Letters of a Kansas Pioneer, 2
Thomas C. Wells
August 1936 (Vol. 5, No. 3), pages 282 to 318
Transcribed by Marilyn Dell Brady, Don Dowdey, Dr. Lynn H. Nelson,and Dick Taylor;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
Juniata K. T.
My dear father,
We are as well and as busy as ever, and though we have but little time for letter writing I will try to send a few lines home as often as I can, that you may know how we are situated in these troublous times.
As yet we have had no fighting in our neighborhood, and the war below affects us, only, in that it cuts off in a great measure communication with the states, making provisions very high, except what we can raise ourselves, and taking all the troops and horses from Ft. Reiley we have not so good a market for our corn etc. I am mistaken it affects us much more than this, it prevents settle[r]s from coming among us, and filling up the country thereby putting [off] for a year or two at least, the growth of our cities and villages, and it tends greatly to discourage the settlers that are here from building churches or school houses, engaging extensively in any business or, indeed, making any improvements.
We do not wonder that you are alarmed for our safety when you read the newspaper accounts from Kansas, they are frequently exaggerated however and more frequently inaccurate as to names of places and numbers of people engaged in battles etc but they are more always founded in fact and sometimes do not stat[e] the case nearly as bad as the truth would allow.
Sometimes we think that the future looks dark, but generally we keep up good courage and hope for better times at all events we (I mean our free state settlers) are determined to "stick to the ship until we know she is lost" and whether we remain in Kansas or not we will do all we can, to prevent slavery from coming hither. If we may credit the latest news from below our new governor has turned decidedly against us, has been taking prisiners free state men and calls out the troops to assist the Missourians and their allies in enforcing the shameful, bogus laws, and in driving the free state Settlers from their homes.
But whether it be true or not that our governor Sides with our
283 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
enemies, they are making all the mischief, committing all the outrages & murdering or driving out all the free State people that they can. I am surprised to learn from you that so many, even some of our "near relatives are such blind slaves to party or such selfish seekers for office as not, to believe the stories of our wrongs, or care whether the advocates of liberty or oppression triumph. They may get their reward, but I pity them, and would not give a three cent piece, for their friendship or their patriotism.
But I must close -- will write more soon as practicable and I hope to hear frequently from you.
House is not finished yet -- getting most out of patience.
Would be glad to have you sell that stock soon as you can for I shall need the money much.
My letters being directed to a pro-slavery P. O. generally come regularly.
Yours truly in haste
T. C. Wells
Manhattan, K. T.
Oct 19th 1856
My dear Mother
We very gladly received a letter from you last Friday, we got no letter from any one week before last and by some mistake we got none last week when we first went to the office, but afterwards two letters, one for Theodore from Lissie Sheldon and one from you, were sent to us.
I have been expecting to receive more drafts from home for two or three weeks, and if they do not come soon I shall hardly know how to get along, for I have calculated upon getting them and I really need the money. Theodore has decided to go home this fall, with Mr Wilson, Nealley etc who are going east to spend the winter with their friends; but if I do not receive the drafts from home I do not know how I can get the money for him. It will be as much or more than I ought to spare even if they come.
Everything is quiet now in the territory, -- no fighting, and no trouble -- hope it will remain thus quiet but I fear that we may have more trouble again after the presidential election in the States. Thus far our new governor seems to act impartially.
I am sorry father was not able to go and see Mr. Todd. He is one of our nearest neighbors and I think he would have liked him much. Mr. T. has returned with his wife and little boy, and his wife's brother -- and they are now keeping house on their claim -- the third one north of mine.
284 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Providence permitting we shall be married before Theodore starts for home, probably on the Thursday previous. Theodore is the only relation that either of us have in Kansas. Ella wishes she could have some of her folks here at that time if at no other.
I expect to harvest my corn this week, I think I shall have 275 or 300 bushels, and I expect to get 25 or 30 bush. potatoes and two or three bush of beans -- we have gathered two or three wagon loads of winter, squashes crooknecks etc and have quite a lot of beets yet in the garden.
I wish you and father and little Herbert were here to share some of the good things with us, prairie hens will be plenty, once in a while we may get a wild turkey, or a deer, and we can buy dry buffalo meat of the indians; but in the absence of all these we have beef, and there is no beef like that raised on the Kansas prairies.
Is Henry at Beloit now? we have not heard from him in a long time, and we know not where to write to him.
You will be really lonely when Mr. Reeds family and Fannie Burdick go away -- I think you had better move out here and settle near us in Kansas; -- It would not cost father so much to get started as it has me for he could use my horses, oxen, wagon, plow, etc. etc., that I was obliged to buy, until it may be convenient for him to get such things for himself, and after the first year or so he would have quite an easy time, and I doubt not that both his health and yours would be better here than there.
Come now make up your minds to come out here and bring the Lyme folks with you, or at least, after Theodore gets home and learns enough about the Bank to get along alone for a few weeks -- say by next June, send father out west on an exploring expedition. The journey will do him good, even if he should decide to go back and spend his days in R. I. nothing would be lost, and I assure you we should be very glad to see him.
How does Gillies get along with the Printing Office? We recd a letter from him not long ago and I will try to answer it soon.
Is there any prospect of the Baptist Church getting any one to take Mr. Reed's place? Do you have any preaching in the Episcopal church now?
Emigrants come in every week and soon all the good claims will be taken up, so that none can be had without buying. We expect a very large emigration in the Spring.
Love to friends and I hope you will write often and oblige yours truly,
T. C. Wells.
285 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
Manhattan, K. T.
Nov. 2d 1856.
Mrs. T. P. Wells
My dear Mother,
I did not write home last week for I had enough else to occupy my time.
The past week has been an eventful one to me, on Thursday evening last (Oct. 30th) Ella and I were married. Everything passed off very pleasantly; 'twas a beautiful day, not a cloud to be seen, and all the guests that were invited came, except two, and they were quite unwell; sixteen, besides ourselves and the family in whose house we were married, were present, and that is doing pretty well for Kansas, for you must know that they all had to come from one to five miles over the prairies in the dark and several of them got lost and wandered about for half an hour or more before they could find the house.
Ella has made her home at Rev. Mr. Traftons during the past six months; he is a Methodist Minister, ordained only week before last at Lawrence; he married us, the first job of the kind he has had, and he did his part well.
Both he and his wife have been very kind to us, and we regard them as our very best friends in this far off land.
We are boarding with them for a few days as our house is not quite ready for us. We hope to move into it toward the last of this week.
We would not have hurried matters quite so much had not Theodore been intending to start for home on Tuesday, next, and as he was the only relation that either of us had out here, we wanted him to be present when we were married.
I assure you that I have no reason to regret my choice, nor do I ever expect to have, and I hope I am, I know that I ought to be, very grateful to my Heavenly Father for so good a wife.
How little do we know of the future! Little did I think two years ago that I should now be living in this distant land, and married to one of whom I had never heard, a perfect stranger, but so it is.
I feel more than ever that all things are ordered by a higher power, and He doeth all things well.
I suppose that Theodore will start, with Mr. Wilson and Mr Nealley, for New England, on Tuesday. I have had considerable trouble in raising the money for him to go, for times are rather hard here now and money is very scarce. I tried to collect some in several places where it was due me but was
286 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
unsuccessfull I then tried to sell some of my Manhattan stock, but could find no one ready to buy just then. At last I made a raise by hiring it of Mr. Wilson for a few months at a pretty high rate of interest.
Father wrote me a long time ago that he would sell the remainder of my stock at Landholders Bk. and send me the proceeds, and I have been looking for the drafts for several weeks -- had they come as I expected I should have had no such trouble.
I[t] takes a great deal to do a little in a new country and I hope the drafts will come soon for I really need them to pay for what I have been obliged to get trusted. I am getting a very good start here now and if I can once more get "squared up" I think I shall have no difficulty in keeping so and doing something better too another season.
My expenses have been much greater than I expected since I have been here this time. I have been obliged to pay a board bill of six dollars a week for myself &Theodore besides one dollar a dozen for washing, and my house has cost me more than I expected etc. etc. and the man who engaged to furnish me with rails disappointed me so that I did not get my field fenced and the stray cattle have harvested considerable of my corn for me which is not very pleasant, but I hope I shall do better another season, for I shall not have quite every thing to do. We shall feel rather bad at parting with Theodore, but I think it best both for him and us that he should go, for though he does as well perhaps as any young fellow of his age would do, yet he needs a father's care, and we do not really need his help. I hope he will have a safe journey home, and that he will do his best to help father this winter.
After a little while now I do not expect to be so driven with work as I have been, and shall try to write more frequently to my eastern friends
How is Doct. Clarke now? I have written him a long while ago but have received no answer.
