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Kansas Historical Quarterly - News From Kansas in 1870

by Paul H. Giddens

May 1938 (Vol. 7, No. 2), pages 170 to 182
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.

I. INTRODUCTION

WHILE examining the old files of the Titusville (Pa.) Morning Herald for information about the beginnings of the petroleum industry in western Pennsylvania, I noticed in different issues numerous letters written either by readers or subscribers from Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and other Western states, describing the country and some of the principal political and economic developments in their state or community. Among these were five letters from a reader from Leavenworth; the letters were written in the summer and fall of 1870, but on different dates and published in separate issues of the Titusville Morning Herald. All of the letters were signed by "Reno," and there wasn't any clue or evidence as to the identity of the writer in Leavenworth. Whether he ever lived in Titusville, the center of the early oil rush, and moved to Kansas, or was simply an interested reader of the Titusville paper and the oil news, is a matter for conjecture. In any event, the letters afford an interesting contemporary insight into the rapid growth of population in Kansas, the commercial and industrial development of Leavenworth, the railroad discrimination against Leavenworth, the increase of the Texas cattle business, the growth of Baxter Springs as a "cow" town, the congressional election of 1870, the overthrow of the Republicans by the Democrats in Leavenworth county in 1870, the spread of the public school system, and the establishment of a normal school in Leavenworth.

II. THE LETTERS

Leavenworth, Kansas,
July 16, 1870.

Editors Morning Herald: [1]

I read your paper regularly and am much interested in the correspondence you publish from all parts of the country. How would your readers like to hear a few facts in relation to this state? The influx of emigration that has been pouring into Kansas for the last year and a half, has infused the minds of the city population with a rather exaggerated idea of the size of the several communities to

(170)

GIDDENS:NEWS FROM KANSAS IN 1870 171

which they belong. The census returns prick the bladder of this inflation, and though they leave us some respectably sized Western cities, they cut in considerably upon our assumptions. The state is expected to show a population closely bordering upon half a million, and in the re-apportionment of representatives, our single member will probably be increased to three, Leavenworth, which was rated at 30,000 inhabitants, is pared down to 22,000; Topeka, which claimed 11,000, makes a showing of 8,450 on the schedules; Lawrence contains 6,500, and Fort Scott about the same number; Atchison returns 6,000. These are our largest cities. The growth of the smaller towns is somewhat incredible. Many stirring places could be mentioned, now containing several hundred inhabitants each, which a year ago were hardly known outside of the state. This is mainly owing to our rapid railroad extension.

Eleven lines of railroad are now running within our limits, with over eleven hundred miles of rail, and whenever a railroad reaches a new station, there is an instant rush of population there, town lots become an object of speculation, and values go up to the most fanciful regions. Sometimes a natural centre is reached which justifies some commercial expansion; and sometimes, as in the case of Fort Scott, where a valuable coal mine has been discovered, or of Wichita which lies directly on the road between Texas and Abilene, our great cattle market, local industries are developed which secure permanence to its sudden growth. But, generally, the excitement thus created is but transitory. Strangers rush in possessing more money than judgment, on a chance to realize a handsome fortune by investing in real estate. Speculation continues active, county bonds are issued to support the railroad, various improvements are projected, and itinerant newspaper correspondents celebrate the enterprise of these citizens in the state journals. By and bye, the rail road reaches another station. This is followed by a further rush of population, more speculation, gambling houses, rum-drinking and all the hot bed developments of our civilization, and the former embryo great city becomes flattened out, and all its fond anticipations of sudden greatness gone to the winds.

Our growth is steadily progressive; one thousand settlers a day pouring in upon a population as sparse as ours, cannot fail to cluster around a great many small centres, and diffusing themselves over the country, to fill up a great many waste places. Each railroad line, as it spreads out its long arms, brings an additional range of territory within the limits of civilization, and opens up millions of fertile

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acres to the ubiquitous settler. These all have thousands of wants to supply; materials for building a home, implements for farming, live animals to stock it, sapplings for their orchards, and the various necessaries for the support of their families. Thus the industries of modern society are developed, and thus the limits of civilization are daily extended.

