Life in the Rocky Mountains
Four Years’ Residence of a Tioga County Boy on the Backbone of the Continent
Gunnison, Colorado, March 17, 1884
On the 21st of April 1880, I footed it across the continental divide, from Saguache here, a distance of seventy-five miles, before there was a railroad within a hundred miles of us. It was seventy-five miles to the nearest stage line, and, like Jordan, the road leading here “was a hard one to travel.” I reached here after the sun had sunk behind the western hills, but its rays were still shining on the Elk mountains, the peaks of which were towering up several thousand feet above us some thirty miles to the north. Gunnison in the spring of 1880 was not much like the place it is today. Forty-tree shanties then comprised all the houses on the town site; but the place was laid out for the metropolis of the Pacific slope and it has been steadily growing for the past three years.
We are located fifty miles west of the summit of the backbone of the continent, 7,750 feet above the level of the sea, at the confluence of the Gunnison and Tomichi rivers, two of the finest streams on the Pacific slope. The valley here is form two to three miles wide, and the location of the town is one of the most natural on the face of the globe. Every stream of water in the county flows past our doors, and the “city” is centered like the hub of a wagon wheel. Every road leading to the mining camps of the county is tributary to Gunnison, and all the coal, iron, gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, etc., can be brought here on a down grade. We are only an hour’s ride by rail from the finest anthracite and bituminous coal fields in the world, and two hours’ ride from the finest body of iron ore in America.
When I first saw Gunnison there was not a brick or stone building in town. Log shanties comprised the larger number of the buildings, for native lumber then readily commanded from $50 to $70 per thousand, and was hard to get at that. Now the same can be bought for $16 to $20. Brick and stone are now largely used here for building, and there is an inexhaustible supple at our doors. There are half a dozen stone quarries adjoining the town site, and there are four or five brickyards within fifteen to twenty minutes’ walk from the center of the town. There are half a dozen varieties of building stone of different shades here – from pure white to brown and variegated. We also have first-class fire clay within two miles of town. We are a little over four years old, and boast a population of 5,000. We have the Denver & Rio Grande and the Denver & South Park railroads, the former extending westward to Salt Lake City. Both roads have branches running from here north, the former to Crested Butte and the latter to Baldwin, making Gunnison quite a railway center. To get to this place the Rio Grande reaches an altitude of over 10,600 feet on Marshall Pass. The South Park line comes over Alpine Pass, going through a tunnel over 1,800 feet long at the summit, 11,000 feet above tide. The Denver & Rio Grande reached here August 6, 1881 and the Denver & South Park September 1, 1882. Both are narrow gauge roads, but the day is not far distant when we shall have a third line leading here from the East, and it will be of standard gauge.
It will doubtless surprise some of Tioga county’s citizens to know that in our four-year-old city we have a hotel, soon to be opened that has cost $200,000. The city is lighted with gas, which, together with the system of water-works, has cost over $250,000. We have two National Banks, two daily newspapers and one weekly, two opera houses, four brick school houses, six churches and another to be erected this year, two breweries and a third one soon to be built, three fire companies, the telephone system, three steam planing-mills, a foundry and machine works, and during the coming summer we expect our street railway to be built. We have a flourishing Lodge and Chapter of Masons and a Commandery of Knights Templar, a Lodge and Encampment of Odd Fellows, a Post of the G.A.R., and a Society of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. We have two smelters, and a third one will be built this year with quite a number of other enterprises. One of the most important projects for Gunnison is a blast furnace, the foundation for a portion of which is already laid. Whether the plant will be pushed forward this year is a conundrum; but for the fact that the originators of the enterprise are buying coal and iron mines, it looks as if they mean business some time. They have already spent over $600,000 in Gunnison county.
This has been the most severe winter I have spent in the Gunnison country. We have had three months of the finest sleighing I ever saw. The mercury has been down as low as forty degrees below zero several times; but it will surprise many of my old Tioga county friends to learn that with the exception of an overcoat when out on the streets I have worn the same clothing I war in the summer. Our dry, rarified air here enables us to stand forty degrees below zero easier than zero in Tioga county. We have has at least fifteen feet of snowfall in Gunnison this winter, and at this time “the beautiful snow” covers the ground to the depth of from two to three feet. A few days of warm, pleasant weather, however, will effectually use up the sleighing, which is just now as fine as I ever saw in the East. The worst storm of the season occurred early last week. The snow came a foot deep, accompanied with a stinging wind from the west, so that at times we could hardly distinguish objects across the street. The railways leading to the coal mines became blocked, and several avalanches have occurred, one at Woodstock, near the Alpine tunnel, which carried down in an instant seventeen persons, killing all but two. We expect at any time to hear of additional avalanches. The immense snowfall will work great disasters to life and property. At Crested Butte the snow is eight feet deep on the level, to Ruby Camp from ten to fifteen feet deep, and at Elko from twenty-five to forty feet deep.
This is a great resort for sportsmen, the country abounding in bears, mountain lions, panthers, elk, deer, mountain sheep, rabbits, grouse, sage-hens, etc. The streams are full of trout and tons of them are caught every summer. They command in our market, dressed, 25 to 40 cents a pound, and some of them weigh two and a half to four pounds. One good feature is that there are no fish in our streams beside the trout.
I hardly know what to say to you about the mines and mining prospects of Gunnison county. O course very little has been done here so far in the way of developing the mineral resources of the various camps, but we all think this is destined to be one of the richest and best mining regions in the State. Our mineral is not of a high grade, and it requires expensive machinery to develop the various prospects. When smelters are in successful operation and the mines have a market for their output, more work will be done in the way of developing the various mining properties. The Red Mountain region, in the southwest part of the State will draw a heavy immigration this spring as it promises to be one of the finest mining camps in Colorado.
