Letters of a Kansas Pioneer, 3
Thomas C. Wells
November 1936 (Vol. 5, No. 4), pages 381 to 418
Transcribed by Marilyn Dell Brady, Don Dowdey, Dr. Lynn H. Nelson,and Dick Taylor;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
Manhattan, K. T.
Jany 3d. 1858.
My Dear Mother,
I RECEIVED you letter of 6th, ult. with pleasure about ten days ago. I am glad to hear that you have a new minister settled in Peacedale & Kingston and that you like him so well. I hope he will be a man that will wear well, it is too frequently the case that a minister is liked, admired and applauded for a few Sabbaths, until the novelty is worn off, and then he is regarded as commonplace, disliked and perhaps scandalized, until he comes to the conclusion that he is doing little or no good in his present situation, asks for a dismission, and leaves the church to hunt another pastor. I would like to have father write as often as he can, but I do not know by what process of reasoning, you came to the conclusion that your "letters are not very interesting." I am sure I have never written anything that ought to lead you to think so, and, indeed, I do not think so. I can certainly give you the credit of being a good correspondent; you answer more punctually and generally write fuller letters than any other correspondent that I have. I hope you will continue to do the same.
It costs no more to send a letter to Kansas than to Kingston, and if you cannot write a long letter and make it interesting, we are glad to get a short one.
We had no public thanksgiving in Kansas. You would have liked it no better than we should have done, to have had "all your children" there on Thanksgiving day.
You ask my opinion about fathers building in Wakefield; I will give it and you may take it for what it is worth. No, not at present; and I will give my reasons. In the first place you are now very comfortably situated as you are. it will be time enough to build when you leave the bank, and then you may be better able to do so; you might hire a tenement while building. Secondly, I would advise no man to build a house if obliged to run largely in debt in order to finish it; better hire than do that; make your money before you spend it, is a good motto. Thirdly if you put all the money that you have, and more too, into a house, and then leave the bank I do
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not see how you are a going to live; you will have nothing laid by for a rainy day, and nothing to do any kind of business upon at present. If my reasoning is not good please give me better reasons to the contrary, and oblige.
No one, certainly, would rejoice more to have father settled in a home of his own, free from debt and embarrassment, and in a fair way to get a comfortable living, than myself; but, really, if he leaves the bank I do not see how he can do so in Wakefield.
He certainly would not attempt to live by farming or gardening in W., he would have ten chances of success here to one there, at that kind of business. What would he do? I would have written in the same strain if I had been in any other part of the country than Kansas, even if I were living in W. I think I should have said substantially the same. Nevertheless, I did hope that if father ever left the bank you would all come and live near us. I would not advise you to move here just now. Wait and see what congress does for us this winter, and if our troubles are amicably settled I would like to have father come and make us a visit in the spring, and see the country for himself, he can then decide whether it would be wise to come here with his family. And now I will just state what appear to me, to be some of the advantages you would have in coming here instead of staying in W. You would be near at least one of your sons and his wife, whom I doubt not you would like as a daughter. You will have forty acres of good land, near a market (which I have already offered you) to commence upon. If you intend to get your living by farming you will have the benefit of my experience of two or three years which is certainly worth something and you would have to expend less, for a team and farming implements than you would in any other place as we could to some extent use the same. You could live with us until you could build a house for yourself. Being freed in a great measure from the demands of fashion, and the customs of a too aristocratic and extravagant east, your wants would be less, and you could live more simply and cheaply, yet no less comfortably, and not lose caste in the best of society around you. For the same reason I have written briefly &, I think, to the point and with the feelings, if not the show of kindness and respect.
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Manhattan, K. T.
Feby 27th, 1858.
My Dear Mother
I have just finished writing a letter to Lizzie and will now commence one to you. We were very glad to get your last, began to think you were putting off writing a long time, and think it about time we heard from you again. Should have written this, in answer to your last, before, had I not just written to Herbert. Why do you most always put "Susy" in quotation marks when you write of Lizzie's little girl? Do you wish to hint of another "Susy" to me? Perhaps you think I would have done well to have tried to get her for my wife; perhaps I should, but I don't think so. I am well satisfied with the one that I have, and I think you would like her well if you were acquainted with her. I hope you may be sometime. I have never had reason to regret being married to her, and surely I have had time to get acquainted, now. I cannot help laughing when I think of my being uncle and you grandmother &c., it seems odd enough. I hope Henry will not confine himself so closely to his business as to injure his health, that is worth more than money. We hear from him every few months. We too have had a very mild and pleasant winter, but not so warm as the papers state that it has been in the east, so that flowers will bloom out of doors, we do not want it so warm as that in the winter, it cannot be healthy. Am glad to hear that the people continue to like Mr. Brown. What kind of a minister is Albert Palmer? Why does not Theodore write us? Does he improve any at school?
I am sorry that you and Herbert have been so much troubled with colds and coughs, you ought to be careful; that is the frequent cause and commencement of consumption. You had better come out here and live. I will warrant that you would not be much troubled with colds in this country. Glad to hear that father is so well. I thought from what you wrote that he was going to write soon and have been expecting a letter from him every week but none has come yet. I thought "Susy" and Atmore were pretty good friends before I left R. I. "Things looked like it" then. I did think from what you wrote that father thought of leaving the bank soon if he built a house in W. If he is really determined to spend the remainder of his days in W. and can build a house on his land without running in debt for it, perhaps it is the best thing that he can do. It would certainly be much pleasanter for him to have a home of his own, and as you say he could cultivate his land much more profitably.
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I have got any quantity of work to do this spring. Twenty five acres to plow and plant, a mile and three quarters of fence to build. &c. &c. The first two or three years are always pretty hard in a new country, but it is getting old very fast. It is nothing like what it was two years ago. (Feby 28th.) We are anxiously waiting to know what Congress will do in reference to Kansas at this session. The Lecompton Constitution, if confirmed by Congress, will never be submitted to by the people of Kansas, civil war first. If Calhoun gives certificates of election to the free state officers elected on 4th of Jany under that Constitution all may be right even if that swindle passes Congress, for they will all of them immediately resign and leave the thing dead, without an executive department, and a new Constitution formed by the people will be put in operation. We do not despair of a free state yet. The people of Kansas will not be the slaves of the administration or the South. There are wise heads here as well as in Washington and the plans of the slave power for our subjugation will be thwarted, peaceably if they can be, forceably if they must -- at all events Kansas must be free.
Ella joins with me in sending love and hopes father will come and see us.
Do write often as you can and tell us how you all are &c. &c.
Yours very truly
Thomas C. Wells
Manhattan, K. T. Mar. 13th 1858.
I received a letter from Mother yesterday morning and hasten to reply.
We were indeed surprised to hear that Theodore was in Beloit, it was entirely news to us. I hope it will prove to be a good move for him. It does seem most too bad that he should be obliged to leave school.
I am glad that Mr. Brown is the means of doing so much good, and that there is so much religious interest manifested in the societies over which he is pastor. I think it was unkind in you to write what you did about "five children" and as soon as they were old enough to be useful and to be company for you, if one should go to Europe, another to Africa &c., "you would then know how good it is." Would it please you better to have me come to R.I. and suffer with some disease of the lungs and die, than to remain in Kansas and enjoy excellent health? I know that you would not have me do so. Were I sure that I should enjoy good health, in the east, I
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would sell out tonight if I had opportunity and come and settle near you; indeed, I would not have remained here so long as I have, would not have come back at all the last time did I not feel that justice to myself demanded it.
Wife and I, both of us frequently mourn that we are so far away from all our relations and would be glad to live nearer to them, but dare not on account of my health.
We have very good society here and we are pleasantly situated and like the country very much, and were you and some of Ell's friends out here would have no wish to leave.
Had I remained in R. I. I do not believe that I should be living now, and I dare not go back there to live, but as I could not do that I have done the next best thing that I could. I have tried my best to have you come and live near us. I have offered to pay father's expenses back, if he should come to see the country and not like it, have offered him land if he would come here and live, and to share my house with him until he could build one for himself; and he has not taken any notice of my propositions, made no reply to my letter. I do not think it is kind in him to do thus. I hope to get a letter from him soon.
You did not say that you were glad or sorry to get Ell's likeness, I would not have had it sent you did I not think you would like to have it. We would be very glad to have your likenesses. Will you not send them to us?
It was rainy this morning and I drew a plat of some of the sections near me and marked the names of the claimholders on it, for father. I know about where a good many others live, but cannot tell exactly what quarter section they are on. I have written the names of a few that I am not certain about with pencil In the township east of me the red dotted lines indicate fractions and I do not know just what lots the claimants hold where I have written their names with a pencil; they have a right to take four forty acre lots, in any shape they choose, if they are contiguous to each other. Manhattan city proper comprises those lots that I have marked thus (1) but the corporation extends one mile and three quarters north of the Kansas on the township line, and from thence directly east to the Blue river including all between those lines and the river. All the claimholders within the corporation have to pay a corporation tax of course. March 14th. The lines are so faint on this paper that I cannot see to follow them by candle light, but I think you
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can read what I have written, and I will not attempt to write it over again.