The multiplication of newspapers in Kansas is among the marvels of the age. No sooner do twenty or thirty families get together and form the nucleus of a town, than they are ambitious to have a weekly paper. "He that bloweth not his own horn," says our latest wise saw, "the same shall not be blown," and in a state where thousands of different localities are urged upon the attention of the settler through the medium of the local press, unless these aforesaid families procure a wind instrument of their own and join in the general chorus of tooting, there is danger of their advantages being overlooked in the endless list of good things offered. "To advertise their advantages through the state," therefore, they get hold of some active-minded journeyman printer, subscribe $200 or $300 to purchase him a second-hand outfit, and having launched him upon the sea of journalism, leave him to favorable gales and his own good seamanship to carry him into port. "The number of new papers," says a veteran journal nearly one year old, "being published in Kansas, is too large for us to keep the run of them. Every week two or three new papers put in an appearance at our office, some of them hailing from localities where a year ago there were not a dozen white inhabitants." And these papers all live. Many of the proprietors are unmarried young men. Their whole establishment is comprised in a shop boy and even if their subscription list turns in nothing, they get enough ready cash from their advertisers and job customers to pay their paper and ink bills, and buy a new suit of clothes where they can get trusted. But this chrysalis life is only probationary. In a very few years the country has so increased in population, that if the journalist has been diligent and has the right stuff in him, he finds his circulation extending, his advertising columns growing more remunerative, and a business growing up around him, which promises ample reward for his past exertions.

We are having exceedingly hot weather and our corn crop is coming on apace. Our small grains are all out. RENO.

GIDDENS: NEWS FROM KANSAS IN 1870 173

Leavenworth, Kan., Aug. 4, 1870.

Editors Morning Herald: [2]

Deeming that your readers may desire to know a little of what is transpiring in this Western state, I propose once in a while, with your approval, to keep them informed of the general tenor of events. This state is looked to by a great many as affording them an escape from the difficulties that perplex them, and it is desirable that all such should have some distinct idea of what state of things awaits them here. It is objected to by some writers that the fruitfulness of the West is neutralized by its remoteness from market. That it is of no use raising heavy crops if there is no demand for them when raised. But these people forget that the consumption of grain in Kansas is fully equal to the supply. While the present immigration continues, a large share of our products go to feed the new settlers until they are in a condition to provide for themselves. Then the government demand for farm products to furnish the numerous military posts, and feed the Indians, is something incredible. Millions of bushels of grain, and thousands of pounds of beef and pork are annually devoted to these purposes, thus affording the farmer prompt pay and remunerative prices for all purchased of him by the government.

The most profitable industry in this state is found to [be] stock raising. The easy access to Texas (through the Indian territory) where a surplus of half a million cattle is annually produced, has developed a trade which is constantly extending, and which promises to become our main agricultural pursuit. Already the great cattle market at Abilene is visited by stock dealers from all the principal cities and the demand for cattle keeps so far ahead of the supply that many of our farmers are now turning their attention to this branch of business. The broad unenclosed prairie affords pasture land for all the cattle that can be brought in, and the succulent wild grasses supply sufficient nourishment for at least ten months in the year. The mild winters render housing unnecessary, and prairie grass can be saved for winter feed with merely the trouble of cutting. Business in Leavenworth is good this season, which is due partly to the growth of our wholesale business, and partly to the activity of building. To afford direct communication with the Eastern lines of transit, a substantial wrought iron bridge is being built across the Missouri at this point, and in connection with this important work, a force of workmen are now grading and carrying out the

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levee into the river bed, to form a site for a union depot. At Fort Leavenworth, too, which stands on a government reservation just outside of the city, unusual activity prevails. Gen. [John] Pope, commanding the Department of the West, having removed his headquarters from St. Louis to this post, has set a large force of mechanics to work building quarters and extending the quarter master and commissary store-houses. The menacing attitude of the Indians has rendered increased vigilance on the part of the military authorities necessary, and this removal of department headquarters is with a view to be nearer to the seat of the trouble. The present military force at the fort numbers 1,800 officers and men.

A piece of good luck has befallen this city lately.

