There are two routes going west from Kansas City known as the Santa Fe Trails. One, the old Santa Fe Trail, going through Osage City, McPherson, Lyons, Dodge City, Syracuse, La Junta and there branching, one route to Pueblo and Denver, the other south to Trinidad. The other route from Kansas City, known as the new Santa Fe Trail, is farther south and passes through Ottawa, Emporia, Florence, Newton and Hutchinson, from this latter point diverging northwest to Lyons, where it joins the old trail. I found that by following the new trail to Florence, then driving across to Marion, a distance of ten miles, I could save considerable distance. Our first day out from Ottawa, Saturday, we had good roads and made McPherson for night stop, 164 miles, in 834 hours. This section of the country was very pretty and prosperous looking, but each town west began to take on more of a western appearance. Our stop for dinner was at Cottonwood Falls. We were approaching the dry section of Kansas, and at the hotel where we stopped for dinner were a gang of workmen putting in a large concrete bridge over the Cottonwood river, who said that during the 90 days had been on that job they had lost 5 hours from rain. Yet the country through here had all outward appearances of a prosperous farming section. The court house at Cottonwood Falls was of an architectural construction that indicated the period of about 1840 or prior there-to, and I fancy the records kept there would reveal some interesting historical facts. The street car system consisted of two strips of rails and an old horse drawn car, of which I got an excellent picture-which went the way of all my good pictures.
At McPherson, Kan., our night stop, we began to get our introduction to western customs, and Mrs. Whitaker got a shock. When we entered the hotel, three tables in the lobby were occupied by typical appearing Westerners (as we understood them, at least) dressed in what is considered the typical western costume, including wide brimmed sombreros and cowboy boots, some with their spurs, and all earnestly engaged in games of pitch and poker-and for real money.
"We were given a room without heat, and no keys. We mentioned the lack of keys. The clerk seemed at first not to understand and then surprised. He informed us they never used keys, and as we felt that insistence upon so trivial a matter would reflect discredit upon the integrity of the community, we let the matter drop."
We were given a room without heat, and no keys. We mentioned the lack of keys. The clerk seemed at first not to understand and then surprised. He informed us they never used keys, and as we felt that insistence upon so trivial a matter would reflect discredit upon the integrity of the community, we let the matter drop. At supper, there were two other ladies in the dining room, who, with Mrs. Whitaker constituted the sum total of fair guests, among a hotel full of men. Mrs. Whitaker could not get over the card playing scene for some time.
Next morning I was obliged to put a hook-on boot on the tire I had vulcanized, as the cuts were opening up again. We left at 9:20, and this day passed over some very picturesque country. Broad level prairies, and wheat fields so extensive the eye could not see the other side. They were dotted with large straw stacks and are planted year after year to wheat. The country was more level and farm homes less numerous and of poorer quality. We took dinner in Ellinwood, and if you could see the place where we ate-or tried to! The meal was good but the surroundings abominable. But it was characteristic of that section of the country and by the time one has reached there on an overland trip one has become accustomed to the poor accommodations one will get, at least to such an extent that what would have been unbearable at the outset, has now become passable. It is one of the metamorphoses one is of necessity obliged to undergo.
From shortly this side of Ellinwood the Santa Fe trail goes in a southwest direction exactly parallel with the Santa Fe railroad for a stretch of 70 miles, with scarcely a turn. The roads were good, but in many places we encountered deep dust, sand and chuck holes. Along this route are placed, at wide intervals, granite monuments, designating the trail, and placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the state of Kansas, according to the inscription. A picture of one of these is among my lost treasures. Just west of Pawnee Rock we encountered considerable sand and dusty roads and met a great number of automobiles. At one place Mrs. Whitaker saw a little pup lying along side the road which she thought was dying. We stopped, went back, picked him up and carried him about three miles before we reached a farm house. I went up and got a bucket of water, and we gave him a drink and bathed his face. You should have seen the reviving effect. The poor thing was unable to hold his head up when we found him. He had evidently wandered from home and in his puppish ignorance, had become lost. The hot, dry day had exhausted him and he had dropped beside the road where passing automobiles had filled his eyes, mouth and nostrils with dust and sand. I gave a little boy from the house where I got the water a dime to care for him and he promised to give him lots of milk, of which he said they had plenty, and we left him in the boy's care. From this point we could see Larned, Kansas, seven miles away, just as straight ahead as any old crow could fly.
