David L. Bristow
To Nebraska in 1857: A Diary of E. F. Beadle
Part 2 of 4
Contents of Part 2:
5 - Welcome to Omaha. Omaha, Nebraska—March 31-April 9.
6 - Pawnees & Claim Jumpers. Omaha, Nebraska—April 10-24.
7 - "Gloomy, Lonesome Day" Omaha, Nebraska—April 25-30.
8 - "Such Business Will Pay" Omaha, Nebraska—May 1-9.
9 - Corax. Omaha, Nebraska—May 10-16.
5 - Welcome to Omaha
Omaha, Nebraska--March 31-April 9.
Tomorrow morning will be four weeks since I left home. Fifteen hundred miles over mountains, prairies, rivers, and lakes intervenes between us, separating us as widely as would the ocean . . . This is truly an unnatural way for a man of a family to live . . .
Tuesday, March 31
Got up feeling much better than I could have expected. Put on my pants (which were about half dry), a clean pair of socks, and a pair of new boots which I bought at St. Louis, stowing my muddy boots into my satchel. It had ceased raining, but was cold and foggy, very much such a morning as the one I first saw here last fall. After breakfast, took the omnibus and reached Omaha about 10 o'clock. To my great regret, found Mr. Tuttle had gone east. He left a letter for me, however, which was some consolation.
After spending [a] half hour at the bank, where I met a number of the Saratoga Men, I went down to Mr. Rogers' to see Br. Cook. I will not say we were glad to see each other-we were overjoyed. Cook felt bad when he learned I had not called to Flint. He had rather have paid my extra expenses than not to have me have gone there. Took dinner where Cook boards and decided to stop there until Sunday night. We must then both seek a new place. The cheapest board I can hear of is five dollars for day boarders and eight dollars where one lodges.
The family where Mr. Cook boards consists of the man and wife, with nine children. The oldest is a son, married, whose wife also lives in the same family. They also have five day-boarders, and they only occupy one room, without a closet pantry or any out house and live upstairs. A curtain divides the room in the center, one side is the dining room, the other has a bed, cook stove, and all kitchen furniture. At night, the beds are spread over the floor for the family, and in the morning piled up in a corner. Such is Cook's boarding house without the least exaggeration.
After dinner called on my old acquaintance. At the bank, met Dr. Kellum, brother of the young man I saw at Auban and later at Leavenworth as I came up. Dr. Kellum's is the place I called one evening with Mr. & Mrs. Tuttle last fall. They were then building a brick house over their heads. I accepted an invitation to tea very gladly. Was much pleased with Mrs. Kellum and her daughter one year younger than Sophia. They live in eastern style and comfortable. They had invited another one of the dignitaries to supper who had lately arrived. It was Gov. Richardson of Michigan. We had a pleasant time and a good supper, after which I returned to the store, where I occupied the bunk of one of the workmen who was out on the prairie proving up his claim. Slept good all night.
Wednesday, April 1
Feel the worse for wear. The excitement kept me up yesterday; today I am lame and sore, and feel the effects of my journey, particularly the last six miles. Spent most of the day dozing over the stove in Cook's workshop trying to get rested. Met. Mr. Warner today.
Thursday, April 2
Not fully rested. Walked about the town and up on the bluffs with Mr. Warner. Business has not yet fully commenced here for the want of lumber from up the river, which is daily expected.
This afternoon, spent a season with Secretary Brown and others of the Saratoga Co. Was posted up on their future proceedings. A hotel to be called the Trinity House and commenced last fall is to be completed by the first of June. This belongs to the Saratoga Company and is paid for. A Hotel Company has been organized to put up a most magnificent hotel comprising an entire block, and to cost $100,000. The plans were got up in Philadelphia. The contract for the stone work and foundation is let and will be commenced in a few days. The hotel is to be completed in one year. There is to be 200 buildings put up in Saratoga this summer. Most of them are under contract and only waiting for lumber to commence. I reported myself ready to take hold next Monday. I am to make out a schedule for the drawing of the lots. There is to be 15 lots to each share drawn on the 17th.
I have become somewhat animated today, which has driven away the blues.
Friday, April 3
A pleasant and warm day. Walked up to the "Trinity House" and over part of the Saratoga town plot. The more I see of it, the better I like it. It is delightful! Charming!! and by far a pleasanter location than Omaha. The Company [will] donate 256 lots to churches, schools, and individuals who will build before July first. I am in for one.
Have completely recovered from my fatigue of the journey.
Saturday Evening, April 4th
I have been to tea and am seated in Cook's workshop, where I have spent every evening since I arrived at this place. This is the night of all others when my mind flies back to my own fireside. In imagination I see you all seated around a warm fire in a comfortable room. Irwin and Sophia wondering where father is tonight. They may sing with truth, "My father's on the wild prairie," for it is a wild night, not cold but the wind blows a hurricane and shakes this frail cottonwood building, creeping in to every crevice, rattling my paper as I write. How I wish I could form one of the group this evening! That cannot be, so I will banish the thought.
The day has been a windy one. Have kept indoors most of the time. Talked a good deal about Saratoga projects; it is the theme now. What I shall make out of it is yet to be ascertained. I am not sorry yet that I have come out here. What another week will bring forth we cannot tell except we will have one the less to live.
One thing I forgot to mention in its proper place. When I left home, I had between ninety and one hundred dollars. I arrived here the 31st ult with but nine dollars, and my trunk to be paid for bringing from St. Joseph to this point. I believe I can travel as economicus as anyone, but this trip has taken the money off fast. I hope it will come back as rapidly and more easy.
We learn by mail today of the appointment of Robert J. Walker of Mississippi [as] Governor of Kansas. I fear it will cause more trouble. My 40th page is full. I will bid you goodnight.
E. F. Beadle
Omaha City, April 5, 1857
Dear Wife and Children,
It is Sunday and a very cold one. The wind has been blowing from the north since yesterday morning, and today we can only keep comfortable by getting close to the hot stove. I shall not venture out to church today.
Tomorrow morning will be four weeks since I left home. Fifteen hundred miles over mountains, prairies, rivers, and lakes intervenes between us, separating us as widely as would the ocean. The weeks will undoubtedly be lengthened into as many months before we meet again. This is truly an unnatural way for a man of a family to live, but deeming it for the best, we must try and be content. Letter writing is the only means by which we can communicate with each other. As yet I have not heard a word direct from home and expect it will be another week still before I get a letter. After that I hope to receive one every week. Cook gets one regular as the weeks come, and I think where there is two or three to write you can write as often as Elizabeth does. You must bear in mind that a letter from one's home when far away, is much more welcome than a letter can be from the absent one, when you are surrounded by warm friends and relatives and all the comforts of life.
I left orders at the Barnum House, St. Louis, to have any letters that should come for me to be forwarded to this place.
You have, enclosed, the balance of my diary up to the date of this. I shall continue it for the present at least and mail once a week. Until the roads get more settled I shall send my letters by the boats to St. Louis, as it now takes ten days for the mails to cross the state by coach.
It is impossible for me to form any correct estimate of what my prospects will be here this summer. I shall know better when Mr. Tuttle returns from the East. I think, however, that I shall do well, judging from present prospects. Mr. Brown was over anxious for me to go to Lawrence with him. Offered me one thousand per year, and if that was not enough, he would give me twelve hundred. I could not accept even if I desired it.
