LIFE AT THE SETTLEMENT AGAIN, ETC.
AUGUST 4TH.-- The second man has returned that was sent after the oxen; he brings in the report that they were "taken up" at the Catholic Mission, and put in a yard, but a little girl went to the yard for something, left the bars down for a moment, and they ran out and went bounding over the prairies again in an easterly direction. They were sent for, but they went so fast that they soon lost sight of them. My husband has now hired the third man, (a Mr. Morris, a young man who lives up the river, and is well acquainted with the country out into Missouri,) to go after them.
I have received a letter to-day, from my dear, good friend, Mrs. V. She writes as follows:
"BIG BLUE CREEK, July 12, 1856.
Agreeable to my promise, I hasten to write you at the first opportunity. We are eighteen miles from Kansas City; have stopped here for a long morning in the shade, this very hot day. Will reach Kansas City to-morrow. I may not have an opportunity to write while there. We have got along very wcl1 so far; have slept in the wagon every night; have had but one storm. Traveling seems to agree with Mr. V.; his health is improving daily; he takes quite long walks. I have had a chill every day since I left though they grow lighter and lighter every day. Yesterday it was a mere nothing; I had no fever or sweating. Oh! my dear friends, how do you all do now? where are you? yet all sick in that strange land, that malarious place, so far from all dear friends? Oh! how I wish you could all be restored, in the twinkling of an eye, to a good home. am here among folks.
Why must friends be so endeared? why must they meet only to part, perhaps forever, in this world?
I will write more, if I get time before Mr. W. returns. If I should not, I bid you all an affectionate adieu.
JULY 13, P. M.--We are now within two miles of Kansas City, which we "made" about noon, and where we shall stay until to-morrow morning. We are quite well; the weather is very hot and the roads are very dusty. There is said to be no disturbance in this region now. We have seen no border ruffians passing through Westport; all seemed as quiet and orderly as any Eastern city. O! my dear friends, you cannot think how happy we are, to have this place passed in safety, the most difficult and dangerous part of our journey. We are now stopping at McGee's. Did I not take a last farewell gaze at the spot of our memorable first camping out? I assure you I did. O! my experience in Kansas; may I never pass through another such again! How thankful I am, a way has been opened at last for me to get out of it! When shall I hear that you are all safely removed from that place, to a happy home in a community such as your hearts desire.
Adieu; and may this find you all well and happy, is the prayer of E. V
Good, dear friend; how little you know or imagine what we have experienced in the last month! while you have been dying from savageism to civilization and enlightenment, and to a home where stand open arms and warm hearts to welcome and receive you, and a bountiful store to supply all your necessities. But alas! alas! alas! for us.
AUGUST 5TH.-- Another most terrific thunder-storm broke, last night, peal after peal, over head in deafening, crushing sauna; and the lightning's glare seemed burning the heavens from pole to pole! the torrents of rain came right through the warped "shakes" on the roof; the wind was blowing--the mud, from the logs, and water, were flying in every direction through our cabin. I made every effort to keep my sick ones dry, but my husband, children, and myself, being in the loft, got completely drenched and my husband and children had their chills in the midst of the storm. We kept our beds until a late hour this morning, as wet as they were, they being the most comfortable place, while the sun was drying up the water around.
Mr. Broadbent came this forenoon, went to the spring over the river again for water, making a walk of four miles from his tent to get two pails of water for us.
I bring water from the creek, where it stands just in the deep places, and they have to be dug out for that. This water will do to cook with and for washing.
The Indians pass every day in long files, on ponies and on foot, going to Cofuchigue "to swap," as they say, their dried buffalo meat, tallow and robes, for coffee, sugar, tobacco and whisky. Their ponies of burden are so heavily loaded that the juveniles who ride them have their limbs horizontally extended, instead of hanging down. Their many long-eared, grizzly-gray, gaunt-looking dogs, bring up the rear. How they can keep alive such a drove of dogs after their hunt is over, and keep them in going order, is truly a problem not for me to solve. They look like so many hungry hyenas; I should think they would swallow both horse and rider, and "lick their chops for more." Their buffalo meat is relished by some. It seems to be clean, and sweet; it is cured without salt, by being cut into strips, braided, the braids woven into a web, with strings of bark, and dried in smoke; can be bought by the yard, half or fourth, just as one desires or their appetite craves.
