Archive for February, 2012

Ilinois to Kansas by Covered Wagon, 1874

Friday, February 17th, 2012

My brother gave me a photocopy of a newspaper article titled “Yeager-Patterson Family History”. Its source is not noted, but it appears to be from a Sumner County, Kansas newspaper from the late 1960s or early 70s. Here’s the first part, detailling my father’s mother’s family’s journey from Illinois to Kansas:

The Yeagers and Pattersons (John D.) came to Kansas, in October of 1874, the grasshopper year, from near Ottawa, La Salle County, Ill. Frank [Francis Marion] Yeager had almost frozen to death as he came home from work at a neighbor’s where he was shelling corn. That spring, he was unable to work, so hoped to find land in a warmer climate.

He came to visit relatives near Atlanta, Kan. He didn’t like it there. Someone told him to go to Oxford in Sumner County. There was good land there on the Arkansas River; so he hired a horse and rode over to Oxford and went to a land office. The land agent, Abbot, took him five miles south and in the mile east, he found what lie was looking for. He wrote his father [Joseph Yeager Sr.], who came out, by train to Wichita, which was the end of the line, and hired a horse and buggy and came to Oxford to look at the land. They purchased three farms in that mile and one a mile south, and returned to Illinois to dispose of their property there.

Here is the account of their journey to Kansas as told by Mrs. John Patterson [Cecilia F. Yeager], and taped by her son Glen, of Leavenworth. She was 82 years old when this was taped. She lived to within four days of her 104th birthday, dying February 26, 1959.

“We all sold our crops, our cow and pigs, four of them, and with $250 started out on the great adventure on September 22, 1874. My two brothers J.[Joseph Jr.] W. Yeager, wife [Amelia Jane Wood] and three children [Irene, Bertha, and Adell], Frank [Francis Marion] Yeager, wife [Amelia Louisa Patterson] and one child [Eva B. Yeager], and a Bill Weston who drove father’s team and wagon (wagons were covered). Brother Joe had an extra horse and we had a two year old colt “Fly”.

When we started, we had a sheet iron stove and we thought we would cook our dinners as well as supper and breakfasts. Just one day was enough of that. It wouldn’t cool and took so long to cook so after the first day we ate cold dinners and cooked supper and breakfast. I had packed a three gallon jar of butter before I left, being oetween 20 and 25 pounds, so we had butter all the way. We had a 20 pound cheese to start with. We bought another in Iowa and another in Kansas. We had plenty of sorghum, too. Every night we would cook a large kettle of potatoes and sometimes had sweet potatoes, too. We bought our bread of course; they were one pound loaves. Once we bought thirty-two loaves at once for $2.00, four loaves for a quarter, and ate six of them for dinner. We bought beef and pork steak for supper and breakfast and had a large coffee pot full of coffee for breakfast. We bought milk and had cream for coffee and milk for the children. We kept well.

We stopped two Saturdays at noon and did some washing and rested the horses. We rested two Sundays, too, and traveled the rest of them. Had a sick horse one evening. Along toward evening when we saw some hay, we all would stop and buy enough for the horses to feed that night. We were only in rain one day in Illinois and the rest was quite pleasant.

We left our home on Tuesday, September 22, 1874. We crossed the Mississippi River on the next Tuesday at Burlington, Iowa, on an open barge only large enough for two wagons and teams. The other two teams when they saw their companions pulling away from shore, had to he held hack, to keep them from attempting to swim the Mississippi. We went west about halfway across Iowa and turned south into Missouri on the next Tuesday, and crossed the Missouri River on a bridge at Leavenworth, Kan. the next Tuesday. We went to Big Springs and stayed a day and two nights with Uncle Jake (Jacob) Yeager. A week from the following Friday we landed in Oxford and there (rented) a store building until we could arrange to move out to our farm. This was October 23, 1874, our trip having taken 31 days.

We had no bad luck on the road; only once we had a scare hut it proved to be only a scare. As we were coming through Platte County, Mo., not far from the home of the James boys who were train robbers and were thought to be dangerous, we met two men on horseback with their revolvers in their holsters on the saddles. It was the middle of the afternoon, but we thought nothing of it, but in an hour or so, the same two men passed us again and turned in their saddles to look into our wagons. We all noticed that. Then there was a fork in the road not far ahead of us and they turned in their saddles and motioned us to come the road they were taking. This was the road we took as there was a sign at the fork pointing to that road to go to Leavenworth. That night we camped in a nice little valley and as usual, we headed our wagons north, south, east and west with room at the back of each wagon for the horses to stand tied to each wagon. In the night we were awakened by a noise as of something taking a step or two and then silence. We listened a bit, then John raised up and peeked out the small hole in the back of the wagonsheet, and behold Belle, one of Joe’s horses, had come untied and was moving a step at a time and getting some grass. We were all awake, we found, and our fears relieved.

