|Henry and Frank Root Letters Part One||Part Two||Part Three|
Sanford Boyden, a resident of Wellsboro, spent three days in this city last week. He was on his way back from the Arkansas valley, where he had been to secure a farm of 360 acres, which he claims to be as good land as can be found anywhere, and he ought to know what good farming land is. He informs me that he never saw prettier land anywhere than is to be found in that valley. He was perfectly delighted with the country through which the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe road passed, and says he never saw more beautiful growing crops in his life. Wheat is almost ready to be cut, and some is up ten and twelve inches. He confirms all that your correspondent has ever said about these lands, and says I did not begin to tell half of their real worth. – The immigration to this valley, he says, is large, and generally all those who go there secure them homes. No railroad in the country offers better inducements to the settlers along its line than the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. Mr. Boyden was well pleased with Atchison, although he don’t think he could like the place on account of the many “elevations” surrounding it. I told him to give the city a favorable mention when he returned home, and he said he would. – James English came out with him, but forgot he had any friends in Atchison, and returned home by way of Kansas City.
Now that the Black Hills country has turned out to be a humbug, the precious metal hunters are turning their attention to the new discovery recently made in the San Juan country. Less than five years ago rich mineral deposits of gold and silver were discovered, and but recently have they been worked to advantage. Eastern capitalists have quite recently been shipping ponderous quartz-crushers and other apparatus used in a mining region to these new discoveries in southern Colorado, and it is claimed by men who have heavy investments there and with whom I have conversed, that in a short time these mines will be producing more silver quartz than any yet discovered in the United States. One advantage of these new mines is that they can be worked the year round, as there is not enough snow or cold weather there to cause a suspension of work, as is the case in the Black Hills. Another advantage: there are no Indians in the country, and a person’s scalp is safe there, but not so in the Black Hills. The best route to the San Juan country is via the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe RR to Pueblo; thence via the Denver & Rio Grande RR, and Barlow & Sanderson’s great overland stage line. – The travel through this city to these mines is large and constantly increasing, and several of our own citizens have already started for them. Everybody out this way seems to have more faith in them than in what they term the Black Hills humbug.
Your correspondent was in error in a former letter when he stated that the convention to be held May 24th was to elect delegates to Cincinnati and nominate a State ticket. Only delegates to Cincinnati were chosen. The convention for the nomination of a State ticket will be held on the 16th of August. Everybody is so deeply interested over the Presidential nominations that State politics are entirely ignored, and of all the candidates for the different State offices, not one of them seems to be improving his chances. Ex-Senator Pomeroy is now on his farm 25 miles west of this city, and will undoubtedly stay in the State until after election. Whether he will take any interest in the political campaign in this State this fall is not yet known, but is has been intimated through Democratic sources that he will run for State Senator from his district this fall. I have also seen it stated that York, who exposed Pomeroy in the State House of Representatives four years ago, for bribery, thereby defeating him for the United State Senate, is going to make an open confession that he was hired to blackmail Senator Pomeroy, and that the $7,000, said to have been paid by Pomeroy to York was never paid at all, and was a put-up job by Pomeroy’s enemies for a black-mailing scheme to secure his defeat. No one would believe York if he should make such a statement as this, as the people of this State have seen and heard enough of this man to know that his word can’t be relied on.
Kansas visitors to the Centennial Exhibition are few, and will be fewer yet if the railroads don’t come down on fare somewhere near reasonable figures. The fare from here to Philadelphia and return is an even $57. Last year at this time the roads were selling tickets for the trip for $30. A circus, or theater, or horse show can get less than half rates from the railroads, but the Centennial Exhibition can’t even get half rates. It is an outrage on the people, and the entire press of the State have condemned this action of the railroad managers. It is estimated that the number of people from Kansas alone would number between 15,000 and 20,000 who would visit the Exhibition if the railroads had adopted half rates, as they should have done and could afford to do. It is hoped they will see their error soon, and commence cutting on the rated adopted at Louisville. Many of Pennsylvanians, who have not visited the homes of their childhood for years, are waiting for a further reduction in rates.
The Kansas State building is no doubt one of the Handsomest on the grounds, and the display made by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company will pay all eastern people to look at. It will convince them that Kansas can produce something even in a season of grasshopper devastation. I hope all Wellsboro and Tioga county people will give our Kansas exhibit a good inspection.
Frank Root is again in the newspaper business. This time he is publishing a neat weekly paper in North Topeka, called the Times. Frank says his forte is in the newspaper business, and somehow he can’t keep out of it. He has got a live town to support him in his latest enterprise, and no doubt he will succeed.
Evening amusements for the past month have been strawberry festivals, and they have averaged four a week. I have never known strawberries to be so plenty and co cheap. In fact, the people have had so many of them for the past month that they are getting tired of them, and are patiently waiting for a change to something else. If you ask a person whet he is going to have for dinner or supper, he will tell you strawberry shortcake.
The markets are well supplied with all kinds of “garden truck,” such as lettuce, onions, cucumbers, peas, cabbage, beans, radishes, cherries, etc. Everything is much earlier here than at the East. We have also a fresh fish market every evening, where nearly all kinds of fish can be had, caught from the lake some five miles distant. I often see catfish in market weighing 100 pounds. The fish here are mostly caught in nets, and are alive when brought into market. Eastern people are not deprived of many luxuries here in the West.
The Missouri is rising rapidly. This is what we call the June rise,
though no one expects we shall get the flood we had a year ago, as not
near the amount of snow fell in the mountains. Should there be such a rise
as last year, much damage will be the result all along the river.