Some of the squaws have been here to-day; wanted to "swap" some of their dried buffalo meat for some pumpkins we had in our cabin. I gave them the pumpkins, and they handed back some dried meat. Father and the children relish it. Willie says, "please mamma, give Willie some dried buffalo meat." We have so little change in our diet, that almost anything is relished. We have plenty of green corn and squashes, but I am afraid to let the sick satisfy their appetites, which have become craving, as they always do, after having the chills for a while. I can persuade my little children to lay the cob by for a little, with the corn half eaten off, but it is a difficult matter to persuade children whose heads are gray with age, for "they know, they guess, when they have eaten enough, and when they are hungry."
AUGUST 7TH.-- The symptoms of the sick are more favorable; some are missing their chills for a day or two, others for a day. I wish I could hope that they might be all well in a few days.
Have been to Mr. V's cornfield, near by, for corn; there are plenty of peas, beans and cucumbers there, and soon will be any quantity of large ripe watermelons and muskmelons. Mrs. V's morning-glories are running all over the cornstalks, and must present a beautiful array of flowers at the early dawn of these. clear, dewy mornings, lavishing their delicate odor on the air. The tomatoes that she planted with her own hands, are large and rank in growth, bending to the ground with their load of large, nice red tomatoes.
Our last meal being over for to-day, and milking done, will spend a little time now, just as the ground is being dampened with dew, to cut a pile of it for my calf, which is going through the process of weaning, living entirely on grass. I suppose it thinks it is hard fare to be shut up in a little pen of poles here in front of the cabin, and have nothing but grass and dish-water. I think calfie eats a big stock of grass in twenty-four hours, and all I am obliged to cut with an Indian knife.
AUGUST 10TH. --My husband awoke me this morning, by saying, "Why, Miriam, what is the matter? you seem almost convulsed with grief." As soon as I could speak, I said, "I have just been dreaming that our Willie boy was taken sick with a disease of the bowels, and that he died; dreamed we were in a large and beautiful town, where there were many trees, and a great many people, and that the people were extremely kind; that we rode in black carriages to the place of burial, which was almost in a lonely, shady wood, and that the men were just lowering our darling's coffin down into the grave, when you awoke me. Do you wonder that I was weeping? And it has impressed me so that I am still trembling."
"Well, now, my dear," said my husband, "do not give yourself any unnecessary trouble about your dream; you know you are my 'dreamer,' but not all of your dreams come to pass."
"Don't you remember," said I, "that Joseph was sarcastically called the 'dreamer,' by his brethren; and do you not think that the same power that impressed Joseph in his dreams could impress me? Oh! I hope my dream will not come to pass, and I know it cannot in all its picturings, because we do not expect ever to go away from this place now."
A large number of Indians have been around our fire to-day, asking me to light their pipes for them, which I reluctantly did. They called for water; my husband told them that his "squaw" was sick, pointing to me, and that they must go to the creek, pointing that way. So they were soon off with themselves, in their wild glee, with their drums, horns, ponies and dogs.
I spread blankets on the "punchuns" out by the side of the cabin, these hot afternoons, minding to get the shady side, for the invalids to go and lie on, to take the cool breeze; and sometimes I made a chair for them, by turning the wash-tub bottom side up, putting the end board of the wagon for the back, and spreading an Indian blanket thereon.
Mr. Adams, and his wife and child have got the chills, and the two young men are still sick.
Mr. Stewart's people are sick likewise, though they thought they had worn the disease all out in Illinois.
AUGUST 11TH. -- My husband has been anxious to see Mr. Clubb at his present abiding place, up on Stony Creek, ten miles from here, to see if he would refund any of the money that he put into his hands. So to-day, our good neighbor, Mr. Hobbs, was kind enough to take us there. I made the wagon as bed-like as I could with blankets and pillows, so that my husband could ride lying down, also my Willie, who wanted to go with us. Our good neighbor, Mr. Hobbs. took us safely over high prairies, through deep ravines, past fine cornfields, where some settlers were getting a good start, through Stony Creek, where all the water was dried up, and along up by its dry bed, until we arrived at the little cabin, where we found our Secretary confined to his bed with fever. We rested and took some dinner that Mrs. Clubb cooked by a fire some rods from the cabin, to prevent the smoke from entering it to annoy the sick. Mr. Clubb had no money to refund, but let us have some corn starch, farina, a few dates, and a little pearled barley.