Rents here are enormously high. Houses of one room, fifteen feet square, rent at $25 per month; provisions are in the same proportion. Wood $6 per cord. Dry goods and apples are quite reasonable; the latter are as cheap as in the city of New York-$6 per barrel. Unless more farmers come in, provisions will keep up for a number of years yet. I do not deem it advisable to think of moving my family to this place until buildings are more plenty. Many families live in houses no larger or better than our wood house. Such a house as we lived in at Cold Springs before we built would rent for $30 per month. This would seem discouraging to emigration, but wages are in proportion. I believe that if there was five hundred dwellings now ready for tenants, they would be filled by the first of June. When I left St. Joseph, there were some fifty families awaiting a boat for this place. When they come I know not what they will do, as there is not a vacant house in town and the hotels are full. Boats are daily expected with lumber which will be speedily be put into dwellings.
I hope and trust you are comfortable so far as the necessities of life go. Necessities in Buffalo are luxuries in Omaha. I wish someone would buy the house in Buffalo, as I cannot say how I shall be prepared to meet the payments. As it respects your going East this summer, you should do as you think best. But try and keep the children to school, for should they come to this place they will not have the advantages they do at Buffalo.
Irwin: How do you get along with your school and doing the work of splitting wood, and going on errands now father is away? I presume you are the best boy now you ever was. I have been looking at a mustang pony, which I think some of buying for you if you come out here this fall. Then you can take Sophia out a-riding on the prairie in a little buggy or go a-horseback ride with her. You be a good boy and get your lessons well and when you come to Omaha you shall have a horse.
Sophia: I have not received one of those letters you were going to write me. I presume, however, you have written but the letters have not arrived. I shall look for a letter every week after they commence coming. I wish you could step in and see what a bed and room Pa has to sleep in. I am to have a new boarding place tomorrow, where I shall lodge and perhaps fare better.
You must he good and kind to your mother, brothers, and Aunt Sarah, and learn fast at school and how to do housework at home, for when you come to Omaha, you and mother will have to do all the work. Give my Love to Aunt Sarah and Charlotte.
Mate: Cook says he shall not move his family here unless I do, as there is no woman's help to be had, and should Lib be sick she must suffer. When help can be got it is one dollar per day. Washing is ten cents apiece. When one comes, both must. You can then help each other. One of the boys in the family where I board does the washing. There is eight boys and one girl in the family.
My health is usually good. The first night on the steamboat on the Missouri, I took cold, since which time I have been troubled with a cough. Nothing alarming, however, though unpleasant. I think it is getting better.
I think I have written enough for this time. Kiss the children for me and remember me to my friends and relatives.
E. F. Beadle
Monday, April 6
The wind went down with the sun last night, but it had blowed from the north long enough to bring down the arctic region weather-and water in our basin two inches deep froze solid. This is Omaha the 6th of April.
The river continuing to rise prevents communication from the Iowa side and we have no mails from the East today. My cold has settled on my lungs. My chest is very sore and I have a severe pain in my back between my shoulders. If I was home I should be down sick.
In looking up a new boarding place, I have been very fortunate, through the intercessions of Mr. Warner, in getting in at Mr. Estabrook's, the Attorney General of the territory. In could not have got a better place in the territory. They have no boarders except Mr. Warner and myself. The family consists of Mrs. Estabrook's father and three other male relatives of the family, two children-a girl, eleven, and a boy two years of age. Mr. Estabrook is in Wisconsin on business. The three male relatives are going out on their claim in a few days, when shall have a chance to sleep at the house where I can doctor up. Mr. E. has horses, cows, and poultry, and we live very first rate, "real human." Augusta Estabrook is a very good substitute for Sophia as she is a singer and plays on the guitar.
The wind has changed to the south and the weather is fast moderating and tonight Spring again.
Tuesday, April 7
The Big Muddy is mad and gone out of its banks--has not been so high in twenty years. It is said that teams cannot cross on account of the bottoms being overflowed between Sioux City, Iowa and St. Joseph, Missouri, a distance by the river of 500 miles. We can get no mails from the east.
This morning was very mild. At breakfast, Augusta was trying to get some of the men to go for a horseback ride with her, but they were going away on business and I offered to go. The Pony was got out and one of the horses, but the rain settling in prevented. Went to the shop and up to Florence--six miles--in a covered buggy with Mr. Cook to contract for coal. I thought I would try going out. But it rained all the way and the wind blew strong from the northwest, so that when I got back my cold was not much better. Took some medicine at noon. Spent the afternoon with Saratoga Co. After tea, the baby danced while the little girl played on the guitar and the grandfather on the violin. The apples were then passed around, after which I came up to the shop and wrote the above. The boarding place I now have makes me forget I am on the borders of civilization. My back pains me dreadfully tonight.
Wednesday, April 8
It is evening, the weather has moderated, and it is delightful out of doors after such a cold wind as we have had. The moon is in its full and the river bottoms which are not overflowed are dotted with prairie fires. Many people are out enjoying the evening. Notwithstanding the winds here, we have weather that cannot be approached by New York where I have lived. I am becoming more and more attached to the place and trust it will be my future home, and if I had a house I should wish my family was here today.
Feel the most like myself today of any day since I have been here. My lameness has mostly left me; the cough, however, still hangs on. I have had three mails from the east since last night; they were brought over in a skiff. I got no letters. Cook did. I have been working with Mr. Warner a little today, helping him build a fence around one of his lots. He is to help me in return. The river is still rising.
Mrs. Estabrook gave me some interesting details of her pioneer life when they first came to the Territory. They lived in what they now use as a barn (it is not fit for horses). It is very low, and at the time the family occupied it, its only roof was made by putting a few small poles lengthwise and covering them with prairie grass; had no boards on the floor, but covered the ground with hay and spread down a rag carpet and put in such furniture as they could procure, the house being on descending ground. When it rained, the water would run through the hay under the carpet and pass out on the other side. One night during a thunderstorm, a hole broke through the hay roofing. The rain poured in faster than it would run out, and they were forced to use a wash tub most of the night, carrying it out as often as it filled, which was every few minutes.
This was the way our Attorney General lived when he first came here. How would Mrs. Beadle like this mode of living?
Thursday, April 9
A pleasant morning. Took a horseback ride immediately after breakfast. Little Augusta manages her pony like a skillful rider as she is. She is the smallest girl I ever saw ride a horseback. She will dash up bluffs and down ravines and over prairie as fast as I have wished to ride, and I am not sure but she would be a better guardian for me than I for her. When she was but three years old, her father would ride out with her, tying her to her horse so she would not fall, and then gallop off at full speed. She will lend her pony to my pet, as she calls Sophia.
Worked on the fence with Mr. Warner part of the day and devoted some time to the Saratoga enterprise. The river continues to rise. No boat up.
I got a paper this afternoon from someone in Buffalo. The paper was the Daily Republic of March 16th. On the wrapper was "Kirby"-I cannot think who sent it, as I can call to mind no one of my acquaintance by that name. Whoever he may be, I hold myself under obligations to him. The paper looked like an old friend, and I read it advertisements and all. I miss a daily after tea very much. We shall soon have one here, a Mr. Wyman, our present P. M. has gone east for the type and press.
My lameness and cold has settled in the glands of my throat since morning and I can hardly swallow. I shall doctor up tonight, as I commence to lodge at my boarding house. Mr. Warner was just as I am soon after he came here.
