CHAPTER II THE JOURNEY TO KANSAS WHEN I came to Kansas in the autumn of 1857, there was no railroad nearer than Jefferson City, about two hundred miles from the border. The only regular means of transportation was by steamboats on the Missouri River.
It was a beautiful afternoon when I reached Jefferson City, November 18,1857. The boat, F. X. Aubrey, was waiting at the levee, and had been waiting for three days. This being the last trip of the season she wanted to make it a good one. she had "taken in," in more senses than one, the passengers of three days' trains. The early arrivals were out of humor from the delay, and the later arrivals were out of humor because the boat was more than full before their coming. But a Missouri River boat is never full as long as there is room to store a man in hold, or cabin, or on deck. The officers were more short and crusty than such officers usually are. "We could take what they had to give, or we
page 31 could wait for the next boat." As the next boat would be the next spring, we took what they could give us. We grumbled a good deal, but that only made us more uncomfortable, and did not disturb these lordly officials in the least. Neither did it secure us any better accommodations. What they had to give was a cot on the cabin floor, where we could prepare ourselves for the discomforts of pioneer life which were awaiting us. At bedtime they put down bout one hundred and fifty of these cots, covering the cabin from end to end. They were about as big as door-mats and a trifle thicker. Over them they spread what they called quilts, each quilt about three feet wide and five feet long. We realized what the Scriptures say about the bed too short for a man to stretch himself upon it, and the cover too narrow to wrap himself in it. They also gave each a pillow which we could easily have carried off in our pockets. The cabin was covered with as motley a crowd as could well be found. In this crowd on the cabin floor there was not a soul I knew or a face I had ever seen. Rev. S. D. Storrs, my classmate, was aboard the boat, but he and his wife had come the day before and had secured a stateroom. So the company in the cabin were all strangers to me and seemingly to each other.
The early part of the night was quite warm and the lack of bedding was not felt. But a little after midnight we were awakened by one of the wildest storms I ever knew, a regular northwester, a blizzard of the bitterest hind, one of the coldest and fiercest I ever experienced. The boat was still lashed to the shore, but she creaked and tossed about as if she would be thrown from the water. The intense cold pierced the thin sides of the cabin, and our little quilts seemed to shrivel up like cabbage leaves under an August sun. We endured it as long as we could, then one by one we rose, "wrapped the drapery of our couch about us," and went to the stove. In an hour after the storm began, the whole one hundred and fifty were trying to crowd around that little stove in the fore part of the cabin. If you have never struggled for a chance at the stove with a crowd of Missouri bushwhackers you do not know what it is to seek warmth under difficulties. Somehow we endured till morning, and then the lighting of other fires relieved the situation somewhat.
About daylight the boat started and made her way slowly up the river. The storm continued all day, growing colder and fiercer all the time. The sky was leaden, the wind wild and beating, ice floated thick and thicker on the stream and an occasional snowflake floated in the air. Every splash of spray froze on the boat, covering rigging and deck and all hands with ice. We made but little headway that day. It was all the engines could do to hold the boat against the storm, and two or three times the wind caught her and hurled her violently against the shore. At night we were less than twenty miles from our starting-point, and the channel was too uncertain to admit of night travel.
