Emigrant Life in Kansas by Percy G. Ebbutt



Good-bye to Kansas.--On the ice at Quincy.--Philadelphia.--The man's thumb.--The sharper.--On board the Pennsylvania.--Stuck in the ice.--Christmas and New Year on the sea.--Home again.--Ashtabula Bridge.--A few words of advice

I LEFT Manhattan by the eastward-bound train about nine o'clock in the morning, the only train in that direction during the day. I was a little late in starting, and how I scuttled down the road from Tom's house, in case I should miss the train! for missing it meant losing a day, and thereby being too late for the sailing of the ship I had a ticket for. But I was in good time, as the train came from away up in Colorado, and I took my seat in the cars for the first time in six years, and soon left the well-known scenes behind me. I passed by the farm where I had first joined Anderson and

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Tom Crofter, and then was whirled away into a region quite unknown to me, though, of course, it was the same route I had travelled over in going out from England.

I reached Kansas City the same night, changed cars, and then resumed the journey, sleeping in the cars, which were very comfortable, until we arrived at Quincy, Illinois, which city we reached at three o'clock on Sunday morning. Here we had to put up for twenty-four hours.

I had struck up an acquaintance with the conductor, and went home with him to spend the remainder of the night at an hotel kept by a relation of his, and was made very comfortable. In the morning I had a walk around the town, which seemed a large thriving place. It is situated on the Mississippi River, and I went to have a look at the mighty stream. It was now frozen over, and was alive with people skating, sliding, and sleigh-driving on its broad surface. The ice was three feet thick and without a flaw, and I saw a place where on week days they drove great waggon loads of wood across, while the fine large Mississippi steamers were all frozen in for the winter. It

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was a grand sight,-the wide-reaching field of ice,-the river here being a mile wide.

I paid my hotel bill overnight, and retired to bed rather early, as the train started eastwards again at three o'clock on Monday morning. I was asked if I would be called at that time, but I told them I guessed I should get up without calling, trusting to my early rising experiences at old Blake's, and, sure enough, I woke at half-past two, then dressed, and got to the train in good time.

I believe that one can wake up at almost any time, if the mind be made up over night.

From Quincy we passed on to Chicago, where I had to change again, and then on to Pittsburgh, and then at length arrived at Philadelphia, from whence I had arranged to sail instead of from New York. I spent the night at an hotel near the docks; I forget the name of it, but I remember it had a peculiar relic in the coffee room; it was a man's thumb,-the proprietor's,-and was shot off at the battle of Vicksburg. It was preserved in a bottle on the mantel-shelf, and formed a highly edifying object of contemplation.

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Early in the morning I changed my American greenbacks for good old English gold, which, later in the day, I guess I came near losing. I had gone on board in good time and made my bunk comfortable, and after leaving my belongings down below, was standing around on the quay waiting for the ship to sail, when I was accosted by a spruce, well-dressed, gentlemanly-looking man. He entered into a casual kind of conversation; he said he was going over to England on business connected with his firm, Messrs. So-and-So, of Philadelphia, and such a street, London,-of course, a sham address-and hoped we should have a pleasant voyage, with other small talk. He asked a few questions, as most Americans can, and then said he must go and fetch his portmanteau, and turning to go said we should meet again on board.

A minute later he returned. "My portmanteau is a little heavy, perhaps you wouldn't mind stepping up a couple of blocks, and giving me a lift." There was plenty of time to spare, so I went along. "By the way," said he, presently, "I want to square an account up the street here, before I leave; can

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you lend me some money till I get my portmanteau?"

"I've got nothing but English gold," said I.

"Oh! my friend will take that - how much have you got?"

"Four pounds."

"That's all right; if you'll lend me that, I'll just step in here, pay my account, and then give it you back, when I get my trunk."

Like a fool I handed him the money.

"Thanks, I shan't be a minute," as he disappeared in the doors of the store. At that very instant it struck me that all was not right, and I determined not to let him out of my sight, so I followed into the store.

Here my suspicions were confirmed, for he did not attempt to pay any bill, but finding that I was watching him, he bought some trifling article, and went out.

"Oh! the man's not in that I wanted to see," said he.

"All right, let's go and get the bag then."

Well, he walked round the stores and about the streets a bit, and seemed to be wanting to give me the slip, but I had determined

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to stick to him like a leech now. At last,

"Ain't you afraid you'll lose the ship?"

"Well, ain't you?"

"Oh, I guess I won't go by this one."

"Well, I guess I'd rather lose the ship than my money," said I;" so pass it over, please."

"All right, here it is," said he, handing me some coins.

"Here, these are not what I gave you"- for they were just some gilt tokens or Hanover sovereigns; "these are not worth a cent."

"They are what you gave me."

By this time I had found out the sort of man I had to deal with, so I put on a bold front.

