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

This is Part 4 Of The Excerpts
July 11 - September 1, 1857
Part 1 > Part 2 > Part 3 > Part 4

To Frontier Politics in Mr. Bristow's web site,
which contains the Dairy's full text, July 10 - 29


Saturday, July 11

. . . Steamer New Monongahala in today.

Sunday, July 12

The steamer Dan Converse came in this morning about daylight.

. . . Wednesday, July 15

. . . The steamers Asa Wilgus and Alonzo Child in today.

Thursday, July 16

. . . The steamers in today are the Edinburgh, Dan Converse, and Watossa.

Friday, July 17

. . . The steamer Omaha just in.

. . . Sunday, July 19

. . . Steamer E. A. Ogden up from St. Louis.

. . . Tuesday, July 21

. . . Just at dusk, we saw the steamer Minnehaha coming up the river. Cook and myself figured up the time again and decided it was barely possible either of our families might be on board. So down we went to the levee, I for the first to look for my family. Slight as the chances were, the possibility was sufficient to excite us somewhat. We were the first on the boat as she touched the shore. Not finding our friends, we joked each other some, went up town, took some ice cream and retired.

. . . Thursday, July 23

. . . The Admiral now due, was expected every hour. I thought perhaps my family would be on board, and left directions with Mrs. Estabrook, and after dinner went out to Dick Darling's and others' claims, in company with the Mr. Zollars. . . .

. . . We did not return until about nine o'clock. I was somewhat anxious to know if the steamer Admiral was in, and if so, had my family come? Before reaching the General's, I discovered no boat had arrived and of course my family could not be here.

Friday, July 24

. . . I did not sleep until after daylight, and then so sound was my sleep, I was called twice to breakfast and heard nothing of it. The steamer Watossa from St. Joseph came in during the time and fired an arrival gun-still it did not awake me. . . .

. . . How anxiously I have watched for the Admiral, hoping my family might be on board. I am well cared for here, but what a blessing would be the kind hand of a wife to aid in soothing my pains or give me her heartfelt sympathies, and my little children to come around me and express their unaffected sorrow. It seems I could bear my pains with much more fortitude.

Saturday and Sunday, July 25 and 26

The poultice relieved my pain the whole night, but the opiate I had taken made me wakeful instead of sleepy, and I did not close my eyes to sleep until daylight. Kept my bed and room all day Saturday, except when the mail came in. Went up and got a paper from Irwin, mailed the 15th. This satisfies me that Frank might have been in receipt of my letter eight days and still write an answer which I should now have. This fact strengthens my convictions that my family are on the way to this place. Could not write any this day, being in constant pain and two nights without sleep. My nerves had become completely unstrung. At seven in the evening, my pain stopped-and such a relief I never before experienced. On going to bed, renewed the poultice, which renewed the pain also. Bore it until midnight, then removed it and found the boil was discharging some. Dressed myself and walked the room about an hour during a storm. Lopped down on the floor and got a good sleep. Crawled on the bed with my clothes on and forgot my troubles until morning.

On waking, heard a steamer puffing. Hobbled down to the boat, which was the Col. Crossman. As she came nearer and nearer, we saw plenty of children that might be Irwin and Sophia, but the ladies all had children in arms. They could not be Mate. Cook was down before the boat got in-not to look for Lib, as he has a letter stating she will not start yet awhile-but equally anxious with me to see my family. We did not have the pleasure, however. The steamers Emma and Admiral are hourly expected. They may be here before night. It is now about ten o'clock a.m. Sunday and I am feeling quite comfortable. My boil has undoubtedly had its ache out. I am, however, about used up myself.


Been up to Cook's for the last hour, chatting. Came home in the rain. The day has been warm and showery. This evening is cooler and there is a slow rain set in which seems it would continue all night. I have had a very comfortable day of it, my boil continuing to discharge every few minutes. No further information from boats from St. Louis. Now for a good night's rest free from pain.

Monday, July 27

A delightful day. Rested well last night; have been busy attending to my boil. Sent to Saratoga for my wash, which I had left at a Mr. Grey's, the man from Little Falls. He had been so careful as to put the clothes in his trunk, and having occasion to go out to pre-empt, took his trunk with him and consequently my clothes, so I am shirtless for a few days. A sad mishap when one has a boil discharging freely on his back.

No letters still from wife or Frank. Have one under date of the 18th from James Crocker in reply to one written a week or more after the one I wrote Frank. I am getting anxious to know his decision and to be relieved of the anxiety with which I am watching the arrival of steamers for my family. The steamer Admiral arrived this evening; left St. Louis the 17th. Had a number of lady passengers and some children. Could not pick out my wife and children in the crowd.

Tuesday, July 28

Received a letter this morning from Mr. Cockett, from which I learn that my wife and children are still in Cooperstown. This fact, together with one other probably decides that I shall not see my family here very soon.

