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James M. Ross Letter

James M. Ross, a Johnson County settler in the 1860s, wrote several letters to his father in Illinois describing the geography and the agricultural prospects of his new Nebraska land claim. "The longer I stay in this country the better I like it," Ross wrote on March 2, 1868. "I like its dry pure atmosphere and its deep loose soil and the dry rolling prairie and its good roads the year round. A man can haul all his wagon will bare [sic] any time. It is thirty-five miles from here to the river and they will put on from forty to fifty bushels of wheat and make the trip down and back in two days with two horses without any troubles.

"There is but one thing that causes me any uneasiness and that is the grasshoppers. They came in here again last fall and deposited their eggs in great numbers but it is to be hoped they will not do any damage. They hatched out here last summer but they did not hurt anything in this section of country, though they did damage the wheat some down toward the river. It is to be hoped they will leave us this summer for good as it is said this is not their natural climate. They was never known to hatch out here until last year.

"I will now let you know what kind of a winter we have had here. We had no weather that could be called winter weather until the first of January. It then set in pretty cold and snowed some and remained so until about the middle of last month. We have had no extreme cold weather but steady winter weather all the time after it commenced. I believe they say the coldest weather indicated by the thermometer was twelve degrees below zero. It thawed out about the middle of last month and the people have been plowing and sowing wheat considerable until the last few days, it has turned colder and snowed a little, but it is going off again so I think we can go to plowing again in a few days. . . .

"Our children have been going to school all winter. They have to go about 2 miles and three quarters but they have went through all the worst of the weather and have learned very fast, but I think it is the last winter they will have to go so far for we have laid off a new district and the people have selected a place on my land to build a school house on. It will be [with]in a quarter of a mile of our house. We are going to try to get the house up this spring if we can, I don't know whether we will succeed or not yet."

Ross also noted the good health he and his family had enjoyed since moving from Illinois to Nebraska: "I now weigh one hundred forty five pounds which is from ten to fifteen lbs more than I used to weigh back there and my family is all as healthy as I am. I have lived here now nearly three years and have never yet had a doctor in my family and have not spent over one Dollar and a half for medicines."

(October 2006)



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