the Diary of E.F. Beadle
To Nebraska in 1857
A Diary of E.F. Beadle
of Dixie in Mr. Bristow's web site,
Saturday, March 21
Arose early, examined the register of arrivals and found the name of G. W. Brown of Lawrence. He had come in the afternoon previous from Chicago, but was not yet up. I took breakfast and then went to his room. And our meeting was decidedly a joyous [occasion] to both. He insisted on my going to Lawrence with him, and make his house my home until I could take passage up the river. His wife would be in from Alton in time to go out with us. I accordingly abandoned going back to Harriet's, and set about making preparations to accompany Mr. Brown into Kansas. At 2 p. m., we left in the cars for Jefferson City, where we were to meet the R. R. Company's daily line of steamers for Weston and intermediate points-our tickets taking us through.
Our party from St. Louis consisted of Mr. Brown and his wife, a Mrs. Leavett and her two daughters ten and six years of age. We had a very pleasant time on the cars. Mr. Brown fathered one of Mrs. L.'s children and I took Mrs. Brown under my care.
Mrs. Leavett and family were among the number that were driven out of Leavenworth last summer, and lost all they had. They are now located in Wyandot, where Mr. Leavett now is. Mrs. L. is going out to join him. Mrs. Leavett is one of the firebrands of the free-states party. Her tongue is constantly busy. She has been east making speeches and getting subscribers for Mr. Brown's paper. She had become desperate, and if necessity requires it, she will take up the musket and revolver before she will be again driven from her home. She is ready for an argument with anyone, even on spiritualism.
Mrs. Brown is more [a] quiet woman and looks like a person that has been tried, as she has been.
We were informed at St. Louis that the two boats were usually crowded, so that when the whistle blew at Jefferson City, every person had their carpet sack in hand to make a spring for the boat when the cars should stop. And when they did stop, down they went in a mass like a flock of sheep, tumbling over each other in the dark (it was eight o'clock at night). But lo and behold, not a berth, stool, or plank was unoccupied. The daily boats due were aground up the river, and the one in-the New Lucy-had been damaged and could not leave until the next day in the afternoon when her damages would probably be repaired. No boat had been in for three days that belonged to the line, and two trains of cars per day, loaded as thick as they could stand, had poured into the city, and as soon as the New Lucy reached her landing, she was swarmed and every room taken. Our chances were to hang up on a hook.
Finding the Captain, (Probably Wm. Eads Sr. - Dave) he proved to be no less a person than the Pilot of the Wm. Campbell, the boat I came down on last fall. He recognized me at once and fixed out two rooms, which were given up to the ladies and Mr. Brown. Next in order, Mr. Brown and myself went up town to get supper. Not having dinner we felt the want of supper. We set down to a table, that was about all. Got a cup of cold coffee, a small biscuit, one cracker, and that was all. Charges only 50 cents each.
Returning to the boat, Mr. Brown made a misstep and tumbled into a gulf about five feet deep with a mud bottom Tore his clothes some and hurt him a little-but not sufficient to prevent us from laughing heartily. We scraped mud for some time, then he ventured on the boat. I walked in front to screen him from too conspicuous a view. When reaching the ladies' cabin we quickened our pace again. Mr. Brown met with a casualty. Run his head against one of the branches of the chandelier; knocked off the globe, smashing it in a thousand pieces. Every eye was turned in the direction. There he stood, watching the fragments and covered with mud. A more ludicrous scene I have seldom beheld, and if he had killed himself, I could not help but laugh. He got into his room and there remained for the night.
About this time, the porters commenced turning down the chairs along the stateroom doors, completely blocking up the entrance or exits through the door. This being done, they brought in a lot of mattresses, arranging them along one end, on the chair backs, to serve as a pillow. I took the hint and made fast to one.
Then came a general strife to see who should have a bed. About one half were accommodated. Some had a mattress, some a pillow, others a blanket. Covering about two thirds of cabin floor, one would laugh, another sing, a third curse. Those that could get no chance to sleep done all they could to prevent others from sleeping, and kicked up a general uproar until they got exhausted and we at last got to sleep. I was sore from laughing at the vanity of disposition; one was for fun, another kept up a constant growl. Those, however, who said least, fared best. I have often heard people tell of a crowd, but this beat all.
Sunday, March 22
This morning another amusing scene was enacted which will probably be repeated three times per day during the trip. There are three hundred passengers on board and only table room for some seventy-five. Who was to be first at table was the all-engrossing subject as soon as preparations were commenced for breakfast. It was with difficulty that the waiters could get around to put the dishes on the tables.