"Look here, Mr. Sharper, if you don't hand over my coins in about two shakes, I'll let daylight into you," at the same time putting my hand into a hip pocket, as though I had a revolver; "and see, there's a policeman coming yonder, so you'd better shell out quietly."

This he accordingly did, though sorely against his will, judging from the language he indulged in.

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It was certainly a narrow squeak, for if I had not been on my guard he might easily have slipped away out of sight. Of course it was exceedingly foolish of me to have let the money out of my hands. I suppose that I ought to have given him in charge of the policeman that I saw, but had I done so I must have stopped in Philadelphia to prosecute, which I did not choose to do; so he escaped justice for that time.

Moral.-Don't be disobliging to strangers, but don't lend them money.

I reached my ship, the Pennsylvania, of the "American" line, just in time, and started down the Delaware River at eleven o'clock. It was fearfully cold weather, for it was now the middle of December, and the Delaware was full of ice, through which the steamer passed with great difficulty. As we got lower down near the sea, the ice became thicker still, until at last our great ocean-going vessel stuck fast in it. The engines were reversed and she backed out, and then rushed at the ice again to attempt to force a passage through, but in vain; there was a crash and a mighty shock that nearly sent every one off their feet,

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and then we were fast again. This was tried two or three times without a way being opened, and then we had to back out and lay by. while ice-boats came and cut a passage for us.

These boats were little sharp-prowed vessels, which worked in pairs at some distance apart, ramming away and chipping the ice away in great lumps.

In two or three hours we were able to pass through, and out on to the open sea.

The ship was very empty as regards passengers, and I had a much more comfortable time than I had had on the outward voyage. There were only forty steerage passengers on the Pennsylvania against nine hundred on the City of Brooklyn, but the ship was full of beef, butter, and cheese.

I spent Christmas on the sea, and though perhaps not the most enjoyable one within my remembrance, still we managed to make ourselves pretty comfortable.

Profiting by my former experiences, I had taken a few things on board with me, such as Swiss milk, canned fruit, etc., which with the regulation roast beef and plum pudding made quite a respectable Christmas dinner.

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We had some rough, stormy weather, but arrived safely in sight of the Irish coast on New Year's Eve. At midnight all the crew came on deck and made a fearful racket to welcome in the New Year. They rang bells, blew horns and whistles, beat gongs and cans, and shouted themselves hoarse until we reached Cork Harbour.

The weather was still rough, but not so bad as it had been, and it was said that had we been a day earlier, we could never have got in the harbour, the entrance being rather narrow. I suppose, though, that when once in, it is one of the finest harbours in the world.

We left the mails and a few Irish passengers, and then started for Liverpool, which we reached at nine o'clock at night on the 1st of January.

We were not allowed to land, however, until morning, when the Customs' Officers examined our luggage. I started off for London as soon as possible, and though travelling with a lot of half-drunken sailors, who were singing or quarrelling all the way, I arrived there in safety, and the same night reached my old home.

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I guess that on my return journey I had had a rather narrow escape on the railway, for on my arrival at home I read in the newspapers of the fall of the bridge of Ashtabula, Ohio,-a bridge which I had passed over a very short time before. The whole structure caved in and let a passenger train through on to the ice below, and the unfortunate people, who did not go through and get drowned, were burned to death by the wreck taking fire. This always takes place if a train is upset, owing to the big red-hot stoves in each car.

In conclusion I should like to give a few words of advice to any one about to emigrate.

Well, of course in the first place, if you have made up your mind to go, you must also make up your mind to rough it. You must cultivate the habit of sleeping in any kind of surroundings, on a board and without a pillow, indoors or out. I have been to sleep on horseback before now.

You must be prepared to cook your own dinner if needs be, and wash and mend your own clothes, and darn your socks if you wear them, and think yourself fortunate if you are

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not reduced to the position of a man I knew, who lay in bed while his wife mended his only pair of trousers.

You must not care much for appearances, and be reconciled to seeing patches on your clothes, and again think yourself lucky if they are of the same colour. I have seen brown overalls, with patches of flour-sacking, with the brand and description of the flour in blue letters still on,-and quite a novel and startling pair of pants this combination makes.

You must be prepared to withstand extreme heat and extreme cold, and become indifferent to getting wet through to the skin at intervals, and, above all, you must make up your mind to work, and to work hard.

You must accustom yourself to early rising; for though you may not fall in with a Zedekiah Blake, still in summer, at least, every farmer starts work pretty early in the morning.

If when you arrive you have any capital, don't immediately invest it in land, or cattle, or horses-you don't know the value of such things in the States yet, even if you did in the old country-but put your money away in a good bank, and hire yourself out to a farmer

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for a year or so, until you have got an insight into the habits and customs of the country, the kind of work you will have to do, and the climate you have to prepare for.

You may not be able to get very high wages, if you are inexperienced, but in the end it will pay you, if you even work for awhile for only your board and lodging. You will gain so much knowledge, and be so much better able to start a farm on your own account, that the year so spent will never be regretted or looked upon as wasted.

