Immigrants often had to leave behind luxury items because there simply wasn't enough room either on the steamboat or in the wagon. Some musical instruments, like this violin, did make it to Kansas during the territorial period (1854-1861). Musical entertainment provided weary travelers an escape from the hardships and monotony of life on the trail.
The original owner of this violin, James Limerick, was born in Virginia. He and wife Margaret had children born in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois before they continued west to Kansas Territory. En route to Kansas, the Limerick family arrived at the Grand River in Missouri in the spring of 1855, where they were forced to camp due to high waters and the lameness of one of their oxen. While encamped, the Limericks met James Darnell's family who were migrating from Illinois to Kansas. They all became friends. As Darnell's supply of draft animals was ample, he loaned Limerick some of his. In June of that year, both families arrived at upper Rock Creek in Pottawatomie County and took up claims in the area.
According to the Darnell family, Limerick was a fiddler in the Irish style who liked to play songs at the campfire. He was said to have played by ear and been able to play and dance simultaneously. The fiddle was eventually given to the Darnell family and remained in the hands of Charles Darnell (James Darnell's grandson), until it was donated to the Kansas Historical Society in 1959.
The violin is on display in the main gallery of the Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Immigrant's Violin
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.