Memoirs of John W Bartleson
Editor's note: The text has been rendered as near to the original as possible. Minor text errors have been retained, inasmuch as they do not create significant syntax issues, but, in many cases, add to the story. In some cases additional information is provided with brackets and some unreadable words followed by a "sic" notation. In addition, some infolinks are provided to sites with additional information about specific locations.
Chapter Two: Part One - Youth
Chapter Two: Part Two - Battle!
Chapter Two: Part Three - Freedom and Home!
Chapter Three, Part One: Farming, Mules and Loss
Chapter Three, Part Two: Kansas!
Chapter Three, Part Three: Turn of a New Century
The year 1894 was a very dry fall. Wheat that was sowed that fall did not come up during the winter. It did not rain in this county until May 30, 1895. It was then too late for a crop. I had my land all planted to corn and it did not come up until after the rain the 30th of May. I had very good corn on the new land. I sold the corn in Beloit for 14 cents per bushel. Land was very low in value at that time, good upland farms selling for $8.10 to 10.00 per acre. At this time, I bought three or four good improved farms from $1275 to $1450, these prices did not advance much until 1896 or 1897. The chance was good to make money.
During 1895 I had increased my insurance business and if times were pretty hard and there was free silver agitation, I was prospering. In July, 1895, Tom Morris and I made a visit to Boston, Mass. The Knights Templar conclave was held there. We went via Chicago thence over the Grand Trunk to Niagara Fall, Toronto, Kingston, then on a steamer down the St Lawrence river, pass the Thousand Islands, a beautiful ride to Montreal, Canada. In Montreal we found much of interest. Then we traveled south, through the beautiful hills and scenery of Vermont and New Hampshire. Arriving in Boston, we attended the sessions of the K T conclave. My brother, Warren, from Florida, met me in Boston and together we visited many noted places. We went to Cambridge, seeing the old elm where Washington took command of the Continental army; Boston Commons, Paul Revere’s residence, Fanueil Hall, Bunkerhill battlefield and climbed the monument to the top. It has a spiral stairway; visited the Old North Church, heard its chimes, climbed the belfry in which the chimes were rung to summon troops to the defense of Charlestown. We went to the beach at Nantucket where I enjoyed my first clam bake.
Old Boston, Source unknown
The streets of old Boston were laid out following the cow trails and therefore were very crooked. Boston is a wonderful city—none like it. We returned to Long Island Sound, then traveled by boat to New York, up the East River, around the Statue of Liberty, up North River, docking at 37th street. You are all so well acquainted with the interesting sights of New York, I will not relate them. I had a mania for high buildings and climbed to the top of many of them. In New York we met Sig Hasgall and he introduced us to several notables, places of amusement and the old Bowery Saloon. We took in Central Park and on Sunday went to Coney Island, certainly a place for all kinds of amusement and for bathing. In New York I visited the great St Patrick cathedral, Madison Square Garden and many other places, putting in full time. Returning, we stopped in Washington, D C. I climbed the dome of the capital, saw most of the interesting points of Washington. Came from Washington to St Louis, Missouri, then went south to visit my old home at Grand Chain. My wife was making a visit to her old home at the time and I certainly enjoyed meeting her and with her greeting our old friends and relatives. We also visited the Copland families, relatives of my first wife. We re-visited Dixon Springs in Pope County where we were married in 1872. My wife’s parents years before had moved to Washington county, Texas and had both passed this life.
After our good visit we returned home, found all well and business had not suffered much. About this time my wife and I decided we would buy a lot in Elmwood cemetery. Up to this time our family lot had been at Hopewell where we had all three girls buried. Now we considered Beloit our permanent home and looked to the future. Our kind neighbors at Hopewell helped us raise the bodies from the country cemetery and move them to Elmwood. I then had the lot curbed with a stone and a good granite monument placed thereon. I never liked to put off until tomorrow ehat[sic] ought to be done today. This has been my motto through life,--another aim being to keep my own account on both sides, making no promises I could not fulfill.
|"The legislature responded to the governor's speech, by passing a constitutional amendment that prohibited 'the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors' in the state. It was ratified by a majority of the voters in November 1880. Laws and amendments alone, however, could not 'dry up' the state; they had to be enforced. The Senate Saloon was only one of 43 "joints" still operating in the state's capital city in 1883. Proprietors kept their businesses open and liquor flowing, according to one report, by paying a monthly fine of $100."
|Source: Kansas State Historical Society
Times passed uneventfully, 1896 coming on. We had an exciting political campaign, McKinley against Bryan,-Gold against Silver. It was fierce. McKinley swept everything in the campaign. Times immediately began to improve. Free Silver and the Populist party disappeared under the sunshine of good times. I believe that crops that year were fair and prices better. We had constitutional prohibition but enforcement was very lax.
In July, 1897, my wife made a good visit to San Francisco, California to visit my niece, Ida Hancock and family. She took one of the girls with her,--I believe it was Elsie. She had a splendid visit. She was learned in traveling, during the latter part of the 70s she had made several trips along or with the young children to Texas to visit her parents. As I have written, we moved into the Hart property in 1898.
That year my wife was very poorly and continued in poor health a good deal of the time until her death, December 31, 1902. After moving to the stone house I made my usual visit to my old home, always going over the old home place, closing my eyes and looking down the paths I used to travel in boyhood. Then nearly all the country was in virgin timber. How things have changed, but the picture of my youthful days is still vivid in my mind,--so are the companions of my youth. I do not desire to live them over again, but it now seems to me that those were pleasant days.