A shower came up while we were coming home, but our good, thick wagon top and blankets kept us from getting wet. My husband missed his chill today, and feels better for the ride; thinks it would cure him to travel.
It is rumored that H. S. Clubb has resorted to his present abode, that he may make his way quietly out of the Territory. We can take advantage of no law to regain our money paid to him for the company.
AUGUST 14TH.--We have had a drizzling rain for two or three days, which is very unusual for this season of the year in this country. It has been very bad for the sick, so damp inside without a fire. I have had a wet time going after my cow, off on the prairie, and bringing water through the tall wet grass. I put on my husband's boots, and tuck my calico pants into the tops, but then the grass is a great deal higher than my boots, so that I get wet to my waist, as though I had walked in the river. The cow is getting to be very unrnanageable since I weaned her calf: Sometimes when I have been more than a mile after her, and have driven her almost to our cabin, she will turn and bound off over the prairie like a deer. I then am obliged to let her go, and we do without milk, for I might go miles after her and not get her. There have been two days that I could not get her; then we ate our gruel with just a little salt. When I succeed in getting her nights now I tie her up to the ends of the logs at the corner of our cabin, but then the oxen come and hook her, so that I am obliged to get up many times in the night to drive them away.
I must get Mr. Hobbs to picket her; then I shall have to bring water for her, but that will be much easier than to chase after her as I have done.
This day is now at its close, with its toils and their recordings. I have looked after all the wants as far as I have the means. I am weary, very weary; my clothes are damp and uncomfortable. I could hope for brighter days to dawn upon us, but our sky is clouded; a little light now and then glimmers through the darkness, but soon again the clouds close over, and al1 is dark. Will Heaven grant to us a dawning?
AUGUST 16TH.--For days my husband has been trying to persuade father to leave the Territory, telling him that we can go out into Missouri, where we shall be in the world, among people, and where, if we should be sick until late in the Fall or Winter, and need the kindness of people, we should be where there were people to bestow that kindness. But it is all in vain to talk to him; he cannot be moved one inch from his position; he says we may go, but that he shall stay and sell the land that has been taken up in the family; that as he is getting so much better now he will soon be able to build a fireplace in the cabin, make a door and put in windows, and then get his goods in from Kansas City.
My husband thinks now, that if another opportunity presents, he shall improve it and leave the Territory. He has been trying to get mother to say that she will go too, leaving sister L. to stay with father until he shall have sold the land then come to us wherever we shall be. Father is very sure that he will realize quite a sum from the nearly 1000 acres of land held in our family, the timber being so valuable.
Our good neighbor, Broadbent, came with his oxen to-day, put them before our wagon, and all of us but mother and sister L. took a ride to our cornfield. The rows of corn are very straight and tall, and the ripe golden ears look rich in the sunlight; but the Indians have ridden their ponies through a part of it, and broken some of it down; they are picking it and will soon carry off and destroy the whole six acres. They are taking the pumpkins; and of father's large patch of big musk and watermelons, that he was going to feast on, not even one little green one remains.
The settlers are obliged to watch their cornfields now, in order to save their corn from these thieving Indians; so that every man is busy watching for himself. Neither father nor my husband is well enough to walk to the cornfield at morning dawn and watch until nightfall, to save their six acres, which would yield at least fifty bushels of corn per acre. It seems hard and cruel, after all of their labor and toil, to have it sacrificed to these wild, idle, and improvident savages.
Mr. Broadbent said, two or three days ago a posse of Indians came to their tent, pretending to want to buy melons, and while they were bargaining for them, another posse, understanding the game, stripped the vines and made off with the melons. Such is their sly intriguing nature; it makes me shudder with fear to have them stand around our cabin, finishing up their arrows, and looking so sharply at us when they think we don't know it.
Mr. Morris has returned without our oxen, though he heard of them out in Missouri; he thinks some of the half-breed Indians have taken them. It is the law of the country that stray oxen shall be taken up and yarded such a length of time, to give the owner a chance to find them; and if that law had been adhered to, our oxen might have been saved. My husband paid $75 last Spring for them, and now has paid $30 more to have them hunted up, and all is gone! The wagon will be of no use now without oxen.
