Abbie B., age 23, Kansas


Ninnescah River Kans. The 25th brother and Katura took me to W and I left for Kans. Crossed the Mississippi at night, reached Kansas City next morning, where I had to change cars, and have my trunk rechecked.

The pillow and blanket that was roaped on top of the trunk, were loose, and no one had time to roap it again, so I had to take them in the car with me.   I wrapped them in the single shawl as tight as I could, and it looked just like a baby bundle. After we left Topeka I inquired of the conductor about stage connections at Emporium—He said the R. R. was now finished to Cottonwood.” I should get out there, and get a ticket to Cottonwood. He would take my check and recheck my trunk. “Dont hurry I will wait for you.” he added.  There at Emporia I saw the first Indian.

Soon after leaving E. the stage agent came to book those who left by stage next morning. I asked if it was necessary to do so before reaching Cottonwood, and was told that to be sure of a seat it was. So I paid $10 for a passage to Wichita, 80 miles from E. I asked some questions about the country, and we had a very interesting conversation, and a laugh about my pillow and blanket bundle.

He said the winds were so strong, that by the end of a month, I would be tanned the color of a buff envelop. The hotel at C is nearly a mile from the depot, and the hardest looking place I ever stopped at, with so many idle men lounging around.” I went at once to my room, and found I was to share it with a young girl—who had come down on an earlier train.

We soon became acquainted. She reminded me so much of A. D. R.  . Gifted A. D. R. why did Providence allow him to die, after so short a time missionary in India. What memories a face will recall.

The stage was to leave at 5-30. We left the lamp burn all night, as a help not to over sleep. We were up in time for breakfast, which was the first meal I had bought since leaving Indiana. My lunch held out well. There were two stages—four horses to each. Both were packed tight. The exceedingly young—and exceedingly silly bride, who came down on the train I did, and my roommate and I, sat in the back seat. What with my basket and bundle I was some­what crowded. Some one shouted “All ready” and away we went. They changed horses every ten or twelve miles, and at times drove like fury. Sometimes your head would bang against the top; then those riding out side, would call, “How’s that for high.” A very common expression out here.  When we came to rough places—the driver usually called out “Make yourselves firm.” Knowing what to expect, we grabbed hold of the side of stage or the seat, and avoided getting badly thumped.

The bridal party left at the second or third change of horses. Some one said he was running a store near there. We got out once, and walked, until the coach came up. It was not far, for they changed horses in a marvallously short time. There were very few improvements to be seen. One place we saw a buffalo calf, tied with a rope to a stake.

At Eldorado some of the passengers left to go over another stage rout. The girl got out too. She had told me that she was going to work in a hotel there. I was sorry to part with her. From E to Augusta there was but one stage, with six horses and fifteen or eighteen passengers. I was the only woman, and kept quiet, and tried to be dignified, whether it was a success or not I do not know; but I do know that I was always treated with courtsey.

When we crossed White river  the water ran throu the coach. I raised my feet in time, but my skirts got wet. The late rains had raised the water in the river, which is not wide—but deep.

The passengers kept up a brisk conversation. A man from Wis­consin would lean on his umbrela and grumble about the country, the weather ct. It was a dreary cloudy day for late April.

After riding a long time with nothing but prairie to see—we passed a sod hut. Then they called his attention to “the great and magnificent improvements.” He was provoked and “talked back,” when one told him they were only obeying the bible command which said “When a stranger comes along, take him in.”

Augusta was the Land Office, and all but six of the passengers stopped. We changed coches to a smaller one, with four horses. From A to Wichita we changed horses once. All but the Wisconsin man and I, got out and walked on. The walking was good. We had come all the way of the Santa Fe Trail, tramped flat by thousands of Texas cattle driven over it last year.

The new teams were fine grays—and rather wild.

