Missourians burn with inveterate hatred



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During the week of December 3, 1854, James attempted to establish his claim near the Wakarusa River southeast of Lawrence. The following letter to Augusta explains:

Wakarusa [Kansas Territory]
December 11, 1854

My Dear Augusta,

I am now, not in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" exactly, but in that of my kind friend and neighbor, Thomas Still [1] (son of Dr. [Abraham] Still) with whose father I often find a home. His father has long been a minister and Physician among the Indians and resides about six miles from here. Thomas is a young man studying for a Physician, has erected a cabin almost joining my claim, and I have taken up quarters with him until I get my cabin built. So with him and his brother John, [2] we are keeping bachelor's hall. They have been absent to the State of Missouri the past week and I have been alone most of the time. It has seemed quite lonely, especially nights, as his cabin is in the woods, and there are so many wolves around that I felt at times a little startled when I heard footsteps around among the dry leaves as I had nothing but a thin blanket hung up for a door and the cracks in the cabin -- as it has not yet been chinked -- are nearly big enough to let the [wolves] in. ([I'm sure this sounds like] a big story for near the middle of December, but it is true.) Yet morning has come and always found me here without a single print of wolf's teeth about my person and, what was better, my sleep has generally been quite sweet and refreshing.

[Tom and John Still] have both come home today and have brought a good long letter from yourself, the one containing the death of [your] Uncle Alanson [Goodrich]. [3] Your letter, with [your brother] Ralph's enclosed, came some time ago which I answered. Oh was I glad to hear such good news about my mother's health. And thank you a thousand times for going to see her and letting her know something about me. Whilst at Indianapolis, I tried to write to some of [my brothers or sisters] so that she would hear from me as often as once a month. But since I left there, it has never seemed convenient to write a single line to anyone owing to almost constant employment in some form. And now there are so many things demanding my constant attention that I only scribble -- and hardly that.

I wrote to [my brother] Henry a few days ago. I hardly know when to advise him to come here.  I am sure he would like it.  It would be better could he be here now as he could choose among the claims better than hereafter. The squatters are not enough united to have Squatters laws as yet and the only way a person can hold a claim is to erect his cabin upon it and go to living there to prevent another from taking it. And then when the land is surveyed, he is entitled to 160 acres wherever his cabin is. I changed my claim from the place I chose first as that was thought to be on "state reserve land" and have located myself on some most beautiful prairie land on the banks of the Wakarusa, a stream about the size of Owego Creek [back home]. The bank of the creek is well skirted with timber and there will be all I shall want if the state survey happens to come where the line of my present claim is. The country around for many miles is being taken up very fast and I do not wonder at it, for I do think it one of the most delightful places in the world. The soil is so rich. The prairies, unlike Illinois, are rolling and consequently healthy.  Upon the claim joining mine is one of the highest mounds [4] within many miles, from the summit of which -- in my opinion -- is a prospect as grand and pretty as from the rotunda [of the Capitol building] at Washington [D.C.], which I thought equal to any I had ever seen. This allows the eye a broader sweep in every direction. There is sufficient room on its summit to build a house 30 by 40.

Tell [your brother] James I hope that at least he will come and see the country here before he makes his choice for locating. There are many reasons why I think I should prefer it to Minnesota for agricultural purposes. In the first place, the soil is rich as land can well be. The climate is a great deal milder, having very cool pleasant breezes in summer owing to the abundant prairie, and not so cool in winter but that cattle will take care of themselves the winter through without being fed scarcely any without it may be the working cattle. Dr. Still says that his young cattle grazed on the prairies all last winter without once feeding -- as did also his colts -- and were in very good order in the Spring. So you see that his cattle do not in the winter eat up the earnings of summer. Besides, there is a great demand for cattle here as a good pair are worth 90 dollars. There is a first rate home market for everything that can be raised, and must be for the next ten years as the demand will be so great whilst the vast tracts of country south and west of this are filling up. I do believe that 100 bushels of corn can be raised easier here than 20 in Tioga County [New York], and now here that article is worth $1.50 per bushel -- a demand made by the many settlers and I think will not be reduced less than $.50 for many years. Should [your brother James] conclude to come here, I think the sooner he can come, the better. People plant their corn here in April and, if he can only get ten acres fenced, ploughed, and planted to corn this coming spring and summer, he can raise enough plenty to pay for his land. There is, at present, a claim joining mine not taken -- the only claim that I know of just about here upon which there is timber. It is the very richest bottom land and watered by the Wakarusa.  I do wish he was only here to take it as it would be so convenient.  In one cabin near[by], seven young men from about there are keeping house, each watching his claim. There is a fine coal bank about 3/4 of a mile from my claim -- none nearer.

