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THESE letters from Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona and
Old Mexico were written for publication in the Daily
Champion, of Atchison, Kansas. They do not tell all there
is to tell about the Great Southwest, but so far as they go
they are accurate; and their style, or lack of style, will
perhaps be quite as agreeable to the average reader as
something more pretentious. N. L,. P.






















GOING from Atchison to Topeka, your correspondent had as a
traveling companion an old acquaintance, who had just passed
through the experience of Americans who can afford it, of
" hunting a climate." After living in Kansas for many years,
he had become possessed with an idea that he would improve his
atmosphere, and had gone to what many people suppose that
earthly paradise, Southern California. Greatly to his surprise,
the tropical clime, "the land of the orange and palm," the myrtle
and the rest of the botanical resources you will find described in
Moore's poetry, turned up, so to speak, with a two-hours' snow
storm, and the human race in that part of the country was
threatened with extinction by freezing. This meteorological sur-
prise party was followed by raw and cloudy skies and hyperborean
treatment generally, until our Kansas friend was fain to return
to his former habitation. But not being ready to settle down,
he took a supplementary journey to Central Iowa, from whence
he was returning when this narrative begins. In Iowa he had
been greeted with the rawest and "soakingest" of rains, sulky
clouds, and that terror of the Kansas soul, mud. He was an
elderly man, and not much given to demonstrativeness, but it
was as good as a play to hear his heartfelt ejaculation as he
looked out of the car window: "Well, this is good." It was a
perfect spring day in Kansas ; and all the world " lying and be-
ing situate" between Atchison and Topeka looked as if God had
made it the day before. So we ran along the level to Parnell,
and climbed the long slope to Nortonville, and looked out at the


lovely country stretching away for miles around that little town,
all bathed in the sunshine, and then went clattering down the
divide into the valley of the Delaware, (as the sensitive people of
those parts call it, though Grasshopper will always be good
enough for me;) and looked over the springing wheat fields,
brighter than emerald, and then took the long ascent where the
railroad crosses the sharp divide at Rock Creek station, and then
we rushed through the cuts to Meriden, and then down again, all
the way down, for ten miles, until the train dashes out of the
woods into the wide valley of the Kaw, and the roofs and spires
of Topeka rise in the near distance. And the sun shone all the
way, and our traveled friend talked all the fifty miles about the
State, and said every field of wheat looked bright, from Atchison
to Dodge City, and that he would not give Kansas for a seat
astride of the equator; and "all the justices concurred."

There seems to be no doubt that, according to usage, precedent
and the fitness of things, a State capital ought to be a % sleepy,
shady town, with brick sidewalks, and with no excitement save
the annual or biennial meeting of the Legislature, when it ought
to be all torn up and flustrated, like an old woman with the chim-
ney on fire. But Topeka is undeniably experiencing a genuine
boom. A great multitude of new houses are being built, and
real estate is ballooning. A weedy, unkempt farm, just outside
the city, which a few years ago the owner seemed to think was
unworthy of cultivation, is now valued at one thousand dollars
an acre. The citizens who formerly lived and transacted their
affairs, including weather predictions and the political manage-
ment of the State and Nation, on the sunny side of Kansas avenue,
have become capitalists ; try to look as if they lived in Boston ;
are interested in the Colorado mines, the water works, or the
electric light; are accused of being financially implicated in
morning newspapers; and have. each erected a residence in one
of the many styles prevalent, from that of the Babylonish cap-
tivity to the death of Queen Elizabeth. Public improvements
are going on; the street cars, long needed, are running; water
pipes are being laid down on the street; the excavation for the
main building of the capitol has begun, and the capitol square is


again in the state of chronic disorder which has characterized it
ever since it had an existence; a huge pile of rough rock indicates
the site of the public library building in the square; and stranger
than all, a close observer can see that day by day there is a
change in the massive outlines of the United States building on
the avenue. Whatever report you may hear to the contrary,
they are at work upon it.