I wish that you and father could come and make us a good long visit when we get settled in our new home, it would be so nice; but I would like still better to see you settled near us in a home of your own. We did not know that Theodore would certainly start on Tuesday until yesterday afternoon, for I was not able to get the cash for him until then; so that will account for his clothes being in no better condition, but I am glad that he can go now for I would rather he would go with Mr. Wilson than most any one else.
287 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
Theodore will tell you all the news when he gets home, so I need not write more. We send a few cards by him, they are not just what we wanted, but you must remember that we are in Kansas and we got the best we could, we sent east for some others, but they have not come yet, and we may not get them at all should they come however. I think they will be better than these and we will send you some of them. Give Herbert a kiss for me and remember me to old friends. Where is N. Read Jr now? I would like to know where to direct a letter to him. Ella sends love.
Yours truly from your affc't son,
T. C. Wells.
We are short of envelopes, so I send three cards in yours -- one for Lissie and one for Henry, and I will put in two more for Grandfather and grandmother Johnson and Mr &Mrs Denison. We did not get as many cards or envelopes as we wanted. We had to send east for them and had to take up with what we could get We can get none printed here. I think you will give me credit for writing a good long letter this time and if I had time I could write as much more.
T. C. W.
Manhattan, K T.
Mrs. Thos. P. Wells,
My dear Mother,
I have before me your letter dated Oct. 4th -- the last which we have received from home or any where else; I should have said, the last that I have received, for Theodore has left us, and Ella got two letters from her friends last week.
I have been anxiously expecting a letter from home containing drfts. for several weeks past but have been disappointed thus far and if the dfts do not come pretty soon I do not know what I shall do.
I saw Mr. Randolf, the gentleman that carried Theodore and Mr. Wilson etc down to the states, last Friday, and was glad to learn that finding a boat at Leavenworth, they were able to proceed immediately on their journey, without any delay and that he left them all well and in good spirits.
We both miss Theodore a good deal, and should miss him much more had we not so much to occupy our time and thoughts.
We moved into our new house last Saturday, Nov 8th rather a queer time to move, I own, but "circumstances alter cases" 'tis said, and we thought that in this case circumstances would justify our moving, and I believe we were right in thinking thus.
288 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
'Twas a cold day, the 8th of Nov., the ground was all covered with snow and it seemed very much like winter. The house was just as the carpenters had left it, only partly finished, doors only to one room, neither lathed or plastered, the floors all covered with dirt and shavings, and everything in "sweet confusion."
In the morning Mr. Browning and myself put up the cook stove in our parlor-kitchen-dining room-and- sitting room, and I moved over some of our things from Mr. B.s with an ox team, and with the same I brought over in the afternoon the remainder of our things from Mr. Trafton's, and Ella. We arrived at our house at about four o' clock, and set up a bedstead made a bed, and arranged our things a little, during the evening so that we got along quite comfortably until Monday, and Ella has been very busy all the past week in cleaning up. and arranging our things so that it begins to seem quite like home.
I would not have you think that, every thing is straightened up and fixed to our liking and that there is not anything more to be done, by no means, but we have made a begining, and a good begining, and we see some prospect of getting done before a great while.
Ella does not half do anything and what she has done is done thoroughly, so that it will not have to be done over again.
The township surveyors have been along here and the section surveyors will be along in a few days, so that we shall soon know where our claims are. As near as we can judge from the township lines, our claims will go 40 rods further west and six rods further south than we supposed judging from Thurstons survey, if this should be the case nearly all my plowed ground will come on Mr. Wilson's claim which will not be very pleasant as it costs from four to five dollars an acre to break up the soil here for the first time. I think however that Mr Wilson will do the fair thing and break as many acres for me as he gets of mine.
It seems real good to have a home once more -- we have both of us been flying about, here and there, settled no where for so long a time that we know how to prize a home now that we have one. and I assure you we do prize and enjoy it.
We have had no meeting today as the minister Rev. Denison,6 whose turn it was to preach was sick The peace still continues below, and a little while ago this morning, we saw a large 6 Probably Joseph Denison, one of the founders of Bluemont college. He was president of the college when it became a state institution. For a biographical sketch see Kansas Historical Collections, v. VII, p. 169.
289 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
company, perhaps one hundred and fifty, dragoons returning from below to Fort ReiIey.
Ella received a box from home yesterday containing a lot of things which will be both useful and pleasant for us, it came out with Mr Todd's things. I suppose you know long before this who is elected president, we have not heard yet.
I wish you would send us some flower seeds, a few at a time in your letters, we would be very much obliged, indeed, for them.
I think of nothing more of interest at present, please write often. I hope we shall get a letter from you this week.
Ella sends love, and says Tell Theodore I want to see him very much indeed and he must write as soon as he gets home.
Has father got well of his lameness yet. I do so wish some of you could come out and see us, and make us a good long visit.
Yours very truly
T. C. Wells
I enclose a letter from G. I. Robinson to Theodore.
Manhattan K. T.
Nov. 29th, 1856.
Thos. P. Wells, Esq.,
My dear father,
I received a letter from you yesterday, dated Nov 12th with enclosures as stated, and was very glad to get the same and am much obliged to you for the trouble you have had in doing business for me. I had been obliged to borrow some money here at the usual rate of interest, (ten per cent) and also to purchase some things on credit, and was fearful that I should not get the drafts in time to meet my engagements, and pay my honest debts, but they have come at last and all is right To me it is unpleasant to get into debt at all, but it is very unpleasant when one does get into such a fix not to be able to see his way out, nothing will make me feel blue sooner I think I can "pay up" and get "square" with the world now and if possible I intend to keep so.
We were very glad to get your letter, for though it contained no news it furnished evidence that some one was still alive in the east and that we were not quite forgotten
We have not heard from home before since Theodore left more than three weeks ago. We have heard nothing from Theodore or Mr. Wilson since they left Leavenworth City and feel almost afraid that something has happened to them.
Another week has nearly gone. It is Saturday evening and we
290 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
are glad that another Sabbath is near at hand We find a great deal to do and feel that we ought to work while we can, but tired with the labors of the week we are glad when that day approaches wherein we must not work.
We get along nicely in our new home; true when we moved here we found nothing done, and every thing to do, but we have got a few of the odd jobs off our hands and hope that sometime the time will come when we shall not feel quite so hurried.
Our house is quite comfortable as much or more so than any in this region, and yet you would almost as soon think of moving into a barn, in the east, as of moving into an unfinished house like this. I have not heard from Elisabeth, Henry, or Amos, in a long time. What's the matter with them all? It is getting late, and I am getting sleepy as you may judge from this letter so I must close. Do write us a good old-fashioned long letter soon.
T. C. Wells
Manhattan, K. T.
My dear Mother,
You did indeed write me a good long letter this time -- it is now just three weeks since it was written -- I would like to get as long a letter from you every week. I entirely agree with you in thinking it a "shame" that the Baptist church in Wakefield should let so good a minister as Mr. Reed go and be willing to take up with such preaching as they may chance to get from Sabbath to Sabbath or go without any preaching at all; one would think that their religion was all in their pockets or they would not be satisfied with such a state of things.
We can, indeed, tell a "better" story of Kansas society than you do of Wakefield. There are three little churches formed in our vicinity Methodist, Congregational, and Baptist, each provided with a minister; But each minister preaches at several different places so that we do not hear the same one only once in three Sabbaths, but we have preaching every pleasant Sunday.
And then as I have told you before we have as good neighbors as we could wish, and I very much doubt, whether, in any New England village you would find a less number of objectionable characters than there are in our vicinity.
We have no factory help, no colored people, and very few foreigners of any kind (not to say that there are not often to be found very fine people in each of the classes above named.) But society
291 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
is not nearly so good in Manhattan, as among the farmers on the prairie.
You are right in saying that "you will be far happier" for being married. I do not know how I could get along without Ella. I do wish that you and father and Herbert could come and spend not only a "few days" but a few weeks with us; I know that you would enjoy your visit and we would so love to have you here. If Henry should come home again could not he take charge of the Bank a while in the spring so that father could leave awhile? I do wish you could all come out here and live; there is a claim just north of me, that is not yet, but soon will be, taken if father could only settle on that or some other claim near us, he would then have a home of his own while he lived, and be near, at least, two of his children. I believe he would be far happier, and you too if you would only believe it, than to remain in Wakefield. To be sure father gets a regular salary, you all have enough to eat, drink, and wear, the body is well cared for -- but that is not all you want to make you happy here below. "Tis not all of life of live." . . . If Dr. Clarke comes out to visit Amos in the spring, we would be very glad to have him come and stay awhile with us; tell him if you see him soon that he owes me a letter and I should be very happy to get it. I hope he will like my "wife" as well and better than he thinks.