About this time I was part of the Beloit Lumber Company, together with H Jermark, A T Rodgers, Wm H Mitchell and others. We did a good business. But times changed, building activity slackened, competition was close. The stock holders sold their interest to A T Rodgers and he continued his interest until his death. I then began to invest in Kansas municipal bonds which proved a very satisfactory investment.
In August, 1900, I attended the National Encampment of the G A R at Chicago. Quite a number of the boys from Beloit were there. White Hicks was my particular chum at the convention. We had a cot in the Armory over on the west side. It cost us nothing for sleeping. We walked over the south side of Chicago every morning and took our breakfast down town. One morning we stopped at a saloon for a shine. The darkey asked us if we would like a drink. White said Yes. He took two drinks. That morning we had cakes for breakfast. The drinks had stimulated White’s appetite. He ate plenty. Before noon White began to get very logy. He said, “John, I am nearly played out while you look as fresh as the morning.” I said, “Whitey you had only two drinks this morning, tomorrow take three.” He said, “John, you have drunk nothing but water and from this time on I will drink no more whiskey.” White and I had drunk together at many of the reunions before this but I had quit more than two years before this. When I quit, I made the resolve just for one day, but it has held for 32 years.
That was a great reunion in Chicago. Only 35 years had passed since the Civil War and the boys were present in large numbers. It took four and half hours for the parade to pass a given point. Not so now. At this time there are living but 52,275 of all the millions. During February of 1930, 1074 passed away.
In 1900 came an agitation for a county court house in Beloit. In a way Cawker City and Glen Elder were opposing. A B Cotton was mayor of Beloit. He proposed buying the block where the court house now stands, and to have funds to pay for the purchase the saloon and dive proprietors marched up to the city judge’s office, each week or month, and deposited their fines. I was not interested in drinks. I was interested in securing title to the block for the court house. A good many people held title to these. One of the hardest cases was the Brunswick Hotel, owned by a man in Canada and leased by Mit Baker. From some cause the hotel caught fire. The fire boys worked hard, too hard it seemed to me, as the hotel carried insurance. Then something went wrong and the fire got a fresh start. It was watched by the entire population of Beloit, with mingled feelings. The fire finally was put out but it had penetrated nearly every room, the roof was burned through. There was a question about re-building the hotel. In a few days the weather turned cold, with a big rain [unreadable] the whole interior, mattresses, furniture and all, was a sodden mass. Then we secured title to the property and I made a deal with Mit Baker to relinquish his lease, by the city giving him all the hotel furniture. Thre [sic] remained only a few minor deals until we had title to the block. Some of you will remember how low it was, below the sidewalk, and on July 4, 1894, it filled with water, so people had nearly to swim to get horses out of the lot.
The new court house was built in 1901 after we voted a small bond. We have always been proud of this achievement.
W H Mitchell was mayor at that time. He was one of the finest of Beloit citizens, and I believe gave more of his time and money for the upbuilding of Beloit than any man who has lived there. He was one of the first settlers and was an early postmaster of Beloit.
In 1902 my son Maurice was selling goods for a Concordia whole-sale grocery; about this time, with Arthur Sutherland we bought the store and organized the Sutherland-Bartleson Mercantile Company. My family had a large block of stock. Maurice was traveling salesman and John worked in the store. Business seemed to be doing well and was satisfactory. Sutherland began to branch out by erecting a fine dwelling, and with other expenses seemed to be going beyond his means. John discovered some irregularities. He called the attention of Maurice and Clarence to them. Clarence was in Beloit, working in the bank. After a few months of watching, we demanded an investigation and found he,-Sutherland,-deliberately had robbed the company. He made partial restitution. We sold the store, pocketing our loss which was heavy and crediting it to experience.
During 1901 and 1902 my wife was in poor health with almost daily attendance of a physician. In the fall of 1902 I made one of my visits to Illinois. My old widowed sister, Mrs Eliza S Tarr, came home with me. My wife grew rapidly worse and passed this life December 31, 1902, after a serious operation. In her weakened condition she lived only a few days after the operation. All the children were present at her death. Changes were taking place very rapidly. We had lived together for nearly thirty years, had seven children living, but only Maude and Mary at home. It was hard to be reconciled. Eliza made her home with us until the spring of 1903 when she returned to Illinois. It was a sad time. We spent the evenings at home reading the Bible. My sister and the girls were Christians. My wife long had been a member of the Christian church.
In the spring of 1903 our church held a meeting for several weeks T united with the church.
It pleased the firls[sic]. I had long delayed this important move. I should have a worked in the church all through my married life. It would have been a great satisfaction to my wife and would have been a good influence upon growing children. I have always been a believer in the Christian religion and a supporter within my means, but this was not enough—Come out and be with us.
The two girls and I lived for several years together. Just next to our house lived Mrs Barnwell, a fine woman, with two girls. The four, and the two Thompson girls, were great chums.
In August, 1903, the National Encampment of the G A R [Grand Army of the Republic] met in San Francisco. The girls and I decided to make the trip, visit my niece and family and see the sights. The girls were delighted. After visiting all the principal places in ‘Frisco, we want to Los Angeles, then to Catalina Island, all new to us and fascinating. We came home by way of Salt Lake City. The girls enjoyed Salt Lake. In was my second trip. At this time the lake was very low and we had to go a long way from the Salt Air building to find water deep enough for a swim. Salt Lake is a wonderful city and is famous for the lake and Mormon temple. We arrived home without mishap or disappointment.