There is a meeting land agents called this evening to fix a tariff of prices. If my throat is not too bad I shall surely attend.
6 - Pawnees and Claim Jumpers
Omaha, Nebraska--April 10-24.
The captain of "the regulators" is our Mayor, a man six-and-a-half feet high and well-proportioned. He took the claim jumper by the collar, escorted him down the street, and with a dozen or fifteen men with loaded muskets, they started for the "Big Muddy" . . . The party returned without the prisoner and no questions asked.
Friday, April 10
Attended the meeting last evening. We organized a stock board. Became acquainted with many new businessmen, and have spent the most of this day talking up the business of last evening and arranging for a permanent organization for our individual benefit and the benefit of Eastern capitalists who are becoming imposed upon by false representations.
The Pawnee Indians are camped near here-the old men, women, and children. The strong and healthy are out on a buffalo hunt. Those remaining here hang about the houses, begging their living, stealing cats, dogs, and the refuse of the slaughter houses. Someone trying what he could do with his revolver shot a fine dog about a week ago. Today the Indians found it, and although it had commenced putrifying, they squat down, skinned it and carried it off to cook. Such is about the best food the filthy Pawnees get while the hunters are away.
River still rising. Weather mild and pleasant this evening. My throat is well, and the only lameness I have is probably occasioned by my not being used to horseback riding, and the horse I had was a hard rider. Owing to the rise in the river and prevailing north winds, no boats have got up yet. The river rising makes the current more rapid.
Saturday, April 11
A cold north wind blowing again. A man from Fremont, a town west of the Elkhorn, came here for provisions, and in crossing the Elkhorn on his return-which was on a rise-was drowned. The Elkhorn and Platte are both impassible at this time, with wagons.
Great excitement on the frontier! Attack upon the settlers by the Pawnees!! A Pawnee shot!!!-Mr. John Davis, Justice of the Peace at Salt Creek, Lancaster Co., N. T., arrived here this morning about 10 o'clock calling upon the governor for militia to assist in exterminating the Pawnees. Mr. Davis reports that depredations have been frequent during this fall, winter, and present spring, until they have lost their oxen, horses, cattle-and in fact everything the Indians could drive or run off. On Tuesday, a number of Pawnees came to Salt Creek, painted and in war costume, demanding the lands and pay for the deer and wolves the whites had killed, or they would kill and scalp them; that they had taken the fort and scalped the people, that there was a party of one hundred and fifty Pawnees in the rear which would soon be up. The present party continued in the vicinity all night hooting and yelping.
About daylight, they approached the house of Mr. Davis with threatening signs. One of the Pawnees raised his gun-apparently in the act of shooting-but was not quick enough, as a ball from Mr. Davis' gun killed him on the spot. The balance fled. Mr. Davis, fearing a further attack, buried the dead Indian and started with his family toward Plattsmouth, which is on the same side of the Platte River as Salt Creek. Before reaching Plattsmouth, he was met by a party of six men and their families going to Salt Creek. Mr. Davis give up his gun to them and left his wife in their charge, himself continuing on to Plattsmouth where he was taken across the Platte in a skiff. At Bellevue he got a man to bring him here. He had in his company another aggrieved individual who had been a great loser by the Pawnees.
The Governor did not feel like calling on the militia and rushing upon the Pawnees until he knew more of the affair. He, however, dispatched General Thayer to the vicinity of Salt Creek, with orders if necessary to call on the militia of that Lancaster County. This was not wholly satisfactory to Mr. Davis, who wanted to raise a company of volunteers and exterminate the whole race of Pawnees. In this he had the sympathy of a certain officer of this Territory who has just resigned at Washington with a view of being elected to Congress. His object is probably to get the squatters' vote. The said official resides at Bellvue and took Mr. Davis and friend in his carriage to Bellevue ready to head a party of volunteers.
The Governor said he did not believe an Indian could be found in fifty miles of Salt Creek when they got there, but they probably would be revenged some day on Mr. Davis. The Goverernor further said the Indian agent was expected every hour and would go out at once, and if he found it necessary, he was the proper person to call on him, the Governor, and then the U. S. Government would pay the expenses. I had an invitation to go with General Thayer, but the ex- Indian agent wished to go and I was obliged to give way. I had got all ready as Gen. Thayer was very anxious to have me go along. The General is, I understand, another candidate for the same office as the other gentleman.
This afternoon I received a letter from Mr. McKim under date of March 26th. Seventeen days after I left Buffalo, still I get none from my own family. Did they wait seventeen days and not write to me? I am becoming very anxious about a letter from home. Could I get one tonight it would have been a great consolation, as it is Saturday night when I think most of being home.
Sunday, April 12
The steamer Silver Heels came in during last night, bringing about 250 passengers. What is to be done with them I cannot tell. The boat brought no lumber, or houses could he built in quick time. Mrs. Smith, the lady whose husband was left at Jefferson City and who we left at Leavenworth over two weeks ago came up on the Silver heels. Mrs. Estabrook took them in, giving them breakfast and dinner. By that time they found two rooms for rent for $25 per month. They have gone into them to make the best of it possible. Every family here has to be as accommodating as possible or the people would suffer. I cannot conceive where they all find shelter in Kansas. Troubles are anticipated in Kansas.
Through the kindness of Mr. Smith, who saw my trunk at the storehouse in St. Joseph, I received it by this boat. I have been arranging the contents. One of the new shirts I brought with me has been returned from the washer woman's with a spot of iron rust on the bosom as large as the bowl of a tablespoon, quite an ornament.
This afternoon the wind is blowing again the way you never saw it blow down Niagara St.
I have an opportunity to send this by a daughter of Mr. Goodwill's who is going to Batavia to spend the summer at school, or by a Col. Parker of the City of New York. Shall go up and if not to late it will go by St. Louis on the boat, otherwise I will mail it.
The water in the river is between 16 and 17 feet above low water mark. Between the steamboat landing and the town there is a space 500 feet wide where in this strip of water the passengers must be taken across in a skiff. At Saratoga the landing is dry. The steamer is to return tonight if the wind is not too high. Am about well again.
Monday, April 13
Water going down in the river faster than it came up. Cold north winds continue, but not blowing a gale. After dinner, went up to Saratoga to show the gift lots to some strangers who wish to build. While on the plateau and revolving in my mind what would be the best part of the town, I conceived a project, [which] I believe will put money in my purse.
Returning to Omaha, I learned a large eastern mail had been received, and went direct to the Post Office. Found nothing in my box. Went to Cook's, and there I found
A Letter from Home - Yes, a letter from my own fireside. No one can fully estimate the value of such a letter unless they have been in a like situation. Five weeks and a day had passed during which time we have traveled by all possible modes of conveyance night and day, been in eight different states and two territories, mingled with all sorts of people from the frozen north to the sunny South, until the distance that separated me from my family seemed almost like that around the globe. At last, however-after a tedious journey over land, across river, lakes, streams, prairie and mountains-my revered Uncle "Sam" opened his mail bags and dealt out to me a little parcel, which, though very small, bore an impress of home and produced a powerful effect, like the doses dealt out by the homeopathists. A mingled sensation of joy and fear possessed me-Were they all well? If not well, were they all living? Had disease or death been there? There had been time for sad changes.