We spent last Friday evening at Mr. Todd's and Mr. Trafton and Mr Browning with their wives were also there -- we had a very pleasant time. Theodore will tell you who they were.
Tell Sam. he must come and see my wife and then he will know something more about her. We got a letter from him and Lizzie yesterday -- all well.
I think with him that Kansas will be a free state, and that we shall have little more trouble with "border ruffians;" all continues quiet. Did you save the seeds of that squash that Theodore brought you?
I hope Theodore will really be of much help to father, and will learn all he can about banking; it will be a good thing for him.
I am sorry he was so foolish as to buy a watch, and on credit, too. He seemed to have a fever for a watch all the time he was here, and wanted to sell something that he had and get one or buy one on credit, but I advised him not to do so.
Theodore left a good many clothes here, but none of them were fit for him to wear and we thought it not worth while for him to take them home with him.
292 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Theodore, like all young lads has a great many notions of his own, and thinks he knows all about many things of which he is quite ignorant and he needs the advice and counsel of wiser and older heads He has naturally an affectionate disposition and can be led more easily than driven, but yet he must know what it is to obey.
I am sorry that Henry has had such poor success in getting business, I do not know what he can do. He must not despise the day of small I fear he is trying to get too good a situation and because he cannot find such an one as suits him in every particular will not accept of any. If he wants to learn any kind of business or rather if he wants to get a living and make money at any kind of business he must begin at the begining and learn it, and be content with a small salary at first. If he attempts to commence at the top of the ladder he will surely fail and have to try again and another way
I hope he will soon be successful and find some employment which will be profitable. I wrote him a week or two ago, -- directed to care of A. B. Carpenter &Co. Beloit. Will he be likely to get it?
I am sorry that you are going to lose your library; a sort of literary society with a library connected with it is just starting at Manhattan I hope it will succeed.
I have written quite a long letter, and must stop without giving many particulars of our house-keeping, for I was not very well yesterday and today and though I feel pretty well now I am getting tired and feel that I should be better off in bed. I received a letter from Theodore last week and will try to answer it soon. Do write often. A large grey wolf came up quite near the house this afternoon, and two more came quite up to the hay stack about sunset. They will not attack men unless a number of them are together and then only under cover of the night and in winter when half starved.
T. C. Wells
I have written by candle light and cannot see whether I write on the lines or not. I enclose a few cards which you may make such use of as you think best.
Jan 11th 1856 [1857; misdated.]
Manhattan, K. T.
Mrs. Thos P. Wells
My dear Mother,
It is four weeks since we heard from home and it seems to us a long time. Why is it? because you do not write? -- or because the letters are delayed on the way.
Our mail usually comes Fridays and Mondays; I hope we shall
293 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
get some letters tomorrow. It is very unpleasant to be so long without hearing from our eastern friends, we do not get homesick, exactly, but, we can but fear that something bad may have happened, and we long to know how they do.
You must not think that because we have come so far from our old homes -- to Kansas, and like the country so well, and are contented to live here -- that we do not think often of you in the east, feel interested in your welfare and long to see you.
If I do not get a letter soon I shall have to write father to look up some suitable person, in his vicinity, who, for a fair compensation, will inform me regularly of the health and prosperity of my friends and relations in South Kingstown.
We enjoy good health and get along finely. At present a young friend, formerly of R. I. (Frank B. Smith) is staying with us for a few days. He is going to the States, to Davenport, Iowa some time this week; his brother is in business there, G. W. Smith who used to keep the house furnishing store in Providence.
I have a map of Manhattan which I intend to send to father as soon as I can get time to mark the direction and distance from Manhattan of some of our neighbors, and some of the villages near us.
The bogus legislature meets at Lecompton tomorrow. I think they will not do much business except to pass an act authorizing the Governor to call an election of delegates to a convention to form a state constitution.
I recd two papers from home last week, the Prov. Journal and N. Y. Evangelist. Much obliged. We had quite a pleasant time at our house on New Year's evening. Eleven of our neighbors came by invitation, took supper with us and spent the evening, three remaining with us all night. It was quite stormy nearly all day the wind blew and it half snowed and half rained and the walking was very slippery, but our Kansas neighbors are not afraid of a little rough weather. Perhaps you would like to know something about our friends: -- I will tell you who they were and where they come from. First, Harriet Leyman, the young lady who stood up with us when we were married, lives on a claim about three miles N. E. of us; her father-in-law (Mr Childs) brought her in a mule team -- she stayed all night. She came from Ill. Mr. and Mrs. Whelden, from Prov. R. I. live on a claim two miles N. E. of us. they walked, and remained all night. Mr. &Mrs. Todd and little boy, and Mrs T's brother Henry Booth (who also stood up with us) from Woon-
294 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
socket, R. I. Mrs T. and boy rode on a sled drawn by one horse and returned after ten o'clock in evening, they live just west of Mr Whelden one and half miles from here. Mr. and Mrs. Browning living on claim east of us, from Fitchburg Mass. they walked. Mr & Mrs Trafton, claim west of us -- walked -- from Mass. all very fine people and as good neighbors as we could desire; Theodore can tell you more about them. I have been thus particular to satisfy your curiosity. How does Theodore get along in the bank? Is he a good boy? Is Henry at home?
Is uncle Hagadorn doing well? How does the school prosper in Kingston? Remember me to Dr. Clarke if you see him and tell him I would be glad to have him write. Do you think there is any prospect of his coming out as far as here in the spring? Are you and father well? Do you ever talk (in earnest) of coming west? You see I am full of questions. It is reported that we are going to have a semiweekly mail -- hope it is true.
We have not heard very much from Congress yet. I wonder whether they will do anything for Kansas this Session.
But it is getting late and I must stop until another week. Do write soon and often Wakefield. R. I.
T. C. Wells
Manhattan, K. T.
My dear Mother,
I was very glad to get a letter from you two weeks ago yesterday I received two other letters on the same day, one from Henry and one from Dr. Clarke. I had had no letters for three or four weeks before and have received none since.
I should have answered before but for two or three weeks past, I have been much troubled with the toothache from a decayed tooth and as there was no regular dentist here I dreaded to have it out but yesterday I went down to Dr Whitehorn's and had it pulled. The Dr. performed the operation as well as any one could.
You must not "mourn" -- you and father, -- because we are settled so far away from you; though I confess that I should feel very badly too did I think that we should always be thus separated. I have hoped that you would move out here, and settle on a home of your own near us, and would love to have you do so now; but if that is impossible or even impracticable we must hit upon some other plan. What that plan may be I cannot at present say. I do not think that it would be prudent for me to settle near the sea
295 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
co[a]st soon and perhaps never, and it may be best for me to remain here one, two, or three years longer. It would be pleasant if we could find business in eastern Ohio, Southwestern N. Y. or Western Penn. and live near each other and near Sam'l and Lizzie too.
My health is very good now, very much better than it was one year ago. My lungs do not trouble me at all, and I have had but one "chill" since I have been married and that a very slight one on the day that Theodore left for Leavenworth City.
I intend to continue to improve my claim and work upon it as though I were going to make it my permanent home, but if I should get a good opportunity to sell I should probably sell out and try to find business nearer my eastern friends. Perhaps you may think from the tenor of the above, so different from anything that I have written before, that I am getting homesick or tired of the country. Not in the least, I have as pleasant a home as an affectionate wife can make it and I think none the less of the country as I become more and more acquainted with it. Were not my own and my wife's friends so far away I would not think of changing my place of residence.
Father never could have thought more of my society than I of his, &I would love, dearly love, to be where I could see him and you often -- but we must "'bide our time."
Ella frequently says she wishes some of my folks or hers were out here.
She is very much obliged for that collar, it did not reach here as soon as the letter. Please consider what I have written as confidential, I do not want it to go out of the family.
Has father received the map of Manhattan that I sent to him?
What is Theodore doing now? Why does he not write to us? Ella sends her love to him and says she is most tired waiting for that letter that he promised to write her. The lines are so faint on this paper that it is quite difficult to see them by candle light so please excuse the appearance of the writing. I enclose a little letter to Herbert, and a tulip that Ella painted expressly for him. I feel anxious to hear again from Henry, and know how he gets along. I do hope he has been successful. I intend writing him this week.
We have had some very cold weather; one week ago Sunday Mr. Todd says that the mercury was 16 degrees below zero, Mr Blood says that half an hour after sunrise 'twas 24 below zero.
We have been reading Mrs. Robinson's book on "Kansas" it is
296 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
very interesting and can be relied on as true; I wish you would get it and read it; it will give you a better idea of what has been done here than anything else that you can find, and it is well worth reading.
Do you have any regular preaching in Wakefield now? It has been so cold and such bad traveling that we have not been to meeting but little for a month or two past. Do write often.
