From the Diary of E.F. Beadle


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Excerpts from

To Nebraska in 1857

A Diary of E.F. Beadle

These excerpts are borrowed from the web site of author David L. Bristo, who
has kindly placed this diary on his web site for all to read. The entirety
of this diary is there for the reading and deserves the attention of any
historian who is looking into pre-Civil War Nebraska and Kansas territories.

Please stop by Mr. Bristo's Web Site and view his offerings from
A Dirty Wicked Town, Tales of 19th Century Omaha.
There too you will find the entirety of Mr. Beadle's fascinating diary.
Riverboat Dave

Part 1 > To Part 2 > Part 3 > Part 4
To Sons of Dixie in Mr. Bristow's web site,
which contains the Dairy's full text, March 13 - 20.
March 13th - March 20th

Friday, March 13

Reached Cincinnati [at] five o'clock this morning and put up at the "Burett House." Had an early breakfast, made a schedule of my business for the day, and at nine o'clock had all my business that called me to Cincinnati done. Got my boots by express from Buffalo; found them too large by two or three sizes, so I am almost bootless.

[At] nine o'clock, commenced searching for James Pennington. Searched all day, but without success. A marked change in the atmosphere between this place and where I was yesterday morning. There was good sleighing and the thermometer near zero; here they were watering broadway to keep down dust.

Cincinnati at this season of the year is remarkably brisk. The principal exports I saw was whiskey, pork, and ready made buildings-which is a great business here. The levee is literally crowded with boxes, barrels, carts, drays, &c, and every steamer crowding on freight. Altogether it is the busiest place I ever saw.

At five o'clock p. m., took passage on board the steam packet Memphis, bound for Memphis and Hickman, Tennessee. The officers of the boat protested against the large amount of freight the proprietors put on, as there was but a little over five feet water on the bars and the boat was loaded down to a draught of near seven feet. In this state we left at ten o'clock at night, soon after I had retired.

Saturday, March 14

Had made good headway during the night, but about ten o'clock a. m., when within 20 miles of Louisville, we grounded and remained there until ten at night. Could only get off by getting two flat boats and taking out some one hundred ton to lighten her. These flat boats are kept along the river for this purpose and are called lighters. The bed of the Ohio is hard gravel and a boat can not work off as on the sandbars of the Missouri. We have a variety of passengers, some fifty in all, mostly Southerners. They all take me for a Southerner.

We have a "Nigger" trader on board.

Sunday, March 15

A delightful day. More like the middle of May in Buffalo than the 15th of March. It has been a day of anxious watching for Captain, crew, and passengers, as the barge from Cincinnati has been hourly expected but has failed to reach us. I have walked over the principal parts of the city in company with a young man from Philadelphia. Louisville, like Cincinnati, presents a very dingy appearance owing to burning so much coal. The streets are wide and well supplied with shade trees-which are much needed in the summer[s], which are very warm here. Towards evening we walked up in the vicinity of the best residence, which was quite a treat to me. Doors and windows were thrown open, and ladies were out on the steps and balconies with nothing on their heads, and dressed in late spring dresses. It was in great contrast with the previous Sunday in Buffalo, which was like mild winter.

We saw during the day a number of funerals. The hearses in use here are glazed on both sides and ends, rendering the coffin wholly visible. The hearse is painted black and trimmed with silver on the sides. The top is ornamented with four clusters of Prince of Wales plumes on each side. It is altogether quite a showy vehicle and is used for the poor classes as well as the rich.

Louisville has a large number of colored people, about 3000 of which are slaves. They are probably cared better for than any city in the Union.

Monday, March 16

Last evening was very pleasantly spent in the cabin. We have a large number of passengers, mostly Southerners, a fair proportion of Ladies-all of which could sing and play on the piano. We had a sociable time. Those of us that were married showed the daguerreotypes of our wives and children. I took the premium. They said they look like Northerners, supposing I was a Southerner. They said they were "right fine" looking and a "heap prettier" than I was. I knew they only wanted to flatter me and took it for what it was worth.

An affray took place in the forward cabin on Saturday night that came near resulting in the loss of life. The parties were from Mississippi, were engage[d] in card playing until a late hour and drinking freely-used their revolvers and bowie knives. They think no more of shooting at each other than the people North do of taking a round with the fist.

I got acquainted with a number of gentlemen from the South, some merchants, others professional men. They were extremely warm hearted. They consider the use of the revolver as honorable a way of settling a dispute or punishing an insult as any plan that can be adopted. The strong man has not there the advantage. It is their education and they succeed in making out quite a case in their favor. On going to bed last evening we were in hopes to be on our way again before morning, as the barge was still expected. Morning came, however, and we were still at the levee in Louisville. My patience was exhausted. This was the day we was to have been in Memphis, and now the Captain told us it would take three to four days after the barge came to get to Memphis. I went up town after breakfast and found I could take the cars to St. Louis one dollar less than at Cincinnati. I returned to the boat and the Captain refunded all of my passage money except $2.50, so that it cost me only $1.50 extra to go by Louisville. Many of the passengers left the boat as I did, while others remained. I should have remained if I could have spared the time, as I never was on a steamer where they lived as well as they did on the Memphis. The boat is noted for the table it sets.

Friday, March 20

In St. Louis . . .

. . . Returning to my hotel, I had decided to go back to Harriet's and stop a week or ten days, until the ice was out of the river and I could get a passage to Omaha. With this determination I went to bed.

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Beadle's story is one of many featured in David L. Bristow's book, A Dirty, Wicked Town: Tales of 19th Century Omaha (Caxton Press, 2000). Learn more at
1857 diary of Nebraska pioneer Erastus F. Beadle (1821-1894).
All new material 2000 by David L. Bristow.
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