I took the letter unopened and went down to my boarding house. Mrs. Estabrook knew I had a letter as soon as she saw me. Threw down the letter on the table. Went down in the basement, washed my face and hands and brushed my clothes, then went up into the sitting room and carefully opened the letter. There was a letter enclosed from each one. Those little fingers of my children had been busy in adding to the joy of their father who was far away. Now which one shall I read first? Can't read them all at a time, so I decided to take them in the order of the ages of the writers. I read each one a number of times, which answered for my supper that night. My mind was so full of the thoughts brought up by the receipt of the letter, I slept but little although all were well at home.
Tuesday, April 14
A steamer came in last evening. She is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, loaded with merchandise and furniture-mostly the latter, among which is some [that is] very nice, better than has been in market heretofore. The boat is the Spread Eagle, twenty-five days from Pittsburgh. She had on 40,000 feet [of] dressed lumber for this place. Was told at some port below they could do better to sell it there, which they did-very much to their loss and our regret.
Figuring some on my new project. It will work well. A company of forty came in this morning from across Iowa; going to locate in Saratoga and work at gardening this summer. That will pay.
They have commenced to break ground today for a new hotel here, to be called the Park House. The citizens have voted to sell their park to complete the Capitol building, which was not appropriated for by the last Congress. Saratoga agrees to pay one-fourth necessary to complete it. The building will be completed this summer, at all events, by the City itself.
Wednesday, April 15
Staked out a building lot in Saratoga, and selected a lot of shade trees and wild gooseberry bushes on the bluff of the tableland to set out in my lot as soon as it is fenced.
The steamer White Cloud arrived here about seven o'clock this evening with 150 passengers and a good supply of provisions. Shingles, doors, and window sash, but no lumber as yet. Among the passengers, I found two old acquaintances; one I traveled with last fall, the other was the gentleman of whom I bought the large map we have of "Our Country." His brother is the Baptist Minister of this place.
When the boat arrived, it seemed one half of the inhabitants were at the landing. When the plank was put out, they rushed on in such a body it was some minutes before the passengers could get off. Then such a peeping into each other's faces to recognize some expected friend. The vicinity of the ladies' cabin was one perfect jam of men eagerly peeping over the heads of more forward ones, or crowding through to get a sight at some dozen ladies who were as eager to single out their husband, brother, or friend. I mixed in, but no one knew I was there. I was not, however, as disappointed as some hundred others must have been.
Not as windy today or as cold, but it froze hard last night. It has been cold over a week. We hope for a change.
Thursday, April 16
A delightful day and no wind. Have spent the day in showing up strangers. Been up to Saratoga. Everyone goes off in ecstasies about the location. Can sell lots as soon as they are divided. The Steamer Emigrant came in about five this afternoon-about seventy-five passengers and a supply of lumber.
Clouded up at dark to rain as it was warm, but the rain came down in snow. Went up to the Post Office at eight o'clock. The ground was white with snow, but warm air. Got a letter from Brother Frank. Went to bed as tired as I want to be. Had the nightmare and was nervous all night. This was an awful one to me.
Friday, April 17
Two inches of snow this morning, with a prospect of clearing off. Prospects, however, have deceived us and it has snowed steadily all day, driving from the northeast. There is probably a foot of snow on a level, and still it is coming down as fast as ever. I never recollect but one such time; that was at Cooperstown many years ago. The snow then fell three feet. The storm does not discourage me with making Nebraska my home. "Where there is a will there is a way." I also understand this cold weather we have had has prevailed south and east.
The steamer Minnehaha came in this afternoon with another hundred passengers and more lumber. We are now having a boat daily. Where the passengers all get a chance to stand up, even, under cover, I cannot conceive. I ventured up town this afternoon and could see two or three to each door asking for board. I cannot too much appreciate my boarding place. - Goodnight.
Saturday, April 18
This is a most delightful January morning. The sun shines clear and bright and the snow sparkles and crisps under foot like mid-winter. Last evening about dark, Cook came down and told me General Thayer wished to see me about going to Plattsmouth with him. The General had been notified of further outrages by the Pawnees. Some whites were out looking for the stock they had left previous when they were attacked by the Pawnees, with whom they had a brush. One white man and two Indians were killed, and three Indians taken prisoner. The whites then retreated to Weeping Water, where there is a few squatters' cabins. Here at last accounts they were surrounded by the Pawnees.
Not finding the General at his house or office, I went down to the Minnehaha, where he had engaged passage, and awaited his arrival. We then put on board five boxes of U. S. muskets, one six-pounder, and a supply of ammunition. The General was to take no one with him, but wished me to go along. (By the way, Mr. Brown introduced me here as Doctor Beadle. I am accordingly called Doctor by most of the people.) The Dr. agreed to go. The boat was to leave this morning at daylight. Gen. Thayer was to be on board the boat at daylight. I thought of going on the same evening, but getting somewhat wet being out so long in the snow, and my throat sore, I took some ginger tea and doctored up to take an early start this morning. Got up at daylight, but could not see the boat, so I went back to bed disappointed. When I got up an hour after the boat was just leaving, I felt crestfallen. My ambition for glory fell below zero. I anticipated great sport in organizing a company at Plattsmouth and going out to Weeping Water. Not that I expected we should be called upon to fire again, for in this case I should prefer to be away, particularly when there was no one to engage with but the poor miserable Pawnees. There would have been, however, a novelty in the enterprise and perhaps I might have been promoted.
Claim jumpers are being brought up daily. Most of them forego their claimed right on the decision of the Club, who give them a fair and impartial trial. Occasionally, however, one is found who is stubborn and will not at once yield. One of this class was tried last evening and this morning, but would not abide by the decision of the club, which was for him to yield his claim and withdraw his filing. The captain of "the regulators" is our Mayor, a man six-and-a-half feet high and well-proportioned. He took the claim jumper by the collar, escorted him down the street, and with a dozen or fifteen men with loaded muskets, they started for the "Big Muddy." In general, the prisoner comes to terms. What was the result in this case I cannot say. The party returned without the prisoner and no questions asked. There is no law here except club laws and vigilance committee to enforce them. A man gets a fair hearing and justice done him, but it is quick done and no heavy expense saddled on the County. I am not sure but in most cases this is the best plan. All are agreed and a man knows what to depend on. I think I will be quiet and peacable.
No mail east of Iowa today. Mr. Warner, Mrs. Estabrook, and myself were expecting letters. We were, however, all alike disappointed and could sympathize with each other. Mrs. Estabrook's disappointment resulted in the return of her husband, which she was not expecting for one or two weeks. Mr. E. reported the roads in a fine state across Iowa. Which makes Mr. Warner and myself wonder the more that we do not get more letters.
This day has been as warm a one as any we have had since I have been here this spring, and has melted the snow rapidly. The steamer Florence came in this evening, discharged her freight for this place and passed up to Florence.
Sunday, April 19
Soon after breakfast the steamer Omaha came in bound for Sioux City. Mr. Estabrook and myself went down to the boat, which was loaded as full as she could hold. Among the freight which has been discharged within the past few days, we found large quantities of provisions, lumber, and fruit trees. Business will now fairly commence and in one year the yards will be ornamented with shrubbery and fruit trees, giving everything an Eastern air.