A valuable coal mine underlying the southern edge of the military reservation, has been opened this summer, and an excellent bituminous gas coal is now being extracted. This is regarded as not only useful to the citizens of Leavenworth, in affording them a cheap supply of fuel mined at their very doors, but as affording a facility for manufactures which so far have been carried on to a very limited extent. As an inducement to the prosecution of this branch of industry, our city council recently passed an ordinance granting a royalty of three percent, upon all sums exceeding $10,000, which shall be devoted to manufacturing processes. The first principle of political economy is to bring producers and consumers together, and as Leavenworth is surrounded with a fine agricultural country, capable of supporting a large city population, it would seem a manifest absurdity to continue our present practice of sending our raw articles to the East to be worked into shape, and then pay for their transportation back in their finished shape. We are now sending the finest black walnut timber to Cincinnati and Philadelphia to be made into chairs and cabinet ware, and are bringing our stoves from Troy, our printing material from Chicago and St. Louis, and our ready-made clothing from New York. As our population increases and our resources be- come developed, it is essential to our growth and prosperity that we learn to supply our own wants, and the facilities which Leavenworth has to offer as a commercial and manufacturing centre are certainly worthy of general attention.

A lively political canvass is about to be opened in this state, the main interest of which will concentrate in the election of a representative to congress. Our present member, Sidney Clarke, is in bad odor with a number of his former supporters, and plenty of patriotic individuals are ready to step into his shoes. Kansas politics are at

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all time acrimonious and vituperative and from the temper already manifested by the contestants, we may expect an unusual display of abuse and invective this fall. Popular sentiment in the West has gone entirely back on land grants to railroads, and Representative Clarke has been so mixed up in this business that he will find the task of clearing his skirts rather a difficult matter. RENO.

Leavenworth, Kan., Aug. 18, 1870.

Editors Morning Herald: [3]

An illustration is afforded in this state of the mischievous effects of a political party having no opposition. In politics, as in war, in order to preserve discipline and keep officers and men to their duty, there needs to be a vigilant and enterprising foe. But in Kansas the Republican party have everything so completely in their own hands that they no longer seek to ward off attacks from without, but take to falling out among themselves, and the party chiefs abuse each other like very drabs. In my last letter, I informed your readers that our sole representative in congress, Hon. Sidney Clarke, was exceedingly unpopular among his constituents, and that so general a cry of corruption was raised against him throughout the state that it was doubtful whether he would get a renomination. But the party managers, instead of bringing out a good man in opposition and making his claims and merits well known previous to the assembling of the state convention, which meets at Topeka, September 8, content themselves with thoroughly aspersing the reputation of Clarke and his friends, in the belief it would seem, that if they can effectually kill him off, the nomination of his successor will be a mere matter of form.

Every state paper that you open is eloquent with denunciations against our present representative. He is represented as connected with a gang of swindlers, whose operations are openly devoted to first cheating the Indians out of their lands, and then practising fraud and duplicity upon the honest settler. He is also charged with betraying the interests of his constituents by lending his aid to the numerous railroad swindles, which have secured to unscrupulous moneyed corporations nearly one half of the best land in Kansas. This cheap declamation is all well enough-a political campaign is the most stupid thing in the world without personality; but there wants well-directed effort, and hard work with it, and any evidences of these have yet to be seen. Judge Lowe, of Bourbon county, is mentioned in the Fort Scott papers as

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an eminently fit man for congress, and this selection is faintly reechoed in a few scattering journals. Others propose the name of Jacob Stotler, of Lyon county, proprietor of the Emporia Tribune, as the very man to receive the descending legislative mantle, but he is scouted by others as a man of straw-a voice, and nothing more -and evidently if brought forward, he would stand no chance in the convention. Your old friend, Col. D. R. Anthony, of this city (brother of the noted Susan B.), is spoiling for office, and is willing to serve his fellow-citizens in any capacity, from governor down to city councilman. He would make a red-hot representative in congress, like the boy's step-mother, he would make it lively for the whole party. His past services are not forgotten, nor is the colonel himself willing to blush unseen and waste his sweetness on the desert air. Whether his name is being held in reserve as a tower of strength, or whether any number of members of the convention have been manipulated by Sid Clarke and intend to throw the nomination into his hands, remains yet to be divulged.

