In 1849 at the age of thirteen, Samuel James Reader, of La Harpe, Illinois, began keeping a diary that would span his lifetime. Inspired by the journals of Lewis and Clark, he copied their technique of including drawings and maps to illustrate the text. Reader moved to Kansas in 1855 at the age of nineteen and staked a claim near the small town of Indianola which was located north of Topeka across the Kansas River. Reader became a lifelong resident of the area.
In 1896, while keeping the fourteenth volume of this diary, Reader began writing an autobiography that expanded on his diary entries. According to dates included in the volumes, Reader worked on his three volume autobiography from 1896 to 1914, the year of his death. Fully transcribed and searchable editions of Reader’s autobiographical volumes are now available on Kansas Memory.
Volume one gives an early account of his childhood and family (1849-1856) and includes many lively illustrations. It describes his life in Virginia and Illinois before he came to Kansas. Reader appears to have written this volume between 1901–1914.
Volume two consists of two sections titled "Border War, Kansas Territory, 1856" and "Hickory Point” (1856) and includes many sketches and watercolors. Reader appears to have produced this volume between 1896–1909.
Volume three is based on diary entries and personal recollections of the Battle of the Big Blue, Price's Raid, and the Battle of Mine Creek (1864). It includes a number of water color and pen illustrations. He appears to have created this volume between 1901-1908.
To search the contents of each volume, select the volume you would like to search. Click on “Text Version” below the description to open the transcription within your web browser. Use your web browser’s “Find” feature to keyword search the transcription. The browser will highlight the searched term on the transcription. Page numbers in the transcription correspond to pages in the original to allow for comparisons between the two.
While transcriptions make reading and searching the original volumes easier, transcriptions are only interpretations of the original text. Careful readers should make their own reading of the original whenever possible and not rely solely on the transcription.
For additional Samuel Reader materials on Kansas Memory select the category People - Notable Kansans - Reader, Samuel James, 1836-1914.
A Kansapedia biography of Reader is available at Samuel Reader.
A description of the papers of Samuel Reader is available at Samuel Reader Papers.