I am at present -- and probably what time I get next week -- assisting John Still in building his cabin. And then he will assist me in building mine. It is quite fortunate for me that I am with these [Still] boys as we get our provisions at their father's.  Provisions of all kinds are very scarce. John is quite a good natured steady boy -- intends to go through with a college course of study -- and intends to study and recite to me as soon as we get ready for it. You said you would like to happen along about our meal time. Upon my word, I do wish you could have only breakfasted with me this morning whilst by myself. I have just about enough cooked for two. And then it was so good. But as there was no one to share it, of course I must eat it all so that none would be wasted (Economy Chapter IX, Sec. 1st) It consisted of cold water (ice water), fried pudding and sugar, boiled steak and gravy, with short cake -- accompanied with a first rate appetite. And had you only been here, how pleasantly we should have spent the day.

In the first place, we should have gone upon the big mound hard by where we could look far away into the states in one direction, and then away up to the waters of the Big Blue [River] in another. Lawrence, or "Yankeetown", you would see down below you on the banks of the Kansas river -- distance about six miles -- and far away beyond you could almost discern the rolling naked lands of Nebraska. In another direction, your eyes would reach away down into the Sunny South. If I could entice you away from the spot, we would go down to its base to the house of Mr. James Still, [5] brother to Thomas and John, a local preacher.

Tread lightly as you enter and speak none but comforting words, as yesterday I went to perform the funeral ceremony of his youngest child, his darling "Susa". As the brothers were away [to Missouri], I assisted in digging the grave. I was the only one about to try and comfort the deeply afflicted parents and attend to the little errands necessary on such a mournful occasion. Some of the Bostonians [from Lawrence] came to assist and were present at the funeral. Its grave -- I presume -- is among the first of white persons along the Wakarusa. We buried it in a beautiful cluster of hickory and oak upon a small bunch of level land as you descend from the mount to the southwest. "Sleep on, little Suza," sweetly sleep on. God in His own good time will raise thy dust for the very wisest and best reasons He has taken thee thus early. [6]

Last Sabbath -- for the first time -- I preached to the [Shawnee] Indians through an interpreter [named Charles Fish]. They seemed quite attentive. You ask if they are friendly -- quite so. They are much more so than the Missourians. And I would much rather live among them than the Missourians so far as safety is concerned as the Missourians burn with the most inveterate hatred towards any person they think is a Yankee. I.E., a great many of them, [that is]. They are all so desirous that Kansas should become a slave state and the Yankees are bound that it shall not be thus cursed if any possible way it can be avoided. That is one [reason] why I hope a great many more will come here from the East -- so that their votes will be sure and make it a free state. The best time to come here from the East is in the months of April, May, and June as then [emigrants] can come to St. Louis by railroad and take a boat up the Missouri and Kansas [rivers] to Lawrence. Now a person is obliged to stage it across Missouri.

Should [your brother] James desire to obtain a first rate farm where farming is easy and where the probability is that he can obtain a farm which in a few years will very greatly increase in value, I don't think there is any place he can do better than here. And if there is anything that he would like to know about the country, the society, the routes here, or anything of value to anyone thinking about coming, I will take the greatest pleasure in imparting information. They are, at present, constructing a railroad across Missouri and, without doubt, one will go up the valley of the Kansas [river] in less than three years. It would probably cost about the same to come here as to go to Minnesota, and then how very much I should like him for a neighbor. And if I can only have [my brothers] Henry and Ossy both here, and make arrangement so that mother can have a home for the present with brother John [in Union Springs, N.Y.], it does seem as if it would be a fine arrangement. And the only reason why I don't coax and urge them all harder is that if any of them should get by chance sick, you know the fault would be thrown upon me for inducing them to come here, which would make me feel bad. But I believe with care, it is quite as healthy here as there.

