October 13, 1904
MY WESTERN TRIP.
BY J. FRANK LOYD.
ED. PRESS: Attending a Baptist meeting in one of the Southern States the last Sunday in June the minister made this statement: "The human mind is all astir; the northern people are coming south; the southern people going north; the western people going east; the eastern people going west. The single people are wanting to get married; the married are wanting divorces."
While this is a true saying, it is often a wise movement. We often hear the old saying, "a rolling stone gathers no moss." We might answer by saying a setting hen never gets fat. It is a poor rule that will not work both ways. If it had not been for this astir movement of our forefathers we would not today be enjoying the grandest country on the face of the globe.
When Horace Greeley said, "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country," well could he have said, go west fathers and get land for your sons?
Now I do not mean to advise any one who owns a farm to sell it and move to another state, but those who have children without land to give them to work. They are the ones who should give this subject due consideration.
Now as there have been so many requesting me to tell them about the states I have been travelling [sic] in the past summer, and where would be the best place to go, etc. Now in the beginning I want it distinctly understood that I do not want to mislead any one, nor shall I advise any one to sell out and go to another state without first going to look and work out the problem to his own satisfaction. I think it is very wrong, (yet I have often known it to be the case) for any one to go to another state and then come back and tell all the advantages it has, at the same time holding back the disadvantages. This is calculated to mislead their friends, cause them to sell their farms and move and on their arrival they will probably find the good things as represented yet they will find enough bad things to overcome the good; thus they find themselves disappointed. The result is they have an ill feeling toward the person they can never overcome.
Now the first question I shall take pleasure in answering; the second you must work out for yourself; for what will suit one may not suit another. Now I have at different times been in about one half of the States in Uncle Sam's domain, and I have never been in a State yet but what I found good and bad land.
I left Marion on the 12th day of last June for a three thousand mile trip. As I was going to look for land I took my bicycle to aid me in the trip, as it would better enable me to see the country and travel where there were no railroads. Going to Nashville, Tenn. to attend the Southern Confederate reunion, I stayed there until after the parade Thursday evening; near the middle of the evening I mounted my wheel, and at dark was at the hotel at Murfreesborough [sic], a distance of nearly forty miles. Leaving Murfreesboro next morning feeling fresh, I took a southeast course and had good roads to travel on until I came to the Cumberland mountains in Southern Tennessee. Making my way to the railroad running from Nashville to Chattanooga I found what they call the footmans' path, a nice road about two feet wide on the outside of the track. It being smooth enough for my wheel I made my way on my wheel to Chattanooga. I found it a little dangerous in places the mountains being so steep, and had I let my wheel run off we would have had an unpleasant roll.
Reaching Chattanooga and being a little tired I took the train going down into Georgia, returning to Chattanooga I decided to go over the Lookout mountains, then west over the Cumberland mountains to Huntsville, Alabama.
Now I wish to say but few persons nowadays will undertake such a route as this one just for curiosity; but having plenty of time, I determined to learn something about mountain life. Having a pocket compass I took a western course through the woods, not a path to follow, pushing my wheel by my side, often having it to carry up or down a mountain, often going a long distance before seeing one of those little mountain cabins by the side of a mountain, where you will see a beautiful stream of water, belching forth from the bowels of the mountain so clear, so pure one taking a draught of it makes him feel that if he could have that kind of water to drink all the time he would soon feel like he was back in his eens [teens?].
Having supplied myself with food before leaving Chattanooga, expecting nothing else than having to spend a night or two in the mountains with leaves for my bed and a rock for my pillow, I prepared for the worst. I shall never forget the first evening's beautiful scene as I was sitting on the top of one of the loftiest mountains, looking into Alabama. The clouds had been lowering with their summer showers in the south, the sun stood yet on his declining course behind the fleecy clouds, but occasionally broke forth again thro' the opening vistas of their dark layers as if to assure me that life, even the most shaded, has its smiles as well as its tears. The mild air at this hour touched the cheek as lightly as the head of lady on the down of velvet, and since the loud peals of thunder, which had rolled far off over the land of Dixie, the clouds had parted, and now here and there the distance beyond them was seen in its deepness and beauty. I sat there in delighted contemplation of the beautiful scene before me. While sitting there I wondered if Jim H-- would retrace his route back east to the depot and take the iron horse back to Kentucky, or set as firm a resolution to continue his route as I had done; but nothing to me could more calmly soothe the heart, no matter what may have been its murmurings of sadness and of joy in retracing the past or in sorrowful or happy anticipations for the future. There are some scenes which we love to treasure among the fadeless things in the arcana of our choicest memories, to which we recur when things around become insipid. I felt assured that the scene before me was one of these. I find myself daily more and more susceptible to the influences of beautiful nature, while she often communes with me as one who had sympathies kindred to my own. Nature never upbraids the confiding heart; she never looks with cold suspicion; she has about her nothing that is mean, or low, or unrefined, but hers is an open brow, a warm and pure and noble heart and she has thoughts holier than earth elsewhere knows which she will give with generous and cordial liberality to that spirit which lets the eye rest upon her mellowed beauties; with a melting and gushing heart commend me then to her loveliness when the heart feels alone in its deep and young desolation. Yet at times a sad thought would dash over my mind when I would cast my eyes toward the east and look on the South slope of Lookout mountain, where the high monuments stand to mark the spot where, in the bloody days of the sixties the brave hearts dressed in blue and grey fell to rise no more. But I would soon erase this from my mind and look South toward beautiful Dixie.
