Macoupin County IL “Reminiscences By Aaron L.
1845-1934” ©Bobbie Athon
“Reminiscences By Aaron L. Lanning 1845-1934”
From the diary of Aaron L. Lanning, kept of his life as a Civil War Soldier in the IL 122nd Infantry Regiment, Company D, and his early pioneer days in Kansas.
Contributed by Bobbie Athon
copyright Bobbie Athon
I have often wished that some of my ancestors had left some history of their lives and of conditions existing during their stay on earth.. But there is very little, so far as I know, to indicate the kind of people they were, or what part they have played in the world’s great drama. That they existed in all the ages of mankind, I am quite sure. But whether as vessels to some dignitary or as free men; whether as brave men or cowards, there is no record farther back than of their arrival in America. However, I am glad to know that since their arrival here, there is no account of any criminals among them, nor even any in jail on account of misdemeanors. I suppose some of them may have done some foolish things--as I have--or they may have performed some creditable acts of which there may be no record. Therefore when it comes to boasting pride of ancestry, I have little to say.
It appears, however, that three Lanning brothers came from Wales to this country quite a while before the Revolutionary War, and that our immediate ancestor Robert Lanning settled at Trenton, New Jersey, when there was but on house there. So I know that we are no late comers. And I assume some of the tribe had some small part, maybe, in the Revolutionary War. The record seems to indicate that both my Grandfather and great Grandfather were named Nathaniel and both spent their lives in New Jersey, and probably, as was the custom of the times, drank some whiskey. I am not recording this to their credit, but that it may be understood as so common a custom that even preachers used to keep whisky in their homes to treat visitors. My Grandfather had some part in the war of 1812. In my early boyhood he had what he called a “cattridge” box and “baynet” in his home, and probably a musket.
My Father was the eldest of several children. He never had much opportunity to attend school. I think one term was all he had. He could read a little by spelling out the words. Boys in those days were “bound out” to mechanics, farmers, and others until they became twenty-one years old, at a stipulated price. The price went to the parents. A boy not bound could “buy his time” from his father for a certain agreed sum. But parents in those days collected the earnings of their children until they became of age. Father was hired out from the age of twelve years, and worked for various farmers in the vicinity of the town of Cranbury, New Jersey, until he was twenty-five years old when he married an English girl named Diana Bendy, and bought a twenty-acre farm near Cedar Creek about three miles southeast of Cranbury, New Jersey. Here on November 3, 1841, I was born. My Grandfather and Grandmother and my great Grandmother Lanning lived within less than a mile of our home. It has been told to me that when Great-grandmother was past the age of 100 years, she used to walk over to our home and nurse me, and say she feared that some day I might have to go to be a soldier, and she would cry about it. She died at the age of 103.
My parents knew a man for whom they had a great respect, Mr. Aaron Lane, and they conferred his name upon me. Before I was five years old, I was sent to school at what was called the Old Church School House. A girl, named Catherine Clinton, ten or twelve years old looked after my welfare on the road to and from school. This was a subscription school taught by a Mr. Riggs, who according to the custom of schoolmasters of those days, used a switch as an important help in education matters. I distinctly remember the supreme joy I felt when going home from the last day of that school. In the writing exercises in 1850, goose quills were used for pens, the teacher made or mended them for his pupils. Slates and pencils were used in working examples in arithmetic, and for beginners the teacher set the examples and the pupil was told to add them up and bring them to him for inspection. All copies for writing were set by the teacher.
My second school was taught by Miss Kitchen who whipped me for going to a creek at noon. It seems she had a rule against going to this nearby creek. But I was a new scholar, and not posted on the rules, it seemed that ignorance excused no one.
My next school was in the town of Cranbury, New Jersey and taught by Jirch I. Buckley. He administered punishment with a flat ruler by striking the open palm of the hand. A later teacher was Mr. King, who opened school with prayer and singing Sunday school hymns. He was not given to much use of the switch, but kept us in at recess or noon for our deficiencies. At this school, I learned the multiplication table and tables of weights and measures. One day there came a heavy rain. On our way to school, was a small stream spanned by a crossway made of slab. When my brother George and I came to this stream on our way home, we found the crossway gone. So we decided to wade it. The water was breast deep to me, and up to George’s chin so that I had to help him through. We arrived home as wet as rats, and startled Mother at what we had done. I was now about seven years old.
Our parents were now talking of leaving New Jersey to find a new home in the “far west.” Early in 1853, Father made a sale, of stock and implements, boxed up bedding and extra clothing, etc., and marked the boxes destined for Jerseyville, Illinois. We boarded a train at Cranbury station and reached Philadelphia that afternoon. From thence we took passage on the Pennsylvania Central Railroad. When we reached the mountains near Altoona, the cars were uncoupled from the engine and drawn over the inclined planes by the power of a stationary engine on the mountain top. We passed through the dingy, black city of Pittsburgh onward to Cleveland, Ohio. There we transferred to a lake steamer bound for Toledo. Lake Erie was boisterous that day, so that we could hardly stand up in the cabin, and we were seasick. From Toledo we came by train to Chicago, thence to LaSalle and by steamboat on the Illinois River to Grafton, Illinois, the nearest point to our destination. From there we went to Jerseyville in a wagon. There were five children of us, Aaron, George, Sarah, Sym, and Mary. On the steamboat, we were exposed to the measles. By the time Father had rented a house and the day we moved in, we began to break out with the disorder. We seemed to be pretty tough, and all came through all right.
Shortly after this, I was started to school taught by an old man called Mr. Corbett. He was an austere old fellow who regarded a switch an auxiliary to education. He also indulged in sarcastic remarks in regard to some of the boys’ writing. He would say “Your copy book looks like a spider had fallen in the ink and crawled over the page”, or to another, “Yours looks like hen tracks.” My mother fixed up a copybook for me, and I demurred taking it to school, claiming as a reason that I didn’t know how to write. But my demurrer was over ruled and in course of time I learned to write so that at least a portion of it could be read. Barnum’s show had come to town and I was taken to see it. Shortly afterward I set out to write a letter to Grandmother in New Jersey. I wrote--”Dear Grandmother: I have been to the show and seen all the wild animals and I would like to see you.” Mother censored my letter, and suggested that I write it over and not class Grandmother so closely with the animals.
Later I was equipped with a slate and pencil which I was to take to Mr. Corbett and have him “set a sum.” He set one of four columns each of which would involve carrying, which I knew nothing about. I counted up the first column and set under it the amount, then proceeded in like manner to the next, and so on to the end. I then took it up to him for approval. He said “It isn’t right. Take it back and do it over. Put units under units and tens under tens.” That was pure Choctaw to me. I pored and studied over that problem until it got rubbed out. I never took the slate back to him, and I am sure he didn’t care. His school was for boys only. One day he said, “On next Friday afternoon, I shall expect each of you to have a piece to recite, or a composition to read.” Out on the playground, I heard some of the larger boys saying, “I’m not going to learn a piece or write a composition either.” We smaller boys could not afford to take a stand like that, so we learned pieces. Friday afternoon came on apace, and after recess Mr. C. began calling out small boys who recited in order. Then he called the name of the largest boy in school, a fellow about eighteen years old. He replied “Hain’t got any piece.” “Have you a composition?” “No, Sir.” The master seized a large switch, advanced to the big fellow’s seat and proceeded to pour blows across the fellow’s back in “great shape.” Returning to his desk, he called the name of another boy of about sixteen. That fellow looked confused for a little while. Then he advanced to the front and recited a foolish nursery rhyme. “That will do for this time,” said the master, “but next time have a better one.” So ended one mutiny.
My next teacher was Mrs. Staats who taught me how to add and carry. (The year) 1854 was a very dry year in our part of Illinois. Corn was so poor that some farmers gave hogs away to any who would take them. The town authorities of Jerseyville erected a pound in which to put any hogs found running at large on the streets. Boys were paid a small sum for driving hogs to the pound. The number of hogs coming to the pound began to arouse suspicion. It was found that some of the boys had been driving hogs in from the country.
There was no railroad within twenty-five miles of our town, but a stage line passed through running from Alton to Jacksonville. Sometimes in the spring, the mud was so deep that the stage was abandoned and the driver with four horses hitched to a two-wheeled vehicle carried the mail through. People drove cattle, hogs, and even turkeys in droves to Alton for shipment to St. Louis. When eight years old, I saw the first reaping and mowing machine brought into that part of the country. Up to that time wheat, oats, and rye had been cut with cradles. Men with hand-rakes, and sometimes women, followed, raked the grain into bundles, and bound it by hand. Binding by hand, however continued for many years after. Grass for hay was mown with scythes, spread and raked, often with hand rakes. A few farmers had crude horse rakes, which when filled, were stopped, drawn back and lifted over the windrow. Men and boys prided themselves upon their ability as cradlers, binders, and mowers. In raising corn, the ground was plowed, then marked out both ways with a small mouldboard plow with one horse. The corn was dropped by a boy or girl, three grains in a hill. A man followed, covering the corn with a hoe. The first money I ever earned was for dropping corn for Charley Catt at twenty-five cents a day. I was then about eight years old. Corn was cultivated with one-horse six- or eight-inch plows. I first began to handle such a horse and plow when eleven years of age.
In 1854, my Father bought 120 acres of woodland in the south part of Greene County, Illinois for about $500. There were sixteen acres cleared, and fences with worm fence, about seven or eight rails high. There was no house, we built a two room log cabin, each room seventeen feet square. The spaces between the logs were chinked with split blocks, then plastered with lime and sand. We had half-sized windows, rough oak floors and doors. The doors were equipped with wooden hinges and a wooden latch with a leather string passing through a hole in the door. Pulling this string from the outside lifted the latch. If it was desired to lock the door at night, all you had to do was to pull in the string.
There was much to do on that farm. More land was to be cleared, rails to be split, logs and brush to be burned, a well to be dug, fences to be built and many smaller chores. Once we had a log-rolling. In our clearing there were large logs we had no use for. As the custom was at that time we invited our neighbors to a log-rolling. All the men and some of their women folks came; the latter to help Mother. The men provided with handspikes rolled large logs together and carried smaller ones on their handspikes and made great piles of them and set them on fire to get them out of the way. At noon the women had a huge dinner ready for hungry men and boys, which vanished amidst much jollity. Log house raisings were conducted along the same plan. Men and boys prided themselves upon their strength on these occasions. Nobody charged anything for his services. My brother George and I early learned to use the axe chopping firewood, sprouting stumps, and chopping small hickory trees into cordwood which was hauled to the steam mills at Jerseyville. The proceeds went toward buying our boots and other items. All men and boys wore high topped boots. Shoes were for women and small children. Our family was large and money very scarce. We children never had any spending money of our own to do as we pleased with. Every cent was needed for family necessities.
In the autumn we boys set snares and caught rabbits and “possums.” In 1855 and 1856 vast flocks of wild pigeons came in the evening. They would sometimes break the branches. It was an easy matter to get several at a single shot. There were no game laws in those days. Game belonged to anyone who could get it. I was not allowed to use a gun until I became thirteen years old. It was a custom at home to give us boys a job of work to do, with the promise that when it was finished we might go swimming or fishing in Wineses Branch or Macoupin Creek. We used only foolskin bathing suits. No other kind had been thought of. Our Mother cut out and sewed by hand all of our clothes. She washed all our duds in a tub on an old-fashioned washboard. Sewing and washing machines were unknown.
Our schools operated not more than six months in the year. Boys who were old enough to help were kept at home until the corn was gathered. Many of them attended not more than four months in a year. Sometimes we had a good teacher and sometimes very poor ones. But it was understood that schools were maintained for study and play was only an incident for noon or recess. I sometimes wonder what the old-time school trustees and parents would have said of a teacher who would have adjourned a school session to go to a ball game. Spelling contests were conducted on Friday afternoon in the home school, and in competition with neighbor schools in winter evenings. Much interest was taken in those by both young and old. We also learned pieces to recite, and sometimes wrote compositions.
At one time our school was preparing for what was termed an exhibition at the close of the school term. Mr Mathews, our teacher, was anxious that we should make a good showing. He told us to memorize our pieces and go out in the woods and address the trees; fairly knocking the bark off them, he said. I tried to follow his instructions, went away off in the dense forest and forcibly declaimed upon the “evils of war. A few days later a neighbor woman who lived about a quarter of a mile away, came visiting my mother. She seemed to be worked up with the idea that there was a lunatic loose in the timber, for she said, “The other evening I heard him back in the woods there preaching to beat all.” On hearing this, mother was a little excited, and talked about it at supper and wanted to know if I had heard anything. The result was that I had to explain the situation to allay apprehension on the part of the community.
No charge was ever made for admittance to any of our school entertainments. On one occasion our school--the Douglas school--was challenged by the teacher of the school at Kane for a spelling contest. Our Mr. Mathews accepted, and on a designated night we went to Kane in force. Spelling began and one by one, the spellers went down, until about fourteen were left on the floor; most of them were his pupils. He had pronounced all the hard words he could find in the spelling book. He threw the book on the desk and picked up Mitchell’s Geography. Now, he said, “We will spell round and round.” The first word he pronounced was Kankakee. About six of his pupils missed and one of ours spelled it correctly. The next word was Des Plaines. It swept the last of his spellers and our side spelled it. A roaring shout broke forth, “Hurrah for Douglas.” The young master was plainly angry and said, “We’ll try this over. Come back next Friday evening.” Part of us went. We found the schoolhouse door locked, no light nor fire. We concluded he was not keen to try it over.
When I was thirteen year old, I worked for Mr. Ben Riggs plowing, harrowing, and drilling wheat and turning a hand corn sheller part of the time in shelling two hundred bushels of corn. My wages were eight dollars per month. Father’s efforts at raising wheat failed owing to freezing out in successive years. He was paying ten percent interest on borrowed money. In the autumn of 1859, there was a most magnificent comet in the northern sky. In 1859, Father sold the Greene County farm and moved to a rented farm near Shipman in Macoupin County. Here again wheat froze out, but we raised a splendid crop of corn in 1860. During the latter part of the summer, all of our family was sick at the same time with malarial disorders, except Ella and I.. All of the work was on our hands.
