Abbie B., age 22, Kansas


Over a week since I wrote in my journal. I should have taken it along. Now I have much to write, and most likely will miss some things of interest.

Saturday I was fixing a duck for dinner, and a goose for Sunday, when Jannette Rose came with a letter for Father sent me a draft of $300.00 to prove upon my claim.

Then Mr. Springer came for me, they were ready to start on a hunt. He wanted brother to go along, but he said he was not well enough. He was in a flurry about “shooting irons.” Wanted all he could get.

I would rather have stayed home, but had promised Mrs. S I would stay with the children. He had a good saddle, and the best riding horses I have seen in this state. I enjoyed the ride, my horse paced along. Mr. S who is from Va., talked all the time, with his southern accent. He declared that if he was a young man I “should never leave the Ninnescah single.” I laughed at him, and said there are very nice young men in the East. When we crossed the branch, we saw a very large snake. The largest I ever saw, “Well” he said “if I were not in such a hurry I’d get off and kill it.”

They had the waggon packed, and left soon after we got there. When leaving Mrs. S said, “There is nothing in the house but flour and bacon.”  I thought she was joking.

When dinner time came, one of the children said “I guess you will have to bake bread for dinner.” I looked, but there was not a crum of bread in the house. And no soda. She had started “salt risin” in a tin cup, but that would not be ready before night, and I had never baked any. I had left a duck dinner, with good yeast bread ct. Here were three of us, and almost an empty larder. I found a few potatoes and dried fruit, also yeast—and started bread at once—which I baked Sunday.

When we were out on a hunt we were gone one night, and I never thought they would be away more than two nights at the long­est. Well they left Saturday morning and never got back until Wednesday evening.

It was windy all the time they were gone. Pieces of the chinking would fall out from between the logs, on the south side of the house. The house which was 18 by 14 had no windows. Along one side were two beds—at one end a stove, along the other side were a table and chairs—and at the other end chests or trunks. The neighbors were too far away to go calling, and none came to see us.   The children were good, but we all seemed stupid.

Tuesday I had a shake. I had many chills—but never a shake, before. Then came the fever. So time draged on, and not one word from Philip, and I was worried.

I was as glad as the children, when they came Wed. evening!

They had to go so far, before they found any buffalo, is what had kept them so long. I wanted to go home at once— but they said it was too late, and they were tired, would take me home in the morn­ing. Thursday early—we saw smoke and thought the fire was com­ing over the divide towards us. so they rushed out to plow a fire guard beyond their hay stacks. The wind favored them, and the fire did not get on their side of the branch, but all between the branches—and beyond—way up this way, and on to the river.

Brother was alone, and had his hands full. He quick “back fired” when he saw the fire coming, then moved the ox there, after which he had to watch the dugout. Half our wood burned and a load of chips. The ground thrown out when they built the dug out, helped to save it. From Springers we could see the flames beyond the branch—when it burned the sunflowers on Mr. Smiths dame, It burned Elsworths hay stacks and some others, also Mr. Smiths stable and corn crib.   He is away freighting.

I was so anxious about my brother – but could not go to him. J. R. was at Elsworths, and could not get to his claim or my dugout until the fire had burned down. When he came up here, Philip had gone to the river to see his cabin, which fortunately escaped.

In the meantime the Springer men did not get back to the house, until 2 o’clock. Then we had dinner and the boy brought me home. Mrs. S gave me some buffalo meat and two preserving citrons. She offered to pay me for staying with the children, but I considered it an act of neighborliness, and told her so. The S are not poor, but in loading up when they left, they in their hurry had taken the eatables along, and left us short. She is a vary capable woman. When the boy and I finaly got started in the big waggon toward home, and when we rounded the branch we were on burned over ground. Down toward the Hall we could see where the fire had run through three acres of corn. The wind was so high, the fire burned the dry leaves and some of the husk, that many ears were half exposed, others that had fallen down, were still smouldering. The stalks were mostly standing.

Rounding the head of the other branch between the Hall and home, we saw three deer, running toward the sand hills. What a dreary sight it was—not a green thing in sight, except the trees at the river. I had expected to find things looking bad, but my imagination was short, far short of the fact. The prairie had burned black and even; but over the bottom where the grass grew rank, it left the blackened stalks standing. The ground was still hot, and a high wind blowing.

We were both glad to be together again, and I was so relieved to find him as well as he was. Everything in the house was covered with burned grass—that blew in—and O the skunk smell, how it sickened us. Philip was angry at J. R. for shooting the skunk in the house—but that did not help matters any, after he had gone to the Hall.

Philip tried to clean up a little. Fresh wood ashes back of my trunk absorbed the scent to some extent. He was baking sweet potatoes for supper. I soon laid down— after he told me of his fight with the fire, leaving the cleaning of the house for next day. It was cloudy and windy coming from Springers and I got chilled through. After going to bed fever came on.

Some time later Brother called me. He said if I felt able, I should wrap up well, and come out and see the fire, that it was not likely I would ever see the like again. The scene was grand beyond description. To the North there was a sheet of flames extending east and west. To the west there was fire beyond fire. Acrost the river, a hay stack was burning. Jake had the logs for his house ready to put up, the fire got among them, and did much damage. I cant give a description of the wild fearful—yet facinating sight.

I went back to bed, thankful that we were safe. The first fire, the one that came over the divide early in the a. m. while it swept on, at a terrible speed, did not extend far in width. I cannot understand how so many fires in different directions, should be burning that night.

The people and hearders acrost the river did not expect the fire to cross, but it jumped the river, and caused much trouble. One heard of cattle and ponies stampeded—and some were burned. Another hearder lost $700. Before morning a thunder storm put out all the fires.

*(kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society, copy and reuse restrictions apply)