On this trip to Kansas, Joe Yeager [Jr.] once stated that their caravan met more than 300 wagons returning to the eastern states from Kansas where drought and the ravages of the grasshoppers had discouraged settlers. They heard some dire reports of conditions in Kansas. He also recalled having his 31st birthday somewhere in Iowa on the long tiresome trip to Kansas.

The day we drove into Oxford, we wrote a letter and sent it right back, that we were in Oxford and then father [Joseph Sr.] had his sale and they came as quick as they could; (Coming by train to Wichita and down to Oxford in a hired hack.) It was about the first of November before they got here. We moved to our farm in December and they built father’s house. He bought the material and had it all fitted and ready to put up, in Illinois. (Thus the first pre-fabricated house came to Sumner County.) A man who lived across the creek came to father and offered to put up the house for—what do you suppose now? Twenty-five dollars. He put up that house for twenty-five dollars. A dollar then was as big around as a hogshead.

The house on our farm was 10 ft by 14ft. made of cottonwood boards, up and down and battened with narrow thin boards. The boards warped and in some places were split. I can see Grandmother Patterson yet, going around with a case knife and a rag, stuffing them in the cracks to keep out the cold. We thought it too small as I had two beds and so we got some dimension lumber at a sawmill and pine boards and shingles in Wichita and built a lean-to bedroom 7 ft. x 14 ft. where we put our beds and my hope chest, which was a wooden box that in those days all dry-goods were shipped in. In the 10 x 14: room we had a bench for water pail and to wash on, a cupboard made of boards, a bureau, table, six chairs, flour barrel, stove and woodbox. The floor was of wide boards. Merton was born in that house November, 1875 and Mabel in May of 1880.

Before we moved down on the farm, we bought a Texas cow, paid $25.00 for her. She wouldn’t let a man milk her. When the men were hauling the goods from Wichita, we Lost our best horse, one father had given me. The summer of ’75 we had no ground broken out except enough for a garden, which did fine. That summer, John bound wheat on a Marsh Harvester, (two men bound the wheat as it was cut) for Mr. Somerville twelve days, receiving $2.00 per day. When the wheat was threshed, they asked him if he would haul a load to Wichita for them. Wheat was $1.00 a bushel and as high as $1.20 per bushel and they paid 15 cents a bushel for hauling. He thought lie could make $6.00 as 40 bushels was as much as they could haul and it took them 10 and one-half days to get it there. He took a load and lost another horse. Cost him $5.00 to have a veterinarian and get her hauled away, so now we had only one three-year horse. Father bought us an old mare and we broke out 19 acres, and John and brother Frank rented thirty acres of Somerville. He furnished the seed which left 15 acres for Somerville and seven and one-half acres for each of us. That fall (1875) father sowed our home place (this was done by broadcasting the plowing and sod breaking by a walking plow) and John harrowed it in.

One morning about nine o’clock, I took a chill and went to bed with ague (malaria). I was just about getting through with my chill when I heard the door open. I just thought, I wonder what’s happened now. Pa came in. I heard him taking off his boots and he came into the bedroom, and Oh, he did look so doleful and he was shaking too. And I couldn’t help but laugh, he looked so distressed. I was burning with fever. There we were, both with ague. We bought quinine in ounce bottles and took near a teaspoon at a time. It was powdered and we took it on the day before we had the chills, three or four doses. The chills came a week apart and if you took the quinine for about three weeks, we wouldn’t have any more chills for awhile — everybody had it nearly. We couldn’t afford to have a doctor.

That was in September. Merton was born in November and for six months we did not have a cent of money; no tea, coffee, nor sugar. John even did without tobacco. In May of 1876, John said to me one day, “Write to Sam (his brother) and tell him we want $20.00.” I did. We made that do until after harvest and we had some wheat to sell. We only had 19 acres and had 300 bushels. We were rich. We sowed about thirty acres that fall and never were we dead broke again.”

~ Celia F. [Yeager] Patterson, March 2, 1937, 82 yr.

Here’s the family of FM Yeager and AL Patterson a little later, circa 1890:

yeager/patterson family, Sumner County Kansas


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