My wheat crop was very good in 1903 and 1904, but the price was very low, about 45 cents per bushel. The insurance business was good, the girls were satisfied and we had many things to be thankful for. In June, 1904 the girls and I bought tickets to the World’s Fair at St Louis.
We first visited Grand Chain, Illinois, my old home, then I took the girls to their mother’s old home near Dixon Springs where their mother and I were married. The double log house of their grandfather, J P Anderson, was standing, and that, and other landmarks were of interest to my daughters. We also visited all the Copland families, living in Vienna, Metropolis and Massac counties, -- near relatives of my first wife, Melissa. Their old stepmother, dear old Aunt Caroline, treated me as a son and the girls as her own grand children. I have always held the Copland family in high esteem. My brother Warren, his wife and daughter, Maggie Allen were at Grand Chain from Jacksonville, Florida and together with James and his wife we all went to the Fair at St Louis.
There we had a nephew who kept a rooming a boarding house. We all roomed at his place. I also had a sister in law, Laura Hood, formerly Anderson, the girls’ aunt from Texas. We surely formed a congenial party. All were well.
It was a great Fair, with fine buildings and exhibits, laid out in the hill and wooded lands near St Louis. I enjoyed the stay equally with the girls. We returned home well pleased with the $200 spent on our visit. In May, 1905, I attended a meeting with the Knights Templar Commandery at Leavenworth. It was a pleasant meeting, quite a delegation from Beloit. We visited the Soldiers’ Home.
During these years I had been keeping up the lawn, doing the mowing at the stone house. Also, my office work was not neglected. I would write up my books in advance for 30 days or more. In September, 1905 I attended another G A R reunion at Denver, Colorado. I always enjoyed these reunions and was to be found marching in the columns.
My daughter Elsie had married Ray McClelland and they were living in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In July, 1906, I bought tickets for Maude and Mary and they went to visit Elsie. They had a good visit, with no one along to dictate to them. In August, 1904, A M Neumann painted the stone house and cleaned it up generally. I was quite proud of the big house quite a few years, but it was expensive. It cost me at the time $5 per month while now I am paying $1 to $2 per month for lights.
During the remainder of 1906 and the spring of 1907 everything went on in about the old way. In September 1907 Maude was married to Ralph E Boyles. They went east and settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Ralph was taking a course in electrical engineering. Ralph has made good and they now live in Montreal, Canada,-having been there for many years. They have two children living, -Betty and Howard. Maude’s marriage left only Mary and myself. Mary concluded she wanted to attend Oberlin College. She was there one or two years, then went to Pittsburg to the Margaret Morrison School for Girls [School for Women], and stayed, during the term, with her sister Elsie until her graduation.
Left alone, I occupied the big house by myself for one year, and boarded part of the time with Mrs T H McCall, Mrs Smith, and Mrs Anderson. All were good to me, but my own house was looking a fright. It was wonderful howmuch [sic] dirt one house can gather. I kept the dirt pretty well swept from the baseboards, but the carpets, being heavy, held the dust. I looked around to sell. Clarence and Charlotte thought they would like the house so they bought it and still own it. They remodeled, putting in a good hot water heating plant and made everything much more comfortable. I roomed with them one year.
I had written some life insurance for several years. In the spring of 1905 I took the agency for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I did a good business for several years, wrote more than $100,000 of insurance. I was quite active for several years but finally slacked up and only write a few policies at this time. One January 5, 1909, I arranged my business and made a visit south. I had looked forward for many years to revisiting the Battlefield of Guntown or Brice Cross Roads. So I carefully planned my trip, even to the hotel at Ripley, Miss and Andersonville prison. I went to Kansas City, thence over the Kansas City, Frisco and Birmingham RR through Memphis, Tenn. At Birmingham I had my ticket looked over. Southeast of Memphis I stopped off at New Albany, Miss taking another train running north to Corinth, Miss. In 18 miles I had reached Ripley, Miss. I had previously written the postmaster at Ripley. He was glad to see me, and referred me to a good hotel.
After supper He and his brother asked my to go with them to the house of their father, an ex-surgeon in the Confederate army. I never received a more cordial welcome than from this Confederate surgeon. After a late evening I went to the hotel, to bed, but was up early. 44 years earlier I had been through this town with the Rebels almost at my heels. I asked my friend if there were a small frame store building up the Main street. He called a darky, who said, “Yes sah, yes sah, jes up this street.” There it was, -the little old building, with the porch at the north just as it was when I rested there June 11, 1864. I told the darky I thought the porch was a little higher from the ground. He said, “Yes sah the street has been filled in.” The morning was cold, freezing with ice on the ground. I went back to my friend. I had told him I wanted a team and a man to drive me 22 miles to the battle field and then on 10 miles farther to Baldwin, Miss where I would board another train going south.
My friend called the livery man and asked who would be sent with me and was told that a Negro would go. My friend said he would not consent to my going with a darky driver, so he got a white driver for me. I told the driver I wanted to go on same main road to the battlefield I had travelled [sic] on my retreat. We drove south, crossed the creek I had waded 44 years before, then east and travelled [sic] the main road. The country was perfectly familiar as during the war I had passed over this road three times. One place, especially I remembered. It was where some boys on the out trip had gone into a private house, a double log house, with a long porch on the south. I still can see an old lady, 80 years old, with gray hair, walking up and down the porch, praying in a loud voice that our army might be overthrown and perish. Well, in less than three days after that we were the most demoralized army one could think of, all our artillery taken, wagon train destroyed, 700 or 800 killed or wounded, 1300 taken prisoners. I have always believed that “the prayer of the righteous availeth much.”