H. C. R. [Harry C. Root]
The Flood of Immigrants – What They Must Expect – The Routes to the Black Hills – A Grasshopper Law – Where Kansas Office Holders are Raised – Railroad Building Prospects
Atchison, March 19, 1877
The weather continues beautiful, and the indications are that the spring will be the earliest we have had for many years. Immigrants are pouring in at a lively rate, and extra trains, loaded with land seekers, are departing from here almost daily for the west and southwest. The year 1877 will repay Kansas for the efforts she made to advertise the State at the Centennial. The people now coming here are principally from the Eastern States. No less than twenty families, in one colony, from Altoona, Pa., arrived here one day last week; and they say they are the vanguard of an immense army of land seekers from western Pennsylvania. There is plenty of good land yet to be had in the western and southwestern parts of the State, and some of it is as good farming land as can be found in any of the older settled communities. A person settling upon our western prairies must not hope to hind the benefits of older settled States. There are many who come here with the expectation of finding everything as convenient as at the homes they left. – Such people as there Kansas does not want; but those who come with the intention of staying and making the best of things as they find them, she gladly welcomes.
I met several gentlemen last fall while visiting in Wellsboro who had been out here and taken up good farms. The most of them will return this spring; but one of them in particular told me that there was not a food of land in the whole State of Kansas he would have, claiming it was good for nothing, always subject to drought and grasshoppers, and running it down at a fearful rate. I told this gentleman it was a good thing he did not stay, for just such men as he were an ----- to any community, and such Kansas never wants to see inside her borders. Land that will raise another ----- crops of wheat, corn, potatoes, etc., as were harvested last fall and every year when we have no drawbacks [which are no more common here than in any other State,] ought to be food for something. But some people are never happy. These we have here now are generally contented, for Kansas is no place for “croakers.”
Your correspondent E.S.C. is inclined to take me to task for my remarks concerning the Black Hills. He no doubt has an ax to grind, and hence advocated what he considered the “best route” to the Hills – that by way of Sioux City, Springfield, etc. As I am not so much interested in the “best route” to the Hills as E.S.C. seems to be, it is immaterial to me which is the shortest route to Deadwood. It is a question that cannot be answered to the satisfaction of all localities. As a matter of fact, travel by either of the routes is not a pastime and is accompanied by about the same amount of inconvenience, hardship and expense by one as by the other. Yaukton, Sidney and Cheyenne, the three initial points of departure from the railroads, have a pecuniary interest in turning the tide of travel by their own doors, and of course make the best showing they can of their respective advantages. As soon as travel to the Hills becomes sufficiently large to make a lively competition between the stage lines and railroads, the rates of passage will undoubtedly be the same from the east by all routes. E.S.C. advocated the “Perrie route,” probably for the reason that his interests are in that direction. It is about the same distance from Chicago to Yankton as it is from Chicago to Omaha. From Yankton to Fort Perrie it is over 200 miles by wagon road and 500 miles by river. The Missouri above Yankton is very crooked and rapid, and it is impossible for a steamer to make the up trip between the two points in less than six days. Reaching Perrie, the Hills are still distant some 200 miles, which must be accomplished either on foot or by wagon. If the traveler choose to go all the way from Yankton by wagon, he will have some 400 miles overland.
The Cheyenne route is the best known, as well as the longest. Cheyenne is some 500 miles west of Omaha and 200 miles from Deadwood. But its advantages are in having a daily United States mail established, a daily stage line, and a telegraph line to Deadwood. In time the Sidney route will be the most traveled, as it is nearest Omaha and the Hills, being considerably less than 200 miles from Deadwood.
E.S.C., from statements he has heard, is inclined to believe the Black Hills gold fields are no humbug. I have no doubt he has heard many contradictory reports from there, as he does not advise any Tiogans to go. He is correct in his assertion when he says that of the thousands who go there probably one-half will fall short of their expectations. I presume the coming summer will prove pretty conclusively whether the Black Hills will justify a population of 50,000 people settling there.
In my last letter to the Agitator I mentioned the fact that our Legislature adjourned without making any provision for the destruction of the grasshoppers. Just before the adjournment they did pass a bill providing that all male persons between the ages of twelve and fifty, when ---- by the Road Overseers of their respective districts, shall meet at certain times and places each day for the purpose of destroying the young grasshoppers; and any person failing to perform such work under the provisions of the bill shall be adjudged guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction shall be fined the sum of $3 a day. This is an excellent bill, and can be made to work successfully. It will be the means of killing out the “crop” of grasshoppers that are now proving so destructive to western farming; and if successfully carried out in all the States which they visit, it will be the means of their entire destruction. The bill does not provide for any particular method of killing them but the farmers will generally adopt the course I described in a former letter. – The Legislature could hardly afford to adjourn without making some provision of this -------------------------- demanded a strict grasshopper law, and such a one I think they now have.
The Governor is in receipt of a large number of petitions from different parts of the State calling on him to issue a proclamation for a day of prayer that the grasshopper scourge may not again visit us this spring. Some people are inclined to believe that if the Governor was to fix the time a day or two before the grasshoppers get their wings ready to fly, the prayers would be as beneficial.
In State Printer G.W. Martin’s “Directory of the State Government,” published a short time ago, are many facts of interest. Of the Legislature just adjourned twenty-five members were from Pennsylvania. – There were seventy-seven farmers in the body, out of a total of 167. It seems that farmers are generally more successful in the West than they are in the East. No native Kansan was a member of either house, and it is said but one or two native Kansans were ever elected to our Legislature. The State officers and Congressmen are from seven different States and three foreign countries. The State was admitted in 1861, and is therefore but sixteen years of age. – There are many other interesting facts connected with this book but I have only mentioned the above, thinking they will be of interest to all your readers.
