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ཀྱིས་ཁ་ ལ བ མལཝ མ US 2900715

opr 8,1896

Nebraska State Historical Society

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Hon. J. STERLING MORTON, President,
Hon. R. W. FURNAs, First Vice President,
JUDGE S. B. POUND, Second Vice President,
Hon. C. H. GERE, Treasurer,

Nebraska City
Brown ville.




and S. D. Cox.

Obituaries: R. W. FURNAS, GEO. L. MILLER,

and W. H. ELLER.





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I am aware that there is considerable of the ego in this story, but I have tried to write it in the third person and failed. I am not good at that, and it requires too much explanation. In fact, the change in myself has been so great, and in every other phase of the scene so immense, that it is really another person simply looking back and putting the present man in the place of the boy of twenty. I have tried to efface my present self and go back thirty years and describe things just as they looked then,-and I hope to take you all with me for a short space of time.

In a street in New York City that was then a great thoroughfare to Brooklyn, in 1856, there was a very respectable dry goods store. The proprietor in that far away day dwelt over his store, as many others did in the heart of New York. It was there I first heard of Nebraska. Said proprietor, a relative, had been in the habit each fall of sorting up a lot of stock a little passe at home, and taking it out west to sell to the "wild and woolly," though these people were far east of us now. That fall he went away west to St. Louis, and when he came home he was full of a wonderful man he had met there, a Dr. Thompson, and of a wonderful country still further from civilization, of which the said Thompson and a New York syndicate owned an integral part, to-wit, one half a town site, way up the Missouri river above Omaha, and in the Territory of Nebraska; and Thompson was sure and my relative was sure, that if we would only go there in the spring we would in a short space of time become very wealthy, and in the course of a few years be important and highly honored citizens of the new realm, perhaps get to be congressman or even governor-when it became a state. Nothing was talked of in the parlors above that little store that winter but Nebraska, the new, the glorious country, where to live was a pleasure, or even if we died, a joy to be buried therein. Thompson had furnished plats, maps and prices, and my friend visited the great Mogul in Wall Street, who was furnishing the money to some, and whose "Company" owned half the town site, and returned from that visit more certain than ever that Nebraska was the land to go to, and our future worldly prospects would be assured forever, and so it was.

Well, to be short, a little party of New Yorkers was made up, and we were all to start in March for St. Louis and the West.

The very lots we were to have were picked out on the map and the section and number of the land we were to preempt adjoining the town site. What magic there was in that word town site! We had always supposed a site for a town, the land of a village, was owned by a great many people, a thousand, at least, and we had never even owned a lot; but this whole situation had been owned by only four people, and now the great New York Company, of which we were a part, had bought half the place and we were to be part owners of that, the whole owners, each male at least, of 160 acres of Uncle Sam's good land for almost nothing.

I tell you that was a rich winter! We were a happy crowd; from clerks and paupers we had become landed and city proprietors, and were on the high road to health, wealth, and happiness. Our things were packed with much advice, as to what to take and what to leave, from people who knew nothing at all about it, but then you know how that is yourselves. We were to get final supplies in St. Louis, as the kind of things needed were better and cheaper there than in New York. Thompson warned us over and over not to get too much, not "to lumber up," because this town had been settled in the summer of 1856; there were four stores there, and fifteen houses; no wilderness, no trouble to get things. So about the first of April, 1857, we found ourselves at the old Planters' House in St. Louis, busy packing up the final traps, shipping a saw mill, and waiting for the boat to start. What a pleasant place the Planters' was then! To us, anyway, with its wide verandas, and genial people, every one ready to help us along to our prairie heaven.

The steamboat finally left, but our party remained a day, and were to overtake it by rail at Leavenworth. This was in the days of the Kansas-Nebraska troubles, of which we knew little, and I have said nothing about them as you can read them now for yourselves. We arrived at Leavenworth in the evening, and the boat was to be there in the morning; the hotel was just built--not finished, the landlord said every room was full, but we could sleep on the billiard tables in the basement, and he would "eat us somehow."

Good bye, old Astor House, New York, and old Planters', St. Louis!

While these arrangements were making, I heard a noise outside, and boy-like, rushed to the door to see what was the matter. Two men were using hard words, they closed a moment, the pop of a pistol was heard, and one dropped over,--shot dead. It was the old trouble, a "Yankee" and a Virginian quarreling over the slavery question, and it was the Virginian that lay in the gutter! He was a fine looking, black eyed young fellow, and his long hair streamed over the curb stone as did the blood from his wound. It was the first man I had ever seen killed in cold blood, and I felt awfully about it; could not get over the sight for several days.


That was the name of our boat, and she was loaded to the "gunnels," as they say, with passengers and freight. In fact, all the state rooms, berths, and cosy places were taken for the women and children, and men with families, the rush to Kansas, Nebraska and further was so enormous that spring. We young unmarried fellows had to sleep on the deck on blankets, mattresses, etc., so that I early began to know what “roughing it” meant.

And now began the new life in earnest. The long, lazy, never-to-be-forgotten boat ride on the “Muddy Missouri," another phase of life that has passed away; the swirling, tumbling, clay-colored river, so utterly unlike any waters we had ever seen; who of eastern birth will ever forget their first sight of the Missouri River? It was years after before I read Mark Twain's description of a pilot's life, but the very same points arose in my mind then; I had sailed on the Hudson, in the bays about New York, on the ocean, but there were always fixed landmarks to steer by, something that stayed there, or the compass and chart; but here without either, how that pilot ever found, or kept the channel, was a mystery for many days, and not wholly elucidated yet. In fact, he didn't always, and sometimes struck a sandbar. Many days ensued with nothing to do except watch the ever changing scenery, unless you played cards, and many did, apparently day and night. Two famous gamblers were aboard, and when they slept the eye of man knew not.

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