J. H. (John Hanson) Beadle.

Western wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... online

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Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 43 of 62)
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the Indian Territory, along the famous cattle trails. Utterly unac-
customed to being herded or penned, they are almost as wild as the
buffalo ; it requires both skill and daring to herd and drive them, and
the Texan vacquero is necessarily a daring horseman. The same treat-
ment which breaks the wild spirit of the cattle not unfrequently en-


genders disease; the tramp of from three to eight hundred miles to
the border causes " heating of the hoof/' and the poisonous matter ex-
uding therefrom is left upon the grass. Hence, say the Kansians, the
"Texas cattle fever." The Texan animals themselves do not suffer
from it ; native cattle alone, who feed after them, are infected by it.
In the early days the Kansas Legislature set apart the width of one
township, a strip six miles wide, along which Texans might be driven
to the Pacific Railroad. But in a little while settlements reached this
strip, and another was located, terminating at Ellsworth, which be-
came for awhile the great cattle depot. Again the wave of settlement
reached and overflowed this strip, and a third was located, with depot
at Wichita, on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Road. And here is
noted a marvel indeed. As the border line of settlements steadily moves
westward, as domestic stock overrun the country, as fields are plowed
and orchards planted, the settlers say the border line between the soft
grass of the Missouri Valley and the buffalo grass of the plains, moves
westward at the rate of five miles per year ! It is common testimony
there that, as the country is settled, the climate grows more moist;
that timothy and blue-grass can now be grown where twenty years
ago only the hardy bunch-grass found a footing, and wheat on the
high plains which were once thought utterly barren. From Cherry-
vale a branch railway runs out to Independence, the bustling capital
of Montgomery County, which claims three thousand inhabitants, and
has at least two-thirds as many. Five years before, a mowing ma-
chine was run over the ground to clear away the rank grass, and after
it came the surveyors, mapping out the experimental town ; in two
years thereafter it had a thousand inhabitants, and was "the future
metropolis of the South-west." I found it just entering on the dull
times which have ruined so many bright hopes. The second day of
my stay the Republicans had a grand mass meeting, " to devise means
of relief from the prevailing depression and the difficulties under
which Kansas labored." A foreign visitor would have thought him-
self in a community of natural orators. The speakers were lawyers,
doctors, farmers, cattle-breeders, men of all trades and men of none ;
all spoke with ability, and no two suggested the same plan. It was a
meeting of pleasant diversity one of the most enjoyable I ever at-
tended. One speaker was red hot for free trade " all our troubles
resulted from our wretched tariff." Another protested against any
further contraction of the currency, and still another damned the rail-
roads and Eastern monopolists. The Congressman representing the
district was present, and suggested two measures of relief: jetties at


the mouth of the Mississippi, so that grain could be shipped that way
direct to Europe, and opening the Indian Territory so the railroad
could continue on to the gulf and afford an outlet. [Loud and pro-
longed cheers.] Several were emphatic that we should have "more
greenbacks ;" for, said one speaker, " we have millions of corn and
no hogs to feed it to we need more money to buy stock!"

This region is part of the Osage Diminished Reserve, so-called ; and
the unreasonable savages persisted in holding on to it long after the
white man wanted it. Unlike all other Kansas Indians the Osages are
indigenous, from the Osage River in Missouri to the Arkansas: this
is their original seat, and they stubbornly resisted all offers of sale.
As soon as it was known that Government was pressing them to sell,
the whites poured in, and in four years had taken all the good land in
Montgomery County, before the Indian title was extinguished. This
cut out the railroad companies, and gave rise to no end of quarrels
and lawsuits. The Osages persist in all their aboriginal habits. The
example of their civilized kinsmen in Oklahoma, the teaching of
Catholic priests at the mission long before the whites settled here,
the persuasions of agents and the gifts of the Government were alike
unavailing. Now and then a chief wanders through the settlements,
half-clad in the grotesque finery received as annuity goods, and with
a medal on his breast to show that he has signed a treaty or done
some other service to the Government, and perhaps a dirty scrap of
paper to back up his assertion that he is " Good Osage heap good
Injun." His errand generally is for old clothes and "cold grub;"
and if a little whisky be added, the donor can have a war dance im-
provised for his special benefit. Occasionally a begging Indian re-
ceives a " certificate " from some wag, which is not so favorable. One
such, which the bearer proudly presented me, ran thus:

" To whom it may concern:

" The name of this noble red man is Hunkydori. He is of poor but pious parents.
What he would n't steal a hound pup would n't pull out of a tan-yard. Red-hot stoves are
supposed to be safe in his presence. Give him some cold grub, or a three cent drink, if
you have any about you.