Railroad building in the State this year, judging from the number of charters filed in the office of the Secretary of State, promises to be more actively carried on than for the past six or seven years. A number of amendments to the railroad laws of the State were passed, and the indications are that some portions of the State heretofore without railroad facilities will take advantage of the new laws and ----- themselves with the more favored sections of the State and with the outside world. It may be the roads will all be built on paper, for it takes money to construct them. Your correspondent predicts the most active year in every branch of industry ever witnessed in the State.
Two more elevators are to be erected in this city immediately, to accommodate the increasing demands made upon our grain dealers for storage facilities. The immense amount of grain lying in store and in the country along our railroads and adjacent to our city requires the erection of more commodious elevators than we have at present. The country is full of grain, and there is such a blockade of it in all the river towns that it is impossible to find cars enough in which to ship it. In consequence of this a line of barges will soon be put on the Missouri river to carry the surplus grain to eastern market. That this arrangement will be of great advantage to shippers of grain there can be no doubt, as it will bring money into the State that is now lying idle on account of the grain blockade.
The Unprecedented Wet Weather – Its Hopes for effect on the Governor Race – A Move for an Extra Session of the Legislature – The Fruit Prospects – Ex-Governor Osborn is Appointed
Atchison, June 11, 1877
There has not been a season during the past five or six years that Kansas farmers have not has a setback in some way. One year it is the grasshoppers, another the potato bug, then a drought comes upon them, but this season they are troubled with too much wet weather. During a residence of almost thirteen years in this State I have never known so continuous rains before. I do not believe that for the past month there have been three days at a time when it has not rained. For two weeks old Sol did not put in his appearance, and the rain came down continuously all the time.. I need not tell you that many of our people predicted another deluge, and proposed building another ark for safety. At last the clouds broke away, and the son shone bright and warm, but only for a day or two at a time, when it commenced raining again, and has continued at intervals up to this time –almost the middle of the first summer month.
Farmers are backward about planting, many not yet having the corn in the ground, and what there was planted before the rains has about all rotted, and the farmers will have to re-plant. Wheat is looking unusually good, and promises a fair yield. Many fields are already ripe enough to cut, farmers only waiting for good weather. It may be that so much wet weather is the best thing that could happen to the State, as our farmers generally think it will be destructive to the crop of grasshoppers that have already hatched out, but have done comparatively no injury as yet to the crops. Others think we could afford to have some of them left if the weather would become settled and come off clear and warm, just what all the farmers need now.
The Missouri river is higher now than it has been since 1857, and it is within eighteen inches of the high water mark of that year. The river is still rising, and the rise reported at Omaha will make it the highest flood ever known in the Missouri. It is what is called the annual June rise, commencing in the latter part of May and continuing all through the month of June. – The roar of the rushing flood can be heard for a long distance; and at this writing the levee the whole length of the city is lines with people watching the maddened torrents as they rush by toward the Gulf. It is a grand sight; but the damage it is doing will reach far into the millions. The river is full of driftwood, and hundreds of our people catch enough of it every spring to make firewood to last them all summer. All along the river, both north and south, the lowlands are overflowed, and people have had to flee for their lives. But little damage has been done opposite our city, with the exception of the washing of the banks. The railroad on the east side of the river, between here and Omaha and south to Kansas City, is submerged in many places, and no trains have passed over the road for several days.
There are a good many rumors afloat that a strong pressure will be brought to bear upon the Governor soon to call an extra session of the Legislature – for what purpose it is not stated. It is no doubt the work of some scheming politicians who are desirous of making some money, or rather robbing the taxpayers of the State. A more gigantic force could not be perpetrated, as the people of this State are pretty nearly unanimous in favor of biennial sessions of the Legislature, as witnessed by the overwhelming majority the proposition received from the voters of the State two years ago. The Governor will not recognize this “pressure,” as he is in favor of the law now in force, and willing to give the biennial system a trial. After that, if he thinks the present law could be bettered, he will no doubt have the people on his side. Besides, an extra session of the Legislature would cost the State from $40,000 to $50,000, and perhaps would be as barren of important results as its predecessors have been for the past several years.
The prospects for the apple and peach crops throughout the State were never better. We have had but two slight frosts, and they were to heavy enough to do any damage. Fruit raisers are anticipating the largest crop ever gathered in the State ----- her display of fruits, competing with every State in the Union for the honor. She can do it again. The grasshoppers four years ago almost ruined the fruit trees; consequently for the past three years she has raised but little fruit. I anticipate, she will complete with the world again this fall for the fine, large fruit. The soil of Kansas is adapted to fruit raising, as has been proven by some of the oldest and most experienced fruit-raisers in the East. I see no good reason why several fruit-canning establishments would not be a good investment in the State. It is hoped some enterprising fruit firm in the East will accommodate us.
The appointment of Ex-Governor Osborn, of this State, as Minister to Chili seems to give general satisfaction to all classes of our people. Gov. Osborn was formerly a Pennsylvanian, residing, I believe, near Meadville. He made a hard fight last winter for the Senatorship, and was only beaten when the fight narrowed down to him and the present incumbent, Col. P.B. Plumb. That he will represent the United State faithfully and honorably in his foreign mission there can be no doubt.
Notwithstanding the dull times, the very wet weather, the grasshopper scare, and the hundreds of dire calamities, according to the predictions of the “croakers,” that Kansas is going to suffer during the summer, the State is prosperous, especially Atchison. – There are no less than a dozen circuses traveling in the State. The great Forepaugh and Barnum outfits will show here the same week, and will doubtless take away several thousands of dollars between them. There never was a circus in Atchison but that the people turned out in masse, no matter how big a humbug, it was. I judge money is plenty, or these shows would not travel as they do.
The churches of this city have all had their strawberry and ice-cream entertainment’s, netting them from $150 to $300 each. The strawberries are unusually large and luscious this season, and the market has been full of them for the past month. They sell all the way from ten to twenty cents a quart.