I am free to confess that I am so little of a politician that I care but little which way the fight goes, since it may be taken for granted that whosoever gets the coveted seat, as he has the whole state to represent and work for, will find plenty of business on hand, and even if he does not indulge in an occasional steal, he will find plenty ready to give him credit for such doings.

The citizens of Leavenworth are greatly interested in the subject of a railroad just now. The country is rapidly settling up around us, new industries are being developed, and our wholesale merchants find a steadily increasing demand for their wares. To secure our proper share in the growth and development we require extended communication. The bridge now building across the Missouri river at this point will afford our city direct communication with the Eastern lines of travel. Then there is an effort being made to connect the Chicago and Southwestern railroad now being built from Chicago to Leavenworth, with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe road. This latter road has a section already built from Topeka to Emporia, and an extension to the Arkansas river at Wichita will be carried out within a year. The only question is whether the connection northward, from Topeka, shall be made with Atchison or Leavenworth, and inasmuch as local aid to the amount of $400,000 is already pledged and the committee of the road is desirous of perfecting such arrangements with the Chicago & Southwestern road as to have the two roads form one through line, there seems little

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room for doubt that Leavenworth will be made the connecting link. Another important road, the want of which is seriously felt, has long occupied the attention of our business men, and as a business speculation could not fail to be profitable. This is to connect with the Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf road at Olathe, a town thirty miles distant. This line runs from Kansas City, Mo., to Baxter Springs, in Cherokee county, on the southern border of Kansas, a distance of 167 miles. An important trade is growing up along this line of country in the shipment of Texas cattle to the Eastern cities. By the present arrangement, the whole section of country through which this road runs is tributary to Kansas City and St. Louis. A discrimination against Leavenworth merchants by the officers of the road so seriously retards the forwarding of their goods to stations along the line that they are practically quite shut out from the trade. A connection at Olathe would tap the road at its first important turn, and confer upon Leavenworth equal advantages with those enjoyed by Kansas City, in sharing the valuable business which cannot fail to be developed in this rich and rapidly improving portion of the state.

It is pleasing to see that our business men are not only fully aware of the advantages that are to [be] reaped by proper effort and enterprises, but that they are now putting forth the effort that is needed to secure them the prize. With the facilities possessed by this city in the way of river transportation, extended railway communication, a rich country surrounding, and an inexhaustible supply of cheap fuel, it seems as if it were our own fault if our city does not fully keep up with the march of improvement in this state, and become the same commercial and manufacturing centre to the country watered by the Missouri that St. Louis is to the Mississippi valley, and Chicago to the extensive lake system. RENO.

Leavenworth, Kansas, Sept. 6 [1870]

Editors Morning Herald: [4]

Our merchants are making calculations on an active fall trade. The crops all through the Western country have been good, and as prices are expected to range somewhat higher this fall and winter, the farmers will be in a position to purchase more liberally than hitherto. The drought which affected the crops so seriously during July, and which in New England will render the yield a light one, has not been felt so injuriously in Kansas. In the first place, our

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deep porous soil retains moisture longer than soils of poorer quality, and then the copious rains which fell all through August, gave vegetation a fresh start, and almost entirely obliterated the ill effects of the parching July heats.

The Texas cattle trade is getting to be an important interest in this state. For years the cattle growers of that state have sought every market in the world for their surplus stock. Thousands are driven annually to California, Colorado, and the Northern states, and now that Kansas affords a ready outlet for their innumerable droves, it is estimated that half a million beeves are annually driven into this state alone. For the last few years the cattle drovers have sought Abilene on the Kansas Pacific railroad, where unlimited pasture-ground and extensive stock-yards afford facilities for herding the droves until they are disposed of to the cattle dealers who seek this market from all parts of the country. But Abilene now finds a dangerous rival springing up in Baxter Springs lying on the very edge of the Indian territory, to which city, a railroad connecting at Kansas City with all the main Eastern lines has lately been opened. The route from Texas to Abilene is objected to as being attended with great danger from predatory Indians, and it is also 150 miles farther from the Eastern states.

