my papers. Rode up to Saratoga with Mr. Tuttle and got my washing and put on a white shirt again. Walked to Omaha; got the Home and Casket for August and two important letters, one from Mr. Gridley in relation to Mr. Turner’s buying the Niagara St. property. The result of his confab with the Turners was not very satisfactory. Mr. G. will see them and write again soon. The second letter was from E. S. Rich, to whom I sold the notes I had from Wowzer. He says all has now been paid except one hundred and fifty dollars, for that he holds Mr. Wowzer’s note endorsed by Mr. Steele. He, Mr. Rich, thinks that we shall neither of us lose anything, although all the parties who made the note I sold him have failed, even to Miller, Orton and Mulligan.
Mr. Gridley writes discouraging of prospects in Buffalo. He says failures are of frequent occurrence, that prospects are much better in Omaha than in Buffalo. This fact I was before aware of particular to those who had capital to do with or to those in business. I have neither business or capital and I have about come to the conclusion that this is not the place for me this fall and winter-more of this at another time.
After tea, went up to Mr. Tuttle’s and had a long conversation with him. I am determined to bring certain matters to a focus and that at once. I make an occasional strike here, but I cannot stand it to be so idle as I have been here. This fall and winter is a better time here for people with money.
Wednesday, August 5
Ten o’clock a.m. I have proved up and got my papers; am now an owner of real estate in Nebraska Territory; am the proprietor of Rock Brook Farm. Will now introduce a map of said farm, made while on the premises, and give a description of the same:–
Rock Brook Farm
The Name–The name suggested itself when we first visited the place, a few weeks since. The scarcity of stone in the streams in this territory is so universal that a stream filled-as in the eastern and middle states-with rock, attracts no little attention and becomes quite an object of curiosity. There are many Indian names familiar to the place that might sound more poetical and pleasing to the ears of Eastern people, who have spent their days among the hills and rocks which characterize their peculiar locality. Such names, however, are not as attractive to us of the Western prairies, who are amidst the Indians and their relics, as the name which expresses that which is most rare in our midst, and calls to our retentive memories the scenes of our childhood which were spent by the “babbling brook.”
Rock Brook Farm is a name peculiarly adapted to the place as it has a brook almost the entire length, of which is filled with gravel and common rock, and brook stone, the like of which I think cannot be found within hundreds of miles of this farm.
The amount pre-empted is only 160 acres and is comprised within the red and black lines on the map. The 80 acres on the west and enclosed with black only is held only by claim, but being pre-empted as it is on all sides, I trust I shall find no difficulty in holding it until the land comes in market, as few persons can be found that are willing to loose their right of pre-emption for 80 acres unless it is very valuable. I have pre-empted all that portion which has timber and rock, and the part I think has coal on, the balance is naked prairie.
The Papillion – This stream which runs through the east end of the farm heads many miles to the northwest and drains an extensive region of country. The valley or bottoms of this stream is from one to three miles wide and the richest portion of the territory. The Papillion and Platte valleys are not considered the most valuable, and will very soon surpass the Mohawk valley and the valleys of the Wyoming. They are now mostly valuable for the grass they yield, which make the best hay in the county. About 60 or 80 acres of Rock Brook Farm is bottom land. Of the Papillions there is three: the first or Little; 2d, the Big; and 3d the West Papillion. Ours is on the Big Papillion, a stream at this time fifteen to twenty feet across and four feet deep–this is its driest time. During heavy rain storms in the upper country, it has been known to rise 17 feet in three hours. The banks to that depth are very steep. In the spring the bottoms sometimes overflow.
The name Papillion is French and Indian, means butterfly. It is called mostly Papio and will probably be known only in English as Papio.
The Nin na bah. Is very noted among the Indians. It is an Indian name signifying singing water, or babblin water. From time immemorial, the Indians have camped on this stream. It makes about half mile above my southwest corner, is composed of springs. In an ordinary time there is sufficient water to carry one run of mill stones. There is a good mill site on it, I think. It drains many thousand acres and in a rain storm gets up to ten feet in depth and as much in width. The stone and rock seemed to have been deposited by some volcanic action. The stone is at least half iron; when broken resembles cast iron more than it does stone.
Black Walnut Grove – This grove is in a gorge formed by a ravine coming down a bluff from the south. It is filled and bounded on the east with huge sand stone rock and boulders. This grove was the favorite camping ground of the Omahas, but not large enough for one fourth of a tribe to camp in. Every fall and spring the prairie fires make sad havoc among the timber, which otherwise would increase rapidly. As it is, there is sufficient for one family with careful usage until more is grown. Timber fringes the Ninnabah for about a half mile, but except this grove it is cottonwood and elm.