The driver with me seemed quite glum. I gave him a cigar, told him about the battle and explained my interest in revisiting the field. He told me he was a married man, that his wife was sick, and had been out driving the night before and was only receiving $1 for this trip. His humor improved. I persuaded him to drive faster. On long hills I shed my great coat and ran up hill. He had to whip to keep up. We were making good time, stopped for dinner at a country store and fed the team. I asked the merchant were he had been the night we retreated from Guntown. He said he was about 12 years old and he was sent with the horses into one of the big valleys in the hills to keep us from stealing the horses.
We hitched up the ponies as soon as they were fed. We drove fast. About 3 p m we came to the home of a Methodist minister, a large white house on the west side of the road. It was at this place, as I have mentioned before, that a body or Rebel Cavalry and artillery were crossing the road very near to me. It was here, as I have formerly written, that I fired my last three shots. A bullet passed through my hat rim and that Minister’s son told me that a Rebel artilleryman[sic] was buried at the root of this oak tree. It looked as plain as yesterday. We drove on and came to the fenced lane where one of the rebel soldiers told me that their artillery killed so many of our boys that their men rolled our dead in the ditches in order to take their artillery on.
We passed the little swamp where our wagons were destroyed, then across the bridge of Tishimingo Creek and were soon at the crossroads, where the little church and cemetery had been. While I was at the Methodist Ministers house I phone to one Bryant living three miles south of the battlefield to guide me over the fields. At the time of the battle this Bryant was a child of eight. He had been all over the field before the dead, artillery, and wagon train had been disturbed. Mr Bryant met me at the crossroads. I only asked him where the little church had stood and then told him of all my positions and how I passed through, pointing out to him the roads and paths around the cross roads church. He said, Yes, but that the roads had been changed. I told him that our brigade first went into the battle on a small open field, in a southwesterly direction from the cross roads. Yes, he agreed, That is the Porter field. The crowd had grown to 10 or 12. Bryant led us about half a mile through a strip of woods and we entered the field. At the time of the battle it was 50 or 60 rods wide, with fence and timber on the East, South, and West, extending North into another open field. At the time of my visit, the field was the same as on June 10, 1864, except the land was cleared farther on the east, our first location the day of the battle was the east side of the field, right of Regiment, at southeast corner. The fence was directly at the top of the slope on the east side. Then the ground sloped a little, both east and west, in this way I could locate to a certainty where the Rebel line was at the fences after we had fallen back to the center of the field. Co A on our right at the woods, Co I my company, nearly to the north line of Regiment, the Regiment protected from the front by a small ravine running from fence on south, down north through the center of the field, also protected by a few falling old trees and snags, but the greatest advantages was our location on lower land than the enemy, so that they were over-shooting. But I have previously written about all this and will not repeat. Everything was clear and plain as it had been in 1864. Bryant told me that he had conducted many of the boys over this field but that none had remembered as I did. He said our men were buried where they fell and that two or three years after the war they were taken up and the government had them re-buried in the national cemetery at Corinth, Mississippi, about 40 miles away.
We drove next to Baldwin, Miss, about 9 miles east of the crossroads. My driver had grown to like me. He said I was the second Northern man he had driven for, and he much preferred us to his own people,--said we were more social and liberal. We put up at the hotel. After supper, I paid my driver for an extra day, gave him a pocket full of cigars and bade him goodbye. He served me well because of my kindness to him.
After 10 o’clock I got on a train going south, got off at Tupelo and at 1 boarded a train on the K C, Frisco and Birmingham road, which I had traveled before. At Birmingham I had my ticket fixed up, and got on the Georgia Central, changing at Columbus, Georgia and took a small train going east toward Macon. I changed at a small station and took a small train leading past Andersonville prison. At the hotel in this small town I met an old gentleman, just my age, a widower. He had several small Georgia farms. He asked my many questions, said he had served in the Georgia army,-he had been wounded seven times and come through all right. He went with me to the train. He asked me if he could come down to Andersonville on the morrow and visit with me. I told him I surely would be pleased. He said he was acquainted with the woman who kept the hotel at the Andersonville station, said she was a widow. I had previously written her and when I arrived that night she gave me a hearty welcome.
I was up early Sunday morning, and looked, across a quarter of mile distance, at the prison. How I shuddered when I recalled the suffering there suring[sic] the summer of 1864 and of the many poor boys buried in the cemetery. I met my Rebel friend. We put in a full day; visiting from the star fort on the south to the three forts on the north. The lay of the land was very familiar but the stockade had been chopped off, the dead line destroyed, but marker stakes were up all the way around. I could locate my old position, also Market street and Main street. The large spring branch was running as full as ever. When I crossed the branch my eyes were upward to where the Rebel sentinel used to stand at his post atop the stockade with his gun cocked and in position to shoot if some poor boy happened to reach under the dead line for a cup of clean water. He was not there—except in memory.
The Providence spring was running as strong as when it was first given us. There was a good headquarters building, kept by ladies, where we registered. Several fine monuments had been erected by the several states as memorials to their suffering soldiers and to their dead. There is a beautiful cemetery, where the dead, nearly 14,000, brave boys are buried. It is so well arranged that any specific resting place may be located by consulting the register.