Mrs. Thos. P. Wells
Wakefield, R. I.
T. C. Wells
The mail goes tomorrow, I have been writing a letter to father to go in the same mail. Do not urge him to stay I certainly think it will be for the health and happiness of him and you too to accede to my proposal. If he continues in his present employment and with no one on whom he can depend for assistance he will soon be obliged to give up business entirely but if you were here and he should be sick or anything should happen to him you would have some one to look to for help and one too, that would gladly give it.
The male prairie chickens have little tufts of feathers on each side of their heads just back of their ears; they look like little wings Wife cut them off of one that I shot the other day and I enclose one for you. It has been very warm and pleasant for a few days past, it seems as though spring was coming in earnest. I hope we shall have no more very cold weather.
T. C. Wells
Manhattan, K. T. Feb 1/57
My dear father,
Since writing to Mother I have been thinking more about your circumstances and mine and I sincerely hope that you will agree with me in the conclusions to which I have come. It is the afternoon of the Sabbath day but I do not feel that it is wrong for me to write what I am going to for no time ought to be lost.
I came out here, as you know, with very poor health, little experience in the ways of the world and a comparatively small amount of money; I am now settled on a farm of my own (I may call it so, although I have not yet paid the government the nominal price asked for it.) and in my own house; My heath is very much improved, indeed it is quite good, and notwithstanding my inexperience, I have managed to get a comfortable living and the property
297 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
that I have here now is worth more than all that I had in the east before I came out here. In a most beautiful country I have a very good location, near a growing town which promises to become shortly a large business place; my neighbors are such as no one need be ashamed of, kind hearted, and true, and most of them professors of religion (in this respect I think I could never better my situation.); during the coming year we expect to have good schools established and churches built.
All things induce me to stay here and there is only one drawback of any consequence, and that is my friends, my old friends, especially my father and mother, are far, far away, -- if they were here wife and I would be perfectly contented to stay here.
Now a word for you. Perhaps I can imagine better than you think your feelings and you[r] situation. Your business is very trying to both your mind and body; it is continually injuring your health, as much so as though you drank daily small quantities of some poisonous mixture; and if you continue in it you will soon be unable to do much at any kind of business. You need to be free from so much perplexing hard work and you ought to have more out of doors exercise You greatly enjoy the society of "congenial spirits," you do not care for very many intimate friends but some you do want and those few you dearly love, in a great measure you are deprived of these, those for whom you cared the most are far away, and this is a cause of many unhappy moments and anxious thoughts. I know that there is little society in Wakefield for you, and I think there is little prospect of any improvement in that respect.
Now in view of these things (and I say not this without consideration) I would earnestly urge you to resign the cashiership whether you have any other business in view or not; it seems to me as though your health, and your happiness, and as your family are dependent on you, they too, demand it, for should you be entirely deprived of health you could do little for yourself or them.
And then I would urge you, while mother and Herbert and perhaps Theodore are on a visit to Lyme, to come out here and see the country for yourself and determine whether you could be happy and get a comfortable living here.
I will guarantee that you will not be disappointed, if you are I will agree to pay your expenses here and back with pleasure, if I cannot do so immediately as soon as I can get the ready money. I have no doubt but that should you and mother move out here
298 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Uncle John Denison and his wife and even grandfather and grandmother would soon follow, but even should they not, it cannot be best for you to remain there on that account. It does them no material good for you to remain there except that they occasionally receive a visit from you or mother this could be done though perhaps at longer intervals if you were here and the means of communication will continually improve between here and New England, and in a few years it will take but little if any more than half the time that it does now to make the journey. At all events they will not be left alone for uncle J. D. and wife will not leave without them, and under the circumstances they certainly can not want you to stay where you are.
The troubles in the territory are doubtless ended, the free state majority is constantly increasing and we anticipate a very large emigration in the spring.
As for the fever and ague I think you need not fear that with decent care and prudence, many of our citizens have not been troubled with it at all.
And as for the expense of "starting" out here you need not fear, you have enough to give you a good start, twice as much as nine tenths of those who move to this far western country; and it need not cost you half what it did me to make a beginning. As for cattle and horses and farm implements generally we can use the same in a great measure, and I have a pretty good supply.
Your age is no objection many come from New England older than you, and do well and you could not get them to return
Now the claim north of me is not taken the claim east or south of me can be purchased for much less than they will be worth one year hence but six, perhaps four months from now they will not probably be for sale.
And now my dear father will you not carefully weigh these considerations in your mind and may God be with you and help you to decide aright. I should be overjoyed to see you; it seems as though you must come. Even if you should not, (and I hope such will not be the ease,) conclude to remain here the visit and journey will do you much good, and you certainly could find business again as good, all things considered, as that you have at present. Please write me very soon in answer to this, and if you conclude to "come and see" start as early as possible in the spring in order to secure a good claim while it may be had. I almost expect you will come. While down to Manhattan to meeting today I got a letter from
299 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
Theodore to wife. She will endeavor to answer it next week. I recd a letter from Mr. Wilson also. He says Theodore was a very good boy in going home in doing as he advised him to.
Thos P. Wells Esq
Wakefield R. I. Do come
Yours most affe'tly
T. C. Wells
[From Ella S. Wells to Theodore
Manhattan, K. T. Feb 7th/56 .
Mr. T. B. Wells
My Dear Brother
It is 8 o'clock Saturday night and I have but just taken my pen to answer your letter. I was intending to write you a long letter but as I want to send this to the office in the morning fear that I shall not be able to this time. Yours was received last Sabbath was very glad to hear from you and read your letter with pleasure.
I think you must have been tired and glad to get home after your flying journey you have not wished yourself here more than I have. I do want to see you very much I could not realize when I bade you goodbye that I was not to see you for a long long time. yet I trust it is all for the best and that you will be very useful to father We wish very much that he could be induced to come out here if for nothing more to make us a good long visit. his health is of more consequence than anything else. The journey would do him good and we should be glad to see him. You do not speak very flatteringly of Wakefield people I hope there are ten righteous ones left.
Do you like working in the Bank better than working in a Kansas cornfield? Thomas says you cannot locate a land Warrant until the land comes into market but one can be used to pay for a claim if you are settled on it.
I thought I would write you the particulars of our household arrangements as you knew how the house was planed and then you could visit us in your mind's eye but shall not have time to write half I was intending. I will tell you about the sitting room as we spend most of our time in it this cold weather. By much hard rubbing I got the tent so it looks quite white I lined the sitting room over head and also the open space by the stairs with it &I got some thick brown paper to line the rest of the room. The stove sits on the side by the stairs T put up a long black walnut mantle shelf back of it he also has made quite a nice bookcase that holds all our books that is behind the entry door our looking glass
300 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
hangs to the right of the window that looks towards Mr. Brownings I put a large shelf under that that looks like a table with a cloth on it. The table he got of Mr. Childs sits on the side next the well room. the little one he got at the Fort. at the right of the door to the well room T's trunk at the right of the window that looks towards Mr. Traftons with 5 chairs & a cricket leaves but little spare room. I got a large stuffed chair of Mr. Whelden which is quite a luxury. the clock sits on the mantle shelf but chooses not to go the box that my things came in from home sits at the left of the stove & answers for a wood box Now dear little brother after such a detailed account of one room I think there will be nothing to hinder you from making us a visit.
I must tell you that poor Rover is dead he died yesterday from repeated blows of an axe first having had one leg shot off our hens commenced laying in Dee &Rover took a notion to eat the eggs which we preferred to do ourselves. We have a small puppy that Mr. Boasa gave Thomas we call him Tiger.
Mrs Browning was in and spent the afternoon she enquired after you said she would like to see you and wished me to give her love to you when I wrote. Hatty Leyman was here new years she enquired after you Mrs Lipher & many others to numerous to mention often ask if we have heard from you & if you are coming out again. I have had a miniature and an ambrotype from the east & this year wish my dear brother would drop his in the ofice for me. Mrs. Trafton wished me to give her love to you when I wrote she is as well as usual & has Mrs Becknal boarding with her whose husband died at Mr Goodnows soon after you left. It is almost 10 o'clock T is waiting very patiently for me & I must close although I have not written half I wanted to. My love to father & mother & a kiss for Herbert. Now do write often. Dear brother, do not forget for what you are placed here in this world but prepare for the world to come you know that you will be a great deal happier. I must close. Your aff Sister, Ella S. Wells.
Manhattan, K. T.
March 14th, 1857.