Turkey Foot Rock – This is the largest rock in the grove and forms the base of a high bluff and the West boundary of the Ninnabah. It is of immense size, being some 40 feet along the stream and twenty foot high. How far it runs into the bluff it is impossible to ascertain. Back of these rocks in the bluffs we believe there is coal, if anywhere in this region. The rock is very soft, composed of sand which is easily cut with any sharp instrument; could be removed as rapidly as any clay bank. Is too soft for building purposes. It is carved with many devices by the Indians, one of which resembles a Turkey’s foot, hence we give it the name of Turkey Foot Rock.
Pipe Clay Rock – This rock is the same as the other on the south bank of the stream, but not as large. At the base, along the Ninnabah, is a peculiar kind of white clay, from which the Indians mold pipes and dry them in the sun, using them without baking. In cutting off chunks from these rocks, near the base one finds balls of clay as large as a coconut in the midst of the rock. This is considered best by the Indians. I think the clay valuable. For want of a better name we call this Pipe Clay Rock.
Skeleton Rock – This rock is of the same formation as the others, but smaller. The principal feature is the origin of the name we have we have given it. The spring following August 1, 1854, Darling went out to make further observations on his claim and visit parts he had not before seen. Crossing the Ninnabah in the bend and going upon the bluff that covered this rock, he discovered a human skeleton stretched out at full length, its arm across its chest. Every particle of flesh and clothing had disappeared and the bones were bleached white. The sight so shocked Darling that he instinctively grasped his rifle and placed his finger upon the trigger and looked around to see if anyone was in sight. He says had he seen a human being, he is not sure but his first act would have been to fire upon him, so strong and strange was his fear at the sight of the skeleton. After a little, he went up to and examined the skeleton. Through the skull a bullet had passed, showing how he come to his death. It was the frame of a powerful man. In removing the skull, the joints were so fastened by a glutenous substance, that he turned the body near half over before the bones separated at the joints of the skull and neck. As soon as the skull was removed, Darling passed his lariat through the throat and eye, hung it upon the pommel of his saddle and galloped into town. This incident has caused the name of Skeleton Rock to be attached as it is.
Darling’s Spring – This is named in memory of Dick Darling. He had always been so attached to this spring, he could not refrain from ditching it as he had previously planned, even after it was sold. This he done while with me proving up, and a hard job it was, too.
Omaha Buffalo Trail – The peculiarities of this curiosity is described in my diary under date of Aug. 1st.
Having completed my description, I will take a walk and let it close the business of the day, continuing as usual my diary.
16 – Waiting
Omaha, Nebraska–August 6-20
I cannot realize I have been five months away. Why within that time there must be a perceptible difference or change in the growth of my children, and if I should be still other five months before I see them, I suppose they will outgrow my recollection.
Thursday, August 6
Immediately after breakfast, went up to Mr. Tuttle’s, who had agreed to go out to my farm with me. We harnessed up, and in company with his brother-in-law started. Going by Saratoga, we stopped and selected a location for the warehouse. Reaching the claim house, we found someone had broke in and stole two buffalo robes and our beef. We attributed it to the Pawnee Indians. We wandered over most of the farm. Mr. Tuttle and Zoller were both very much pleased with it. Seem to think as much of it as I do. We did not reach Omaha on our return until four in the afternoon. Brought back all my effects from the cabin and sold the cabin on the ground for twelve dollars to one of the McArdles who wishes also to preempt.
About bed time I learned there was to be a dance on the steamer Ben Bolt, which had come down this day from Sioux City. Hoping to see Miss Clark, I went down, but they were so long in getting to dancing I did not stop. Only had a glimpse of Miss C.
Friday, August 7
Was awoke this morning by Jake coming into my room and handing me a letter Mr. Cook gave him. It proved to be a bill of lading of my things which had come during the night on the steamer Omaha. Hurried on my clothes and went down to the levee, where I found all safe and sound to all appearances, except through a crack I could see some pieces of looking-glass. The steamer had gone up to Sioux City, but left the bill for collection, the whole amount of which was $64.45, a little cheaper than I had expected. The charges from St. Louis here was only $1 per hundred, while from Chicago to St. Louis it was $1.21 1/2 – double what it ought to have been. Altogether, however, I am satisfied. I must now find a place to store them, as it is uncertain when and where I shall want to use them. After breakfast, went up to Saratoga and devoted the balance of the day to some improvements there.
Saturday, August 8
Busied myself at Saratoga this forenoon. Afternoon, settled my freight bill and done some figuring. Getting very uneasy and am bringing everything on the square and am only awaiting a letter from Br. Frank which I shall probably receive within a week, when I shall make some decided move. We have today the steamers Hannibal and Minnehaha in from St. Louis.
Sunday, August 9
Another month has passed, making five since I left home. Long as the time has seemed from week to week, I cannot realize I have been five months away. Why within that time there must be a perceptible difference or change in the growth of my children, and if I should be still other five months before I see them, I suppose they will outgrow my recollection. It is not probable, however, that I shall be much longer from them at this time. If, however, it was deemed for the best, I could remain from my family this fall and winter, but as matters have turned out here my stay in Omaha is very short for this time.
