[From Sea to Shining Sea] Charles A Thresher – Part 4

28Sep12

Charles A Thresher

American Pioneer

Lawrence, Kansas. 1863.

This is the last of four parts of the journal of my great-great-great-grandfather, a pioneer of Kansas, Charles A Thresher. I have transcribed (the nearly impossible to read handwriting of) his memoirs here for all to share. I’ve done all the hard work but it’s worth noting a few important transcription edits. Anything in [square brackets] is my edits to make a word intelligible and I’m 95% confident it’s what he intended. If something is in {curly brackets} it’s my best guess what he wrote. I’ve also included links to anything that might be an obscure reference that I was able to clarify with this magic of the internet.

On the 12th of Jan[uary] our first child was born, of course there never was one like it. I made some verses, and while we hoped for a boy was glad to see the girl. Plenty snow then, a snow drift around the house 6 ft high.

No one passed on the road for 2 weeks. Feb 10 warm weather, snow off creeks roaring, running stream first time for one year. March 17, ’61 a Steamboat came to Topeka loaded with Free Seed Wheat for the Farmers.

This spring K[ansa]s came in as a State, a Free State. And the A[tchison] T[opeka] & S[anta] Fe R[ail] Road began to be built.

Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe Railway Locomotive

In Many, War news began. Several battles that year. ’61 was a wet season and good crops.

In ’62 we hoped the north would win but more soldiers were wanted.

Union Army, Kansas Infantry.

I debated with self, should I enlist. Now I thought this way and then that. But I did not enlist. I know of some disqualifications I had that later was would not have accepted me with. But I also knew that then both South and North accepted any thing in the shape of a man and was accepted with thanks.

Not having team & tools for decent farming I thought I would turn school teacher.

There were then 38 districts in Shawnee County. I did not expect I could pass examination and so I opened a subscription school, $3.00 a term, each scholar. We had not then formed our School District.

At that time there was 5 legal voters, in what is now Dist. No. 39. {Samuel} Reese gave the ground for a school house. And 2 respectable citizens placed poles under one of the few remaining claim shanties (It belonged to my old chum and partner in cropraising (Fred Morse)) hitched oxen to it and hauled it to the school house grounds. It was a light frame, boarded up and down, neither plastered nor ceiled. In it I taught the 1st school in Dist. 39 but not a District School.

Schoolhouse in Kansas, c. 1890.

I had gone to the County Super[intenden]t, who then was Mr. Peter {McVicar} and obtained posters calling our people together to form a school District. Of our 5 voters it took 3 for Officers. The families then in the Dis. was of Orlando Moffet, Wilham Lynn, James Stansfield, {Samuel} Reese and C.A. Thresher. The Dist. was 3 miles squ. with the present addition on N.W. Corner it also had 3 or 4 qr. sections made on the North East corner. Mr. McVicar said I ought to receive a certificate and make my school a Dist. School. I said I feared I could not pass examination. As my knowledge of grammar was limited, as I never fancied that school book and done as little of it as I could.

He replied he would pass me any way for I could probably teach any child then likely to attend school. And that was true. But I didn’t care for the certificate. I had 10 or 12 paying scholars.

Several came quite a distance. The 2 Disney boys and some girls from nearly as far. So far as I knew the school gave satisfaction. A full school house.

We had one Dist. school for one year after that. But we began to collect taxes for it. I saw Dist. Clerk off and on most the time for 10 years. At the finish, our Dist. Treasurer collected the Taxes. it may be said our school house was not quite legally obtained. Granted. Yet, I knew Fred would not care, did not care, he had abandoned all expectation of living on his land, and as others, had burned in prairie fires that soon would have been burned. I know for a stickler to law that was not in it. However the District accepted it built 6 or 8 feet on to it and kept their schools in it for some years. What is that old saying about, “the partaker being as bad as the other fellow.” There is also in all new countries an unwritten law the gist of which is that all non-residents willing to put up with the hardships of frontier life and yet holding on to their land there is a speculation, is not entitled to much respect from those who stay it through, and by their doing so make the property of the speculator of any value. Our corn in that year (1862) was again nearly a failure.

One year a good crop… feed it to hogs another year the farmer might and some did, get into the pen and knock them in the head, there was no feed, no rail roads to ship it in. My school being out I began a school of the same nature near Dick Disney’s. I had 20 pupils and boarded around.

Oct 25 ice froze 3/4 inch thick, so my journal says. My first Dist. school tax to pay was 2.24 for house 1.12 for teacher, 23 cts for extras. The whole tax collected was 117.00 for Teacher, 36.00. Took dressed hog to town, sold it for 2 ½ cts/lb.

On Jan 1 1863 I find this entry.

War, war, now the South whips and now the North. Our Officers appear to be in the army more as a money making scheme, than to whip the Rebels.

1st Kansas Colored Infantry Flag.

No so the South, they are in Earnest terribly in Earnest… But I prophesy their defeat and a long step toward the abolition of slavery.

Jan 22 ’63 another child came to us, a son. Our small house now must have an addition.

Feb 1863 the report is that Ill[inoi]s lacked but a few votes of seceding. Discouraging outlook for Union Cause.

March 15 talk of a draft in K[ansa]s for more men, President calls for 500 thousand. Times are hard, produce low, Gold up in value, none to be seen, things we buy are high. In Topeka calico 30 cts, muslin 50, other goods in proportion. To get them we trade Butter at 6 cts in summer. Potatoes 20 cts, corn 25, sell them for 50 ct and they sell to us at 15 ct dollars. Still we tried to raise more corn for the Army boys were raising all the Hell we wanted. Wages were low… nothing doing…

July 4th celebration at Topeka Park. We all carried our baskets full and a free for all table was set. Result the city folks out eat us and if the colored table had not helped we had gone home [hungry]. At that Picnic Topeka Brass band was the first I had heard in K[ansa]s. The Santa Fe R[ail] Road was not yet in Topeka from Atchison.

Good crops in 1863.

Lawrence Massacre of 1863.

In August Lawrence was burned by {?} and 125 men murdered in cold blood. And some 300 bushwhackers done as they pleased with the town. Many horrible tales are told and thrilling narrations as to how some escaped. It was as if so many savages were let loose upon the place. That brought the war pretty close home.

This ends Vol. 1

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