But I must close. I have tried to write on an old box. The ink tipped over and my papers have blown in it. Please excuse. I was glad to hear you say you would write often. Please do so whether you get my scrawls or not. Give my kind regard to any inquiring and ever believe me your unflinching friend James. As for the manner of direction, it makes no difference only so they come. Remember, the place is Westport, Jackson County, for Lawrence, Kansas Territory. There is no regular mail yet to Lawrence and cannot be until Congress takes some action upon it. But if thus directed, all letters are brought up by some kind hand. I have been to Lawrence -- found no acquaintance but good society. They offered to give me a village lot if I would only build upon it; but I had no time to attend to it. They have a steam saw mill now in operation and intend soon to erect a plaining machine. My opinion is that in less than five years, [Lawrence] will number ten thousand [inhabitants], but I may be extravagant in my views. You must make all due allowance for this. Good night, -- James.

Three weeks later while presumably still working on his claim and cabin, James received the following invitation from Rev. Goode.

Wyandott [Kansas Territory]
December 27, 1854

Dear Brother Griffing

I have only time to say that I have just returned from Nebraska and find all well. We are looking for Brother Griffing to visit us. A protracted meeting in this place is to commence in a few days.  Quarterly meeting at Delaware in two weeks. John [Wilson] is here and contemplates starting to Fort Riley next week. Possibly you may see him.

I am anxious to hear from you and your work. Come and visit us if you can.  Bring your clothing -- have it fitted up. But if you cannot come, please write soon. All join in love to you. The Lord be with you.

Affectionately, -- Wm H. Goode

Shortly after the first of the new year, 1855, James saddled up Jacob and rode back to the States on the Santa Fe trail. From Westport, he rode north to Wyandotte where he accepted Rev. Goode's invitation to visit. While there, he wrote another letter to Augusta:

Wyandotte [Kansas Territory]
January 10, 1855

I have just come down to make a visit at my Kansas home, Brother Goode's. Was happy indeed to find all well enjoying much good health and in such fine spirits. It does really seem as if they would become very lonesome living as they do in the woods and surrounded entirely by Indians -- [Especially] when in Indiana they were permitted from the circumstances in which they were placed to enjoy the first of society. But they seem very cheerful and happy, singing away all gloom and managing a great many ways to introduce happiness and joy in their Indian home.

In passing through Westport on my way here, I was glad to take from the [Post] office a letter from yourself. If you only knew how welcome they come, I am sure you would love to write. Cause why? Because I believe you like to make people happy. But to your questions as I have but a moment to write. Are you not afraid there from the course pursued at the late election? No more than I would be in Owego. What will the people do? Assert their rights and strive to maintain them. It is pretty clear ascertained that 2/3rds of the Territory are for freedom. What do you do for windows? Get them at the stores at Lawrence. I.E., sash glass &c. How large is the cabin? Fifteen feet square commenced, but not yet completed. Hope to get time to finish it 'ere long. How do you cook steak and shortcakes? Well that's a poser. For shortcakes, we use one teaspoonful of yeast powder to a teacupful of flour mix with our neat hands and season with shortening and other fixings to our liking. Our steaks we fry in the spider. Where does Jacob stay when not in use? I turn him out in Uncle Sam's big pasture. He takes very good care of himself. Nobody has been obliged to fodder any here yet. We have no snow, but very nice weather. When do the rivers open and when is the best time for James [Goodrich] to come? Sometimes in February. But probably it would be better not to start from there before the first of March. He may want drawers and wrappers three months of the year, but the weather is much milder and the temperature much more even than there. Sweet potatoes do first rate here, better perhaps than the Irish potatoes.