The second day the wind had subsided, but the cold continued. The floating ice made our progress very difficult. The water was low and we had to feel our way along with the sounding-line a good portion of the time. The cry of " three feet-three and a half-four feet-no bottom " was constantly in our ears. We were aground almost as much as we were afloat, and I spent many a weary hour watching the crew placing and replacing the spars, and so lifting the boat off the sand. We came to the conclusion that the old geographies which spoke of the Missouri River as a navigable stream were first-class fiction. We sympathized with that member of Congress who proposed an amendment to the River and Harbor Bill,"to pave the bed of some of the western rivers." As Senator John J.Ingalls says," The Missouri River may be splendid sporting ground for catfish and wild geese, but it is too dry for navigation and too wet for agriculture." I can hardly look back to the three days I spent on that boat as blessed days, but they were not a blank. It was a curious and varied crowd that filled that cabin and covered that deck. One will hardly see as much human nature in a year as was condensed into that compact company. The captain was an easy, good-natured soul, who seemed to care for little as long as he was comfortable and got his meals on time. The clerk was a little wiry fellow with black hair and black eyes and an exceedingly vicious look. He stood in his little box of an office with his elbows on the desk, looking out as a spider might look out from his web. There was a tradition afloat on board that he had recently shot a man from his office window for annoying him with too many questions. We did not trouble him therefore with any unnecessary questions. There were several ladies on board, evidently Southern, and of the same type and temper as those who afterwards gave to the rebellion so much of its bitterness and venom. The usual escort of these ladies, in their promenades about the boat and in their excursions on shore when the boat stopped, was a man about thirty years of age, whose appearance and bearing would mark him anywhere. He was quite tall and slim, and rather dangling in his make-up. He wore a dark military cloak, his long black hair flowing over his shoulders. He had a sort of aquiline nose and small, round, keen black eyes. His lip wore a perpetual sneer, and his eyes flashed perpetual scorn. He was well-informed, easy and polished in his manners, very entertaining in conversation, yet he was undoubtedly one of the desperate characters of the border. He was a good specimen of that remarkable, duplex character which then flourished in that region. These men, mounted and booted and spurred, could lead the cutthroats of the border in the most bloody deeds, and then could put on their broadcloth and beavers, and pass for cultured gentlemen in the drawing-rooms of Washington, and make themselves heard in the councils of the nation. It was this class of men, capable of playing two characters, the ruffian on the border and the gentleman and scholar at Washington, who did more than all else to blind the eyes of the authorities at the Capital to the real nature of the struggle in Kansas.
Three days of this sort of travel brought us only eighty miles from Jefferson City, about as far as a man could comfortably walk. The weather moderated, but the water continued to fall; the sand-bars continued to enlarge and our progress became more and more labored and slow. We were aground for hours together, and . it was more and more difficult to keep the channel. On the third day, about noon, the captain refused to go any farther. He accordingly put us ashore, and turned back toward St. Louis, deliberately cheating us out of our fare, and leaving us to go on as best we could. They beached us in the woods, some two miles from anywhere. During the afternoon another boat took us up to the village of Glascow two miles above. Here we remained over the Sabbath, it being now Saturday afternoon.
There was no public conveyance from here, and we were still one hundred and twenty-five miles from the Kansas border, through what we Eastern people had been taught to regard as the "enemies' country." We found there were seven of us bound for the same point. Four of us, Mr. and Mrs. Storrs, myself and another gentleman, clubbed together and hired a hack to take us through. It was an old, rickety, clumsy affair, drawn by two very awkward mules. These mules were driven by a man who combined the clumsiness of the hack and the stupidity of the mules. It was bitterly cold when we started Monday morning. The road was slippery with snow and ice. The hack was very heavy, the mules were very small, and their feet were very smooth, and the driver very dull. Our first hill came near being our last. We had just crossed a narrow bridge over a deep ravine, and were going up the hill on the other side. Looking out of the window we noticed that instead of the mules drawing the hack up the hill, the hack was drawing the mules down the bill, their smooth shoes acting like skates on the slippery hillside. We were backing rapidly toward a precipice forty feet deep beside the bridge we had just crossed. We were all out of the hack in a very short time, and did not stand on the order of our getting out, but just got out at once. From that on our sympathy with those mules was something very touching. We all got out when we came to a hill, and if it were unusually steep we "lent a hand" at the wheels. By walking part of the time, now encouraging the driver, now helping the mules, lending a hand whenever called for, we kept moving and made progress. It was slow but we were getting on. After the first day the cold relaxed, and we had delightful weather until Thursday, when it began to rain. It rained all that day and all day Friday. It was stili raining Saturday morning, but ceased about noon. As we had not stopped for cold, we did not atop for wet. Our progress was very slow, but each day brought us "a day's march nearer home." At night we usually put up at some farmhouse, our driver being acquainted all along the road. We found the farmers all very hospitable and kind, and we had no reason to complain either of the fare or the charges. It was the wild goose season, and thousands of these birds were "pasturing" on the river. At several places wild goose was set before us and we found it a very palatable dish. It is better flavored and far less gross than the tame goose. About noon on Saturday we reached a "point on the Missouri River opposite Quindaro," where our contract said the mules were to leave us. We therefore dismissed our driver and took the ferry for the other side of the flood. Here in Quindaro found very good accommodations at the hotel and spent a very pleasant Sabbath.