So valuable a business as the Texas cattle trade is, of course, made the subject of keen interest between the two points. Only four days have elapsed since the completion of the railroad to Baxter Springs, and during this short time an amount of business has grown up there which speaks well for the future progress of the place. Extensive cattle pens have been built there, from which stock is shipped daily. The shipments of cattle over the Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf road from June 1 to September 1 exceeded 10,000 head, and as cooler weather approaches, the shipments will largely increase. Then, as now, upwards of 20,000 beeves graze on the Indian lands in the vicinity of Baxter Springs, and droves containing 50,000 more are reported on their way thither.

But the cattle trade at Abilene and neighboring stations, being longer established, has attained larger proportion. Sixty car loads a day are shipped for the East over the Kansas Pacific road. The principal points on that road for shipping these cattle, besides Abilene, being, Brookville, Salina and Solomon City. Council Grove on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas road, is also becoming a considerable shipping point.

When our railroads shall arrive at the extensive plains of Texas, a

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great revolution may be expected to take place in the beef supply for the whole country. Numerous herds can be shipped by May 1, to the depleted markets of the East, fresh and fat from the ranges, which do not cost $5 a piece to raise, and which will readily sell in that state at $16 a head. Texas journals assure us that more cattle can be delivered at all the termini of as many roads as may be built through Texas during eight or nine months in the year than can possibly be carried over them.

The school term commenced yesterday, and as Kansas has the credit of making the most liberal provisions of any state in the union for the education of its youth, perhaps it would not be uninteresting to your readers for me to devote a few paragraphs to the consideration of this subject. A permanent school fund is established by reserving two sections in every township, the proceeds from the sale of which are devoted to building schoolhouses and supporting a corps of school teachers. A large number of the citizens of this state having come here from the East, they bring with them a lively interest in the cause of education. Every little community as it crystalizes into a town, devotes its first attentions to the erection of a school building and the procurement of competent teachers. And as considerable difficulty is experienced in obtaining teachers from the East who are willing to make a permanent home in Kansas, and thus establish that feeling of sympathy that ought to grow up between teacher and pupil, the state legislature has lately made an appropriation to found a normal school, and Leavenworth is selected as the location.

A normal school already exists in Emporia, which is ably conducted, and affords very excellent training for the teachers; but as this school is south of the Kansas river, rendering attendance inconvenient for those living in the northern portion of the state, and is, besides, altogether inadequate to meet the constant demand for teachers, the erection of a second normal school has been found necessary, and the work will be commenced this fall. During the erection, temporary arrangements for holding its classes have been made at the Morris school in this city, a commodious three story brick school building, and its classes will commence to- morrow with an able faculty, and a pretty numerous attendance of scholars.

The political canvass, which has been an exceedingly bitter one, is approaching its culmination. The Republican state convention will meet at Topeka on the 8th, and from the fact that no prominent man has been brought out in opposition to our present representa-

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tive (Hon. Sidney Clarke) it is generally expected that he will get the nomination. Col. D. R. Anthony, of this city, will have the entire support of Leavenworth county, but he has not much strength in other portions of the state. Our present governor, J. M. Harvey, a man of approved integrity, is pretty sure of a second term. RENO.

Leavenworth, Kan., Nov. 9, 1870.

Editors Morning Herald: [5]

The telegraph will have informed your readers before this letter reaches them that the Republican state ticket has been elected in Kansas. Our present governor, James M. Harvey, an honest, unassuming farmer of Riley county, retains his seat for a second term, and Judge D. P. Lowe, of Bourbon county, replaces Hon. Sidney Clarke in the house of representatives. But the election for county officers in Leavenworth county has been carried triumphantly by the Democrats. The canvass has been actively carried on, and the Republicans, with the fusion of the colored vote, had confidently calculated upon the victory. The question with all the astonished Republican voters now is, what brought about this result? The Times, of this city, a radical Republican sheet, says:

Just what influences were set at work to bring discomfiture to our party, in this county, in the election just passed, it would be impossible for us accurately to determine. We only know that somehow, somewhere through some methods not made satisfactorily apparent, the major part of our ticket is defeated in this county, where we have, with the colored vote thrown solidly for us-where it, of course, will, and ought to be thrown-five to seven hundred majority. The editor there expresses his regret that "the Republican organization in this county, should, so soon after its accession to power and influence, show evidences of disintegration and dissolution." The talk among the curb-stone politicians today, is, that the Republicans owe their discomfiture to the attempts to carry the colored man into office. The public mind in this state is not yet educated up to the point of giving official position to their "colored brethren."