A little way from the stable was a draw or water course some what stony—or at least very rough. The driver called “Make your selves firm.” We went over the draw, and part way up the slope, on a run—then something hap­pened. The driver yelled to the horses and finaly we stopped. Then he yelled—”if there is a man in there, get out quick, and hold a horse. If I get down I will loose controll of all.” Wisconsin was so long getting out, I felt like pushing him, and by the time he did, the man from the stable was there to help. He had started when he heard the driver yell to the horses.

They fixed the harnes, and we started, only to have the same horse begin to kick something awful. “Shall I get out,” I asked. “Stay in with your baby.” Again the pillow, blanket and shawl were taken for a baby. I got out, and the man who had walked on, came back, thinking they had gotten on the wrong road.

This time they had to go back to the stable for new harness. The driver explained that the horse that made the trouble, was a new one, on the team, and not broken in yet. We were detained about an hour, and it was nearly dark now. When ready to start, the driver said, “The lady and two or three men get in, and when the men let go the horses, I will drive like fury, slack up later, but not stop, and the rest can get in.” He certainly drove like Jehu, and the men got in with considerable difficulty. The last ten miles, we almost flew. We certainly had a good driver, one who understood horses.

When we could see the lights of W, I began wondering where I would stop. The men began to talk about hotels, and one said, “there are two, one about as good as the other.” When we stoped at the first, the clerk came and opened the door and asked, “Any passengers for here?” When no one moved to get out, I said I would, and was the only one to stop there.

In all that ride of 80 miles from 5-30 a. m. to 10 p. m. I was treated with the greatest respect. It was a great disappointment not to see or hear something of my brother. The clerk suggested that he might not have my letter—as he lived 20 miles out along the Ninnescah. I was tired and went to my room.

It was a new hotel—the room was clean, but very simply furnished. The partitions were boards, and one could hear the talk in the other rooms.

I slept well, felt rested next morning, and after breakfast the landlord went to the P. O. and there was the letter I had written Philip that I was coming. He then inquired if there were any teams going to the Ninnescah river, but found none. So I had to hire a team to take me out. They charged me $7—for the open spring waggon, drawn by a pair of mules. The driver was a boy of sixteen.

We forded the Arkansaw.   It was broad and sandy. The water went over the hubs—but not into the waggon.

There were a few houses not far from the river, then we saw no sign of life, except a prairie dog town, until we reached N.  In all that distance there is no timber except a very little along the Cowskin creek. The creek has very steep banks, and I was glad when we had crossed it. A fringe of trees came into view, and we were hearing the river. The driver said we will stop at McLanes Ranch, and inquire for your brother. The ranch was a one room log building, where they sold provision and whiskey.

We drove to the door and I asked for Philip. “Your brothers claim is acrost the river—and two miles up.” “My Brother’s” I said, “Yes you are his sister, you look just like him, but you cant cross the river today, See—” and he waved his hand toward a number of freight waggons, “they have been waiting two days for the water to go down.”  Another disappointment.

What will I do—where spend the night? I asked, and he said “go over to the house and stay with my wife.”

The driver was going back as soon as he had fed the team, so I wrote a short letter home, and gave it to him to mail, as W_ is the nearest P. O.

I then went over to the house, which was a dug out, and acrost a little draw. It was built in the bank. Mrs. McLain was very cordial, not having seen a woman for some weeks. She had rheumatism, and was not very strong. Her daughter of twelve—and a negro girl of fourteen did the work. Some of the freighters took their meals there, while waiting for the water to go down.

I slept a while in p. m., but not long, for Mrs. Mc waikened me. She said, “You have slept long enough, I am lonesome for some one to talk to.” We took a little walk up the river, but she was not strong enough to go far.

There were sheets stretched acrost the room, dividing her bed­room, from the kitchen, where I slept on the floor with the girls. It was not a sound sleep, and when he came in at a late hour, I heard her say “I am so glad you have come. I was afraid you never would.” He told her there was no danger, but I heard that there often were rough times at the ranch when so many men got together.