Quindaro was a new town, one of the dozen competitors for the position of "Metropolis of the Missouri Valley." It was the latest born of the whole family, having been begun only in the spring before. Its great distinction was its "rock landing," which the shifting flood of the river could never wash away. It was laid out by a company which comprised many of the most prominent men of the territory. They were men of large resources, infinite energy and wide acquaintance and influence. They had thrown themselves into the enterprise with a vigor and determination and shrewdness which in anything attainable would have insured success. They left no stone unturned to compass their end, and were so confident of the outcome that most of them ventured their all in the undertaking. The members of the company gave the enterprise their personal attention and their personal influence taking their own chances with the town to which they invited their friends and for which they solicited capital.
Many and various were the ways which these managers devised to bring the attractions of their city before the public. Correspondents of Eastern papers, who were continually traveling over the territory at that time, were all sure to be taken to Quindaro. While there they were treated like princes, were shown all the fine points of the town, and the brilliant plans concerning it. They naturally filled their letters with Quindaro. Versatile and many-sided were these men of Quindaro. They had a political side and appealed effectively to the rising anti-slavery sentiment of the country. Were not Kansas City, Leavenworth and Atchison pro-slavery towns, controlled by border ruffian minions ? Were not the Free State men entitled to a port of entry of their own, where their friends could land without being insulted, and where they could depend upon fair dealing, and not be at the mercy of proslavery land-sharks and speculators?
Then the members of the town company had a religious side. They were concerned for the welfare of Zion. Like David they wanted to provide a place for the ark. The Independent, The Congregationalist and other great religious papers contained frequent correspondence, and long and well written articles, showing how all the great trade lines from the West converged at this point. What a center of religious influence it would be! How it might be made the very fulcrum on which the moral lever must be set to lift the West; the very "Pou Sto," so to speak, of Western evangelism 1 The first minutes of the Congregational Association contained the following statement in its Narrative of the State of Religion; " There ia a vigorous colony of Congregationalists at Quindaro, possessed of ample means to put in operation the ordinances of the gospel. They have appropriated $10,000 to build a church, and offer a liberal support to a minister." All this and much more we had read before coming. The first feeling on landing was one of disappointment. But the people soon brushed this feeling away. They were all so enthusiastic and so confident that one soon began to feel ashamed of any such thing as doubt. Everybody knew so well the ground on which the future of the town rested that all your questions were quieted and all your objections dissipated. They would point confidently to what had already been done. "Here are stone warehouses graded streets, dwelling-houses scattered over the bluff, and hundreds of people. All this has been done in six months. Now take your pencil and figure up what six years will do. Multiply the present by six, and then multiply that by two. Besides that we are accumulating resources all the while, and to-morrow will not only be as to-day, but more abundant."
At first the stranger was inclined to smile at their enthusiasm, but after a little he caught the contagion and was very likely to be the wildest man in the lot. In a few weeks he would be writing to his friends to ask them to lend him money to invest in Quindaro. So it happened that many a man who was accounted a safe and careful business man at home invested all the money he could raise or borrow in Quindaro real estate and felt himself rich in the purchase. In five years from that time he could not have sold his lots for the taxes assessed against them. These were not unseasoned "tenderfeet" that were thus deceived, but men of business sagacity and large experience.
There is nothing in human experience like this town building madness. It is more contagious than yellow fever and more fatal than the Asiatic cholera. It attacks all sorts and conditions of men, and is no respecter of persons. Good sense and simplicity are alike before it, business shrewdness and rural innocence are equally exposed to it. In this case of Quindaro, shrewd and cautious men caught the contagious madness, "the delicious delirium," and rushed wildly into what seems now to have been the most patent folly.
It is quite common to blame the town companies for fostering such a spirit for their own profit. But they were as much deluded as their victims, and often suffered as heavily. When we remember, too, that Kansas City is only three miles from Quindaro, it appears that the logic of these men was not far astray after all. They only lived before their time and three miles up the river.