From Gunnison we have a grand view of the surrounding country for a long distance. The summit of the continental divide is plainly visible fifty miles to the east. Uncompahgre Peak, sixty-five miles southwest of here, which towers up nearly 14,500 feet above tide, lies in plain sight. On the north, thirty miles away, if the Elk Mountain range, and south fifteen miles is Sawtooth. The views on all sides are unsurpassed.
----Frank A. Root
Winter Scenes in Colorado
Tremendous Falls of Snow, and the Work of the Avalanches
Aspen, Colorado, March 11, 1884
Since my last letter but little has transpired to break the monotony of camp life until quite recently. On the 12-day of last month two men were killed in Queen’s Gulch, near Aspen, by snow slides. Both bodies were shipped East, one to Kansas, the other to Pennsylvania. The snow has been falling nearly every day for several weeks, and the snowplow is being run nearly all the time in town to keep the streets open. Shoveling snow is the order of the day. Where the walks were two or three feet above the roadbed, they are now as much below. On the mountain the snow lies ten feet deep, and still men are at work as though nothing was to hinder.
Last Sunday we had a light snowstorm the most of the day. About five o’clock in the afternoon it began to snow in earnest, and at eight in the evening the wind began to blow and kept up the racket all night. If Dakota can beat it, I don’t want to be there. On Monday the storm raged with unabated fury until about three o’clock in the afternoon. Then there was a lull for a short space of time, when it seemed that the fury of the storm was redoubled, and at five o’clock an event occurred that horrified every inhabitant of the town, four men being hurled into eternity without a moment’s warning.
There were eighteen men – nine in the shaft-house and nine in the shaft of the Vallece mine situated on Aspen mountain and near the Spar and Washington mines, within full view from town. At the time mentioned the storm was raging and roaring fearfully, and without any warning a snow slide struck the shaft-house, crushing the house and leaving fifteen feet of snow on top of it. Two miners at work nearby, seeing what was done, came to town and gave the alarm, and a hundred men armed with shovels were soon on the trail. When they arrived where the men were buried beneath almost a mountain of snow, no sound could be heard but the roaring of the tempest still raging. The men worked as men will work on such occasions, and after three hours of hard labor they came to the men who were in the house. All were fast in the timbers. They took five out alive, two or three quite seriously hurt but not dangerously. The other four were dead. Two will be buried here and the other two will be sent East.
The miners who were in the shaft came up not hurt but badly frightened. Among those in the shaft was a Mr. Barker of New York City, who was looking the mine over with a view of purchasing it. He had only landed here a night or two before. In company with him was B.B. Gillespie, of the Spar mine. As but one could be lowered at a time, Mr. Gillespie had not gone down, but escaped with slight bruises.
March 14 – The funeral service of the two unfortunates, Maginity and Marshall, took place yesterday at 2 p.m. Rev. Mr. Purdue delivered the discourse. A more solemn scene was never witnessed in Aspen. Fully six hundred persons were in attendance, and every business place in town was closed.
At five p.m. a messenger arrived with the sad news that five or more men were buried in a snow slide in what is called Conundrum Gulch about eight miles from here, and had been buried since Monday night. No sooner was the news received than about fifty men were in readiness to start for the mournful scene, traveling on snowshoes, as the location cannot be reached in any other way. So far as we know the names of the unfortunates were, S.E. Steele, J.P. Steele, J.F. Tate, Geo. Marsh and a Mr. Thorn. Whether there are any more we do not know, as there is no one left to tell the tale. Where the cabins stood the snow is now twenty feet deep. The slide was about two miles long, and swept everything in its course. The miners were on the opposite side of the Gulch from the slide, but it came with such force and was so deep that is reached far up the mountain across the valley.
Our mail has just arrived from the East it being the first we have had in a week. It has been impossible for even a man to cross the divide until today. The snow is anywhere from ten feet up. Twenty miles below on the Roaring Fork river west the mail that leaves here on four to six feet of snow, is compelled to change from sleigh to wagon for the Hot Springs on the Grand river.
In my next I will tell you something about the prosperity of our camp.
Prosperity in Kansas
Remarkable Crops there this Year – A Great Gathering of the Veterans – Facts About the Temperance Law – Railway Progress – A Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home – A Kansas City Over the Line – Tioga County People
Atchison, Kansas, October 8, 1885
The present year will go into history as one of the most remarkable for Kansas ever known. The spring months were noted for an unusual rainfall, which lasted nearly through the month of June, requiring many of the farmers in the eastern part of the State to replant their corn two or three times. The months of July, August and September, with occasional rains, were the best growing months our farmers ever experienced, and the result will be, when the figures are added up, that Kansas will be the banner corn producing State of the Union in the year 1885. Jewell, one of the northern tier counties and a county that is not yet fifteen years old with a population of over 20,000, has 130,000 acres planted in corn, which estimated at forty bushels per acre – and this is a low estimate – will yield over 5,000,000 bushels. There are dozens of counties in the State that will yield this year in corn from 3,000,000 to 7,000,000 bushels. But it was the remarkable year I started out to tell your readers about, and they will pardon me for drifting away from the subject.
It used to be droughty Kansas; then it was known as grasshopper eaten Kansas; again it was referred to as the Sunflower State; then again some one wrote to some Eastern journal that cyclones were daily devastating towns and killing off the people by the hundreds; and this year it is known as the Prolific State. There have been no disastrous windstorms or cyclones in Kansas this year. We have got rid of them, as we have of the drought and grasshopper visitations. The sunflower will stick to Kansas for many years to come and we will ever be thankful and boastful if we don’t have any more drawbacks than the gay and festive sunflower. I have seen them on the high and broad prairie without a house or barn in sight. At other times I have seen them choking out a field of corn. I have seen them used for poling beans; I have seen the stalks used for firewood, yes, and I have seen them given to hogs, and they will fatten upon the seed. But what of that, if they do choke out a field of corn for some lazy farmer? I have seen the ladies and gentlemen wear them to society parties, and wherever you find a Kansan he will tell you that he is proud of the Sunflower State, proud that he lives in a State where they are utilized, and proud that they will grow where everything else fails.
