Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Early NW Kansas - May 27, 1886 - Life and Hope

I love the old writing style.  The following excerpts have been taken from a long article contained in the May 27, 1886 edition of the Thomas County Cat - Colby, Kansas' first newspaper - page 4.  (Hint:  Keep reading - the water stuff's at the end):

"Prentis on Thomas County.

The objective point of the expedition was Thomas county and the present port for Colby, is a station which formerly bore the name of Cleveland, but is now officially known as Oakley.  From this point a daily stage runs to Colby. If you wish to leave any property to your children, you will take this stage. If you are a reckless prodigal, bent on squandering your wealth as soon as possible ; if you wish to enable a bandit to fix up his cave with oriental splendor, you will patronize an Oakley livery stable keeper. The distance from Oakley to Colby is estimated at from twenty-two to twenty-eight miles, but as an Oakley livery team can make the distance in three hours and have strength enough left to return the next day, it is not much above the first figure.

The traveler who thinks that he realize the high vastness of the plains by looking from the car windows is mistaken.  That is like looking at the ocean from the shore, while he who journeys in a carriage or on horseback is like a voyager in the midst of the deep. Every time this great high country is visited the higher and wider it looks.  It never encourages that familiarty which breeds contempt.

Colby, a town which has attained the mature age of one year, was reached at sunset and was inspected by moonlight and by daylight. It has nothing to mark it as a frontier or even a new town. There is not a sod house or a shanty in the place, not a building of any magnitude that's not painted ; the sidewalks are better than the average Atchison article. The stores sell dry goods and groceries at Commercial street prices. Art, too, has obtained a foothold. The Martin drug store obtained the services of an eastern paper hanger, and now you see his work all over town. We had dreaded the frontier hotel, having experienced hunger and some bloodshed in the course of a day and night experience at such in the past, but we really met, as old Shenstone has it, 'Our warmest welcome at an inn." The Colby House supplied every want or the Champion's commissioners.

The first term of the district court was held by Judge Pratt two weeks ago. In these days when a lot of imported cranks and ruffians are declaring in favor of the abolition of God and the extinguishment of law, it is refreshing to see that the American citizen who deserves the name will not live without law. As soon as possible after a county has settlers, it insists on a district judge and a term of court. Thomas County, with the assistance of Sherman, attached for judicial purposes, mustered a docket of twenty-two cases including divorce cases. The local historian states that the county has had its first marriage, its first baby and its first divorce.

Four thousand people are gathered there [Thomas County] perfectly courageous and confident that they will succeed - if it rains. So far the rain has fallen. We saw the water in pools and there is an added greenness in the draws, the low "lagoons," as they are called, and the old buffalo wallows.

Under this country lies what seems a shallow subterranean lake, deeper in some places than in others. On the elevation of the surface depends the distance to this water varying from twelve feet to one hundred and fifty. The county is dependent for water on the rain and on the wells. The great railroad well at Oakley supplies water for farmers for miles around. How long a farmer will haul water depends on his enterprise. We saw a farmer at the well who did not come for water : he had just reached water on his claim at the depth of fifty-six feet. So the rain comes down and the wind mill pumps lift the water to the surface, and the sod is turned over at the rate of hundreds of acres every day, and men believe that agriculturally they are "all right" in a country without a river and without a tree, and may the Lord who raised up for our benefit Stowell, and Lessenger, and McGonigal and Worcester, and the rest of the good fellows at Colby, grant that there may be no disappointment."

Some things are very apparent:

1)  Prentis was obviously charged too much for his livery needs in Oakley! 
2)  He is enthralled by the vast, open plains and doesn't mind the newness of the area.
3)  He very much likes Colby and is a strong law and order person.
4)  He appreciates and understands the importance of water to the area - in any and all forms.

Thanks for reading.  BTW, also on page 4 is a letter to the editor by a local farmer who has come to town and was quite unimpressed with the meal he got from the local eatery.  Funny stuff as well.

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