As was said before, Quindaro was not alone in this competition. She was one of many towns striving for the same prize. All along the banks of the Missouri River deserted towns are scattered like "Castles on the Rhine." The old Latins used to say, "Poeta nascitur non fit" the poet is born, not made. Of every real city it may be said, as was said of Topsy, "it growed, sure." Great efforts were made to build a great metropolis at Michigan City, Indiana, but it failed, while Chicago grew up out of the swamp. The whole power of the state of Illinois was directed to building up AIton, while Missouri left St. Louis to look out for herself, and her own citizens did pretty much the same thing. It is very common to hear it said that " enterprise creates cities." It would be much nearer the truth to say that cities create and attract enterprise. The founders of Kansas City were a set of indifferent dolts compared with the men who founded Quindaro. But Kansas City was born to be great, and she has therefore drawn around herself the enterprise and capital which greatness always attracts. The men who have become rich in the growth of successful cities are considered "shrewd financiers" while those who lose money in failing towns are counted simpletons. But some of the shrewdest men have been caught in collapsing booms, while dull and stupid men have acquired wealth by simply sitting still on real estate in the midst of a growing city. It is not a sign of shrewdness or of stupidity because a man wins or loses in the blind game of town speculations. In many cases the wisest have lost and the simplest have won.
To this rising young city of the West, described in our circulars as "the chief port of entry for Kansas," we had some months before consigned our goods, and then we had consigned ourselves. Now we were there. It had been raining three days when we arrived. The mud surged from one side of the street to the other, and it was not easy to tell where the river ended and the street began. The water in the river and the mud in the street were of about the same color, and not very far from the same depth. The next morning when I arose, I heard a familiar voice. Opening the window and looking out, I saw one of our traveling companions of the day before making his way down the street in high boots. At every step he was crying: "Three feet; three and a half; four feet." Just as he came opposite the hotel he plunged into a hole and cried out "No bottom." The town had a bedraggled appearance. There were no sidewalks, of course, and the streets were nearly torn up where they were marked at all. The houses were scattered "helter-skelter" about the place wherever a break in the hill or an opening in the bluffs gave room for one. They were all hastily built wooden structures, standing on stilts, and seeming ready to walk off at a moment's notice. There was quite a large hotel and a few substantial business houses near the river. The rest seemed as if ready to move should the word be given.
I remained in Quindaro over the Sabbath. Mr.Storrs, my classmate, was to make this his home. He had come early in the autumn and looked the ground over, so it was not altogether new ground to him. He had arranged to hold religious services in the church which had just been built on the bluff. But between the hotel and the church there was a great gulf of mud fixed, and "they that would pass from us to them could not, neither could they pass to us." It was finally agreed that I should preach in the hotel parlor while Mr. Storrs should preach at the church. I had the larger congregation, for my congregation could not go away, and his congregation could not come. The hotel parlor was well filled, and the people on the hill made their way to the church.
The first thing on Monday was to find some way to get over to Lawrence. There had been a stage line during the summer, but at the close of navigation it had been taken off. It was not easy to procure any private means of transportation. At last we found a colored teamster who agreed, for ten dollars, to take me and my goods over. We started Tuesday morning and traveled all day. About noon we came to the Baptist Mission among the Delaware Indians, and the family of good Brother Pratt prepared us an excellent dinner. Mr. Pratt had been a missionary among these Delawares for about twenty years, and many of the tribe had been converted and were members of his church. Leaving the mission we plunged into the Delaware Reservation. We did not see a human habitation or a human face all day. We had hoped to reach Lawrence that night. My teamster was very confident of this when he was employed. But once on the way he took his time, and his horses were of the same mind with himself. It was forty miles from Quindaro to Lawrence, and the roads were rough with recent rains, and we moved along very slowly. As the day wore on it became evident that we must spend the night among the Indians. My teamster had lived among the Delawares, and was acquainted with many of them, so it was all the same to him. We had not seen even an Indian hut in all the afternoon, and I began to wonder where we should find shelter. It was the first day of December and rather cold to lie out on the prairie with no cover and without supper. As night came on, however, my driver turned out of the main road and drove down toward a little creek, and there was an Indian hut where he was evidently well known. He soon made our situation understood and we were taken in, though the hut seemed more than full already. The old squaw busied herself getting supper for us. She cooked a chicken in an iron kettle on the open hearth. The fireplace consisted of a few stones piled around by a wall, and an opening at the roof through which most of the smoke found its way. At last we sat down to supper and I tried to eat. The chicken was just warmed through and was as raw as when first put over the fireplace. I tried hard to swallow the first mouthful I had taken but it was out of the question. I watched my opportunity to throw it under the table. It was a mud floor and dirty at that, so the morsel I threw down would never be noticed. I made my supper on a few crackers. "Not any more chicken, thank you," was my reply to the kind offer to serve me with a second portion.