Here are some more facts and figures for your old Tioga farmers: We have lead in the southeast corner of the State; we have coal in many sections, and the supply is equal to the wants of our people; we have salt and gypsum in abundance. But the wealth of Kansas lies in our harvest fields. Our prosperity is based primarily on the plow. Kansas embraces over 52,000,000 acres of land. Fully 56,000,000 acres of this vast area of county is capable of producing luxuriant crops. Only a little over 13,000,000 acres – less than one fourth of the entire area – is now under cultivation, and the land classed as under cultivation includes nearly 5,000,000 acres of prairie grass. Practically, therefore, only about 7,000,000 acres of Kansas soil has been touched by the plow. Yet the products this year will aggregate fully ten million bushels of wheat, two hundred million bushels of corn, six million bushels of rye, three million bushels of oats and seven million bushels of Irish potatoes - making two hundred and twenty-six million bushels of these five crops
In an address delivered at the Smith County Fair by Governor John A. Martin, a former Pennsylvanian, who moved to Kansas some thirty years ago, he says: -
“We have planted nearly twenty-two million fruit trees, and have over one hundred and thirty thousand acres of --------- forest trees. The assessed valuation of the property of the State for the year 1885 aggregates $248,820,262, an increase over last year of $11,806,505. The real estate aggregates in value $123,000,000, an increase of nearly six million over the valuation of last year. The railroad property of the State is valued at $30,367,820, in increase of $1,901,912, and we have 4,180 miles of completed railway within our borders. This is all the growth of thirty years I could perhaps more accurately say of twenty years, for Kansas hardly began to grow until the spring of 1865 when the home returning soldiers and the railroads came together. The development of Kansas during these two decades challenges comparison with that of any country in the world. An irresistible impulse seems to have brought hither the best blood and brain of all the nations of the world. Our schools, colleges, universities and churches rival those of the oldest countries, and railways, traversing nearly every organized county, bring a market to every farmer’s granary.”
The State reunion of old soldiers just closed brought together the largest crowd of people ever assembled in the State. It was held at Topeka, the capital, and was the most successful of any yet held. From 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers were present, besides the several companies of the State National Guards and enough people from different portions of the State to swell the crowd to 100,000. Many of the boys who attended the Portland Grand Army encampment ------------ surpassing that in every point except the grand review. No wonder Kansas can get up a successful soldiers’ reunion, for it must be borne in mind that every organized county in the State has a soldier population of from 500 to 2,000. I met some of the Tioga boys here, - James English, J.G. Seeley and Albert Russell, - and I heard of many more but the crowd was so dense that to find them would have been like hunting for a needle in a straw stack. The meeting lasted three days, there being 2,000 tents pitched. There were several batteries of artillery, the State Guards all bringing their guns; and it was a continuous round of enjoyment from the time it opened until the close.
The temperance law is not yet a success as far as Kansas is concerned. In all the larger towns and cities of the State it is being openly violated by the open saloon traffic. The law as passed by the Legislature last winter is a dead one in the cities and openly violated in most of the towns of the State. As the law now stands, drugstores take the place of the saloons, and many of them are worse than the saloons, for usually the country drugstores keep the vilest kind of whisky. It the law is lived up to, the buyer of the liquor is compelled to sign an application for any amount of liquor he desires for medicinal, mechanical or scientific purposes, and the law says this cannot be drank on the premises where it was purchased, nor given away. I do not know of a town in the State where this law is not violated to a greater of less extent. It is by no means as good a law as the old one. There are more open saloons in Atchison today than I ever knew under the license and local option law. In the country towns where the druggists make any pretense of enforcing the law beer is sold for 35 cents a bottle, and $1 a pint is asked for a poor article of whisky. The applications are filed, or supposed to be filed every month with the Probate Judge, for which he gets a fee of five cents on every one – a gold mine for the Probate Judge, providing that all the applications are returned. But there isn’t one druggist in a hundred who will file all the applications, the rest are destroyed. To evade the law many saloonkeepers in the interior of the State started drug stores. It is expected that the special session of the Legislature next winter will change this law or repeal it altogether. There is a growing conviction that the question should again be submitted to the people. High license and local option in Kansas seem to many of our people the bast ways to get out of this vexed question. The latter is the law of Nebraska, and it is said to be working with good effect.
The lease by the Gould interests of the Central Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad system, running west of Atchison for 300 miles, for a period of twenty-five years means the rapid extension of this road to Denver, thus giving Missouri river points four trunk lines to the Rocky Mountains. Railroad building in Kansas next year promises to be livelier than ever before. There is great rejoicing in our city, as well as all along the line, over the prospects of the Denver connection. Then the Atchison line will be the shortest route from the Missouri river to the mountains by from 75 to 100 miles, and will doubtless be largely patronized by Eastern tourists. The Central Branch road as far as completed passes through the Republican and Solomon river valleys, in point of agriculture the garden spots of Kansas.
There is no general election in Kansas this year. Next year a full State ticket and members of the Senate and lower house of the Legislature will be chosen. We have a few “cranks” in the State, in a large majority of cases former Republicans but now blatant demagogues, who are in favor of putting a third ticket in the field and labeling it the temperance ticket. This will not win, I think. Of course the Democrats are urging this. Elections for county officers will be held throughout the State this fall, but they will have no bearing on the State election next year. Efforts will be made to elect the next Legislature “for” or “against” the submission of the temperance law, and in many districts it is quite probable politics will be lost sight of.
Atchison is greatly elated over the location of the Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home at this place, for which, as a starter, the Legislature appropriated $10,000. The Home will be located a mile from the town and will command a beautiful view of the surrounding country, as well as far up and down the valley of the Missouri. Work will begin on the foundation immediately. United States Senator Ingalls promises to work for a Government appropriation. There is no doubt that the day is not far distant when the Government will keep up all such institutions. This is the first public building Atchison has ever secured, although we have had a United States Senator ever since the State was admitted, a Governor for several years, a Chief Justice, United States Post Office Inspector and several other high officials.
