Emigrant Life in Kansas by Percy G. Ebbutt



London to New York.--Five days' travelling by rail.--Arrival at Junction City.--Our first Indians.--Wild Bill.--An offet of adoption.--Parkersville.--Texas cattle.--Captain Brown

ON Lord Mayor's Day, the 9th of November, 1870, there started from my native town of Blanxton, in the south of England, a party of six persons, bound as emigrants for the far west of America. It consisted of my father, brother, three young men, and myself. My father had been an upholsterer, doing a very good business, but having always had a great wish to go abroad, thought it, I suppose, a good opportunity, when his place was burned down in June of the same year; Harry Parker

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had been a shorthand clerk; on the London and North Western Railway, but for some time past had been in my father's office; Walter Woods was a printer by trade, but had also studied engineering a little; Will Humphrey was the son of a Sussex farmer, and consequently the most useful man of the bunch, as we were going farming and cattle-raising; while my brother Jack and I were schoolboys of the tender ages of twelve and ten years respectively. With the exception of Humphrey, none of us knew anything whatever of farming; I might say that we scarcely knew a plough from a harrow (I remember one of our party speaking very enthusiastically of churning cheese), and we had certainly never done a day's work on a farm. To be sure Jack had been sent to a farm a few miles from Blanxton for a couple of months before we left, to learn what he could; but I did not observe, when we arrived on our land in America, that he had much more knowledge than the rest of us. We took with us about enough luggage to stock a colony, all packed in ten great cases, four feet long by two feet six square, painted of a bright vermilion colour,

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and with our names and destination on. The latter was "Junction City, Kansas."

The contents of these cases were of a very varied nature, and comprised tools, clothing, arms, and ammunition, besides tea, cocoa, etc., etc. Many of the things were quite useless we afterwards found, and a great number we could have bought in America quite as cheaply as in England. Among the totally useless articles was a hand corn-mill with a great fly-wheel of five feet diameter, which, of course, required a larger box. The guns, however, were packed in with this, and we had quite a good armoury. There were four double-barrelled shot guns and two rifles, as well as seven six-chambered revolvers, and in addition to this formidable array we each sported a tremendous jack-knife, too large for the pocket, and so worn with a cord sailor-wise. Having seen this crowd of things all safely packed and started for Liverpool, we took leave of all our friends, and left Blanxton at seven o'clock in the morning so that we might get across London with our smaller luggage (such as we would want on the voyage) before the streets got crowded.

We reached Liverpool in good time, and saw

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the majority of our luggage on board, though there were two cases delayed somewhere, which had to follow on in another steamer. After looking around Liverpool a little we retired for the night to the Union Hotel, and breakfasting early the next morning, went aboard the good ship City of Brooklyn, of the Inman Line. Walter and I went on board first with the small luggage, and got it stowed away in our bunks (for we were going to travel steerage as genuine emigrants), and then came up on deck. Well, we waited and waited for the remainder of our party, until we thought we should have to go by ourselves; but just as the ship was off they arrived by the last trip of the tender. We started down the Mersey at eleven o'clock, and arrived the next morning in Queenstown Harbour, where the ship was soon surrounded with bum-boat women, desirous of parting with great quantities of fruit, legs of mutton, fresh butter, eggs, etc. We, having taken in a good supply of apples and the ship a good supply of Irish emigrants besides the mail bags, steam was got up, and we were soon out on the broad Atlantic. A journey across the "Herring. Pond," as our American cousins call this ocean, has been so often described that it is needless for me to say much about it. We had some rough weather, of course. One night it was so bad that the Irish women were rushing about calling upon the Virgin Mary and all the saints, and making a most tremendous noise.

This had no effect apparently, except that it brought the wrath of the steward upon their heads, who told them to "dry up, or he'd lock the hatches on 'em." However, I slept through it all until daybreak, when it still remained very rough, the great waves rushing right over the bulwarks, and drenching every one who attempted to pass a long the middle decks. Of course, being in the steerage, we suffered considerable inconvenience at meals, etc., in this rough weather, as we were not provided with such luxuries as swinging tables, that would preserve their equilibrium, such as were in the saloon. It required a little practice before we could get our soup or coffee to take the right direction when everything was at an angle of about fortyfive degrees. Our meals were as follows: break fast, hot rolls, butter, and coffee; dinner, soup, saltjunk, occasionally fresh meat, and potatoes

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varied on Fridays with salt fish (on account of the Catholics), and on Sundays with the addition of plum-duff; for tea, tea or coffee, and ship biscuits. We all suffered more or less with sea-sickness, but were soon all right, with the exception of Humphrey, who was ill the whole of the time. Our compartment held ten berths around its sides, arranged in two tiers. We all had our places together, although to do that #BTalter and I had to sleep in one bunk, which was rare fun; for the bunk was so narrow, that when once we were in, there was no turning over or round without a mutual agreement and movement.