The question must arise, alike in the minds of the resident and
the stranger, why should this city, with no wholesale business to
speak of; until recently, very little private wealth ; no manufac-
tures ; situated in the midst of a farming country which is, to say
the least, no richer or more populous than that which surrounds
every other Kansas town twenty-five years old, grow as this city
has done within the last three years, until there is little doubt
that it is the first city in population in the State? Some may say
that it is the location here of the seat of government for the State,
and several State institutions, but that fact has never made a
flourishing city elsewhere. As a rule, it would be hard to find a
duller lot of towns than the capitals of the various States of the
Union. The sale of hash to a Legislature is at best a fleeting
resource; while State institutions, as a rule, purchase their sup-
plies by contract at commercial centers, and do little for the
sleepy burgs in which they are located. In the case of Topeka
there is but one answer to the problem of prosperity the estab-
lishment here of the headquarters of the Atchison, Topeka &
Santa Fe Railroad Company.

It is very curious to look back as I can, twelve years, and note
the railroad situation here. The great road then was the Kansas
Pacific. It ran, to be sure, on the wrong side of the river, but it
began and ended somewhere, and was the only thoroughfare to
the East and the West. The K. P. was a big thing then. It
did nothing, however, for the town, except that the National Land
Company, a sort of wheel within a wheel, a private association
which sold Kansas Pacific lands, had its headquarters here, at-
tracting a good many land buyers, and advertising the "far West/'
which was then located in the vicinity of Salina. But the Na-
tional Land Company went up ; I do not know what became of


its constituent members. One of them, Dr. Webb, gave the world
a Kansas book, "Buffalo Land," but I have not seen either author
or book in a long time. In those days when the " K. P." was
booming, the Santa Fe was a miserable little road, beginning, as
I knew it first, at Topeka, and ending at Burlingame, a town
which was encouraged by its railroad prospects to issue bonds for
a woolen mill, which has never yet robbed a flock of its fleece.
There was one little old engine, and the " machine shop" con-
sisted mostly of an anvil. The depot, however, was quite as
commodious as that of the Kansas Pacific, which really had use
for one, which was doubtful in the case of the Santa Fe. The
financial management of the road required little attention. The
road finally reached the Osage county coal fields, and I have
heard Mr. Sargent, then general freight agent, say that in the
early days, by stepping to the door of his residence and counting
the cars brought in by the solitary daily coal train, he could tell
the exact receipts of the corporation. This was the situation in

Yesterday I visited, for the first time, the Santa Fe shops,
located here. I found the old bridge shops, originally built by
the extinct King Bridge Company, a humbug that made a living
for awhile by securing municipal bonds, building cheap shops,
and then moving away, or neglecting to make any bridges, had
been completely transformed. The old shops, considered exten-
sive when built, served only as a sort of a core for the new shops,
which stretched away on all sides. I walked all through the
shops. They were crowded with men and machinery; every con-
trivance by which wood can be cut, split, sawed, mortised or
carved; or iron hammered, cut, welded, bored, filed, or punched,
seemed to be at work. Engines are brought from Colorado and
New Mexico for repairs. I saw the famous "Uncle Dick" on
the stocks. This enormous locomotive was built for freight
work on the mountain grades. Her boiler looked as large as
that of an old-fashioned, high-pressure Mississippi river steam-
boat. When first sent West, "Uncle Dick" excited great curi-
osity, but fourteen such monster engines are now at work on the
road. The one engine, the U C. K. Holliday," which I knew, had


grown to hundreds. I saw No. 315 in the round-house, and I
was glad to see a fine new engine, the first built in the shops here,
or in Kansas, bearing the old name, " C. K. Holliday," thus pre-
serving the fame of the gallant Kansas pioneer, who, with some of
our own Atchison citizens, conceived the idea of this great road,
and having "kept the faith," and, we are happy to add, his stock,
has been rewarded after many days.