As I write the weather is as pleasant as one could wish, although I read in the last issue of the Agitator of a young snowstorm back in “old Tioga.” Our first frost, last nigh, was alight one, and as all vegetation is out of the way, it was timely in helping to ripen and dry up the corn. The leaves have commenced falling, reminding one of the approach of winter. I have not seen a more beautiful fall during my twenty years in Kansas. The Missouri river is unusually low at this season. The crop of Missouri pawpaws is just beginning to ripen and they are arriving in market. I would like to send you one, Mr. Editor. They look and smell deliciously, but I think one would last you a year. An original Missourian is very fond of them.
The Agitator correspondent in company with several carloads of other Atchison people attended the Kansas City Fair. Here is a city just over the line, in Missouri, boasting of a population of over 100,000, and wholly built up by Kansas people. It is only fifty miles from Atchison. It is growing rapidly, and is already the second center of the hog and cattle industry of the United States. I remember well when, in 1865, I could purchase building --- in what is now the center of business for a few hundred dollars, where now the same ground is held at thousands of dollars. Kansas City is the Chicago of the great and growing West. It certainly ought to be a portion of Kansas, and doubtless will be someday.
Here, too, are several of the “Old Tioga” boys. I met my old friend Captain Lewis Bodine, whom I had not seen for several years. He is looking hale and hearty and making money. I remember him when we were “boys” together in Wellsboro, although he was several years older than I was. I remember him again as his company passed us in the Chickahominy swamps, when he turned to me, surprised that I was there. I think in May 1864, and I not sixteen years old, and I remember him again as I have seen him several times since his location in the West, always the same generous, jovial and kind hearted man. He has a good home and excellent wife and bright and happy children. I also talked awhile with my friend Thomas Edwards and his wife through the telephone, at their home nearly two miles from his office. Mr. Edwards is one of the most promising young men of the city.
At the Fair held in Doniphan county two weeks ago I met my old Tioga county friend Henry Steele, now in his eightieth year. He is lively yet, and gets around almost as well as those of forty. He can yet do a good day’s work, converses rapidly and with ease, but is quite gray, and old age is telling on him fast. He will be remembered by many of the older residents of Wellsboro and of Tioga county, where he resided many years. He says he would like again to visit that section and hunt over the old hills of Tioga county for bear and deer, a pleasure doubtless that every Tioga county boy in the West would again like to indulge in.
||An interesting event to Kansas will be the celebration on the 29th
instant of the admission of Kansas into the Union as a Sovereign State
twenty-five years ago. The grand celebration will be held at Topeka the
capital of the State under the auspices of the State Historical Society.
Many of the pioneers who took part in the stormy scenes which preceded
the admission will take part in the exercises. Governor John A. Martin
who was Secretary of the Constitutional Convention which formed the constitution
under which Kansas was admitted and still remains is expected to deliver
an address on the progress of Kansas since 1861.
The day will be observed by appropriate exercises in many of the public schools of the State. In fact the 29th of January has long been known by Kansas school children as Kansas day and its return has been marked by songs, declamations and other observances recalling the past of the Sunflower State. Pennsylvania should fell an interest in the history of Kansas as of the Territorial Governors Reeder, Geary and Walker were Pennsylvanians and the present Governor Colonel John A. Martin is a native of Brownsville in your State.
|Wellsboro Agitator, 15 February 1901
Our Kansas Letter
Former Wellsboro Boy writes much of Interest to Tioga County People
Topeka Pension Agency
Pays Off the Allowances in Three States and Three Territories – Millions of Dollars Paid Out Annually – Mrs. Carrie Nation, the Saloon Wrecker
Correspondence of the Gazette
First Book for Green Free Library [Wellsboro, PA]
Mr. Frank A. Root of Topeka, Kansas, the author of “The Overland
Stage to California,” has the distinction of furnishing the first volume
for the Green Free Library in Wellsboro. And it is proper that he should
do so, for he is a Wellsboro boy. Mr. Root says that he has had more than
500 applications from libraries for his book but he could not afford to
donate so many. Wellsboro is the only one honored with a volume presented
by the author. On the flyleaf he writes the following autograph letter:
“I have known Wellsboro more or less from the first time I saw the little village in 1849. My admiration for the place and its people and institutions are lasting. In the old town I learned the printing business and there had my last school days way back in the fifties [1850s]. I want to congratulate Wellsboro on its free public library and herewith I send the new institution one free passage by “The Overland Stage to California”.”
The volume comprises 650 pages, handsomely bound and profusely illustrated. It contains the personal reminiscences and authentic history of the great overland stage line and pony express and mail transportation from the Missouri river to the Pacific coast. Mr. Root was for years messenger in charge of the express and agent of the Post Office Department to look after the transportation over the plains and mountains in the days which tried men’s courage and endurance. Mr. Root is also the late publisher of the Atchison Free Press, the Atchison Champion, Waterville Telegraph, Seneca Courier, Holton Express, North Topeka Times, Gunnison, Col., Review-Press, and the Topeka Mail.
On behalf of the Green Free Public Library we acknowledge with thanks the receipt of the volume, now in charge of the Agitator, to be placed on a library shelf at the first opportunity. We are glad that a Wellsboro boy who has succeeded in the world – a pioneer in public service, and a brave and able citizen – has the distinction of being the author and the donor of the first volume in our Green Free Public Library.
Letter From Kansas
Former Wellsboro Resident Writes Entertainingly of Home State
Topeka, Kansas, July 12, 1916
The writer this letter has read the Colorado articles printed in the Agitator from week to week, written by the owner and editor of the paper, Arthur M. Roy, with interest and pleasure, because Arthur and the writer were school boys together in our boyhood days back in Wellsboro, and his letters are written from the state adjoining Kansas on the west, and, and many of the scenic points he writes about I have visited. The first time I visited Denver and Colorado was in 1876, the year of the Centennial, and for three day I was the guest of a former Wellsboro boy, Cecil A. Deane. On your way to the mountains, Arthur, I wish you could have visited in Kansas a few days, but you traveled so fast on the trains going through the great prairie state that one sees but little before they are in the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains.