"Rev. Robert Collyer.
" Gen. O. O. Howard."

From Independence I took horse northward, across the sluggish
Elk River, and into Wilson County. This stream looks sluggish
enough now, but it often gets up in a destructive fashion. Already
eleven persons have been drowned in this vicinity. A few rods be-
low the ford is a deep pool, visible enough now when the water on the



ripple is but two inches deep; but the winter before two lovers met
their death here. They were to have been married in a week, and

were on a visit to
friends when a
heavy rain came
on. Hurrying to
return before the
stream should
rise, they unfort-
unately went too
far down stream ;
the buggy was
swept into the
pool, and a little
below overturned
in the floating
brush. The
drowned lovers
were found next
day, two miles
below, clasped in
each other's arms.
Neodesha, cap-
ital of Wilson
County, was
named by a com-
mittee of local
philologists, ap-
pointed by the
first settlers. The
latter resolved:
first, they would
have an express-
ive Indian name ;
second, they
would h ave a
name which no

city, man, or country had ever been called by. Thus limited, the
committee took the Osage words (pro. Ne-o-de-sAm/) meaning, "meet-
ing of the waters," as the town was upon the point .between the
Fall and Verdigris rivers. Wilson is another cattle county. The



fields are fenced in, the stock fenced out; and the aristocracy of Ne-
odesha are the cattle men. Near here a Mrs. Vickars and her
daughters had produced a fair crop of cotton from a small patch ; had
carded and spun it with their own hands, and were knitting it into va-
rious articles. It is safe to say the Vickars family will get through
the " hard times" without suffering.

Westward from Neodesha I found the country rising more and
more into ridges. The first creek I crossed by a deep ford, though an
elegant bridge stood not far above, the way to it being fenced up. It
appears that Neodesha had erected this bridge at considerable expense,
only to find that the road in common use ran a few rods north of the
section line. The mulish owner of the land fenced it in, and obsti-
nately refused the right of way, or to sell at any reasonable price ;
and so Neodesha had an elegant bridge which she could not use.
Continuing my journey south and west, I saw that I was drawing near
the great "divide" between the waters flowing into the Neosho and
those flowing into the Arkansas. Nearly .half the country consists of
sharp ridges, on which the land is generally fit only for pasturage.
The narrow valleys between are very fertile, but as a rule every
quarter section of land takes in some ridge ; hence the settler's farm
runs into the ridges on at least two corners. By and by I come upon
two old acquaintances prickly cactus and desert weed sure indica-
tions that I am nearing a barren strip. Elk River has a wider
valley ; the land is again fertile, and the heavy fields of corn show
good cultivation. Westward I rise again to flinty hills, and am soon
upon The Ridge, so-called, the highest point between the two rivers.
Overlooking a section twenty miles square, I see that about one-third
of it is taken up by these ridges of rock and gravel, while the inter-
mediate vales are of great fertility. The hollows breaking out of the
ridge each way are thick set with dense scrubby timber, in which wild
cats, deer, and other game are still abundant.

Down the western slope brings me to the fertile valley of Grouse
Creek, and in due time to the village of Lazette, where I find the
citizens in impromptu convention in the public square, watching the
process of boring for cold water. Through all this section the wells
are from forty to a hundred feet deep, bored and piped ; and the water
is drawn in a metal bucket, half a yard long and some three inches
wide, resembling a section of a tin spout. A valve in the bottom
opens inward, and allows the vessel to fill; then closes when the draw-
ing up begins. The fluid is so saturated with lime that it fairly rises
up and takes a man by the throat. It is such, "hard water" that one


can scarcely bite it off. Washer-women have great tribulations in
such a country.