My dear mother,
I have your letter before me, written Feb'y 1st, as yet unanswered; I received it a fortnight ago today, but have been very busy of late and have had little time to write. During a part of the time since I wrote you I have been in the woods chopping saw logs
301 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
which I intend to get sawn into fencing stuff 1 in. x 4 in. A part of the time I have been having a shed put up for a shelter to my horses etc. and a part of the time I have been helping a man draw some cedar posts to his claim and have not finished yet. I can earn three dollars ($3.) a day with my oxen, and wagon. I am going to take my pay for this job in cedar posts. I do not mean to plant any this year unless I can have it fenced. I expect to lose all the plowed ground that I had last year as the lines will probably run between that and my house. My claim is not yet surveyed though I am pretty well satisfied that the line between Wilson and me will run two or three rods east of my house. We expect the surveyors along very soon, and then we shall know where we are, and what we may call our own.
I got a letter from Dr. Clarke this week. He wrote that he had just written father and says that he will come out and visit us this spring if father will. O I do so wish that they would come. It would do both of them good, and us too I assure you. Perhaps father has already decided to come. I hope he has but if not do try and prevail on him to undertake the journey with Dr. I do not love to have him confine himself so closely, I am afraid that if he does his health will get so poor that he will be obliged to give up all business. Do get him to come. If he should not come, or if you receive this before he starts, I wish he would send me a statement of my affairs there, bank stock, notes, etc., and also how they stood on January 1st/57. I would like to know how they stand, and if he can I would like to have him buy a one hundred and sixty acre land warrant, for me; and if he cannot raise the money to pay for it, on anything that I have in the east, I will raise it here and send it on to him when I know how much it is. It would save me $45. or $50. to pay for my claim with a land- warrant instead of the cash. A transfer the name left blank, must be legally written upon it and signed by the person to whom the warrant was made out. Since the first week in February we have had very pleasant weather for winter, until within a few days it has been rather cold, but not so that we could not work pretty comfortably out of doors.
We had quite a snow storm last night and this morning.
We do not have so much mud when the frost is coming out of the ground as you in the east it generally drys up most as fast as it thaws, but it is pretty sticky, after a heavy rain.
We did receive the letter or paper containing a collar for Ella and she is greatly obliged for it. I think I have written you this before. I should think from what you write and from what I can
302 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
learn from other sources, that you have had a much more cold and tedious winter than we. We certainly have had no such snow storm as you speak of. I am real sorry that the steeple has blown off the meeting house at K. I always liked that steeple. Will they try to build another? You say that many wells in your vicinity are dry we have had no trouble of that sort here. We have had seven ft of water in our well all winter. Please remember me to Mr. Reeds folks if you write them soon. It is strange that Lissie has not heard from me since I have been married. I have certainly written her or Samuel and have been wondering why she did not write us. I will try to write again soon. I am very sorry that Henry has such poor success. If he was out here and would hear to reason a little from a friend I could put him in a way to do a good business with $500. capital or even less, but I do not know that it is best to write him so. I am expecting a letter from him soon. I have not had a letter from Amos in five or six months or more. I do not know why. I do not think that West Point would be a good place for Theodore in every respect. He would learn to obey of course, he ought to do that at home, but I fear he would not learn good morrals there.
We are always glad to get a letter from home and I hope you will write often. Hope Theodore will write. Love to all, & kiss to Herbert.
To Mrs Thos. P. Wells,
Wakefield, R. I.
T. C. Wells.
Manhattan, K. T. Apr 5th, 1857.
My dear mother,
I was very glad to get a letter from you last Friday, dated Mar. 8th. We had not heard from home in a long time, and were anxious to hear from you once more. I am glad you do not always [wait] for a letter from me before you write, it takes so long for letters to go and come that it will not do to wait one for another.
I used to think that Wakefield promised to be the village of the town but should think from your letter than Peacedale was going ahead of it.
We have not heard from Lizzie in a long, long time. Is she and Samuel and little Susy well? Does Henry think of going into business in Rockford? I wish he would write me. I am happy to hear that uncle Hagadorn succeeds so well with his school, would like to get a letter from him.
Dr. Clarke means to do what he thinks right I believe, but I did think he would vote for Buchanan. I thought that "Spiritualism"
303 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
was about dead or at least on the wane, we seldom hear anything about it hear, and I was much surprised to hear that so many in your neighborhood had turned "Spiritualists."
I sent a map of Manhattan to father at the same time that I mailed the two letters that you write have been received. Has he never got it? I sent one to Dr. Charlie at the same time and he wrote me that he had received it some time ago.
I am exceedingly sorry, and so is Ella, that father thinks he will not be able to come and see us this spring. I hope something will turn up at the annual meeting that will lead him to alter his mind. It is very possible that he could find some other business than farming and even if he should not I do not think he would find it so bad as he anticipates. We do not have to work so much in the hottest weather here as eastern farmers do. I wish he would come and see us at least, and then he could tell better whether it would be well to move out here or not.
Kansas would be just the place for uncle John Denison and aunt Mariann. They would get along finely on a claim here I know, and I often think of them and wish they were here.
The Methodist Church are going to build a college in Kansas. The Conference meets at Nebraska City next week and will decide on the location. Manhattan association have offered large inducements to have it built here, and it will probably be located on the claim south of me. It has been bought and is reserved for that purpose. Should this be done it would increase the value of my claim very much.
The association have also voted ten shares each toward building the Methodist and Congregational churches, and the Cincinnati Company agree to give 20 lots each for the same. Shares sell at from $50. to $75. each and lots at from $25. to $50. each. We expect both churches will be built before next fall.
A room for a school has also been hired until a school house can be built and a school will be commenced soon. If you should come out here to live you would not know much about a new country. All the claims around me and within several miles of the city are taken and can be got only by purchase; they are increasing in value every day. My claim is not yet surveyed by government, and I cannot therefore tell exactly where the lines will be, and on that account I do not intend to plow up any new ground or make any improvements until the lines are run. I think I shall put a temporary fence around the land that I plowed last year and plant that again without any addition.
304 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Ella sends her love, and wants Theodore to write to her. How does Gillies get along with the printing? remember me to him. I do really think that you and father would be better off and better contented after you had been out here two or three years than you ever will be in Wakefield.
To Mrs. Thos. P. Wells,
Wakefield, R. I.
T. C. Wells
Manhattan, Kansas Territory,
May 12th, 1857
My dear father,
Very glad indeed was I to get a good long letter from you last week. I believe you have not written me so long a letter before since I have been in Kansas. I am very much obliged to you for purchasing me a land warrant and sending me a statement of my affairs in the east; perhaps it would give you pleasure if I would send you an account of my affairs in Kansas, and I will try to do so before I close. I am sorry that you and Dr. Clarke could not have come out and visited us this spring, we almost expected you and are really disappointed. As to the bank and the state of your health, you, of course, know your own business better than I, but I have been afraid that the confinement and the perplexity of your business would ruin your health. I am glad that you think your health so good. It was too bad that you should lose so much money (for the present at least) by Henry. I am sorry for Henry and you too. He wrote me that that was the case, since he got his present situation in Beloit, but did not write what his trouble was. I do hope you will be able to make some arrangement so that you can visit us before another year. You ask if Mr Wilson will make the loss of my plowed ground good to me by plowing again? He says that he will, and I am going to have the use of it this year, (the old ground I mean). It is not absolutely certain yet I shall lose my plowed ground. My claim nor Mr. Wilsons (except his eastern line) is not surveyed yet; but as near as we can tell the line will run about two rods east of my house, it may possibly run west of my house; in that ease I should hold the quarter section that Mr. Wilson claims and hold not only my plowed ground but his house and well which I do not want. I do not think there is much danger of that however.
June 20th 1857. I have been waiting now for more than five weeks for a little leisure time, except Sunday, that I might finish this letter to you, but I have tired of waiting and have concluded to take the time this afternoon. Since I commenced this letter the
305 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
surveyors have been along and now our claims are all surveyed; the line runs about three rods east of my house so that I lose all my old plowed ground as I expected, but Mr. Wilson has paid me the cost of breaking as much more and I have the use of the old land this year.
I have my field all planted and fenced and the corn has come up finely and looks well. I mean to take good care of it and if we have a good season I expect to get six or seven hundred bushels of corn. It is very dry now. however, and if we do not get rain soon I am afraid we shall not have much corn or grass or any thing else, but I hope for the best -- we may have a good shower before night. Some of our neighbors have peas fit to eat, but I shall not have any in a good while yet. I put off plowing and planting even a garden, as long as I could, hoping that the surveyors would come along and show me where my claim was and also waiting for Mr Wilson to come out in order to make some arrangement with him about planting my old land if it should come on his claim. You suggest that one inch by four in is too thin for fencing. It is as thick as any of my neighbors use. We set our posts pretty close together, about seven ft apart on the average. When we have to pay $35. and $40 per m. for the cheapest kind of lumber, we have the disposition to make a little go as far as we can. I have not planted any more than I did last year, as I was afraid to have any more land broken until I knew where my claim was. I did not sell more than $30 or $40 dollars worth of last years produce, we had a very cold winter and my stock consumed a great deal, much more than they would have done if I had had a good barn to keep them in. We have had as changeable weather here as you write you have had in the east; the spring was very late, three or four weeks later than usual but during this month it has been very warm the thermometer ranging at mid day, in the shade, from
95o to 102o, which would be considered rather hot in the east but as we nearly always have a good breeze, even in the hottest weather we manage to keep quite comfortable. And now I will try to give you an idea of what I have here in Kansas, what I am doing and what [I am] intending to do.