The cemetery records and burial lists were made by our own prisoners, on parole for this work. I could write much more, but I have previously written much of this prison. No one could possibly relate all the suffering that was endured there. Though I do not know that they government ever took any special recognition of their sufferings. We were allowed the paltry sum of 25 cents for commutation money , saved to the government while the Rebs made pretense of feeding us.
On Sunday night at 11 I took the train south twelve miles for Americus, Georgia, where I intersected with my regular train for Jacksonville, Florida, arriving all right. I had a brother, Warren, his family, a niece, Mrs Tom Porter and family, living there, so a fine visit was in prospect.
Henry Morrison Flagler
We visited St Augustine, the old Spanish city and fort 500 years old. We had dinner, and such a dinner as I had never sat down to,--six courses, price $1.50. It was worth it. Tom Porter, a nephew, worth half a million was with us, one of the big men of Jacksonville. He introduced me to Flagler, the noted railroad magnate of the east coast. Flagler built the luxurious hotels on the East Coast Railway. There were many sights to in this old town.
On this trip I visited with the Grand Lodge of Masons and Scottish Rite bodies in Jacksonville. I returned to Birmingham, stopping off on the way, going nine miles north to visit Marshall Anderson, a brother-in-law. I had a nice visit with him and his family then I bought a ticket going directly to Birmingham. I finally persuaded the railroad officers to give me a stop over on my ticket, so that after my visit to Vicksburg, Miss, I could return to Memphis, Tenn and connect with my regular train for home. I bought my ticket for Vicksburg, 300 miles south. I was anxious to see my old camp at Vicksburg where I had enlisted on October 9, 1863. I also spent the winter of 1863 and 64 in camp and doing picket duty on the outer fortifications. The camping place looked very familiar, notwith-standing the lapse of time. The National Park at Vicksburg is beautiful, comprising both lines of the battlefield which is situated on two separate ranges of hills from one fourth to three fourths of a mile apart. Here our boys struggled during the spring and summer, until July 4, 1863, when the Rebels were starved into surrender. The outer line of our forts was bout 9 miles long. The Rebel or inner line was about 7 miles long, all glistering with terrific guns. The guns are in position today the same as at the time of surrender. Our guns pointing to the Rebel works and to the city. Their guns pointing outward to shell our army. At the charge by General Grant to take the city by assault on May 22, 1863, my Regiment lost 110 men, killed and wounded, in 30 minutes. It was a failure, hence the siege by starvation. Many states have erected beautiful monuments. Illinois has the best. It is in the shape of a dome on high ground, 50 steps leading to the main part of the dome. Within the circle, probably about 50 feet in diameter, are placed bronze tablets, about 2-6 by 6 feet. Just room for all the names of one Regiment. There were 140 in this siege. Of these 70 were regular Illinois troops. On these tablets I read William Bartleson, 18th Illinois; Captain Robert Bartleson, 11 Illinois; Captain James and Edwin Bartleson, 81st Illinois. It is a great honor to have one’s name on these tablets. I did not enlist until after the surrender of Vicksburg.
At the upper end of these hills, at Walnut Hill, there is a large cemetery where 16,000 of our boys were buried, nearly all the graves marked Unknown.
Vicksburg is located on the bluffs and at the beginning of an attempt to take the city our gunboats and many transports ran the blockade past the city. They received a tremendous raking fire from the high batteries. A number of our boats were sunk and the attempt was repeated. At this time the Mississippi river made a wide bend and curve above the city, flowing around a great bend and neck of land, and then further up receiving the waters of the White river. Since the war, at the time of my visit, the waters had been cut through this neck of land leaving Vicksburg without direct water connection, but the state government had cut a canal bring down White River so that the city had good connections to the river and a way to New Orleans, La.
My visit at an end, my desire satisfied, I bought a ticket for Memphis, catching a regular train for home. I have told of this in considerable detail but have omitted much which I hope never to forget. It was a wonderful trip, recalling history that had been made many years before.
I was fortunate, when I returned home to find that all way well. After I had been home for a few days I was out clerking sales for the bank. The weather seemed very cold after being in the South for over a month. I caught a fearful cold. I thought I could break it with lemons, but eighteen lemons failed to do the work. One morning I could not get up, probably had hardening of the liver. Dr. O’Brien came over. I was then with Clarence in the stone house. He gave me 24 doses of calomel. I was soon up. This was the first and only time I have called a doctor in my almost 58 years in Kansas.
On October 6, 1909, there was a convention in Pittsburg, PA, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Christian churches in America. Elsie and Mary were both in Pittsburg, so I attended the convention, together with my brother James from Illinois. I had a good visit and enjoyed that lectures at Carnegie Hall;--came home glad that I had gone.
Some of the real estate boys here had been down to Old Mexico and invested in land. A real estate man not living here wanted me to go with him on an excursion being formed in Kansas City. I told him if he would permit me to go along for my sociability, without obligation to buy, I would buy one of his excursion tickets. They were very cheap. He agreed.
I had longed to visit the battle field where my father was killed in the Battle of Buena Vista, February 22, 1847. I left Beloit December 7, 1909 when the mercury was 7 degrees below zero. I met the train at Wichita, with light baggage. We were on the R I RR going south through Oklahoma, through Texas, San Antonio to Loredo, crossed over the river in Mexico, on to Saltillo, Mexico, only a few miles from the Buena Vista battlefield on the Saltillo river. I had understood the road ran through the battlefield, but before I was aware of it, we had passed over the ground. I was disappointed, but had another chance on my return.
