May 26, 1857 letter to Luke Keith from Charles Cridland

May 26, 1857

To: Luke Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Charles Cridland, Leavenworth City, KT

As he traveled to Chicago, St. Louis and then to Leavenworth City he had many difficulties along the way. Misled in Chicago by a man named Whitford who told him there was a second class car on the train, it turned out it was a first class train and was told by the conductor to pay for first class or get off. He got off only to find that his baggage remained on the first class train. After several wait times and delays, he finally got on the right train only to have several mix-ups and fears of losing all his belongings including his trees. The only brooms there were made by the slaves whose masters allowed them to make a few to sell for themselves for pocket money. Everybody was civil and polite and did not show any symptoms of the Border Ruffian Spirit. He found the lower class people ignorant and the Capitalists very uncaring about land development although they were the only ones who could afford to pay the asking price and have the funds to fence it. He saw over a hundred mules but very few horses and described the land as very beautiful. Due to the slowness of transportation up the river he believed that his trees would be dead before they got there. He determined that dairying and land speculation would be profitable things to pursue due to good pasture, ample water and a new village called Doniphan. He asked Luke to send money immediately as he is running low on funds.

Scan of 1857-05-26 Charles Cridland to Luke Keith

Leavenworth City, KT.[1] May 26/1857

Friend Luke,

I arrived here in about five days after starting. I could have got here sooner had I hav not laid over one day in Chicago and part of a day St Louis. I was detained in Chicago through Whitfords Stupidity. He told me there was a second class car in the train at Midnight. When the train came in they put my baggage aboard in a hurry. I could not see any car I thought was second class, but there was no time to make enquiry and I got aboard. The conductor told me I could not go on that train. He said there never was a second class car on that train. He didn’t care what Whitford told me I must pay first class fare or get off. I wouldnt pay any more so I had to get off at Kaloo.[2] The next train which had the second class on met with some detention east, so I had to wait at Kaloo till day. When I got to Chicago owing to my baggage being ahead of me it was so covered up with other baggage, they could not find it and I began to fear it was gone somewhere. At last I espied one article and I stuck to it until it was all found, but in the mean time the train to St Louis was gone and left me behind so I had to wait. It took me some time to hunt up my boxes with the trees. They told me at the station they had been forwarded but I took pains to look for them and found them there yet. I got them started to the St Louis Station and found it was too late for them to go that day. There was nothing waiting there but my things and they assured me they would go the next day. As it was pretty dear staying at Chicago, I went on without them. I went to the Consignee at St Louis who promised at to attend to forwaring them immediately and I went on to get a place for them. I landed here because I thought I should be more likely to find a place to set them. I was much disappoted to find so little land plowed here. The people here are all so full of money they do not seem to think of doing any thing toward improving the Land, indeed it requires such an enormous outlay to fence it. I do not see how it is ever going to be done. Land about the City within a mile runs as high as a thousand dollars an acre and where I now write six miles from the City it is called worth 30 to 50 dollars with not half wood enough on it to put a fence round it. I think the country is very beautiful, very superior to Illinois as there is no flat prairies here and the bluffs are not so high as to be bad to plow or to travel. The roads are excellent and every gentle rise you make presents you with a beautiful prospect. There are several fields being fenced in between here & the city. They pay $32.50 per thousand on the Wharf for Cotton wood timber. There are just about trees enough here to stand for shade trees. You can see trees every where, but not one that ought to be cut down. I found a place here to plant my trees, but I did not bring any broom corn seed and the first time I went into Missouri I got seed which I thought was good, but it turned out poor on careful examination. I had to go there again and I have traveled three days and stopped at every house. There are no brooms made here only by the slaves whose masters allow them to make a few to sell for themselves for pocket money. I did not find a free state man, but every body was civil and polite to me and did not show any symptoms of the Border Ruffian[3] Spirit. Among the lower class I found them pretty ignorant. At one place where I stayed the woman told she couldnt live where there was a Queen she was sure for she would never give up to divide every thing she had to the King and Queen. One young fellow asked me how they could get along in Michn without mules and niggers. He didn’t see who could do the work. I have seen a hundred mules at a time here, but not many horses. The navigation up the river is pretty tedious and I am afraid my trees will be entirely dead before they get here. I think this must be a healthy country. There are no low places that I have seen yet. Mechanics wages are high and they ought to be. Board is seven dollars a week. I had to pay 1.50 for several days. Verbenas grow wild here on the lime stone bluffs, so I am sure the winters are milder than they are in Michigan. There is scarcely a squatter living here. They were generally poor people who had no money to pay for their land when it was sold, and so they sold out their claims for 2 or 3 hundred dollars and moved on further to squat again. Indeed it takes so much to make fence here that the land is of no value only to Capitalists who can expend thousands of dollars upon it. I know of no business here so profitable as dairying. Cows are as cheap as with you. There is an unlimited range of good pasture plenty of water and butter sells readily at 50 cents a pound. I have not seen a bit in the territory. The few people who make it eat it up themselves pretty much. The Missourians are doing big business bringing their produce here to sell. Speculation is at a great pitch. I heard one man telling of another on the boat, who boasted that he could go ashore while the boat stopped to take wood and make a thousand dollars buying and selling lots and be in time to get aboard before she started. I was in one Land office where an Irishman was enquiring the price of Shares in Doniphan (a new village) the agent paid $400. These are up a hundred since you was in here before. I have several lots there I consider worth a thousand dollars a lot. I thought I wouldn’t pay any thing so I walked out. I paid a man six dollars for a days work with his horses plowing for me. He said he could make 8 or 10 dollars a day hauling goods to Lawrence.

I presume you have got that money made right. You can send me Michigan or any good money[4] you can get handy. Please to get it registered at the office. I am getting short of funds already. Write immediately.

Your friend

C. R. Cridland


[1] Believe this referred to Leavenworth City, Kansas Territory; the City of Leavenworth was founded in 1854 largely to support Fort Leavenworth, but quickly became the springboard to the west.  The settlement was the first official town in Kansas

[2] Kalamazoo, Michigan

[3] Citizens of western Missouri who endeavored to establish slavery in Kansas Territory

[4] During the Free Banking Era, lax federal and state banking laws permitted virtually anyone to open a bank and issue currency – states, cities, counties, private banks, railroads, stores, churches and individuals – as long as that bank could satisfy a minimal set of conditions.  The bank notes were of all different sizes, shapes, and designs, as well as denominations – 25¢, $1.00, $2.00, $3.00, as well as the denominations we use today. During that time period, consumers could not be sure that merchants would accept their paper money, and approximately one-third of all paper money during the Free Banking Era was estimated to be counterfeit. These bank notes are now known as “broken bank notes”