After supper we sat down in front of the fire on a bench. Soon a company of young fellows came in, ornamented with feathers and paint, and evidently bent on a good time. They made themselves entirely at home, and rollicked about, scuffling and wrestling and shouting like wild men. I had an impression that they were drunk. Our host and his family did not join nor did they check them, but looked stolidly on as though it were an every-day affair. In one of their scuffles, a great big fellow was pitched over me and nearly knocked me off the bench. He fell entirely over me and came down in a heap on the other side. The nearest approach to any apology was a rough laugh, and a "ugh " from the victor who had thus pitched his competitor over me. The fun, as I suppose they called it, grew wilder and the shouts louder, and I began to wish myself out of it. I carefully scanned the face of my driver, who sat in the corner, to see how he took it. He knew the people and knew what it all meant. He seemed entirely unconcerned, so I concluded it was only a little frolic they were having. In about an hour the company went out as they had come, mounted their ponies and galloped away, yelling like "wild Indians" as they went.
Soon after, the father of the family showed me to bed. I paid my bill and told my driver we must start at the first sign of day and reach Lawrence by breakfast time. My bed was a shelf on the side of the cabin supported by pins driven into the logs. There were several such shelves round the walls on which the rest were to sleep. My shelf looked neater and cleaner than the others and was evidently the spare bed of the house. It was about a foot and a half wide and four feet and a half from the floor, and had some sort of a blanket on it. I climbed up to my place and laid me down. But I did not sleep much. It was a novel situation for me. I was one thousand miles from home and twenty miles from a white man. I had never been among Indians before in my life and had never seen one since my childhood days in the backwoods of Michigan. In those early days we used to sit by the old fireplace winter nights for hours and listen to stories of Pontiac and Tecumseh, and Fort Wayne and Machinac. All the Indian stories I had ever heard or read came up with wonderful vividness as I lay on my shelf. I knew the Delawares were friendly Indians and that I was in no danger. Still the situation had its suggestions and no effort of will could put them aside. The cabin was about fifteen feet square and of very simple construction. There was no chinking between the logs and I could almost roll through the openings into the yard. I could look out and see the ponies and the pigs and the cattle, and could hear the chickens talking in their sleep. Now and then I could hear the bark of a prairie wolf, or the screech of an owl in the woods, or the yell of an Indian who was late getting home. All round the cabin the family lay on their shelves, and were snoring in that peculiar piping key which none but an Indian larynx can produce. This music of the night was made all the more impressive by the deep bass snoring of my negro driver. As to myself I gave "neither sleep to my eyes, nor slumber to my eyelids." The night dragged its weary length along and seemed as if it never would end. At last, looking out between the logs I fancied I saw a streak of light in the east and thought day was coming. I arose and awakened my driver. He soon had his team ready and we moved on, leaving the family in the midst of their slumbers. The light I fancied was daybreak proved to be a delusion, and we stopped in a sheltered ravine and waited still a long time for the morning. A little after sunrise we came to the home of Sicoxie, an Indian chief, some six miles east of Lawrence. Sicoxie was a superior Indian, and the family prepared us an excellent breakfast.
We reached Lawrence about eleven o'clock. Lawrence had been the center of my thoughts for many a month. During the summer the Home Missionary Society had written me that Lawrence was to be my field, "if we proved satisfactory to each other." It was the Jerusalem of my hopes, and all along the weary way my heart kept singing
, "When will my journey have an end In joy and peace in thee."
Like the first baby in the house, so is a minister's first parish in his thoughts. I wondered how the town would look, how the people would act, and what the end would be.