As to the daguerreotype, I have paid Sykes [7] for retaking it and shall probably have him do it when I come home this summer. You seemed to speak as if there might be danger in living here. I am sure you would very greatly change your opinions after stopping here awhile. We never think of locking our cabins. We never have anything disturbed. Our society is mostly all from the East and you feel just as much composed as when in New England. It truly seems lonesome here at Brother Goode's after being up in the territory for awhile. Our nearest neighbor is Mr. [John] Pirott, from Tennessee, then Mr. [Jackson] Sellers [from Illinois], then Dr. [James] Still, then Thomas Still, then Rev. Mr. [John E.] Stewart (Methodist minister from New Hampshire), then Bro. James Still, then a dozen Yankees all in one cabin; all these, and more too, within a half hours walk [from our cabin]. Out on the prairie on an adjacent claim, Mr. Ogden is erecting quite a nice frame house. By next fall, I presume that although my cabin will be surrounded on three sides by woods, yet we may count twenty cabins from our doors. It may be many more. I think we shall have an excellent neighborhood and valuable neighbors. I like Kansas more and more every day I stay here. To be sure, there is something pleasant in the idea of sleighing.

January 12 [Friday] -- I must soon start for my appointment and must finish what I have to say now. You seemed to think the Missourians dangerous because I pronounced them more so than the Indians. But there is no more reason for a person who attends to his own business to be afraid here than anywhere under the broad canopy of the universe. It is the case that when in Missouri if the people find out that you are from the Northern States, they will spare no pains to discourage your settling in Kansas and will say many unreliable things. All due allowance must be made as they are selfish.

It will seem like a great while until September, yet I think probably your choice [for our marriage] is a good one. I think it will be a pleasant month to travel. I should like much to go to commencement at Middletown and will be entitled to the degree of A.M. if I go, but for two reasons I hardly think I can -- the want of time and means. I should not want to go without your company but for one or two years, I think I shall be obliged to deny myself this so great favor. With the blessing of Heaven, I hope before many years that I may make such a journey without any difficulty or embarrassment. Traveling is quite expensive and my trip to Owego in September will cost not far from $150 which, in connection with some outlays that I may wish to make this summer in fencing and tilling my claim, will require the most rigid economy on my part. I could sell my farm in [Woodstock] Illinois but I would rather not until the land comes in market there.  If my life and health are spared, then -- Providence favoring -- I shall be happy to be in Owego in September. A further journey East I cannot with certainty promise myself. At any rate, I should not consent to go alone and it is very doubtful whether I could get away from here on time to reach there for commencement.

Your household goods that you mentioned are just what we shall want. Send all kinds of seeds you can think of by [your brother] James if he comes. I have written to him and shall be looking for a letter soon -- and one also from [my brother] Henry. I hope Ossy and Henry (with his family) will all come in company and, if they should fall in with some association coming west to Kansas, they could come through at quite a reduced passage. Otherwise, I think it will cost them near fifty dollars each to come. At any rate, I would not pay fare only from Owego to Buffalo and then try for this there. There are now three papers published at Lawrence. When I go there again, I will try and send you one. Excuse blunders and ever believe you have the best wishes of your, -- James.

The day after James completed his letter to Augusta, Henry Griffing penned the following letter to his brother.

Owego, Tioga [County, New York]
January 13, 1855

Dear Brother James,

Your letter of 25 December I received in which you said you had written me from the Big Blue [river]. This I received and wrote a sort of an answer. Thinking it best for me not to undertake so long a journey at present = but after all -- Looking at it all over on all sides in my own mind, I have about concluded to go ahead strait for Kansas = and so Brother James, I wish you to get me as good and pleasant a claim of 160 acres as you can and, if my Life and health of myself and Family is Favorable, I do not see anything in the way to hinder me from trying my good luck going west = unless by some cause I am disappointed in my Money Matters = But I think there will be no mistake for it is in the hands of men such as D. Taylor, A. Taylor, A. Saunders, J. Phelps &c., all responsible men = Due the first of Feb = 1855. Nancy is ready and willing to go anywhere I think it will be most to our advantage = she is quite a notion since we received your last letter = for to go right on hit or miss = please give some account of the game and also the Fish &c. as many are anxious to know how the people Fare in these in that region. I received a letter from Br. Charles Giddings. He says we had better go on to Kansas = says it is only a step or two down to Texas. Then we may be Neighbors some Future day &c.  Your statement of the country and climate = the water, the timber, richness of the soil is good enough.