Our markets are full of string beans, peas, new potatoes, and in fact everything that can be raised in the garden, every day. All kinds of garden produce are much earlier than last season.
Atchison, July 2, 1877
Heavy rains continue, and some of the hardest wind, rain and hail storms I ever experienced have occurred since my last letter to the Agitator, in which I gave your readers some idea of the amount of rain that had fallen during the latter part of May and the first part of June, of the damage it had already done to railroads in the way of washing out bridges, culverts, and overflowing tracks for miles, and of the disaster it would bring upon the farmers if the frequent rains continued. I learn that the excessive rains have only been general in the Missouri valley, but that in the interior of the State they have been timely and beneficial to the farmers. The “oldest inhabitant” cannot remember a season anywhere when so much rain fell as the people of the Missouri valley have experienced during the past six weeks.
On Saturday last one of the most destructive tornadoes, accompanied with a heavy rainstorm, that ever visited the West passed over this section of country, doing immense damage everywhere it went. The greatest destruction was done in St. Joseph, where it unroofed some fifteen or twenty houses, leveled several to the ground, and did considerable other damage which will aggregate thousands of dollars. The location of Atchison, with its high, rolling prairie on the west, the immense timber forests on the east, and the high hills on the north and south, has saved the town from destruction several times, while Kansas City, Leavenworth, or St. Joseph, one of them, is the victim of every storm that passes over this section of country.
The wheat harvest has commenced in some localities, and the crop is said to be the finest that has been harvested for many years. The heads are round and plump, and the yield will be enormous – running all the way from 25 to 35 bushels per acre. I know of one man having a field of 3,000 acres all sown in wheat, which he is now harvesting, that will yield him an average of 25 bushels to the acre, which would make a good-sized fortune for anyone. The wheat crop will be the largest ever raised in Kansas, and the State will have several millions of bushels of this cereal to export. A more good-natured set of farmers I have never met with, and all of them are wearing broad smiles because of the bounteous crops. – When it was seen that the grasshoppers were going to do no damage, our farmers went to work and planted double the number of acres they otherwise would have done, and they are just now reaping their reward in harvesting a crop of wheat the like of which has never been known here or elsewhere. I have not heard of a single field that was damaged to the extent of a dollar’s worth by the grasshoppers or any other pest, although there were plenty of hopper eggs deposited in the State. But the late and cold rains in the spring seem to have been a “damper” on them, and the grasshopper commission appointed by Congress to take observations in all the Western States that were infested by the locusts give it as their opinion that Kansas need never have any more fears of locust invasions, as they are confident the severe weather of early spring pretty generally “wound them up.” If such is the fact, what more does Kansas need? Nothing at all. There will be such a rush of immigration as will be astonishing to everybody. The men who are continually howling down Kansas as the worst cursed State in all the sisterhood of the Union will then seek other pastures, as they have always been a curse to the State, and will always be s serious drawback to any community, wherever they may be. If this grasshopper commission base their theories upon what may in the future prove to be reliable facts, Kansas in a few years will be the acknowledged leading agricultural and stock-raising State in the Union. Your readers may think this is all well enough on paper, but in a few years the reality will correct their erroneous opinions.
Corn, oats, barley, etc., look fine, and all bid fair to yield abundantly. Corn is about knee high, and is looking splendidly. All it wants now is for the rain to slack up a little, and, with a week or two of good weather, the corn crop is assured. There is an immense amount of old corn yet in the country, and farmers are determined to hold on to it until new corn begins to arrive in market.
Fruit prospects are still promising, and the trees are loaded down and out of all danger of frosts. But I am told that the heavy winds have blown considerable of it off the trees. By the looks of the trees around here, there will be any amount of it left.
As evidence of the prosperity of Atchison just at this time, and of the railroads centering here, work on two large and commodious elevators is about to be commenced to accommodate the large grain yield that is now being harvested throughout the State. Another new line of railroad was added to our city today – the B and M, or the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy – giving the people of this section of the State the choice of five different through lines to St. Louis and Chicago. Work on the extension of Atchison’s pet railroad, the Central Branch Union Pacific, is to be commenced immediately, and pushed through to the rich and fertile valley of the Republican, the “garden spot of Kansas,” which but a few years ago was inhabited only by the red skins and buffalo of the plains, but today contains a population of thousands of tillers of the soil who are making the wild prairies bud and blossom as the rose. They have long needed a railroad to ship their surplus products to market, and after waiting patiently so long a time, they are in a fair way of getting one before autumn passes.
The Kansas editorial excursionists have returned from their sightseeing in Colorado, and the columns of the weekly papers of last week were burdened with accounts of the much-enjoyed trip. Judging from what they all say, it must have been the most profitable as well as the most enjoyable excursion ever made by the editors of Kansas. There were eighty ladies and gentlemen in the party, and it is said a happier set of people never visited Colorado. One thing about it, they paid their own way outside of railroad transportation, and perhaps received more attention from the people of the Centennial State than they would if they have been deadheaded. There has been an average of one excursion a week to Colorado this summer, and I hear of several others that are being organized to visit that State during the season. It is a wonder to me that there are not more eastern people visiting Colorado. A more healthful country cannot be found anywhere, and I do not believe there is any scenery in the world that equals that of the Rocky Mountains. A person can travel and travel on until he is weary, but his eyes never get tired of looking at the ever-changing scenery that is constantly before him. Your correspondent spent a month last summer in the mountains, and never enjoyed a pleasanter trip anywhere. A person could and should spend two months there, and might then return disappointed because he hadn’t time to see more. Why don’t you Pennsylvania editors advocate an excursion to Colorado? I am certain that what could be seen would more than repay the expense attending one. Your correspondent regretted very much that he was not one of those who composed the late editorial excursion.
