by Mary Goe Hankins, 1871
[Note from Lynn R. Pipher: Mary Hankins is a cousin of a cousin of mine. The homestead that her husband and she owned still has a farmhouse on it. It is about a mile east and a mile south of Burden, Cowley County, KS. The Jackson boys she mentions are my great-grandfather and his brothers, George and Bill. My great-grandfather owned 320 acres about a 1-1/2 miles south of 160 (between Burden and Cambridge, KS) on the Grouse Creek Road. Many of these homesteads are locatable on an 1895 Cowley County map available at the Land Rush Museum in Arkansas City, Kansas. A few still have houses, although no log cabins that I know of still exist. This letter was given to me by my cousin, Joan Cole. Joan is a cousin of Gordon Maurer. Gordonıs grandmother was Mary Goe Hankins, the author of these notes.]
Daniel and Mary F. Hankins and baby Ernest, left Rayville [Missouri], April 6, 1871 in a covered wagon, with a four horse team and provisions to last six months, bound for Kansas [Dan, age 27 and Mary, age 25]. Camped first night near Liberty, Mo. and the second night this side of Kansas City near Olathe, Kansas on Hickory Creek. Took Santa Fe Trail at West Port. Was very cold, rained and snowed. Daniel chopped down tree for their camp fire and the farmer charged him a dollar for it. Mary and baby slept at house of farmer and nearly froze, while Daniel and Ben Goe slept warm and cozy in the tent. Ben Goe, Mary's brother, came with them riding his horse, Pass and drove the stock (5 cows and calves) and had feed for stock in wagon. One night, all the cattle stampeded and got away. Cows went in one direction and horses in another. Mary and baby sat alone in wagon from daylight until about nine oıclock. They were out on the prairie, no one was near. Men tracked cattle and horses by the track in the dew. Mary was afraid near Burlington, the river was up and the bridges were condemned. Daniel rode horse across creek to see if he could ford it. Just could get across but water ran in wagon and cattle swam across. Still raining, they drove on without finding a place to dry things until they got to north Otter, west of Eureka. They took out the wet things and dried them all night and all day and next night.
Drove on to Elk River - west side, Bascom ford. Here they met Levi Bullington, who came to their campfire and fried his bacon. Next morning climbed Flint Hills - would drive a little way and scotch, and drive on and same thing over and let horses rest. When we got to top of Flint Hills, Ben said a colt had not followed. He asked for a gun and went back for his colt which wouldn't follow, worked all day and finally tried to lead it and got along all right. Dan told Mary to drive on, while he got on a mule and drove cattle. Tied other mule to the back of wagon. Drove slowly yet Ben didn't come, and evening came and he wasn't there, and morning too. Drove on to Grouse Creek and camped and noon came and no Ben. So Dan got on a mule and started back to hunt for him. It was about the middle of afternoon before they got back. Ben had stayed with a camper all night and next morning went back for colt and a girl helped him put a rope round its neck so he could lead him. Did not know he was broke to lead.
We arrived on Grouse Creek on April 18, 1871, and camped near bridge on Grouse Creek near where Shelt Morris lived. Stayed there 2 days, and bought an 80 acre claim from Tom Rucker near the Jackson boys, 40 acres east and 40 acres west of Grouse Creek. The claim cost $400 and was paid in cash and three horses. We had $600 when we left Missouri. Farm was located south of Torrance, near old Dempsey Elliot farm. Dan later sold D. Elliot 40 acres for $400 and Grouse Creek ran through farm. Dan bought 160 acres school land located 2-1/2 miles S.E. of Burden, from Gov. Paid $4 an acre.
Rucker had a clap board house big enough for bed and trunk. Dan pitched tent in front of house and stored things there. We slept and cooked at Will Slater's for 2 weeks until the cabin was finished. During the two weeks they had built a log cabin, 18 x 13, one door and sawed out hole for window. No door, shutters or windows, dirt floor. It was about a block away. When they built the house - it was first built over the cellar. Had to haul lumber from Independence, Kansas. Cut walnut and oak trees from own timber and took to saw mill on Grouse Creek, owned and operated by Dad French, near Dexter. He sawed all the sills, joists and rough lumber for the house. Mr. Gillette made the shingles from walnut trees. Portable sawmill was moved where ever people would want timber sawed. We lived in the cabin for months on a dirt floor. Borrowed heating stove from Geo. Yardenshire (he had a fireplace). Cooked on this when weather was bad, otherwise cooked on campfire out doors. Rucker and Ben had sold their horses, and then took a team to Thayer and worked on the railroad. When Ben came home he brought a cook stove. Dan had boards sawed for the floor, but couldn't get lumber for floor because the creek was up. When they did go, their lumber had been sold. So they had to wait for Dad French to saw more (near Dexter). On July 3rd they went and got lumber and on 4th laid the floor and put up new cook stove. Mary cooked 4th of July supper on new stove and floor.