I have a good claim of 160 acres within one and one half miles of Manhattan nine tenths of which is suitable to plow and the rest can be plowed but is rather uneven. a snug little house 16 ft x 24 ft with an ell 12 x 14 and a good well of water in the ell -- cost about $900. a shed 12 x 17 cost $.80. about 500 cedar posts worth $100. nearly 1500 ft of fencing lumber at my house (besides nine or ten
306 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
logs not yet sawed) worth $50. between 1150 and 1200 rails. and stakes and forks to go with them, worth $150. I have three lots in Manhattan worth at least $50 each. an order for 500 ft of lumber at the mill which I shall get in a few days worth $20. cash on hand $165. due me for sundries $70. and I do not really owe $5. in the world except what I owe the Wa. & La. banks in R.I. I consider my claims with the buildings and fencing materials on it very low at $2500, and would not be willing to take that for it. I have two horses $250 two pr. oxen $225. two cows & calf $100. two pigs $10. & 70 or 80 chickens worth at least $10. Wagon, harnesses, plow, harrow, cultivator & other farming tools $150. household furniture and provisions $100 total $3750.
I have represented everything at less than I really thought it worth and if I wanted to purchase should expect to pay more than I have valued them at. I started from home the first time with about $700. the second time with $1100. and have recd about $700. in drafts since I have been here in all $2500.
And now father, considering my inexperience at farming the expenses of traveling the cost of living in a new country and that I have married a wife do you not think that I am getting along pretty well. I enjoy excellent health, am comfortably and pleasantly situated except that I want you and mother and Lizzie and Henry & Theodore & Herbert nearer to us. I do so much wish that you all could come and live near us. You wish you could get acquainted with wife, I wish so too. I believe that the better you knew her the better you would like her. Cannot you possibly come and see us this next fall, say September? Unless the banks are anxious to have the notes paid immediately I do not wish to have the remaining stock sold. I hope to be able to pay something on them before another year. I see that I have skip[p]ed a page, but you will find no difficulty in finding the place I think.
Sunday evening, June 21. We have had beautiful weather for three or four days, warm and pleasant, with just breeze enough to make it comfortable, and the nights comparatively cool. Though we usually have very warm weather here in the summer, we almost always have a good breeze so that we do not suffer so much from the heat as the people in the east, and we have very few nights so warm as to make it difficult, to sleep. We have been down to Manhattan to church today; we have a pretty good congregation usually on the Sabbath, and our church going people, and our citizens generally will compare favorably with those of any New England town, I do
307 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
not care where you find it. We had a Sunday School after meeting and I acted as Superintendent The Sunday School was organized sometime ago and Mr. Wheldon, who was expected to move into town immediately, was chosen Superintendent and I assistant, but he did not come as anticipated and met with the school only once, and living so far away as I do, on account of bad weather etc I am frequently unable to attend, so that if there were no other reason, I thought best on that account to resign, and a man by the name of Butterfield, much more capable of holding such an office than myself, I think, is going to take charge of the school next Sunday. I hope we shall be able to keep up a good and interesting school, with the blessing of God.
The School house in Manhattan makes quite a show; it is built of limestone, size 32 ft by 48 ft I believe and two stories high. They are now building two large stone hotels and a Methodist Church also of stone the Congregational church has not yet been commenced but we hope will be soon. I did not write you so much as I was intending to about what I was doing and hoping to do, but will try to do so when I write again.
It is now quite late and I must close. Ella sends her love. She often expresses the wish that you would come and see us and thinks she should like you.
Why does not Theodore write? We have not had a letter from home in three or four weeks. Hope you will write soon again.
To Thos. P. Wells Esq
Wakefield, R. I.
T. C. Wells.
Love to Mother, Theodore, Herbert, etc.
Morton Sweet is in this vicinity, he called here a few days ago. He said you told him to tell me something but he had forgotten what.
I wish James A Ward would pay you what he owes me. I would like to have it applied to my notes in Wa. & La. banks.
Manhattan, May 30/57.
My dear Mother
We received your letter of May 3d more than a week ago, and had I not been very busy should have answered it immediately. I have written to Samuel and Henry quite recently, and I sent three papers to father two or three weeks ago but owing to the carelessness of the P. O. master they were sent back to me a day or two ago after the stamp had been defaced and it had been postmarked Manhattan. I will start them again and send more soon. I receive the Prov. Jour. &N. E. Farmer. from home quite often and am very much obliged for them. I find very many good things in the
308 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
N. E. Farmer. The season is very late here this year -- three or four weeks later than last year I should think; some of our farmers have been and are planting their corn over again as that which was planted early rotted in the ground. Some are planting now for the first time. I have planted all of mine but about one acre and that I intend to plant tomorrow.
Mr. Booth, Mr. Todd's father in law, has just arrived from R. I. He says that the grass is just starting there, We have had good feed for four weeks. Mr. B. was only one week coming from R. I. here, I do not see why it need take three or four weeks for letters to pass between us. Does the weather still continue cold in the east?
I am glad to hear that uncle Hagadorn succeeds so well with his school. How does the Female Seminary prosper? How does Theodore get along in the store? Have you finished planting in the garden yet? Those Crowder peas do not need sticks or brush. If you plant the seeds of the sensitive plant in the house out of the wind it will do better and be more sensitive, they should not be handled while very young.
I do not think we shall be able to get the Cong Meeting house built this season; money commands a high rate of interest, from ten to fifty per. cent., and sufficient funds cannot be raised immediately. The surveyors have come along at last, and my claim has been surveyed The lines come better than I feared, east line about four rods east of house, but I loose my plowed ground. Mr. Wilson has paid me enough to get as much more broken up, and I am going to have the use of the old ground this year.
It is getting quite late and I must close.
Wife sends her love to you all Tell Herbert to write us a letter. The election for delegates to Constitutional convention comes off on the 15th of June. we do not anticipate any trouble. Do write often.
Mrs. T. P. Wells
Wakefield, R. I.
T. C. Wells
Manhattan, K. T.
July, 16th 1857.
Dear father & mother,
We were very glad to get a letter, written in part by both of you, last week. Mother thought it was time I had a letter from home even if it was a "short one," So think I; it was four weeks since we heard from you before, but instead of a "short one" we were very glad to get a good long letter. Sorry to hear that Aunt Mariann's health is so poor. I believe she is owing me a letter, I wish she
309 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
would write, if she does not soon, perhaps I shall take the liberty to write again.
I had forgotten that I made any promise to write grandmother Clarke, but have been intending to write her when I had a little leisure. I will try and write her soon. It has taken about all my spare time to answer my old correspondent's letters.
I am happy to hear that they have settled a minister in Lyme, and one too that gives satisfaction I hope their like for him will continue to increase on acquaintance and that God may bless his labors there to the good of the church and society.
We have not yet commenced building the Congregational Church but intend doing so soon. We have now about three thousand dollars towards building a church, which would pay for a building sufficiently large to accommodate the present congregation, but in this fast growing country we have to calculate a little for the future A church large enough for us today would be too small a year hence.
Do you feel able to help us a little? and do you know of any one in your vicinity that would give us a little?
Our little church now numbers twenty five; ten united with us last Sunday, nine by letter or recommendation from other churches, and one by profession; and there are several more that think of joining us soon.
So it seems that you hear from us once in a while, besides through our letters. Mr. Goodnow says we "are very pleasantly situated" and so we are. I wish you could come and see us you would say so too. And then Judge Woodworth has been in Wakefield; the last man that I should have thought of being there, a queer man.
We have heard nothing of Dr Clarke since he left the east, he owes me a letter and I should be glad to hear from him. I wonder how he liked the west. I am sorry that Theodore is out of business again; he will never be easy without some active business or without company. He never was made to be much alone, I think; and if he cannot have good companions he will have bad ones. By companions I mean those of near the same age. Perhaps it would be well for him to go to school awhile longer, he might get over his fever for going to sea and take a liking to something else less objectionable. I would have liked to have him stay out here with me, if he would have done as well for me as any one else would. I always liked Theodore and am willing to do much for him, but did not feel that I could afford to keep him with me unless he would take more interest in my affairs. I did not feel as if I could afford it, and yet perhaps he did as well as any young fellow of his age
310 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
would do under the circumstances. I think he got a little homesick once in a while and that would make him a little careless as to what he did and how he worked.
