"WENT TO KANSAS" by Miriam D. Colt



From premonic clouds begin to flow,
       The drops that have been gathering there,
They may fall fast, or they may come slow;
       Our heads must bow now, to take their share.

Disease is shaking our frames with cold --
       High fever comes, writhing each limb with pain,
The cheeks crimsoned -- in the temples fold
       Wild imaginings of loss or gain.

The raiment is wet with sallow dew,
       The eye glistens no longer with hope,
The food is all bitterness to chew,
       And in weakness to water they'll grope.

       JUNE 26TH. -- Several members of our company have suddenly been taken with the chills and fever; and here in our own cabin it has fallen upon Mr. V. and wife, mother, sister L. and Mema. It is sorrowful to see what a change comes over them in one day. Mr. V. thinks this is too much for him to stand -- will leave cornfield, and all the prospects of this beautiful country, and hasten to the North again, if this is the way new settlers have to be shaken in this "sunny" land. He will make arrangements with the first team going to Kansas City, to be taken there. In my opinion, we shall find this disease to be no "bugbear," but shall feel that the white Greenlander, the real "hugger," has got us in his embrace.

       JUNE 29TH. -- A lovely Sunday. I, too, have fallen victim to the dreaded disease. Mr. and Mrs. V., Mema and myself, have occupied the loft to-day. Dishes of water have been set near our heads, so that we could help ourselves to drink when it seems as though we should burn up with fever. My head has ached dreadfully; am glad to crawl down the ladder, with weakened limbs get out door here, sit down on a stone, lean my dizzy head against the logs of the cabin, breathe a little fresh air, see the sun go down, and ask, "can this be the same sun that shines upon our Northern friends, who are enjoying the blessings and comforts they know not how to appreciate?"

       JUNE 30TH. -- Mr. V. has spoken for a passage in an ox-wagon, for himself and wife, to Kansas City; and my husband thinks we had better make preparations to leave the Territory with him, and not wait till he and father get sick; so he has done the washing to-day himself, and packed our trunks. And now, since our paroxysms of chills and fever went off for the day, Sister L. has packed their trunks, and I have been trying to help my husband cook a little to take on our journey Northward. I have mixed up some bread, using baking powder for risings, for I could not tend to raising yeast. I find myself very weak -- was obliged to sit down twice while mixing my bread. When I began to feel faint and dizzy, I would sit down on a stone, and when the dizziness passed off, go on with my mixing.

       My husband is now baking the bread in the Dutch oven. This is the first lesson he has taken in baking in my big kitchen, and it troubles him to keep the coals on the oven. I believe we shall be ready to start any time now, when the command is given.

       It requires but little preparation for "squatters" to be ready to start on a journey. The bag of corn meal and Dutch oven are stowed handily by in the back end of the wagon, and the wooden tray to mix in; so when halting time comes, a fire is kindled, the cooking utensils sally forth and begin service.

       JULY 1ST. -- The water is fast drying up; the spring that was cleaned out and dug deeper, in the gulch below our cabin, is almost dry; the water is not fit to drink.

       Disappointment is on the approach again! Am afraid father is going to upset all our calculations about getting away. He declares, out and out, that he will not go. Mother and sister L. have been very anxious to leave the country; have tried to persuade father that is was best to go -- so has my husband; but his indomitable will is not thus to be turned. He has gone nine miles, to Godfrey's, today, to learn the whereabouts of a living spring of water, that is said to be near the old Indian trading house.

       I have missed my chill to-day; the others are suffering severely. My Mema complains of her head's aching very hard through her temples, and seems to be almost burning up with fever; calls for water, water, and I have no good water to give her, or the others.

       JULY 2D. -- "A doomed ship!" thought I, this morning, as father unceremoniously yoked the oxen, put them before the wagon, placed in mother's bed, their trunks, some provisions and cooking utensils, told mother and Lydia to get in, and said, "I am going to the old Indian house, where I can get some water to drink!"

       About noon the man came for Mr. V. and wife, to take them to his cabin until he should be ready to start for Kansas City. Mr. V. is so weak and feeble, that my husband had to help him into the wagon. After they were gone, I sat my weak self to sweeping out, for it left some spare room where mother's bed had stood in the corner, and where six trunks had been setting along around. Then I made ready our simple supper, in time my husband should return, after following the old people on foot to their new abiding place, to see how they got there, and take the oxen and wagon back. Ate supper with my husband and two children alone, for the first time since we left our comfortable Northern home. This difficult question comes up now to be answered: "What shall we do?" To leave the Territory is impossible; and to me it seems like going into utter darkness to go up to that old Indian house. There we shall be four miles from neighbors, and on the Indian lands too. If they should return from their hunt and find us there, they would think we were intruding almost too much, and I know not what our fate might be. We cannot stay here without water, neither can we leave the old people four miles away, alone, to do without milk, (for it is all we have to make our food palatable.) We conclude that we must submit to the dominion of paternity, and take the result.

       JULY 3D. -- The hot summer's sun of this climate is drying up the fountains of water, pouring his scorching rays upon us, unobstructed by a cloud, and visiting us with a disease that is paling almost every face, and crippling the limbs with weakness! I am alone with my children; my husband is getting out fencing. My Mema's chill has passed off, and she is in a raging fever. Mr. H. S. Clubb is sick with a fever. He has just passed by in a wagon; he is being taken ten miles away upon the higher prairie; thinks the air may be freer from miasma, and unfailing water is to be found there. Father Cosgrove and two young men are sick at Mr. Adams'; several boarders at Mr. Stewart's are also sick.