When morning came, I hurried to the river to see if it could be crossed. The first man I met said they would try in a couple of hours.  After the men had breakfast, Mrs. McLain the girls and I ate; then she gave me a sunbonnet and we went to where they were doubling teams, and taking one waggon acrost at a time. It was hard going. I thought one little team would drownd, but they made the other side—and were soon on the old Texas trail. Then one team—the big team was taken back, and hitched as leaders to another waggon, and that crossed safely. It was quite exciting to watch them.

Mrs. M knew how anxious I was to get to my brother, and told one of the men. “All right she can get up on my waggon,” he said. I was helped away up on top of perishable goods which were piled high and reaped on. Those in the waggon box got partly wet.

What a trip it was—past a few cottonwood trees, then down into the water, which had a swift current. By the time I began to get dizzy—the leaders struck sand, and we were soon on the old trail, where horsemen and teams were waiting to cross north, but waited for the freighters to come over first.

When the driver came to help me down, he asked “where are you going”? “To my brothers, two miles up the river,” I told him. “Have you ever been there” he asked. “No, but I can easily walk that far,” I answered. “You know nothing about it; stay where you are until we get up to Murrie’s Ranch— he will help you.” There I stayed for he drove on and when we reached a log house—he called to a man at the door— “Murry this lady wants to go two miles up the river.” Then he helped me down, I thanked him, and he drove on.

I told Mr. Murry who I was— He said I could not walk, he would get me a horse. I should go in and wait, and off he started. I looked around the room, which was lined with shelves— on which were goods, those usualy kept in a frontier store. The ranch was built of logs.  You steped over the lower one to get in. While I waited— army waggons, drawn by six and eight oxen went by. They belonged to the 6th U. S. Calvary. Soon a number of officers passed.

All this time Mr. Murry had been driving a bunch of horses and ponies into the correll that was near the ranch. He brought an Indian pony to the door, put on it a mans saddle, and then I mounted from the log acroust the door, and he told me how to go. I could not see the North house— it was beyond a strip of scrub trees along a draw or water course. I was to ride up around that, then I would see the North house, and they would tell me where to find Philip. He also gave me a letter that had been left with him, for Mrs. North.

So I started, on what I hoped to be the last leg of my journey, with the six or eight loose horses and ponies, trotting along. Some­times ahead and sometimes behind. I was fearful they might get kicking or do something to excite my pony and make me trouble. Hower they were all pieceable—and seemed to enjoy the going.

After rounding the draw, I could see the North house way down toward the river. There was a garden in front of the house, and not wanting the horses to spoil it, I stopped some distance back and called to the woman at the door to come and get a letter. When she came— I asked where I could find my brother. “He is here” she said and called him.

At last, at last, I was so glad I believed I cried a bit.

After telling him how I crossed the river—and Mr. Murry getting the horse ct. I said “I am so glad to be here— there were all men down there.” He said “Behave like a lady, and you will be treated like one.” I shall never forget his saying that. All the same, I felt out of place although I could not at any time have been treated with greater consideration.

When I told him the 6th Calvary were going to cross, he said he knew men in that reg. and would take the pony and her bunch of followers back to Murry and see the men.

It was then arranged that for the present I should stay with Mrs. N.   Mrs. N was a talker, and I soon had the lay of the land. A Scotch family by the name of Rose lived acrost, and up the river. When a party of young men came here last fall to locate, they stopped with or near the Roses, and helped build some houses— North’s and Philip’s and a dug out near North’s where some of them stay.

Mr. N was clerking in Whichita, Mr. Smith freighting. Some doing carpentering work ct. All earning money to pay for their claims. The men in the vicinity had gone on a buffalo hunt. Philip was going along, when he accidentally cut his leg. He was fishing, and after cuting bate for the hook, stuck his hunting knife into his boot, then stooping suddenly had cut his leg. So he stayed that he could better care for it. A neighbor woman stayed with Mrs. N at night, and Philip had come up from his cabin to the dug out to be near the woman while the men were away. When Mrs. N saw me coming, and the loose horses racing around, she thought a party of Indians were coming, and called Philip to stay with her until they moved on—That is how he happened to be there, and fortunate it was for me.

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