I fixed this lovely picture of the Dixie land in my mind. I dwelled upon it with increased emotion and delight. And thus I spent my time until the sun had sunk low in the Western horizon; I felt as though my mind was tired and being sleepy enough to have sweet dreams to be occasionally disturbed by the keen cry of the wildcat the barking of the wolf or scream of the screech owl.
Next morning, after partaking of a well relished breakfast, I started out for another day of mountain life; over the mountains, across the ravine through the jungles, after miles across I made my western course; now and then taking a refreshing drink from my leaf cup from the gurgling streams flowing from out the mountainside, now and then coming to a mountain house occupied by mountain peasants, who I found to be very hospitable; with no churches, no schools I found them to be very illiterate. Old men had never seen a train or boat, and mine was the first bicycle they had ever seen, and as I had no place to ride it it was hard to convince them that I could ride a machine having only two wheels. After four days walking, I reached roads; then I made good time, going through Huntsville on west, until one day about noon it seemed that God had forgotten his promise to Noah that he would never destroy the world again with water.
I was now forced to take the iron horse again westward, to the Yazoo valley in Mississippi, and there you will find one of the richest countries in America, but it is too sickly for the Caucasian race. Crossing the Mississippi river at Helena I went to Roe, Ark., here I met our old friend and fellow townsman, John Clark. John is hail and hearty, and says he is now in the land of the living. He is not like the crowd seen by the fellow in his dream, after entering the pearly gates of heaven he was meeting the happiest crowd of people he had ever met, but presently he noticed several chained down and confined; he asked his interpreter what that meant; he was told that those persons chained down were from Kentucky and if they were turned loose every one of them would go home in spite of the devil.
Now about Arkansaw [sic], more inquired of me about that State than any other one, and I will say that it is a good place to go; but beware of the swamps, as a great deal of Arkansas is like Southeastern Missouri, it is swampy and full of malaria, but I consider the vicinity of Roe, and most of Monroe and Prairie counties, as healthier that in Crittenden county, Ky. In fact Roe, Arkansas is noted for curing catarrh and rheumatism. I found this out by talking to the doctors and a number of persons who have gone there and have been cured of these two diseases. The winters are short and mild, the summer days are warm but the nights are cool and pleasant, on account of the prairie breeze blowing all night. The land is cheap, considering the fertility of the soil, but going up in price and now is the time to buy, or at least I thought so strong enough to risk buying one section of land near Roe.
After staying there one week I started west again, going through Arkansas into the Indian Territory. I found the Territory land fertile but a dangerous place to buy land, as the titles are very uncertain.
Eastern Texas is a good farming country but the land is high in price; in Western Texas the land is cheap and climate uncertain.
Making my way through to Poncha [Ponca] City, O. T., I stayed there a few days but found land entirely too high. I saw a half section when I was there five years ago the owners offered to me for $5,500, which is now held at $16,000. Seeing I did not need any Oklahoma land I started north, going through Wichita, Kansas to Salina, then going west to Sheridan county, Kansas, where I found our Crittenden county farmers, Martin Asbridge, Sherman Woodall, Dave Allen, Dollar Morse, Hayes Morse, the Holston brothers, Tom Carter, Bud Brantley and others. I found them all well satisfied and like John Clark, they were in the land where milk and honey flows.
No prouder people can be found than the Kansas farmers. For the last few years they have had favorable seasons and their crops have been abundant. If one man can raise from 250 to 300 acres of wheat and from 100 to 125 acres of corn, yielding much more per acre than our land, then why should they not be proud? You ask why can they cultivate more land in [?] than the farmers can in the prairies of Missouri, Indiana or Illinois. The answer is this: experience has taught the Western Kansas farmer to break his ground only every third year; breaking every year makes the ground too loose, and as grass and weeds do not bother them as much as in other countries they find every third year breaking the most successful; so a farmer arranges to break one third of his ground each year, and by having plenty of teams and using large farm machinery is why he can cultivate such large crops.
Now some of the worst objections are, when you go to build a frame building you will dream of several wars going on before you got through paying for your material. Fuel is also high; coal is [?] to 30 cents a bushel. A sod house is the best house to build. You can get them plastered and papered nicely inside all complete for [?] a room. They are warm in winter and cold in summer.
Taking everything into consideration, I believe Sheridan county, Kansas, is a splendid place to invest money in land.
I mounted my wheel again, running through Sheridan, Thomas, and Sherman counties, into Colorado. I found eastern Colorado an unsafe farming country and I wheeled back to Sheridan county, Kansas, and bought 320 acres of nice, level land. Then continuing my journey east to Kansas City, and then to the World's Fair at St. Louis.
Now I wish to say I was not as unfortunate as the Arkansaw [sic] wealthy farmer, who took his family to St. Louis to attend the World's Fair he had heard so much about. After taking his family to a certain Park in St. Louis four days, thinking he was attending the (Fair), he started home happy over the great sights they had seen and knew no better until talking to a gentleman on the train, who informed he had only been attending a Park.
For fear my letter will be too long, I will close, with best wishes for all.
Source: Crittenden Press. (Marion, Ky.) 1879-1907, October 13, 1904, Images 2,7 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.
[My comments are in brackets.]