This has been one of the hottest days of the season and all we have been able to do is to keep cool. This afternoon, went up to Mr. Zollers, where Mr. Tuttle boards, spent a pleasant two hours and to dinner with them.
Monday, August 10
Last night there came up a rain storm accompanied with a hurricane which blew down a building I was interested in in Saratoga. The frame was only up and the damage will be easily repaired. During the storm, some of our neighbors who were living in temporary shanties became frightened, and for better safety came over to the general’s and stopped until the fury of the storm had passed.
The steamer (I can’t think its name) came in this morning and brought Cook’s household goods. He not feeling very well, I received them for him. Went up to Tuttle’s; rode up to Saratoga with him. I stopped until the building (which by the way was intended for my private residence, which I have not before spoken of) was raised again. Walked down to Omaha and got two letters, one from wife and one from R. Adams. Answered wife’s and mailed all of diary to Aug. 10th. 2 o’clock p. m.
Tuesday, August 11
After what I had written yesterday was mailed, I procured some nails and repaired the damages on my boxes of household goods and had them placed in the warehouse to be stored until further orders. In the evening, helped Cook unpack his things. Found in one of the boxes the cane I brought to this place and on my return left by mistake at Cook’s in Flint, Michigan.
The steamer Edinburgh came in just at night.
This day I have devoted in part to writing letters to parties east and closing up my affairs here. This afternoon started with Mr. Tuttle and his team to go over to the Bluffs. The wind so bothered the ferry that we abandoned the trip for today. We have a hot south wind blowing strongly.
Wednesday, August 12
Went over to the Bluffs with Mr. Tuttle, spent the day without incident of interest, visiting the printing offices.
This night is the opening dance at the Central House Saratoga. Should like to be there, but cannot as it comes my turn to take care of Dick Darling tonight. He is here at the General’s, sick with the bilious fever. Came in from claim-hunting last Saturday quite sick. On Sunday we got him down here. He is doing as well as call be expected. Has the best of care.
Thursday, August 13
After breakfast, walked up to Saratoga to close up my affairs there. Never saw Saratoga look so inticing, particularly the point where I have been building and sold out last week. Counted 56 buildings completed, and others in course of erection. There are many towns east that claim importance that have no more buildings than Saratoga at this time. From the Central House, I rode down in the omnibus, by the bluff route or the route where the best buildings are along the edge of the bluff. I could hardly realize the change that had taken place directly under my own eyes. When I came here in the spring, there was but two houses on the site. Now there was almost a city-graded streets, vehicles of all kinds, and two lines of omnibuses. The omnibus ride reminded me of the ride from Cold Springs to Buffalo, except the beauty of the scenery, which Buffalo cannot compare with.
This afternoon has been very hot. Cook and myself have been on the lookout for a boat as Lib is expected every boat. About the middle of the afternoon, a severe thunder storm come up which has lasted until evening. About this time a boat made its appearance at the lower landing on the bluff side, some six miles from here. It would not, of course, be up here until morning. Cook will probably watch it all night.
Made arrangements to retire early to make up for the lack of sleep last night. Got my coat off, when Cook came down to get some milk, said “they had come,” meaning his wife and children. I waited for the milk and took it up, found them all as natural as could be, except Lib was very thin and poor. Ella knew me, and such a hugging and kissing as she gave me I have not had since I left Sophia. I think Hatta recollects me, but we did not get acquainted so as to talk much. I gave some milk, undressed her and got her to sleep. Lib was tired out; she was so anxious to get here after she started. She changed conveyance as often as I was obliged to when I came. At Bellevue, twelve miles below by land, but near thirty by river, she learned the boat would not reach Omaha that night and she could not think of being another night on the boat. So a conveyance was found by one of the passengers, a Mr. Barkalow, a brother deacon in the same church with Mr. Cook, and they rode up by land, taking Cook very much by surprise when he was at supper at his boarding house. Cook having his house all in readiness, they drove there at once. Bought some bread. I took up some milk and commenced house keeping the first meal. At about ten, I returned to the General’s and went to bed.
Four brick columns of the Capitol, and the brick work which rested on them, fell just at night. The cause I have not yet learned; presume, however, the weight was too great for the columns. It will cost a number of thousand dollars to repair the damage.
Friday, August 14
Dark, cloudy, and lowry day. Helped Cook put up shelving and regulate. It seems still more like home to see Lib and the children here.
Received letters Mr. Myers, Irwin, and my sister Sarah. In Sarah’s letter, which was written the 5th, in which she says, “Frank wrote me last Wednesdav that Mate would start for O. in ten days.” Here again, I hear in a round-about way something which I should have understood fully if the letter Frank wrote me had not been miscarried. I was in hopes it would turn up yet. It is now so late it probably never will, and tomorrow or Monday I shall probably receive another, as it will then be time to get an answer from one I wrote complaining of delay which has annoyed me for near a month.