Returning from one of my trips recently I found a card awaiting me, on which was printed: “A.P. Sherwood, inspector immigration service, U.S. Department of Labor, St. Louis, Mo.” There was also written on the margin of the card: Son of Walter Sherwood, Wellsboro, PA. I regret I was away from home at the time, and wish he may call again when he visits Topeka in the line of his work.
On a trip through northwest Kansas a few days since I met a former Wellsboro and Tioga county man, J.H. Detwiler is his name. He was born in Wellsboro in 1854. He is now living in Smith county, Kansas, where he owns several tracts of land. Last year he raised 30,000 bushels of corn. He informed me that he lived in Wellsboro several years and later worked on the farm now owned by Phlem Brown, near Hollidaytown. His father, John Detwiler, hauled many loads of lumber over the old plank toll road between Tioga and Wellsboro. Mr. Detwiler came to Kansas in 1872 from Wisconsin, and located in Smith county.
If I remember correctly you traveled through Kansas on the Rock Island road. When I landed in the state in October 1865, there wasn’t a mile of railroad in operation, now there are more than 11,200 miles in operation. With one exception this state takes the lead in railroad mileage. Four big trunk roads traverse the state from east to west. Besides, Kansas has oil, gas, coal, gypsum and shale for brick making and Portland cement. These deposits are found in many counties, and are being developed on a large scale. The last census gave the state a population of 1,672,545.
In one of your letters, Arthur, you mentioned alfalfa fields while going through Kansas. The total acreage of this cereal is 1,360,000. The crop ranks fourth in area, being preceded only by wheat, corn and oats, and third in value.
In 1914 Kansas raised the largest crop of wheat ever harvested in a single season, or 180,000,000 bushels. In 1915 the acreage harvested was 7,587,715, which produced a yield of 95,141,207 Bushels, valued at $85,178,000. This year of 1916 the harvest is now on. The acreage is 7,754,000 and the probable yield will be close to 90,226,000 bushels, and the estimated value about $81,200,000. Kansas ranked first in value of wheat and corn combined in 1914, besides it ranks first in wheat, first in alfalfa, and first in sorghums. Kansas is making great strides in progress in all directions, and it will continue so to do the older she grows.
The nomination of Hughes for President satisfies the Kansas Republicans, There was a difference in the choice of the Republicans, many of them wanting Root. They are all satisfied with the nominee, and the state will give him a splendid majority. The Bull Moose leaders in Kansas are with the Republicans again with one exception ex-Congressman Victor Murdock. He is abroad during the summer and won’t be here to take part in the campaign in this state. The Republicans are elated, and it looks like Kansas is going to send a united delegation to Congress. I am personally acquainted with most of our state officers. Two of them deserted the Republicans and accepted the Progressive faith for a time. They are now back in the old party, and doing their best for success.
Speaking of local politics, can my old county of Tioga beat Jewell county in this state? In that county there are 11 candidates for the office of sheriff, 5 Republicans, 5 Democrats and one Socialist.
The next National G.A.R. Encampment is held in Kansas City, Mo., about 65 miles from Topeka. At that time the old Boys in Blue living in Kansas will turn out by the thousands. This state has a candidate for National Commander, Capt. P.H. Coney, of this city. There are many former Pennsylvanians residing in this state. I am thinking there will be a good sprinkling of the old heroes present from the Keystone state. In my travels through Kansas I meet former Pennsylvanians in every town. The census shows about 20,000 old soldiers living in Kansas at this time. In Leavenworth there is a U.S. Soldiers’ Home, the largest one of the several now in use. That town is also the headquarters of the National Federal prison, and the Kansas State Penitentiary. It is also the site of Ft. Leavenworth, one of the government forts. Leavenworth is only about 25 miles from Kansas City.
Now, Arthur, the next time you come West stopover a few days and see for yourself what Kansas in Prohibition is enforced, and the people wouldn’t vote to change it back to the saloon. Kansas was the first state to pass a law governing drinking cups on passenger trains, and requiring every passenger to carry one of his own. And a splendid law it is. The Kansas hotels and restaurants are inspected by a state board appointed by the governor for this purpose, and the landlords have to be strict in sanitary reforms or subject to fines. The state has a law, also governing barbershops. The law is strict. And the state has adopted equal suffrage to the women. In county matters many offices are filled by women. In state matters there is a woman candidate for school superintendent, while one woman was defeated for Congress and another one is a candidate this year. So Kansas isn’t so slow.
Kansas reveres the name of John Brown. He loved Kansas, coming to the state in 1855 with all the zeal of a crusader and martyr in order that Kansas should be a free state instead of a slave state. He helped as much as any other man to make Kansas what she has been for more than half a century and what she is today. In his appeal for aid for his son, who is living in Portland, Oregon, and is in want. Gov. Capper says: “In no other state is the soul of John Brown, of Osawatomie, so genuinely incarnated as in Kansas. All of us who live in the state are in his debt. None of us ought ever again to sing ‘His soul is marching on’ if we permit his own son to suffer want during his remaining days on earth.” All Kansans will join in this appeal from the Governor. Liberal contributions are coming in loyally.
----Henry C. Root
The Early Days in Wellsboro
Recollections of Frank A. Root, a Wellsboro Boy, Now Long Years in Kansas
Topeka, Kansas – July 8, 1920
While enclosing my subscription for the Agitator, I am reminded that in the old Advertiser office, directly south across Main street [opposite Dr. Robert Roy’s pioneer drug store], in a one-story log building I began work as an apprentice in 1850. This was the first printing office I was ever in. Wm. D. Bailey, who learned the trade with the Bergers in the Harrisburg Telegraph office, was proprietor and editor of the Advertiser, he having started the paper in the latter forties [1840s]. My first day’s work for Mr. Bailey was sawing up into stove lengths a cord of wood in the rear of the office. Before finishing the printing trade at times I worked also in the Banner and Eagle offices.