I will send you several copies of the minutes of the General Association of Congregational Ministers and Churches in Kansas.
It is quite warm here now and some of our farmers have commenced plowing -- I shall commence, soon. Ell is not very well, she frequently expresses the wish that father would come and see us, and that some of my folks or her folks or both would come and settle near us.
Do write often. You do not know how much we enjoy a letter from home.
Yours truly and affectionately
Thomas C. Wells
Manhattan, K. T. May 22/58
My dear father &mother,
I received your long letter, mailed Apr. 3d, two or three weeks ago, and shall endeavor to answer it, as nearly as may be, in the order in which it was written. You must not think that I am provoked, or angry, or even "spunky" because I have not answered it before, the truth is that I have been so very busy, plowing, planting &e that I have not been able to find time to write. Neither do I expect father to leave his business often to write me a long letter, but I have thought that he might frequently add a few words to mother's letters, without spending a great deal of time to the neglect of other duties.
What mother wrote about "the children all going away" &c. was written as "your father says" &c as though he would have me feel that it was unkind in me to leave you and go so far away, however I am satisfied from his letter that he does not blame me for so doing.
I was not aware that I was usually very "sensitive at any remark in mother's letters." I know that mother has "many cares," and that she does not generally enjoy very good health, though I was not aware that it had been unusually poor "for six months past" and am sorry to hear it, and I do not wonder that, sometimes, when sick or tired, or low spirited she should write things which she would not at another time, things which would convey false impressions, and that she should omit to speak of things that she had intended to notice; I would not blame her in the least for this, I doubtless do the same things myself, and for like reasons; you do not seem to have considered that I have a great deal to do,
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work hard, and frequently get very tired, am sometimes most sick, and once in a while though seldom feel a little "blue." You must remember too that I cannot always tell just what feelings may prompt a certain expression in your letters. I frequently mention things that I notice in your letters, which I do not understand or do not like, in order that you may explain if you feel disposed, and when you see anything objectionable in my letters I expect you to do the same.
As for writing a "blow up" or being "spunky" or anything of that sort it was farthest from my thoughts and I hope you will so consider it. The hardest expression that I have used in writing home was "unkind" and I know not how I could have used a milder term and expressed my feelings. Perhaps if either of you had at my age been obliged to leave home and be separated so far from your parents, you would have mourned over the necessity as much as I, and after thinking over every plan that might suggest itself for getting them to settle near you should at last make a proposition to them which you thought it possible might be excepted, perhaps I say, you would have thought it a little "unkind" if when they answered your letter they did not even notice your proposition. I am willing to think, however, that the neglect to notice was unintentional and pass it by.
I give mother the credit of being generally a very good correspondent and have wondered, sometimes, that she should write so long and so interesting letters as she has done and I hope will continue to do. If she sees anything that she does not like in my letters I hope she will mention it and I assure you I shall take it most kindly. I do wish I could see you both and talk with you. I hope I shall be able to make a visit east with Ell before many years but hope first that some way will be provided so that father can come and make us a visit in Kansas. Perhaps if Henry goes home as he talks of doing, he will, if nothing more, take charge of the bank long enough for father to make such a visit next fall. I am very glad father wrote me what he did about his purchases of house, land &c. I like to know how he gets along, and if he cannot make up his mind to come to Kansas and live am glad he has the prospect of a pleasant home in Wakefield, and that too without running in debt for it.
If you (father) wish to sell that lot in Kingston, we will sign the deed, of course, and you may apply one tenth, or less if you think that too much, to my notes at Bank I would be glad to pay those notes but times are hard, it takes a good deal of money to get the
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necessaries of life, make improvements on my farm &c., and I would rather sell the stock, if the notes must be paid soon, than send the money from Kansas. As to what I wrote about Ell's dagueratype (by the way we had a copy of it sent us and I think it looks no more like her than I do -- it was taken several years ago.) I did it more than any thing else for the purpose of finding out how you felt toward Ell. I had reason to fear, not from anything in your letters alone, however, that you and other eastern friends, had obtained an unfavorable opinion of her, although it had not, of course, been told me so in so many words. I am glad to learn that I was mistaken. I hope you will have an opportunity to become acquainted with her some time and have no doubt but that you will like her well. If ever I see you I will tell you the reason of my fears. Whatever idea you may have got from my letters I do not think that mother does not love Theodore, but I have feared that she did not show that love in such a way as to lead Theodore to feel it. I judged thus from T's letters to me before he went to Kingston to school. He wrote me that he could not stay at home, he wanted to go away some where, and would do so if he had to run away, and he wanted me to send him money that he might come to K, and he would pay me in work; That of course I would not do without your approval. I discouraged the feelings of discontent that he manifested, urged him to be a better boy, and try to obey and please you both as much as possible, and I did not doubt but that he would be far happier and find that you were interested in him and loved him. I wrote so strongly and scolded him so for thinking of running away, that he has not written us since, until very recently, since he has been in B. Theodore wrote me confidentially, and I hope you will not say anything about this to him, I think he feels differently now. As for the reason that T. left K., I acknowledge that I did get "tried" with him, and that he needed a "father's care" and I could not "afford" to keep him unless he showed more interest in my affairs, but still I should have tried to get along with him, and would not have sent him home for any of these things, he went of his own accord, and said that he did not like to have father alone and wanted to go and help him. Yet I thought then and so did others, that one, if not the great reason of his going was because he was homesick. (May 23d --
As to what I wrote about "Susy," I can scarcely help laughing, and yet I feel sorry that mother should take it so much to heart. I did not think of giving offense. I had noticed, that whenever
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Mother wrote of Susy Cross, she always put "Susy" in quotation marks, and very naturally wondered what was the reason. I know that Susy Watson and I were always good friends in the east, and are now for aught I know, and I supposed that mother had done so as a kind of joke on me; I did not suppose that she wished to offend me, and I am sure she did not. Mother has not, however, given me any light on the subject and I am more curious than ever to know why she thus wrote "Susy."
Though as mother says, I "do not need letters to cheer me up" so much as when I first came to K. yet I feel as much interested to know how you all get along at home as I did then, and look for a letter from you now as anxiously and read it as eagerly, I think as I did then. As for criticizing your letters I was not aware that I did so, any more than those of my other correspondents, I am sorry if I have written anything that has unnecessarily occasioned any bad feelings. I am glad to hear that you have a cow. I know you will enjoy it. I do not know how we could get along without one. Much obliged for the pepper seeds. Thank you, mother, for offering to write Ella how to make mangoes, &c. it will not be necessary however. You may write if you please how you make what you call "fritters."
I hear through Henry that Lizzie has another daughter, think she is doing up business pretty fast -- two children in two years and a quarter. How is Saml getting along in his business now? I have not heard from them directly in some time. I hear nothing from the Lyme people yet. I wrote a letter to grandmother Johnson about two months ago. Am sorry to hear that she hurt her back a while ago.
Professor Smyth of Bowdoin College Maine preached at Manhattan this morning. He gave us a very good sermon from the text, Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no Physician there.
Ell has got a letter from the M. E. Church and is going to unite with the Church of which I am a member. She does this entirely of her own accord, without any urging or persuading on my part. It will be pleasanter and better for us both I think to be members of the same Church. Had a letter from Amos not very long ago -- also one from Dr Clarke.
And now my dear parents I must close. Hope there will be no occasion for the shedding of any more tears over my letters. If Ido write any thing that displeases you, do write plainly about it immediately, and not wait until you get a large stock of grievances on hand.
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With best wishes for your happiness in this world and the next I remain as ever
Yours truly &affectionately
Thomas C. Wells
Ella sends love and hopes you may come and see us. We are both pretty well now. Hope to hear that mother is better when you write again. Do write often.
Our ink is so miserable that I cannot write a decent letter.
Manhattan, July 8th, 1858.
My dear Mother,
I received a letter from you yesterday and hasten to answer it. I had begun to think my old friends had all forsaken me, as I had not heard a word from home for two and one half months and it is two months at least, I should think, since Lissie, Henry or Theodore have written me. I received a letter from Grandmother Johnson and aunt Mariann about three weeks ago which I will endeavor to answer soon. I am always glad to hear from them, and from home and indeed from all my friends.
Have you received my last two letters one written Apr 21st and the other about three weeks before? Ella thinks it was in my last that I asked you how to make fritters if that is so you must have received it. Much obliged for the receipts. I am glad Mr. Brown is liked so well and that his labors are so highly blessed in the conversion of souls.
Wish we might have a revival here. I believe only one person has united with our church since it was organized, I mean by profession.