Saturday, August 15
Weather same as yesterday. No mail from the East. Steamers Watassa, Hesperian, and Alonzo Child in this evening. The Alonzo Child was not expected until tomorrow (Sunday) night, in that case she would not have left until Monday noon when Mr. Tuttle and a number of others would be ready to go, together with myself, provided the letter I am expecting should arrive. As it is, she will go down in the morning and we must await the next chance. The Alonzo Child is a superior boat and makes good time.
About dark, a thunder storm came up and it rained in torrents, and when we went to bed the storm seemed at its height. But what is most unusual here, during a thunder storn there is no wind, the thunder and lightning makes up for that. The storm is becoming too terrific for me to write and I will turn in and see if I can sleep.
Sunday Morning, August 16
Such a terrific night as has just passed I never in my life have experienced. An hour after going to bed, the storm seemed to doubled its violence. The rain did not seem to come in drops, but come down in a body so that the ground looked like a lake. Roof, siding, and brick walls seemed to be of little use as the rain came in until it was near an inch in depth on the floor. The lightning was one continual blaze, and the thunder come clap after clap, seeming to roll across the roof of the house, while it shook and trembled in every timber. Every instant I feared the house would tumble, as I believed the lightning was striking in every direction around us and the next, we all feared, would strike the house. The storm continued thus for about an hour, when it subsided to a respectable thunder storm such as we have east. The cessation was only to get a fresh start, when it come on again and so it continued during the whole of last night and did not cease raining until after daylight. I cannot conceive where all the water could have been got that fell last night.
The first effect of the lightning discovered this morning was on the Capitol. One of the columns and the work it supported had been struck and leveled with earth. There is undoubtedly other serious injuries that we shall see when we go out around. We all thought our chances slim last night, but have come out right. Afternoon find no further damage from lightnings. Walls of buildings have fallen and settled and cellars filled with water, causing great destruction of property.
Monday, August 17
No letters today except one from Cousin Jennie in Indiana. Have decided to wait no longer for the letter than until the first boat, when I shall go letter or no letter. I can travel almost as cheap as I can remain here, and I have now no business but to wait.
Walked up to Saratoga this afternoon. Another column of the Capitol fell today. Weather cool and pleasant.
Tuesday, August 18
Still no letter or boat, and it is the hardest kind of work to wait when one is all ready to go. Yesterday and today, people have been very busy in putting up lightning rods. I think there has been a hundred put up since the last storm.
Wednesday, August 19
Letters from wife and Frank today–all satisfactory. Rode up to Saratoga and back with Mr. Tuttle in the forenoon. Afternoon, wrote letters. Two boat yet in sight. We are at this time longer without a boat than we have been since the boats commenced running this season. The time seems long and moves slow. One year ago this night I left Buffalo the first time to come to Omaha.
Thursday, August 20
Still no boat up today. The Dan Converse, running between this point and Sioux City, is down today and may go on to St. Louis in the morning. She is a small cockle-shell of a stern-wheeler. I shall, however, be tempted to take passage on her. The fare will be no more, and if the time is longer shall get more corn and bacon and bed-bugs and no extra charges.
17 – Homeward
Omaha, Nebraska to Cooperstown, New York–August 21 – September 30.
One says, “You look like a returned Californian,” another, “You are a regular border ruffian in earnest.”
Friday, August 21
Nine o’clock this morning, rode up with Mr. Griffin three miles to his farm. Had a good supply of melons, received directions to purchase and forward seeds and trees. After dinner, walked back to Omaha. Found no boats up. The Dan Converse, however, was just ready to leave. Would wait half hour. Hurried up to F. Gridley & Co’s Bank and got a money package. I was to take east. Dodged into Cook’s to say I was off and away I went, Tuttle taking my things to the boat. In an hour after my mind was made up, I was on board, bag and baggage, and at quarter after four we shoved off into the “Big Muddy” once more to try the uncertainty of this treacherous river.
It was with feelings of deep regret that I saw the city fade in the distance. I have seldom been in a place I have formed such an attachment for as Omaha. The evening was delightful and we sped down with the current rapidly, laying up for the night at a wood yard a mile below Plattsmouth on the Iowa side. Our supper was hard and did not tell well for the first meal.
Saturday, August 22
At daylight, got under way and returned to Plattsmouth for passengers. Remained two hours. Went three miles and run upon a sand-bar, where we remained until after 4 o’clock p.m., when the packet Watossa, running between St. Joseph and Omaha, came along and was hailed to take on three of our number who were disposed to abandon the Dan Converse. We had all of us worked more or less to help get off the boat, but seemingly to no effect.