I saw at once that those without ladies must of necessity fare slim. I accordingly secured Mrs. Leavett for meal times, which was very fortunate. The table had to be cleared and set again four times before all the passengers were served. The fare is of the poorest kind I ever saw on a steamboat, even at the first tables. Females were in great demand at meal times, even little girls that went free were engaged for the trip in order to secure a seat at the first table. We have two large and very amusing men by the name of Martin-from Flint, Michigan-who are brothers. They take girls of 11 and 9 years to the table as their ladies.
We are all becoming acquainted and are anticipating a pleasant time. On showing my daguerreotypes, Mr. Martin recollected seeing Mate somewhere. It was at Flint. This is how I became acquainted with him. He knows Lib. and Cook. He says Mrs. Cook is one of the finest women in Flint, and has the most friends of anyone in the city, and that I ought to be proud of her sister for a wife.
Mr. Brown and myself have had a stroll about the city. The town does not amount to much except as the capital of Missouri. Our boat was repaired about Noon, but we were obliged to wait until the three o'clock cars came in, as one of the pilots had gone down to St. Louis. Our steam was up, ready to start as soon as the pilot should come on board, so as to prevent the rush of passengers from the train. They came, however, like an avalanche-covering our forecastle as thick as they could stand. They were ordered off on another boat of the same line going out the next day. . . .
. . . On the arrival of the cars which brought up our pilot, this Mr. Smith went up to look after some baggage which came on the train. He succeeded in getting the baggage nearly to the boat when it put out and would not return. You may imagine the feelings of his wife, who was obliged to remain on this boat while her husband must stop over a day and come on the next boat. There are a number on this boat going to Omaha, some of which will stop with her at Weston until her husband arrives.
Some seven miles above Jefferson City is the worst sand-bar on the route, and as we expected or feared, we got fast on it in company with other boats. Some had been there 48 hours-this was not a very pleasant prospect for us. We made the best of it, however, and concluded to sleep on it.
This night I succeeded in getting a state room in company with Mr. Carver of Buffalo. (He is the man with whom Desdimona boarded.) He had a room for himself and his two sons. His two sons slept together, giving me a berth to myself, which I appreciate. I could not retire until I had seen the sport in the main cabin of staking or marking out claims and securing a place to straighten out in for the night.
This evening we had a fine thundershower.
Monday, March 23
Early this morning one of the steamers on the bar, the Star of the West, got off and passed up. Soon after this the Col. Crossman, which left St. Louis the day before we did- and which we passed on the cars-came up and crossed the bar without difficulty, cheering loudly as they passed us. The Crossman stopped a while up to wood. In the meantime, we came up alongside of them to wood also. In swinging around, we came in collision with the Crossman and smashed in our wheelhouse on the same side the previous injury was sustained. Again we were disabled, and when the Crossman left, we lashed to the shore for repairs, where we remained in an uneasy state of anxiety until after eight o'clock at night.
The early part of the day was rainy. The afternoon was dry and pleasant, the scenery on the shore grand. Mr. Brown and myself invited some ladies to attempt to gain the top of a rock which we had been admiring all the day. It is by far the loftiest rock I have yet seen. It towered far above the loftiest trees. On the side next river it was perpendicular over 200 feet high, and scalloped out like a chimney, and for want of a better name we called it "Chimney Rock." We ascended by climbing up the bank, which in the rear of the rock extended to within 50 feet of the top. We then got up one at a time to a secure foothold and pulled the others after us.
Reaching the top we gave three cheers for free Kansas. Fifty persons could stand upon the top of the rock; our company consisted of eight or ten. I did not venture to look off at the brink as others did-at first I was too timid to stand erect. We gathered some moss as relics and carved our names in the rock and on the limbs of trees along the side of the path by which we ascended. We all agreed that our visit to the top of "Chimney Rock" had well paid us for the delay we were subjected to by the accident to our boat.
When I took the cars at Sandoval on Friday morning at one o'clock, every seat was occupied. Noticing a gentleman whose countenance pleased me, I asked and received a share of his seat. We conversed most of the way to St Louis. His manner of speaking was exceedingly pleasant and he bore a striking resemblance to Uncle Chauncy, except he was not corpulent. His height is six feet six inches, and he is one of the noblest looking men I ever saw. He was an old resident of Missouri. I was exceedingly loath to part with him as I did at the ferry opposite St. Louis, and equally pleased to meet him again at "The Barnum House."
In the afternoon of the same day I again met him on the levee as he was about to take the cars for Jefferson City en route home. We parted here as old friends, neither knowing the other's name. On Sunday morning at Jefferson City we again met. He had been waiting for the boat to be repaired. We stoping in the city with his daughter, was going up on the same boat, had with him a niece and a little slave he was taking up to a friend and neighbor of his.