We crossed the Equator line [likely reference to Tropic of Cancer], through a desolate cactus country, and many small places. San Louis Potosi was larger. On to Old Mexico, where we stopped for a few days. I was very fortunate. I had written my friend, the adjutant of my old regiment, the 81st Illinois. He met me at the train. He had been there in business for 15 years and could speak the language. He could not do too much for me. We visited Chapultepec, the summer home of President Diaz. In the afternoon we visited the great Guadalupe church located two and one half miles from Mexico City. This was on December 12, the great feast day for the Indian-Mexican population. They have a tradition that about 400 or 500 years ago a sheep herder, crossing this rocky prominence of six or seven acres was met by a Virgin Angel and was instructed by her to have the Bishop of his church build a cathedral on the rocky summit. He gave the message, but the Bishop said he wanted proof that the church should be built. So the next night the herder again met the Virgin. The Virgin ordered the herder to spread his blanket on the ground and fill it with flowers. The flowers spread and immediately covered the ground. He filled the blanket with flowers and carried them to the Bishop. A perfect picture remained on the blanked and the Bishop was convinced. The picture on the blanket was hung in the cathedral, before the eyes of believers and non-believers.
Also within the enclosure, beside the great church, a spring of healing water burst through the rocky hill. A great struggle was in progress for this water. I passed through this throng by the well and through the church. I have never seen so many, struggling and worshiping. In the crowd, I suffered the loss of my watch and chain. It was worth it, but if I had not become so warm and kept my coat buttoned I would not have lost my watch. There must have been 15,000 or more people camped on the ground.
I had a great day with Captain J J Fitzgerrell. He continued there through the Rebellion. His wife died, he lost all he had, came back to the United States and made his home at a soldiers’ home in California until his death. We left the city for the south, going into the tropical section of Mexico, a fertile land.
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We went on down south almost to the Pacific ocean. Our train side-tracked there. I was glad. I had to sleep with another man on my down which was not comfortable. We were then furnished with ponies and started for the woods. We spent the first night at an English company’s rubber plantation. The land was cleared of underbrush and trees. Rubber trees were planted about 15 feet apart. These trees were probably four or five years old and were about 5 inches in diameter. They must be 10 to 12 years old before they can be tapped for rubber milk, then a round chisel or cutter is drawn down the body of the trees, cutting half through the bark and the milk flows down the trench into vessels from which it is carried to camp and poured into a large vat.
Then morning glory vine pulp is put into the vat with the rubber milk, which curdles the whole and the rubber is lifted off. It is run through vinegar, all the water is worked out and you have a sheet or rubber.
Well, we proceeded next through a virgin timber where vines were so thick you could not pass through until a path was cut. Vines from the thickness of a knitting needle to six inches were hanging from trees and connected with the ground. It rains a great deal in that region, only the hard wood, like mahogany, has tap roots. This timber is both plentiful and beautiful. Most of the timber is soft wood, roots of the trees running on top of the ground for a distance of 20 to 30 feet. Very easy to upset with wind as the ground is very damp and sandy. Trees blown down begin to rot quickly,--one could see young trees three or four inches in thickness growing out of the fallen trunks of other trees. The rubber tree was the most peculiar,--said to have started from vines clinging to one of these soft wood trees, roots of vines taking hold in the ground, some of the bottom tree section 15 or 20 feet apart, opening all through the bottom, continuing like this for a height of 15 to 30 feet, then forming one solid body, three or four feet in diameter, light colored wood, same as color of other vines and a small round leaf, identical with the vine leaf. It was a wonderful tree.
I wish I had pictures of these trees. Well, here, at a beautiful stream, we had our land sale and lunch. I was busy cutting a souvenir cane, which later I gave to Chan Perdue for his collection. There was much wild fruit growing in this country. The coffee plantations were interesting and so was the coffee bush. The last must be cleared of underbrush, some large trees left standing to break the force of heat and sunshine. The coffee plants or bushes are planted six or eight apart and seemed to be topped at about 5 or 6 feet, trimmed up and the bearing limbs run straight out from the body, one opposite another, and so on. There were the sweetest oranges I ever tasted, bananas and many other kinds of fruit, but little land was in cultivation.
If civilization were decent there and transportation reasonable, fortunes could be made in that country. We returned after two days ride. I was terribly sore, not having ridden horseback for twenty years. I was hungry when I reached the train, ate a very hearty supper of pork and cabbage. I looked forward to a great night’s sleep; my bunkmate had decided he would not return so soon, so I was alone in the berth. The weather was quite warm. I went to bed, put my feet where they would be cool raised the window and went to sleep. I awoke the next morning with the heaviest cold I have ever had. It could not have been worse. We traveled north all night and I slept soundly. We returned to Mexico City and Colonel Diaz, the president’s [s]on, had plans to entertain us at his hacienda.
He was putting in a fine water system and planting trees, installing great irrigation ditches, in the suburbs of the city. I had another good visit with Col. Fitzgerrel. We returned from our trip, all bringing souvenirs. I was looking forward to seeing the battle field of Buena Vista from the train. We were late and it was dark when we passed through. I could not be balked this way. I told the boys on the train I would stop at of[f] at Saltillo. So I got off and went to the Chihuahua Hotel. The next morning I secured an interpreter, hired a horse and buggy. Across hills it was only about seven miles to the Buena Vista adobe ranch, a lot of adobe brick and sod buildings, not of great interest except their age and the fact that a few soldiers were buried there.