The great fact, however, in connection with this road is, that
every morning seven hundred men take their places in the shops
or in the yards. Seven hundred men is a strong regiment of in-
antry, yet that is the force employed in the work of the shops
alone. All these men live in Topeka, are paid their money and
spend it in Topeka. All that portion of the city east of Kansas
avenue, known in the old time as "the bottom," and ten years
ago covered by the shanties of the colored people, or lying in
open, weedy commons, is now covered with the homes of these
workmen. Each little 25-foot-front lot has its one-story frame
house, with more ambitious structures here and there. More than
this, a new town, called Parkdale, has been built on the east side
of the Shunganunga, inhabited, I should judge, almost exclu-
sively by workingmeu. Each of these men who builds a house
gives a pledge that he will become a permanent resident, and as
the discipline in the shops at least is very strict, his permanency
depends on his being a steady workman.

Beside the shop hands, an immense number of track-men and
laborers are employed in the acres on acres of tracks and yards,
which are constantly being extended.

I was shown a fine passenger coach and a directors' car of su-
perior finish, entirely constructed at the works in Topeka, and
this gives promise of a time when all the cars and coaches of the
road shall be built here, giving employment to hundreds of hands
in addition to those now employed.

I have spoken of one division of the Santa Fe army stationed
at Topeka, but there is another. One cannot stop at a Topeka
hotel without noticing the large number of young men at the
table. These are, almost to a man, employes of the road clerks
and the like. Their occupation requires a certain standard of in-


telligence and appearance, and the "grinding monopoly" business
has this advantage, that it tolerates no foolishness. The wild
young masher finds no bowels of compassion in a corporation,
and conducts himself, in spiritualistic language, u in harmony
with the conditions."

The influence of a great corporation like this in a town like
Topeka is of course very great. There is more or less " Santa
Fe" in about everything here. It is unavoidable, and I do not
know that it is undesirable. At the shops is a whistle, which
must be a near relative of a fog horn. Its hoarse blast can be
heard all over Topeka. It is intended to call the workmen, but
when it blows, all Topeka gets up. All the clocks in town are
set by that whistle. This is emblematic of the part that the
"Santa Fe " plays in Topeka affairs.

I have watched the growth of Topeka and of the Santa Fe for
a good many years, and it seems to be a good example of sensi-
ble reciprocity. The city behaved liberally in the first place,
and has been treated well in return. A pay-roll of $100,000 a
month is a very comfortable thing to have about a town. The
executive officers of the road live in Topeka; many of them
have lived here for years, and have established permanent and
beautiful homes here, and it is but just to say that they have
aided every worthy public enterprise, and have heartily co-
operated with the older citizens in the building-up of the city.

I have mentioned these facts with a good deal of pleasure. I
think every Kansan must feel gratification in the thought that
the Capital of his State is not a dog-fennel haunted village, and
it is but just that the reason of the Capital city's prosperity
should be acknowledged. For my part, I can see no reason why
what has happened in Topeka might not happen elsewhere. The
spectacle of a great corporation building up a town is rather
more agreeable than that of a corporation constantly making
demands of a community, under implied threats, and in return
for substantial benefits conferred indulging only in vague and
general promises. I do not believe any corporation or individual
ever achieved any permanent success by acting the hog, while
the case of Topeka shows that both a town and a corporation
may become great gainers by a liberal and generous policy.


THERE has always been something very interesting to me in
the coming of different peoples to Kansas, and the blending of all
of them into a community of interest and language. In my news-
paper travels I have interviewed a half-dozen varieties of "colo-
nists," among them the Hungarians, of Rawlins county, and the
colored folks of Nicodemus, who came to Kansas from the dis-
tant and foreign shores of Kentucky.

By far the most extensive and notable emigration in the history
of Kansas was that of the so-called " Russians," which began sub-
stantially in 1874, and which has resulted in the settlement of
fifteen thousand Mennonites in the counties of Marion, Harvey,
McPherson, Butler, Reno and Barton, besides the Catholic Ger-
man-Russians, who have some settlements in Ellis county, on the
line of the Kansas Pacific, and whose mud village of Herzog I
visited in 1878.