I think I have never met with a man that pleased me as well. I also think I have learned much that will be of service to me in the way of business in the West. My friend's name is Samuel C. Major-is one of the wealthy and most prominent men of Missouri.
This evening Mr. Major and myself were called upon by the ladies, who had held a meeting and voted to invite the Captain and Clerk to visit them in the ladies' cabin, with a deposition from said ladies to transmit the vote to the Captain-which we did, feeling flattered by the compliment, and reported favorable. This involved the necessity of an introduction, which could only be done in general terms as we were not acquainted with but few of the ladies on board, by name. The evening passed pleasantly, with another thunder shower to close the day.
At nine o'clock a dive was made for the mattress, claims taken, and in the general melee, in which some got kick and scratches, we went to bed. Our friend was obliged to stretch his six feet six on the cabin floor. Something he was not used to.
Tuesday, March 24
But little progress made during the night. My friend Major pointed out the burial place of Daniel Boone and told me that his niece on the boat was a great-granddaughter of Daniel Boone. As yet I had not spoken with her. I asked an introduction, which was given with an apology that it had not been done before. I considered it a great treat to be in conversation with a direct descendent of the "old Hunter of Kentucky." Miss Boone is a woman of intelligence and education of a high order, born and brought up in Missouri.
She seems to inherit a large share of that love for the wildness of nature that characterized her Grandsire. She had learned from her Uncle that I was from the state of New York. She asked me many questions about the scenery of N. Y., particularly that of Niagara, St Lawrence, Lake George, the Hudson, and the scenery described by Cooper. She had only visited the part of Kentucky where her Great-Grandfather lived, and a small portion of Tennessee. She could talk of wild scenery different from any one I ever conversed with. And I regret I did not make her acquaintance earlier. She and her Uncle left the boat this morning at eleven. On leaving the boat they bade me a friendly goodbye, wishing me a pleasant journey and asking to be remembered to my wife and children, whose likeness they saw.
The water in the river has been rising slowly to day and our progress is rapid for Missouri traveling. Wild geese are in great abundance, the shores and sandbars are covered by the thousands. The air is becoming more chilly.
Wednesday, March 25
The water continues to rise in the river. We passed the Col. Crossman about one o'clock this morning and are fast making up for our delay in repairing the boat. About eight o'clock we came upon a deer that was on a sandbar. He made quick steps in the direction of the nearest timberland, taking to the water part of the way.
After dinner we passed the Star of the West that passed us while on the bar Monday morning. She left St. Louis three days in advance of us. We are the fastest craft on the river and pass everything afloat. About this time the porter came around ordering those stopping at Kansas City to select their baggage. This was the first intimation we had of our coming to the vicinity of our separation. We had been jammed into our cabin like stagecoach passengers and most of us had become acquainted, and I presume our separation was much as it is on shipboard after a long and perilous voyage.
Our passengers were from all parts of the Union, but mostly from Western New York. Among our passengers was an officer of the steam ship Baltic who had been on her every trip since she was built. He is so taken up with our Western country he has almost determined to locate here. He had no idea such people went to Kansas.
Mr. Brown hired two printers and one young lady to go and work for him at Lawrence. He made me liberal offers. I told him I must first try Omaha. He would pay me my price if I would go with him. He is coining money-has 7000 subscribers.
The greater part of our passengers were bound for Kansas and mostly for Lawrence and vicinity. All of the Kansas emigrants they charged extra on their baggage, weighing every piece. The Nebraska passengers were allowed to go on with all they had a mind to. I must say I think the best persons on the boat were among the Nebraska passengers.
We reached Kansas City, Mo. about eleven at night when we parted with some 40 or 50 of our passengers. A few miles further on is Wyandot where Mrs. Leavett's family and others got off. By this time the favored ones got rooms for the balance of the night.
A blackleg traveling on the boat was a nuisance. He swindled some two hundred dollars out of different persons that played with him. One young man lost thirty dollars-all he had-and then offered to pawn his watch. This was told to me, I did not see it-feeling more at home in the ladies' cabin, I spent most of the time there. During the evening, this blackleg insulted a man who was about getting off. He called him to an account and challenged him to shoot with him on the hurricane deck. Arrangements were being made and I had made up my mind to see the thing done. I could have seen the blackleg shot down with as good grace as I would shoot a chicken if I was hungry. It would have been doing a blessed service for the country. The friends of the rascal settled the difficulty.