To Waiting in Mr. Bristow's web site,
which contains the Dairy's full text, August 6 - 20

. . . Friday, August 7

Was awoke this morning by Jake coming into my room and handing me a letter Mr. Cook gave him. It proved to be a bill of lading of my things which had come during the night on the steamer Omaha. Hurried on my clothes and went down to the levee, where I found all safe and sound to all appearances, except through a crack I could see some pieces of looking-glass. The steamer had gone up to Sioux City, but left the bill for collection, the whole amount of which was $64.45, a little cheaper than I had expected. The charges from St. Louis here was only $1 per hundred, while from Chicago to St. Louis it was $1.21 1/2 - double what it ought to have been. Altogether, however, I am satisfied. I must now find a place to store them, as it is uncertain when and where I shall want to use them. . . .

Saturday, August 8

. . . We have today the steamers Hannibal and Minnehaha in from St. Louis.

. . . Tuesday, August 11

. . . The steamer Edinburgh came in just at night.

. . . Saturday, August 15

Weather same as yesterday. No mail from the East. Steamers Watassa, Hesperian, and Alonzo Child in this evening. The Alonzo Child was not expected until tomorrow (Sunday) night, in that case she would not have left until Monday noon when Mr. Tuttle and a number of others would be ready to go, together with myself, provided the letter I am expecting should arrive. As it is, she will go down in the morning and we must await the next chance. The Alonzo Child is a superior boat and makes good time. . . .

. . . Thursday, August 20

Still no boat up today. The Dan Converse, running between this point and Sioux City, is down today and may go on to St. Louis in the morning. She is a small cockle-shell of a stern-wheeler. I shall, however, be tempted to take passage on her. The fare will be no more, and if the time is longer shall get more corn and bacon and bed-bugs and no extra charges.

To Homeward in Mr. Bristow's web site,
which contains the Dairy's full text, August 21 - September 30

Friday, August 21

Nine o'clock this morning, rode up with Mr. Griffin three miles to his farm. Had a good supply of melons, received directions to purchase and forward seeds and trees. After dinner, walked back to Omaha. Found no boats up. The Dan Converse, however, was just ready to leave. Would wait half hour. Hurried up to F. Gridley & Co's Bank and got a money package. I was to take east. Dodged into Cook's to say I was off and away I went, Tuttle taking my things to the boat. In an hour after my mind was made up, I was on board, bag and baggage, and at quarter after four we shoved off into the "Big Muddy" once more to try the uncertainty of this treacherous river.

It was with feelings of deep regret that I saw the city fade in the distance. I have seldom been in a place I have formed such an attachment for as Omaha. The evening was delightful and we sped down with the current rapidly, laying up for the night at a wood yard a mile below Plattsmouth on the Iowa side. Our supper was hard and did not tell well for the first meal.

Saturday, August 22

At daylight, got under way and returned to Plattsmouth for passengers. Remained two hours. Went three miles and run upon a sand-bar, where we remained until after 4 o'clock p.m., when the packet Watossa, running between St. Joseph and Omaha, came along and was hailed to take on three of our number who were disposed to abandon the Dan Converse. We had all of us worked more or less to help get off the boat, but seemingly to no effect.

The captain of the Watossa came on board, and from him we learned what we had previously began to fear: that the chances were against our getting off at all, as the boat had run into the wrong channel, or what seamed to be the channel, and passed over bars which rubbed hard with the current to assist. The water had fallen, and to get back seemed impossible. Add to this the Converse had her last stick of wood under the boilers and her miserable fare had almost starved us. As fast as the Watossa's small boat could carry them, the passengers left tile Dan Converse to the number of over forty leaving, but about fifteen on board, who I think will be obliged to abandon at last. The boat was poorly manned and only wanted to get to St. Louis to be delivered to her creditors. Some of the passengers on the Dan Converse had paid only to St. Joseph--ten dollars--while others, myself among the number, had paid to St. Louis-twenty dollars. Not one dime would the Captain refund, all plead and expostulated with him but to no effect. It was thought best, however, to leave and lose what we had paid. I was personally acquainted with the clerk, and when he saw me leaving, he called me into the office and on his own responsibility paid me back ten dollars with the injunctions of secrecy from the other passengers.

All that were disposed being aboard the Watossa, we left a cord of wood for the Dan Converse and went on our way like a racer. The contrast from the Dan Converse to the Watossa was like changing from life on the plains to the Astor or St. Nicholas, N. Y. Although smaller than the Dan Converse, the Watossa was a perfect palace, and the supper we got, which was ready as we went aboard, had an injurious effect on some of the passengers who partook too freely trying to make up for their fasting on the Dan Converse.

The Watossa only running to St. Joseph, we could only pay to that point. The price was the same as from Omaha, ten dollars, making double fare. We made a fine run the balance of the day. At night we were many of us obliged to take a mattress on the floor, but they were clean and without bugs, while on the Dan Converse we found bed bugs on the table cloth at supper, even.

Sunday, August 23

Got an early start. Had a delightful day. Being cloudy, we could occupy the hurricane deck and the ever-changing views were charming. We laid up within thirty miles of St. Joseph. This evening, was introduced to Mrs. Bloomer of the Bloomer Costume who resides at Council Bluffs. Is on her way to Seneca Falls, N. Y., on a visit. Had an interesting conversation of an hour, when I took my mattress and straightened out on the cabin floor.