The captain of the Watossa came on board, and from him we learned what we had previously began to fear: that the chances were against our getting off at all, as the boat had run into the wrong channel, or what seamed to be the channel, and passed over bars which rubbed hard with the current to assist. The water had fallen, and to get back seemed impossible. Add to this the Converse had her last stick of wood under the boilers and her miserable fare had almost starved us. As fast as the Watossa‘s small boat could carry them, the passengers left tile Dan Converse to the number of over forty leaving, but about fifteen on board, who I think will be obliged to abandon at last. The boat was poorly manned and only wanted to get to St. Louis to be delivered to her creditors. Some of the passengers on the Dan Converse had paid only to St. Joseph–ten dollars–while others, myself among the number, had paid to St. Louis-twenty dollars. Not one dime would the Captain refund, all plead and expostulated with him but to no effect. It was thought best, however, to leave and lose what we had paid. I was personally acquainted with the clerk, and when he saw me leaving, he called me into the office and on his own responsibility paid me back ten dollars with the injunctions of secrecy from the other passengers.
All that were disposed being aboard the Watossa, we left a cord of wood for the Dan Converse and went on our way like a racer. The contrast from the Dan Converse to the Watossa was like changing from life on the plains to the Astor or St. Nicholas, N. Y. Although smaller than the Dan Converse, the Watossa was a perfect palace, and the supper we got, which was ready as we went aboard, had an injurious effect on some of the passengers who partook too freely trying to make up for their fasting on the Damn Converse.
The Watossa only running to St. Joseph, we could only pay to that point. The price was the same as from Omaha, ten dollars, making double fare. We made a fine run the balance of the day. At night we were many of us obliged to take a mattress on the floor, but they were clean and without bugs, while on the Dan Converse we found bed bugs on the table cloth at supper, even.
Sunday, August 23
Got an early start. Had a delightful day. Being cloudy, we could occupy the hurricane deck and the ever-changing views were charming. We laid up within thirty miles of St. Joseph. This evening, was introduced to Mrs. Bloomer of the Bloomer Costume who resides at Council Bluffs. Is on her way to Seneca Falls, N. Y., on a visit. Had an interesting conversation of an hour, when I took my mattress and straightened out on the cabin floor.
Monday, August 24
The fog this morning prevented our getting under way until eight o’clock, so that we did not reach St. Joseph until eleven o’clock, two hours too late for the packet. Three boats had left this morning; had the fog not detained us, we would have been in time to have made a good bargain, as the three boats were in opposition.
The captain of the Watossa, who is a perfect gentleman, at a very little solicitation, took us to Weston, sixty miles further, where we found the Cataract of the Lightning line. This line runs boats daily between Weston and Jefferson City and connects with the R. R. to St. Louis; fare through, $13. Some twenty of our number took passage on the Cataract. When the Watossa decided to go ten miles further to Leavenworth City, the balance continued on to Leavenworth. The Cataract is a mail boat and must leave Weston on time, which is tomorrow afternoon, half past three. We were late on the Cataract, but they got us up a supper, after which I took a stroll up town. This is the place where the little girl was buried this spring on my upward trip. Retired to bed early.
Tuesday, August 25
Believe this is wife’s birthday. After breakfast, took my cane and note book to reconnoiter between Weston and Leavenworth City–distance by land seven and half miles. Crossed the ferry at Weston into Kansas and had a most delightful walk to Leavenworth City through a delightful region of country. Stopped at Fort Leavenworth on the route. The soldiers were on parade. It was a fine sight. Reached Leavenworth City about eleven and rested a short time and then examined the town. It is, in my opinion, one of the best points on the river and must be a great city unless their high prices kill it.
Here I learn the Watossa overtook one of the boats from St. Joseph, the D. A. January, who took the Watossa‘s passengers but did not leave until about nine o’clock this morning, so we shall be in St Louis probably a day ahead of it, as it runs through and we cut off 174 miles by R. R. It is now about half past three and it is probable the Cataract will be along soon. I have spent the last hour writing up my diary, and to Cook in the office of the Kansas Herald.
At 5 o’clock, the Cataract came along and I was again rushing down the Big Muddy at more than ordinary speed. We made Kansas City and laid up for the night.
Wednesday, August 26
A fine day. We made good time, 190 miles. Intended to reach Glasgow, ten miles farther, but at dark we run on a sand bar and was late before we got off. Had a thunder shower this evening.
Thursday, August 27
Another fine day. Made Jefferson City in time for the train, with half hour to spare. The cars left at two o’clock p. m. with a full load of passengers, mostly–like myself–eager to join their families. If I ever enjoyed or fully realized a seat in the cars it was on this occasion. The sensation was very much like that felt in coming in sight of the old home one has not seen for years. But now as he beholds it in the distance, he almost fancies he sees the smiling faces and grasps the friendly hands he has so long been separated from. Yes, the sensation experienced on taking a seat and getting under motion once more on the cars was like being within sight of home and friends. True, it is a thousand miles yet, but what is a thousand miles by railroad? Distance is annihilated and we cannot realize it. I feel I am now almost home. Nine o’clock at night found me comfortable, located in that best of homes for the traveler, the Barnum House. Its superior cannot be found in the country.