I thought by Henry's last letter that he would be home before this time and was in hopes that he would get initiated, so that he could take charge of the bank and let father come and make us a visit this fall. By the way, you wrote nothing about father; Is he well, and how does he get along improving his land? How is your health now? better I hope. The "man" that called to see you "from Kansas" was Mr Peleg Westcott, I wonder whether he will come here again. he has a pretty good claim and would have brought his family here long ago if he could have sold property that he had in R. I. without too much sacrifice. What has Mr.Stedman been out west for? his health? or on business? Wish he had come far enough to see us. How did you like Whitinsville andthe people there? Have you had any garden vegetables yet? We have had new potatoes, beets, and beans and had peas, turnips and radishes
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in June. Our garden looks finely now, and we shall have summer squashes and cucumbers in a week or two. Ella has quite a flower garden this summer. My sweet potatoes are doing very well. I do not remember whether I wrote you that I had some or not. How is Lizzie now? have you heard from her lately? and how does Samuel get along in his business? Does Bertie go to school now? I suppose he has got to be quite a large boy; he has not written us in a long time. Does Theodore like [it] in Beloit as well as ever?
We heard a speech from Ex. Gov. Stanton yesterday; he gave us a very good speech, very strong anti Lecompton. He is a fine looking man. The Steamboat Minie Belle  has made two trips to Manhattan this Summer -- expect her up again soon. We have a daily mail now.
Corn and grain look finely; some farmers think they will get forty bushels of wheat to the acre. I never saw corn grow as it has this year.
We have a little pet prairie squirrel, you know I sent you one or two skins, he is real pretty. We have over a hundred this years chickens. Have a first rate cow, she gave milk over a year, nearly seven quarts a day within five weeks of the time she calved. We have picked about three quarts of wild raspberries this summer; they were real nice.
Have commenced building the Congregational Church, hope to have it ready for use before winter.
What kind of weather have you had this summer. The thermometer was up to 106o in the shade one or two days in June but we did not mind that more than you would 95o in the east. What did you do on the 4th? We went and picked raspberries.
We are both pretty well. Ella sends love. Hope you will write often
Yours very truly
Thomas C. Wells
Feb. 24th 1859
My dear Mother,
It is a long time since I have written home. I have two of your letter[s] before me now, as yet unanswered, one mailed Dec. 30th and the other Feb. 2d. and my reasons for not writing before are the same as you sometimes give -- very busy and want of time.
Farming in the west especially in a new country like this is very different from what it is in New England; there a farmer needs several hands to cultivate twenty or twenty five acres of corn and  See "The Kansas River -- Its Navigation," by Albert R. Greene, in Kansas Historical Collections, v. 9, p. 342.
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when they come to harvest they make short work of it, but here one man, with team, can plow, plant, and cultivate as many acres, but harvesting is a pretty long job.
A neighbor (Mr. Pattee) and myself have shucked or husked about thirty five acres of corn this winter and got it in, sixteen acres for him and the rest for me. We drive into the field with a two horse team, husk the corn as it stands, and throw into the wagon. I had several acres shucked on shares. You wonder why we did not get our corn in the fall. You must always remember that this is a new country and only three years ago we "settled" or "squated" on the naked prairie, everything was to be done, and we cannot do that in three years. We had lived two winters in an unplastered house and we determined if possible to have at least one comfortable room this winter, and I did nearly all the work myself, then I had to attend court a week as juror, &c. &c., so that we did not commence on our corn until toward the middle of December.
I shall try to plan things differently this year so as to commence gathering my corn as soon as it is fit. You know I was a perfectly green hand at farming when I came here and have had to learn everything by experience; sometimes such knowledge has cost me considerable but take it all together I have got along very well. I shall have about six hundred bushels of corn to sell. It was the first crop on the land or I should have had much more. You know I lost all my old ground. Corn is worth but thirty cents here now, but we think the Pike's Peak emigration, &c., will raise the value to perhaps one dollar or more per. bush. in a month or two, even if it gets as high a[s] fifty cents per bush, it will [be] worth waiting for.
I am glad you write so often as you do, even if you are obliged to write short letters sometimes, we are always glad to hear from home. Sometimes we get most tired waiting for a letter but probably you as often have to wait a long time to hear from us. You are a very good correspondent, and I hope will continue so. We are very much obliged for the "pictures" you sent. Mother's looks very natural, better than father's which is most too light, but both are so good that it gives me much pleasure to look at them. We will try to get our miniatures, as soon as we can get them taken here, and send them to you. You can tell nothing by that likeness you now have of Ella, it looks no more as she does now than I do. Wish we had Herbert's and Theodores likenesses and also Lizzies and Samuels. I had a letter from aunt Mariann not long ago, and will try to answer it soon. Does Mr.Gillies have his printing office where he used to
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over Mr. Robinson's store? I should be very happy to receive a letter from aunt Elisabeth, and also from grandmother Wells. I have not heard from Dr. Clarke in a long time, I wish he would write.
I wish father to give J. A. Ward a receipt for me, for any money that he may receive from him on my account and when he pays the am't that I specified in my letter to him give a receipt in full.(I think the am't. was $35.) I supposed the dividends at the Banks were of sufficient am't to pay the discount on my notes and also a trifle on the principal at every renewal and so gave myself no uneasiness about it, but if necessary, I, of course, want father to use the money that he may receive of James A Ward for that purpose.
Perhaps if father can sell the stock for enough to pay the notes he had better do so, and square them up; I do not like to be in debt anywhere. If I get more money here than I need to pay current expenses, and make necessary improvements on my farm, I want to save it to defray the expenses of a visit east sometime, and if I did not want it for that, I could use money here to better advantage than to invest it in Bank stock. It is "shameful" indeed, the way that Mr. Wright behaves toward his wife. I should not think she would live with him another day.
Several buildings will be put up on the College land this summer -- two are already commenced -- and it is expected the main building for school or College purposes will be built between now and next winter. It is probable that they will have something like a Seminary or high school for a few years, although they intend eventually to have a regular College. The trustees intend to put up public buildings for educational purposes only; and they have laid out their lands as a town or village where people can build and board the students &c. They call the town "Blue Mont," from a large hill or mountain near by and the College "Blue Mont Central."  A good chance for you and father to come and keep boarders!
We shall have a very neat and pretty church edifice when finished, which will be in a month or two I hope. We expect one or two more churches will be built during the coming season at Manhattan and a good many other houses, stores &c. There seems to be more than usual interest here now in religion. Besides the regular preaching, Sabbath schools, and so forth on the Sabbath, we have a union prayer meeting in the evening conducted in turn by the ministers of the four denominations. These meetings are well attended and  See "The Kansas State Agricultural College," by Prof. J. D. Walters, Kansas Historical Collections, v. 7, p. 169.
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generally the time is well occupied. Besides this there are at least three prayer meetings held during the week at private houses. We are hoping and praying for a revival of religion here -- that professing Christians may be quickened and many turned unto the Lord. Will not you pray for us that our faith may be strengthened and our prayers answered? We are too apt, especially, in a border country, to let the things of time occupy all our thoughts instead of laboring in earnest to save souls and build up the Redeemer's Kingdom. Is there much religious interest in South Kingstown now? Is Mr. Brown liked as well as ever? Ella says she is much obliged for the paper that father sent her, and she sends love to you both.
Ella's middle initial is S. not B. I send a Herald of Freedom once in a while. Our Manhattan paper does not get printed yet. I have got most tired waiting for it. The man that they expected to conduct it failed to come, and they are now trying to get some one else.
We have had a very fine winter, most of the time quite warm and pleasant. There is a great deal of interest here on the subject of temperance now; a great many have joined the "Sons," and many of those that had been in the habit of using intoxicating drink. Our taxes are very high this year, owing, in part, at least, to a miserable set of county officers.
It is getting quite late and I must close, so good night to all.
Thomas C. Wells
The lines are so faint on this paper that I can scarcely see them at night, so you will excuse for not writing on them all the time. (Friday morning)
The frost is all out of the ground now.
Manhattan, K. T.
My dear parents,
It is a long time since I wrote you, and still longer since you wrote a letter to me. Your last letter was dated Feb. 5th I believe, I have been watching the P. O. pretty closely lately in the hope of finding a letter from home, but not a letter comes. I hope none of you are sick.
We are as busy as ever, spring you know is an unusually busy time for farmers. I have sown my wheat and oats, my wheat is up and looks finely, and my oats if not up now, will be in a day or two. I have set out a good many forest trees and shrubs about the house, some of them will probably die, but I hope the greater part of them
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will live. I have a small forest of black locusts & cottonwoods growing. Have set out 25 or 30 peach trees and 16 apple trees, also a dozen or more Kansas plums. Ten of the apple trees were three or four years old and grafted the rest were last years seedlings. I think two or three of the plums that I set out last year will bear this year, they are now in full bloom. Have planted only some potatoes in my garden yet, though it is time some other seeds were in.
