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Nebraska Territory, by D. A. Chapman

From a letter written June 13, 1854, by D. A. Chapman, correspondent of the Troy (New York) Whig, and reprinted in the New York Tribune, July 3, 1854: "I have just returned from an extensive tour in Nebraska and Kansas, and hasten to write you a few lines in fulfillment of my promise. Familiar as you certainly are with the excitement of border life, you can scarcely imagine the state of things, not only in this city [St. Joseph, Missouri] but all along the frontier line. The rush to California was nothing [compared] to it. . . .

"I have been with a party making extensive explorations. There were twelve of us, well provided with good pack mules, and provisions for four weeks. We started from Independence due west to the Kansas river, followed that stream to its debouchment into the Missouri, thence northward near the river, turning up each tributary about twenty miles, until we came to Nebraska and traveled to Grand Island and Fort Kearny. Having plenty of time and our animals being in good condition (for we had excellent grass all the way) we rode out on the emigrant road, far into the Buffalo country, and had a glorious time hunting them.

"That chimney rock 'took me down.' It is certainly a most astonishing curiosity. I thought we would never come to it after we caught sight of it. But what a miserable country that is, agriculturally considered, after you leave Fort Kearny. Nothing, absolutely nothing but barren, desert plains. All the fertile region is found within a hundred miles of the Missouri, except along the narrow bottoms of the streams. The great scarcity of timber will keep a great deal of good land from being settled for a century at least.

"On the Kansas we found some beautiful spots and blazed out a large claim for our whole settlement together. . . . The best land in this region is in Kansas, though we found some splendid places in Nebraska. We blazed out another claim near the mouth of the Nemaha and as soon as possible we are going to divide the company and protect each claim until the proper time of taking possession of either one, or perhaps both, if any of our friends join us. From what I have seen I am confident that there are now scattered along this line, not less than thirty thousand emigrants, some say fifty thousand, but I doubt it."

(December 2002)



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