As soon as we got into St Louis, I could notice the difference in the air we breathed. To me, directly from the prairies of Nebraska, where the air is pure and wholesome, it seemed almost stifling, and as the omnibus went around from house to house, delivering passengers, through filthy streets and lanes, I was forced to hold my handkerchief to my nose, to prevent the stench from sickening me. Undoubtedly I should not have noticed it had I come directly from Buffalo. But I had now got weaned from the delicious odor of a city.
Friday, August 28
The money I brought for Mr. Gridley all had to be exchanged at this place, which kept me busy until the cars were about to leave. I was in time, however, to take the morning train at eleven o’clock, and reached Sandoval [at a] quarter before two p. m. Checked my baggage down to Centralia, and there being no cars for a number of hours, I walked down and reached Hatt’s at a little before four. Found them all well and pleased–as well as surprised–to see me. The first question was where is Mate and the children, supposing I was from the East and they with me. Before going to Harriet’s, I stopped at the post office and got a letter from Mate under date of the 20th. Harriet and Charlotte have much to say about my rusty appearance. They say I look so black and forlorn they are ashamed of me. I have not worn a cravat for two or three months. I will try and get civilized by the time I reach Cooperstown.
Saturday, August 29
Received a letter from Br. Frank. Devoted the forenoon to writing. Afternoon, tended baby while Harriet done me some washing. Bailey and Tom went out last night on the train, to return tonight again.
Sunday, August 30
Visited with Bailey and Thomas. Have decided to leave here tonight half past nine so as to get into Chicago in the forenoon, and leave the same evening. Should I wait until tomorrow and go up on the train with Bailey and Thomas, it would bring me into Chicago at midnight.
Had a supper of boiled prairie chickens, which was the greatest luxury I have had this season. The conductor on the train I was to go out on called here this evening. Said he would fix me through to Chicago.
Chicago, Monday, August 31
Arrived here on time, ten minutes before nine a. m. Had a pleasant night, slept some. Found Mr. Lyman, who was pleased to see me, took dinner and supper with him. Here I learn that the Reciprocity Bank of Buffalo closed its doors last Saturday. Every dollar I have is on that bank; it is not much, but sufficient to pay my fare to Buffalo. I must try my chances. A report is in circulation here respecting Mr. Brayman which astonishes me. Mr. Lyman thinks I am looking like a pioneer.
Lake Erie, on board steamer Mississippi, Tuesday, September 1
Again I am rejoiced at being on the clear waters of this beautiful Lake. The contrast from the muddy waters of the Missouri is delightful. I think at this time and for the sake of a little variety I would like to have a little bit of a gale on the lake. There is, however, no prospects, as the air is still and the sky clear.
Last evening, the cars left at 8 o’clock. When the conductor came along, I gave him my check for my baggage and told him how I was situated and [that] I would fix it in Detroit, which I did do on seeing Mr. Frazer. On reaching Marshal this morning before daylight, we were two hours behind time. Two miles after leaving Marshal, one of the driving wheels of the locomotive came off and we were obliged to send back to Marshal for a locomotive to come and draw us into Marshal, then go out again and bring in the crippled engine. This detained us four hours, so we did not reach Detroit until one o’clock p.m, when we were due seven o’clock a. m. We were, however, fortunate in having the captain of the steamer on the cars, so the boat did not leave until our arrival.
At 2 o’clock p. m., we were driving down the clear waters of Detroit River, and by the time dinner was over, we were out into the lake ploughing toward Buffalo. I learn today on the boat that the Hollister Bank and White’s Bank, both of Buffalo, have failed. Can’t tell how true it is. I say blessed be nothing.
We have had a delightful evening which has been enjoyed by large number of passengers who remained out on deck enjoying moonlight on the water. At nine o’clock, dancing was commenced and I retired.
Wednesday, September 2
Got up after a good night’s sleep at six o’clock. Found we were still some thirty miles out. A slight fog and the smoke of the city so enveloped it, we could not get a view of the town until we rounded the light house. I remained on the boat until all the passengers had left, watching for my cane, which had been stolen on the boat. Was not successful in finding it. Took my satchel in hand and walked slowly up the familiar streets to Irwin’s store. Found all seemingly pleased to see me. Breakfasted and read letters returned from Omaha and one from Br. Frank and wife received this morning. Answered letters and made a few calls during the forenoon. Afternoon, made some business calls, among which was one on the Turner Brothers. Passed by our house on Niagara Street. Did it not look familiar? The door stood open and I was almost tempted to go in. I looked in vain for wife and children; they came not to greet me. My friends seem all rejoiced to see me and overwhelm me with questions. All have their remarks to make. One says, “You look like a returned Californian,” another, “You are a regular border ruffian in earnest.” All agree in saying I look thin. I am afflicted with boils sufficient to make anyone look thin.