I have been making a good sized yard for my hens for a few days past, so that I can shut them up while the things ar[e] coming up in the garden; hope to get it done tomorrow and then will go at the garden. I have shot quite a lot of prairie chickens and ducks this spring, and have not spent much time about it either, they have been very plenty in my cornfield. There have been hundreds of cranes in the cornfield, and flying around, for a few days past. I should like to get one to examine, but they are very wild. They are very large birds almost or quite as large as turkeys. Hundreds and I don't know but I might say thousands of people are passing through here continually for Pikes peak. They come from all parts of the country, from various classes in society and they travel in all sort of ways. Some come with horses, mules, or oxen, and others come drawing hand carts, rolling wheelbarrows, or lugging packs on their backs.
They make a brisk trade for the merchants in town, and they almost double the price of corn for the farmers. I am afraid, however, that very many of them have much more gold in their possession now than they will have six months hence. Manhattan continues to grow and improve, some buildings are going up all the time -- they have two steam saw mills there now. They have let the contracts for the college building, both for the stone and wood work. They are going to work on it very soon -- I do not know but they have already commenced. It is to be three stories high and I believe 40 ft x 60 ft on the ground. Two other buildings are now in process of erection in Blue Mont one a stone dwelling house about 25 ft x 30 ft the other a frame building 16 x 24 with ell, to be used in part for a store.
It was quite cold last week, so that it froze considerably nights, but it has been growing warmer for two or three days, and today it is uncomfortable with a coat on. The prairies begin to look quite green, and some of the earlier trees are putting out their leaves.
You were talking some of moving, when I last heard from you, I believe. Have you moved? Is business any better in the Bank than it was last year?
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I hear quite often from Henry and occasionally from Theodore and Saml &Lizzie Had letter from aunt E. Hagadorn and Uncle Frank a few weeks ago.
Mr. Blood has been away two Sabbaths, and Mr. Paulson, a Methodist Minister from New Hampshire preached twice for us, and he gave us two very good sermons. It is expected that he will preach for the Methodists here next year, commencing soon. The Sunday evening meetings continue to be well attended, I believe, though I have not been able to attend for three Sabbaths.
Ella sends love. I hope to hear from you soon.
Thomas C. Wells
I enclose a few ducks feathers. We think they are very pretty. It lightens quite sharply in the North and I think we shall have a shower during the night.
[Ella S. Wells to Mrs. T. P. Wells]
Manhattan K. T.
Mrs. Ths. P. Wells
It has been a cold rainy day, so cold that I have [to] sit by a fire, something I have not had to do for a number of weeks before. I hope it will not be so cold long for I have worked very busily this week to get my flower seeds in and I fear they will rot. I have had more seeds to plant this Spring than ever I have had before and should feel very sorry [to] lose them. I had but few winter roots. nearly all of them lived. How I wish I could have some of your spare roots I love flowers so much. I took up a petunia last fall and put it in a segar box. (A flowerpot is out of the question here my friends sent me one but I had the misfortune to break it.) It commenced blooming in Mar. and has been in blossom ever since. I think very much of it house plants are so scarse here.
I have one sensitive plant up but they are so sensitive I fear this cold weather will kill it. I can plant them over again if it does. I brought the seed out with me. T. says he thinks you do not have them so I will send you a few seeds They have to be planted every year. they will not live long after frost comes but the seeds will ripen after the stalk is apparently dead.
They do not require more than a quart of dirt, little less will do. I usually let two or three grow in a pot have one to touch and let the other grow they will be more sensitive if you do not let the wind blow them. I think
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them quite a curiosity. they will drop if a fly lights on them if kept out of the wind. keep the dirt pretty wet and warm when you plant the seeds. I don't know as all the seeds are good. Excuse me for writing so particularly about them I thought if you never had any you would like to know.
I was glad to get a line from you it seems a little different when it is directed to me although it is hard to write interesting letters to strangers as we are and strangers in each others locality. I sometimes tell T. when I read his letters that if folks were like mine they would like to know more of our everyday life, he says he presumes you would but he can't write it "These women are so curious they want to know everything" I am glad you have a sewing machine and that you like it. Thank you for your kind wish that you could do my sewing I would like it very much although I am not driven with sewing just now. I got my sewing pretty well done up last winter for the first time since I was married I braided all the woolen rags I had and sewed them in a mat my first attempt at such work. I never saw any one do it except grandmother when I was a little girl. The forepart of winter I braided &sewed three husk mats that is work I never did until since I was married. I also cut & pieced all the new calico. I had not enough for a spread but may be I shall have enough sometime. I will not buy new &cut it up but when one has small pieces I think it pays if one has the time. I expect you would say as many do were you to visit us that I was cut out for an old maid. I tell them I can't help it if having a place for everything &everything in its place is going to make me one I am willing to be one all my life. I am going to tell you something that T. has said repeatedly that I should not just to hecter him perhaps I am naughty but I do like to hector him once in a while just for variety. That is that your son Thomas is Dea. &has been for more than a year. they have three Dea. here they choose one every year each to serve three years but at first they chose one for one year one for two &one for three years. he was chosen at first for one year now he is chosen for three. I felt to[o] bad at first to hecter him about it much but I have to a little now. the worst of it is I have to take care of the service &prepare bread &wine &I have nothing but grape jelly to make wine out of &I don't like to do it. Mrs. Blood says that is my cross but I don't think so. Our good neighbor btr. Browning hectered us without mercy last year but has got chosen himself this so he keeps pretty still
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You ask if I ride horseback. I have ridden a great deal but not much since we have had a buggy. I rode more or less for three years before I came out here. I have no saddle but T's. that does very well for a short distance I can gallop on that. I have ridden twenty three or four miles in a day since I came out here. I have ridden with another on the same horse many a time. I have heard my mother and grandmother tell of such things but never expected to do it. I have no chickens yet expect to have some next week. I have ten hens setting. We have between 70 &80 fowls now. I have two little young doves &an old one we think much of them. It is getting late &I must close. I have written more than I intended when I commenced. I have written about ourselves as I would to my own relations thinking perhaps it would not be wholly uninteresting to you. We have not had a letter from Sister Lizzie in a very long time. hope she got our last letter. We are in usual health although I cannot endure much T. says sometimes he has more sympathy for mother since he has had a wife your health is not good, but he did not realize that it made such a difference.
My love to father &Herbert it is after ten o'clock &I must close. Hope we shall hear from you again soon.
Your aff daughter Ella S. Wells
My dear father,
Manhattan, K. T.
We received your letter, and, also, one enclosed from mother to Ella, just three weeks ago today, and should have answered before had we not both been unusually busy, -- Ella attending to her usual in door work, planting her flower seeds and planting some seeds for me in the garden, and I planting my garden, plowing my fields. I am rather behind with my corn planting -- have not done plowing yet -- but hope to get all my corn in, as soon, at least, if not sooner, than I did last year. I did not finish planting until May 25th last year, and then had a very good crop. Corn ought to be planted here from the middle of April to the middle of May according to the season, though some times a very good crop is harvested from corn planted after the 1st of June.
The season is a week or two later than it was last year. I have been troubled about getting help this spring -- have had two men, one left for Pike's Peak just when I needed him most and the other I sent away because he was a miserable poor hand to work. Though we have no relatives here we have very good neighbors and from what you write I should think that we visit and receive visits as often as you.
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We attend meeting at the Methodist Church now as our church is being plastered &c., and will not be ready to occupy again in two or three weeks. The Methodists have a new minister this year, Mr. Paulson, from N. Hampshire a very interesting preacher, he preach[ed] twice for us when Mr. Blood was away. The Sunday evening union prayer meetings are still pretty well attended, but there does not seem to be so much interest manifested as a month or two ago. We hope and pray for better times. 'The "Association of Cong. Ministers and Churches" meets at Lawrence week after next, and I have been appointed or rather chosen one of the delegates from our church to that body, but think it very doubtful about my going. We have about thirty members connected with our church now.
They had speeches &c at the laying of the corner stone of the "Blue Mont Central College" last Tuesday afternoon, the first ceremony of the kind that has occurred in Kansas. About three hundred people were present and some very good speeches were made. Quite a number of documents were placed in the cavity of the stone. The college building will be 40 ft. x 60 ft. on the ground and three stories high, all stone-underpinning corners, and window and door caps to be hewn, the rest rough work. It will be in full view from our house, half a mile distant. We are expecting to receive the first copy of the "Manhattan Express" every day now. I cannot think of the name of the editor -- he used to be connected with the "N. Y. Express" N. Y. City. I will send you a copy. Nearly all of the trees, both forest and fruit trees, that I set out this spring appear to be alive and growing. There are about two hundred in all.