Ossy is at home with mother and will stay with her until Spring. I think when you come home if you should encourage him and explain to him all the advantages there is for young men in that country over this stony, stumpy rough side-Hill Barren soil, I should think if he calculates to have anything or be anybody at all he will pull ahead with you &c. = Mother, I think, will be easily persuaded to go with you = But I should rather imagine it would not be for the best under 3 or 4 years yet = if at all in her old age to go into a new country.

There is two young men that would like to go with me if they could get work soon as they arrive there or shortly after. I should try to help them along = please give us some information as to their few ideas = for they are fine steady boys as you will come across in these Times -- one a farmer, the other a Mechanic -- Nancy's brothers [Thomas and Jacob Orcutt] = = Osee Hall thinks you ought to say something about the Darkies. You know he is a Terrible man on that slavery question. He would not go there for nothing. He is afraid it will be a slave state. This is the least of my concerns as I am well satisfied if there is anything like Law or Order of any kind to protect men and property. I am not in the least concerned but what Southern Men and Darkies will please Keep on their side of the Fence = soon just give us some few thoughts on this point if you please.

You had best select say 4 or 6 lots for some that will come on this Spring = all well, all in good health. Just write Almarin S. Warring for he is in a Fix to go somewhere he can just work at his trade &c. Augusta Goodrich all right &c. To J. S. Griffing in haste. Write me as soon as you get me a claim. -- Henry Griffing

Wakarusa, [Kansas Territory]
January 18, 1855

My Dear Augusta,

After so long a time, your kind favor sent to St. Joseph's has reached me containing an account of your visit at my friend and your kind good cousin Hancies with the flow of spirits that must pervade one's mind when in the presence of one like her. And could I fly on the wings of the telegraph, it does seem as if I today would seek the presence of some congenial spirit rather than while away the hours of the livelong day in my lonely cabin. However, I have endeavored to make companions of my scanty library and have, I think, caused the hours to pass quite as pleasantly as could be expected. It has indeed been a fine day. The sky as pure and bright as you ever beheld it, the breeze stirring gently to prevent the heat of the sun bringing you into midsummer rather than a fine April day, the air pure and invigorating, and everything contributing to its beauty and loveliness. Six different persons have made calls and one quite a visit. I prepared a dinner for him and myself that a king (if half-starved) would be proud of.

We held a meeting yesterday at neighbor Stewart's cabin for the purpose of taking into consideration the erection of a bridge [8] across the Wakarusa. A committee was appointed to examine and find a suitable place, solicit aid, ascertain the probable cost and report at an adjourned meeting. It is contemplated building it a short distance above my claim. If so, it will bring me in the vicinity of three considerably traveled roads. First, the great California Road west; 2nd, the Hickory Point and Big Timber Road; 3rd, the Big Mound Road. It will also, I think, change the travel from Lawrence to the States and cause them to pass near the big mound whereas now they cross as a ford some three miles below. It will also give us a good road to Lawrence.

Wed. [January] 24th -- Since I commenced this [letter], winter has set in upon us in good earnest. Last Saturday night [January 20, 1855], it commenced snowing and continued all night. The next morning, the wind blew very hard from the north lifting the snow in every direction making Sabbath one of the most disagreeable days this winter thus far. I had started for my appointment Saturday but became weather bound and was unable to go on -- Jacob being unable to take me through the snow banks -- and then it was so bitter cold. I thought there would be no one but the family at the floorless cabin where I was to preach. I managed to get back to my cabin again on Monday where I have been since.

My Quarterly Meeting takes place the 11th and 12th of February and I would be glad to make the round of the circuit again before it comes on, but can not, as I expect my Presiding Elder [Rev. Goode] to dine with me about the middle of next week and then he wants me to accompany him down in the south part of the Territory on the waters of the Osage to attend quarterly meeting the week before mine. I was in hopes to be able to report 50 members on the Wakarusa circuit before the Quarterly Meeting, but shall hardly reach that number. But by the blessing of Heaven, before the conference year is up, we hope to have a hundred all aiming to reach that better home.

Lawrence is improving finely. Sod houses, tents, and shanties are giving way to much more commodious buildings. The steam saw mill hardly meets the demand for lumber. Several others have been purchased but can not be brought on until navigation opens. Quite a large hotel [9] is in the process of erection. Three newspapers are now published in the city. I sent you a copy of the "Herald of Freedom" last week -- also one to [my brother] Henry.