The great political campaign was on in which there were four candidates for President of the U.S. The Democratic party had two candidates. Stephen A. Douglas, North, and John C. Breckenridge, South. John Bell of Tennessee, Whig, and Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, Republican. There were pole raisings, Wide Awake Clubs, and much political speakings. The question of the extension of Slavery was very prominent as it had been since the birth of the Republican party in 1856. Many Democrats in the North, and all in the South favored slavery, claiming that a Negro was not a man, but only a connecting link between man and lower animals. Others held that he was a descendant of Ham who was cursed by his father to be a servant to his brothers. In Kansas Territory, practical civil war was on, as to whether Kansas should come into the Union as a slave state or free. Abraham Lincoln said that the union could not exist half slave and half free, but must be all slave or all free. Abraham Lincoln was elected president. The slaveholders of the south then decided that they would withdraw from the American Union, and set up a government of their own, in which slavery should be free from molestation. Early in 1861, after prior preparation, the slave states began to secede from the Union and to organize a southern Confederacy; elected officers and established their capital at Montgomery, Alabama, where their newly elected President was sworn into office. Having prepared for war, they began military operations in April, 1861, by an attack on Fort Sumpter in South Carolina.
Mr. Lincoln then called for seventy-five thousand volunteer soldiers to save the Union. The call was quickly filled. The indignation of the people of the Northern States swept like a prairie fire. Any number of soldiers could have been raised, but it was thought that seventy-five thousand would be sufficient,. But the first general engagement at Bull Run, Virginia resulted in a complete rout for our green Union soldiers. Then it was plain that we were facing a great war. More volunteers were called for, and the response was rapid. The Confederates moved their Capital to Richmond, Virginia. Some battles were fought, but with no definite results in 1861.
In 1862, some victories were gained, especially in the west. Still more troops were called for. At that time I was not quite seventeen years old, but I had a strong desire to join the army, but my parents said I was too young. But my desire was so great to take part in what I thought would be the destruction of slavery, that finally my parents yielded, but not without sobs and tears on the part of my mother. Early in August, 1862, a company was being enlisted at Brighton, Illinois, for three years or during the war. My name was entered on the list. Before we were to leave for camp the Brighton girls made up a lot of little meticules containing needles, thread, buttons, and pins which they called housewives. The evening before departure, we were all invited to be present at the Presbyterian parsonage. There, each one of us was given a housewife. One of our number made a little speech thanking the girls, and promising that at the close of the war, we would bring the housewives back and trade them for other wives. But Alas! We could not see the end.
On the morning of August 11, 1862, we assembled at the Brighton depot to depart. Before leaving home, my mother gave me a pocket Bible with the request that I read it; and I promised. The depot platform was thronged with parents, relatives, and friends of the boys. And we were nearly all boys. I can think of but four who were married. It was a solemn assemblage bidding us good bye. It might be for years and it might be forever. As the train began to move with us there were cheers, waving of hats and handkerchiefs. And there were also tears. The train bore us to Carlinville, Illinois, where we were sworn into the service. We were taken to the fair ground and installed into the horse and cattle stalls and given a few forkfuls of straw for beds.
As the Brighton boys were not numerous enough to form a company, we joined with a detail sent from Chesterfield and proceeded to elect officers. It was agreed that Chesterfield should have the Captain and non-commissioned officers, and Brighton the two Lieutenants. Then we began to learn to march, to keep step, to file right or left, and to wheel. Day after day, we kept this up strenuously until we could make a pretty good appearance. Then we drew our blue uniforms with brass eagle buttons, canteens, haversacks, and blankets. Then, Harper’s Ferry muskets, caliber 69, and cartridge boxes were issued to us and we found that our company was designated by the letter D; and our regiment the 122nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry.
Some of the friends of the boys visited the camp at times, and once there was a flag presented to Company D. There were ten companies in the regiment all from Macoupin County, except Company C, which came from Greene County. John I. Binaker was appointed Colonel; James F. Drish, Lieutenant Colonel and J. F.. Chapman, Major. We were now ready for the field. Early in October, orders came to be ready to move. On the morning of the seventh, we marched to the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis depot, where we boarded a train of passenger cars drawn by two engines, and we were carried to Alton, Illinois.
I pause here to say that these were the only passenger cars we ever rode in until after we were discharged at the close of the war. Embarking on a steamboat at Alton, we finally landed at Columbus, Kentucky, and were immediately transferred to a train of box cars on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, bound southward. The trip was made in the night, and the boys passed the time in singing as there were no provisions for sleeping. Part of the troops occupied the inside of cars and others the tops.
We arrived at Trenton, Tennessee, on October 9, where we went into a vacant store building for quarters. After about seven weeks, the right wing of the regiment consisting of companies A, F, D, I, and C, were ordered to Humboldt, Tennessee, where we were supposed we should spend the winter. We began to cut logs for cabins, fixed them up, built fireplaces with chimneys, built of sticks and mud. We made everything comfortable. We also had a fort built from which to fight if attacked. Our duty here was to guard the railroad bridges and trestles against destruction by the enemy. Our farthest outpost was six miles from camp. Becoming somewhat tired from camp fare we sometimes killed a woods hog for fresh meat. This sort of soldiering was very easy. But on the 18th of December, we were ordered to move in light marching order. That meant to leave knapsacks and extra equipment in camp and carry only rifle, cartridge box, canteen, and haversack. Some of the boys who were not able to march were left to guard the camp.
We proceeded to Jackson, Tennessee and thence eastward to search for the command of General N. B. Forrest, which had been threatening Jackson. We found a picket who fired on us and fled. We heard the whiz of our first revel bullet, but failed to find the enemy in force. At night we went into camp. We had no rations. My bunkmate and I poached a small nubbin of corn we found in a stalk field. Morning found us without breakfast, but we must march. Noon passed without dinner. About 4:00 p.m. we came to a turnip patch and the way that patch was raided was fierce. We arrived at Jackson at sunset and drew rations. Here we learned that the enemy had avoided meeting our command and had gone north, capturing Humboldt and Trenton (Tennessee) with the guards we had left there, our knapsacks, contents, and our Company flag, and burned our cabins.
Our housewives were gone, and the prospect of replacement for other wives seemed out of the question, but the girls made sure as to send them to us later. The regiment returned to camp. On Christmas day, we spent it in camp in the woods and it rained most of the day. On the 27th, Jim Palmer and I were detailed for picket duty east of town. At dusk in the evening a squad of soldiers relieved us and told us that our regiment had marching orders. We hastened to camp. The regiment was gone. We were informed that it had left about sunset. We tried to find out what road it had taken, but nobody could tell us. We were advised to stay at camp until daylight. Day brought no tidings and none came until December 31, when we learned the enemy had been found at Parker’s Cross Roads and a battle had been fought in which George Finch and Sam Peter had been killed and John Engler mortally wounded in Company D. Colonel Rinaker and several other boys were wounded. Of the regiment, eighteen were killed, fifty-two wounded and fourteen missing.
After the return of the regiment to Trenton, it was necessary to repair the damage done to the railroad. A large bridge across the Obion River had been burned, also water tanks. Details of soldiers were sent with each train to fill the engine tank from the creeks. Tow lines of men from the engine down to the water passed buckets of water and empty buckets until the tank was filled. And it was a big tiresome job.
At this time, Jim Palmer took brain fever and died. His father came down shortly before his death. He wished to take Jim’s body home for burial. About half a dozen of us accompanied him to the Obion River. Snow was on the ground. There was a long high trestle to cross. We got two poles and lashed them across the coffin in the form of a hand-barrow. One man in front of one behind, we cautiously stepped from tie to tie in the snow, occasionally relieving each other. It was a slippery task, but we accomplished it safely. We then procured a hand car and carried the body to Troy, Tennessee, where Mr. Palmer could take a train for the North. During Jim’s sickness, I had written to his people. After his burial, some of his family requested me to write a memorial for him. I did so. After the close of the war, I was in Brighton and visited Jim’s grave, where I found my verses engraved on his monument.
Returning to the Obion River at Crockett Station, I was shown the site of Davy Crockett’s home. Only the foundation stones and an old apple tree remained in evidence of its former noted occupant. On February 19, 1863, we received orders to move. At near midnight on the 20th, we arrived at Corinth, Mississippi. A battle had recently been fought here. Dead horses were lying on the field. Dead soldiers had been buried in trenches so shallow that rains had washed and exposed toes and hands of Confederate dead. When on picket, I found a man’s leg in the bushes.
Considerable sickness prevailed here among our soldiers owing to bad water. March 14th, we sent a forage train of about eighty wagons, each drawn by six mules to the Tennessee River near Berckawyn’s Landing. I was one of the escort guards. Returning to Corinth on the 15th. April 15, the army began a march eastward along the line of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, through the towns of Glendale, Burnsville, and Iuka Springs (Mississippi). We reached Bear River on April 17. The enemy resisted our crossing, but our batteries drove them away. There was no bridge and the ford was about four feet deep, but all the same we must cross. A heavy rope about two hundred feet long was stretched across the stream. We disrobed, fastened our clothes and cartridge, etc., on the muzzles of our guns. At right shoulder arms, we plunged in holding to the rope with one hand, and crossed the swift stream without serious difficulty. Fatigue details were set to work tearing down barns, gin house, etc., and a floating bridge was constructed for the teams, as the water was too deep for the mules to ford it, a trial having resulted in drowning a span.
April 24, we resumed our march toward Tuscumbia, Alabama. When nearing that place a woman by the road side, full of Southern hostility, shouted anathema at us, calling us Yankee sons of bitches and telling us how General Forrest would send us back in complete rout. We remained at Tuscumbia until April 27, when we again moved eastward to Town Creek, where we again found the enemy on the other side of the creek and the creek was too high to cross. The battle was fought by our skirmishers and our artillery against theirs, with the result that Forrest’s and Roddy’s troops abandoned the field to the Yanks. This affair occurred April 28, 1863. The object of our expedition having apparently been accomplished (but we soldiers never knew what it was) we returned to Corinth May 2.
June 1st, Thornton Cummings died. His funeral was conducted in military manner. Six soldiers and a corporal were detailed as a firing squad. The drums were muffled, the musicians led the procession playing very slow and plaintive music. The firing squad followed with reversed arms. Then the ambulance containing the body, followed by the rest of the company without arms. At the grave, the Hospital Steward read the 6th chapter of John and made a few fitting remarks, and we sang a hymn. The body was lowered into the grave. The firing squad was called to attention and fired three volleys over the open grave. The grave was then filled, the drums unmuffled, the company called to attention, and the order given to march. A lively tune was played and with quick step we marched back to camp.
On the 4th of June, orders came to march. All was bustle of the preparation during the early morning and at ten o’clock we were on our way westward. The afternoon was drizzly. At dark we halted in the road while the Pioneer Corps repaired a bridge. The boys were very tired, the night was black as pitch. Some of the soldiers fell asleep. Suddenly a mule team started to run away and were headed our way. The boys sprang up instantly and rushed to the sides of the road. It happened that on one side was a wide ditch about four feet deep, and the soldiers on that side fell into it on top of each other. However, the mule team ran afoul of a tree before they got quite to us. We crossed the bridge and went into camp in the thick darkness. That night I was detailed for picket duty. When daylight came I found that my post was within about twenty feet of a steep bank of a small river. Next day we marched to Pocahontas, Tennessee, and the following day went to Grand Junction by train. That evening we were called into line of battle, but the supposed foe proved to be the 11th Illinois Cavalry. June 7, we left Grand Junction and marched to Salisbury, Tennessee. From thence our regiment was distributed along the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad from the Saulsbury to Middleton. Our business was to guard the railroad. Companies C and D were stationed at Porter’s Creek. Here was a bridge, a long woodshed for quarters. From here we occasionally went on foraging expeditions in the surrounding country which was infested by a band of guerillas under command of Colonel Street.
June 25, 1863, I was on picket duty with two other boys. In the morning it began to rain heavily and continued all day with increasing fury. Toward night the creek overflowed the bottom lands so that we were obliged to vacate our position to avoid being cut off by the rising flood. We took another position but soon that was surrounded and we mounted stumps to keep out of the water that was running into our shoes. At this juncture, an officer came and ordered us back to camp. Here we found the water a foot deep, but our bunks were above it. Wet as we were, we crawled into them. This was only a part of soldier life. In our foraging trips we found no able bodied men at home. They were all in the Confederate Army. There were a few old men, women, and children. Some of the boys became acquainted with the girls and invited them to come to camp for a Fourth of July celebration, and they came. We had some speeches and patriotic songs and a dinner. The afternoon was devoted to dancing. Two other gatherings were held later. The last on September 5.
On the 15th, a party of soldiers asked for a pass to go foraging. It was granted. About 11 o’clock a young Negro came to camp and reported that the boys had separated at different houses and that a party of guerillas was after them. A squad of us under command of Lieutenant Gooding started for their relief. On reaching the Widow Boxes, we learned that Jake Sell and John Pugh had been captured there. At Squire Sullivan’s we were informed that Asa Powell and James Waddle had met a like fate. Allan Atterbury and George Wagstaff were met on the road. Atterbury was captured but Wagstaff escaped in a field of high weeds as he was being fired at. Losing his sense of direction, he wandered in the woods two days, then came into our lines at Pocahontas. We were too late to rescue any except John Estes and Will Stratton. The captured were taken to Andersonville, Georgia where all but Jake Sell died. So much for being too friendly with Southern women.
In September, we began to think we were going to pass the winter at Porter’s Creek. An open wood shed gave poor promise of comfort. There was a vacant log cabin about a mile from camp. We asked the commander for permission to bring it in, and it was granted. While engaged in its removal, a party of about one hundred Confeds appeared. Seven of us opened fire on them and they vanished into the woods. We afterwards learned that this was a conscripting force and that part of the number were conscripts, two of whom escaped. A woman told us that two of the troop were wounded. We moved the cabin, rebuilt it, built a fireplace and chimney and bunks and gun-racks and were fully prepared for winter comfort. About this time, we turned in our Harper’s Ferry muskets and drew new Springfield rifles, caliber 58.