Two miles further one we came to the real battle field, lying on either side of the Saltillo River, a small stream and valley. At this particular point the high hills or mountains came within a half or three-fourths mile of each other making the valley narrow. Another very peculiar formation is this valley land between these two projections of the hills toward the valley. The valley is all cut up in ditches, two, four, or ten feet deep, zig-zagged and crossed, for some distance up the valley from these two hills nothing like this appeared either further up or down. This was an ideal spot for the defense and General Taylor had known this, or else how could he have met General Santa Anna with his 20,000 well trained troops while General Taylor had only 4,500 untrained volunteers?
General Taylor placed his artillery on each of these projecting hills, protected with some infantry. Most of his infantry he placed in the valley at the entrance of the ditches I have mentioned. Our soldiers fought hard, hand to hand in these ditches all day; at night they rested expecting the battle to be renewed on the morning of February 23. During the night Santa Anna withdrew his whole army. This action gave General Taylor the Presidency, after peace was concluded.
New, in the morning of February 22, my father and two brothers with three companies of the 2nd Illinois Infantry, were ordered up one of the gulches between two of these high hills or mountains. That would be to the left of our army. The hills were steep and a deep gulch runs down toward the river. They had penetrated quite a distance into the hills when they were met by a large body of mounted Lanciers whom Santa Anna had sent out to protect his right-of-land. Our commanding officer ordered a retreat, which was all wrong as it demoralized the three companies and resulted in a riot. The Lanciers, being on ponies, killed many of our boys. All the officers of the company were killed. Father, a Lieutenant, trying to protect the others, was overtaken and killed. While we were on the battle field I had my interpreter ask two Mexican women if there were any bullets or cannon balls on the field. The shook their heads, No, but said there were some bones up the valley a little way. I asked them to show me where. They shook their heads. I gave them some silver. They went readily.
Only a short distance up one of these gulches was a bushel of human bones and bits of cloth which had been uncovered by a varmint after they had been buried for 64 years. The country is dry and rain seldom falls in this valley. Usually it is smooth as a floor, with 64 years of wind to obliterate any trench, but the winter before my visit a great flood had swept down the valley, the water poured off the hills and ran down the gulches in torrents. The gulch in the center of this smooth land had a wash out to the rocks eight to ten feed wide and three feet deep into the blue pebbles. Now near the end of this wash was the place where the varmint had uncovered the bones. I truly believe I stood right by the place where my father was buried. Brother Gus had attended the burial and described the lay of the land. The place where I found the human bones corresponded to his description.
It was very fortunate that I stopped off in Saltillo. The information that I gained I will treasure always. It may seem tiresome to my readers. I stopped off and visited some interesting places at San Antonio.
I visited my sister-in-law. Jane Clymore, on my home. I also visited relatives at Wichita, Kansas. I look on this outing as one of most interesting visits of my experience, in the satisfaction and knowledge gained.
On April 7, 1910, the national meeting of the Shrine was at New Orleans, La. William Kettler, an old friend, and I went on this excursion. We met the headquarters train at Kansas City, well loaded with Shriners and a full commissary department. We had all kinds of pleasurerson [sic] on the way, arriving at New Orleans without mishap. William and I secured good rooms, close in, ready to participate in all the festivities. The city was wide open for the Shriners who always are a lively bunch. Many ladies were with us for this excursion. The New Orleans people favored us with a reproduction of their Mardi Gras,-February festivities, and all in real form and parade. It was grand beyond my powers of description. All the New Orleans residents, as well as the Shriners, were out for fun and frolic. It is a great city for entertainment. I secured a lady partner and attended the Grand Ball. I did not join in the dance, though my partner did. I never had seen so many beautiful women together as at this time. I was unmarried and enjoyed all these gatherings, and my partner, a lady from the south of the state, entered into all the pleasure of the day.
New Orleans is a city in a class by itself, only to be visited to be loved. Many things of interest are to be found there, -an old French city, old buildings, a made city filled in to raise the land above the waters of the great Mississippi which flows by to the Gulf of Mexico. I had been in the city once previously, in April, 1965, during the Civil War, marching through to Lake Ponchetrain.
Everything had wonderfully changed. The great wide Canal Street had been changed. Mr Kettler and I stopped off at Vicksburg, Mississippi, where I wanted to show him the place of my first soldiering in 1863. We went through the National Park cemetery grounds. –I have written of them previously. Mr Kettler enjoyed the trip fully as much as I did. We returned home to find all well and I soon caught up with my work.
About this time land was selling well and I disposed of several farms and made other investments. I had remained unmarried for over years, never expected to marry again, did not keep private company with any of the good ladies. In May, one evening, on my way down Lincoln avenue, Mr W C Cochran met me at his home and said the family was going to walk up to Perdue corner to look at a great comet (Haley’s) plainly visible in the west, and asked me to accompany them. I did so, Mr and Mrs Cochran and Ida, a young strip of a girl, about 42 years old. Mr and Mrs Cochran took one side of the street and Ida and I walked on the other side. I had known this girl for thirty years, meeting her in church, at meetings of the O E S Chapter and in her place of business, as she was at this time bookkeeper at Mr Dilworth’s telephone exchange. Well, before my walking to Perdue’s and back to Lincoln avenue, a distance of one block, a great change had come over me. I went down the street thinking what would be the result if I should ask her to take a buggy ride with me, and she should accept. Well, I reflected, she is a good girl, but h-o-w the people would talk. I was nearly 64 years old and pretty timid. I supposed I should keep her company for awhile, what about results?