As I near the Arkansas, I find the flint ridges narrowing, the vales
between them widening, and see from afar a green strip of level land,
resembling the prairies of Southern Illinois. But a vast amount of
this land is already in the hands of speculators. Uncle Sam has
done his best to prevent his boys from swindling themselves out of
their patrimony, but they will do it. All the old tricks are here re-
peated on a grander scale, and some new ones added. Loose-footed
young men erect a cabin, barely habitable in good weather, preempt
and remain till they get a title, then sell to a speculator and leave;
and these abandoned "dwellings "are seen dotting the vacant prairie
in all directions. By this operation the preemptor has a pleasant time
of it for a year, raises a small crop of "sod corn," and gets away with,
perhaps, two hundred dollars. But I rejoice in the thought that the
speculator will be fooled at last ; the land's increase in value will be
less than his -money would have brought at interest, and the residents
will make him " smoke " with high taxes on his land.

At the new " city " of Winfield, situated in the Arkansas Valley,
at the center of a rich agricultural region, I passed a few days of
pleasant rest. It is a cosmopolitan town. There were buffalo hunters
just returned from Harper and Comanche counties, cattle men from
Texas, Indian traders, and returned emigrants from the abandoned
settlements on Medicine Lodge Creek. These people, trusting to the
confident assertions of old citizens, that " there is no desert in Kan-
sas, no land too dry for cultivation," had opened extensive farms on
Medicine Lodge, a little tributary of the Arkansas. Every thing they
planted grew luxuriantly till the middle of June, then began to wither.
They dammed the creek for irrigation, but that went dry, too. "Just
appeared as if the bottom dropped out," said one of the settlers
" channel as dry as a bone by the first of July." As yet it would ap-
pear that the south-western quarter of Kansas is a little too dry and
barren for the farmer.

Winfield is on White Walnut Creek, a few miles above its junction
with the Arkansas; but the level, fertile valley is here continuous be-
tween the streams. Two years before buffalo could be found in the
vicinity of town ; now the nearest were fifty miles west of the river, in
Harper County. This, and Barbour, Comanche and Clark counties
are broken in all directions by deep gullies and wooded cafions, the
favorite wintering places of the bison ; as long as they could winter
there undisturbed, summer found them abundant on the high plains


along the Arkansas, Smoky Hill, and Republican. But when, forced
from these sheltered valleys by the winter hunters, the animals tried
to pass the cold season on the open plains northward, they froze and
starved by millions. The buffalo range is now only one-twelfth what
it was in 1830, and about one-third what it was in 1870.

Mr. William Payne, a returned surveyor, gave me a most interesting
account of that part of Kansas south and west of the Arkansas. Un-
less the climate changes materially, this section must long remain un-
settled ; in any event it can not sustain a dense population. It is
high, dry, fearfully cut up by flint ridges, and gored by rock-walled
canons. Northward, it is more gently rolling, and along the Arkansas
there is good farming land even to the border of Colorado. In com-
pany with Mr. Payne, I journeyed leisurely up Walnut Creek, finding
the fertile valley well settled and cultivated. To the right, the land
rose into ridges and swells, where dwellings were rare indeed ; this
was herding ground in common for the men of the valley. A furrow,
run through the prairie sod, constituted a "lawful fence;" and the
herds were kept off" the growing crops by boys and women. Here and
there was to be seen a horse hitched at the gate, with neat side-saddle
tightly strapped ; and, when the feeding cattle drew near the corn, a
tall and graceful Kansas girl would bounce into the saddle, and go
galloping up the slope, cracking a little whip, and calling out to the
stock in musical English. We voted it a pretty sight, and rode on. '