The other five bunks were occupied by Italians, and one old man, whom we called "the dirty Dutchman," and he was a dirty old man in all truth. He never went on deck once during the whole journey, but laid there in his bunk all day and night, sick or well. We saw very. little of interest during the voyage save one or two ships, and a few whales a good distance off. We had a race for two or three days with the steamship Wisconsin, and beat her, arriving in New York Harbour a few hours in advance, having accomplished the journey in twelve days.

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In passing off the vessel we had to go before the doctor, who had to certify that all arrived in healthy condition; but I guess it was a bit of a farce, for Humphrey was very ill, and upon proper examination after landing, was found to be suffering from typhoid fever. I know the doctor was looking up at the sky when I passed him. I am only surprised that we were not all ill, being cooped up with all those wretched people (there were nine hundred emigrants on board, poor Irish, Dutch, and Italians mostly). But we kept on deck as much as we possibly could. We were landed at Castle Garden, which is a fine Government building where poor emigrants are befriended and lodged previous to being sent west. There is a money exchange bureau at which strangers may exchange their coin for American paper without risk of being cheated, and various other useful accommodation. We only stayed long enough to get our luggage, and then put up at the "Washington Hotel" after sending Humphrey to the hospital.

We spent a fortnight in New York city seeing the sights. We admired the Central Park very much. also some of their fine straight

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broad streets and avenues, public buildings, etc. We crossed the river also to see New Jersey city, and Brooklyn, both fine places, and were very much pleased with Greenwood Cemetery, which is far prettier than anything of the kind in England. It is laid out like a park with trees and ornamental waters, and has some fine monuments. It looks nice enough to make one almost wish to take a plot there. My father went to see some land that was for sale at a place called Brickwood across the river, and some few miles from the city, and almost came to terms. If he had bought it, he would have gone in for market-gardening, but he preferred to go farther west. There was a funny old man staying at our hotel, who had a queer way of spending his time. He had heard something about a certain Captain Kidd, a pirate, burying some treasure on island in the river many years ago, and he used to devote all his energies to trying to find it. He would come to New York and earn some money somehow, and then go back to the island and dig till all his money was gone again. He started off on one of his

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expeditions while we were there, with spade and pick. Poor old fe'low! I wonder if he ever found the treasure.

At the end of a fortnight, finding that Humphrey would not be able to leave the hospital for some time, we started up the country. After two days and nights in the cars we arrived at Chicago, and being Sunday, we had to lay over all day, as the trains do not run on Sundays, except local, short distance trains. We spent the day looking over the city and wandering about the shores of Lake Michigan, which seemed quite like the ocean, with its great waves and spray dashing on the shore. Early on Monday morning we again took to the cars, and after three more days and nights arrived at Junction City, Davis County, Kansas, which is nearly fifteen hundred miles from New York City. This may seem rather slow travelling, one thousand five hundred miles in five days, but what with changing and other delays, we lost a good deal of time. The journeys now are made a good deal faster. We were very comfortable in the cars, for we did not go on by the emigrant trains, but in the

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regular Pullmans, in which we slept and ate our meals without the train stopping.

Upon our arrival at Junction we put up at the Empire Hotel, and had a jolly time; for while the elder members of the party were looking about for land and shooting all the game they could, we two boys amused ourselves with sleigh-riding down the Bluffs, as the hills on the other side of the Smoky River were called, and with making divers excursions into the surrounding country. Sometimes we went to see the stone quarries a little way out of town, where very fine building material is obtained. when again we used to watch the men sawing and pulling ice out of the river ready for packing away for summer. One day we went down to the slaughter-house, and we got a couple of cow's horns, which we made to blow, by sawing the ends off and cutting a small hole, and then we made the hills re-echo with the music (?).