Under the circumstances I am glad that you applied the money that you received of J. A. Ward, to my notes. I wish they were both paid up, and if Bank Stock should rise so that you think it advisable I hope you will sell my stock and pay my notes. If you will send us a deed made out in due form, or give me the boundaries so that I can write out a deed we will deed to you outright in the lot at K. and let you apply the $75. to my notes.
You wrote as though you might sell your place in W. before you occupied it. Did you mean only that such a thing was possible or that you really had some intention of doing so. I wish we lived nearer each other. The prairies look splendidly now, covered with a most beautiful green, and there are quite a variety of flowers in  First called The Western Kansas Express. Charles F. DeVivaldi was the editor and publisher.
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bloom also. Most of our garden vegetables are up -- of some the second planting.
Love to Mother and Herbert. Hoping to hear from home soon again I am yours affectionately
T. C. Wells
Has M. B. Sweet any property in S. Kingstown? he is owing considerable here
[Ella S. Wells to Mrs. T. P. Wells]
Manhattan, K. T. July, 8th 1859.
Mrs. T. P. Wells.
I have had your letter almost three weeks, &I am ashamed to think it has not been answered, but it seems as if I had been unusually busy for the past month or two.
Perhaps you will wonder what I find to do, no one but my husband to do for. I should not have any more than I could do with ease if I confined my labors to the house, although a farmers wife who has to be Bridget mistress &all can always keep busy. But come to add to that 150 chickens 50 old hens shut up to feed & water, flower garden to take the whole care of &a good deal of labor in the vegetable garden &you may be sure I keep busy. I get so tired most every day that I have to lay down &that takes time. It is a good deal of work to pick &shell beans &peas & prepare vegetables, but as we are very fond of a boiled dinner I get one two or three times a week. T. comes as near scolding at me as he can because he says I try to do to[o] much, but when I see him driven with work that must be done that I cannot do I feel as if I must do all I can to help him.
If I were only strong I should not mind the work but as it is I often get so tired that writing or anything else seems a burden to me. I have been waiting to see if I could not find a little more of a leisure day to write but fear I shall not at present so please excuse a hasty scroll. I hope you are not out of patience looking for this. You say you would like me to write all about our house, Have I never sent you a rude plan of it &what is in it? I do not remember if not I will sometime when I am little more at leisure. That is if you would like it.
Have the seeds I sent you come up? mine are up and doing nicely. My flowers as a whole do first rate, some kinds the soil does not seem to agree with, but most of them do look nicely.
I enjoy it very much. I have the cypress vine I never saw it before it is real pretty full of buds. Have you got it? if not &
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have seeds I will send you some in the fall, if you would like. I have that &morning glories planted in a circle with a stick in the middle &strings run from the circle to the top.
Our vegetable garden [grows?] nicely. I think much of a good garden. I shall have some summer squash tomorrow. We have had beets two or three weeks. they are as large as coffee cups now. We have had string beans &peas some time. we have carrots parsnips cabages asparagus salsify rubarb sage &c growing well. I think most of our sweet potatoes if they do well we shall have bushells of them this fall. If you are fond of them send your erannt boy around in the fall &we will give you a few bushels.
You say you should like me all the better for having things in their place. T. often says "mother will like you for that she likes to have things in order &-- will if it is a possible thing" I am very glad, if anything makes me feel disagreeable it is to see a house look as if a gust of wind had been in at one door & gone out at another. You ask where we find market for our chickens we never have sold many we eat them as freely as we want &keep the hens to lay. Their eggs more than pay for keeping. Last year the wolves took as many as 75 I think.
I remember once last year I cooked two a week for eight weeks in succession. I get tired of them some times. I boil bake fry & make them in pies anything for a change. Did I ever tell you how many eggs I got last year? I will tell you now. please excuse me if I have done it before. 2905 of the number we sold 1818 none less than 20 cts. per. doz. thus far this year they have laid 2775 this year we have sold a few dollars worth for 10 cts a doz. but most of the time for 15 cts.
When T. read what you wrote about Dea wife "there" said he "I do feel all most provoked with you for writing that," but you know it will not do for a Dea. to get angry so I have the advantage of him You say you have those feathers in a wine glass perhaps you could put in some more. I saved a lot of them &as I can send them as well as not I will put in a few.
We had a Sabbath [s]chool before our church was impaled by the tornado since then it has been broken up we expect to use the church again week from next Sabbath M B. Sweet owes T. a little but would not had he known he drank &acted so.
I must tell you we have 6 little pigs a few weeks old they can get out of the pen &run around, they look real cunning. T. bought me a couple of turkeys this week, they will be proffitt
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able if they live &do well. You must excuse me for writing so much about our little affairs, life is made up of little things.
The college is getting up some the stone work is as high as the top of some of the lower windows, the longest side is toward us.
A dwelling house &store near the college has been occupied sometime also Bro. Denison has the walls to a stone house up, so you see we are close to town.
I do wish you &father could come &see us. You would be pleased to see how quietly &happily we live. I am not as fond of society as most people; my home is everything to me. if I am happy there I am content &most certainly I am. I do sometimes long to see old friends at home but my husband is more to me than all the world besides so I get along very well.
T. sometimes says he has heard people say marriage divided the sorrows and doubled the joys of life but he never believed it until he tried it.
I will not finish this until he comes for I dare say he will have a word to write or send. Hope we shall hear from you again soon. T. thinks it a long time from one letter to another &I presume you do.
Ths. sends his love &says he hopes to hear from one or both of you again soon &then we will try to write.
We are as well as usual. It is very warm &I am weary so I will close. Love to all.
Yours in love,
Ella S. Wells.
Manhattan K. T.
Aug. 27th. 1859.
Mrs Thos P. Wells,
Ella received your letter mailed Aug. 2d in due time and will answer it when she gets a little leisure. She is not very well and is very busy now. We have had a man with us for two or three weeks, and she has had considerable extra work to do, so that she is pretty well tired out. We are alone again now and I hope she will soon get well and strong again.
I am about sick today -- have been threatened with a fever -- but feel better than I did last night and hope to be able to go to work again Monday. I have been fencing in a pasture and getting up hay and have worked most too hard for this hot weather but hope a little rest will cure me up; I have been taking some medicine, however, to help along. I have now, besides cow-yard, stack-yard,
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dooryard &c around the house, a pasture of about 45 or 50 acres fenced in, and a field of about 37 acres. 20 acres of which is in corn. I hope to put in 12 acres of winter wheat this fall. My spring wheat and oats, especially the latter, did very well. We have a very good garden, and about half an acre of potatoes. Wish we could send you some of our vegetables and fine melons. We have about fifty fruit trees set out which are doing well.
Do you receive the "Kansas Express" regularly? and how do you like it? The foreman in the printing office ran away a few days ago and they have been able to print only half a sheet this week. I have been helping them for a day or two and they want me to stay until they can get another regular printer, which they hope to do in a week or so. I should have been helping them to day had I been well.
All kinds of stock are very cheap and money very scarce now, as many of our settlers are obliged to sell property at any price in order to obtain money to pay for their lands previous to the public sales which take place on and after the 29th day of Aug.
We went graping a few days ago, and got over two bushels of Kansas grapes, and Ella is making jelly today. The wild grapes here and all through the west and in California are very small, not much, if any, larger than good sized blueberries. We have no plums of any consequence this year, a late frost killed most of them and the curculio have made sad work among the rest. Our sweet potatoes are looking very finely, the vines if stretched out would extend eight or ten feet all around the hills. I have not dug into any of the hills yet, and therefore do not know how well the tubers are growing. By the way, I would be glad if you would send us some grape seed in a letter.
I will send you some seeds of the wild sensative plants that grow on the prairie; they are perennial, very fragrant and very pretty. It would be a good plan to plant some of them this fall and those that are planted in the spring should be soaked twenty four hours before they are put into the ground. I will send, also, a few seeds of a yellow flower that grows on the bluffs. I would treat them in the same way. They both require a deep rich soil, but the seed should not be covered more than half an inch. It would be well to protect them by a little straw or coarse manure during the winter.
As I am rather tired I will write no more today. Hope to hear from you soon.
Ella sends love.
Thomas C Wells.
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Oct 23th 1859.
Thos P. Wells. Esq.
My dear Father, Your letter of Sept 18th was received about a month ago and have been waiting only for time to answer it. You write that mother and Herbert were in Lyme, had been gone some twelve days when you wrote -- that would seem to us a longtime to be separated, we have never been apart from each other twentyfour hours at one time since we were married. Had we either of us relatives to visit, within visiting distance, the case would doubtless be quite different.
You had been having "very cold weather," we had a light white frost on the night of the 5th of this month, but did not have a killing frost until the 17th and last night it froze a little again.