This has been a delightful day and one half of the ground is bare again. I begin to be uneasy for some regular business. The drawing of the lots in Saratoga, which was to have taken place the 17th, has been adjourned two weeks, awaiting the return of Mr. Tuttle. A meeting of the board is to be held Wednesday the 22nd when I am to submit a written proposition to them for their action. I do so at their request. I cannot say whether it will be accepted or not. If it is, it will be money in the pockets of Saratoga owners, and I believe a small pile in my own.
The claim jumper that was taken off yesterday held out until they threw him into the river three times. They attached a rope to him, threw him into the "Big Muddy," then pulled him out again. If he was not then ready to forego his claim, they would souse him in again, repeating the dose until he came to terms, which was not until he had been in the third time.
The steamer Florence stopped at Saratoga, discharged some freight and one passenger. This is the first boat that ever stopped at Saratoga and Dr. J. Seymore the first passenger ever landed. The freight was some brick machines and six carriages for Wm. Young Brown. This is the commencement of commercial business in Saratoga.
Monday, April 20
A raw, disagreeable day. Remained indoors, speculating on the contents of a letter which I expected at twelve noon. Did not get the letter. Felt a little out of sorts. Mr. Estabrook suggested that I hint to my wife that divorces are very easily obtained in this country and perhaps she would be more prompt. Fearing she would not write at all if I should, I refrain from mentioning the matter at all.
Tuesday, April 21
Assisted Mr. Estabrook this forenoon in copying some legal papers. The snow has disappeared. The steamer Col. Crossman arrived and departed today.
Wednesday, April 22
Presented my proposition, in writing, to the Sulphur Spring Land Co. Took a stroll down at the south part of Omaha among the hazel brush and prairie can. Passed through occupied Pawnee tents. Two Pawnee boys came out half-naked and wanted I should give them five cents to shoot at a mark. On the side of a bank I found where a mud hut of the Pawnees had been during the winter. The ground in the vicinity was strewn with bones of animals of various size, including skulls of cats, dogs, deer, horses, and cattle. The vicinity resembled the entrance to a wolf's den more than that of a human habitation.
I sat down by the side of a lake formed by the high water of the Missouri, and remained motionless for a half hour. The wild ducks came up within ten feet of me and fed along the bank. There were some beautiful ones. If I had had a good shotgun, I could have killed a fine lot of them. Or even with my revolver, had it been with me, I could have killed some, they came so close to me.
Thursday, April 23
Two steamers came in this morning at daylight, the Edinburgh and Admiral. I went down before breakfast. Both boats were well-loaded with passengers and lumber. The latter is very much wanted here, as the little that has come in has been mostly used-even at $100 per thousand, which is the price asked for lumber at this time. The same lumber can be bought in Buffalo at $16 per thousand.
Having written this much immediately after breakfast, I was called upon by a carpenter from Centralia, Illinois, whom I induced while there to come here. He has two other carpenters and his brother with him. They have brought their household furniture and are going to select a gift lot in Saratoga, pitch their tent and go to work. Immediately after dinner I shall go up with them to select their lot. They brought a present for me from Harriet. It was a small paper box about eight or ten inches square, in which was a fruit cake, a piece of sponge cake, a lemon, and some nuts, with a line requesting me to divide with Cook. You see I am remembered by someone.
Today's mail brings me a letter from Mr. Adams, from which I learn all are well at home. I would like the information to come from home itself. The letter was dated April 10th. It contained intelligence of the final result of Thomas & Lathrop's failure. Notwithstanding all they done towards, I feel sorry for them. Misery, you know, loves company. I am glad to learn that Irwin and Frank are in Auburn.
The weather has become pleasant and business is on the move and our town filled with strangers. Cooperstown is well represented: one store here has four clerks from C. Two of the number is J. Collins and Parley Johnson. During the arrivals of the last week, Joseph McNeal and Wm. Pitcher came to town to work at gardening. Mr. Tuttle sent them on.
Evening. Went up immediately after dinner with my Centralia friends and staked out a lot in Saratoga. They at once dispatched a team for their effects. They had two wagonloads. They were to arrange their boxes in the form of a hollow square, put up their stove, cook their first meal in the territory, and sleep the first night under their tent. Tomorrow they will have up a temporary cabin covered with cloth. This is the correct way to do instead of paying six dollars per week for board, and they will fare about as well as to board. Their company consists of four: one person is only fourteen years of age and he is to be their cook. The weather is fine and they will have great times. They have a violin and bass viol with them to make evening music. I have an invitation to dine with them on wild duck as soon as they shoot one. Their location is lot ten in block 266, near the Trinity House, which I find is beginning to look up some. I noticed seven commencements of new buildings since I was last up to Saratoga. What a change there will be in the next two months.
Returning to Mr. Estabrook's at 5 o'clock, I found the horses ready for my second horseback ride with Augusta and we had a pleasant ride for an hour before tea.
While I am writing in my room, Mr. Estabrook and his family are in the sitting room, making fine music. Mr. E. is playing the violin and singing bass. Mrs E. and the little girl are singing other parts and they fill the house with music.
This day I go into the streets where I am at home and acquainted and I feel like a stranger, there are so many strange faces here, and this evening the streets are filled with the elite of Omaha. I could not believe there was so many moving bundles of dry goods in town. The silks and satins are fluttering on Farnam Street equal to our-no!-your main street. Buffalo ain't nowhere when compared to Omaha or Saratoga. We are a fast people here. Last fall when I was here there was not a piano in town; now there is over a dozen.
There has been a few Omaha Indians in town today. They are splendid-looking fellows, finely and gaudily dressed in all the trappings of the proudest red men. I would attempt a description, but have not time tonight as it is bedtime. Will do so hereafter. The Omahas are a great contrast to the filthy Pawnees who go half-naked. I could look a half day on the noble Omahas.
Friday, April 24
Took a horseback ride up to Saratoga to give directions about buildings. Found my friends had got a load of lumber and commenced their house. Had a fine time the past night, had a carpet spread on the prairie and everything comfortable. The cabin formed by boxes was not high enough to stand up in; the stove was outside. Continued my ride up to Florence.
7 - "Gloomy, Lonesome Day"
Omaha, Nebraska--April 25-30.
The little girl had on, in her coffin, a string of coral beads to which was attached a little locket. You cannot conceive the feelings the sight gave me.
Saturday, April 25
Another Sad Chapter in my diary. Among the passengers that came up the river when I did was a Mr. Baker, his wife, son, and daughter-from western New York. Mr. Baker came here in the winter and made arrangements to establish a nursery. Got 300,000 trees and grafts at Rochester and started early with his family for Omaha. His son was eleven years of age and his daughter seven. The little girl on the boat was taken down with the whooping cough and the first day was quite sick with a high fever. After that all was well except her cough, which was severe. At St. Joseph, Mr. Baker's family was among the number that were obliged to wait for another boat to go up to Omaha. They came up on the steamer Silver Heels on Sunday the 12th, the same time Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which I have written about, came up. The little girl was around the cabin, but one eye was red as blood from coughing, which had strained her eyes very much. The boy had been taken with the hay fever and was confined to his bed. They were acquaintances of Mr. Goodwill of this place, who took them in charge. From time to time I learned both the children were quite sick. Yesterday I had started to go up to Saratoga in the afternoon. Was met by Mr. Goodwill, who told me both the children were dead and it was then time for the funeral. The girl had died at noon and the boy at evening of the day previous. I attended the funeral, and you may readily imagine it was a heartrending scene. The only children of the family, a boy and girl, lay side by side in their separate coffins. The little girl had on, in her coffin, a string of coral beads to which was attached a little locket. You cannot conceive the feelings the sight gave me. The balance of the afternoon was a gloomy one to me. Oh, how homesick I was.