At Eldorado, in Butler County, we took another rest, in a region
where the Kansas winds appear to have done their perfect work on
the old settlers. The statement that an old resident " can't talk if the
wind stops blowing," is repelled as a slander ; but the wind, or some-
thing else, is certainly making rapid changes in the general appearance
of the people. They are of florid complexion, leathery aspect, and
"clipper built" as to limbs. And this sets me to wondering whether
the future American, when our country is all settled, and these rapid
changes of population cease, will not fall into permanent types, on the
principle of " natural selection and survival of the fittest." There
will, perhaps, be the Yankee type : the people north and east of Penn-
sylvania, with clear but ruddy skin, rather lean in figure, somewhat
severe in aspect, given to grim and sepulchral humor, and with that
traditional " blue stripe on the belly." Westward and southward this
race will yield gradually to the blue, bilious type, whose central spot
will be Cairo, Illinois. They will tend to the pale olive in complex-
ion ; will be somewhat languid in their loves and hates till excited,
and then fiercely but spasmodically passionate ; they will be darker


than their Eastern congeners, and given to stimulating decoctions.
West of them will come in the bold florid type, with complexion of a
rich mahogany, with wiry frame, outline a little too extended, and
eyes and hair of the intense hues. This type will come to perfection
in Kansas. North of them will be the Western Yankees, with less
strictness than their Eastern ancestors, but more acquisitiveness. A
little way southward will begin the typical Southerner, with charac-
teristics steadily exaggerated as we near the gulf. But in that section
will be three races : pure whites, pure blacks, and the " colored."
Miscegenation will pretty nearly cease when the late slaves get used to
freedom, and the betwixt-and-between colors of the South will settle
into a permanent type, without merging on either side into the pure
colors. Why not? That happened in Mexico, after two centuries of
miscegenation, and the same causes will doubtless produce the same
effects here. In the Far West we shall have the mountaineer, of a
type totally different from all the others. Any man can see, with half
an eye, that nothing but extensive emigration, and the social mixtures
resulting therefrom, prevent climatic laws from separating us into dif-
ferent races. By and by emigration must cease, and nature work her
will upon us. What then ? How can all these diverse races be held
together, under one democratic republican government? Ah! that's
the conundrum some future generation must solve.

At Eldorado we leave the valley and journey over the high and
unsettled prairies to Florence, in Marion County. The route takes
me again over the " divide " between the Neosho and Arkansas ; but
here it is only a high plain without any ve,ry barren ridges as far-
ther south. The high land is comparatively unsettled, and only the
lower valleys have many cultivated farms. It is evident we are on
the border, and pretty near the dry plains ; though the settlers, espe-
cially the many real estate agents in the few towns, insist that " there
is no such thing as the American Desert it's a myth every section
of land in Kansas can be cultivated." Though there are a thousand of
them, and but one of me, I venture to differ a very little. At Flor-
ence I take the eastward train, and am soon down among the old
farms on the rich plains of the Kaw. But before I close my last
sketch of Kansas, a few general notes are in order :

The State is an immense parallelogram, about twice as long as wide,
containing 81,318 square miles: ten times the size of Massachusetts,
one-fifth larger than Missouri, a little more than twice the size of
Ohio, not quite three times as big as Indiana, and exceeding by one-
third the area of England. I divide it into three sections : the east-


ern third is as fertile as any equal area in the world ; the western
third has not yet been proved to be of much value except for grazing ;
the middle third consists of both grazing and agricultural land, the
latter predominating. Thus we have 25,000 square miles of first-class
farming land, as much of mixed grazing and farming lands, and a
little more of the region fit for pasturage only. The eastern border
of the State has an average elevation of some 800 feet above the sea ;
the western from 2,500 to 3,000 feet. The eastern third 25,000 square
miles or thereabouts when settled as thickly as rural Ohio, will sus-
tain a population of two millions; at present it contains not quite
half a million, "and there's room for millions more."

Of land subject to preemption and homestead there is very little.
Nearly all the land of value belongs to the railroads or private owners.
Some people of my acquaintance, who talk very glibly of the immense
public domain, would be amazed to learn how little good land is still
at the disposal of government. Deducting diminished Indian reserves,
railroad grants, and lands long ago preempted and sold to speculators,
there is not much left this side of the barren plateaus. But the rail-
road lands in Kansas can now be bought at from $4 to $10 per acre,,
and are generally located in old counties where church, school and
society have made great progress. The railroads, as a rule, sell on
seven years' time, with interest at seven per cent, on deferred payments.

