Submitted by scott on

Light Traveling

By eight o’clock everything was ready, and we were on the other side of the river. We jumped into the stage, the driver cracked his whip, and we bowled away and left “the States” behind us. It was a superb summer morning, and all the landscape was brilliant with sunshine. There was a freshness and breeziness, too, and an exhilarating sense of emancipation from all sorts of cares and responsibilities, that almost made us feel that the years we had spent in the close, hot city, toiling and slaving, had been wasted and thrown away. We were spinning along through Kansas, and in the course of an hour and a half we were fairly abroad on the great Plains.  Just here the land was rolling—a grand sweep of regular elevations and depressions as far as the eye could reach—like the stately heave and swell of the ocean’s bosom after a storm.  And everywhere were cornfields, accenting with squares of deeper green, this limitless expanse of grassy land. But presently this sea upon dry ground was to lose its “rolling” character and stretch away for seven hundred miles as level as a floor!

Roughing It

From Orion's Journal:  July 26.—Left St. Joseph. Started on the plains about ten miles out. The plains here are simply prairie.

See Burton on Bleeding Kansas:

Landing in Bleeding Kansas—she still bleeds—we fell at once into “Emigration Road,” a great thoroughfare, broad and well worn as a European turnpike or a Roman military route, and undoubtedly the best and the longest natural highway in the world. For five miles the line bisected a bottom formed by a bend in the river, with about a mile’s diameter at the neck. The scene was of a luxuriant vegetation. A deep tangled wood—rather a thicket or a jungle than a forest—of oaks and elms, hickory, basswood, and black walnut, poplar and hackberry (Celtis crassifolia), box elder, and the common willow (Salix longifolia), clad and festooned, bound and anchored by wild vines, creepers, and huge llianas, and sheltering an undergrowth of white alder and red sumach, whose pyramidal flowers were about to fall, rested upon a basis of deep black mire, strongly suggestive of chills—fever and ague. After an hour of burning sun and sickly damp, the effects of the late storms, we emerged from the waste of vegetation, passed through a straggling “neck o’ the woods,” whose yellow inmates reminded me of Mississippian descriptions in the days gone by, and after spanning some very rough ground we bade adieu to the valley of the Missouri, and emerged upon the region of the Grand Prairie, which we will pronounce “perrairey.”

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From Orion's Journal:  July 26.—Left St. Joseph. Started on the plains about ten miles out. The plains here are simply prairie.



Passing through a few wretched shanties called Troy-- last insult to the memory of hapless Pergamus-- and Syracuse (here we are in the third or classic stage of United States nomenclature), we made, at 3 PM,  Cold Springs, the junction of the Leavenworth route. Having taken the northern road to avoid rough ground and bad bridges, we arrived about two hours behind time. The aspect of things at Cold Springs, where we were allowed an hour's halt to dine and to change mules, somewhat dismayed our fine-weather prairie travelers.

The next settlement, Valley Home, was reached at 6 PM. Here, the long wave of the ocean land broke into shorter seas and for the first time that day we saw stones, locally called rocks (a Western term embracing every thing between a pebble and a boulder), the produce of nullahs and ravines. A well 10 to 12 feet deep supplied excellent water. The ground was in places so far reclaimed as to be divided off by posts and rails, the scanty crops of corn (Indian corn), however were wilted and withered by the drought, which this year had been unusually long.

Beyond Kennekuk we crossed the first Grasshopper Creek. Creek, I must warn the English reader, is pronounced “ crik,”and in these lands, as in the jargon of Australia, means not “an arm of the sea,”but a small stream of sweet water, a rivulet; the rivers of Europe, according to the Anglo-American of the West, are “criks.”  On our line there are many grasshopper creeks; they anastomose with, or debouch into, the Kansas River, and they reach the sea viâ the Missouri and the Mississippi.

Resuming, through air refrigerated by rain, our now weary way, we reached at 6 A.M. a favorite camping-ground, the “ Big Nemehaw” Creek, which, like its lesser neighbor, flows after rain into the Missouri River, viâ Turkey Creek, the Big Blue, and the Kansas. It is a fine bottom of rich black soil, whose green woods at that early hour were wet with heavy dew, and scattered over the surface lay pebbles and blocks of quartz and porphyritic granites.

This is a clump of board houses on the far side of a shady, well-wooded creek—the Vermilion, a tributary of the Big Blue River, so called from its red sandstone bottom, dotted with granitic and porphyritic boulders.

July 27. Crossed the Nebraska line about 180 miles from St. Joseph. Here we saw the first Jack Rabbit. They have larger legs bodies, longer legs and longer ears than our rabbits.

We then stretched once more over the "divide" --  the ground, generally rough or rolling, between the fork or junction of two streams, in fact, the Indian Doab-- separating the Big Blue from its tributary the Little Blue. At 6 PM we changed our fagged animals for fresh, and the land of Kansas for Nebraska, at Cottonwood Creek, a bottom where trees flourished, where the ground had been cleared for corn, and where we detected the prairie wolf watching for the poultry.

A weary drive over a rough and dusty road, through chill night air and clouds of mosquitoes, which we were warned would accompany us to the Pacific slope of the Rocky Mountains, placed us about 10 PM at Rock, also called Turkey Creek --  surely a misnomer, no turkey ever haunted so villainous a spot! Several passengers began to suffer from fever and nausea; in such travel the second night is usually the crisis, after which a man can endure for an indefinite time. The "ranch" was a nice place for invalids, especially for those of the softer sex.