There was a large funeral and all seemed to sympathize with the afflicted parents. Such is the incidents of life and we must submit, heartrending as they are to us.
Having written this much since breakfast and mended Miss Augusta's doll for her company today, I will leave my writing and walk up to Saratoga on business.
At Saratoga we found our carpenters had got their frame up and a canvass over it and were writing for their families. Mr. Warner and myself selected our gift lots and intend commencing our improvements soon, and when we are obliged to leave our present boarding house we shall keep house by ourselves. We may have to leave when Mrs. E. commences housecleaning, as she thinks of visiting her friends in Wisconsin this summer. As long as they keep anyone, Mr. Warner and myself can stay.
The traveling has so much improved across the State of Iowa, Mr. Cook got his letter today which he usually gets on Mondays. I have been seven weeks away and got one letter. I was to have one every week when I left. Think not because I write every day and you know every act of mine of interest, and know that I am well, that I have no interest in hearing occasionally from home. I will, however, stop my complainings and say no more about your not writing. Act your own pleasure. And at the same time remember I am not where I can pass my time as pleasantly as among relatives and friends-but on the borders of civilization with but little to relieve the monotony of pioneer life.
Sunday, April 26
We have a cold raw wind from the north making it unpleasant out-of-doors, and I have been content to remain within today, reading "The Hills of the Shatemuc."
The first bell in Nebraska was hung yesterday on the Methodist church, and today we have "The sound of a churchgoing bell." It is a small affair and sounds like the market bell of Buffalo, but will answer for Omaha. We shall have one worth hearing on the Presbyterian church we are to build in Saratoga this summer. Br. Cook called down this evening and spent an hour or two.
Monday, April 27
Nothing of importance today other than the acceptance of my proposition by the Saratoga Company. Went up and staked out my lot. A delightful day.
Tuesday, April 28
Spent the day in the Saratoga enterprise. Have partially agreed to put up a warehouse in Saratoga. The steamer St. Mary's is up today. Received a letter from Cousin Benjamin of Memphis. The family were greatly disappointed at not seeing me there as I wrote them. Some of the family waited home two weeks for me. We have had a summer day this. We have no springs here. It steps at once from winter to summer.
Wednesday, April 29
Took Mr. Estabrook's horse and buggy and rode down some six or eight miles to a sawmill where there was oak timber and ordered some fence posts sawed for my Saratoga lots, where I am to put up a cabin. The buggy ride was over a most delightful country having a variety of prairie and timberland. I went alone and had all pleasure to myself. Some of the farmers on the route are living in a hole in the ground for want of time to build better dwellings. The farmers are destined to become wealthy if they half work, as their land will yield the greatest abundance and they have a market almost at their own door. What a wonderful change has taken place on this side of the river in three years.
Got home from the mill to a late dinner; spent the afternoon in figuring.
Thursday, April 30
Have passed a very unpleasant night. Soon after going to bed last evening, I went to sleep and awoke again in an hour after. I had dreamed I was, as I am, far away from home. Intelligence reached me of the death and burial of Sophia. My mind was so troubled it was a long while before I could get to sleep again, and when I did sleep my dreams were the same. My brother Frank came to tell me what I had before heard of, Sophia's death. Then one after another came my relatives to sympathize with me. At last came Mate, who like the others told me the circumstances and expressed much sympathy. All, however, looked upon [me] as the only mourner.
I awoke as many as a dozen times during the night, but as soon as I got to sleep again, the dreams haunted me, and so great was my grief I would awake again but could not keep awake. There is a great deal of scarlet fever here and there has a number of children died with it. We were talking of it yesterday afternoon. I suppose that is one cause of dreaming as I did. My mind is this morning in Buffalo.
The steamer E. H. Gordon is up from St. Louis. I am now going down to see what is on board.
Found the Gordon well-loaded with grain and lumber, also brought up some one hundred Danes bound for Salt Lake to join the Mormons.
Between eight and nine o'clock, a slow drizzling rain from the northeast set in, and we have had a northeaster all day. The rain is just what is wanted here. I only went out when the Great Eastern mail came in. And I got at the post office-What do you think? A letter! No! Fifty cents worth of postage stamps and the Herald of Freedom from Mr. Brown. A gloomy, lonesome day.
8 - "Such Business Will Pay"
Omaha, Nebraska--May 1-9.
My imagination reared a little cottage there and peopled it with my family-the children chasing gophers in the wild prairie grass; my wife reading a letter from the East; myself in the doorway in my easy chair, watching the steamers coming up the river . . .
Friday, May 1
The storm which was raging last night at bed time, spent its fury before morning and the sun rose clear, with a fair prospect of one of the finest days of the season. After breakfast, went up to the office to mail some papers and found four numbers of The Home for Mr. Hall who works for Cook. I never saw The Home look so well. Its familiar face wore a happy smile. It seems better printed and on better paper than it used to be. I presume that is occasioned by the distance it is from the office where it emanates, as printing offices are never the neatest places in the world. I feel a stronger attachment for The Home than I ever did before. The articles seem improved and the magazine generally wears an air of prosperity. I hope it will be sufficiently remunerative to warrant its continuance by its present publishers. It is one of the best publications, if not the very best in the country, and it must and will continue to be appreciated and its circulation extended. It is an honor to the publishers and I wish my name might remain as one of the publishers, if only in name alone.
Saturday, May 2
Went over to Council Bluffs with Mr. Estabrook, his family and Judge Wakely. Went in the family carriage. I found no taxes had been as yet assessed on our Iowa lands. Went alone up on the highest bluff, by the burying ground, where is a most splendid prospect, comprising in one view St. Mary's twelve miles below, Omaha, Saratoga, and Florence opposite. From this point I intend taking a bird's eye view of the Trio City, the Great City of the "Great West."
At Bluff City I met Hubbel Kelley, who used to be one of my school- and playmates when I was the age little Irwin is now, and went to school on "Whipple Hill." We have met but once or twice since that time. I recognized him by the peculiarity of his voice. He has been here but a few days has come out West to seek a position. We had a long talk of old times.
I also met at the Bluffs S. M. Hall of Van Water's poetical Geographia fame. He had hunted for me all the morning at Omaha, decided to return to Omaha, where we met at five o'clock. Mr. Hall got a buggy and we had the finest ride imaginable over the Saratoga plat. Mr. Hall thinks of purchasing a share if he can get one. He was delighted with the location.
Just as we crossed the ferry between four and five o'clock on our return from the Bluffs, the steamer Silver Heels came up with colors flying and a band of music which was animating in the extreme. She gives a dance to the Omaha people this evening, taking them on board and going up to Florence by moonlight, there finishing the dance and returning tomorrow morning.
The steamer Hannibal came up during the night and was laying at our levee this morning. She had on board 200 Danes going to join the Mormons. Her cargo was mostly lumber; we can now get pine siding for $50 per thousand, planed and matched pine flooring [for] $65 per thousand, and pine shingles for $7.50 per thousand. This is cheaper than we ever expected to get pine lumber here. It will probably be the standard price and is cheap enough.