Monday, August 24

The fog this morning prevented our getting under way until eight o'clock, so that we did not reach St. Joseph until eleven o'clock, two hours too late for the packet. Three boats had left this morning; had the fog not detained us, we would have been in time to have made a good bargain, as the three boats were in opposition. The captain of the Watossa, who is a perfect gentleman, at a very little solicitation, took us to Weston, sixty miles further, where we found the Cataract of the Lightning line. This line runs boats daily between Weston and Jefferson City and connects with the R. R. to St. Louis; fare through, $13. Some twenty of our number took passage on the Cataract. When the Watossa decided to go ten miles further to Leavenworth City, the balance continued on to Leavenworth. The Cataract is a mail boat and must leave Weston on time, which is tomorrow afternoon, half past three. We were late on the Cataract, but they got us up a supper, after which I took a stroll up town. This is the place where the little girl was buried this spring on my upward trip. Retired to bed early.

Tuesday, August 25

Believe this is wife's birthday. After breakfast, took my cane and note book to reconnoiter between Weston and Leavenworth City--distance by land seven and half miles. Crossed the ferry at Weston into Kansas and had a most delightful walk to Leavenworth City through a delightful region of country. Stopped at Fort Leavenworth on the route. The soldiers were on parade. It was a fine sight. Reached Leavenworth City about eleven and rested a short time and then examined the town. It is, in my opinion, one of the best points on the river and must be a great city unless their high prices kill it.

There I learn the Watossa overtook one of the boats from St. Joseph, the D. A. January, who took the Watossa's passengers but did not leave until about nine o'clock this morning, so we shall be in St Louis probably a day ahead of it, as it runs through and we cut off 174 miles by R. R. It is now about half past three and it is probable the Cataract will be along soon. I have spent the last hour writing up my diary, and to Cook in the office of the Kansas Herald.

At 5 o'clock, the Cataract came along and I was again rushing down the Big Muddy at more than ordinary speed. We made Kansas City and laid up for the night.

Wednesday, August 26

A fine day. We made good time, 190 miles. Intended to reach Glasgow, ten miles farther, but at dark we run on a sand bar and was late before we got off. Had a thunder shower this evening.

Thursday, August 27

Another fine day. Made Jefferson City in time for the train, with half hour to spare. The cars left at two o'clock p. m. with a full load of passengers, mostly--like myself--eager to join their families. If I ever enjoyed or fully realized a seat in the cars it was on this occasion. The sensation was very much like that felt in coming in sight of the old home one has not seen for years. But now as he beholds it in the distance, he almost fancies he sees the smiling faces and grasps the friendly hands he has so long been separated from. Yes, the sensation experienced on taking a seat and getting under motion once more on the cars was like being within sight of home and friends. True, it is a thousand miles yet, but what is a thousand miles by railroad? Distance is annihilated and we cannot realize it. I feel I am now almost home. Nine o'clock at night found me comfortable, located in that best of homes for the traveler, the Barnum House. Its superior cannot be found in the country.

As soon as we got into St Louis, I could notice the difference in the air we breathed. To me, directly from the prairies of Nebraska, where the air is pure and wholesome, it seemed almost stifling, and as the omnibus went around from house to house, delivering passengers, through filthy streets and lanes, I was forced to hold my handkerchief to my nose, to prevent the stench from sickening me. Undoubtedly I should not have noticed it had I come directly from Buffalo. But I had now got weaned from the delicious odor of a city.

Lake Erie, on board steamer Mississippi, Tuesday, September 1

Again I am rejoiced at being on the clear waters of this beautiful Lake. The contrast from the muddy waters of the Missouri is delightful. I think at this time and for the sake of a little variety I would like to have a little bit of a gale on the lake. There is, however, no prospects, as the air is still and the sky clear.

Last evening, the cars left at 8 o'clock. When the conductor came along, I gave him my check for my baggage and told him how I was situated and [that] I would fix it in Detroit, which I did do on seeing Mr. Frazer. On reaching Marshal this morning before daylight, we were two hours behind time. Two miles after leaving Marshal, one of the driving wheels of the locomotive came off and we were obliged to send back to Marshal for a locomotive to come and draw us into Marshal, then go out again and bring in the crippled engine. This detained us four hours, so we did not reach Detroit until one o'clock p.m, when we were due seven o'clock a. m. We were, however, fortunate in having the captain of the steamer on the cars, so the boat did not leave until our arrival.

At 2 o'clock p. m., we were driving down the clear waters of Detroit River, and by the time dinner was over, we were out into the lake ploughing toward Buffalo. . . .

. . . We have had a delightful evening which has been enjoyed by large number of passengers who remained out on deck enjoying moonlight on the water. At nine o'clock, dancing was commenced and I retired. . . .

You have just finished part 4
Part 1 > Part 2 > Part 3 > Part 4

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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