I wish you and mother too might come and see us and the country, guess you had better come and keep boarders (students) for the college now building. Keeping boarders is first rate business here if any one likes it. They are just putting on the roof to the college building. No, we do not cut stalks as you do in the east, it would be rather tiresome work should we attempt it for very many of the ears are higher than our heads and some of them as high as I can possibly reach; but we generally cut up a portion of our corn from the ground, before the leaves are dry and cure it for feed in the winter, though a great many do not, but turn their cattle into the field after their corn is gathered and let them pick for themselves. Most of my corn is very good, better than it was last year. Corn is not worth more than 25 cts a bushel here now. It does not pay very well to raise corn to sell, but we can make something by feeding it out to cattle, hogs, chickens, &c. My potatoes are very good but very few in a hill and that is the case generally here this year, as far as I can learn. I have about a dozen bushels of very fine beets, four or five of carrots, plenty of parsnips &cabbages, some salsify, about five bushels of sweet potatoes, and we have eaten all we wanted for a month past.
I would like to see your field and garden (as it was) I think you are getting to be quite a farmer Whether the "Express" pays or not I do not know. I believe they print about eight hundred copies a week, but the "Express" is not so interesting to me as the "Times" and I do not think it near so good a paper as Henry's "Citizen"
I am sorry that my note at the Bank has to lay over-due at all. I thought the dividends would always a little more than pay
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the discount. l would be glad to pay them both if I could, but that is out of the question at present. Whenever you can sell the stock for a fair price I wish you would, and apply the proceeds to the notes. I had no such form as I wanted to write a deed by, but I have written one which I think will answer, and will try to get it acknowledged, and send it in this letter. I shall be very glad to have you apply the money to one of my notes, and am very much obliged to you for attending to those notes for me.
I think it would pay well to keep sheep here if one had such a fence as would keep them at home, but a fence that will stop most cattle would not answer for sheep, and they would have to be got into a close yard every night to keep them from the wolves. I should have tried to get some sheep before now if I had a suitable fence around my pasture, and as soon as I am able to make it sheep proof I mean to buy a few.
It does cost a good deal to get corn to market now, but if we had a rail road up here, which we hope to have in two, three or four years, we can afford to raise it and send to St. Louis, the riverboats will carry freight down very cheap. Wheat, when it does well, pays better than any other crop now it is worth $1.50 a bushel. I have 5 1/2 acres of winter wheat in this fall. I got only 15 1/2 bushels of spring wheat from two bush. sown, but it was my first trial it was sown too late and cut too late. I will hope to do better next time.
Flour of the best quality is worth $5. a hundred now, sugar 12 1/2cts per lb. for light brown, molasses, very good 90 cts a gallon. Considerable molasses is being made here from the shorgum and it is very good. It is sold for 75 cts to 85 cts a gall. I have raised nearly wheat enough to keep me in flour this year but we have no flouring mills yet, (expect to have them next year),and I have it ground like Indian corn and make Graham bread of it. Our tea and coffee do not cost us one dollar a year.
Manhattan is building up as fast as could be expected when money is so scarce three or four building are going up nearly all the time. Pike's Peak travel does not affect our market very much, though it helps us a little. I do not think of any kind of seed but grape that I care to have you send me now.
I am sorry that Amos has done so poorly. I would like to see him very much. M. B. Sweet left the country some time ago and considerably in debt. He did not do much while here, he borrowed ten dollars of me a few days before he left and has not paid it.
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Do they have any preaching at Kingston now? Ella sends love and says she will write when she is not so busy.
Are you all well? Do write often.
Yours very truly
T. C. Wells
Excuse the appearance of this as it is written by candle light.
Manhattan Kansas Territory
Monday, Dec. 26th, 1859.
Mrs. Thomas P. Wells
I received two letters from you last Wednesday, one dated Dec 4th, and the other Dec 5, the latter though was pretty short, but it contained some grape seeds for which I am obliged.
It was all news to me that Lizzie had another little baby, I should think she would have her hands full now.
I received a couple of cards from Henry a week or two ago, and learned from them that he was married, before I heard from you. From what he had written I did not suppose he would be married quite so soon.
I am glad that you think Theodore has a good situation. We had a letter from him not long ago, and he appeared to be very well contented.
We would have liked very much to have been with you Thanksgiving day. I hope we may be able to come and make you a visit in two or three years; we talk of it a great deal, but it will be very expensive and we cannot afford it now, and even if we had plenty of money we would hate to leave our house and farm, except in pretty good hands. I do want to see you and father very much and so does Ella.
Is grandmother Wells well now? I would like to have her write to me -- I wrote her a letter a long time ago.
Dr. Clarke has not written to me in more than a year I think. I wonder what has "come over the spirit of his dreams" that he cannot write. We will keep you duly informed in regard to the number of your grandchildren "in Kansas." None have made their appearance yet, and perhaps will not for some time to come we do not believe in having too many irons in the fire at a time. We have had enough to do, thus far, to get an honest living, and keep out of debt, without having three or four babies to take care of &c.
You say that Eliza Hagard is engaged. Will she probably be married soon? Where is "Susy" now? is she engaged? or married?
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What is Herbert doing? You have written nothing about him in along time.
Our sweet potatoes are most gone, so you will not get any unless you come after them soon.
I wrote the deed and acknowledgement and omitted the date in both because I did not know when it would be legally finished. (and neglected to insert the date afterwards at the proper time) The date that father inserted was right.
We do not measure our corn when we get it in, and I cannot tell exactly how much corn I had this year, but probably between eight and nine hundred bushels.
Ella's sister Nancie is here now, has been here about a month. She is a real good sister and we hope she will make us a long visit. We wish she would settle near us when she gets married, and perhaps she will -- but when -- you must ask her. (Dec 27th.)
I have been out on a buffalo hunt, with two others, since I wrote you. We were away from home four days and a half, the first time that I have been from home all night since I was married. We took a good tent with us, and camped out every night. We went bout eighty miles west of here, up the Smokey Hill and Solomon's fork. We did not kill any buffalo or even shoot at any, though we saw a plenty of them, and they are the most ugly looking creatures that ever I saw. The main herd had gone south, and those that we saw were all old fellows, and hardly worth killing; we would have killed one or two, however, or tried to, at least, had it not come up suddenly cold, and compelled us to go home.
The last night we were out it snowed quite hard nearly all night, the wind north and very cold; we managed to keep very comfortable during the night, but we almost froze riding home the next day. Although we got no buffalo meat, we were glad that we went; we passed through a very fine country and it was well worth such a trip to see the huge monsters. We got within a few rods of several of them, but it was nearly night and the caps on our rifles would not go so we did not shoot; we had other caps which we were going to try in the morning but, as I have written, we were driven home by the cold. Our nearest neighbors, Mr. Pattee and wife, have rented their place and gone back to New Hampshire for two or three years at least. We miss them very much.
I have not gathered all my corn yet, you know that is a winter job in the west. I have two men helping me now and hope to finish in ten days or two weeks of fair weather. I would prefer to have
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my corn gathered in the fall, but it is a long job to husk and crib 90 acres of corn, and I could hire no one to help me on paying terms until these men came along a few weeks ago. I give them every seventh load for husking and cribing, and their board when at work. Corn is worth 20 cts a bushel delivered.
Has any one heard any thing from Amos yet? You say that you have written me two letters now since I have written, but I have written more in this than you did in both of yours, so I shall consider that you owe me a letter now, and hope you will write quite soon.
Father owes me a letter too. Love to all. With best wishes I remain yours aff'ctly
T. C. Wells.
[Ella S. Wells to Mrs. T. P. Wells]
Manhattan, K. T.
Mrs. T. P. Wells.
Your letter has remained a long time unanswered &I have but a few moments to spare this eve. but as Ths is finishing one to send to you tomorrow; I thought I would write a few lines, &send with it.
I find the longer I put off answering a letter the harder it is to answer. I was very busy while my garden lasted &then I was quite sick for me in the fall. So I have let one thing after another hinder me until now. I was anxiously looking for & worrying about sister for five or six weeks before she came, & now you may be sure we have a great deal to talk about as it is almost five years since I have seen a relative. We hope she will make us a long visit. She came all alone got along without trouble except being a good while on the way She has two trunks that have not yet arrived. My friends have sent me a good many presents but she does not tell me much about them. thinks it will be pleasanter if I don't know until I see them. I will try & think to put in some Cypress vine seeds. I expect to have a large garden if I live until another year. Sister has brought me quite a number of different kinds of seeds.
I am greatly obliged for the receipts you sent in your last.
I must close for it is quite late &I have to get up &get breakfast before light as Ths has two men getting in corn for a few days. My love to Father Herbert &a share yourself.
Affectionately your daughter
Ella S. Wells.
409 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
January 27, 1860.
My dear Mother,
We received a letter from you last Friday, and as we always are, we were very glad to hear from home.