The “Glorious Fourth” will be celebrated in all the larger cities and towns of the State in true American style. Here in Atchison extensive preparations are being made to make it a grand, glorious Fourth.
The river is rising rapidly again, and promises a flood as high as that of a month ago. It is seldom we get three floods in the muddy Missouri in one season, but such is the case this year.
John C. Root, an old “typo” in the office of the Champion and who is well known by everybody in Wellsboro and Tioga county, left on Wednesday last for a few weeks’ trip visiting his old home in Wellsboro. It is hoped the “boys” will take good care of him while there. He has not been home for ten years.
Last week’s Agitator makes mention that some of the “enthusiastic” Tioga boys who have recently returned from the Black Hills disgusted. While your Kansas correspondent acknowledged that gold was there, he has never advised anybody to go, as has “E.S.C.,” of Springfield, Dakota, who thought there was gold enough there for all who might go. It those who returned had only headed toward southern Colorado, and struck the famous San Juan silver district, where there is plenty of room for all who care to go, they would have been much better off.
It is hoped that Mr. Francis Murphy, your great temperance lecturer, can be persuaded to come West. It he should ever come to Atchison he would have a good field to work in; but when the pledges should be circulated for signatures no doubt he would hind a good many differences of opinion. I am glad to hear he is doing such noble work for the cause of temperance in northern Pennsylvania.
The markets are well supplied with garden truck, such as new potatoes, cabbage, peas, beans, cucumbers, etc. Strawberries are entirely out of market, but red and black raspberries and cherries and currants have taken their place.
Growth and Prosperity of Kansas
The Glorious Prospects of the State – Heavy Immigration this Year – A Great Wheat Crop – No Grasshoppers this Year – State Politics – An Editorial Excursion – The Mischievous Missouri – Personal
Atchison, June 20, 1878
Many of my friends who are readers of the Agitator doubtless wonder what has become of “H.C.R.” I have been slow in writing for some time past for several reasons, the principal one being that the Agitator can fill its valuable columns with much more interesting news than I can furnish from this far-off country; and then, after a person has worked hard all the week he finds but little spare time to write. But I have many good and true friends still in Wellsboro who have friends or relatives here, and are doubtless well pleased whenever they can hear or read any good of Kansas.
After thirteen years’ residence in the State I have more faith than ever that it is destined to be the leading State of the Union. I believe all I have ever said in favor of it, and think its values is not half known yet. – But year by year the eastern people are having more confidence in our great and glorious State, in consequence of which, it is estimated they have contributed nearly 100,000 to our population since last fall. Every State is represented in this immigration. Pennsylvania, I believe, having contributed more to our population during the past year than any other one State. The majority of new-comers are old and experienced farmers, buying large tracts of land in the older-settled counties, and going right to work for themselves. Many of them came into the State early enough in the spring to raise good crops, and being well satisfied and contented, they now invite others to come. There is room for all; but the land is being homesteaded and pre-empted at such a rate that in a few years there will not be a homestead left within the borders of Kansas. I know there are many in Tioga county who want to come out here, but fear the uncertainties, as they say, of this country. To all such – being an older resident than a great many – I advise you to stay where you are. Kansas don’t want any such people; she only wants those who are willing to come and help themselves. Kansas will furnish the land; but you must do the work.
The harvest in southern Kansas is comparatively over, while in the northwestern portion it is progressing. The season has been the most favorable in the history of the State, and farmers were never more jubilant. The wheat is well filled and plump, and will average throughout the State all the way from twenty-five to thirty-five bushels per acre. I have not heard of a field that would fall below the forty figure. Some few fields have been partly destroyed by rust; but I have not heard an insect pest in the State. The acreage --- was considerable more than last year, and the harvest has been a month earlier. It is estimated that this crop alone will yield between thirty-five and forty million bushels. This is a pretty good showing for such a State as Kansas. It will doubtless be the largest yield on this grain by any State during the year 1878.
Corn is several feet high, and never looked better, and the acreage planted is more than double that of last year. Oats, rye and barley are all looking splendid. The fruit crop will be the largest ever raised in Kansas, every tree bearing apples and peaches is loaded down. Peaches, apples and cherries are in market every day and strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are nearly all gone. Peas, beans, beets, cucumbers, etc., have been as common for the past month as they will be six weeks later. In fact, I have never seen vegetables and fruit so early before. It is any wonder our people are so proud of their State? I never saw Kansas people so exultant before. Every farmer who is asked concerning his crops invariably answers, “They never looked better.”
The prejudice of older States toward Kansas in the past is fast dying out, as is evident from the continual stream of immigration that has for the past few months been pouring in upon us. I do not mean to say Kansas is gaining all this immigration; but I do mean to say that Kansas has increased in population over 100,000 during the past eight months. Many pass through here on their way to Colorado and New Mexico; thousands stop in Nebraska; but Kansas, the central State of the Union with her immense and almost endless fields of wheat, the like of which has never been known in any State, and which is now being harvested, is attracting here such an immigration as has never been known in her history. – And her people boast with pride of this fact.
I was amused, two or three weeks ago, in reading an item in the Agitator, clipped from some State exchange, that the grasshoppers were again devastating Kansas. – Such articles are published more to injure Kansas than they are for the truth they contain. There is not, nor has there been, a grasshopper in Kansas or Nebraska so far this year. The people here have other things to think of than that they will again be visited by these terrible pests. I will try and find out who that “enterprising” editor is who published this little squib, and if they do again visit us, I will gather enough of them and send them to him by express, so that he will know what they are. Not a grasshopper egg was deposited in Kansas last fall; and we certainly can’t expect the grasshoppers before next fall, after everything is out of the way, if we get them at all.