Let me here caution you against the advertisements one sees in the papers, "Farming taught, etc., premium Ten to Fifty Pounds," as the case may be. This is a gross swindle; for a man, no matter how green he may be in farming matters, is always worth his food and lodging. Learn to ride as soon as you possibly can; a man or boy who cannot ride is, in a new country, about as valuable as a clerk who cannot write in a city office. I could not ride at all when I first went out, but soon learned, and with the continued practice that I had, I became almost a centaur. I used sometimes

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to ride at a gallop, standing up on the horse's back.

You must learn to handle an axe well; an ordinary American can do about as much with his axe as many an Englishman can do with a whole tool-chest.

Show yourself willing to be taught, and you will find the settlers always ready to help you on.

On starting a place of your own, don't make the mistake we made, but build your cattlesheds, etc., on the hillside facing the south, and be careful about selecting the site for your house; you will find plenty to keep you employed, without having to undo work already done.

Take due precautions against prairie fires; you cannot tell at what minute one may come along; and don't place too much reliance upon any natural advantages you may seem to have. To burn the grass of a strip of land between two furrows thirty yards apart does not take long, and this simple precaution may save you hundreds of dollars.

You must be content to see very few people at times, and those, perhaps, not altogether of

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the kind you would have associated with in England, though you will find that the majority improve very much when they become their own masters and get a home they can call their own.

You must leave all idea of luxuries behind you; comforts are as much as you can expect, and indeed you may at some time have to consider yourself fortunate if you get the barest necessaries of life, as, for instance, during the grasshoppers' visit, of which I have spoken.

Still, all things considered, if you are not happy in the old country, and are dissatisfied with your position and see no chance of bettering it, you might do worse than go west. This fact remains, that if you are willing to work, you need never despair of getting a livelihood, which does not always follow in this country.

I know that if at any time I found that I could not get along here, I should at once return to the States, feeling convinced that, having got my own living since I was thirteen, I could surely do the same again.

The principal thing, however, for the emi-

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grant to bear in mind is, that he must follow old Horace Greeley's advice, and "Go west, young man, go west!" It is no use stoppin, about New York, or any other big cities, on the look-out for work, as things are pretty much the same there as in London.

With regard to climate, I think that the American's remark as to his having seen no weather in England, only a lot of samples, applies equally well to this part of the world, though perhaps the samples did not follow each other quite as quickly. The ranges of the thermometer are certainly much greater.

During the winter, the cold weather-and it was cold, too-usually lasted several weeks without a thaw, and during the summer we sometimes went for a very long time without seeing a sign of a cloud, and the sun was hot enough to raise blisters on one's arm even through a shirt. When it rains, it usually pours, and as the little ravines and creeks mostly drained a large surface of land, they were often swollen beyond bounds.

Our nearest ravine once overflowed and carried a rare lot of stuff away, and after the water had subsided, we had to spend a day

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down the creek collecting our property, as we found it deposited on the brush heaps; there were planks, wheelbarrows, pitchforks, pails, barrels, etc.,-all in the wildest confusion, together with the majority of our fire-wood. At the same time, the water entered our milkhouse and spoiled the milk and cream that was there, but the crocks and pans, though floating around, could not get out, as there was a door to the place.

Sometimes we had a heavy rain at the beginning or ending of winter, which froze as it fell until everything was encased in ice. This was dreadfully hard on the cattle, especially when they were weak and poor, after a long, cold winter.

We were also subject at times to terrific hailstorms, during which the stones were often of a tremendous size. I have heard old Blake say that once he was driving to the fort with a lot of garden truck for salad, etc., when a storm came on and the hailstones were as big as hens' eggs, and they rattled down upon him so hard that he had to empty his produce out of the big wooden tub it was packed in, and get underneath it himself. He may have

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exaggerated the size a little, but anyhow, when I was at Anderson's, we had a storm, when, without the slightest exaggeration, the stones were larger than walnuts, and damage was done to glass windows, etc., in Manhattan to the extent of several hundred dollars.

Now and then we were visited by very high winds, almost hurricanes, which did considerable damage. I have seen haycocks lifted from the ground and carried high in the air, while chips of wood, boards, and other bodies would often be carried some distance.

The roofs of all stables and outhouses are always kept down with ropes with a big stone on either end.

While I was at Blake's, a prairie settler's house was blown over and demolished, and the boards carried several hundred yards. It was reported in the local papers that during one storm a sow was carried right across the Smoky River. This I can only give as I read it, I did not see the occurrence myself.

After I left I heard that a railway bridge across the Blue River was wrecked.

If my few remarks are acted upon on your

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arrival in "Sunny Kansas" or the neighbouring States, I am convinced that you will not regret it, and I shall be glad to think that these reminiscences have not been written in vain.


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