You write of getting letters from Henry and Dora on the same day that you received one from us, and say that it was "quite a treat" to get so many letters at once. I do not doubt that it was a "treat," but I do not think that you can appreciate a letter as we do until you, like us, have been, for a long time, far away from all your old friends and relatives.
Nearly all of your relations are near you, so that you can frequently visit them, while the best that we can do is to hear from ours, and I assure you that we are very glad to do that.
You say that I talked of coming to visit you in two or three years, two or three years ago, and you seem to think that there is not much more probability of our coming two or three years hence than now. Well, I do not know that there is; but this I do know, that as soon as we can come and feel that we are doing right we intend to come and visit you, at least, and if we once get east we may not come back here again, that will depend upon circumstances of which we know nothing now. If I knew that I could get into some good business east, that would be both healthful and profitable, I would sell out here as soon as I could get a good opportunity. Not that we are dissatisfied with the country or the people, here, or that we do not like our prairie home, but simply that we might be nearer to those we love. And yet, I assure you, it would be hard for us to give up our Kansas home, here we have lived and labored for several years, and they have been happy years -- this has been our first home together -- my own hands have helped to build our little house and the other buildings, and also the fences, here I have set out trees, here I have plowed and planted and harvested. We might move to some other place and be happy but no other place will ever seem to us like our first home in K. Sometimes I think that we had better make up our minds to spend our days here, but we do want to see you all, we want, at least, to come and make you a long visit, and we hoped to have done so before now, but that is easier to talk about than to do. It would take a good deal of money and of time.
We have not yet felt able to bear the expense of such a journey, and if we had a plenty of money, it would be very difficult to find any one with whom we would be willing to leave our house and farm.
So you must not think that because we do not come and see you,
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we do not want to, and very much too. We hope and expect to have a railroad up as far as here in two or three years from now and then it will not take quite so long to go from here to Rhode Island. And if we wished to sell our farm we could doubtless get considerable more for it then than now, for a railroad here would tend to increase the value of property considerably.
It does seem too bad for Amos to be alone in Texas, and especially when they are having such awful times there; but after all, I felt relieved to hear from him, for I feared that he was dead, it was so long since I heard a word from him. I wish we had good reason to think that he was a christian, and then if he should be taken away, we would feel that he had gone to a "better country" where there would be no more sorrow and no more sin.
If you should hear from him again do write me all that you learn about him. Do you think that Theodore is a christian? I do not get a letter from him very frequently. Let us pray for him and Amos, unto "Him that heareth the prayer of faith," that they may be converted and numbered among the "children of God." Nothing but the influence of the Holy Spirit can save them and that is promised in answer to prayer. I suppose that Herbert has got to be quite a large boy. I would like to have him write to me. I can hardly think of him only as a little boy that he was when I left Wakefield
Are they all well in Lyme? I have not heard from any of them in along time.
On Tuesday night, Wednesday, and Wednesday night we had a real snow storm, but it is fast going off now. We had had neither snow or rain worth mentioning before this winter.
I had about a thousand bushels of corn this year. How much corn did father have off his two acres? We can only get 20 cts a bushel for ours, and mostly store goods at that, it is almost impossible to get money for anything at any price.
Ella says she is very busy today, and cannot write very well. She sends love.
Do you get the "Express" regularly? I do not think much of the editorials or selections generally, he lets his printer do most of the selections.
Do write as soon as convenient.
With much love I remain as ever,
T. C. Wells.
411 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
Manhattan, K. T
Mrs. T. P. Wells,
I expected your last letter would have been answered long before now, but as was the case with you "various things" have prevented.
I have no one to help me this spring and with all the chores to do, and farm work to attend to you may imagine that I have my hands full.
I was glad to get a letter from grandmother with yours and will endeavor to answer soon.
I wish that Henry's desire of having you and father &Lizzie and her husband remove to Wisconsin might be realized; and if it should I assure you it would be a strong inducement for me to sell out here and settle somewhere near you. We, neither of us feel like going back to New England to live, for various reasons which I need not enumerate now, but we would be very glad to live within visiting distance of you and others of the family The longer we live here, however, the more attached do we become to our home, and although there are many things that we do not like, yet we are not sure that we should better ourselves by a removal.
I was very glad to learn that Amos is alive and well, even in Texas. I do not much blame him for wanting to remain in Texas until he gets able to pay "all he owes" I think that I would feel and do the same under similar circumstances.
You say that Mr. Belden is a very good minister &c. Our minister(Mr. Blood,) is a very good man, but not a good preacher if I am any judge of preaching. Some of the church like to hear him, however, and some do not. We are placed in rather an unpleasant situation, and do not know how or when we shall get out of it.
Does father get enough for taking charge of the "Times" to pay him for his trouble? Unless he gets very good pay I should think he would let it go rather than be so confined. You say that some of the selections in the "Express" are quite good. When you have said that you have said about all that you can for the paper. We think it rather a slim affair. If you do not care much about it I will not send a copy regularly next year.
It would not pay us to raise corn to sell at 20 cents a bush. if we made that our whole business, but corn does not need half the work to cultivate it here as in the east, and we can do a good deal at times when nothing else is pressing. I went through about three
412 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
fourths of my corn last year with a cultivator once and back in each row and that is all that I did to it from the time I planted it until it was ready to harvest, and I got between forty and fifty bush. to the acre at that. I have no doubt but that I should have got more corn if I had worked it more, but I did not get time to do so.
Apr 11th. I did not have time to finish this last evening, and will try and write a little more now, as we are going down to Manhattan to meeting in a few minutes and can take it to the P.O. I have sown five acres of spring wheat which is up and looks very well considering it is so dry. I have got six acres nearly plowed on which I intend to sow oats. My winter wheat looks very well. I shall not plant more than 10 or 12 acres of corn this year. I shall want considerable myself to feed out. I am afraid you will never be able to enjoy a home of your own until you leave the Bank and when father gives that up I wish he would move fa[r]ther west if only in western N. Y. or Ohio, and perhaps I could sell out and move there too. Most anything from home is interesting to us, so please not wait until you have something which you think very interesting before you answer this. I do not see that your "powers of letter writing fail" at all, judging from your letters to us. We would be glad to hear from home oftener. That old Bible that you referred to is one that I picked up somewhere and saved as a curiosity. I do not care anything about it now. Where are my old lattin and greek books? I often wish I had them here to refer to.
The season is very forward, at least compared with last year. The plum trees are going out of blossom. Strawberries are in bloom. Apple and peach trees are leaving out and the prairies are beginning to look quite green. It is getting very dry, but things do not seem to suffer much from want of rain although we have not had any of consequence since Feb. But it is time for us to go and I must close. Love to Father and Herbert as well as yourself. In great haste, Yours truly
Thomas C Wells
page 413 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
[Ella S. Wells to Mrs. T. P. Wells]
Manhattan, K. T.
Mrs. T. P. Wells,
Ths is writing so I will write a few words although I think he can write so much better &more interesting letters it is not of much use for me to add my mite.
We are having a very pleasant and open spring. Sister &I went Maying in March we got four different kinds flowers &some buds nearly ready to open. You spoke in a former letter of my enjoying it having her here it is very pleasant on many accounts but I do not expect she will stop any longer than autumn she does not like [it] well enough. I think she would have liked better had she got her trunks in season. She did not get them until the middle of Apr. &it was very unpleasant getting along as she had to. When she did get them some of her things were ruined. She had a bottle of black varnish that she used about painting the cork got out & it made black work where ever it went. We were so glad to get them that we get along with all bad marks. I expect to be very busy this summer with my flower garden &trying to have sister enjoy herself. I do not expect to accomplish a great deal except my work.
We both enjoy very good health now, but I can endure but little. I wish we could come &see you but I almost give up the idea when I think how much it costs &how difficult it will be for us to leave our place &stock. It is after nine o'clock, &I am weary so I will say good night. Love to father &Herbert &a share yourself.
Ella S. Wells.
Manhattan, Kansas T.
June 23d, 1860.
I had almost forgotten that I was owing you a letter. When Mother's letter came, which was more than a month ago, I was so very busy that I could not stop to answer it, and I have been busy enough ever since, but I did not intend that your letter should go so long unanswered. I have had no help this season have not hired a man for a day, so you will not wonder that I have had enough to do.