Politics are beginning to come up in the dim distance. Ex-Senator Pomeroy is on the track for the Senate, to succeed John J. Ingalls. The ex-Senator is making many warm friends throughout the State; but it is impossible to predict as yet what the result will be. The candidacy of John A. Martin, editor of the Atchison Champion, for the position of Governor, subject to the decision of the Republican State Convention, it is claimed, has killed the chances of Pomeroy and Ingalls for, the position of Senator which is to be filled next winter. There is more political scheming just now than I ever saw before; and it will be impossible to predict any kind of a result until after the convention, which meets in August. But your correspondent predicts, at this early day, the liveliest and hottest election since Kansas became a State. There will be [cannot read this line] how they will vote. It will be hard for the Democrats to beat our overwhelming Republican majority. It is not known whether the Greenback element will put a ticket in the field this fall. They have called their State Committee together to see what action they will take in this fall’s canvass.
The State Editorial Convention, which was in session here two days last week, at the conclusion of its labors started on an excursion to Put-in-Bay, on Lake Erie, and extended their trip as far east as Niagara Falls and Toronto. Some one hundred and fifty newspapermen were present, among whom I noticed Frank A. Root, of the North Topeka Times. The city of Atchison never does anything by halves, but tendered the editors the free use of the city, gave them a grand dance, drove them through the city, visiting our manufacturing establishments and all places of resort, and threw old shoes at them as the train pulled out from the depot. There are printed in the State – daily, weekly and monthly – one hundred and eighty-nine publications; which is considered pretty good for a State as young as Kansas. Can’t you suggest, Mr. Editor, through the columns of your paper, the pleasure to be derived by your brethren of the press of the old Keystone State in getting up an excursion to Atchison on the occasion of our next Pennsylvania re-union, which will be some time in the fall.
The Missouri river is bank full, the occasion being the annual June rise. The damage done every year by the Missouri will reach thousands and thousands of dollars. Opposite this city acres and acres of good land have caved into the river, while at St. Joseph and Kansas City the damage is even greater. At the former place there is a great deal of fear that the river may cut another channel, leaving that city and its bridge inland, while the river will run some five miles distant. The fear at Kansas City is, that the river will cut around the bridge, making the structure unsafe for the passage of trains. And unless the Government goes to work and makes the necessary improvements at this city, it is by no means certain that our bridge will not be, in two or three years, in as much danger as those of our sister cities. The Missouri is the most treacherous river on this continent. Another three-foot rise is now coming down from the mountains.
I am pleased to hear that Judge J.F. Donaldson and his estimable wife are contemplating a trip to the West. While the Judge is in Kansas City I hope he can make it convenient to extend his trip to Atchison and sections. Here he will see one of the liveliest little cities he ever saw. Buildings are going up on every hand; two more elevators are in course of erection, and work is progressing on the extension of two of out railroads. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Company are pushing their line one hundred miles into New Mexico, and in all probability will beat Tom Scott in his Pacific railroad scheme, while the Central Branch Union Pacific are pushing their line still farther west, and opening up the great homestead area of western and northwestern Kansas. All kinds of business is unusually brisk, not only in this city but throughout the entire State.
The Crop Prospects – Political Affairs – Railroad Competition – River Navigation – Wind Storms – A Tioga County Man Talked of for Governor – The Journals of the State
Atchison, May 10, 1880 – Special Correspondence to the Agitator
The recent heavy rains in this section, extending through northwestern Kansas to the Nebraska and Colorado line, have insured more than half a crop of wheat, while in the southwestern portion, or from Newton 200 miles southwest of the Missouri river, the wheat will hardly pay for cutting. Much of the grain sown last fall and this spring in the southwestern portion of the State did not come up, from the fact that no rains have fallen in that section since last summer; but recent rains in this particular portion of the State have left the ground in good condition for corn planting, which has now been progressing uninterruptedly for the past three weeks. Increased acreage of this cereal is being planted in all portions of the State; and if wheat doesn’t “pan out” well in some sections, the corn crop is seldom a failure.
As I have said in former letters to the Agitator, there are portions of Kansas, but sparsely settled, where farming cannot be carried on successfully, and where the immigrants will be more or less subject to all kinds of hardship – such as the loss of crops from drought, high winds, no timber, etc.; but as the country becomes more thickly populated and railroads are built, climatic changes will come about that will make this portion of Kansas capable of sustaining a population of many thousands, and her rich soil will “blossom as the rose.”
Corn is up and growing finely. From all indications the fruit, peaches, pears, apples, cherries and plums, all promise the largest crop ever raised in Kansas. The threes are full of blossoms, and the weather has been most favorable. If frost doesn’t come in the next two weeks, [and there is no prospect of it now,] count Kansas alongside of New Jersey and Delaware in the production of apples and peaches. Grapes are doing well, and reports from several large vineyards in eastern Kansas predict an unusually large yield.
All kinds of garden “truck” – such as onions, lettuce, cucumbers, cabbage, new potatoes, peas, beans, etc. – made their appearance in market several days ago; while strawberries have been for sale more than two weeks. Several of the churches have held strawberry festivals, while others are advertised for the coming week and as far as two weeks ahead. Spring put in an earlier appearance than for several years past, owing to the mild winter, there being but about two inches of snow all winter. The ice market is now in its prime, there being eight or ten wagons delivering ice through our city, selling at one cent a pound.
But little interest is not yet taken in our State election; nor will there be much until after the Chicago Convention. Most of the old officers, however, will be re-nominated. The principal fight will be made on Governor. The present Governor will be a candidate for re-election, but in all probability will be defeated in the Convention. As is well known throughout the country, St. John is a great fanatic on the temperance question and father of the prohibition amendment to be voted upon this fall. It is more than likely the amendment will carry unless the people change from the course they are now pursuing, but if St. John is the nominee, bets are freely offered that a Democrat will be Governor of the Republican State of Kansas for the next two years. The State is full of temperance orators who have been and are now canvassing every county in favor of the prohibition amendment, and who claim that they will carry every county except five. It is evident the people are not so crazy over this question now as they were six weeks or two months ago, and the large number of German voters, mostly Republican, say that if Governor St. John is re-nominated they will vote for a Democrat. A lively campaign is anticipated.