October 31, came marching orders. At 1:00 a.m. November 1, we boarded a train bound eastward and at 4:00 p.m. arrived at Iuka Springs (Mississippi). We remained here until November 5. These springs served in former years as a health resort. General Sherman’s army was now moving eastward, and we were a part of it belonging to General G. M. . Dodge’s division of the 16th Army Corps. We marched from Iuka to Eastport, November 5. That night I was on a detail to load government wagons on barges to be ferried across the Tennessee River. The river bank was very steep so that it required a number of men and careful steering to put a loaded wagon safely aboard. All went well until a barrel of whiskey was brought, and soldiers were told to help themselves to it. The result was that some got drunk and dumped one wagon into the river. Our Division marched away leaving out regiment with two pieces of artillery to guard the place. We fortified the high hill south of the landing and remained here until December 6, when we marched aboard two small steamboats, Sunny South and Mattie Cook, and proceeded down the Tennessee past Hamburg and Pittsburg landings and the ruins of forts Henry and Hindman and on December 10 landed at Paducah, Kentucky.
On the 14th, Wilbur Harlan and I from Company D with others from the regiment were detailed for police duty in the city, commanded by Sergeants Lynch and Queen. We wore stars and carried revolvers. Made many arrests and continued this duty until January 18, 1864. January 1, 1864 was terribly cold. It was 18 degrees below zero. One soldier froze to death on guard, but it was said that he was drunk. January 19, the regiment except Company’s N, O, and K boarded the Rob Roy going down the Ohio. The river was full of cakes of floating ice, tilting the boat from side to side in a frightful manner. There was some fear of capsizing. However, after a five hour ride we landed at Cairo, Illinois, where we went into the barracks and assumed patrol and guard duty.
March 8, I was part of an escort to take twenty-one deserters from Cairo to Louisville, Kentucky. There were six guards. We had to change cars at Odin, Illinois, and at Mitchell, Indiana in the night. Reached New Albany in the morning, crossed the ferry to Portland, Kentucky. From thence we marched about four miles to Louisville and turned over our prisoners to the Provost Marshall without the escape of any. Then we returned to Cairo.
March 14, twenty new recruits came to the regiment--eight for Company D. March 16, a detail of fifty men commanded by Captain Sawyer and Lieutenant Valentine was sent to Centralia, Illinois to suppress a strike by the engineers of the Illinois Central Railroad. I was one of the detail. We succeeded finely and the engineers went back to duty. We remained there only three days. Companies C, E, and K were hotly engaged. Forrest’s command was defeated with heavy loss.
April 8, a detail of sixty men commanded by Captain Peebles was sent by boat down the Mississippi to secure corn. We landed first at Belmont battlefield, again at Columbus, Kentucky, and went finally from Wolf Island to Island Number 10. An accident to the machinery of our boat was all that prevented our being at the Fort Pillow massacre. On the way back we were ordered ashore to assist in the defense of Columbus. The enemy appeared in view, but a few eight inch shells discouraged the attack.
June 21, 1864, I was promoted to the office sergeant and Robert Andrews to corporal for Company D. We were preparing to leave Cairo. The ladies of the city prepared a splendid supper for the regiment to show their appreciation of the good behavior of the boys while on duty here. A regiment of one hundred-day troops came to relive us. June 26, we boarded a large new steamboat named Magenta. Reached Memphis, Tennessee, and landed. I was sick from drinking river water, and became so weak, I could scarcely walk or do without sitting down to rest. The boys fired up burnt brandy for me and the surgeon gave me opium pills. And just then came marching orders, but I was ordered to remain in camp and the regiment marched away to the eastward.
On July 19, word came that General C. J. Smith’s army had defeated Forrest’s command at Tupelo, Mississippi. Our regiment had four killed and thirty wounded. The suffering from heat and thirst was intense, besides the soldiers were reduced to quarter rations. Shortly after their return our sick report showed three sergeants, two corporals, and eleven privates. As our orderly sergeant was among the wounded I was ordered to fill his position. Sickness was on the increase. Many were afflicted with boils. Some had suffered from heat prostration. The Company was in the worst condition ever, but I had recovered. August 7, another expedition started to Holly Springs, Mississippi. From there, we marched southward to Oxford, but found only a small force at Hurricane Creek which promptly returned. Here we learned that Forrest had circumvented us and gone into Memphis, but was unable to hold the place.
On the return trip to Memphis, the heat was so severe that I was nearly overcome by it. I fell out of ranks to the shade of a tree. Some of the boys poured water on my head and after a while I was able to follow the regiment. Shortly after our arrival at Memphis, we were ordered to St. Louis to intercept a movement by the rebel General Price, who seemed to want to visit St. Louis also. Before leaving Memphis, a little incident occurred which will give an idea of what soldiers were like. The regiment was standing in line waiting for transportation. A bakery wagon drove up and halted in front of the regiment. The driver shouted lustily, “Right this way for your pies and cakes.” There was no response because the boys were out of money. Finally the baker man got angry and shouted, “This is the stingiest crowd I ever stuck.” At once there was a rush for the wagon. The driver picked up his lines and whip and started his horses. The soldiers seized the wheels and actually dragged both wagon and horse backwards, while others were grabbing out the pies and cakes. We arrived by boat at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis September 17, 1864.
September 20, a presentation of sword and spurs by the field and line officers to General A. J. Smith. September 27, started on a trip down the Iron Mountain Railroad to the town of DeSoto, Missouri, but found no enemy there. It now became apparent that General Price had concluded to stay away from St. Louis. While at DeSoto, a noted guerrilla who, it was told us, had shot a woman in that town because she had cheered for Lincoln, was captured, and under guard by soldiers of the 27th Iowa. The morning was rather cold. It was said that he had asked the sergeant of the guard to button up his coat for him. When the sergeant complied the villain brought forth a concealed knife and cut the sergeant’s throat and slashed some of the bystanding soldiers. The guards immediately thrust their bayonets into him. Other soldiers got a tent rope, put it around his neck and drew him up to the nearest limb ending his vicious life. The sergeant died also.
On October 2, we started out in light marching order, westward. The night of October 4 was stormy. I threw my shelter tent around my shoulders and sat down on the lee side of a large oak tree and got what sleep I could. October 8 several regiments of militia joined our column. They were all carrying too heavy loads for such a march as we were on, and the result was that we had to halt later and wait for them to catch up. October 10 crossed the Gasconade River by wading. On the 12th waded the Osage removing only shoes and pants. Reached Jefferson City on 13th. On the 14th camped at California and I had charge of a fatigue detail repairing railroad track until near midnight, and had no rations. October 16 passed through Tipton and Syracuse and went into camp on Lamine River near Otterville. October 18, camped near Georgetown. Here General Pleasanton’s cavalry passed us going to the front. October 19 at 3:00 p.m. we started and made a rapid march until 10:30 covering a distance of twenty miles and camped on Blackwater Creek. On the 21st we reached Lexington.
October 23 we made the longest day’s march starting at 2:00 a.m. reaching Independence in the night. Dead men and horses were lying along the road. Went into camp on Big Blue River. It is said that we had covered forty-three miles on this continuous march. Our commander had expected to overtake Price’s army here but we were a few hours too late. A battle had been fought here in the afternoon and the enemy had gone south. We witnessed the burying of the dead, and the assembled Confederate wounded. I saw one fellow who had been shot in the head so that his brains could be seen. He was crawling on hands and knees, grasping at the floor, insensible.
We resumed our march, passing a little village called Little Santa Fe, where we struck the Kansas line. We admired the Kansas prairies. Several boys said if they ever got through the war safely, they were coming to Kansas to locate. October 26, reached Harrisonville, Missouri. Here we learned that a battle had been fought at Mine Creek, near Mound City, Kansas, and that Price’s army was flying southward pursued by Pleasanton’s cavalry. It was useless for us to chase any further. After resting here until October 30, we started on the return march for St. Louis passing through Pleasant Hill and Lone Jack.
November 2 we camped about four miles beyond Lexington. My shoes were entirely worn out. The next morning snow was on the ground and still falling. We marched rapidly without a halt to Waverly, a distance of thirteen miles. Without shoes or socks the slippery slush and snow made a mighty impression on a nineteen-year-old boy which he is not very likely to forget. No shoes could be obtained, for Price’s army had taken all from the stores. However, at Columbia I found a large store which had in stock two pairs of Number 12s. I bought one pair, and a pair of women’s stockings, and wore the outfit to St. Louis. We had been forty-eight days on this march without a chance to clean up, and as a consequence were terribly dirty and ragged. Here we drew new clothes and shoes, cleaned up, and were again ready to go on.
It was now late in November. On the 24th we received a Thanksgiving dinner prepared by the St. Louis ladies. The same day came marching orders. On the 25th we left St. Louis by boar bound for Nashville, Tennessee. General J. B.. Hood, with a strong Confederate force, was advancing toward the same place. We arrived there November 30, 1864. We learned that a fierce battle had been fought that day at Franklin, Tennessee and that Hood’s army was approaching Nashville. We worked at night throwing up earthworks expecting an attack. The foe halted three or four miles away and began to fortify. Rain came on turning to sleet. cold weather followed. Our shelter tents gave poor protection and we had only enough wood to cook our meals. By December 14 the sleet was melted, and orders came to be ready to move in the morning.
December 15 the morning was very foggy. On that account we did not get an early start, and it was near eleven o’clock before we began the advance. Company D on the skirmish line. We found the enemy’s skirmishers in a piece of woods. Firing began at once. We pushed their line back as we advanced. When on a high point I saw the first Division advancing to attack a small fort north of us. The line, with flags flying and in splendid form advanced across an open field. The enemy’s cannon were firing rapidly. I could see breaks in our line but quickly closed up without a half. Behind the line I could see the blue coated boys lying as they had fallen in the advance. Then came a rushing shouting charge upon the fort. Our boys went over the earthwork. Part of the enemy started to run. Our boys turned the captured cannon around and began firing at them It was a sight to see what rapid speed some of the Johnnies could make. There was another fort in our front. the cannon firing was tremendous. the noise was so deafening that I could scarcely hear the report of my Springfield rifle. The dense clouds of battle smoke obscured the view. We were drawing closer. Canister shot and shrapnel were whizzing along with the zip of rifle bullets. Our skirmish line was firing from behind trees and a stone wall. Suddenly the smoke lifted and I saw the enemy’s battery postillions mount their horses and circle to the rear. I shouted, “Boys they are leaving,” and at once started for the fort, some of the skirmishers following. When within a few yards of the embankment a charge of canister from somewhere swept all around me. Colonel Hill, commanding an Iowa regiment came dashing up on horseback at the same moment and was struck and killed, falling form his horse within a few feet of me. Then we shelled furiously. some of the boys took refuge behind a stone fence, but the shells knocked gaps in the wall making it a very undesirable position. Major Chapman commanding our skirmish line, ordered us forward into an open field and to lie down. We obeyed and wished we were no thicker than pancakes. Those shells were sailing might low. Another part of our line captured the battery that was shelling us and we now had peaceable possession of Mr. Hood’s fort. It was now evening. We had not thought of a dinner that day, but we not thought very sincerely about supper and proceeded without delay to get it. The shades of darkness gathered and we lay down between corn rows without tents, and the first day of the Battle of Nashville was ended. “Our bugles sang truce to the storm cloud that lowered And sentinel store set their watch in the sky And thousands lay down of the ground overpowered The weary to sleep, and the wounded to die.”
December 16, at early dawn the army prepared to review the unfinished work. Advancing about two miles we found the enemy fortified at the foot of a range of hills. Between us and them lay a valley of farm land, perhaps three quarters of a mile wide. Our batteries and their went into immediate action while the Infantry lay down behind the guns. From this position we could see the shells from our guns in their flight. About 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. came orders for us to advance. Our batteries ceased firing as we passed between the guns, and the battery boys said “Hurry down the hill boys, we are going to fire over your heads.” We went down on the run with tremendous shouting. something struck the ground in front of me, scooping up a lot of dirt and filling my mouth full causing me to quit yelling for a while, until I could get rid of it. Now all the cannon were rapidly firing. The air seemed full of missiles, but we were conscious that the enemy shots were too high and our casualties were few. when within two hundred years of their line of earthworks, we halted and began firing and recording our wind. then came the command, “Forward, double quick, march.” We went whooping amid whistling bullets. When all at once the enemy broke and fled in confusion, leaving the guns of the batteries some of them half-loaded. As I sprang over the works I saw a Confederate flag lying in the mud. I wish now that I had picked it up for a souvenir. There were many rifles thrown away. Hood’s army was in wild flight southward.
At dusk rain set in. The night was very dark. Their regiment was ordered to move. The colonel inquired if any one had a candle. I happened to have a piece of one. He told me to light it and follow a road that the regiment might follow the light. It was necessary to shield the candle from the rain but we made it all right to our position. That was once I could claim that I led the regiment. Losses in the charge were about twenty in the regiment. Three of company D were wounded. December 17, started southward in pursuit of Hood’s army past Brentwood. On the days following, we went through Franklin, Spring Hill, Columbia, and Pulaski (Tennessee). We crossed Duck River at Columbia on a pontoon bridge. We saw several cannon which had been dumped into the river by Hood’s men. The weather was very rainy day after day. Our clothes and blankets saturated. Some of the boys threw away their blankets because they were so heavy, but afterward regretted the act. At Pulaski, we turned westward in the direction of Lamb’s Ferry. Passed through Lawrenceburg and Waynesborough. At the latter place, the ladies turned out to greet us waving Union flags and cheering for the Union. Snow fell on us but we cared little. It was all a part of soldiering.
January 2, 1865, we arrived at Clifton on the Tennessee River. Here we went aboard boats and proceeded up the river. When near Hamburg Landing we were fired on from the shore, and one man wounded. A gunboat following ours set a few heavy shells into the forest and how the Johnnies did skedaddle for cover. Our voyage ended at the foot of Mussel Shoals. Shortly after, we went ashore at Eastport, Mississippi. Here we ran short of rations. January 24 we drew for Company D a sack of shelled corn and some pickled pork, nothing less. We boiled the corn in ashes and water until the hulls would slip, then rubbed and washed it thoroughly and fried it in the pork grease. After a few days a fleet of boats arrived bringing relief and also our knapsacks which we had stored at Memphis before going to Missouri. Mine had been rifled of everything except a woolen shirt and the pocket Bible my mother had given me at parting. We thought that we were going to stay at Eastport for the remainder of the winter and had fixed up log quarters roofed with our shelter tents, and equipped with little fireplaces and stick and mud chimneys, real comfortable.