I thought I knew my own disposition pretty well and I was anticipating the future. I said, She is a good girl, every one likes her. Is she a little too young? She had no property, which was in her favor. Before I reached home I asked myself if it was worth while and could I win her? I was a lover of married life and today believe it would be best for the country and for people it they were all happily paired off. On the next Friday evening we met at the O E S chapter, had a little supper. I asked her if she would accompany me to the lunch, she accepted, Dr Spain spoke up and said she was going with him. I excused myself, found another partner, and seated myself opposite her, directing most of my conversation to her. Ida was very unsuspicious of my designs, but I thought I had made some progress. The next day, Saturday, I went up to her office, and asked her to go riding with me on Sunday. She was much astonished but could think of no reason to refuse.
Sunday I hired a gentle team and we went driving. It was hard on the team and I had a hard time to keep up the conversation,--was somewhat out of practice. Ida saw my embarrassment and came grandly to my assistance. The day came to a close. I thought I had made progress toward what was on my mind.
There was more talk than I had expected but I faced it and kept my own counsel. We went driving the next Sunday. Ida became suspicious and began to make inquiries of her friends. They were sympathetic and advised her to let things go on for a while and abide by the consequences. So one morning when I greeted her in the office I gave her a smacking kiss. She nearly fainted, but soon recovered. We went on at this rate and it was not long before all was noised abroad. It was just as well. My children were all grown. I was free and felt as young as I do today at 84.
In July, 1910, I made another visit to my old home at Grand Chain, Illinois. My brother Gus, now 83, had moved with all his family to Muskogee, Oklahoma, having been preceded by part of his family. I met my brother Warren from Florida and we had a splendid visit. Warren was ten years my senior. We decided to cut short our visit at the old home and together visit our brother Gus at Muskogee. They were glad to see us. We surprised them. It was a grant visit. Then each returned to his home.
By this time Ida and I were engaged to be married in October, 1910. I had a busy summer. I decided as I was again to be married, I would divide with my children some of the property their good mother had helped me to earn. I already had given each of my children considerable at one time and another. I made each of my children a Warranty Deed to one quarter section of land, good farms, 1120 acres. This reduced my land interests, which what I had already sold, to 480 acres. I am happy to say that the threegirls [sic] still own their farms and have received rents from the same for twenty years.
I bought a home at the corner of Fifth and Mill streets, from the former owners, Mr and Mrs Terry. I put in electric lights, papered and painted throughout and we were married October 5, 1910. We left on the night train for Kansas City and our wedding trip as planned, over the M K & T from Kansas City to Muskogee, Oklahoma, through Austin and other cities of Texas, to Galveston. We enjoyed the sights of Galveston. The sea wall on the gulf is one of the great achievements of our government, having been erected after great devastation and lost of life from a tidal wave.
We returned to Houston, Texas and from thence east 400 miles through the great cane fields of Louisiana to New Orleans. It was my third visit to the city and I was well enough acquainted to enjoy it thoroughly. We had rooms at the famous Saint Charles Hotel for nearly a week. The sights were many, and Ida, with her appreciative disposition, wanted to see everything and to stock up on souvenirs. Being newly wed, I indulged her in many of her wishes. The old hotels, French market, slave sales room as it was before the war, Jackson’s monument, the old cemetery with the dead buried above ground, Lake Ponchetrain, old live oaks, old dueling ground, and many other odd sights abound in New Orleans. If you have never visited New Orleans, be sure to do so.
On leaving New Orleans we took a Mississippi steamer up the river to Vicksburg, Mississippi. We were on the steamer nearly four days. It was combination passenger and freight vessel with about 40 passengers and all very congenial. We were fed five times a day, with coffee and lunch between meals and if you have never tasted their Southern coffee, you should do so. Our boat was pleasant and it was amusing, at the different landings, to see the roustaboats working and singing when the work was done. I never had amore pleasant trip. It was the boat trip Ida had experienced.
We reached Vicksburg, where my former service and visits had made the sights familiar. We were all through the National Park with a hack driver who knew his business, coming to the river at Walnut Hills where the cemetery is located. We visited the old court house, which was built before the war and which shows marks from our guns. It stands on a high hill overlooking the city. Here we sat and watched a beautiful sunset from the height. Ida was well satisfied and we had good hotel accommodations. We journeyed on by train to Memphis, on through the delta country of Mississippi, where nearly all the population is Negroes, with cotton the principal crop. We stopped at Memphis.
It is located on high land, used to be known before the war as the third Chickasaw Bluffs. There is but little high land between Cairo, Illinois, to New Orleans. The first high land above New Orleans is Natchez, Louisiana. Memphis is a sightly place. It has many beautiful parks. From Memphis we came north to Kansas City, Mo. We had letters to furniture, carpet and electrical concerns and made our selections of furniture, carpets, rugs and electrical fixtures. Before leaving Beloit I had everything complete, except some graining on the floors, which A M Newman completed while we were away. My old furniture was moved in and the house was thoroughly cleaned. Our new furniture was shipped at once. We came home, put in a range, linoleum on the kitchen floor, bought a kitchen cabinet and at once we were living at home, well pleased with our trip and purchases at Kansas City. We have lived her now nearly twenty years, too well known by our friends and critics to make comment.
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