I have become acquainted with J. Johnson of the Johnson House, N. Y. City. He is going to Omaha with a view of erecting a fine hotel, if everything suits him. He is a fine man-none of your swelling braggadocio, but a true gentleman. He will be a worthy and useful acqui[sition] to Omaha should he take up his residence there.
Thursday, March 26
The water still rising-is three feet higher than when we left Jefferson City Sunday Night. Wild turkeys were seen running along the banks on the Missouri side this morning.
A short time after breakfast, we reached Leavenworth City. The levee was completely swarmed with people before we landed-so much so that the two hundred passengers we landed did not seem to enlarge the crowd in the least. Here I met my friend Kellum from Auburn who went west when I was last at Auburn. His company here [is] waiting for a through boat to continue on as far as Omaha. I learned there were no accommodations at Leavenworth or Lawrence, so I decided to work my way along and get to Omaha the best way possible.
The clerk of our boat says that since the river has opened there has 12,000 people passed up in boats for Kansas and Nebraska, and as many more by land. Every ferry we came to was crowded from morning to night. Such a tide of emigration was never before known. They are pouring in one continual stream to every town and ferry on the east bank of the river and stand in large groups of men, women, children, wagons, horses and oxen awaiting their turn to cross into the promised land. They tell us they are only pioneers and have but to write home favorable to bring parties of from ten to twenty for every individual now entering the Territories. They are covering the territories like a swarm of locusts. The border-ruffian population of Missouri shake their heads and heap curses upon the Yankees. "Their curses like little chickens will come to roost." Missouri must and will ere long become a free state.
Our stop at Leavenworth was but a few moments. We reached Weston, the terminus of the "Lightning Line" at ten o'clock. Stopped at the "St. George Hotel." The stage to St. Joseph had gone; three extras were hired and filled while some twenty-five- myself among the number-agreed to wait for a boat. The day spent in writing and prospecting about the town.
It is a mystery to me why a town was ever built on the site of Weston. There is not a dozen houses in the place on a level with each other. So uneven is the ground that houses on the same street 300 feet apart of equal size will vary fifty feet in height. During rainstorms, the ground washes very bad so that the ravines can not be bridged and deep gulfs are cut out by the rain to the level of the river. No water runs in these gullies except during the rainstorm-still they are impassable. The city reminds me of pictures I have seen of towns in Switzerland.
Friday, March 27
Got up this morning as soon as it was light. Went up on the highest bluff. Could see a steamer coming up nine miles down the river. The boat proved to be the Star of the West which we had passed two days previous. By the time we had breakfast she had reach the landing. We took passage for St. Joseph, the boat going no farther up than that point. The family who buried their child is on board. The Mother seems almost heartbroken. She says her greatest trial came when she left the hotel without her child.
On board the Star of the West we have much better fare than on the Railroad line, and I would advise all persons coming West to avoid said line. It is a humbug. The independent boats set a first rate table, have enough, and are accommodating and gentlemanly.
Among the places we touched at was Atchison, the stronghold of proslavery in Kansas. . .
. . . The river is almost out of its banks and the current very rapid, which makes our progress very slow. The scenery increases in beauty as we ascend nearer to the Nebraska line. Many persons who are on their first trip up the "Big Muddy" are in ecstasy about the Country.
We reached St. Joseph about nine o'clock in the evening; found the hotels filled and accommodations poor. The persons that came up on the extras the day previous were in time to take the steamer Admiral, bound for Omaha, which left this morning at ten o'clock. We felt disappointed and very much regretted we had not followed their example in taking an extra. Our only chance now is to take the stage. We hurried to the office, three of us, but only two could get seats. These were taken by a man from the Bluff and myself. Our Cleveland friend decided to run his chances. Paid our fare and [went] to bed dreading our stage ride the next day. Time by stage, we were told, was 36 hours.
in Mr. Bristow's web site,
Saturday, March 28
During last night, the steamer Col. Crossman arrived, bringing another supply of passengers for the Upper Missouri. There was at least 100 passengers for the Bluffs and Omaha and only a nine passenger coach to take them, running every other day. The stage would take no baggage except a satchel a valise to each passenger. We were obliged to leave our trunks in the storehouse to be sent up on the first boat. . . .
Monday, March 30
. . . At St. Mary's, our last change of horses, and twelve miles from Council Bluffs, we learned the Steamer Admiral, which had left St. Joseph the day before we did, had not yet passed up. We were 24 hours behind time-still ahead of the boat. At six o'clock, we left St. Mary's, expecting to be at the Bluffs as early as half past eight. . . .
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 www.davidbristow.com.
1857 diary of Nebraska pioneer Erastus F. Beadle (1821-1894).
All new material © 2000 by David L. Bristow. mailto:email@example.com.
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