But alas! February 8 we received marching orders and on the 9th went aboard a steamboat bound for we knew not where. We proceeded down the Tennessee, down the Ohio and the Mississippi, to about four miles below New Orleans where we landed on the old Jackson battle ground. The river is very wide there and the wind was blowing strong and waves were running. As our boat turned to land it pitched from side to side and timbers began to crack so that it looked ominous. Some of the fellows were playing cards at the time. But conditions seemed too threatening that they pitched their cards overboard so that the river was well speckled with them. But we landed safely, and found the ground extremely muddy, so we could hardly think of lying down on it. That night we sat on our knapsacks with our backs against a fence and slept that way. The next day conditions were worse owing to cramping feet. Near night some one suggested that the long Spanish moss which hung in long festoons from the limbs of the live oak trees nearby might serve for beds. The idea took immediately. Some climbed the trees and pulled it loose while others gathered it up and put it in the tents. Not long after taps when everybody was supposed to go to sleep there was considerable commotion in camp mingled with some profanity. What was the matter? Why that moss was full of lizards, and they were running amuck over the boys.
We remained here from February 21 to March 6 when we again proceeded down the river by riverboat, and at the mouth of the river transferred to the ocean-going steamer Guiding Star for a voyage on the Gulf. The ship was so densely packed with men on the upper decks that she was said to be top heavy. The captain asked that some of the men be sent below. It was my fortune to be among these. There were some waves and the constant up and down motion made some of the boys seasick, and others nearly so. March 9 we disembarked on the Dauphin Island at the entrance to Mobile Bay, near Fort Gaines. We set up our tents on a sandy shore. A sudden rain storm came up. Our tents were blown down and we, wet and miserable, waited longingly for morning. New splendid that morning sun was when it appeared. We moved to higher and firmer ground, remaining ten days, enjoying ourselves fishing, gathering oysters, and swimming the warm waters.
March 19 we boarded a steamer which landed us on Fish River on the east side of the bay. From thence we marched northward to the vicinity of Spanish Fort which was attacked March 27. Our regiment was employed making gabions, a kind of brush basket to be filled with sand as protection for the cannoniers. The 13th Army Corps was also engaged in the attack. April 3, 1865, our Division of the 16 Corps moved to the north and attacked Fort Blakely, Company D, with some others, was in the first line of attack which started at dusk in the evening, in the pine woods. We were shelled quite a bit and the pieces of iron fell all about us. One chunk struck within two feet of me. Later in the evening, we advanced, being cautioned to make no noise as the enemy was very close. We were getting along finely without drawing rifle fire when some fellow in the rear caught his foot on something and fell down with a clatter. Immediately bullets came spatting the trees in our vicinity. Our boys dug pits in the sandy soil, which we called gopher holes, and from these we fired at the flashes of the enemy’s guns.
At one time in the night we must have done some damage for the fort gave us another shelling, bursting shells directly over our heads, but the pieces flew to the rear before they struck the ground so no one was injured. One bullet brushed my hair, but my hat was off otherwise I should have got a hole in it. We always relieved the skirmishers in the dark, as the lines were so close together, even within talking distance. One night one of our boys shouted, “Say, Johnnie, do you ever smoke?” “Yes, sometimes,” came an answer. Our fellow fired his gun in the direction of the voice, saying, “Well put that in your pipe.” The investment continued night and day until April 9. It was Sunday, a calm, mild day and there had not been much firing. About 4:00 p.m., an officer approached our Captain saying, “Captain, form your company in silence and take your place in the line. Give no loud commands.” It was my duty to form it, and I did it as quietly as possible. Our Brigade consisted of four regiments. The 21st Missouri, 89th Indiana, 119th and 122nd Illinois Infantry. We formed in the pine woods and silently advanced. When crossing a swamp, we were discovered by a gunboat on the Bay. It opened fire on us at once. When across the swamp we came in full view of the fort. Between us and it the trees had been cut down and lay as they fell--a regular tangle. near the works were two lines of abattis made of limb set sloping in the ground, with all points sharpened. The cannon in the fort began to peal. Colonel Rinaker, commander of our Brigade shouted, “Go for them boys, the Lord is with us.” “Bugler, sound the charge!” We went. crawling and climbing through that fallen timber, reaching the abattis and tearing it aside as cannon and rifle shots were whizzing through the air. When within about 30 yards of the works I saw the muzzle of a cannon being pushed through the emrasure. I was squarely in front of it and knowing what was coming, I skipped nimbly to one side just in time to avoid a double charge of canister shot. Otherwise I might not be writing this today. Before that cannon was reloaded a lot of us were climbing the embankment. Then we beheld a white flag being hoisted in token of surrender.
Fort Blakely with its guns and soldiers was ours, amid great rejoicing. A hospital tent was erected on the field. I went to it to see some of the wounded boys. Two surgeons, with knives and saws and rolled up sleeves, were busy amputating limbs. They had a very large basket piled full of arms and legs. That night I guarded prisoners and talked to a Battery Sergeant who said, “We double shotted our guns from the time we first saw you.” Another said, “You alls come up out of that swamp like a lot of blackbirds.”
The city of Mobile now surrendered. We then proceeded on a march toward Montgomery, Alabama, the original Capital of the Confederacy. One day as we were marching through the pine woods, we heard a great shouting in the advance. We wondered what was up. There were frequent halts and more shouting. A rider appeared coming down the line. When he reached our regiment we halted, and he read a dispatch to us saying General Lee surrendered to General Grant April 9th. General Johnston had surrendered to General Sherman, and peace is declared east of the Chatahoochee River. Then it was our time to yell. April 22, we reached Greenville, Alabama. Our batteries fired 200 shots in honor of Confederate surrender. April 27, we marched through Montgomery, Alabama in column by companies, company distance, colors flying and band playing “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” Company D marched with the finest precision. The sidewalks were lined with spectators but they were all black.
We went into camp near the city. The Montgomery Mail of April 28 spoke in high praise of the manner in which our Division entered the city. May 1st, news reached us of the assassination of President Lincoln. It was a sad day in camp. A cannon shot was fired each half hour through out the day except between twelve and one, when a shot was fired each minute. We remained at Montgomery until June 1st.
In the meantime meeting and talking with the returning soldiers in friendly manner. These former foes were apparently as glad as we were that the war was ended. On the last day of May, we had a grand review of all the troops under the command of General A. J. Smith. It was a fine demonstration.
The next day, we started marching again for mobile. The weather was extremely hot causing much suffering. We were approaching Mellott’s Ferry on the Alabama River. Passing through a village that seemed never to have known pain, I spoke to an old man and asked “How far is it to Mellott’s Ferry?” He replied, “I don’t rightly know sah, but it’s a right smart piece sah.” I said, “Were you never there?” “No sah, I nevah was thah.” I asked “How long have you lived here?” “I’ve lived hyah all my life sah.” We found the distance to be about twelve miles. At this place we went aboard a steamboat and started down the river. Numerous alligators were seen lying along the banks. At dusk in the evening, our boat ran afoul of a sand bar. We had to get off and wade ashore to lighten here. Then we were compelled to march a mile or so to a place where she could land to take us aboard again.
We arrived at Mobile June 6. We went into camp west of the city after dark. There was a large pond close by where we got water to make coffee. In the morning, I went back for more water and saw a dead swelled-up mule in the middle of the pond. I didn’t want any more of that water. Mosquitoes were terribly bad at night so that we had to build smudge fires and sleep in the smoke. The sea breeze in daytime was delightful. We ceased to drill and swam in Dog River where a darkey told me two big alligators stayed in “dah” all the time and he wouldn’t go in “dah” for a “thousan dollahs.” But the alligators never bothered us a bit.
July 15, a mustering officer appeared and mustered our regiment out of the service. On the 18th, we boarded a captured steamer, passed through Mississippi Sound and Lake Ponchartrain with a short railway trip to New Orleans.
Now I found myself a citizen again and thrown upon my own resources. I began to hunt for employment of some kid. I worked at odd jobs. The hardest I did was sawing up a cord of dry hickory wood with a bucksaw. Later I hired to a farmer name Alf Hartwick for two months. Alf was a pleasant employer. When there came a day not fit to work in the fields, he would say, “Well, we’ll take the guns and go down in the timber and hunt up the hogs.” After getting down there and finding squirrels to shoot he seemed to forget all about his hogs. I decided that it would be best for me to go to school that winter.
I was now 20 years old, and realized that I needed more education. There was a school for young men in Jerseyville taught by Professor J. A. Davies, an educated Welshman. I enrolled in this school and learned more in that one term than I ever did before enlistment in two years.
Our folks were living on rented property. One day Mother said, “I would like to have a home of my own, with no one to say whether I could stay or not.” I said, “Let’s go to Kansas and find one.” She was willing. I had $300 saved from army pay, which I proposed to contribute to the family welfare. Father had but little more than one hundred as it took all he could earn to support the family. But it was agreed that we could not get a home of much merit in Illinois for that money, so it was settled that we would go to Kansas. But father and I would go first and locate and the family should follow later. Father boxed up some farming tools, some bedding and extra clothing and on March 27, 1866, we started for Kansas by steamboat, going up the Missouri River on the Evening Star. We got on a sand bar once, and had a damaged wheel in trying to pass another boat stuck on a bar, but arrived safely at Kansas City, Missouri, April 2.
We stored our boxes and set out for we knew not where. As I had seen a part of Kansas along the east line, and it had appeared attractive, I suggested that we try that direction. At Shawnee town, we saw Indian boys shooting at an old shoe with bows and arrows. When night was approaching we began to think of finding some place to lodge. We saw a man engaged in breaking prairie sod and went to him. We asked him if he could keep us over night. He said, “Where are you men from?” We told him that we were from Illinois. He wanted to know what our business was and we told him that we were seeking a farm that we could buy. “Well,” he said, “We have farms here for honest men, and we have farms for horse thieves, two by six.” Apparently assumed that we were not of the latter class, he consented to keep us and treated us kindly.
Next day, we passed Olathe and went to a place called Squireville to look at the Black Bob Indian land. But since no title could be assured to this land, we went on to Spring Hill and Paola. We caught a ride across Bull Creek and the Marais des Cygnes just before dark. As no house was in sight and here was plenty of wood we decided to camp in the timber. We had no tent, but to one who had seen service in the army this was no great drawback. We built a generous fire, ate our supper from my haversack, gathered brush and leaves for a bed and lay down to sleep. But during the night, it clouded up and began to snow. We got up, renewed our fire and sat by it until morning. I shot a squirrel. We roasted it and it became a part of our breakfast.
We resumed our journey. The melted snow made slippery and tiresome traveling. We came to a village named Twin Springs in Linn County. Father felt tired and sick. We rested a while by the roadside. A boy about 17 years old riding a mule came along and stopped to talk with us. He told us of two farms for sale and some school land near his home. He dismounted from his mule and asked Father to ride. He said that we could stay over night at his father’s. He said his name was Tom McCarty. We came to the McCarty home, a log cabin of two rooms with a large fireplace. The family consisted of two old folks and five boys, two of them had been in the army. There were two bedsteads in the living room, the other room served as a kitchen. I wondered in regard to sleeping accommodations. About dusk that evening two young men called at the door and asked to be kept over night. Their request was granted. One of them was a school teacher, he said and wished to find a chance to teach. About 9 o’clock Mrs. McCarty began to take ticks and quilts from the two bedsteads, spreading them upon the floor until she had the floor about covered with beds enough for all of us.
In the morning the two young men departed on their way toward Fort Scott. We set out to look at the two farms for sale. One of them was a homestead claim of 160 acres, with a two-room log cabin, and about ten acres under cultivation and fenced with old-fashioned worm fence and there were a few peach trees. This place belong to a widow named Mrs. Creager. She was willing to sell a relinquishment for 300 dollars. We bought it and father filed on the claim under the Homestead Law. We also bought a yoke of oxen from Mr. McCarty for 100 dollars.
When we got our boxes from Kansas City, we set up keeping bachelor’s hall. The members of the school board of the district came to me one day and inquired if I were the school teacher. I told them that the school teacher had departed for Fort Schott. They then asked if I could teach school I expressed some doubts as to whether I could get a certificate. They said if I could, they would give 33 1/3 dollars a month for three month’s term. As there was not much need for my services on the farm, I decided to try for a certificate. I borrowed a mule and rode to Mansfield where the county superintendent reside. I found him and made my business known. He said we can soon decide that matter. We went to the steps of a store building, sat down, and he gave me a good oral examination, then asked, “Have you ever taught?” “No, sir.” “Then I shall have to give you a second grade certificate.” “Otherwise I would give you a first grade.” I was surely surprised at my success.
On April 16, 1866, I started in as a teacher. The school house was built of round logs with clapboard roof, long desks built against the walls, half windows, oak door with wooden hinges and a wooden latch, lifted from the outside by a leather string passing through a hole in the door. Seats were benches made of slabs. A large wood stove stood in the center of the room, with a pipe running through the roof. This building served for Sunday School and Church services for three denominations, as the voting precinct for Scott Township, and for general gatherings. My school consisted of 16 pupils ranging in age from 6 to 24. None was far advanced. One Sunday after church services, Will McCarty introduced me to Miss Emma Preston. I liked the appearance of Miss Preston, and our acquaintance grew into friendship, love, and finally a life partnership.
In the Autumn, mother and the others of the family arrived from Illinois. Having started into school teaching, and failing to find other employment, I got another certificate--a first grade this time, and applied for another school in the Colson district, with success. This was a frame building with modern seats and desks. I taught two terms in this district and three in the Fairview district. In the summer of 1867, Emma Preston and I joined the United Brethren Church at Fairview school house, and on November 3, 1867, were married at the home of her parents.