The city looks close and cluttered to me. I presume that is owing to my having been where they give more scope to the streets and lay out cities on a more magnificent scale and don’t build their houses so high or close together. I did not think I looked quite so much like a ruffian until I got here to Buffalo, where I find every one with their best clothes on and their faces and hands look as though they had been out to bleach.
Lib and Sister Sarah took pity on me soon after I arrived. One mended up my coat, while the others took some oil and a comb and tried to limber up and put my hair in shape. Irwin let me wear one of his cast-off hats, and thus attired I looked about half civilized. I think by the time I get to Cooperstown I shall begin to look natural and become civilized so that my family may not disown me.
Spent this evening standing in the door of Irwin’s store, watching the people as they pass, more particularly the ladies. They look very interesting. I had almost become so accustomed to being a widower that I saw little or nothing to attract my attention between the sexes. I now, however, where there are so many fascinating creatures passing every moment, am not quite as insensible to the difference and feel quite an inclination in favor of the ladies.
Irwin has been so full of his jokes and fun, aided by Robert, that I am myself again and feel like quite a different man. Have been so long alone, no wife, children, or relation to speak with, I had become so morose and mopish–I was not my natural self. I think I will now fat up if I can get rid of my boils. I find Irwin looking better than I have ever seen him. His business is good, and he is cheerful, and now knows how to manage the business with ease.
Thursday, September 3
Did not sleep well last night, owing to the pain of a boil, which bid fair to be a severe one. After breakfast, went over to Dr. Gray’s. Had him drive a lance into it less than an inch and then burn it with an acostic. It felt fine for a short time. Hope it will kill it with the aid of poultices.
Spent the forenoon in business connected with the house and lot. Afternoon, went out to Cold Springs by way of Niagara, Virginia, Ninth, and Cottage Streets in company with Robert. Met Mrs. Hodge and Mrs. House on Delaware Street, near the church, going a-visiting. They were rejoiced to see me. Passed on to the house where Joseph met me on the sidewalk and made such a noise Sarah come out to see what was the matter. Had a pleasant hour and as many pears as I could eat. Find their new house up the first story. Great changes are going on. Mr. Wackermon’s house is up, as well as Mr. Hun’s, the latter is finished. It made me feel lonesome to see the improvements, all of which are attributed, and I think justly, to my moving into the neighborhood. They have commenced paving Main St. to Cold Spring. The tax on the lot my house was on will be about $400. It will be a good investment.
Called on Mrs. Halbert. Found there a widow of one of Mr. Halbert’s brothers or cousins, her maiden name was Estabrook, a cousin of Gen. Estabrook of Omaha. She was pleased to meet me so recently from where her cousin resided. Returned to Irwin’s in time for a supper of broiled chicken.
Friday, September 4
Found quite a number ready to negotiate for the house and lot on Niagara Street. Their terms do not, however, suit me. Received a letter from the Turner Brothers which was returned to me from Omaha. Said letter contains a proposition which I shall accept if I can do no better. Suffered severely from my boil all day. Received a letter from Frank.
Saturday, September 5
Figured considerable about the house and lot, but as yet have come to no terms with anyone. I have a week left still to operate in. A few will get disappointed, I can assure them.
Sunday, September 6
Quite cool this morning. Spent the forenoon in writing. Afternoon, took a stroll with Irwin up Niagara St. and across to Mr. Vanduze’s, where we took tea, per invitation from Mr. and Mrs. V., extended to me in person this morning by Mr. V. We had a very pleasant walk and chat about old times, present times, and the future. Got home just at dusk when Irwin and his wife, Miss Myers, and myself took a walk down to the steamboat landing. This is the first time I have walked out with the ladies in six months.
I find Buffalo desecrates the Sabbath as much as any Western town I ever heard of. This noon a fire company come from N. Y. on the cars. When they were met by one of this city companies and paraded the streets with a band of music, and drawing their engine. This shocked me. In New Orleans it might do. If the papers are not down on it, I am mistaken.
Monday, September 7
Have had a busy day in negotiating with parties about the house and lot. Took Mr. Hotchkiss up to look at it. It did not look like my home or as my home does when my wife presides. Found the grapevine as full as it could hold. It is a sight worth looking at. Called this afternoon at Mrs. Brown’s to see Mrs. Meachem. She was on a visit to Albany. Feel rather lonesome this evening, but not as much so as I did at times in Omaha. Am still visiting with Irwin. Will be a boarder as soon as I get employment.
Tuesday, September 8
Figured up my expenses for traveling the last year and find I must hold up as all is now gone and I have no hopes. Believe it my best plan to take the $15 it would cost me to go to Cooperstown and use it to get to living again. Nothing new today.