AUGUST 17TH.--I was up this morning as soon as yonder sun sent his bright rays aslant the broad fields of grass, peering in between the logs of our cabin, tinging the pale cheek, for the moment, with the flush of health, dissipating the dew drops, and ascending majestically on up into the clear blue dome of heaven, bringing in a most resplendent day. Though the heart be sad, and the limbs have not been rested through the night from toil, the soul must go out in silent adoration and praise to the Former of yon bright orb, which makes the day and night, sending forth his genial rays to inspire hope, and light up the path of the "pilgrim stranger."
The sick ones are certainly getting better. Sister L. and Mema went with me to-day when I went for water; while I was down in the bottom land dipping water from the standing pools, they busied themselves gathering flowers. The yellow sensitive plant is all in bloom; it grows something like a brake, with bright yellow flowers growing all along on the under side of the stalk; its seeds are enclosed in pods like peas. The hop vines, supported by saplings, are loaded with full-grown hops; and clustering all in among the green leaves of the grapevine, is its rich fruit yet green. The prairies are still decked with flowers that come peeping up above the tall grass, as if asking for homage. But my time is precious.
Our good neighbors keep us well supplied with wild red plums; they are very sweet and delicious, as are the strawberry tomatoes which are indigenous to the soil. The prairie hens are still flapping their wings in the dry tree in the gulch below our cabin. The white crow, with the same caw as the black, is flying through the clear air up against the blue sky; and was it not for the caw, would think it as pure as its color, a bird just sent out from angel bowers. There are many songsters enlivening the woodlands to-day; but none dare approach our cabin save the chubby quail, who is calling for wheat, wheat."
A letter has come over the long distance from our dear friend Mrs. V. She writes as follows:
PLAINFIELD, WIS., July 22, 1856
MY DEAR FRIENDS: Arrived at home safely, and in much better health than when I left you. Arrived here at home just in two weeks from the time that we left the Neosho. Had a very pleasant journey. How happy I was, my dear friends, to find my father's family all well and happy, and O! how prosperous. They certainly have been signally blest. The crops are most abundant; corn looks better than in Missouri. This is a beautiful country; it never looked so good to me before. I must tell you, Mr. Colt, that father says, and all the neighbors too, that there are thousands of acres of land to be taken in this vicinity, and any amount of wheat harvesting to be had on shares--no trouble. Father says there will be some place to stay in for the first few weeks. O, well, there is no trouble, no difficulty in the least; my parents and all the neighbors invite you to come; they w ill certainly insure you all profitable employment. Come, now! School teachers are in great demand, both in the academies and district schools, around here. Oh! do come! The air is so pure and bracing--how can you be sick? It seems to infuse life and vigor immediately into me. Oh! if you would only come, you could live with us a while. Mr. V. left me in Chicago for his home. His health was very much better than when he left your settlement. Be sure to write immediately on the receipt of this. I must say again, oh! how I wish you would come! Our people here all want to see you; you certainly will not regret making a home here. How I hope you will come. That this may find you all well, is the sincere wish and prayer of your friend, E. V.
Dear, good friend. I could wish we were all transferred to your pleasant Wisconsin home; but my heart has so long vibrated between hope and fear, that to get away from this place seems almost an impossibility. I ask my husband many times a day if he thinks we shall ever get away. He says, "I am determined to go now, let father do as he will. I have written to St. Louis, to have the forwarders retain our goods there, if they have not already been sent to Kansas City."
AUGUST 19TH.--Have been saving a little water every day now, for some days, to get enough to wash with, or make a pretension. Truly we are in a land where there is neither soap nor water; so how can we keep clean? What would my mother say, if she should see the color of what we call our white clothes? I think she would say, as one Bohemian said to another, when asked, "Why, is not my shirt clean?" "Well, yes--it's clean for brown but it's awful dirty for white." So it is with our white clothes, they are "awful dirty for white."
We laid off our night clothes when we came into the Territory, and have slept without them, (except when we needed them very much to shelter us from the musquetoes,) because I could not bear to have them take on the brown color, which they must necessarily for the want of soap and water.