I have put in 5 acres of spring wheat, 6 acres of oats, 12 acres of corn &1/2 acre of potatoes besides planting and taking care of a
414 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
good sized garden, and doing all the chores, which last item is no inconsiderable matter, taking from 3 to 5 hours each day. I have planted about 1/8 acre of sugar cane (shorgum) this year. I can get the molasses made for half of it, if I strip the leaves off and haul it to mill, and what I have planted if it does well will make some 25 or thirty galls. at least. I intend to sow about an acre of buckwheat in a few days. It has been very dry this spring and summer thus far. We have not had a rainy day, only a few showers, since last Feby. In consequence of the drought small grains have not done well. My winter wheat did not spread any and is very thin, so that I can neither cradle nor mow it. What there is is well filled out and if I can get it gathered no other way I shall try to reap enough for seed with a sickle. I am in hopes that I can get a man to cut it for half of it, with a two horse reaper. There is probably not more than thirty bushels on the 11 acres. My spring wheat did not all come up good, what there is looks better than any that I have seen. But very few of my oats came up until a long time after they were sown, they are looking well now, however, and if the rest of the season is favorable I shall expect to get a fair crop. My garden is very backward on account of the dry weather. My corn looks well and is growing finely. I have commenced cultivating it. Sweet potatoes look well. We had a late frost which killed all the wild plums.
I commenced to answer your letter but have been writing about something else all the time. I should have enjoyed fishing in the Sankatucket with Dr. Clarke very much. Am glad to hear that he is happy with his new wife and I wish him well most truly. I wish father was able to give up the Bank (perhaps he is if he would but think so). I suppose he gets a little more leisure now that he has given up the "Times." I do not wonder that you both feel lonely sometimes, and I assure you that you do not wish that we were near you any more than we do, or that you were near us. I did not know but we would sell out this last spring, and if I had felt as discouraged then as I did a few weeks afterwards I think it likely that I should have sold even at a sacrifice; but I am glad that I did not. A man wanted to buy my farm and would probably have given $2,500. half cash and the rest in one year, but I wanted $3,500. and so he purchased else where. Besides my farm I have other property that I could probably sell for from $500. to $800. according to the times. I do not owe more than two or three dollars except my notes at Bank in R. I. If I get a good opportunity to sell out within a year or two I shall probably do so and settle nearer you. I like the
415 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
country here well enough, but would like to be with in visiting distance of my parents and old friends. We have a poor market now for anything. It is next to impossible to get any money at all. Times must improve, however, before long, they cannot grow much worse.
You ask about Morton B. Sweet. I have heard nothing of him for about a year. He was then going to fort Laramie or some other Government post with a government train. He left here very suddenly and considerably in debt. He had the name of drinking too much whiskey. He appeared well enough whenever I saw him, which was not very often. I well remember John A Brown & his sister Mary. Please remember me to them when you see them.
Remember me to all the Lyme friends when you write. I believe they have been owing me a letter for a long while. I would write them again, had I time to spare I have not been able to answer grandmother Wells' letter yet. Is she still in Rochester?
Congress has done us a great injustice by keeping us out of the Union so long. Had we been admitted when we were ready for it and desired it, we should doubtless have had a railroad from the Missouri river to Fort Reilly and other rail roads in other parts of the state. But capitalists will not take hold of such things much so long as we remain a Territory. If you can get time do write again soon, and I will try and answer soon. Hope I shall not have quite so much to do when I hear from you again.
Thomas C. Wells
Ella says she would write some if she was not so tired. She joins me in love to you all.
We are comfortably well and as happy as ever; hope you are the same, both well and happy.
Manhattan, K. T.
Oct. 19th, 1860.
Dear Father &Mother,
How do you do? Well, I hope -- we are pretty well; Don't we look so? -- only we are rather tired after a long journey, and probably show it in our faces. We received mothers letter of Aug. 24th in due time, but were very busy, cutting up corn &c. at the time and afterwards; on the 2d of Oct. we started for Leavenworth and when we came back found a letter from father. We were very glad to get both the letters and should have answered before but for want of time. Will now attempt to answer both. A short time
416 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
after mother wrote her letter I had an opportunity to sell twelve and a half acres of land that I did not really need, for ($200.) two hundred dollars, half down and the rest on the first of next March. I sold the land, received the hundred dollars, and the note of a responsible individual (Rev. Mr. Denison,) for the balance. I tried for a long time to sell my farm. or sixty two and a half acres on the east, which contained most of my improvements, but could find no one that could raise any money. I might have sold easily on time and taken security by mortgage on the piece, but determined that I would stay here a year or two longer before I would sell thus.
The land will not decrease in value -- it must rise -- and next spring or next fall I may be able to sell for more than I now ask for my farm, or if I can get no more I may get the money down. Although the severe drouth has been very discouraging, and many will leave the country in consequence, yet it is not probable that we shall have another such season for many years if ever. and I think that a great many people will come to Kansas in the spring in the expectation of buying lands cheap from discouraged settlers. And if Kansas is admitted into the Union during the winter it will be the means of bringing a good many men with capital here, so that I think there is a fair prospect of my being able to sell in the spring, or at least within a year. The merchants here charge enormous proffits on almost all their goods, and seeing no prospect of my leaving here this winter, I concluded to go to Leavenworth and purchase what provisions &c. I needed. So I engaged a man to do my chores while I was gone, borrowed some wagon bows and sheet and fitted them to my lumber wagon, harnessed up my horses and started for Leavenworth, taking Ella with me, and leaving sister to take care of the house, &c., while we were absent. We went down on the south side of the Kansas fording that river at Manhattan, passed through Wabonsee, the Pottawatomie reserve, Topeka, Tecumsch, Big Springs, Lecompton, Lawrance and the Delaware reserve. We forded the Kansas again at Lawrance as it was very low. On our return we came through Grasshopper Falls, Rochester, Indianola, Louisville and St. George. We were gone nine days, slept in our wagon every night but one, and traveled at least two hundred and fifty miles. At Lawrance we found some friends with whom we spent a night. We found Leavenworth a very busy place of about two thousand inhabitants. We got our pictures taken there and think them pretty good only we were very
417 WELLS: LETTERS OF A KANSAS PIONEER
tired and, Ella's especially looks too sober. We made our purchases without any difficulty. We found flour worth $3.40 per sack (98 lbs.) sugar 10 1/4 cts per lb. molasses -- 60 cts a gall. salt .$1.90 per sack of 200 lbs. &c. &c. Here the same articles are selling for -- , flour $5.00 and above, sugar 7 &8 lbs for a dollar, Molasses 90 cts. and salt 3 1/2 cts a lb. and other things in proportion.
We met with no accident on our journey and were glad to get home again. I have cut up most of my corn and shall have plenty of fodder for my stock. I shall probably get from 100 to 200 bush corn, probably not more than 100 bush that would be fit to sell, but a good many nubbins that I can feed to pigs and chickens. I shall fat and kill most of my hogs, and kill off a good many of my chickens. I think I shall not have to buy any corn for my own use. We got about two bush of very good sweet potatoes from 100 hills, and about half as many Irish potatoes as we planted! We bought a few potatoes in L. at 90 cts a bush and a few apples at $1.25 a bush. We raised about 2 bush of squashes, no beets, turnips, carrots, cabbages, or any thing of the sort.
We had a letter from Lizzie and Samuel, telling of the loss of their baby &c. Samuel gave me a very kind invitation to spend the winter with them -- said he could find enough for me to do. Thank you for the invitations you give us to spend the winter with you.
If you have a good opportunity to let your house and place do not save it for us, for it is very uncertain whether we shall be able to go east in the spring, and if we do go we can not tell now what we shall do. Depend upon this, that when we do leave Kansas, we shall want to make you a good visit and also Saml &Lizzie and others of our friends before we settle down in any kind of business. I am by no means certain that I could endure the sea air for any length of time There has been much interest in religion here for several weeks. It commenced in the Methodist church and extended to the Baptist and Congregational Churches. We have had preaching every evening for about a week by Rev. Mr. Bodwell [ll] agent of A. H. M. S. He is a very good man and an earnest, practical preacher. Our meetings have been well attended and much interest manifested. A dozen or more have asked the prayers of christians
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in their behalf, and several of them hope that their sins are forgiven and their names written in the Lamb's book of life. I think Mr. B. will remain with us over the Sabbath.
Mr. Blood has declined preaching here another year, and we know not whether we shall be able to get any one else immediately or not. Mr. Bloods time is out on the last Sunday of this month.
We had a glass and frame around our pictures, but have taken them off to send in a letter. They look better in a frame. Ella's likeness is not so good as mine.
We both send love and shall expect to hear from home soon. Yours affectionately
T. C. Wells
Mr. Barker, a brother in law of Ella's, of Sherborn, Mass. made us a visit of several days a few weeks ago.
You may imagine we were all much surprised to see any friend from N. E.
I got a letter from Mr. I. T. Goodnow yesterday. He says he called on you -- thinks I had better remain here. What did he say of Kansas?
T. C. W.
11. The Rev. Lewis Bodwell (1827-1894), a native of Connecticut came to Kansas 1856 to serve as pastor of the Congregational church tn Topeka. In 1860 he accepted the agency of the American Home Missionary Society. Six years later he recalled to the Topeka church where he served until 1869, resigning on account of the ill health of his family. He then moved to Clifton Springs, N. Y. He took an active part in the struggle for freedom in Kansas.