Among the wonders of Bluff City, I saw an old Mormon, 80 years of age, who is sensible on all subjects but one, and that one is that he will live two or three hundred years yet and raise a large family of children. He is a widower now. He once married the widow of Morgan who was said to be murdered by the Masons during the great Anti-Masonic times, which I can but just remember.
It is evening, a delightful one, and the closing in of a delightful day. The Silver Heels has started up the river with her load of merry dancers. I had no desire to be one of the company, still it is almost too pleasant to stay in the house. But I will go to bed, and see what a tomorrow will bring forth.
Sunday morning, May 3
The steamer Emma came up during the night. I got up early and went down on board, found a friend of Mr. Leidy, whose acquaintance I made while here last fall. He tells me Mr. Leidy and family are at Davenport, going to come around by St. Louis and bring up a ready-made house. I shall be pleased to see him and his family. He seems an old acquaintance.
The Silver Heels returned this morning and our levee looks quite businesslike with three steamers in port besides the ferryboat.
Just ready for church. Waiting for the second bell. Another steamer has just reached our levee, making four here this morning. The Silver Heels and Hannibal are starting down. From the window where I board we can see all the movements of the boats, every arrival and departure. Mr. Estabrook coming in reports the last boat to be the Asa Wilgus and is going up as far as Sioux City.
Have been to church for the first time in Nebraska. Listened to a discourse by Mr. Gaylord, old-school Presbyterian. Like him very well.
But for the breeze which is blowing freshly from the south, we should have a very hot day. As it is, it is the hottest of the season. Immediately after dinner I took off my coat and boots, put on slippers and wrapper, and straightened out on the lounge to take my ease. The door stood wide open and I had a fine view of the boats at the levee and up the river for miles. The view also comprised a greater part of Saratoga, the most prominent feature of which is the spot I have selected near the spring. My imagination reared a little cottage there and peopled it with my family-the children chasing gophers in the wild prairie grass; my wife reading a letter from the East; myself in the doorway in my easy chair, watching the steamers coming up the river, or with my spyglass peeping into Mr. Estabrook's where I now am. This pleasant reverie was broken up by Mr. Hall's hurrying in for a share of Saratoga. The boat was to leave in twenty-five minutes; he had the promise of one tomorrow, but could not wait. I gave him mine and he counted me out the gold. It made a rich handful for both of my hands. I shall get another tomorrow and hope to make a few dollars on it. Mr. Hall left in a hurry to return with a house.
Monday, May 4
Waited around town for the arrival of the mail, which was a heavy one. It brought nothing for me. Tried to find a share of Saratoga at my own price; think I shall get one for a little less than the one I sold.
This evening had a fine April shower accompanied with thunder and lightning. Spent the evening in drawing plans for my business house or place. At bedtime the steamer Emigrant came in from St. Louis.
Tuesday, May 5
Finished drawing my plans and went up to Saratoga to meet the surveyors, but did not find them. Selected two lots for men to build on, who had just come in on the boat. Returned to Omaha just before noon, and as usual repaired at once to the Post Office. Got two papers, an Express and Republic, from Robert. Met Mr. Cook, who told me he had taken out letters for me and given them to Mr. Estabrook. When Mr. E. came down to dinner he was disposed to have a little sport with me as I had been complaining so long about not getting letters, but the fact of my having heard he had the letters prevented the anticipated sport at my expence. One letter was from Brother Frank, another enclosed one from my wife, son, and daughter each-all of which was read with the deepest interest and proved very exhilarating, inspiring me with renewed energy. Answered letters in the afternoon.
Wednesday, May 6
According to previous arrangements, hired a team to go down after my fence posts. Found them not touched. The proprietor of the mill sent me word once they would not be done as first promised, but would be done this day sure. I had hired a team, been to all the expense, and without gaining anything. This is characteristic of business in Nebraska. We want more prompt, energetic working business men here than we have. It is just the place for such men to make money.
I do not expect now to get my posts, as I will not go alter them again or pay more for them delivered than I was to get them for at the mail. It is getting late for a garden and I can do without a fence at present.
My trip to the mill was not wholly without interest as we saw some sights new to me: a prairie squirrel, a snake five feet long, and a wild turkey. When we saw the turkey, we were on the bottoms near the mill in the timber. It was a large gobbler and ran across the road ahead of us and up the bank. If I had had a shotgun I could have killed it. Fired four charges from my revolver at him. The distance was too far to have the balls take effect even if they had hit him. At the mill, they informed us the wild turkeys were plenty in the vicinity. Could hear them every morning about daylight. What a chance for sporting-wild ducks are as plenty as sparrows in the east.
About dark this evening, the steamer Washington City came in three weeks from St. Louis-is a lower Mississippi boat and too large for the upper trade. There is some talk here this evening about purchasing it and keeping it as a hotel at our levee. The boat had on 50,000 feet lumber and some shingles, also a good supply of passengers, 75 of which are bound to St. Johns, a Catholic colony near Sioux City, to which place their fare is paid. The captain refuses to go farther and the passengers insist he must or refund their money. What the result will be we cannot tell.
Thursday, May 7
This day's mail brought me a letter and two papers from Mr. Adams-the Republic and the Advocate. I think Mr. Robe's hits Mr. Lathrop rather hard. Answered Robert's letter and attended a meeting of the Sulphur Spring Land Co. The Company refused to ratify the proposition accepted from me by the donating committee, on the ground that they had refused heretofore by a vote to donate any lots in the block from which I made my selections. They were pleased with my project and proposition and appointed Mr. Wm. G. Brown to negotiate with me on even more liberal terms in some other quarter. I refuse, however, to negotiate on any terms as I have now abandoned the project entirely and am glad the matter has taken the turn it has. Purchased a share of Saratoga to replace the one I let Mr. Hall have. Made something (#oll.) by the operation. Agreed to go over the river in the morning and set some men to work on, and superintend the building of a large flatboat for ferrying over teams and wood for the brick makers. The flatboat is for the company, who furnish one thousand cord of wood for the brick men. The company have contracted 2,000,000 brick to be made this season.
Owing to the absence of Mr. Tuttle, the drawing is again postponed and will not come off until next Thursday the 14th. No further postponement will be made even if Mr. Tuttle should not arrive. The steamer Washington was bought today for $15,000 for a hotel.
Friday, May 8
During last night we had a fine thundershower. This morning it is clear and warm, the wind blowing a gale from the south. The wind has blowed harder today than any day since I have been here. Still it has been oppressively hot all day, and by noon the dust began to fly, which together with the glaring sun and hot air from the oven down south, has made it very unpleasant out of doors. The ferryboat has not ventured out until since sundown so that it was not possible to go over to see about the flatboat. The ferryboat being delayed has prevented our receiving a mail today.
Saturday, May 9
The south wind which went down with the sun last evening changed about and this morning was in the north. By nine o'clock it was in the northwest and blew nearly as hard as yesterday. The ferryboat only made one trip for the mail, and that with difficulty. Went up to Saratoga, found men at work grading Pacific avenue down the beach on to the bottom. After dinner signed papers for one of the gift lots on Saratoga Avenue and assisted Mr. Brown in preparing for the drawing. I think I never witnessed such a change in the weather under a bright sun. Yesterday the thermometer went up to 80; today it is almost freezing cold, making a fire necessary for comfort. Still, the sun is shining as bright as it did yesterday. The change is owing to the wind being in a different quarter.