During the summer of 1868, I farmed a piece of rented land. We lived in a log cabin that I had bought, and in the winter I taught school. The summer of 1868 was very dry, and I did not make enough from the corn crop to pay the rent. January 12, 1869, our daughter Eva was born. In the winter, we had singing school, taught by Mr. Stephenson, during which I learned to read music. In March, 1869, word reached us that the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation was to be opened for settlement. A party of us neighbors came at once to take claims. These were C. M. Tompkins, Charley Crank, Bill Barnard, John Crow, Will and Tom and Lafe McCarty and myself. We invaded Osage County and spent the night on Smith Creek. It snowed some and in the morning it was so cold nobody wanted to ride. Our driver walking by the side of the wagon slipped and fell between the wheels, shouted “Whoa,” just in time to prevent the rear wheels going over him. It seemed that other parties had been here before us and marked the claims, so we crossed Salt Creek and came to the mouth of Long Creek on the Marais des Cygnes River and camped.
Here we met a settler named Bent Hill, who was living in an Indian house, and employed him to show us claims that had not been taken, which he did. We then got logs from drift piles, took them to our claims and laid them for foundations, scalping off a place on one log and writing our names, date, and section numbers on the log. We also joined a settler’s organization which agreed to protect each other’s claim from claim-jumpers, provided that each must do some work on his claims each month. We then started for home. We camped the first night on Hardfish Creek east of Agency. There were about 800 Indians on the Reserve. That night by the camp fire some of our party began to have misgivings. Some said, “I don’t believe we could find those claims if we went back.” Others said, “Well, I don’t like the idea of having them blamed Injuns around. I don’t believe I’ll come back.” And eventually all except Tompkins and I disposed of their claims and quit.
April 12, 1869, Tompkins and I came on the Reserve to break prairie sod. Crossing the Marais des Cygnes, we upset our wagon in the river, owing to bad Indian trail crossing, and had to unload everything to right the wagon, and then load up again, and by this time we were wet to the skin. But we went into camp, built a big fire, dried ourselves and were on the S.E. quarter of Section 26, T. 17, R. 16, and I feel sure that ours was the first furrow broken in Melvern Township north of the river. Next day, we broke some on the S.E. 1/2 of Section 27, which was my claim. There were some Indian houses along the streams, but on the high prairie nothing but a broad undulating expanse of prairie grass.
Once a month, we came up to work a day or two on our claims. Sometimes the streams were high and we would be obliged to wait until they became fordable. There was only one bridge on the Marais des Cygnes River. This was a suspension bridge at Ottawa. There was some trouble with claimjumpers. One fellow undertook to jump my claim. Word was sent to me in Linn County. Tom Preston and I put on our revolvers, mounted our ponies and promptly rode up to the Reserve. When we arrived, we found the fellow had decided to withdraw and we were glad to find it so, for it surely would have caused trouble for somebody if he had not.
In October, father and I came up to build a house on the claim.
brought material from Ottawa, except for the frame work which we got
the timber on the river. Rain set it, turning to sleet and snow. It
so cold that we had to retreat to the river bottom for shelter and
until the storm had passed. We built a one-room shanty, 14 feet square,
7 feet to the eaves. We did not move at the time, but remained in Linn
County during the winter where I taught school.
In early spring, I bought a new wagon, broke a colt and prepared to move. We started one March day with a load of household goods, for the new home. It was a cloudy day, wind in the northwest, and every little while a furious snow flurry. It was too cold to ride, therefore I walked most of the way facing the blast for forty miles. Reaching the timber near the Agency, I went into camp, built a rousing fire and greatly enjoyed the heat for I had been thoroughly chilled. Even the horses seemed to enjoy that fire. The next day, I finished the trip, unloaded, set up a heating stove and made ready for occupancy on the next trip. The return trip was not so bad.
Early in April, I loaded up the remainder of our possessions and with the wife and baby we bade goodbye to the old folks and proceeded to our new home in the wild, unfenced prairie among the Sac and Fox Indians. Part of the tribe had gone to the Indian Territory in the autumn before, but Mokahoko, one of the chiefs, and his band of 100 refused to leave and remained here for several years peaceably. Our personal property now consisted of two, not very large, loads of household goods, a team of mares and a colt, wagon, harness and two plows, one cow and calf, and a dozen chickens. I had also thirty dollars in cash. I was now 24 years old and Emma 21.
The first thing to do was to fence the ground already broken and plant for a crop. I spent 25 dollars for the timber on one acre in the Marais des Cygnes bottom, at the mouth of Rock Creek, opposite the Indian camp. Like Abraham Lincoln, I made rails and posts and fenced the five acres of plowed ground. We planted a garden--a pound of onion seed, and the rest in corn. The season was favorable and our little crop grew alright. Timpkins and I doubled teams and broke more prairie for each other alternately. We had nothing to sell except a few eggs and a little butter, and for lack of means, wife and I went barefoot that summer.
In June 1870, Melvern was started, but we usually went to Ottawa for supplies, as the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad was finished as far as that point. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe was also being constructed in the west part of the County. The County seat was at Burlingame. Lyndon was also in its early infancy. The Indian Agency had its name changed to Quenemo in honor of an Indian Chief. The Sac and Fox Reserve was rapidly settled up by people who in financial matters were very much like us. Many--I think a large majority--of the new settlers were men who had served in the Civil War, and were from many different States, but a majority from Illinois and Indiana. There was one fine condition however. They were helpful toward each other in sickness, distress, and labor. None had much money, so it was customary to exchange work with each other. Many a helpful act was performed without a thought of pay. Prairie chickens were abundant and furnished many a family meal. We had planted a pound of onion seed in hope of revenue. We raised about sixty bushels. We tried to sell them at the towns, but a bushel or so was all that any store would buy, so we traded them off or gave them to neighbors. All produce brought low prices. Eggs often sold for 6 cents per dozen in the spring, and butter at 15 cents per pound was thought to be a good price. Aaron Lanning diary, part three
In 1871, we fenced in 40 acres and broke out the greater part of
it. In February, our daughter Hallie was born. Several of the neighbors
joined together, chopped logs, took them to a sawmill and used the
in building a school house at the northwest corner of the southwest
of Section 26. It was a rough sort of building, but served fairly well
for a summer school taught by Miss Florence Thompson.
In 1872, bonds were voted to build a new schoolhouse which was named Highland, in which I taught the first and second winter terms of school. We had good crops that year. We hauled corn to Osage City and received 17 cents a bushel for it in trade at the stores. Miller Brothers and Ellet & Faoulks were the buyers.
The spring of 1874 set in dry and continued through the summer. Chinch bugs did great damage. In August, came an invasion of Rocky Mountain locusts. Looking toward the sun, the whole heavens seemed a-glitter with their wings. They alighted and began to eat every green thing. I began cutting corn to try to save the fodder and worked until midnight as hard as I could. There was very little corn on the stalks. The outlook was very gloomy. Some of our neighbors loaded up their wagons and went east to winter with relatives. Many, however, had nowhere to go and very small resources to live upon. An appeal for aid was sent to the people of eastern States. They responded nobly. A committee for aid distribution was formed at Melvern. I was chosen as a member along with George W. Briner and H. H. Opdyke. We met on Saturdays and distributed flour, meal, beans and clothing to a large number of families.
In September, 1874, another daughter arrived at our home, and we gave her the name, Pauline. The Rocky Mountain locusts or grasshoppers as some called them remained and deposited their eggs in the form of capsules, in the ground and died.
In the spring of 1875, myriads of hoppers hatched out. People feared they would prove destructive to all vegetation and remain indefinitely, but they were not so bad as the old ones and as soon as they were able to fly, they all departed at once. The summer of 1875 was fine for crops of all kinds, just rain enough. No dry spell in mid-summer as is too often the case in Kansas. The families that went east to winter returned when they learned of the improved conditions, and those who stayed were filled with new hope. We had now paid for our land at one dollar and fifty cents and acre. Some people immediately began borrowing money at twelve per cent interest mortgaging their homes as security, which we thought a very poor move. And so it later proved to be. Some lost their farms in this way.
One Saturday in July, I went to Melvern to do the weekly trading and to get the mail, as was the usual custom in those days. There had been a nice shower the night before, but no flood. After I had been in town an hour or so, a man said to me, “I don’t suppose you will be able to get home tonight.” I asked why. He said, “The river is up high, came up all at once.” I started at once, hoping to head the flood, but when I arrived at the ford north of town, I found the water six feet deep and as black as mud could make it. No chance to cross anywhere! Several other parties from the north side were caught in like manner. On Sunday morning Emma went over to our neighbor Boslar’s and asked him to go and find out why I had not come home. He came, and found a lot of us on the opposite bank watching the water, which was then eleven feet deep. He went back and told her that I was over there with a lot of other fellows singing “Shall We Gather At The River.” Uncle Phil Latta came to the river to find out why his son John had not come home. He found John on the other side with the rest of us. He shouted across, “John, can’t you swim it and come home?” John said, “I reckon I could.” Uncle Phil directed him to go away up the bend and get in saying that by the time he got down to the ford he would be across. Johnny McAvoy said, “Well, John, if you are going to try that, I will too.” The two went up, took off their clothes, made bundles of them and tied them to their hat bands, and plunged in. When they reached the ford they were not across yet. They became excited and clothes which went merrily bobbing down stream. But they finally got out on the other side. Uncle Phil in summer wore only pants, shirt and straw hat. He said, “Well, John I’ll divide clothes with you.” He gave John the pants and thus equipped the two started across the prairie for their home. Johnny McAvoy had no recourse but to await developments. After a while John Naffziger came to look at the stage of the river. Johnny slipped out of the brush and revealed his predicament to him. Naffziger went home and brought a rubber rain coat in which Johnny arrayed himself, and bareheaded, bare-legged and bare-footed marched manfully away for home.
On Monday the flood began to recede. In the afternoon, James
decided that he could cross. He tied his wagon-box down and crossed,
the water flowed over the top of the box. I had two young colts with my
team, and dared not risk that crossing on their account. Late in the
I drove down to the Bent Hill ford which was wider. When I got there,
river looked forbidding. I tied the team and decided to see if I could
wade across. I found I could. When I started the team into the water,
colt hugged close to its mother and we crossed without mishap. It was
night when I reached home from that marketing trip. I received a glad
As I noted before, our country seat was at Burlingame. We were required to go there to pay our taxes or to attend court. It was an all day trip for the people of the Reserve and often a very cold one. The residents of the south part of the county began to urge a more central location, and an election was called for that purpose. The points voted for were Burlingame, Osage City and Lyndon, and the latter won. But Burlingame people were opposed to the removal to such an extent that they put guards in the old courthouse to prevent it. John S. Edie was sheriff at the time and he called for a posse to assist him in the transfer. More than 100 men responded. They went armed. About all of them were former soldiers. I went along with them as far as the Howell crossing of Dragoon Creek. Here we were met by County Clerk William Y. Drew who very earnestly said, “Don’t come any further boys, we’ll let the county seat go.” It was at once moved (in 1875). But the matter was not yet settled.
Osage City was eager to try the matter over. Another election was called an at this, Osage City cast 4,800 votes for herself, which was equal to her entire population. In court, this vote was thrown out as fraudulent. One Osage City man said, “We thought the longest pole got the persimmons, but we found the persimmons hung a good deal lower than we thought they did.”
In 1876, there was another invasion of grasshoppers, but they were not so numerous and did little damage. The first invasion was in 1866. The second in 1874 and the last in 1876. Since then there has been no return in 50 years. In 1878-1879, a bridge was built across the Marais des Cygnes north of Melvern, and another south of town across Long Creek. In the autumn of 1880, I was nominated for County Commissioner without any solicitation on my part, and elected. In one of the earlier years I had been nominated for the office of County Treasurer at a convention at which I was not present, and knew nothing of what was proposed to be done. I was defeated by about 300 majority. Really, I was too poor to have been considered for that sort of office.
June 12, 1881 at about 5 o’clock p.m. occurred a terrible tornado, beginning in Olivet Township and passing through Melvern and Agency Townships north of the Marais des Cygnes. In August our little boy Clyde Preston was born and died in October, a little over two months old. In January 1883, our daughter Marian Roberta was born.
At the Republican convention held in Osage City in the autumn of 1883, I was defeated for renomination for the officer of County Commissioner on account of my not favoring the wishes of prominent politicians in letting the contract for the County printing. I passed out of office in January 1884. During my term of office the Santa Fe cut off was built, a single track. While in office no person ever took an appeal from the County Board to the District Court. The membership of the board for two years was George S. Brock and H. M. Crum, with Ed Spaulding as County Clerk. For the third year T. S. Brock and R. H. McClair with C. A. Cottrell county clerk. In the autumn of 1884, I was elected Township Trustee, and served through 1885-1886.
In July, 1885, a flood washed away the bridge south of Melvern, the one across Wolf Creek and another across Chicken Creek. Also during my term, the bridge east of Melvern on Long Creek was built in 1886. During these years of the 1880s we were members of Maxon Presbyterian Church. For about 12 years I served as Superintendent of the Sunday School. In 1889 corn sold in Melvern at 13 cents per bushel.
The last of the Sac and Fox Indians had been removed in 1875, but refused to stay in Indian Territory, and returned to their old camp south of Maxon, from which they were again removed by soldiers in 1886. Their chief, Mokahoko died before their last removal. Maxon church was built in 1891. At this time, the Populist party was strong in Kansas, and elected two governors, Lewelling and Leedy, and finally “petered out.”
March 17, 1891, our daughter Eva was married to Egbert L. Green by Reverend E. L. Combs. February 28, 1895, Hallie and Nathaniel Dean Athon were married by Reverend A. A. Horner, pastor of the M. E. Church of Melvern. Up to 1891, we had not accumulated much property ahead of necessary expenses. An inventory of our belongings shows as follows: a farm of 130 acres in good condition with fair house and small barn, 4 head of horses, 19 head of cattle, 9 hogs, and a fair outfit of farm implements and tools. A washing machine, sewing machine, and Estey organ and fair furniture, but nothing costly. We had used our farm wagon for a pleasure carriage for all occasions. Now, we bought a second hand one horse buggy from Bob Stephens.