The rallying point of the Russian emigrants in 1874 and 1875
was Topeka, and that town abounded with sheepskin coats, ample
breeches, bulbous petticoats, iron teakettles, and other objects
supposed to be distinctively Russian, for many months. There
was considerable competition between the two great land-grant
roads the Kansas Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa
Fe to secure these people as settlers. With its usual good
luck, the Santa Fe captured both the larger and the better class,
the Mennonites.

The Catholic Russians were from a remote part of Russia, the
government of Saratov, and were the most foreign in their appear-
ance. The men and boys had a custom of gathering on the street
at night, near their quarters, and singing in concert. The music
was of a peculiarly plaintive character, suggesting the wide, lonely
steppes from whence they came. As I have said, they went out
on the Kansas Pacific, where they seem to have pretty much dis-



appeared from public view. In 1878, at Herzog, they had made
very little progress.

The Mennonites seemed more at home in this country; and
securing excellent lands from the Santa Fe company, soon disap-
peared from Topeka. In the summer of 1875, in company with
Mr. C. B. Schmidt, then, as now, the Emigration Agent of the
A. T. & S. F., who had been largely instrumental in settling
them in Kansas, I visited a portion of the colonists, living in the
villages of New Alexanderwohl, Hoffnungsthal and Gnadenau,
in Harvey and Marion counties. The observations made on the
occasion of that visit were embodied in an article in the Topeka
Commonwealth, entitled " The Meunonites at Home." From that
visit until yesterday, I had never seen the Mennonites, though I
have often felt a great curiosity to observe for myself how they
had succeeded.

In 1875 the Mennonites were still a strange people. They
retained the little green flaring wagons they had brought from
Russia, and were attempting to live here under the same rule
they followed in Russia. The village of Gnadenau was the
most pretentious of their villages. It was a long row of houses,
mostly built of sod and thatched with long prairie grass. A few
of the wealthier citizens had built frame houses, furnished with
the brick ovens of Russian origin, which warm the family and
cook its food for all day with two armfuls of loose straw.

The land belonging in severalty to the villagers, lay around
the settlement, some of it at a considerable distance, while near at
hand was a large common field, or rather garden, which was
principally devoted to watermelons, which seemed the principal
article on the Mennonite bill of fare.

The site of the villages seemed selected with care, each stand-
ing on such slight ridges and elevations as the prairie afforded.
It was summer in Kansas, and of course the scene was naturally
beautiful, but the scattered or collected Mennonite houses, with
their bare walls of sods or boards, amid patches of broken prairie,
did not at all add to the charm of the scene, The people were
like their houses, useful but ugly. They had not yet got over the
effect of their long ocean voyage or their life in the huddled emi-


grant quarters at Topeka, where they acquired a reputation for un-
cleanliness which they were far from deserving. Still there was
an appearance of resolution and patience about them, taken with
the fact that all, men, women, and children, were at work, that
argued well for the future. It was easy, if possessed of the
slightest amount of imagination, to see these rude habitations
transformed in time to the substantial brick houses, surrounded
by orchards such as the people had owned when they lived on
the banks of the Molotchna in far Eussia. Of course, it wa&
reasoned, they would remain villagers; they would cling to the
customs they brought from Russia, and remain for generations a
peculiar people. They would be industrious; they would acquire
wealth; but they would remain destitute of any sense of beauty,
rather sordid, unsocial, and to that extent undesirable settlers.