I would rather try him again than have him go to sea -- he might do better the second time; and I think Ella's influence over him would be very good as they seem to think a good deal of each other. If he must go to sea it seems to me that it would be much better for him to go a long voyage under a good captain than to go a coasting. I mean if he must follow the sea as a means of livelihood, but I think that one short voyage from Wakefield to N. Y. would sicken him of sea life so that he would be glad to remain on land after that. If he should go on a long voyage he might get to liking it before he reached home again. July 18th The thermometer stands 109o in the shade rather too warm to work with comfort out of doors and so I will try and finish my letter to you.
We had a fine rain a week ago today after a drouth of five weeks wanting two days. We needed rain very much, the ground was very dry and the grass was all drying up. Nearly all the sod corn was killed by the drouth. Although considerable water fell the ground was so very dry that it soaked it all up and it is getting quite dry again. My corn grows finely and looks as well as anybody's. I have cultivated it twice in each row, both lengthwise and cross wise of the field, making four times that I have gone through it with the cultivator. I have also gone through the most of it and pulled off the suckers, the soil being stronger we are troubled much more with suckers than you are in the east. The tobacco worm has destroyed most of the potatoes in this vicinity and as far as I can learn throughout Kansas. Those that were fortunate enough to have their potatoes planted near the house where the chickens could get at them will probably have a good crop. I have killed all the worms on mine several times and may get a fair crop from my early ones, but my late ones are, I fear, entirely destroyed.
The spring being so late and the drouth following, our gardens have fared rather hard; many things in the beds that were planted late did not come up and many things that did come up, as cabbages, have been killed by the dry weather and grasshoppers, we have had radishes, and spinage, and a small mess of peas. We have cucumbers and squashes nearly large enough to eat, and our early corn has tasseled. My well holds out finely during the dry time, seven feet of water in it all the time. I don't know what we should do without it. Several of the neighbors have to come here after their water. I have had a hired man with me for nearly two months
311 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
past, find plenty of work all the time. When there is not much to be done on the farm, a man and team (two yoke of oxen and wagon) can get $4. per day drawing stone, sand, or water down to Manhattan. Houses are springing up there like mushrooms, and it will soon be quite a town.
I am glad, if you intend to remain in Wakefield, that you have bought some land; I wish you could put up a snug little house on it and have a nice home of your own, that is if you think it impossible that you can ever come and live out here with us. If you lived one or two hundred miles further in land I should entertain strong hopes of sometime selling out here and going east, to live near you again. You say that the farmers there have had to plant over their corn as we did here. Many of our farmers had to plant over on account of poor seed, but I did not, except a little where the crows pulled it up.
Your garden would not suffer for warm weather if you had a few such days as we are having now; the thermometer has gone up a degree since I have been writing it now stands 110o.
I am glad Uncle Hagadorn succeeds so well with his school.
I have no doubt but that my old ground is worth much more than I got for it from Wilson, but that was the best I could do with him. You must consider that Mr. Wilson was not legally obliged to pay me anything.
Mr. Wilson has sold his claim for twelve hundred dollars and gone east. He has considerable property here yet in the shape of town shares and town lots etc. has left two notes with me, not yet due, to collect. The thermometer has gone up two degrees more; we shall catch afire soon! But we do not suffer nearly so much from extreme heat here as in the damper atmosphere of the east.
July 19; Sunday. The thermometer rose above 114o during yesterday afternoon, but it has not been so warm today by 9o or 10o. We have not been to meeting today James, the man that helps me, went down to his claim, about six miles S. E. of here, yesterday and did not get back until this afternoon. He had one of my horses and the saddle and it was too warm to walk to meeting, so we staid at home and spent most of the time in reading. Do write often and tell Theodore and Bertie to write.
Love to all. Has Lizzie returned to Rochester yet?
Yours truly in haste
T. C. Wells
July 20th No rain yet: very dry.
If you can get anything toward helping us build a church please send to me and I will hand to the treasurer of the society with name of donor.
312 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
[Ella S. Wells to Theodore]
Manhattan K. T. Aug 23rd 1857
Mr. T. B. Wells.
My Dear Brother Theodore
I have three letters that I ought to answer but somehow I feel a strong inclination to write to you. I have been thinking for some time it was very strange that you did not write and let us know how you were getting along. I have thought of you more than usual of late especially last week when we went graping. We found them much nicer &thicker than they were last year. I would much rather have had a good time with you if I had not got quite as many grapes. We did not start until after dinner and three of us got as many as two bushels. How I do wish I could see you.
I often think that you would have enjoyed yourself much better had you been here this year instead of last. Do you not think so? I am sometimes silly enough to think that we are as happy and contented as people ever are in this world.
There has been some changes since you left Mr Browning has a house on his claim &has lived there since early last spring. His family now consists of himself wife, &little daughter. The neighbors say it is the handsomest little girl they ever saw. Mr Todd has a new shop apart from the house his sister that came out last spring is failing very fast I do not think she will live two months. Mrs. Todd now says that she is willing to live here or any where else that Mr. T. can be well; it would kill her to see him suffer as Mary does. Mr. Whelden lives about as usual; he has been below &traded some this summer but he has had quite a number of fits and if they continue it is not safe for him to do so. he has provided for his family better than last year. Hatty Lyman is just as sweet as ever Henry Booth waits upon her some. I have not time to write about all the folks. It is almost bed time, when I get to writing to a dear friend it is hard for me to stop. I shall never see my father again; he has left this world of sin for a better clime I trust. I will send you a letter from sister Nannie giving the particulars. Excuse me for so doing, it was so interesting to me it seemed as if it would be to you. Please save it for me until I come home. Now Theodore will you not write and tell us all about yourself. What are you doing? How you enjoy yourself? Are you a good boy and try to please you[r] Heavenly Father and your earthly parents? I hope you are and that you are happy. Naught else will make you so. Much love to father &mother and a kiss for Herbert. I will leave the next page for T. Do write soon I want to hear from you much.
Your Affectonate sis Ella.
page 313 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
Ella has written and wishes me to write you a little on this page. We have wondered why we have not heard from you this long time. Have you been sick We have not heard from Wakefield in four weeks. Do you think of coming out here again at any time?
I hope we shall be able to make a visit east in two or three years, but hope we shall receive a visit from father first. Are father and Mother and little Bertie well? Tell Bertie to write us a letter. My Corn looks finely. For two weeks past we have been drawing stone and digging out and walling up our cellar. It will take two or three days more to finish it.
Excuse the appearance of this letter. I could write better with a stick if it was not very sharp, than with such a pen as this.
Do write us soon
T. C. Wells
Manhattan Kansas T.
Oct 4th 1857.
My Dear Mother,
Your letter should have been answered before; we received one from Theodore at the same time and answered that, and as I was pressed for time concluded to wait a week or two before I answered yours.
Our hired man has left us his time being out and now I have to work alone again.
We have been haying for the past two or three weeks, and I have got up two large stacks of excellent hay. My corn is ready to gather, or rather to cut up, it is hardly dry enough to put away in a crib. I expect to have 400 or 500 bushels notwithstanding the injury it received from drought and grasshoppers. My corn suffered less from drought than most other fields around, because I plowed deeper, and the grasshoppers did not injure it so much as they did many other fields.
Corn is worth $1. per. bush. here now and will be worth $2. or more in the spring. We shall have plenty of squashes & pumpkins but very few beets and no potatoes. There are a cartload or more of nice water-melons in the field; you may have as many as you wish if you will come after them.
Our pigs grow finely, and we shall have plenty of fresh pork by & by. We have about 100. hens & chickens from seven or eight last spring and might spare you a few very well. My cow "Beauty" met with a misfortune the other day, so that she does not look quite
314 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
so beautiful She had been off with some other cattle and was rather fractious, so we tied her up to a post, but she tried hard to get away, twisted herself around the post and broke off one of her horns. We tied a tarred cloth around the wound immediately and it is doing well. Meeting was held in the hall over the new stone school house today; the Lords Supper was administered, and Mr. Parsons, of Ogden, (formerly of Cape Cod,) preached to us from the text They crucified him. Quite a large congregation were out. I think Uncle Hagadorn must be acquainted with this Mr Parsons. You ask if we ever "think" of coming home. Indeed we do, few days pass but what we speak of making a visit east, and if our lives and health are spared we anticipate much pleasure from such a visit before many years.
You speak of Amos being in New York. Has he been there on business or on a visit, or has he left Minnesota? Is grandmother Wells in Kingston now? How does Theodore get along? I think that he is naturally very affect[ion]ate and will do most anything for you if he really feels that you love him.