At the time for the Chicago Convention draws nearer the excitement increases among politicians, though I presume Kansas and Nebraska have the least of them or any States in the Union. As in 1876, Kansas is overwhelmingly for Blaine. The First and Second districts in the State Convention had a majority of Blaine men, but the Third had a majority of eight or ten for Grant. Nebraska will also send a Blaine delegation to Chicago. A large majority of the Republicans of this State favor the nomination of Blaine; but, as in New York and Pennsylvania, the politicians favor Grant. If the recent dispatches from these two States prove true, that the delegates will abide by the wishes of the district Conventions, then the political forces of Conkling and Cameron, who have so long controlled the party in those States, must be broken. Blaine men in Kansas feel greatly encouraged by the action of New York and Pennsylvania.
Railroad building is progressing on at least five of the Kansas roads, while the great transcontinental line, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, is being pushed through to the Pacific coast as rapidly as men and teams can do it. They have already reached Santa Fe and Albuquerque in New Mexico, and the latest advises say the road has been completed to a point 100 miles beyond the last named place. The officials of this line think that by 1881 they will have their road completed and in running order to the coast, notwithstanding the opposition of Jay Gould with his immense influence and wealth to defeat it. He owns the only line, as yet, to the Pacific coast, and has done everything in his power, by fair or foul means, to prevent the building up of another powerful railroad corporation from the Missouri river to the Pacific ocean. Gould has fought this company in every conceivable way. He has tried to scare them into selling; he has used his immense wealth lavishly to prevent the sale of their bonds, and he tried to head them off from getting an eastern outlet. But this gigantic corporation met him face to face and beat him in all his own schemes. W.B. Strong, one of the oldest and ablest railroad managers in this country, is Vice-President and general manager of the road; and to him more than to anybody else is the rapid extension and the successful financial condition of the road largely due. The whole country will hail with delight the completion of this road. It passes through a grand agricultural and stock and sheep raising country, trains can run the year round without being blocked by the mountain snows for two and three weeks at a time, and it will made Gould come to time on the exorbitant freight and passenger rates that he has been charging ever since the northern road was opened for traffic. It is expected and anticipated that by this time next year the people will have the opportunity of getting aboard the trains of this road at the Missouri river and not leave them until they arrive in San Francisco, at probably one-half the price new charged by the Union Pacific, a Gould road.
The navigation of the Missouri river will be more general this summer than it has been for years. The season is much earlier, and there have already been a dozen or more boats up from St. Louis, some going up as far as Fort Benton, and others laden with freight for river points. Those going to the mountains are generally filled with commissary stores for the upper Missouri river forts as well as with Indian stores. The writer will remembers that before any railroads were built in Kansas, during the summer three or four boats would tough our levee daily. Now if that many boats reach us in a month, people will flock to the levee as though they had never seen a boat before.
During my fifteen years’ residence in Kansas I have never known such high winds as have been prevalent this spring. For three and four days at a time they would blow a hurricane, filling the air with dust and sand, and blinding people. The dust became so dense that people could hardly distinguish objects across the street, and it filled the air so completely that is darkened the sun, people supposing the sky was cloudy and that some terrible tornado was in the air. The day the cyclone struck Marshfield, Mo., was literally the worst day I ever witnessed in Kansas. It was a beautiful morning; but toward noon the wind increased in velocity, changing from the south to the northwest, and it became so cold in less than an hour that the people changed from summer clothing back to winter, put on overcoats, built fires, and by the middle of the afternoon not a person could be seen on the street. I heard several people say that it froze ice that Sunday night thick enough to bear them up. At eight o'clock in the morning the thermometer was 80° in the shade, and by night it had dropped to 15°. While Atchison has heretofore escaped these destructive cyclones, they are getting so numerous that now her inhabitants are nervous every time they see clouds gathering in the horizon. It is hoped our heavy wind – our people call them April winds, - are over for this year. In portions of the State they have dug cyclone-proof cellars adjoining their residences.
|Frank A. Root has left Kansas, settling in Colorado, and will shortly
commence the publication of a weekly paper at Gunnison City, in the southern
portion of that State. This valley is said to be rich in agricultural as
well as mineral wealth, and Frank predicts he has struck a big bonanza.
A large emigration is flocking into this country. Two railroads are headed
that way, I presume my friend C.A. Deane, of ----, could enlighten your
readers about that section, as --- concerning Leadville, there are but
few places in Colorado that he has not seen.
Captain J.M. Steele, of Wichita, in this State, and one of the best men in Kansas, formerly a Tioga County boy, and well known in Wellsboro, is being presently mentioned by the Republican party of the State as a candidate for the office of Governor.
A Prosperous Year in Kansas
Abundant Harvest – A New Industry – Regulating the Railroads – Politics – The Prohibitory Law – Plenty of Game
Atchison, November 20, 1883
Winter is coming on in Kansas clear and bright, as is its fashion in this latitude. Outdoor traveling is a luxury, and but one little flurry of snow has been seen in this immediate locality. As I write, however, the channel of the Missouri is running full of ice caused by the arctic weather they have been having away up north. Here in Kansas, today a bright sun and hazy atmosphere prevail.
The year now drawing to a close has been remarkable for its rainfall – the greatest known in the sixteen years that a regular record has been kept at the State University. As a result, the harvest of all kinds of crops has been wonderful. But three counties report a failure, and they are frontier counties, out on the high western plains, and thinly settled. In Kansas no fertilizer is needed or used except rainwater.
