From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
The Anthony Letters
Food Varied in Quality on Six-Day Exploration Trip
Leavenworth Times, 1956
Editors note: This is another in a series of letters written by Col. D. R. Anthony to his family in the east almost 100 years ago when Leavenworth was a new town and Kansas was still a territory. The letters give a clear picture of Leavenworth in its early period. The Times is publishing the letters each Sunday and Thursday. ----
August 17, 1857 Monday 12 o'clock
I returned on Sunday at 1 1/4 PM from an exploration trip. A. C. Wilder, Glenny and myself left Leavenworth on Monday, August 10th at 1 PM in a good Rockaway carriage with a span of black horses -- traveled west that night about 20 miles on the Fort Riley Road -- stopped and got a good chicken supper, then went on 10 miles farther, turned our horses loose on the prairie, laid our blankets on the ground, pulled off our boots, wrapped our blankets around us and went to sleep.
Slept quite soundly but in the morning woke up wet through with the dew. We harnessed up and drove 9 miles to Osawkie, 8 AM., and got a 50@ breakfast of nothing eatable. We stayed at the land sales until 2 PM then went north to Grasshopper Falls, thence north 10 more miles to our claims, thence west 1 1/2 miles to Kaploma City. Got stuck in the mud crossing the Grasshopper, left our waggon[sic] and went up to Godwin's house (brother of Parke Godwin) and had bacon and biscuit for tea.
That night we slept on the floor with our blankets over us. Enormous ground bugs were crawling over us all night--the log cabin was full of them.
In the morning we had mackerel, soda crackers and villainous coffee. Godwin is not the housekeeper now, he had but just arrived. Then we hauled our waggon out of the creek, harnessed up and traveled over rolling prairies and across creeks for 10 or 15 miles west to Eureka, Pleasant View, etc. We got back to Kaploma City about 5 PM but concluded to come 10 miles further east to Monrovia, reaching there about 9 PM. Ordered a good supper--had chicken, milk toast, etc. all O.K. The hotel is a big tent where they have about 20 boarders and live the best of any hotel or place yet although there were no beds--the floor is your mattress. Our bill was $1 per head including a good breakfast.
We traveled east four miles to the Great Fort Leavenworth & Fort Laramie Military Road, thence north 6 miles to my claims where I found that Merritt had finished the cabins and gone to Osawatomie via Leavenworth, so I missed him this trip. After feeding men and horses traveled north over an unknown prairie without compass or guide--a very comfortable feeling when you don't know whether you go right or wrong. A man can't travel with a carriage in this country unless he knows where fording places are. After 6 miles we came to the Saint Joseph and Kennekuk road, took that east and after traveling 10 miles found that 10 miles farther would bring us to the house of Mr. Matthews, a pro-slavery man, a first rate fellow who believes that slavery is a devine[sic] institution and that it will be established in Kansas. He has an A number 1 black cook who gave us good coffee, tea, chicken, ham, biscuit and butter. The same with corn cakes for breakfast. Also Christian beds. Bill $1 per head.
We traveled over the best country I have yet seen in Kansas. From the time we struck the military road so up between the sources of the Grasshopper on the west and the sources of Independence Creek on the east and Wolf River on the north--a high divide all the way. We left Matthews at 7 AM with blessings on the beloved institution of black cooks and reached Elwood City at 9 AM (10 miles.) Elwood is a new town of 40 houses. Great chances for speculation but humbug all over. I bought a subdivision share of the city, ten lots for $3.50 and left at 6 PM same day disgusted with the place. We crossed over to Saint Joseph. It is one of the biggest of the towns (8,000) on the Missouri River, but like all of them has a dilapidated appearance. The Hannibal & St. Joseph railroad will help it and Elwood also.
That night we reached Palerno ten miles south, Wilder swearing that it was all damned foolishness to drive in the dark over the damned precipices--that we would get into the Missouri River, etc., but we came around at the Palerno hotel safe and sound at 9 PM. A poor bed, poor breakfast--it rained all night until 11 AM. After hunting a long time we found our horses but got wet through--got our carriage mended and started south over hills and down precipices. The river roads are almost impassible, particularly after a rain -- passed Geary City in 10 miles -- 40 houses -- 10 miles further passed Doniphan, 60 or 70 houses and two sawmills. Has a pro-slavery look. this is the town bought by Jim Lane. We called on the general but he was not at home. He is just the man for the times. The National Democrats hate him and the Missourians and border ruffians generally fear him. Thence five miles south to Atchison of 100 or 200 houses and 20 stores. It will make a town some time. Then we went 8 miles out on the military road again a few miles below south of where we crossed it on thursday before -- stayed all night with Missourians -- 8 or 10 men, three women slept side by side on the floor in the one room of a log hut -- had a nasty breakfast.
It rained in the morning, but we got away and reached Leavenworth on Sunday at 1 1/4 PM--whole expense for the six days about $50. This is an excellent place to spend money. You have about a hasty account of life in Kansas. I am now well. I nearly starved myself on the trip but it had a good effect upon my digestive organs. On the whole, I am pleased with Kansas life thus far. I am fully convinced it is the place to make money. No man can help making money here providing he is willing to rough it, and is economical and will not expend too much time in looking around the country. I made up my mind to pitch in a little here and a little there and come out somewhere, and I have no fears of the result. A man can hardly go amiss.
Any business will pay in Kansas except doing nothing. That will not pay off except to dead politicians like Shannon who offer their influence in the market for a consideration. Most of Buchanan's office holders are hard drinkers and gamblers. The Free State Party, in refusing to vote last year, did the very best thing. The National Democrats, the Pro-Slavery Party, and Governor Walker are all one. Walker attempted to deceive and cajole the people -- he failed in that. That he tried to intimidate them and failed in that. The people laugh at him. He is mad with himself and everybody except Brown of The Herald of Freedom and Cory, correspondent of The New York Times, Little Walker is dead, his influence here is gone forever. His intrigues to make Kansas a National Democratic state did not work. The people despise him for his trickery. It was unworthy of any man. The two men hanged here two weeks ago were National Democrats -- the two in prison are National Democrats. There is something about an honest Pro-slavery man I like -- he is frank and honest with you. But a National Democrat will lie and will do anything mean. Little Walker has nothing to do--the bogus laws are now not enforces (in general I mean) indeed all of the government officials are supernumeraries unless it is those in the land offices and the post offices. I don't know whether andy more difficulties will occur here or not, but if they do come it will be a fight such as has never been seen before. Men of property do not regard money at all in respect to this continually infringing upon their God-given rights. Time will tell the story and Kansas will be free, although the Pro-slavery still cling to the idea of a slave state. Write me all the Rochester and Washington County news.
D. R. Anthony