But you wished to know more about my cabin. My own is yet unfinished. I am wintering with my friend John Still. Thomas Still and his sister have gone on a five day's journey down in the State of Missouri on horseback -- about 170 miles -- and John is obliged to be at home at his fathers. Consequently, I am obliged to live nearly alone with no one to watch me but faithful Jacob. He thinks it pretty tough to be obliged to browse about in the bushes for a living but thinks he can endure it if I will only give him an occasional chance to smell of the contents of my meal bag. This I agree to do if he won't come too often. And so we live together quite uncomplainingly, sympathizing with each other in our hardships.

I ought to have excepted the birds which flock about my cabin in great numbers since the snow. They seem very glad to get a few crumbs of cold Johnny cake which I scatter out to them. The chickadees and snowbirds are most numerous. There are a few birds here [that are] the most beautiful and which have staid about most of the winter. The principal one is the paracheet, of most beautiful green with a yellow head -- nearly as large as a dove. Quite a flock of them came the other day and stopped near where I was. Two of their number remained as sentinels in a tree whilst the remainder flew down to the shore of a stream and sought food. But my favorite bird here is about the size of a robin with a little horn on his head nearly an inch in length. He is of a beautiful light red color and is a prince in song. The thrush can't begin to sing with him. Such is his variety [of songs] that you would almost think he had a dozen music pipes at his command. If I only had about a dozen of them about in my cabin, others might go to Trinity to hear music but let me remain among my birds and hear it from nature's perfect voice -- where I may listen to loftier and smoother cadences and sweeter and gentler tones. [10] But alas, I am afraid the poor things would not sing in my cabin now. It looks too bare and desolate. Its only ornaments are a bag of meal, part of a sack of flour, a molasses cask, a sugar box, a lard jar, a looking glass (of course), a frying pan, a bake oven, a trunk, some clothing, a scanty bed, a string over the fireplace on which hang 6 pair of just washed socks, a wrapper towel, &c. But Alas.  Look at the heels [of my socks]! They complain awfully. Jacob's saddle and portmanteaus hang in one corner to complete the furniture. A big nail holds a portion of beef. But where are the chairs, the tables, the bureau, &c.? Echo only answers where.  One year from now -- Providence sparing my life -- I hope to see something of a change.

The other day while in Lawrence, I called upon one of the proprietors of the city who told me that he would make me a present of a city lot if I would go ahead and make improvements on it.  I hope to be able to do so in the Spring. At any rate, [I will try to] put up a small building if only to rent. Did [your brother] James receive the letter I sent him? No answer has come yet. One came from [my brother] Henry in answer to mine from the Big Blue. After this, please direct to Lawrence, Kansas Territory, not putting on Westport at all. Please write soon. Any news from Newfield, Candor, Connecticut, or home will all be gladly received.  Are Henry and Ossy [Griffing and your brother] James a coming here? If so, please write me the day they start. I shall look for them about the 12th of March if they start the 1st. Do you know of any that's talked of coming besides them? Please send me an Owego newspaper. Adieu for the present. The Lord bless and keep you is the prayer of your, -- James.

Wakarusa [Kansas Territory]
January 24, 1855

My friend Ralph,

As I am writing to Augusta, I thought of enclosing an apology to you for so long a delay in answering your very kind letter. I am glad you received those books and hope you may find some of them serviceable. You will notice many of them are second hand books and as a consequence have been used hard. I am very glad to hear that you are bending every effort to ascend the hill of science just as far as circumstances will allow. A choice I am sure you will never regret. You are already finding no doubt that obstacles distant and apparently insurmountable are inclined to present themselves all along your pathway. But toil on. Be not discouraged as you approach them their size will diminish and you will be enabled to proceed with great ease and boldness. New and brighter objects will continually unfold themselves to your intellectual gaze and beckon you to wander to new heights never before reached, and every advancing step will only tend to make the future path much more enticing.

I only wish my past was mine again. How I should like then, with s more close application and a more systematic disposal of my time apply my energies in intellectual improvement. Yes, Ralph, push right on. And if there are obstacles, even drawbacks, let the only course [be] redoubled energy.