Saturday night has come again. It is to me the most lonesome evening of the week, and one which I long to be at home to spend. I must not dwell too much upon home, for there will doubtless be many long weeks before I can again be with my family.
Mr. Warner sold two lots-which he paid $110 for not quite a year ago-for $600. Such business will pay.
9 - Corax
Omaha, Nebraska--May 10-16.
What he could not speak in English he made known by signs, which were made the most graceful and almost seemed to speak.
Sunday, May 10
The wind has blown but little today. Still it is cold and a fire very comfortable. Wrote during the forenoon to Irwin and Sophia. After lunch, rode up to Saratoga with Mr. Estabrook and family, after which I wrote Sister Sarah. Just as I finished the letter, some Indians came to the house with two ponies. The Indians were acquainted with Mr. Estabrook. The party consisted of a chief, his squaw, and two of his children, the oldest a squaw as large as her mother, the other a boy about 14 years old. The chief's name is Corax-belongs to the Pawnee tribe and is their war chief. He is the best-looking Pawnee I have seen, is six feet tall and well proportioned, speaks very little English. He says "Mr. Estabrook good semokaman," meaning white man.
The chief had on moccasins, leggings, breech-cloth, and a large Buffalo skin held on by a band across his shoulders. This completed his clothing. He carried a large bow and quiver of arrows, ornaments in his ears and on his head. He let his robe fall down to his waist, leaving his back breast and arms perfectly naked, giving him a noble look as he stood up erect, his hands crossed in front of him. What he could not speak in English he made known by signs, which were made the most graceful and almost seemed to speak. They were so plain anyone could understand them. He was given some supper on a separate table, after which he called in his squaws and boy to eat, then went away.
After tea, we were in the parlor. The family were singing and Mr. E. playing on his violin when Mr. Chief walked in and took his seat on the lounge with the rest. What a contrast and the same time how noble he looked.
Monday, May 11
This day was advertised for the sale of Park lots to complete the Capitol. The sale did not commence until 4 o'clock p.m. Six lots were sold for some over $6,000, which was not what was expected they would bring. Accordingly, the sale was adjourned to some future day when the balance will be sold. Mr. Warner wishing to attend the sale, nothing else was done.
Steamer Admiral up from St. Louis.
Our Chief and his family were admitted into the kitchen last night where they slept on the floor.
Tuesday, May 12
Devoted the forenoon to going over into Iowa on business connected with the flatboat. Afternoon rainy. In accordance with a previous arrangement went up at 10 p.m. to sit up with Mr. Goodwill who is very low with typhoid fever. Other persons were there and my services were not required. Returned as I went, in the midst of a drenching rain, which wet my clothing through to my skin in many places
Wednesday, May 13
Not well this morning. Have symptoms of my old complaint. It has rained all night and is dark and lowry but warm. Vegetation looks fine.
The Chief and his family are still in the vicinity. Corax has swapped his Buffalo robe for a blanket. Got on a shirt, old vest and a hat with a red band around it. He is neither white man nor Indian in dress now. His mongrel suit takes away much of his noble looks.
The steamer Edinburgh came in this noon with a large lot of lumber, and as the boats all are full of passengers, at bed time felt well as usual except somewhat homesick. Weather more cool tonight.
Thursday, May 14
Disagreeably wet and cold. Did not leave the house until ten o'clock when Mr. Campbell, late bookkeeper for Cutter & Deforest of Buffalo called on me. He came in yesterday on the Edinburgh. Is boarding at the steamboat lately purchased for a hotel. I went down to the boat with him and found Mr. DePuy, wife and infant daughter. My presence cheered up Mr. DePuy, although Mr. Campbell said he dreaded to meet me. Mr. DePuy looks old and broken-spirited, has placed everything in Campbell's hands, who manages for him and is his financier and director. It was quite a pleasant interview with DePuy and Campbell-seemed like home again.
Afternoon spent with Saratoga Co. arranging the drawing. A strong west wind has prevented the ferry from crossing until near night. A mail then came over and I received the May numbers of the Home and Casket; still I do not receive letters from home as I should. I ought to have one every week as regular as the weeks come. I have thus far only received one a month.
Friday, May 15
Spent an hour or two posting up Mr. Campbell and DePuy. The balance of the day, until ten at night, assisted in arranging the ballots for the Saratoga drawing.
Saturday, May 16
The steamer Omaha came in this morning, discharged her freight for this place and passed up on her way to Sioux City. Completed the ballots for the drawing about nine o'clock this evening. Having been kept busy for the past few days I have felt the most contented since I came here.
A large wolf had the impudence to come over the bluff into town this morning about nine o'clock and probably would have killed a young colt a few hours old had he not been discovered. He left, followed closely by a couple of dogs who chased him out on the prairie.
About noon our Chief Corax left for the Pawnee camp some sixty miles west. The last day of his stop in town he pitched his tent within four rods of Mr. Estabrook's. When I came to dinner I watched them pack their ponies. The chief and his son held the ponies while the squaws done the work of packing and taking down the tent. As I stood looking at them I thought squaws were just the persons to have when one wants to move, as they will make such small parcels of their effects which at first sight would seem sufficient for a wagonload.
We were at dinner when they left. Corax came to the door to bid us goodbye. He had taken of his dress in which he tried to appear like a white man, and looked better than ever. His only change in dress which differed from what he wore on his arrival was a banditti hat and a fire-red blanket bordered with a strip of white about six inches wide. His quiver was hung across his shoulders and his bow was in his hand. His broad chest and brawny arms were naked except two or three bands of some bright metal which ornamented the latter. At the door he said "Corax, Estabrook, Pawnee house," then put his hands together and shook them, pointed to the west. To me he said "Semokeman Pawnee house" and made the motions and signs as before. His signs meant that if we would come to his house at the Pawnee village he would treat us kindly, give us corn and meat and a nice tent to sleep under when the sun went down. When I went out from dinner I could see the party going up the bluff out of town, Corax ahead, the squaws leading the ponies and the boy behind.
Corax is about forty years old. It is said of him that he has probably scalped more white people crossing the plains than any Pawnee of the tribe. He is, however, a most noble specimen of the Indian, and is at peace and friendly with the whites. The Pawnees south of the Platte River claim the lands in a certain vicinity and do not allow the whites to settle there unless they are paid for the lands. They are about making a treaty. The Indians have been greatly wronged, and as a general thing when there is depredations the whites are the first aggressors.
The Pawnees were once numerous and very powerful, and most to be dreaded of all the Western Indians. In their wars with the Sioux and their intercourse with the whites, they have become as weak as they were once powerful, and are the most low, filthy, and degraded race in the West. They use no firearms; their only weapons are the hatchet and bow and arrows. Their arrows are steel pointed, and the same arrow that is used to kill a squirrel will kill a buffalo. I have perhaps said enough about the Pawnees. Their relics are on every hand and it will be long years before they are entirely effaced by civilization. Among the curiosities of this place is the remains of old Fort Crogan.
New material © 2000 by David L. Bristow
“The captain of ‘the regulators’ is our Mayor, a man six-and-a-half feet high and well-proportioned. He took the claim jumper by the collar, escorted him down the street, and with a dozen or fifteen men with loaded muskets, they started for the ‘Big Muddy’ . . . The party returned without the prisoner and no questions asked.”