About the time I finished the trade, a few job printing presses had been invented and I thought many of the printers would be shortly thrown out of work in consequence. I remember saying at the time, “Thank God a machine to set type and throw compositors out of employment will never be made.” But it seems I was mistaken. The indispensable “linotype” many years ago was invented and today does as much work as half a dozen or more of the old-time hand type stickers. Three score and ten years since I first entered the old printing office have worked wonders in “the art preservative of all arts.”
In the spring of 1857 I left Wellsboro, destined for Kansas. It was during the afternoon of April 21 when I stepped off a Missouri river steam packet and first set foot on Kansas’ virgin soil at Wyandotte, a town with only half a dozen small frame buildings. In the early nineties the name of Wyandotte was changed to Kansas City, Kansas. Several years ago the place had blossomed into the metropolis of Kansas, and the 1920 census gives it a population of more than 100,000. The Kansas river divides it from Kansas City, Mo., the latter now the giant city of the central west, which boasts of a population of a third of a million, but which had less than 2,000 inhabitants when I first walked the only three blocks of its business street in April, 1857.
During the past sixty-three years I have witnessed many changes while living west of the Missouri river. Kansas territory had about 25,000 population in the spring of 1857, but now is nearing the 2,000,000 mark. At least 250,000 Kansans left the state following the opening of Oklahoma territory for ------------- in 1859. Hundreds of thousands of Kansans have changed their residence and settled in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California and Washington.
When I first came west the nearest railroad to Kansas by the Missouri river steamboat route was 250 miles away. Today the state is a network of important trunk roads, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe being the most important line through the great state. I saw the first spadeful of earth turned over for this giant transportation artery sixty years ago. The line now has 10,000 miles of road in Kansas. It has an unbroken line from Chicago west to the “Golden Gate,” and another from Kansas to the Gulf at Galveston. The great road penetrates ten different states and more than half of the counties of our commonwealth. Kansas is now harvesting a wheat crop which it is said will yield more than one hundred million bushels. It also has a promising big corn crop, a large acreage in potatoes, sugar beets and other crops. Most of the early fruit was killed by a heavy May frost, but we are expecting one-third of a crop of winter apples.
Politics promises to be exciting from now on until election. The Republicans of Kansas are practically solid for the Chicago nominees and will give the G.O.P. a good majority.
My first vote for President was for Abraham Lincoln in 1860. I was then a resident of Kansas, which was still a territory, hence could not vote here on national politics. Having heard Lincoln speak two hours and 20 minutes in the pioneer M.E. church at Atchison, December 2, 1859 – the day Old John Brown was executed for his raid on Harper’s Ferry – I wanted to vote for him. A few days before election I went back east 1,500 miles to Wellsboro and there cast my first presidential ballot for the famous “rail-splitter.” Since then I have voted for every Republican who has occupied the Chair of State at the White House. If my life is spared I shall vote for Harding at the November election.
----Frank A. Root
A Wellsboro Boy in Kansas [Frank A. Root]
He Tells of His Life There and The State’s Growth
Topeka, Kansas, April 15, 1921
Taking Greeley’s advice, “Go West, young man,” midway in April 1857, while a boy in my teens, I left my home in Wellsboro bound for Kansas. Journeying towards the setting sun I pushed out beyond the “Father of Waters.” My trip by boat from Jefferson City up the mighty Missouri ended at Leavenworth, April 21, during Kansas’ territorial days.
Nearly sixty-four years have passes since I first reached Kansas. Most of my life during that time was spent between the Missouri river and the Rocky Mountains, upwards of half a century of the time in my adopted state. For over twelve years after coming to the territory, I lived in Atchison, in the latter fifties and throughout the sixties.
The first vote I ever cast was in Atchison, October 4, 1859. It was for the adoption of the Wyandotte Constitution, under which Kansas was admitted into the Union as the thirty-fourth state January 29, 1861.
I can hardly realize that I have been in the central west so long. Much of the time has gone so quickly it seems only a dream. Kansas when first made a territory was 616 miles long, and 204 miles wide, its boundary reaching from the Missouri river to the snow-capped summit of the Rocky Mountains. Its original area was 126,283 square miles. In 1860 following the so-called “Pike’s Peak” placer gold discoveries, Colorado territory was organized and about 40,000 square miles of western Kansas was taken to complete the new territory’s boundary, leaving Kansas 400 miles long, with 82,144 square miles.
In 1857 Kansas had only 26 organized counties. In 1861, when admitted as a state its counties numbered 34. The place where I first set foot on the territory’s virgin soil was Wyandotte, having only half a dozen frame houses. In three score of years the town which has changed to Kansas City, is now the great meat-repolis of the state, several immense packing houses and with a half dozen railroads and over 100,000 inhabitants.
There were only three cities in the territory in April ’57, Leavenworth, Atchison and Lawrence, the former having less than 2,000 population, the two latter not to exceed 1,000 each. Today the state boasts of more than 130 cities, each with over 1,000 population. The nearest railroad then building up the Missouri river to the mouth of the Kaw or Kansas in the spring of ’57 was over 250 miles distant. Wood was the fuel used on the Missouri railroads and on all boats plying the western rivers. Candles were used for lighting by the settlers. Petroleum then had only recently been discovered in Pennsylvania and was unknown in Kansas.
Kansas since I first came here has developed wonders. It has extensive coal deposits; vast quantities of petroleum; immense natural gas wells; enough salt to supply the entire country; endless quantities of gypsum; the finest sand for making glass and fully a score of other useful and valuable things hidden beneath its soil.