[The year] 1891 brought a very wet, discouraging spring, continuing up to June 25. The crops that year were almost a failure. In 1892, Grover Cleveland was elected President and the Populist party carried Kansas. Many people blamed the U.S. Government for the hard times. Most of the farmers had mortgaged their farms for borrowed money and now were unable to pay their debts. Some lost their farms. We had agreed to avoid debt as much as possible and had never mortgaged our home, and were not in debt beyond our ability to pay, and felt comparatively easy.
In February 1893, I attended the Grand Army Encampment at Pittsburg, Kansas. In 1895, we bought a new surrey from Vanis Moore and were now prepared to ride in ease and comfort. We all enjoyed it. In 1896, a great political campaign was on. The Democratic party under the leadership of W. J. Bryan advocated free coinage of silver 16 to 1 of gold. But the majority of the people failed to see it that way and elected William McKinley, President on the gold standard. During the campaign our girls, Egbert Green and I, sang campaign songs at political meetings. I attended a soldier’s reunion at Topeka in September. Great enthusiasm among the soldiers for McKinley, very little for Bryan. Pauline and I attended another soldier’s reunion at Topeka in Garfield Park, in October, 1898.
November 30, 1898, Pauline and Edward J. King were married by Reverend J. P. Veile, at Quenemo, Kansas. In the latter part of 1900, and early in 1901, there was an epidemic of small pox at Melvern. Our daughter Eva had a severe attack of it in February. After being relieved from quarantine, the Green family moved to Gypsum City, Kansas. We built a new barn during the summer.
On January 18, 1902, our daughter Marian died, and was buried in Central Cemetery on the 20th amid a snow storm. In October, I was called to Linn County by the sickness of my Mother. She died on the 20th, leaving to her children a sacred memory. In May 1904, we had a great flood. On the 30th, the whole river bottom was overflowed to a depth of about four feet. About this time we bought a cream separator and began selling cream to cream stations, and also milk to cheese factories. We found this method more profitable than making butter at home. In 1907, we built a new and larger addition to our house.
In July 1909, there came another disastrous flood. Salt Creek was higher than ever before known. All bridges, except one known as the Bell bridge, were washed away, and haystacks, on bottom fields floated away whole. Along the Marais des Cygnes, all wheat in shocks was carried away! Fences also went with the wheat, and barbed wire, fence posts and other debris lodged together in drifts among the trees. I have neglected to tell in the proper place on efforts in the castor bean business. About 1876, some of our neighbors learned that castor beans were in great demand at one dollar and seventy five cents per bushel. As other means of raising revenue were rather restricted we all raised castor beans, and got $1.50 per bushel. The next year the price was $1.25. The following year $1.00 Along in the early eighties, the price fell to eighty cents a bushel, and we all quit raising them for good and all. After using our Turnbull farm wagon for a pleasure carriage for several years, we bought a new surrey and regarded ourselves as well fixed.
I made a trip to Linn County and attended a soldier’s reunion at Goodrich, Kansas, where Pauline and I sang some songs for the “old boys.” In those earlier days, we used to cut up our corn for sodder by hand. Our girls used to volunteer their help in this hot work, and in castor bean cutting, and it helped me very considerable. I am glad that we had such girls.
In May 1912, occurred a violent wind storm, extending from the Marais des Cygnes to Salt Creek. Many buildings were wrecked. Among the rest was our barn which at the time fortunately was empty of stock. But it crushed our surrey. The barn was insured, and the insurance promptly paid. this enabled us to rebuild somewhat larger. We also bought a new one-horse buggy and second hand, two-horse spring wagon.
In the summer of 1913, I went to Illinois on a visit to my old home, and acquaintances of boyhood days. After an absence of 47 years! The old landscape was there all right, but most of the old time acquaintances were not in evidence. Some had moved to other places and others has passed from life. The remaining few were no longer young. A new generation occupied the land and they knew me not. The soldier boys who went from there into the Civil War with me were few. I met Colonel Rinaker, Captain Peebles, Spence Brown, Lucius Corbin, Billy Otwell and John Leach. Just a few of the old time girls were there. One of them, Hollie Martin, was so bent with rheumatism as to be unable to straighten up. Another, Maggie Simmons, a school mate, had lost her memory and failed to remember me at all. I visited Brighton, Carlinville, Jerseyville, and Kane.
In May 1914, I attended the dedication of Memorial Hall at Topeka, built as a memorial to the soldiers of the Civil War. In earlier years, beginning about 1880, I had attended a number of soldier’s reunions at Topeka, Emporia and Pittsburg, Kansas. At one of these, I met 17 members of my old regiment. The last reunion, wife and I attended was held at Hutchinson. The old comrades were becoming fewer in numbers now.
[The year] 1915 was a very wet year. Reports from weather observers stated that the rainfall reached 60 inches in our part of the state. Too much rain had been detrimental to the crops. In 1916, we began to think of retiring from the farm on which we had toiled for 46 years. Our girls had all flown from the parent nest to homes of their own, and we were just two in the family as in the beginning 49 years before in Linn county. We sold the farm to Frank Cranwell and in February held a sale of personal property. Having no longer a home, we tried to rent a house in Melvern, but found there were none for rent, but some for sale. After looking them over we chose one in Block 14, Mayes 2nd Addition. In April, we moved into it. Our arrival was not mentioned in the Melvern Review.
We shortly began making improvements by tearing down some shabby outbuildings and putting up others. We dug a drain for the cellar and also a cistern. When the time for the annual school meeting arrived, I attended it, as had always been my custom while on the farm. When the time came to vote, a young woman distributed slips for tickets to all in the room except myself. When Halloween passed, we found our closet upset and the roof broken. School property had been badly damaged and a box of filth place on the Professor’s porch. The school board took no action in the matter except to repair the school property. At another Annual Meeting, we were present and held the opinion that there ought to be a change in the school board and so voted. I also moved for an 8 month’s term of school. The motion was defeated, which was all right with me, as we always submitted to a majority vote in our home district without quibble. But not so here. The cry went forth that there was going to be an effort put forth to destroy our high school. The people acted so silly about it that we determined that we had seen all we desired of Melvern school meetings. We found that the business men of Melvern generally had little use for church services. There were two exceptions however, Andy Beach and T. A. Overman. Another peculiarity here was that when a town fellow got into the toils of the law, a concerted effort was made to get him out. Of all who have been arrested and convicted of crime up to this writing, in only one case, that of Perry McNeal, has there been a failure to circulate a petition to secure release from jail or penitentiary. Consequently Melvern’s reputation abroad has not been of high quality. I regret to have to say this, but hope for better things for the future. I know that there are many who would favor better conditions, but they are not the ruling element.
But in one respect Melvern has a good record, namely in her Sunflower picnics of two day’s duration usually in August of each year. These are the home-coming days of the community and are largely attended by former residents and people from near by towns. The observance of these days was started several years ago by the efforts of Captain Emery Hughes, a Civil War soldier, now deceased. Each year, on May 30, we observe as Memorial Day for departed soldiers. We decorate each soldier’s grave with a flag and flowers if we can get them. Our G. A. R. Post has secured head stones for all unmarked graves of soldiers of the Civil War, both in Melvern Cemetery and Central Cemetery. The work of getting them is mine.
Along about 1924, it was reported that a Missouri preacher was holding meetings in various towns in Osage County in presenting the merits of an organization known as the Ku Klux Klan. Many people flocked to hear him. Numbers took up with his propaganda and joined the society, paying ten dollars as initiation fee. It professed to stand for law observance and the purity of womanhood, and Protestantism in religion. The regalia of the order consisted of a white robe and a mask that would conceal the identity of the wearer. The membership was strictly secret. Meetings were held in cow pastures. Invitations to meet with them at night gatherings were sent by mail to various persons signed only Ku Klux Klan or Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. I received one of these, inviting me to meet with them one mile north and one half mile west of Melvern on a certain night. I had read much of an organization of this name and uniform, operating in the states in rebellion at the close of the Civil War. They rode at night terrorizing Negroes, and some whites who were not in political sympathy with them. Whipping, called bulldozing, and in some cases murder was attributed to them. Knowing the history of the order, I felt like replying to the invitation. I wrote a reply and made inquiry for a Klan man. I could not find one who would admit that he knew of any. I had been told that there were several in town. I mailed it to one who was suspected to be a member, acknowledging the receipt, and saying this organization comes from the same parent birds as the old one, hatched in the same nest, clad in the same plumage and having the same nocturnal habits. I have never had another invitation to join them at a meeting of the “Invisible Empire,” under the “fiery cross.” Now we hear very little of them.
In the latter part of 1925, the authorities began grading the
from Lyndon to Melvern known as the Capital Highway, to conform to
specifications. This required a 60 foot wide roadway and 20 foot wide
The grading outfit removed fences on each side of the road and pulled
by the roots all the hedges and tore out the bridges, except the
bridge across the Marais des Cygnes, and widened all culverts. The
took more than a year to complete, and the bridges were not finished
June 1927. While this work was in progress, it was necessary to detour
at different points on the line, which was quite inconvenient. A vast
of work was requited to cut and grade the hill south of the Melvern
The road is now known as road Number 75 and for 5 miles also Number 50.
I neglected to state in the proper place that we bought a Ford roadster
in 1917. Used it until 1924, when we sold it and bought a Ford Coupe
$600. The roadster cost us $560. We found it much cheaper to use a car
than to keep a horse and buggy.
In 1926, we sold our government bonds of $3,300 value and gave each of our girls eleven hundred dollars. Eva bought a home in Lyndon. During the past few years there has been much discussion in church circles in regard to the Bible account of the creation and the origin of mankind. Those who discredit the Bible account are called modernists. Believers in the Bible are fundamentalists. In 1927, at a conclave of pastors of the Episcopal church in California, one minister advocated companionate marriages without children. Meaning as I understand it, trial marriages. Another saw nothing wrong with petting parties and said the church must not try to legislate morals for the young. I wonder what next? Are we on the downward trend in these United States?
The 1927 Kansas Legislature enacted a law requiring all male residents of Kansas over the age of 18 years to take out a license to fish in these streams. That means selling us the freedom which we have enjoyed all our lives heretofore, and I do not feel like standing for it. It probably means that my fishing days are among the things that were. I have strongly remonstrated through the Topeka Capital, against freedom robbing, but the sporting clubs probably have too strong an influence for us to over come. But just the same, such laws cause one to lose confidence in men. No doubt many of the men who voted for this enactment may, in the future, be heard proclaiming before listening audiences, the wonderful liberty we enjoy, while to me the thought occurs that at the hands of such men no rightful liberty is secure, from being a matter of barter and sale. Yet, I know the plea put forth by members of sporting clubs that these license fees are to be used in the propagation of fish and game. To construct ponds and game preserves in Kansas that the people may use for great enjoyment. Well, after 60 years living in Kansas, I think I know something of her freaks of alternate floods and droughts and their effects on ponds so that I have no faith in their permanent endurance. But while they may last a while, I do not believe the sporting gentry intend that they shall. The law provides some good official salaries for game wardens, and provides for an army of sleuths to watch the people, and secure ten dollars on each arrest and conviction of violation. A heavy fine or jail sentence for catching a mud catfish or shooting a rabbit without a license! Shades of Soviet Russia!
On November 3, 1927, our girls and their familles assembled at our home here in Melvern to observe the sixtieth anniversary of our wedding, bringing baskets of good things to eat, and a general air of good cheer. The United Brethren Church of Mount Pleasant and the Kelly sisters of Lyndon set us a box of flowers as their contribution for the occasion. Such a remembrance on their part was totally unexpected, but highly appreciated by us. The day was passed in such a pleasant manner that all appeared completely happy, with not a cloud to mar the occasion.
Brother George Lanning of Parker is very sick. Ed King, Pauline, Lourah [King], and I visited him and other relatives there October 29 and 30. November 5, a telegram from Fred says he died this morning. On November 7, Emma, Pauline, Lourah and I went to Parker to attend George’s funeral. All of our father’s family was present. He was buried at Welda. Two of our sisters and our parents are buried at Prairie Home Cemetery in Linn County. Emma’s parents and brother Tom are buried at LaCygne. Also, her sisters, Marsha J. Harmon and Alice McNutt.
During the latter part of the year at the request of some of the people I have been writing stories of the early days of the pioneer settlers here, and after these, some recollections of my boyhood days. These had been published in the Melvern Review. Some of the people say they like to read them. Others say nothing.
Also, I have taken occasion to write letters to the Topeka Capital criticizing the action of the 1927 Legislature for its action in requiring a license fee for the privilege of fishing in Kansas streams Each letter has called forth a howl from J. B. Doze, fish and game warden in which he classes me with the “pitifully ignorant, fernisters and antiques.” Evangelist Sam Jones once said, “If you throw a stone out in the dark and a dog howls, you know you have hit something.” It seems to me it is time that something should be hit, and hit hard. It appears to me that we are building up a bureaucracy here in Kansas, or an oligarchy. We are being governed by Commissions. Even our rightful recreations are being commercialized.
May 17, 1928, we have returned from a trip to Topeka, attending the Department Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic. Started on the 15th and attended a camp fire in the evening at the auditorium. There were present more than two hundred Civil War soldiers. All, I think, more than 80 years old. On the 16th, there was a parade, starting from Memorial Hall. First came a small company of young soldiers. Next a band of Civil War fifers and drummers, playing the old army tunes, followed by the old soldiers, keeping step to the music. Then came the Women’s Relief Corps, Ladies of the Grand Army, Sons of Veterans and other organizations. These were followed by a long line of automobiles. The column marched down Kansas Avenue several blocks and returned to Memorial Hall, where time was spent in viewing the relics of our various wars. In response to requests from G. A. R. Headquarters, we carried up and deposited our Grand Army records in Memorial Hall. These records covered the work of Melvern Post from 1883 to the present, when the membership is now reduced to four. The roster of names upon our record shows near 80 members. Forty-nine years hence, these names will be mostly forgotten.