I hope I shall have more time, now that long evenings have come, so that I can answer your letters more punctually. Have not had a letter from father in a long time. Does he talk any of coming to see us now? I do wish he would come and make us a visit. Ella sends her love to you and father, and says that you "are all that she can call father and mother now." She also sends love to Theodore. Tell him we want him to write us.
Tomorrow is election day when the great question will be decided whether the people of Kansas shall rule Kansas or not. May God speed the right.
Mrs. Thos P. Wells,
Wakefield, R. I.
T. C. Wells
Manhattan K. T.
October 25th 1856 
My dear Mother,
It is Sabbath evening and I was intending to go down to Manhattan to a prayer meeting this evening, but wife was taken with so bad a tooth ache that she was obliged to go to bed, and I thought it not best to go and leave her.
You have been doing great things in the picnic line in Wakefield. Why did Uncle Christopher leave Norton? Will the boy's school in the Seminary injure uncle H's school?
The Rev. Mr. Kellocht7 (the one about whom there has been so
7 Kalloch, Rev. I.S. See Kansas Historical Collections, v. VIII, p. 79.
315 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
much talk in Boston and the papers) a Baptist minister from Boston, preached in Manhattan today, and the best sermon in my judgment that I have heard in a year. He is a fine looking man, and an intimate friend of Dr. Robinson, from Maine, who resides here, and who seems to think as much of Mr. K. as of an own brother. Mr. K. talks some of coming out here to settle in the spring and bring a number of families with him. He is a great advocate of temperance and a very interesting temperance lecturer, and we need such a man here very much.
The Oct. election has resulted in a perfect triumph to the free state party, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which they laboured. They have elected their delegate to Congress and have a working majority in both branches of the legislature. So now I hope the question is settled that we shall have a free state, and there will be no more trouble.
I have traded off one of my horses for a buggy wagon and do not intend to keep but one horse now. I find that one will answer my purpose very well. Oxen are much better to do heavy work with and there is not near so much risk in keeping them as horses. Times are hard here, but not quite so bad as in the east. Money is very scarce. I had $90. dollars to get for a man last week and I never found so hard work to get a little money before. Could not collect a cent where it was due me and found it very difficult to borrow or hire for the reason that every bodie's pocket was empty. By perseverance, however, I made out to get it at last. Does the Wakefield Bank still continue to redeem her bills? Some emigrants have come in this fall. The country is continually filling up and cabins and houses are going up all the time. Manhattan "city" has got to be considerable of a place.
The Chinese Sugar cane does well here; several barrels of Sirup have been made in this vicinity and they are still making. Next year I think we shall raise all the sweetening that we need in this part of the country. I can raise sugar cane enough on an eighth acre of land to supply me with Sweetening for a year and it is no more work to raise it than corn. It is said that the seed are as good to make cakes of as buckwheat. You had better come out and live with us on some good claim near by. Do write often.
Mrs. T. P. Wells
Wakefield, R. I.
Yours truly in haste
T. C. Wells
316 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Manhattan, K. T. Nov. 22/57.
My dear father,
We have been watching the prairie fires for an hour past. The wind is strong from the west, and the fires are quite near on the S. and within four or five miles on S.W. and W. They look fearfully grand in the night, and we have felt somewhat afraid that they might come upon us in the night and do some damage, but it has commenced raining within a few minutes and deadened the fires very much, yet then continue to burn a little.
We have not had a letter from home in a long time, five or six weeks at least; mothers last letter was written sometime in September and was answered within a week or two. Are some of you sick or what has happened that we hear nothing from any of you?
We have had a very stormy fall, some snow and a good deal of rain and most of our farmers are late about harvesting there??? corn. Some few have theirs all gathered but many have either a part or the whole of their crop still standing in the field. I hope to get mine all secured in a few days.
I do not think there has been much, if any, more corn raised here this year than there was last year, as the drought killed nearly all the sod corn and the grasshoppers very much injured that on the old ground. There are many more people and cattle here, to create a deman[d] for corn, than were here last year, and I doubt not it will be worth from $2.50 to $3. per. bush. before another autumn.
I do not think that there will be much suffering here this winter, as there doubtless will be in the east. Labor is in good demand; common laborers getting from $1.75 to $2. per day while masons, carpenters &c get $2.50 and $3. a day.
I went up to Ogden, a few days ago, and paid for my claim and received the usual certificate or receipt which answers for a deed until I get my patent from Washington. So now I have a farm of my own, secured by government title; and if you will come and live on it I will give you forty acres of it for a home, and you can raise your own corn and wheat, sugar and molasses, and beef and have as much milk and butter and as many chickens and eggs as you choose, and all sorts of garden vegetables, and enough over to furnish your family with suitable clothing. There will be churches, schools and stores, within two and one half miles, and probably there will soon be a college on the claim directly south.
There is little danger of fever and ague on the high prairie, and Kansas is to be a free state. It would be so nice if we could live near each other.
317 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
How does Theodore come on? Is he a pretty good boy now? I wish he would write to us oftener.
It is getting late and I must bid you goodnight. Do write soon.
Love to mother, Theodore and Herbert.
Yours truly To Thos. P. Wells Esq. Wakefield, R. I.
Thomas C. Wells
Manhattan, K. T. Dec. 20/57.
My dear mother,
I have neglected answering your letter longer than usual on acct of press of business. I have had two or three men helping me get in my corn; there has been so much wet weather this fall and winter that corn has not been dry enough to crib until quite lately. We finished a week ago yesterday. I had between 450 &500 bushels, which considering the dry weather and the grasshoppers was a good crop -- much better than most of my neighbors succeeded in saving. I attribute my success, principally, under the blessing of God, to deep plowing and the frequent and thorough working of the ground with the cultivator, especially during the dry season. How do you like Rev. Albert Palmer, as a preacher and as a neighbor? As well as Mr. Reed? What do you mean by the sentence "When we are thrown out of Wakefield Bank we may possibly build a house there"? Is there any chance of fathers leaving the Bank? If he ever does I hope he will not settle in Wakefield but will come out west and live near us. He can then have a farm of his own and be as independent as you please. Ella's friends write that they have been visited with very bad colds similar to what you say that you and many others have had around Wakefield.
I have not heard from Dr. Clarke in a long time. I presume that he has been busily engaged with business of his own, for Lizzie says, in a letter that I received last week, that he has married again -- a sister of Rev. Mr. Clarke's wife of Whitinsville. We hear enough about "failures" "broken banks" but they do not trouble us much, except that they make money scarce, for we find it quite difficult to get the cash for dfts on the east.
Unele Sam is buying considerable corn, however, and will soon make money more plenty here. Lizzie writes that you think the reason Theodore went home was because I "could not manage him," but that is a mistake. I did get tried with him sometimes and I presume he did with me; but he went home principally because he was home-sick. He was young, had never been from home but little, had never been used to working much at home, here he had to
318 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
work a good deal alone, and then we were boarding, and did not have things very comfortable, compared with what he had been used to in the east, or we now have it here; altogether it was not strange that he wanted to go home; and I did not discourage him because I did not feel that I needed his help much in the winter and, he and I both felt that father needed his assistance. Theodore felt more free to do as he was a mind to with me than he would with a stranger, and did not seem to interest himself so much in my behalf sometimes as I would have liked, but perhaps he did as well as I could expect one so young as he to do under the circumstances. If father does not need his assistance I would like to have him help me next year, and would pay him reasonable wages. I shall have to get some one to help me in the spring, for I shall have forty acres to fence and at least twenty five to plow and plant, and if he will try to do right would rather have him than another.
We have had a very mild winter thus far. Warmer this month than in Nov. the thermometer ranging generally, on the north side of the house, from 30o to 50o.
It is expected that quite a number will unite with the Congregational Church at the next Communion season.
It is very probable that Kansas will be admitted as a state by the present Congress under some sort of a constitution.
At least nine tenths of the people are in favor of a free state; and if Congress attempts to force a pro slavery Constitution upon us there will be civil war. We do not expect any such thing, however, thus far God has been with US, and brought to nought the counsels of those that would tyrannize over us and I trust he will not forsake us now.
Love to father Theodore and Herbert, would like to have them all write us. Ell sends love.
To Mrs. Thos. P. Wells,
Wakefield, R. I.
Yours truly in haste,
Thomas C. Wells
Private. Dear father,
I shall want some one to help me in the spring, and I have sometimes thought that, if Theodore cannot be contented there and will not be useful to you, I would be willing to try him here again. Living with us in our own home he might be better contented than before, and I cannot but think that Ell's influence over him would be good.
I simply make this suggestion and want you to [do] just as you think best about it.
T. C. W.