Negro franchise, our community is reconciled to; the chattel whose introduction into this state some fifteen years ago, kindled the sparks which ultimately burst forth in the Rebellion, they are now willing to recognize as "an even Christian." "But to put an ignorant colored man in authority," you may hear talked on the street, "while so many white men are so much better fitted for the position, will

GIDDENS: NEWS FROM KANSAS IN 1870

not go down with our people." The five to seven hundred majority which the Leavenworth Times talks of, and which do not appear at the polls, are, doubtless, those persons whose prejudice against the nigger has led them to give the county into the hands of the Democracy. "Liberty, but not Equality."

Considerable ill feeling has been aroused in this city against the Leavenworth branch of the Kansas Pacific R. R. Co. for their in- ordinate freight charges. Coal mined in this city and transported to Lawrence, a distance of thirty-three miles, costs a fraction over nine cents per bushel for carriage, while coal is carried from Fort Scott to the same city, over two roads, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles, at a cost of fifteen cents per bushel. On other roads, the rate from Leavenworth to Lawrence, per car-load is about 70 cents per mile, while from Fort Scott to Lawrence the charge is but 30 cents per mile. This is denounced as a killing discrimination against Leavenworth, since the Fort Scott coal is mined at less expense than that obtained here, and hence the Leavenworth mineral is shut out of the Western market. This is commented on with great bitterness in the city papers, and one writer demands that steps be taken to "correct this outrageous tariff on the trade of our city." Such warmth of feeling brings the railroad company to an explanation. They assert that the amount of coal transported is so trifling (only 500 bushels a day) that it does not pay them to have their cars standing idle while a train load is being accumulated. And then, to give piquancy to the affair, they charge the Leavenworth Coal Co. with extortion, and offer, if they will ship coal at the same profit to the bank that is received by the owners of coal banks in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana or Illinois, to haul the same at the same profit that the roads in those states makes. This is edifying to us who are consumers of coal, and have the trade interests of Leavenworth seriously at heart. The coal company has received a grant of twenty acres of land and the mining right under all the country circumjacent; while the railroad company has been munificently endowed with land and county bonds, and yet the best return they can show, for such liberality is for both to conspire to rob the public!

Immigration into Kansas is active as ever this fall. The Lawrence Journal of Monday announces the arrival in that city of a party of two hundred from Indiana who have come to prospect for homes in the state. The Fort Scott Monitor tells us that an average of one hundred canvas covered wagons pass through there daily, each

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containing the settler's household, on their way to the Osage lands, which have been recently thrown open to occupation. The Eureka Herald, published in Greenwood county, says that the banks of the hall river are nightly illuminated with the bivouac fires of immigrants, who have come to select some of Uncle Sam's free farms, and from the White Cloud Chief we learn that such an immigration is pouring into northern Kansas as never was seen before. "The ferry is kept constantly busy, and the white covered wagons may at all times be seen in our streets." Leavenworth, too, seems to be getting its share of this tide, buildings are going up in all directions, and children hailing from all states in the union, are constantly being received in our schools. The tendency to flock into towns and cities to engage in trade and other non-productive pursuits, is the same here as in the more Eastern states, but as our limit of absorption is very soon reached, all superfluous members have to drift off and float with the current till they find some abiding place. RENO.

NOTES

1. Titusville Morning Herald, July 20, 1870.
2. Ibid., August 9, 1870.
3. Ibid., August 24, 1870.
4. Ibid., September 16, 1870.
5. Ibid., November 16, 1870.