In June, 1928 the Republican Party, in convention at Kansas City, nominated Herbert Hoover for President and Charles Curtis for Vice-President. At Houston, Texas later in the month, the Democrat Party nominated Alfred Smith for President and Senator Robinson for Vice-President. Smith favors the modification or repeal of the Volstead law prohibiting the use of intoxicating liquor. He is also a Roman Catholic. I anticipate that the campaign this year will be a very warm one. Perhaps equal to the one of 1860. It will determine whether this nation shall go forward or backward. In 1860, the dominant question was slavery or freedom. Now it will be booze or prohibition, and the feeling will be intense.
November 3, 1928 our 61st wedding anniversary, also my 83rd birthday, but we are not celebrating it. The weather is disagreeable and muddy. On Tuesday, November 6, the voters of the United States assembled at their voting precincts and rendered a sweeping veto to the plea of Alfred E. Smith for renewal of the traffic in intoxicating liquor, and also to allow relatives of foreigners already in this country, to be admitted to entrance here. How much of Smith’s defeat may be attributed to his allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church we do not know. One remarkable feature of this campaign is that Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Texas, heretofore regarded as in the Democratic column cast a majority vote for Hoover and Curtis. Most of these have never done such a thing since the Civil War. While Smith and Robinson carried only 8 states, all southern except Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It is glorious to realize that a large majority of our people are not willing to turn over the leadership of their Nation to Tammany Hall, Popery, and booze.
January 3, 1929. A new year upon the calendar and ushered in clad in snow. The latter part of December brought an epidemic of influenza. People call it the flu. On the first day of January, I wrote a letter to the incoming Governor denouncing the present trend of legislation in Kansas as tending toward bureaucracy, taking away our privileges without our consent, and selling them back to us. Perhaps he will class me as game warden Doze did, among the ignorant and antique. Well, we shall see. A new Legislative session is assembling. Governor Clyde M. Reed notified me that he had sent my letter to the president of the Senate. March 1929. The Legislative session is ended without adding further restrictions upon the people by way of licenses. Neither did it effect any change in methods of taxation by way of farm relief, which was much desired.
During this month Frank Irey was tried in District Court upon a charge of burning the farm home of ex-sheriff J. T. Rankin and was convicted. His case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, and he is released from bail under bond. From reports, it seems that there is considerable sympathy for Frank here at Melvern. I can not understand why. His reputation has been evil for many years. April 28, 1929, the town authorities began surfacing Spring Street, Melvern, with crushed rock. There has been and still is some opposition to this work, but we think it is a good measure. During the month of April, there have been several cases of small pox in and around Melvern. It seems to be the policy of Melvernites to keep the matter secret from the general public. No mention of it has appeared in the Review. The same plan is followed in regard to crimes and misdemeanors.
May 28, 1929 Mr. and Mrs. Bethel, an old couple from near Pomona, and their two granddaughters, Nadine and Shirley, of Melvern, met death at the railroad crossing at the depot here. The automobile was struck by the fast passenger train Number 7 and was carried as far west as the main street viaduct upon the engine’s pilot. All the occupants were killed without any chance of explanation of why they did not notice the oncoming train. This accident cast a gloom over the entire community. May 30, Memorial Day was observed by a part of the people of Melvern. The Woman’s Relief Corps, under the leadership of Mrs. Price had prepared a program in which I had a part. The attendance was small at the church, but at the cemetery it was much better. There are many who call this Decoration Day. And to most of them, it is just that. They bring flowers and lavishly decorate the graves of relatives and friends, but have not a flower for the grave of a friendless old soldier. But the children did quite nicely in their part of placing flowers on soldier’s graves. All soldier’s graves are supplied with metal grave markers. These are made to hold a small flag. It has long been our custom to place those flags over the graves on the evening before May 30. Many years before, our Post began securing marble headstones for all unmarked graves of former Civil War soldiers. Up to the present all graves are marked, either with government stones or by family monuments.
July 5, 1929. We have attended a Fourth of July celebration at Lyndon. A part of the program was good and appropriate and especially the address of Reverend Harmon Allen. However there was a very marked change from old time observance of the day in the introduction of a number of girls dressed only in bathing suits. These girls danced with the utmost abandon and high kicking also in other athletic performances. I have seen women in shows before who dressed in tights and performed stunts, but this last performance was the limit. I can not believe that any virtuous woman would so expose herself. Nor can I have a very high opinion of the management that brought them before the assembled audience. July 26, we attended a picnic gathering at Quenemo. Met a number of old time acquaintances and had a very enjoyable time. Met but one old Civil War soldier, Comrade Hensey. The “old boys” are getting scarce at such gatherings.
August 24, 1929. Melvern has just observed her annual Sunflower
So far as I saw, the proceedings I regard as a success. People who
at the park seemed to be enjoying themselves at the very best. They
well entertained by acrobatic and juggler performances. There were no
performers, and the best of humor prevailed. Old time acquaintances met
with glad greetings, and renewed memories of other days. The children
to have a good time riding on the circular railroad. No matter what the
shortcomings of Melvern are, she surely gets up a fine entertainment.
October 2, 1929. According to previous arrangement sponsored by Blanche Cox, Eva and Oliver Green, Ed, Pauline and Lourah King, Emma and I started early in the morning in our motor cars for Paola. The object of the trip was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the wedding of Frank and Cornelia Bearly. We made the trip in good order and arrived at Paola about 9:45 a.m. and waited at the public square for the arrival of other members of our family from Linn County. Shortly after 10:00, we moved in force to Frank’s residence on Peoria Street and unloaded amid greetings, handshakings and some kissing on the part of the women. We had a pleasant gathering, a fine day, a good dinner, cafeteria style, and some funny stories. We renewed acquaintances with the younger members of the tribe who in growing older were almost beyond our recognition.
October 18, Pauline and I went to Goodrich, Kansas to attend the funeral of Brother John, who went to a Winfield hospital for a surgical operation which did not prove successful. All of the Lanning family, except Sym were present at the funeral. November 3, 1929, brings me to the 84th milestone on the road of life, and it is also the sixty second anniversary of our married life. In the morning, we went to Sunday School and preaching service at the United Brethren Church. A United Brethren preacher conducted the services as one did 62 years ago. At the close of Sunday School, I was asked to talk, and I told of two important unforgettable birthdays in my life, one on November 3, 1864, and the other November 3, 1867. As I finished, the audience broke into applause. We went to Hallie’s dinner. All of our daughters and their families were present. Howard Athon brought his family from Topeka by aeroplane. The gathering was very pleasant for us.
Our anniversaries seem to bring back memories of the far distant past. The joy and freedom of youthful days, the companions of those days, and we wonder how and where they may be, if still living. We call to mind our struggles with unfavorable conditions, our defeats and sometimes our victories. We think of our childhood days. School days, war time days, the home coming from the tented field, the days of pioneer life, of early married life, and the days and years of mature life when our children were growing to womanhood. Of the days when they left the parent nest to assume home building of their own. All this is of the distant past and they say we are old. Judged by the average trend of human life, we must admit that we are. But after all, we do not feel old. A kind Providence has kept us in health beyond that of most of the associates of our early years. Of the claim takers on the Sac and Fox Indian Reserve in 1869 and 1870, we only, are left as a family together.
December 29, 1929, George Tompkins died very suddenly of heart affection on the morning of December 23 and was buried on the 25th. We have known him from early childhood. For many years he has served as Postmaster here in Melvern. His passing seems to be much regretted by the community. During these holidays we have received a fair deluge of Christmas cards. They have come from New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Idaho, and California. The year 1929 is now past and its record made. So far as we are concerned we have no complaint against it. We trust the new year may be as generous. But what changes have taken place since we located here in Osage County in the early spring of 1870. At that time all the homes were of very cheap structure; no cultivated fields. No bridges over the streams. No rural mail routes, no telephones, no phonographs, no automobiles, no radios. No surfaced roads, only trails, anywhere, the shortest way across the prairies. The past 60 years has been marked by a wonderful development in the use of machinery. The result is, that thousands of unskilled laborers are thrown out of employment. What the future is to develop, I can not guess.
January 1, 1930, is ushered in by a snow storm. On the 9th came a fall of about ten inches, which lasted until February 6. After the snow melted the remainder of the month was warm, but March turned cold again. There is no peach bloom--a very few apple blossoms. The weather is dry and cisterns failing. Four families are getting water from our well. On April 9, occurred the annual high school meeting. Two members of the school board, Mrs. Jennings and E. T. Lacey refused to re-employ Mr. Stuckenbricker as Superintendent without giving any reason, although almost the entire community wished him to remain. May 25. Memorial sermon by Reverend C. B. Coughinour. Only one Civil War soldier present. Not a very large attendance of citizens. Melvern people generally show little interest in such matters. June 1, 1930. We have just observed another Memorial Day. We began this observance in 1884 and have continued up to this date. In the early years we had a large attendance of former soldiers of the Civil War. On the present occasion we had but three. The program for this event was prepared by the Woman’s Relief Corps Number 150. Speakers were Reverend Coughinour and Reverend Castor. Quite a number of children took part and distributed flowers over the soldier’s graves.
There is much talk at this time about unemployment of men who work in factories or other large industries. The cause of this condition is said to be due to the wide use of machines which do the work that formerly required the labor of many hands. But it seems to me that the speculation manias of last year, when many fortunes were lost in the stock market deals in eastern cities, has something to do with this depression. In the last few years manufacturers have adopted a policy of selling their products of an installment plan--say five dollars down and five dollars a month until paid in full. Under this plan a failure to pay on the installments, forfeits the goods and the seller takes them back. Many people have bought in this way and there is a wonderful load of debt hanging over them. So long as the buyer is prosperous all goes well. But if he loses his job, or sickness prevents his ability to meet payments, he loses all he has paid.
July 4, 1930. The flags are flying today in honor of our Independence as a Nation and formerly as of freedom and independence of individuals. But as the years have passed, we note that our independence as individuals has become more and more reduced. Some of this has become necessary to check wrong behavior. But to me it seems that there is too much of it. We say, “Governments derive their just powers from comment of the governed.” We observe that restrictive laws are enacted through the planning of special organizations, for their own special benefit, and the consent of the majority of the people is not asked nor considered. This leads me to wonder if our government is drifting toward a bureaucracy in which the people at large shall have no voice. The thought has a depressing influence upon me. But we celebrate, having in mind the freedom we once enjoyed, or because we are in the habit of celebrating.
July 19, 1930. Relatives of the Lannings assembled here after a plan engineered by Blanche Cox in honor of Fred and Grace Lanning of New York who are here on a vacation visit. Those present besides ourselves were the Bearleys, Goodes, Athons, Coxes, Holloways, Nickells, and Kings. Sym and Martha, Howard Lanning and family and Mary and Ella Nungesser failed to attend. The gathering was enjoyable and pleasant. July and a good part of August brought weather excessively hot and dry. For many days the thermometer rose to 100 degrees and sometimes above, even reaching 110. The promising corn prospect of May was almost ruined. Up to November 1st there has not been enough rain to fill small streams and ponds. November 3, marked the return of our wedding anniversary and my birthday which occurred 85 years ago. We had not thought of any special observance of the day, but our girls seemed to view the matter differently and without notice or even a hint, invaded our home and proceeded to prepare a sumptuous feast which we and their families fully enjoyed. In the afternoon the ladies of the Woman’s Relief Corps called and added to the pleasure of the occasion.
November 4, 1930. Election day. We have three candidates for Governor this year. Frank Haucke, Republican; Harry Woodring, Democrat; and J. R. Brinkley, Independent. For some reasons there is considerable dissatisfaction with present conditions in governmental affairs, and quite a number of the people are taking interest in the Brinkley movement. November 20. The vote in this election was exceedingly close, and it required a long time to determine the result. It now appears that Harry Woodring is the victor by a majority of about 300.
December 10, 1930. Taxpaying time is on and taxes are high. We here in town are paying over three per cent on our property valuation. On account of near crop failure and debts there is a feeling a depression in business. Happy are they who are out of debt. But I think there are many who are not. For a few years past many have been buying automobiles, furniture, machinery, and other goods on the installment plan; a small down payment and “so much” a month until all is paid. Manufacturers favor this plan so that factories may be kept busy. It seems to me that conditions will not be good until these debts are paid and a better form of business adopted. I think the list of delinquent taxes is likely to be heavy this year.
January 31, 1931. The Kansas Legislature has been in session since the 13th. From appearances some members of that body are determined to compel every person who drives an auto to secure a license. Thus penalizing all careful drivers on account of a few careless ones. To us this seems devoid of good sense. But no one knows what a Kansas Legislature may do, according to the experiences of recent years. Just at this time a protracted meeting has been conducted at the Church of God by Reverend Kramer, with apparent success. We hope the results may be permanent. The Methodist Church is in a turmoil over the preaching by their pastor, Reverend Coughinour.
February 7, 1931. The Kansas Legislature is considering a bill to provide a death penalty for those who use deadly weapons in robbing people and for kidnappers. The House has already passed the bill. But there is a strong element among our people against such an enactment. They denounce it as legal murder. They say that the death penalty does not prevent crime. I think that if such people can show how the present mollycoddle system reduces crime any better, they have a good argument. But the fact is that crime is on the increase more and more. I believe the proposed measure should be adopted.
March 21, 1931. The Kansas Legislature has adjourned. Both houses passed the capital punishment bill. But Governor Woodring vetoed it, at the demand of people who shudder at the thought of executing a vile murderer, and denounce a public executioner as beyond the pale of humanity. It seems to me that these people are not consistent. They praise and honor our soldiers who in battle deal death to our country’s foes. How much worse is the man who throws the electric switch to execute a hardened murderer than the one who jerks the lanyard of a loaded cannon when the enemy’s line approaches? Oh, they say he is seeking to destroy our country’s enemies and is justified. Who is a greater enemy to mankind than the one who deliberately plans to go forth and kill a man to get his money? Or that one who kidnaps a child and holds it for ransom, under penalty of death? Such an individual has already stamped himself as utterly unfit to live among his fellows. But, says the mollycoddle, “We must endeavor to reform him.” Might as well try to make rotten eggs palatable, or to reform a pack of wolves. April 1 comes in with the daily newspapers full of tales of tragedy. The blizzard in Colorado, and Western Kansas with loss of life of humans and cattle. The crash of an airplane and 8 dead men near Bazarr, Kansas and the destruction of Managua, with one thousand dead and a large number injured. High winds and hail storms in the South, altogether make a gruesome story. With us the day came in clear after a week of disagreeable weather, and after the heavy white frost melted, the face of nature wore a pleasing smile.
