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old Fort. A few adobe buildings away in the distance on the banks of that treeless, bankless, wide stream. I had heard of the jumping off place, I thought that must be it, but-when I reached the place I found wagon tracks still going westward, and so on till I reached the Pacific Ocean, and then sure enough, I had come to the jumping off place.
But what of Nebraska? I wish I could cause you, my friends, to see the picture as I saw it in “Forty Nine,” and for fifteen or sixteen years afterwards, while freighting over this country, until I was almost as familiar with it as I am to-day with Nemaha County, and then as you push aside the veil, and look at it to-day, with its wonderful agricultural resources, with less waste land than any other state, with its millions of acres, where buffalo then roamed, now groaning beneath her crops of grain and grasses, orchards and farm houses, and beautiful towns, and teeming cities, fed by railroads running in all directions, and centering at these great centers of trade that seem in some strange way to have adjusted themselves in the matter of location.
I can never forget when I returned from California in 1851. My father asked, “What about the country between the Missouri River and Pacific Ocean?" I replied, “Oh, it's of no account!” “Well, what's wrong with it?" "Why, the soil is poor, sandy, and too dry to produce anything but this little, short grass, and when it does rain (as it did sometimes) in three hours afterwards you could not tell that it had rained at all. And after reaching a higher altitude, I saw it snow four inches deep, a short distance from Fort Laramie, and often ice would form in a water bucket, sitting out at night, all through the country now known as Wyoming, even in July and August." Father could not see through it any better than I could, but he was seventy years old. Since that I have learned that experience is worth a good deal to a man, even if he is not one of Solomon's first wife's children. Father was also a firm believer in the idea that an infinite God has made the whole world, and every thing in it, and on it, and then last of all had made man in his own likeness and image,-made him just a little lower than the angels,-a creature of wonderful possibilities,-after giving him absolute control over every thing, he then laid it all down at man's feet, and bade him go out, and subdue, and use the whole of it. Then he fell back on his Bible and said, “My son, I'll tell you; when God made the world, he said it was good and very good, -made no exceptions at all,-and I reason that all there is about it is, we don't know what it is good for. Oh we have to learn it."
The oldest of us need to go to school. We think it strange that Fremont said this was the “Great American Desert.” It was at that time. Who could have thought then, or even for years after, that the Salt Creek flats, a place that freighters always avoided, where the grass was unfit for stock, and the water could not be drunk by man or beast, should be in so short a time converted into such a beautiful Capital City, with her 60,000 intelligent citizens, her great business blocks, her railroads, like great arteries to warm and feed the body, her lines of street cars, and last though not least by any means, environed all around with those grand institutions of learning, where I trust and believe the future greatness of hundreds of young minds will be trained well in the idea that the world was made for man.
Go out and subdue it! Learn it ! Conquer it ! and use it, not for thine own good, but for man's good, remembering ever the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Can you raise the veil and look forty-four years ahead, when Omaha is likely to have a million or more of people, and your own desert state ten millions of people. I know 'tis hard for poor man to read correctly the future, but, Mr. President, with the government we have, justly and fairly and equally administered, and with the climate and soil we have, and seeing what has been accomplished in the last forty-four years, realizing that the lump of leaven is doing its work much more rapidly than ever before, and circumstances that we can't control will compel us to adjust ourselves to the situation, keeping well in mind that the Infinite God is our father, not forgetting to let Him be our father, who doeth all things well, and ever remembering that man is our brother, not servant, but brother in fact, all helping each other to unlock the infinite treasure house our father has filled so full of such rich goods to feast the eyes, and satisfy the soul, and make Earth, notwithstanding that it and everything in it and on it has the withering, blighting curse of sin. resting heavily upon it, a very sweet place for man to live in. If you will allow it, what will it be, and how will it be, when our work of development and growth here is all done, and we cross over that river that divides the finite from the infinite, where we will know as we are known, and see as we are seen even face to face, not as here dimly, as through a darkened glass? Let him who can paint the picture here or hereafter do it.
Howe, Nebr., January, 1894.
FREIGHTING IN 1866.
Part of a Letter Written from the Interior of the Territory of
Nebraska to the East, January 28, 1866.1
From my far western abiding place (for 'tis not home, nor ever will be) I do most heartily send to you a loving greeting, right glad to know that I'm not blotted from your good book of friendship.
Will give you, or attempt it-for nothing will just show except the actual living here-some idea of life in these “Western wilds.” In the first place we are about as near the center of nowhere as I care to be. Imprimis, I was not cut out for a pioneer. We are fifty miles directly west from Nebraska City which is the nearest point where one can buy a shoe-string or spool of thread. Farms here are “ranches”—cattle-yards, “corrals.” There are no fences of any account, people herd their cattle, etc., by day, put them in corrals by night, that is, they "corral them.” There is not enough timber to fence farms, therefore the necessity of herding stock-the “herd-law” is one of the institutions of this Territory. Everybody, (even, of course, I) wears a revolver or so upon his person, usually in plain sight in a belt. I do not mean they do at their daily work, but no one thinks of going many miles in any direction without pistols, and often bowie knives. Nebraska City is like cities I've read of but never before seen. It, and indeed much of my experience here, reminds me continually of stories I've read of overland trips to California, etc. The city is beautifully situated on rolling hills this side the Missouri and can be seen from many miles distant. For so young a city it's growth is remarkable. There are not many elegant homes or fine public buildings, but in some of the common looking houses there are hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods and the owners are making yearly fabulous fortunes. For the past four or five years Government has sent its freight destined to go across these plains, to this point, and the contractors for "Government freight,” much of it supplies for soldiers stationed at the forts west of here, have cheated Government to their heart's content and amassed fortunes with ease. pose, however, now that the Pacific railroad is west of Omaha, the glory of Nebraska City has departed-besides Government has discharged so many soldiers from the forts that the next few years will require less freighting to be done. And yet another thing, the evil doing of the contractors has been represented to the Government
1 Donor, C. F. Bentley of Grand Island.
in such a manner that were there no other reason I hardly think Nebraska City would receive its old "run of custom." There are any amount of rebels living therevery easy you know to cross the Missouri river and be out of reach of the troubles in Missouri. I spent a few days at a "first class hotel,” in that place last October and not having either my eyes or ears very closely shut I saw and heard some queer things. I say “first class hotel" for I was astonished
the sort of people I saw daily while there. The majority of the people I saw were southerners. With a very few exceptions the crowds of men who thronged the dining hall at meal times were armed (with pistols). There was one peculiarity, not one man in ten would look me squarely in the face. Those who would not meet the eye, I set down as “Rebs," "deserters," "bushwhackers," Guerillas," etc., for there are any amount of them there. This winter it has not been safe for weeks together, for a man to go on the streets after dark alone, even though armed, for burglaries have been very common, "rows and knockdowns" of nightly occurrence, and the whole spiced with two or three murders. Of late there has been talk of a "vigilance committee,” and one “gang" having been broken up, times are more peaceable in Nebraska City.- People there get fast and spend fast-in fact are decidedly fast in more ways than one. “Shoddy" has a chance to swing itself ever so gaudily. It being a great place for the “fitting out” of trains to cross the plains, one is astonished at the blocks after blocks of “Mens Furnishing Goods,” “Fitting-out Houses," "Outfitting Establishments," etc. And these establishments are wholesale, nearly all of them. Queer-looking signs they have, to one who is not accustomed to such novel sights. The Jews, I think, find the place a paradise for their business, for there are so many of them there. The streets are not filled with carriages and gay equipages, tho' I saw some elegant turn-outsbut there are huge freight wagons on every street, at