At that time Junction was quite a small place, with a very few hundred inhabitants, but was growing rapidly. It is situated on rather high land at the junction of the Smoky and Republican Rivers, whence its name. It is also now


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the junction of two railways, the Kansas Pacific, and the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas. Three miles distant, on a bluff overhanging the Kansas River (as it is called after the union of the two rivers just named), stands Fort Riley, a garrison for light cavalry and artillery, as a guard against Indians. These are getting rather scarce, however, by this time, as the country is too thickly settled by the whites. One day, when Jack and I were out on one of our expeditions, we met three Indians, and, as they were the first that we had seen, we were rather scared. We were a long way off, and so we hid in some bushes. Little stupids! We might have saved ourselves the trouble, for they probably saw us long before we saw them. But they passed by without molesting us. While we were staying at Junction we had some very cold weather, and one night three soldiers going home drunk to Fort Riley were frozen to death. One day we boys went out with the others when they were shooting, and feeling rather thirsty, I think that we astonished a farmer up on the prairie by going to ask for some beer. He must have taken us for lunatics, for no one keeps beer or anything of the kind in the house

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as they do in England; and when we asked if he had no cider he just shut the door. He did not seem to know what was meant. Certainly there were no apple trees about, so that perhaps they were strange questions to ask.

Wild Bill

Game was very plentiful, and we used to bring home lots for the landlady at the Empire Hotel, to make "sparing-pie" as she called it. One day we saw "Wild desperado" or "border ruffian," shooting quails in a stable yard in the city (they were so

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plentiful and tame). Wild Bill was a fine-looking fellow, with long curly hair hanging down his back, and was dressed in rather a dandified fashion. He was said to have twenty-seven nicks cut on the handle of his revolver, each signifying a man whose life had been taken by him. And yet he walked the streets as free as any man, and perhaps with more security than a less desperate criminal would, for he would have to be a plucky man to arrest "Wild Bill." He was afterwards actually elected "sheriff" of Wichita, a town down south, which was frequented by the Texas "cow-boys," and he was killed at last in some saloon brawl.

"Sheriff" there is another word for head policeman, and has not much connection with a city official such as we have in England. While staying at the Empire Hotel there was a young man lodging there who was suffering from a crushed arm. He was employed on the railway, and was hurt while shunting some trucks. The doctor used to come every day, and we boys took considerable interest in the dressing and painting with iodine, etc. The doctor was a very nice man, and having no

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children wanted to adopt me, but I did not particularly want to go with him, and my father did not particularly care about letting me, so we did not come to terms. The doctor was quite in.earnest about it, and offered my father one hundred and sixty acres of the best land on the river if he would let me come to him. I was to be brought up as a doctor, and should be free to go or stay with him on arriving at the age of twenty-one years. Of course, boy-like, I was looking forward to our life on the prairie as being all play or adventure, and hardly liked to give up the idea of it for good hard studying, such as I should have had to go in for. I have often since thought over it, and wondered how my life would have gone if I had accepted his offer.

After we had stayed in Junction for six weeks we removed to Parkersville, a town some twenty-five miles distant, near where our party had taken land. Here we lived for a fortnight at a boarding-house, spending our time pretty much as before. The town, which at that time consisted of about nineteen houses, a drug store, a post-office, and a general store, is situated in Morris County, on the river Neosho,


sometimes called "No-show," as in summer it goes dry occasionally. The drug store was the rendezvous for all the farmers coming to town, for apart from its being also the post-office, it was the only place where "medicine" could be obtained. There was no regular saloon or drinking bar in the place, but every one that wanted a drink went to the drug store, and got a little whisky "medicinally." His Worship, the Mayor, ran the place, and I guess he (lid a good business. Another much frequented place was the general store, run by Captain Brown; we had about the usual number of captains in that town,-about three out of every five persons. Here the loafers congregated in good force, sitting round the roaring, red-hot stove, with their heels high up, and chewing tobacco, talking politics, whittling sticks, and eating crackers and cheese. Captain Brown was a man of considerable importance, -anyhow in his own eyes,-but I guess my father kinder took the starch out of him once. Captain Brown offered him two fingers to shake, and my father immediately hooked into them with one-the little one. The next time they met it was a whole-handed job.

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One man staying at the boarding-house was a cattle dealer, and had a number of wild Texas animals wintering near at hand. We went to see them at the corral, and found several so weak that they could not stand. We assisted some to their feet only to get ourselves run after by the ungrateful brutes until they tumbled down again. Cattle frequently get like that during the cold winter, especially those from the south for the first time. My father bought one or two cows in the neighbourhood ready for when we should go up on the prairie, but not having had any experience in such matters, I am afraid that he was rather taken in. He also bought a couple of town lots as a speculation in case the town took to growing. Some money belonging to Jack and me he invested for us in a piece of timber land on the river, so that when up on the prairie, we might have some wood to burn or for fences, and not be entirely dependent upon "~jay-hawking," which is the term for stealing wood off Government land.

Weak Cow

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