June 30, 1931. At the last session of Congress, a renewed effort was made by the people of the State of Mississippi to have the statue of Jefferson Davis placed in the Hall of Fame at Washington, D.C. and this time with success, by the consent of Congress. Each State has the right to place the statues of two of her most prominent and admired citizens in this hall, subject to the will or consent of Congress. In former years this effort to so honor Davis has been frustrated. In my opinion it should have met a like fate this time and forever after. Any man who would deliberately plan and strive to destroy this Union of States for the purpose of establishing a government founded upon the principle of human slavery, should never be so honored.
July 22, 1931. I was invited to attend a ladies’ community club at Olivet, by Mrs. Reena Henry, for the purpose of relating incidents and doings of old timers in Kansas. A large number of women present, but I was the only man. This was, I suppose, quite an honor for me. The exercises were of a literary character, and consisted largely of readings and talks of old time wedding dresses which were quite a contrast with those of the present age. The assembly and exercises were of a very pleasant nature, and I am glad to have taken part in it. After the finish of the program, pictures were taken of various groups present.
July 31, 1931. Word came to us today that Howard Athon, our grandson of Topeka, flying an airplane yesterday evening with a companion fell two thousand feet into the Kaw River. His companion was killed and he was badly hurt. Howard is now in Stormont Hospital awaiting possible recovery.
August 21, 1931. We are now living under what is called the Great Depression, which is said to be world wide. Business is checked and several thousand laborers in our country have no jobs. We have had two dry summers in succession and many people have not yet paid their last year’s taxes. In China many thousands are reported starving. But here is a strange and remarkable condition of affairs. The United States has had two heavy wheat crops and shortened corn crops. Wheat has been sold as low as 30 cents per bushel and little demand for it while people abroad are starving. The trouble seems to be that those abroad lack money to buy the surplus wheat. This year there is an invasion of Rocky Mountain locusts in northwestern States even as far as the northern counties in Kansas, and they are very destructive to crops. People are demanding that taxes be reduced, saying they are far too high and we cannot pay them. Many are saying ‘what is the cause of this depression’ without getting a satisfactory answer.
November 3, 1931. Anniversary of our wedding which took place on
this day in 1867. Also my 86th birthday. Eva, Hallie, and Pauline with
such of their families as were at home came bringing supplies for a
And we had a good one! Present were Eva, Egbert, and Oliver Green.
Dean, Homer, Fred, Helen, Adetha, and Bruce Athon, Pauline King and
O’Harra. The closing of the Melvern State Bank which occurred October 8
has been a source of great inconvenience to our people. So many who
for small wages have used the bank as a safe depository for their
expecting to draw upon them to meet monthly expenses, and now without
to pay for fuel, taxes, and other incidentals. T. A. Overman has been
receiver, but there is no knowing when he can collect funds enough to
or even partially relieve conditions--and winter drawing on! The
is not a happy one. On December 25, we had another family gathering at
our home. Those present were the Greens, Athons, and Kings. Numerous
presents were given and received. We enjoyed a splendid dinner. The day
was mild so that our nine great grandchildren could play out-of-doors
perfect comfort. They had a grand, enjoyable time, such as most of them
will remember as long as they live.
December 31, 1931. This year ends today. It will pass into history among those to which we refer as bad years. World conditions seem to be upset from normal, especially in regard to finances. It has been a year of many bank failures, of depressed prices of farm products, of lack of employment for laborers. It is a year of floods and famine in China, of many accidents from automobiles and aeroplanes, and a year of general unrest among the nations of the world. Perhaps it may have been Providentially ordered to check an orgy of luxurious living and an apparent drifting away from God. It is to be hoped that mankind may draw from it a salutary lesson, and profit by it.
January 1, 1932. The month opens with criminal actions. Bomb plots by Italians in the U.S., robberies and kidnapping of children of wealthy people. February witnesses a war between Japan and China, in which Japan in violation of a signed agreement has evidently determined to capture Manchuria and reduce China to a condition of vassalage. I hope she fails. March brings nationwide excitement over the kidnapping of Colonel Charles Lindbergh’s baby.
April 25, 1932. Although Colonel Lindbergh has paid fifty thousand dollars ransom for the return of his baby boy, the child has not been returned. We seem to be living in an age of crime. Theft, robbery, kidnapping, and murder are rampant. Our criminal prosecutions are so lenient to the criminal that we lose confidence in both courts and Legislatures. These are hard times. So many farmers are losing their farms by mortgage foreclosures. So much of this is due to going into debt beyond good judgement. I am firmly convinced that going deeply in debt is very poor policy for farmers to follow. There are so many uncertainties in this life and business. He is liable to spend his life in digging up interest on a mortgage which in many cases he can never pay off from the proceeds of his farm. It is too bad, but people are so slow to learn until too late. The Lindbergh baby has been found dead in a patch of bushes not very far from its home. It was found by a Negro truck driver. Excitement is great throughout the whole country.
June 30, 1932. Two political conventions have been held in Chicago this month. First the Republicans, which nominated for president Herbert Hoover. For Vice President Charles Curtis. The convention was disturbed by an element from the eastern states which desires the repeal of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead law. Matters were somewhat adjusted by inserting a plank favoring a vote upon the question by the people. The Democrats demand a downright repeal.. Their convention is described as an orgy of hoodlumism and uproar. Their candidate for President is Franklin D. Roosevelt. For Vice President, John Garner of Texas. Several thousands of World War soldiers have come to Washington apparently to try to compel Congress and the President to pay them in full their certificates of service, which are not due until 1945. I regard these fellows as a direct menace to our Government.
July 30, 1932. The large assembly of World War soldiers at Washington refused to vacate government property there and were hindering the construction of new public buildings. When the police attempted to force them to vacate they threw bricks and other missiles injuring and overcoming the police, forming a regular mob riot. President Hoover ordered out the military forces under command of General Douglas McArthur. The entire bonus marchers force was driven from the city and their camp burned. They have sympathizers among the Democrats. It is my opinion now, that these fellows were urged to come to Washington by that element.
August 25, 1932. Following the example of the bonus marchers a force of hundreds of coal miners from northern Illinois invaded the southen part of the State in an effort to compel the miners there to go on a strike for higher wages than five dollars a day. A large police force met the invaders and turned them back. At the same time a group of Iowa farmers were trying to prevent the marketing of farm products in order to compel a rise in prices. They too, are likely to be met by the authorities and compelled to stop their actions. Such methods are a menace to good government.
August 21, 1932. The Lanning family held a reunion at Osawatomie, Kansas.
August 29, 1932. Melvern has again observed her annual Sunflower days. Many former residents had come to renew old time associations. But there was one feature of the occasion which I regret to record. Those who were present say that the night gatherings were marred by many drunken men. A shameful ending to an otherwise happy event.
September 7, 1932. The American Legion has just held a convention at Topeka. In spite of the advice of their leaders the members voted four to one in favor of immediate payment of their service certificates which are not due until 1945. It seems that these men have no regard for the financial welfare of their country. These men received from the government twice as much per day as did soldiers of the Civil War. Kansas also awarded her soldiers a bonus of one dollar a day for the time they were in the service, and I think others states did likewise. A large majority did nothing more than drill, and fully half never left the United States. More consideration should be awarded those serving abroad.
October 31, 1932. We are approaching another presidential election. The Democratic party with Franklin D. Roosevelt as its nominee for the Presidency demands repeal of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. We are living in a critical time. The hard times which have prevailed for nearly three years have led many people, who do not think much, to believe that President Hoover is to blame for conditions. Democrats have been constantly busy preaching that doctrine all summer. Every well-informed person knows that our difficulties are largely of our own making added to crop deficiency. First we made colossal debts in extravagant management during the World War. Our people followed the same plan. Speculation in stock and bonds followed, resulting in so many wrecked fortunes. We were ready to vote bonds for almost any purpose and were buying autos, radios, furniture, and other things on the installment plan. Building finer school buildings, and demanding thousands of miles of graded and surfaced highways. All this cost much money which must be paid from tax. This, added to personal debts falling due, caused a shortage of money. Now, we are yelling taxes are ruinous. And very many of us are blaming the government for our predicament. When we see so many people showing such hostility toward our Government, and demanding the unrestricted return of whiskey and beer, after a hundred years of effort to abolish the dire evil, we sometimes wonder and fear for the safety of our republic. May God preserve us!
November 3, 1932. Sixty-fifth anniversary of our wedding and eighty-seventh of my birthday. We had been invited to attend the United Brethren Church social at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jess McCreight. We went and were pleasantly entertained by these church people. Later, they sent us a beautiful bouquet of chrysanthemums in honor of our anniversary. We most heartily thank them.
November 10, 1932. Roosevelt and Garner are elected, together with large Democratic additions in Congress. The die is cast and it means the re-enthronement of Bacchus. The American nation has gone backward like an army in retreat, with booze officers in command. February 21, 1933. Congress is now voting for repeal of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and from appearances it will carry through by a large majority. Oh, the shame of it! I wonder if we people who hold control of Cuba and the Philippine Islands under the plea that they are unfit for self-government, are really ourselves fit for self-government. A few days ago an assassin named Zangara tried to shoot Franklin Roosevelt, President-elect, and wounded five persons in the attempt. Crime is rampant. Robbery and murder and kidnapping reports are to be found each day in the newspapers. What shall be the outcome of all this? Later one of the wounded, Mayor Cermak of Chicago, died. Zangara was tried for murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair.
March 11, 1933. We are living in a strange and critical age. President Hoover had appointed a special committee to investigate business conditions. The report showed a very rotten state of affairs connected with large banking and some industrial affairs. Franklin Roosevelt is now President and Congress is overwhelmingly Democratic, and is now in special session. Their first act is to overhaul our monetary system. Roosevelt has ordered closing of all banks. The first result was a general blocking of business. But to prevent this for the time, scrip is being used by business concerns until the banks are reopened by presidential mandate. We do not know what to expect as the final outcome. But we do know that we are reaping our reward for the excessive extravagance arising from our part in the World War, and continued by our people at large, until the crash has come as a stroke of lightning from a clear sky. People are unable to pay their debts. Very may are losing their farms and homes by foreclosure of mortgages, and many fortunes had been ruined.
May 5, 1933. Congress has designated President Roosevelt as
dictator of government for these United States with more power than
to any former President. He is increasing the issue of currency many
of dollars. He has required that all gold money shall be turned into
U.S. Treasury. for the purpose of furnishing relief to the unemployed,
he is enlisting young unmarried men to work in the forests and
for a six months term at a wage of one dollar a day and board and
May 11, 1933. Newspapers report that another bonus army has descended upon Washington demanding immediate payment on their service certificates. The president has made arrangements to shelter and feed them in their camp. They have been offered a chance to enter the reforestation camps but have scorned the offer. Many highly expensive plans are being set forth by the President to relieve present conditions. Some relief may result, but I can not think that any man who demands turning loose intoxicating liquor upon our people for the purpose of raising government finances, can be a safe leader, especially a dictator. Somehow, I do not like that title in a country such as ours anyway.
September 1, 1933. I have just passed through a very painful experience from an attack of sciatica. For two full months I have been confined to bed day and night, unable to help myself, and am in severe pain. I am reduced in weight to about 135 pounds. Eva and Pauline have nursed me splendidly through all this trying experience, and Hallie has contributed all the assistance she could. We realize that we have splendid girls. And the neighbors have been so kind, coming in to express their sympathy, and many brought bouquets of flowers and tempting things to eat. Surely we have some fine people here. The weather has been dry and hot through all this experience. August 24 and 25, Melvern observed her Sunflower Days. On the latter date a man named Rosetta from Osage City raised a disturbance and was shot and killed by Houser, a deputy policeman.
January 5, 1934. The New Year has made its advent in cloudy weather but not very cold. A message has come bearing the information that Charlie Brown, an old time comrade of Civil War days, has passed from this life at the age of 89 years. He enlisted at the age of 18 at Brighton, Illinois, August 10, 1862, and served until August 4, 1865. He was a good soldier. In later years, he was counted a highly respected citizen. I have been asked by his family to write his biography. I have tried to do so. Our Nation is still in the throes of hard times, especially the farming element. With very low prices for farm products and high prices for articles farmers must buy, and a large list of unpaid taxes, the outlook is quite gloomy.
June 25, 1934. This month has been very dry and hot. Much of the time close to 100 degrees. Government officials are proposing to require farmers to secure licenses to farm. “My country ‘tis of thee. Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.” Our nation’s debt is still piling up and now is about thirty-two billions of dollars. And the end is not yet in sight. Sunday is becoming a day for picnics, contests, and jamborees with large crowds of participants. Church attendance is small. And we have robberies kidnapers, murderers, and people in high places in office who would like to open the whiskey to the young generation, to their undoing. I am wondering if God will bless this, or any Nation, which follows such leadership. But we have a good Governor in Kansas, Alf M. Landon, who will not yield to such influences. God help him to hold firmly to his job and with abundant success..
July 4, 1934. A hot day, about 100 degrees. Ground very dry. Neither rain or dew for many days. Vegetation withering. Corn badly wilted. Grass burned brown. Good water a luxury. Celebration at Lyndon. We did not attend. Thought it not wise to take the risk as I am not well. The prospect of the return of good times very remote. Many without resources, and in some cases debts added to their troubles. Many lay the blame for distressful conditions upon Republicans. Whoever has watched the trend of events knows well that no one party is responsible, but the whole people went in for luxury, and built up a mountain of debt. Both parties brought it about, and followed it up to the final showdown. Now we have a national debt of thirty-two billions of dollars and I wonder who will ever see the debt paid.
[Aaron Lane Lanning died March 12,1935. He is buried in Central Cemetery in Melvern, Osage County, Kansas.]
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