Have taken the chinking out from between the logs, to let the wind blow freely through our loft, so now we can sleep some when the wind brows herd enough in one side to blow the musquetoes out the other. Another improvement is, that the cow is picketed, so I don't have to chase after her--but it is no improvement to my arms, which feel as though the bones were drawn from their sockets now, bringing water for the cow to drink. Willie is afraid when I go for water, that the Indians will carry off his mama; so, when he feels well enough, he will stand out by the side of our cabin and look after me, when I go down into the bottom lands I am out of sight; when I come up again on to the prairie, I can still see his little yellow head by the side of the cabin; he thinks I am safe when he can see me. Darling boy! his golden locks are more than a mine of gold to his mother.
AUGUST 24TH.--We have been intending to start for Kansas City, the twenty-sixth of this month. Our trunks are packed and labeled, and every preparation made that circumstances will admit of for our journey. Have put the clothes that we shall need when we take the steamer into one trunk to have them handy. Have made a little sack of hard water crackers, for my husband says he shall not be well enough to eat the rich food they have on board the steamers. But our way is hedged up again; the younger Broadbent was to take us, but he and his brother are both sick, unable even to get out of their tent, and no one to take care of them only as a well one goes in. Yesterday, after my usual round at home, I walked there, one mile, taking them some milk, brought water, and cooked victuals for them. Mr. Adams came here this morning; said he had no wood to make a fire, and that they all went without supper last night; he looked pale and weak; I gave him some of our farina gruel with bread-cakes crumbed into it; then made the gruel camp-pail full putting in a good quantity of milk, for him to take home, with the rest of my bread-cakes.
I soon followed him, taking along some milk, then went for water for them. Mr. Adams said, "Mrs. Colt, I never could have got home without the strength that that gruel gave me." Mr. Stewart has been and chopped some wood for them, and has also been here and brought some fine ripe muskmelons. Their melon patch is so near their cabin that the Indians have not yet stolen them.
The eighth of September the Indians meet at the Indian Agent's, to receive their annuities from government; then the damages done to the white settlers is taken out, and the damage paid. Father says he shall have the damage done to the cornfield prized, go and present it and get pay. They have not disturbed the Voorhees cornfield, only taken all the melons.
The sick ones are a good deal better; they have been taking some patent medicine though we do not think much of such medicine, still we have been induced to by our good friends, the Stewarts; they had been in habit of taking it in Illinois, and recommended it highly.
AUGUST 25TH.--This morning father and my husband started off, to go nine miles below here, to deliver the wagon, which had been sold, and receive payment. They fastened an old sled behind the wagon, on which to ride back. It is not such bad sledding in this country in August, as one would suppose; the prairie grass is very wiry, and a sled passes over it without any grinding; the sled shoes going through the process of sharpening all the time. I have been very anxious all day about them, fearing they would get sick, but they have returned safely; my husband is very tired--father has stood it well.
Arrangements have been made with Mr. Morris to take us out of the Territory. We leave on the morning of the 28th. We hear of late, that serious trouble has commenced again, between the Border Ruffians and the Free State settlers, extending from Kansas City and Westport, down south as far as Fort Scott, and that it will not be safe to pass through either of the above named places. We intend to pass out of the Territory south of Fort Scott, into Southern Missouri, and from there strike the Missouri river at the nearest point.
AUGUST 28TH.--This morning early found me at my post, 'bringing water through the dewy grass for ourselves, and the picketed cow. Our simple meal being over, my children were dressed as clean as I could have them, and ready for journeying,-- myself arrayed in a clean Bloomer,--our provisions put into the dinner pail, and we sat waiting for our teamster to come with oxen and wagon.
We have waited all day--have looked and looked away in the clear sun-light, to see the white-topped wagon come over tile green prairies, but no wagon has come! It is almost sundown now, and our wonderings and questions have not been answered, as to the reason of detainment. The children have been very impatient; I have walked out with them, gathered flowers, and have tried to divert them, when I have been more disappointed than they could possibly be. My husband has kept very quiet, so as to quiet his wife and children. We must go to our loft again, without knowing the reason of our disappointment.
AUGUST 30TH.--Mr. Morris sent us word to-day, that he will not be able to take us out of the Territory. He intends leaving with his family, in company with another, on account of the northern troubles.
