A Prairie Travelogue
Imagine this: The noise and bustle of 1857 Boston have begun to jangle your nerves. The newspapers carry accounts of life in Kansas Territory, where many of your friends have moved to start new lives. To leave would be difficult. But the adventure of it all, the wide-open spaces, the possibilities. . .
Had you been able to read the words that Edwin Tucker from Wisconsin, now living in Eureka, Kansas Territory, wrote in his diary on the evening of October 27, 1857, your mind would have been made up. Tucker’s description of how he felt about life in his adopted community paints an inviting scene:
Eureka, Kansas Territory
Oct. 27, 1857
Found all well and prosperous. Surveyor came on to survey the town site surveyed a part of it only, felt quite buoyant in regard to the future prospects of our town in hopes to have a sawmill in a short time Black-smith shop etc. moved into our house about Nov. 6. Felt remarkable well never any healthier. There is a kind of excitement to life in a new country a person is brought into scenes with which he is not familiar, there is constantly something new and novel. There is pleasure felt in starting new, in opening a farm where before nothing but the Deer & the Antelope have roamed over the prairie free as the air they breathe. . . . Here where the Wolf’s howl has pealed forth upon the sti ll night air unheard by human ears, where the grass has sprung up in living green – the lap of generous nature – where ten thousand flowers have blossomed but to “waste their sweetness on the desert air” where the trees – nature’s temples have been vocal with the thanksgiving songs of birds whose notes were heard only by the ear of Him who gave hem life, here I fain would make my home, would plow & fence & build & see the work of my own hands make what was once a lonely waste a thrifty home. . .
Edwin himself knew the difficulty of leaving the familiarity of hometown life for the unknown of the west. He described the scene as he left Beloit, Wisconsin in the spring of 1857:
Thurs April 16, 1857
We bid goodbye to friends this morning and started for Kansas. Our enthusiasm for Kansas could not quite drown our feelings of sadness at parting from relatives, friends, home and nearly all which is dear on earth. We hardly know what it is to leave home until we learn by experience. Neighbors gathered and helped us start.
*Excerpts from Hope Amid Hardship: Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory. Original punctuation.
Edwin Tucker played a major role in the growth of Eureka, Kansas. Described as a generous person, he helped many neighbors through difficult times of drought and grasshopper plague. I love bringing the stories of everyday people to the forefront to show that they have an important place in our history. I hope you enjoyed “meeting” Edwin Tucker.
Writer and artist Linda S. Johnston enjoys combining history, art, and nature in her writing. She began reading reading pioneer diaries in 1986 and never stopped. Her first book Hope Amid Hardship: Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory, is a collection of pioneer writings about the happy side of life in early Kansas and includes watercolor sketches throughout. To learn more about Linda and her writing, please visit www.lindasjohnston.com