Wednesday, September 9
Still figuring about the house and lot but as yet no sale. Got the blues some.
Thursday, September 10
Letters from Frank and Mate. Thought I had the blues yesterday but give it up. Did not know what the blues was.
Friday, September 11
Sold ten dollars reciprocity money for five dollars currant. My 36th birthday and the most unpleasant one I ever recollect to have passed.
Saturday, September 12
New customers for the house and lot. No sale however as yet.
Sunday, September 13
Received letter from Brother Frank. Heard some unpleasant news.
Monday, September 14
This day visited the orphan asylum and county poor house. At quarter past eleven at night, took the cars en route to Cooperstown.
Tuesday, September 15
Reached Fort Plain at 8 o’clock a. m. Started immediately on foot towards Cooperstown. Six miles from Fort Plain, met Wife and Irwin coming in a buggy after me. Arrived at Cooperstown two o’clock p. m.
Wednesday-Saturday, September 16-19
Spent in visiting and figuring up some business for the winter.
Sunday, September 20
Walked up to the old homestead in company with Br. Frank. Some of the way rainy. Irwin’s 10th birthday, the first spent in this place where he was born.
Monday, September 21
Figured with Mr. Bells about engaging for the winter in selling patent rights for Camera Box, a supposed improvement for the Daguerrean operator.
Tuesday, September 22
Started at seven o’clock a. m. with Br. Frank for Franklin to visit our mother and sister. Stopped at a hop yard on the East side of the Susquehanna, one or two miles below Milford village and took in Cornelia Armstrong. Arrived in Franklin village about two o’clock p. m. Found our mother quite low, but recovering, from an attack of dysentery which had come near proving fatal. Considering all things, we had a pleasant visit.
Wednesday, September 23
Left Franklin village on our return about 10 o’clock a. m. Dined at Oneonta with friend Pick. Left Cornelia where we found her and reached Cooperstown six in the evening.
Thursday, September 24
Experimented in taking views with the patent camera box preparatory to selling patents.
Friday and Saturday, September 25 & 26
Sunday, September 27
Rode up to Father Pennington’s and took dinner. Took up Mate and Sophia. Irwin remained at home on account of a boil on his face. Evening, walked out with Frank and Cockett.
Monday, September 28
Wife and children left in the noon stage for Alden, N. Y., en route to Buffalo. Afternoon very lonesome.
Tuesday, September 29
Experimented with the Patent Camera Box.
Wednesday, September 30
Otsego County Agricultural Fair. Assisted Brother Frank in his store. Had a very busy day of it and a good trade. Received $1.50 for my services, being sufficient to pay stage fare to railroad.
18 – What Next?
Cooperstown, New York–October 1.
My friends and relatives have become scattered and I am myself out of business and unsettled and may take up my residence in the Far West.
Thursday, October 1
First frost of the season at this place; ice formed in the washbasin out of doors. Walked out of town at seven o’clock, was soon overtaken by the stage. Was the only passenger the first ten miles. The sun rose clear and soon dispelled the fog that hung over the Lake. The ride along the west side of the lake was delightful. Still, it reminded me strongly of the time I left Cooperstown ten years previous in the month of December, with a view–if the place suited me–of taking up my residence in Buffalo. At that time, I was the only passenger the entire route to Fort Plain. It was in the midst of a thaw and no snow on the ground. The roads were in such condition it was not deemed safe to use the coach, and a lumber wagon was substituted. In the center of this wagon I took my seat, the lone passenger, some of the way moving at a snail pace, at others going at a breakneck speed. All day through a drizzling rain.
At Cooperstown I was leaving Father, Mother, Brothers, Sisters, Wife and baby, the baby not three months old. But young as it was, it was one of the motive powers that induced me to try a new home. And it was with a sad heart that I crossed the Susquehanna on that morning (the road on the east side of the lake was not then completed), not knowing when if ever I should re-cross it to visit my friends and native place. The convenience of travel as well as the expense has greatly changed for the benefit of the traveler since that time, and I cannot recollect the number of times I have since visited Cooperstown at all seasons of the year and under varied circumstances, sometimes on business of a commercial nature, sometimes to meet with my Brothers and Sisters to gladden the hearts of our parents, sometimes with my family and at one time to follow my Father’s remains to the grave.
The past ten years has been full of changes with me and I feel very much as I did ten years ago when I left Cooperstown not knowing if I should ever be called on business or by my own inclination again to return. My friends and relatives have become scattered and I am myself out of business and unsettled and may take up my residence in the Far West. In all the visits I have made to C. during the past ten years, I have never left the place as I did at that time until this day. The only passenger in the coach. This fact has tended to make me feel sad and gloomy and to ruminate on the past. At about 8 o’clock, I bid adieu to Lake Ostego and sooner than I expected we wheeled up to the Hotel at Hallsville. There we took in more passengers and my train of thought was changed
The diary ends here, in mid-sentence.