Hardly seven years have passed, and on Friday last, for the
first time, the writer was enabled to carry into effect a long-cher-
ished purpose to return and take another look at the Mennonites.
It was intended to start from Newton in the morning, but a day
fair as ever dawned in Eden was followed by a night of thunder,
lightning and rain, the rain continuing to fall all the following
forenoon, with a chill wind from the north ; but at noon one of
those "transformation scenes" common in Kansas occurred.
The sky began to clear, with a great baud of blue in the north
and west; the wind blew free, and by 2 o'clock we drove out over
roads that you could almost walk in barefooted without soiling
your feet. We were fortunate in our guide, Mr. Muntefering, of
Newton, who had hunted all over the country, and had traversed
it often transacting business on behalf of the railroad company
with the Menuonites. The wheat waved a varying shade of
green, shifting in its lines like sea water; the prairie chickens
rose on whirring wing before the old hunting dog, who ran before
the carriage; flocks of long-billed plover looked out of the grass;
and the meadow lark rehearsed a few notes of his never-finished

A great change had taken place in the country generally since
my last visit. The then raw prairie was now, barring the fences,
very like Illinois. At last, after driving about ten miles, Mr. Mun-


tefering announced the first Mennonite habitation, in what seemed
the edge of a young forest, and I then learned what I had never
before heard, or else had forgotten, that the Mennonites had
abandoned the village system, and now lived "each man to him-
self." They tried the villages three years, but some confusion
arose in regard to paying taxes, and beside, it is in the air, this
desire for absolute personal and family independence; and so
they went on their lands, keeping, however, as close together as
the lay of the country would admit. Sometimes there are four
houses to the quarter-section; sometimes four to the section.
The grand divisions of New Alexanderwohl, Hoffnungsthal and
Gnadenau still exist, but each group of farms has a name of its
own, revealing a poetical tendency somewhere, as Greenfield,
Flower Field, Field of Grace, Emma Vale, Vale of Hope, and
so on. These are the German names freely translated. The old
sod houses (we believe the Mennonites never resorted to the dug-
out) had given way to frame houses, sometimes painted white,
with wooden window shutters. The houses had no porches or
other architectural adornments, and were uniform in appearance.
I learned afterward that the houses were built by contract, one
builder at Halstead erecting sixty-five houses in one neighbor-

The most surprising thing about these places is the growth of
the trees. I left bare prairie; I returned to find a score of min-
iature forests in sight from any point of view. The wheat and
corn fields were unfenced, of course, but several acres around
every house were set in hedges, orchards, lanes and alleys of trees
trees in lines, trees in groups, and trees all alone. In many
oases the houses were hardly visible from the road, and in a few
years will be entirely hidden in the cool shade. Where the houses
were only a few hundred yards apart, as was frequently the case,
a path ran from one to the other, between two lines of poplars or
cottonwoods. A very common shrub was imported from Russia
and called the wild olive, the flowers being very fragrant ; but
the all-prevailing growth was the mulberry, another Russian idea,
which is used as a hedge, a fruit tree, for fuel, and as food for the
silk worm.


We wished to see a few specimen Mennonites and their homes,
and called first on Jacob Schmidt, who showed us the silk worms
feeding in his best room. On tables and platforms a layer of
mulberry twigs had been laid, and these were covered with thou-
sands of worms, resembling the maple worm. As fast as the leaves
are eaten, fresh twigs are added. As the worms grow, more room
is provided for them, and they finally eat mulberry brush by the
wagon-load. Mr. Schmidt said the floor of his garret would soon
be covered. It seemed strange that the gorgeous robes of beauty
should begin with this blind, crawling green worm, gnawing rav-
enously at a leaf.

We went next to the house of Peter Schmidt. Had I been an
artist I should have sketched Peter Schmidt, of Emmathal, as
the typical prosperous Mennonite. He was a big man, on the
shady side of forty. His face, round as the moon, was sunburned
to a walnut brown. He was very wide fore and aft; he wore a
vest that buttoned to his throat, a sort of brown blouse, and a
pair of very roomy and very short breeches, while his bare feet
were thrust into a sort of sandals very popular with the Mennon-
ites. The notable feature of Peter's face was a very small mouth,
which was slightly spread at times with a little smile, showing
his white teeth, and quite out of proportion to his immense coun-
tenance. Peter knew scarcely any English, but conversed readily
through Mr. Muntefering. He showed with pride his mulberry

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