In agriculture it is one of the country’s leading wheat states, while it is well up on corn, rye, barley, kaffir [variety of sorghum] and other grains. It is a good fruit state and the prediction is made that 1921 will produce the biggest apple crop in the history of the state. Many of the smaller fruits were badly damaged by the great freeze, which took us unawares on Easter, when the mercury fell to 18 degrees. Kansas is a great railroad state; the various lines threading the commonwealth like a cobweb. With its 103 counties all but four of them are reached by some line of road. I never dreamed of this when I saw the first shovel full of earth thrown in June, 1860, for what has since become the Santa Fe system, which has its thousands of miles of road in the state and lines reaching from Chicago to the “Golden Gate” – from the lakes to the Gulf and many parts of the “Sunny South.”
I like Kansas, where I have lived so long. Here I cast by first vote, when it was a territory, for the adoption of the Wynadotte Constitution, under which Kansas was admitted as the 34th state in January 1861. My second vote in the state was in favor of Topeka for the state capital.
On December 2, 1859, while still living in Atchison, I listened to a great speech by Abraham Lincoln – practically the same address he afterwards made at Cooper Institute in New York. He spoke two hours and twenty minutes in the pioneer Methodist church at Atchison; the day Old John Brown was executed in Virginia for his raid on Harper’s Ferry.
When the noted emancipator was nominated at Chicago for President in 1860, I was determined to vote for him. There was an obstacle in the way and it seemed that I could not vote for President. Kansas then being a territory, on one could vote here on national politics. I wanted to cast my first Presidential vote for the famous “rail-splitter,” and went back east 1,500 miles to Wellsboro and there voted the next day. It was one of the proudest days of my life. I have voted at every national election since and no Republican President who has occupied the chair of State at the White House has failed to receive by vote.
----Frank A. Root
The company did splendid service all through the siege of Petersburg, the Yellow Tavern and the terrific fighting on the Weldon railroad, one of the main arteries of the South to ship supplies to Petersburg and Richmond. It did only its part to help put down the rebellion.
Many of the “boys” in this company were young, several of them being only sixteen years of age. They had courage and grit, and stood the camp and march along with the older ones, as the official war records bear out. For several years it has been the custom of the “boys” of Co. A to meet at the homes of one of their families and enjoy an old-fashioned army bean dinner. It was the pleasure of Hon. & Mrs. Henry M. Foote to entertain several comrades of Co. A, which he was “one of them,” at their pleasant home on Central avenue Tuesday.
Those present were: Wesley L. Saxbury, Clifton Tipple, L.P. Potter, Henry M. Foote, and Henry C. Root, of Topeka, Kansas. It was the pleasure of the writer to attend a similar reunion of the “boys” of Company A two years ago, at this same place, when there were eight present. One of the number was Comrade Dan. Wilson, who answered the last roll call a year ago. Three of the living comrades, Kriner, Bliss and Henry, were unavoidably kept away.
The bean soup was a great treat for the “boys.” They had learned to like it in their army life. On this occasion meats, potatoes, pies, cake and other foods were “thrown in” for good measure. It was also agreed that Mrs. Foote could and did serve the best bean soup they ever ate.
Dinner over, “the boys” put in the afternoon on the porch smoking, and while it was voted that speech making was prohibited, the comrades related many entertaining scenes and anecdotes of their army experiences.
Bidding adieu to the host and hostess, the comrades wished them long life and happiness in the remaining years of their journey through life, and hoped to be well enough to answer “Here” at the next roll call in 1925.
Letter From Kansas
Former Tioga Countian Writes about Various Things of Interest
Topeka, Kansas, January 18, 1926
Kansas pioneers of the seventies and early eighties are rehearsing their experiences of Kansas blizzards of forty and fifty years ago. There are a number of them living yet. These blizzards were in the treeless prairie country in Southwest Kansas, at a time when it was thinly settled, and much of the section was used for grazing. In one of the counties an old-timer recalls to mind a great blizzard when many cattlemen lost their stock by freezing. In his section of country the settlers mostly lived in sod houses and dugouts. In this they were more suited to withstand the terrific impact of the driven snow than frame houses. The blizzard lasted for two days. The wind was so terrific and the cold so severe, and the snow so blinding, that is was impossible for any one to go away from the “soddy” without holding to a rope or some other means of guidance.
Another settler living in the same section of Kansas relates his experience of a genuine blizzard. This settler says that January 7, 1875, was an ideal day. Early in the morning the day following a blizzard was on. It didn’t take long for the thermometer to reach 35 degrees below zero. Buffalo chips and corncobs kept the people alive in their sod homes. As it was, many people poorly clad froze to death, as well as thousands of head of horses and cattle. Many freighters traveling through that section were also frozen, while others had ears and feet frozen. The snow was so blinding one could see but a few yards.
Another old pioneer relates his experiences of a Kansas blizzard he was in. This pioneer came west in 1869, and drove cattle from Texas up through Kansas for a time, and finally located on a ranch near the Colorado border. This pioneer with others lost $85,000 worth of cattle in one of the awful blizzards by freezing. In one of them, and no shelter in those pioneer times, the cattle would stand so close together no other part of their bodies but the back was affected. When the weather moderated and animals began to thaw out, maggots set it, and all such cattle were killed.
W.G. Fairchild, who was judge of his district in southwest Kansas in 1885, a section of country that was sparsely settled at that time, tells of two blizzards that year, one New Year’s day, the other occurring January 6. He relates incidents of the two blizzards which will make the hair stand up to the Tioga county people. He relates that after those storms one could walk from Dodge City to the west border of Kansas on the carcasses of the frozen cattle. Along the Santa Fe railroad telegraph poles were buried under huge snowdrifts. For three days the few settlers were deprived of water. Snow banks covered the homes and barns, and in a few cases cattle had little shelter. Steam coming from the holes in the snowdrifts on the barn roofs was the only indication of life inside. The drifts of snow froze so solid that one could walk over the tops of buildings. Following the melting of the snow Judge Fairchild says men got rich skinning the frozen cattle.