All the fruits and grains of the temperate zone can be produced
in Kansas, and for some things it seems specially suited. In small
fruits, especially grapes, no State east of California can excel Kansas.
Wheat has not yet proved a perfect success in southern Kansas,
because, as I think, the farmers have not experimented sufficiently.
They still sow the same varieties, on the same system, as in Ohio.
In oats the product is amazing. Mr. A. Hall, whose farm is at the
junction of Deer Creek and Neosho River, in 1870 harvested seventy
bushels per acre from a large area ; and J. C. Clark, on the upland,
near lola, took four thousand bushels from sixty-five acres. Of
ground crops all kinds grown in Ohio flourish exceedingly on this
virgin soil, potatoes and turnips especially. Vines of all kinds do
well; all sorts of melons attain a size and perfection of flavor unsur-
passed in this latitude. Peaches are a sure crop at least three years
out of four. Apples, for a new country, are about average. But the
most money is made on cattle and sheep. The country is generally
well watered; there is still abundant range on the open prairie, and
enough of sheltered and wooded hollows. And in this respect the
settlers west of the Verdigris think they have a great advantage, as


the ridges will not be settled and fenced in for a century ; they will
remain common herding ground for many years.

West of the Arkansas, and in the north-west part of the State, the
hunter and herdsman will have free range for generations. Part of
the country is completely barren, but most of it produces the nutri-
tious bunch-grass, gama-grass, and buffalo-grass. The topography is
the result of the two geologic processes erosion and drift. The first
great upheaval evidently created mountain heights twice or three times
as high as any now on the globe. These have worn down to the
present Rocky Mountains; and from that wearing came the material
constituting the "plains." Near the center of Eastern Colorado a
great spur of the mountains puts out eastward, known as the " Divide,"
and continues, gradually lessening in height, far down into Kansas.
This, and all the adjoining slopes, are composed of rounded stones,
pebbles, and sand, the washings of ages ; and over and among them
there is just soil enough to produce hardy grass, but not enough for
good farming land, unless upon the lower slopes and valleys.

Kansas is not paradise ; but it presents many advantages. There is
no section of the West where

" Grain and flour and fruit

Gush from the earth until the land runs o'er."

But there is abundant room in this State for half a million families,
in localities where one has room to grow, where the laws are pecu-
liarly favorable to beginners, where society is well organized, where
labor will surely result in a competence, and all who will be virtuous
may be happy.



THE summer of 1874 found me once more engaged in mining oper-
ations on a small scale this time in Colorado. The first of June I
set out hastily from Saint Louis for the mountains, anticipating great
enjoyment in the journey across the plains. But the change in two
years had been wonderful; where we saw buffalo in May, 1872, by
uncounted thousands, we now looked in vain. Save the grizzled and
miserable looking captives in the station corrals^and rarely a worn out
old fellow in some hollow, not a buffalo is now to be seen on the Kan-
sas Pacific, where only seven years ago they actually obstructed the
track in places.

Within the memory of men still living these animals ranged as far
east as the Osage in Missouri; once they inhabited nearly all that part
of our country east of the Great Basin. Gov. Thomas L. Young, of
Ohio, relates that when his party crossed the plains in 1854, they saw
a herd in the Platte Valley fourteen miles long and two or three miles
wide; and Horace Greeley vouches for herds almost as extensive,
which, he says, could only be estimated by millions. Such immense
aggregations are only to be accounted for by the tendency of these
animals to mass together while crossing streams in their migration.
At the old Platte crossing emigrants were often hindered for days by
the buffalo moving northward. As late as 1865 their range was three
hundred miles wide, and from the Saskatchewan to the Rio Grande.
Now they are limited to two small sections: the first includes north-
western and western Texas and Indian Territory, with adjacent por-
tions of Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado ; the latter a small section
of western Dakota and the adjacent region. At present rates only
twenty more years are needed for their extermination. Millions have
been slaughtered for their hides and tongues alone; millions more in
cruel wantonness, miscalled " sport." Other millions died in the severe
winter of 1871-'72, their range in the sheltered valleys being re-
stricted; and a year after long trains of box-cars were loaded with
their bones, which the poverty-stricken Kansians gathered and
shipped eastward. So disappears the noblest of our wild game.


Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 43 of 62)