       JULY 4TH. -- To-day the sun comes pouring down his floods of heat again. I can't step outside the cabin door without burning my feet. The prairie grass makes such a wear and tear upon our shoe leather, that I am trying to save my own calf-skin shoes, for I see that they are being worn badly now, and I shall want them more when cold weather comes; so I go barefoot inside, and slip my feet into my rubbers when I go from the cabin. Husband meets father at the cornfield to get out the fencing.

       The Ohio brothers, with their wives, started off this morning for Kansas City; they are going back to Ohio. I watched the white top of the wagon, while with slow and firm tread the oxen were wading through the tall grass, and bearing it away like a ship at sea, over the billowy prairie ocean. It finally became like a white speck this side of the blue sky, and then was gone. A sigh must escape, a tear fall, a wish be breathed that our wagon was in the rear, with all our family in it. But destiny! destiny! inexorable destiny! has bound us.

       My darling Willie was taken sick after his papa went to the cornfield; I found two scantling-like pieces of wood, which I placed on to our stone floor, laid across some of the "shakes," and spread thereon Indian blankets for a bed for my two sick children; I could not have them in the loft, to climb so many times up and down the ladder. Willie has been in a high fever; I have given him water and baths.

       This is a most happy day, and a still, sad Fourth. I have tried to write a letter home, but cannot write; my thoughts are away where friends are all life and enjoyment; but it only darkens the gloom that envelopes all my hopes!

       It is night now; my husband has returned from his work; he feels cold and almost sick; I make for him a rare treat, a cup of tea! and he sits drinking it out of a tin cup. I hope he will feel better.

       JULY 5TH. -- My husband is not well to-day; cannot meet father at the cornfield. Mema and Willie have both got their chills -- the fever will soon come rushing on. I feel weak, very weak, myself, but must keep up; think I shall not have any more of the paroxysms, for the disease was well worn out with me in my youth, on the borders of Lake Champlain.

       JULY 6TH. -- A hard thunder was upon us this morning, which kept us in bed, in our damp bed, until about ten o'clock -- that being the dryest place we could find. Everything was drenched with water; our fireplace was one complete mortar bed. I chanced to have a few chips up one side of our cabin that were dry; of these I made a fire in an old tin pan, strung a tea kettle on to the broom handle, making one end fast between the logs of the cabin, while my husband held the other, and over that fire in the pan I made Graham pudding for our breakfast.

       Mr. Adams came, milked the cow, fed the calf, and brought some water from the creek.

       My husband feels cold and sick. I have been to Mr. Adams' for some ginger; my strength almost failed me on my way there and back, but he has got the ginger tea; hope he will feel better.

       JULY 7TH. -- Found no improvement in health this morning. Neighbor Adams came, loaded our trunks, bed, and few cooking utensils into our wagon, tied our cow behind, leaving the calf to frolic at its pleasure; we then seated ourselves inside and started for the Indian house. William gave the oxen the "rein;" they took their own time, and made their own way. As we passed the cornfield, saw the corn was growing finely, and I wanted to get out and pick another mess of green pease, but a large yellow wolf was stretching up his head, gazing upon us from the middle of the field where the pease were growing, so I dared not make the attempt. When we arrived here, found mother and sister L. having their chills; my children had been taken with theirs on the way.

       Father unloaded the wagon, I made up our bed on the floor in the east room, mother has hers in the west room. A fire place in each room, no glass in the windows, but doors opening on to a piazza on the north side. This old dilapidated house, as rude as it is, is a palace to the rude cabin we have left.

       I see by the dish of boiled greens on the rough, bench-like table in one corner, that father has been to the purslain beds at the wigwam ruins.

       Father has tied the cow to an oak bush near, the calf to another, where they can eat from the deep grass. He has left the yoke on the oxen, and will watch them lest they stray away, and chain them to the wagon at night.

       Father has been to the spring, which he says is one-half mile away, descending towards the bottom lands; there it comes issuing from a rocky hillside, in all its sparkling, chilly purity. It is, indeed, a priceless treasure in this hot climate, and to fever-parched lips, and throbbing temples, it is life.

       JULY 8TH. -- My husband started off with oxen and wagon this morning for Mr. Stewart's, six miles away, after some corn meal that he had bought. He looked pale and feeble; did not like to see him go alone, but could not leave the sick ones to go with him. Father is preparing some wood; I am baking bread by the fireplace and taking care of four sick ones.

       Day is on the decline; I have been looking in the direction of the settlement for the appearance of the white-topped wagon. Father says, "it will come in between the lines of trees yonder." Children are up now, out here on the piazza with their pale faces, watching with me, to see the wagon come in between the trees. The west is crimsoned with a glorious sunset, the sun's rich rays are painting the high grass as it waves to and fro; the random clumps of oak bushes multitudinously scattered around this rude dwelling, are bathed in his radiance; and he gives lustre to the pale faces, who fear they shall not see husband or papa to-night. The sun is down. The rays blinded our eyes so that we could not see the wagon, as it came in between the trees. My husband says he had a chill, and was obliged to go to bed at Mr. Stewart's until his fever was off some, before he could start to come back. He rode, lying down, all the way.

       Our true oxen are deserving of much approbation, and shall receive a kind pat for bringing safely to our rude lodgings, one so dearly loved.

       JULY 9TH. -- All sick to-day, but father and my self! Father has been to the spring with the oxen and wagon; has drawn all the water he could in our shallow storage. I have washed and taken care of five sick ones, they all calling for water! water! at the same time.

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