Father has just returned from the cornfield, with a sled-load of pumpkins that the Indians had not tugged away; he has piled them up in one corner of the cabin; says he is going to live on pumpkin-pies after we go away. We know of no way now to get out of the Territory.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 31ST.--A bright, brilliant day! All nature is quiet; a silent adoration from prairie, wood, and dell, seems to be borne away on the bright sun light, to Him who holds all nature in the "hollow of his hand;" and shall we mortals withhold our praise? No! though we worship in the shade of disappointment our Author demands an offering.
My husband, though is no dreamer, has just been relating to me the dream he dreamt last night. He said, "I dreamt that we left this place, and travelled a very long distance, until we came to a large river; then we stood on the bank considering how we were to get across it. Finally, we concluded to ford it; so you took one child and I the other, and soon came out On the other side. There we found a beautiful country--all kinds of fruit were growing spontaneously and in abundance--every went was satisfied, and we were happy."
When we were expecting to leave, my husband gave the cow and calf to sister L.; told her that they were well worth forty dollars, and that the worth of them would take her out of the Territory any time she wished to leave. His planes, augers, saws, and all such tools, he has given to father; has divided the remainder of the money, keeping for ourselves just what, with the cheapest fare, would take us to some point on the other side of the Mississippi, either to Wisconsin or to New York.
There is a spike of splendid scarlet flowers that has been in blossom for some time, and is still blossoming at the top. If I leave this place, I intend to pick it the last time I go for water, as it is just beside my path, near the pool, and press it in my Portfolio, as a memento of some of my toils.
SEPTEMBER 1ST.--This morning Mr. Wheeler came in, and gave my husband an invitation to ride to Mr. Stewart's on their pony; said he could walk back; thought he was strong enough. I followed them, to see how they were going to get along, they both being weak, across the creek into the little wood beyond, where they sat down on the grass just at flee edge of the prairie, to talk over our late disappointment. When they went on I came back to our cabin.
Very soon Mr. Blackburn came in and asked if we there intending to leave the Territory. I told him we had made up our minds that there would probably be no more opportunities for getting away. He said that Mr. Henly was going out into Missouri in a day or two, with an enmity wagon, after provisions.
I immediately followed on to Mr. Stewart's, and related what Mr. B. had said. My husband told me to go on to Mr. Henly's, and see what he would ask to take us and Mr. Wheeler out into Missouri. I started off with a bound, over the prairie, through the grass as high as my head, on an Indian trail, passing a ledge of rocks, where was a den of rattlesnakes, without looking to site whether snake-dom was out sunning himself not just stooping to pluck a fine ripe prickly pear at my feet eating the delicious strawberry flavored fruit as I hastened along, putting the seeds into my pocket. Found Mr. Henly tinkering his wagon, to get it in order for his journey. The sum was agreed upon, that would recompense him for taking us out to Mt. Vernon, Lawrence county, Missouri. I asked him when he thought he should. be ready to go? He said, "If my wife can get my clothes finished, I will start tomorrow morning, in company with Morris and Wilbern." I told Mrs. Henly that I would sit down and sew two hours; that I thought I could then get back in season for my night chores. In two hours' hard sewing, by us both, the needed garments were finished. I was then feasted on fine, ripe, delicious water-melon, such as I never had tasted in northern land. Mr. Henly had loads and loads of' them growing in his cornfield like pumpkins, and so near his cabin that the Indians had not dared to meddle with them. I then started with my umbrella and a watermelon as large as a pumpkin, on my three miles walk.
When out on the prairie, up galloped an Indian on his pony with his saluting "hi!" He took out his large knife from his belt, and made signs for my melon; I handed it to him (for I dared not do otherwise); he took it, cut it, and gave back two-thirds, which was more than I expected, nodded his thanks, and went on.
I lost some of my melon, but it lightened my load. Reached Mr. Stewart's; told my husband I had made arrangements to start in the morning, and that Mr. Wheeler could go too.
We started for our place of abode, but my husband found that he was too weak to walk; told me to go and get everything ready for our start in the morning, and he would go back and ride down in the morning when the team came along. So here I am again--have feasted the remaining ones on the big melon, and been the usual round of night chores--find myself tired and my arms lame from lugging the melon.