Another incident of the blizzard of 1886; there are those who relate that it was the worst one Kansas ever experienced. Cattle perished by the thousands, and a few people were frozen to death. Western Kansas was settling up fast by people from eastern states. They has been told by others who preceded them that it was unnecessary to lay in stores of roughage for livestock, and that cattle would graze on buffalo grass on the then treeless prairies all winter. Some winters they could, but this was one they couldn’t. The storm broke on as pretty a day as one ever witnessed. The day was calm and warm and suddenly without warning the wind shifted to the northwest and old Boreas delivered himself of his worst. Cattle huddled together and drifted with the storm. Their herdsmen could do nothing with them. They found shelter in the gulches and the snow drifted high about them, driving them to higher and more tenable ground, where thousands upon thousands froze to death that night and the next day.
With the building of railroads, killing out the buffalo grass, converting the treeless plains into fine farms, and the growing of timber, the blizzards in southwest Kansas are a thing of the past. There is quite as much chance for a blizzard now in that part of the state as there is in any eastern state. When John J. Ingalls was a member of the United States Senate from Kansas, in one of his speeches, he said the government made a mistake in opening the western plains for agriculture.
The nearest your correspondent was to one of the awful blizzards, he was living in Atchison. Timber and hills afforded protection. The writer remembers the worst snowstorm he ever saw. Early in the morning it was raining, and before the middle of the day passed a high, piercing wind from the north was on, and the air was filled with snow. It kept up this gait all the afternoon and until midnight. The day after was beautiful as a spring day. One of the railroads reaching Atchison was snowbound for nearly three weeks, every “cut” being bank full. No lives nor stock was frozen. The day after the storm here was a funeral, and to get from the house to the cemetery, hundreds of men were at work opening the roads, they were so full of drifted snow. A bright sun was shining on the drifts and the scene was charming.
A town and post office in northeast Kansas was named after a city in Pennsylvania. It was a good enough place for John W. Smith to be born and grow up in. Taking Greeley’s advice to “go west,” he came to Kansas, and it looked so good to him he staid. He arrived in Atchison in the early part of 1858 and at once he filed with the county clerk on a tract of land about ten miles west of the Missouri river. A town company was organized. Smith was named president and a site for a town was selected. The company gave him the naming of the new town and he named it Lancaster, in honor of his old Pennsylvania town and home. Atchison hadn’t grown much, besides it was thoroughly border ruffian, while Lancaster and vicinity were very decided Free State. He also served as a member of the state senate in the first Free State legislative assembly, as he was an acknowledged leader of the party in that section of the state. Clashes between the two elements were frequent and his life was in danger many times. With the aid of the allies the new town held its own. At one time Lancaster was a rival of Atchison for county seat, and the election in 1859 resulted in the choice of Atchison.
Lancaster was an important station in the time of overland travel, and only ten miles from Atchison. In a publication of July 10, 1858, the following references are made: “
Lancaster city is the name of a new town just springing into existence. The great military road to Forts Kearney, Laramie, Bridger, and to Santa Fe, Utah, Washington territory, Badson purchase, California, New Mexico, etc., passes through the town site; also roads leading from Nebraska City, St. Joe, Deniphan, and to Grasshopper Falls, Topeka, Lecompton and Lawrence.”
Of the Parallel road, which was one of the oldest and best known in that section of Kansas, passed through Lancaster. It had been traveled at that time more than 70 years. In a table printed of distances from Atchison to the gold mines in 1859, the Parallel road is designated as the “First Standard Parallel Route to the Republican Fork of the Kansas River, thence following the Trail of Col. Freemont on his explorations in 1843, to Cherry creek and the mines.” It also says that at this place there was “a settlement, provisions and grass.” Another table, in the same year, of the “Route from Atchison via the Great Military Road to Salt Lake and Col. Freemont’s Route in 1841,” also mentions Lancaster, 5 ½ miles from Mormon Grove, and 9 miles from Atchison, and states that at this point there are “provisions and grass.”
An inventory taken by the state of the value of the institutional properties owned by Kansas, aggregates twenty-six million, while the unfinished construction brings the total up thirty million. Two items in the list, the State University at Lawrence is valued at $5,590,269 and the state hospital at Topeka is worth $2,164,931. Work on several of the new projects is now under way. During the year 1925 the state expended $807,891, while the fund for 1926 is $707,000.
Kansas City and St. Louis are now connected by a paved road and motor cars are traveling over it, making swifter time than the railroads. By the motor route the distance between the two cities is 263 miles. The shortest railroad line is 278 miles. The time made by motor between the two cities was six hours and 24 minutes. The fastest passenger train between St. Louis and Kansas City is the Missouri Pacific and this fast train makes the times in seven hours and 28 minutes. The trail trip of the motor was only for a demonstration, as the driver claims he can make the trip between the two cities in less than six hours and perhaps five hours. So the country between the two Missouri cities now presents a striking contrast to the mud roads of other years, when mules pulling wagons and buggies through mud so deep a motor car would have mired, the motor now runs along on concrete, macadam and gravel.
In building activity during 1926 the Union Pacific Railroad has under way construction work aggregating two and one-half million dollars, which will give this road a double track from Omaha, Neb., to Salt Lake. The completion of this work will take until next autumn, which will give the system a double track mileage between Chicago, Council Bluffs and Salt Lake of 1,145 miles. It will expedite passenger and freight service and effect economies of operation. In conjunction with its eastern connections the Union Pacific will afford a double track line from the Atlantic seaboard to Salt Lake City. This road is expending half a million dollars in Topeka in building a new passenger and freight depot. All this immense system of railroad has been built since the writer of this item landed in Kansas. It is certain the railroads have done a great share to redeem the western country which used to be known as “The Great American Desert.”
|Henry Root Letters Part One||Part Two|