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Vol. 4 - No.10 October, 2022 Nooseletter Home SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Kankakee County to Nebraska

This photo is not of the actual wagon they rode in
it is just here for reference.
This is a letter that my wife, Elaine, found in an old box in the attic. It tells of a time in 1877, when the entire family (Elaine's ancestors) migrated more than 700 miles by wagon from Kankakee County, Iowa to an undisclosed location in Nebraska. At about 20 miles per day, not traveling on Saturday or Sunday, it would have taken them about 45-60 days to make this journey.

This was most likely typed many years later, when typewriters were more common, as a summary of what they went through. If this was all they experienced, they were very fortunate, as many others did not survive their migrations.

I modified the text for easier reading, but you can see the original letter at the bottom of this page.

~Charles P. Scott
An uneasy few families in the beautiful state of Illinois, Kankakee County, not far from Gardener, a small town, not far from the noted city of Chicago. The little town of Gardener, 12 miles from a community of neighbors, spoken of at the beginning of these noted circumstances Joseph Milligan, my father, a well-known Scotchman, was the oldest man in the company, and a younger fellow by the name of Horace Armitage, who was a good friend of Joseph. They would go hunting or fishing together, and Horace would use the gun and kill the prairie chicken and the occasional wild duck or goose; Joe would carry the game.

In their conversations, they talked about the conditions of the soil, making it almost impossible to keep up farming, being so wet and swampy. They heard a good many people talking about getting out and going west. Horace shipped his belongings to Nebraska. He was married to Chloe Mocham just before they arrived in Nebraska. Horace built a good-sized house of sod. They had to build a better part on there and let our family move in.

How we made it out until we got a sod house made on our 80-acre lot we bought for $3 an acre. Father worked on the railroad. He got a job as a section boss. We moved into a comfortable section house. Our family consisted of 7 children, the youngest, twin boys named George Eddie and John Freddie, 6-months old, when my father decided to start to Nebraska. We didn’t have money to take the train, but we had a pretty good wagon. So my mother, always able to meet any emergency, scraped up enough muslin to make a cover and father made bows, and they had a covered wagon, not an uncommon way to travel in those days, when money was scarce. Horace knew we would be crowded in our own wagon, and he had a spring wagon and a team that he wanted to have shipped, and to save expense, he asked Joe to drive it along with his outfit.

So, after a lot of discussion and planning, we were ready to get started. An old Scotch friend of Joe’s took a notion to go along. He had a wife and a child, a boy named Charles. He had a new wagon and a good team of horses. He didn’t have any place picked out to go and could make better time, so he soon left us, and we never heard of him after the day he decided to go on and leave us behind.

We stopped every Saturday near a little stream of water, so Mother could wash, and all of us children would get out and wade in the stream. The Scotch women, Charles’ mother, came and the first thing she done was grab 3 of us, one at a time, and put us under the water and bring us up soaked and scared half to death. She didn't put Charles under the water because he was afraid, and she said it would make him cry. The girls wore dresses made of heavy material, not made like Charles' overalls, the only boy of any size. Bill Joe's boy was 3 years old. Ed and John, the twins, were 6-months old. An old blanket was spread out to put them on, and when we would camp at night, it was always near some house after we had asked their consent. Nearby always some of the family would come and see how cute they played after a long day's ride about 20 miles.

It was hard for so many of us to crowd in one wagon, so Benny Armitage had a spring wagon and old Prim, the name of a horse, was hitched up and pulled it to Nebraska, so he wouldn't have to pay to ship them. Old Prim had to walk to Nebraska and pull the wagon. Old Prim was tied to one of the wheels and got scared, and gave a quick jerk, and broke the wheel and down it come. Some of us were asleep and woke up scared, and there was nothing to do but leave the old spring wagon along the road, and we were left to walk most of the way to Nebraska.

We stopped in Iowa, where on a pretty hillside, we found some fine berries. We picked all we could carry in our apron, sun bonnet hat, or whatever we were wearing to hold some. We all had a good dinner that day. We would all be tired when night came, even the poor horses, and we would have to make the beds, part of us, most anywhere under the stars, right in the hottest weather. There were two or three bad rains with thunder and lightning storms before we got to Nebraska. We would all have to get in the wagon to keep dry. Every morning we got some breakfast, not a big variety, always a sack of some kind of grain for the horses. While the horses were eating as we had always done, Father would get the Bible, read a chapter or two, a prayer was given by Mother and all of us started on our long journey, making 20 miles a day if we have no trouble.

Sometimes, the poor old horses would be tired out, and we would stop and all rest and get cleaned up, wash clothes, and us kids played and talked about how far it was to Nebraska and played with Ed and John, the twins. Mother would spread out a blanket, and we would rest and play with them awhile. We did not travel on Saturday or Sunday. We would try to stop near a spring of water, so we could all get cleaned up and wash our clothes and bodies. Everyone but the boy, Charles, and sometimes when his mother was getting dinner ready, we would catch him, and he had no one to help. In the water he went, it was just shallow water.

The state of Iowa seemed hard to get through, so many hills and streams. We landed in Nebraska in 1877.
click on the image to see a larger version of this letter
click on the image to see a larger version of this letter
click on the image to see a larger version of this letter
Call 818-395-5020 for more information
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