In the far western counties of Kansas, where the elevation is from 2,000 to 3,000 feet above the sea level the stock interest has made great advances. These counties are filling up with cattle and sheep, which live on the range. A hundred miles east of these are counties like Jewell, where a million bushels of corn to the county is not an uncommon crop, so that the winter feeding of cattle driven in from the west is a profitable business.
A new boom has struck Kansas in the shape of the manufacture of sugar from the sorghum cane. Large sugar mills have been built at Hutchinson, Sterling and Kinsley in western Kansas and at Ottawa in the eastern part of the State. Several other mills will be built next year in other portions of the State. The Sterling factory has been the most successful, and has made many thousand pounds of bright yellow sugar that cannot be distinguished from the New Orleans article of the same grade. The mills have just stopped grinding, owing to the freezing of the cane. The length of the sugar making season here is shown by the fact that cane has stood in the field unaffected by frost until the middle of November.
The railroad regulation question is now uppermost in the public mind. The Legislature of last winter passed a railroad law providing for a Board of Railroad Commissioners, and they are now in consultation with the managers of the different railroads in the State in relation to freight rates, passengers’ fares of three cents a mile being already fixed by law. It is probable that freight rates will be reduced, particularly on coal, and there will be an attempt made to break up the practice of railroad companies also doing business as coal mining companies, thus crippling smaller operators.
There is a steady immigration to the State of well-to-to people who are buying lands and town property in the eastern and central counties. In consequence, all the old towns in Kansas are enjoying unexampled prosperity. Thee years of continued good crops have been such an advertisement for Kansas, that Eastern States are jealous of her. Kansas is more prosperous today than she ever was before, having raised the largest corn and wheat crops ever known in her history. By the shortage of these crops in many of the Eastern States, Kansas is already called upon for all her surplus. Another fact: Kansas has come to be considerable of a fruit State, having shipped many thousand bushels of apples to Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and other cities of the East. The Kansas apple has become a great favorite in many of the Eastern markets.
The creamery business has been a great source of profit to western Kansas. Where there was one in operation two years ago there are a dozen now, and Kansas creamery butter is now quoted in all the great Eastern markets at as high figures as any. In the starting up of any new Western town nowadays one of the first improvements is a creamery. No western Kansas town is now “well fixed” without one. In many towns, also, the prevailing beverage is buttermilk – more wholesome than all the whisky that was ever distilled or the beer that is brewed.
The recent county elections in Kansas show which way the great State is drifting for victory in 1884. It will be remembered that Kansas elected a Democratic Governor last fall. Every county elected a majority of the Republican ticket this fall, a large majority of them electing a solid delegation. Atchison, the home of the Governor’s county, which gave him over 1,300 majority, elected all the ticket except two by majorities ranging from 300 to 800. The people are tired of Governor Glick, and will so effectually sit down on him next year that he will only carry away the honor of knowing that he is the first and will be the last Democratic Governor to preside over Republican Kansas.
It is well known that we have a prohibition law, but it is openly violated in most of the towns in the State, the Governor locking horns with the saloon keepers in violating the law. A great temperance wave is now sweeping through the State, and here in Atchison on Sunday last, the temperance people held the largest meeting ever held here. It is openly asserted that prohibition will prohibit in Atchison, Leavenworth, Topeka and all the larger cities in the State before the close of the year.
Col. John A. Martin, Secretary of the Republican National Committee and editor and proprietor of the Atchison Champion, the oldest journal in Kansas, publishes a call for a meeting of that Committee in Washington, December 12th, for the purpose of deciding on a date and place for holding the next National Republican Convention.
The Tioga county boys in Kansas are well pleased with the election of Hon. Jerome B. Niles for Auditor General of Pennsylvania. The success of the Republicans in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and other States was heartily commented upon by the Republican press of Kansas, who now think they have the best show for success in 1884.
United States Senator John I. Ingalls, of Kansas, leaves for Washington in a few days. During the summer and fall he has been looking up his chances for re-election, visiting every portion of the State. At this far-off day [our Legislature doesn’t meet until next winter] his chances for being his own successor are most encouraging. He is one of the ablest, brightest and most brilliant statesmen in the National Congress.
Railroad building throughout the State is progressing at a lively rate. In fact, Kansas is becoming a network of railroads, having now over 4,000 miles. The prospects are that next year several hundred miles more will be added. The system of voting bonds, carried on so extensively a few years ago, is fast dying out. Now the railroads are generally built when it is thought there is enough trade to justify the building. Eight of the railroads leading into Atchison were given large bonds.
There are but few of the large colony of Tioga county boys left that settled in Pawnee county, the rest having returned to the home of their nativity. They came before that section commenced to change for the better. I counted some twenty that remain, out of over two hundred who located there. Of those who stayed all are in business and making money. Then the Agitator contained numerous “personals” of Tioga county boys returning from “droughty” Kansas, now I scarcely see an item of any one “coming home.” The writer has been in Kansas over eighteen years, and likes it better today than ever before. Although among the youngest States, I believe it will, in the near future, be one of the grandest in the Union. Kansas will be heard from this year all over the world.
Game of all kinds is more abundant than for many years. Quails, prairie chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and antelope furnish rare sport to the hunters, and I know of several Wellsboro boys who would almost go crazy if they could have one week’s hunt on the prairies of western Kansas.
Traveling quite extensively through Kansas and Nebraska this year, I found the Agitator at many a fireside of the Tioga boys scattered through these States. To receive your excellent paper is like getting a letter from some valued friend at home. Your Kansas correspondent has been slow during the summer, but hopes to make up for his tardiness this winter.
|Henry and Frank Root Letters Part One||Part Two||Part Three|