Mary was scared to death the second night in their cabin. She was all alone with baby with no doors or windows on the cabin. The coyotes and blue cranes sounded so close. Dan and Ben were up at Jackson's where Dan had gone to buy cornmeal. They couldnıt change a $10 bill and instead of one coming home (they helped raise the log house at Jackson's) and both waited while some one went to Squire Ballou's for change. Mary was so frightened and mad she cried. A man traveling through, selling cornmeal stopped there and Dan came home with money to get meal.
Mary had no chickens and they were scarce too. Mrs. Slated and Mary waded Grouse Creek and went to Goochie French and bought 2 dozen eggs. Mrs. Slater put them under two of her hens and watched them until they hatched. Then loaned Mary the hens. Raised most of them. Returned Mrs. Slater's hens when chickens were raised.
Stayed 6 months, then went back to MO and stayed for two years. Ate all the chickens we could, sold the balance, when ready to go back to MO at end of 6 mo., Oct. 1871. Left cattle with Rucker and Slater for 1/2 increased value for 3 years. Had enough grub left (from what they brought) to use them on return trip to MO. They had proved up and got their patent from Gov. [patent is in possession of family now]. Stayed in MO for 2 years. Worked and saved enough to stay. Returned in fall of 1873 and were here during the year of the grasshoppers. Tried to get corn cut up, but it took so long to get corn ______ made that grasshoppers had stripped the corn. However, what corn was not cut up - grew to make enough corn for seed for next year, so it would have been better that they not cut any corn. They were pretty blue and didnıt know what to do. Voted to stay here, instead of going back to MO. They were fortunate because the grasshoppers visited MO next year.
Dan traded best cow to Mr. Gillett for mowing machine and Ben and Arthur Lamarie went 12 miles north and stayed in a vacant house and made hay. The hay was on a farm where no one lived. Made enough to feed stock. Each mower getting half. Lamarie stayed at Danıs while he and Ben hauled the hay home the 12 miles. Made about 2 trips a week. Had had no rain, where they lived but had rained up on the hay land. Drove one ox team (Lea and Red's) and one horse team.
One Sunday after Ben and Arthur Laramie left for hay field, a strange man came and asked many questions concerning them. Mary was suspicious, fearing horse thieves which were thick in country and she caught Dan's eye and together they evaded questions.
About that year Dan and Mary and Ernest drove overland in covered wagon to Rayville, MO to visit Dan's parents - John Hankins and Mary's parents - George Goe. On the return trip, Dan being sick had gone to bed in the covered wagon and was about asleep, when he heard a peculiar owl hoot. Presently hearing an answering whistle. He recognized the bushwhacker calls and fearing a holdup - gave Mary all his money excepting change saying, If they make me shell out I'll give them what I have in my pocket. Mary was in wagon too and keeping very quiet. Presently a man on horseback rode up, called out to waken them. He said he wanted supper. Dan told him he was sick and unable to wait on himself but there was a grub box and campfire to help himself. The man said, You have heard of the Blue Cut robbery, we were driven to that. Now, we wonıt hurt you if you just keep mumıs, give us something to eat. We have got to get away from here. Yes, it was one of the Jesse James boys. Strung his horse to the wagon by Dan's horses, he went about getting supper and soon two other men walked up and all ate supper. Talking loud and putting out the fire as soon as coffee was made. Dan went to sleep, but Mary was too frightened to sleep. She could not hear much of their conversation, only the name of a bridge - which she supposed was a meeting place. Soon the two late comers [riders] left leaving the first, who lay down in wagon seat with hand on bridle rein and slept and snored. Later leaving them, unharmed. By holding horses close to Dan's one could _______ anyone else there. This was close to the Old James home and in a large pasture. Mary thought it was Jesse James because he was trim and polite (like pictures). The other men had evidently left their horses in thicket so not to arouse suspicions, should any drive by the campers.
Mary taught first school in Prairie Center, held in an old shanty (cabin) belonging to Old man Tredway. Rode horseback from Grouse Creek, 4 miles every morning and back at night. Salary $20 a month. School started in May 1875 - lasted three months. Subscription school. Some paid in money, some work and cows. Pupils - Aron Tredway (3), Dan Tredway (2), Quiers (2), Flins (3), Sorghum Wilson (3), Morrison (2), Adams (2), John (Marion) Mayse. Mrs. Aron Tredway and Mr. T. loaned his watch, gave her a chair - no table. Seats were log slabs from the sawmill, placed on stones. Books were whatever they had brought to Kansas with them. No desks. Mary got up and got breakfast and churned and molded out butter every morning before going to school. Never tardy. Left her 5-year old boy with sister. After getting home at night, drove the cows up from east prairie and helped milk 12 cows. Overworked and had to miss the next to last day of school but was able to go last day. After school was out, had a sick spell about 2 weeks.