You asked my opinion as to college. If I were to choose one for myself, I think it would be the Genesee College at Lima, New York State... I think in Livingston County. Everyone that I have conversed with speak of the institution in the highest terms in all the Departments. I think they have near six hundred students. It is quite convenient to your home there. If you write a line to the President [of the college], he will furnish you with a catalogue. Brother [George] Blakely will give you his name and address if you have it not already. This will tell you all about the rules and regulations of the institution, its requirements in order to enter the several classes, its expenses, &c. Next to it, my preference if my pocket was deep enough would be Yale, Brown, Cambridge or Harvard, or old Wesleyan at Middletown.

The college is not a matter of near the importance as the improvement of the precious hours whilst there. By close application and a determination to improve the powers of the mind, a student will show himself almost anywhere. I can only say be sure you are about right and then “Go ahead.” Freely speak with me and if in any possible way I can assist you in your very laudable course, nothing will afford me greater pleasure. I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you next summer. Shall you ever come to this centre of the county – this Eden of the states? How I would like to greet you and how much you would be pleased with the country.

Please write me soon. Adieu – yours – J. S. Griffing


[1] Thomas Chalmers Still, b. 6 July 1833 (21 years old at the time of this letter).

[2] John Wesley Still, b. 17 February 1836  (18 years old at the time of this letter).

[3] Alanson Goodrich was Augusta's uncle (b. 4 Sept 1790, d. 6 Nov 1854).  He married Mary Piney.

[4] This "mound" is still readily identifiable today. It is located about six miles southeast of Lawrence, Kansas and "rises from the prairie like an island in the ocean" as one pioneer described it. The mound lies just south of the Wakarusa river [or the "Walky", as locals refer to it].

[5] James Moore Still, b. 5 February 1826 (age 28 at the time of this letter).

[6] "Little Susa" was Susan Sarepta Still, the one-year old infant of James M. Still and Rahab Mercy Saunders. 

[7] The daguerreian was James Bennett Sykes who opened a studio in Owego, New York in 1851. A newspaper advertisement in the Owego Gazette of December 1854 noted that Mr. Sykes was back in his daguerreian rooms after suffering for a few weeks from an inflammation in a "couple of his eyes." 

[8] The neighbor James is referring to is Rev. John E. Stewart, who came to Kansas Territory from New Hampshire. In his book, War to the Knife, Tom Goodrich says that "while James Montgomery remained the most notorious Jayhawker in southern Kansas, other outlaws, acting largely under his direction, also raked the land. With his gang of horse thieves, the Reverend John R. Stewart swept livestock clean from the Marmaton and Drywood Creek areas. Called by friends the 'Fighting Parson' -- unlucky victims dubbed him the 'thieving parson' -- Stewart cut the manes and tails of stolen horses to prevent identification, then painted spots on their hide with 'Bachelor's Hair Dye' to disguise them further. Stewart's band also made brutal raids on isolated homesteads. At one farm near Fort Scott, the gang gutted a man's house of everything, 'even bedclothes from over and under the sick, and the children's shoes and stockings.' A little further on the raiders plucked an absent farmer's cabin, then passed their time 'choking and abusing his wife.'"  (page 220)

[9] The Free State Hotel; 3 stories high, eighty feet wide.

[10] When asked to identify the birds mentioned in this letter, Dr. William Busby, a noted author and Ornithologist living in Kansas offered the following:


"chickadee" -- Black-capped Chickadee.  Common year-round resident today.


"snowbird" -- Dark-eyed Junco.  Snowbird is a common name for juncos because they are winter residents that often can be seen hopping about on the snow (when it is present).


"paracheet" -- Carolina Parakeet.  This bird is extinct, disappearing in the late 1800s.  It formerly bred in riparian areas in Kansas and elsewhere, and traveled in flocks.  According to Birds in Kansas (Thompson and Ely, 1989) there are few sightings of the Carolina parakeet in Kansas after 1860, so this is a significant report.

parakeet.jpg (83866 bytes)
Audubon Painting of the Carolina Parakeet
(click on picture for enlargement)


"red-colored bird" -- Northern Cardinal.  Cardinals are red, have a top-knot on the head, and are active songsters.  They are common year-round residents.