For our night stop we made Spearville, Kansas. This is a unique little town. The water supply is from deep wells, operated from windmills, and as we approached the town from the east, with the red glow of the setting sun forming a background, these windmills, silhouetted against it, formed an exceptionally interesting landscape. Inquiry at the two establishments officially known as hotels concerning accommodations were discouraging, to say the least, and in the hope of doing better I went across to a drug store to inquire if they knew where accommodations might be had in a private family. It so happened that a gentleman who occasionally performed this function was spending the evening around the drug store stove with convivial companions, and after some inquiry as to my pedigree and past performances, he agreed to lodge us. We had very good quarters and a little talk after supper with him revealed he had formerly come from Coldwater, Michigan, and his wife was a distant cousin of Spencer Etheridge. Their names were Mr. and Mrs. Phillip J. Upp. They settled there in the '70's I believe and Mr. Upp was quite familiar with the Indian uprisings and mining days that made Dodge City famous. He was intimately acquainted with Bat Masterson, and when this gentleman was a candidate for sheriff of that county, in which position he obtained a national reputation, Mr. Upp "stumped" the county with him as a candidate for Recorder of Deeds. He alluded to some of the noted Indian scouts of an earlier period, mentioning Prairie Dog Bill, and Mysterious Dave, who always dressed in a long Prince Albert, like an itinerant preacher, but who in those turbulent and quick trigger days, was the only person who either could or would fill the position of town marshall in Dodge City. He related some experiences in "grasshopper year" when these pests came like a blight and in a day's time stripped the country of crops and vegetation. How they had purchased fine buffalo meat at 3 cents per pound. This community now seemed quite prosperous, the town containing about 750 people, two good banks and a splendid array of mercantile houses-far better than one would expect to find in this size town. The climate is very dry there and reputed to be healthy. The grass was burnt so dry it would crackle under foot and outward appearances were very brown and dusty.
Next morning we left at 9:10 and just before Dodge City, struck our first trail road, which wound across the prairie into Dodge City, a hard looking town which seems unconsciously to bear the scars of its early riotous days. On the other side of Dodge City we came alongside the Arkansas river, and crossed it several times before La Junta, Colorado. It is a very sorry looking river and has the appearance of having been stepped on by some fabled giant and very much flattened out thereby. Its bed is of shifting sands and at this season of the year the water was very low. Forty-three miles west of Dodge City we were in pure unadulterated prairie country, and at this spot, as far as the eye could reach, there was not a human habitation to be seen in any direction. We were now fully within the cactus and sage brush country and the long-heard-of dryness of western Kansas was a visible and potent fact.
We arrived at Garden City at 1:20 by my watch and went to the Owl Cafe for dinner. The clock here said 12:20 and I was reminded we had crossed Longitude 100 degrees west from Greenwich and must turn back our time one hour. This change takes place at Dodge City. Garden City is a very nice looking town. From here west all afternoon we traveled over broad expanses of virgin prairie, here and there broken by an irrigated section where agriculture seems valiantly trying to gain a foot-hold against heavy odds. At Deerfield, Kansas, we began to enter the sugar beet growing section, and at this town is located a large factory of the United States Land and Sugar Co. Surrounding this town and many other towns west in the sugar beet section the farm homes are all alike and consist of a little square house of not more than four rooms, a rectangular shaped building, probably used for assorting, drying and storing the beet seed, a small shed structure for housing the horses, a windmill and a large red dump wagon for hauling the beets. I surmise the sugar company owns all this land, which constitutes a very large area, several miles in extent, and builds these places to lease to tenants. We passed a great many wagon loads of beets, and at intervals along the railway between towns are placed large wooden structures very much like the wagon approaches to grain elevators upon which the beet wagons are driven and the beets dumped into cars, same as are used at home for hauling coal.
Roads all through Kansas had been a surprise, in that they were better than I had expected to find. We had planned on reaching Syracuse, Kansas, for our night stop, but we reached here at 4 p. m. and decided to make Holly, Colorado. We crossed the state line at 4:50 p. m., a big broad highway, well kept at this point. We reached Holly at 5:20, and stopped at the Grand Hotel. Our room here was poor, a failing which all these western hotels have, but contrary to the usual custom, the meals were extra good. For about the first time since leaving home folks at St. Joseph we had a good meal, and the manner in which we devoted our undivided attention to it was proof ample of our appreciation.
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| PHOENIX, ARIZONA, Dec. 7, 1914 | LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, Feb. 19, 1915 | MOLINE, ILLINOIS, May 27, 1915 |
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