Kansas MemoryKansas Memory

Kansas Historical SocietyKansas Historical Society

Isaiah T. Montgomery to Governor John P. St. John

Item Description Bookbag Share



Hurricane, Miss. May 23rd 1879
To His Excellency Gov John P. St. John
Topeka Kansas
Dear Sir
I arrived home safely last sunday and take advantage of the first available time since then to write you. I will first speak in explanation of some [XXXXX] actions which probably appear inconsistent with the principles avowed to you. From the 5th March last up to the 1st of April some twenty five families numbering about seventy head of Refugees left this place for Kansas, on acct of exposure and mismanagement they fared badly, especially on the way from St Louis to Wyandotte, they contracted diarreah from drinking the water of the Mo River, and pneumonia from the sudden changes incident to a long deck trip. They most all concentrated at Wyandotte, and while there through one of their number Wm Nervis frequently advised me of their destitute and suffering condition, and finally asked that some arrangement be made for them to return home. Our firm immediately placed the necessary funds in St Louis Mo. And I wrote Nervis giving the proper explanation to make the money available, at the same time stating that I would come up if telegraphed for. In answer to that letter came the enclosed telegram, worded as follows (Kansas City Mo 22/79 recd at Vicksburg Apr 22nd 1879 To

 

Page 2


Dr Bowmar. Tell Montgomery meet me St Louis with the people that left Bend W M Neras (should be Nervis) On receipt of this dispatch I immediately, left for St Louis. arriving there I learned the people were still in Kansas City in Wyandotte and concluded to go on up there where I met them found many sick and them all in bad condition generally some eight or ten had died of the rest some were living in improvised board shanties, some in Box Cars that happened to be left near the Elevator many were camping on the River Bank. They were apparently overjoyed to meet me. I spent about a day amongst them, releiving their necessities as far as practicable. I also informed them that any wishing to return home could do so by having themselves and baggage ready to board the first stmr bound for St Louis. I then turned my face Westward with the view of investigating Kansas Generally the condition of the Imigrants, and the probable success of the Exodus. the Gentleman (a Jew) Mr Cohn (who called on you) had no connexion with me, but having been pointed out to him on one of the packets some time ago, he recognized me on the N. O. St L & C RR and introduced himself learned my intended route and concluded to travel the same way in quest of laborers to bring back to his Farm. At Lawrence Ks I met some of the best men that had left our place, they were anxious to locate on Land and on their account I first conceived the idea of locating a tract of several thousand

Page 3


acres with people from the same neighborhood. On my arrival at Topeka I became familiar with the management and disposition made of the Cold Imigrants which led me to suggest the plan finally adopted by your Association, you are familiar with the sequel. As a principle I favored imigration of the Coldpeople, but doubted its success and practicability until after I had thoroughly investigated Kansas and its people, and became acquainted with the high principles which actuate them in their endeavors to provide for the poor down-trodden homeless wanderers. I was anything but favorably impressed with the first view at Wyandotte, and thought I was doing humane service in providing transportation for those who wished to return: My intention was to have half the section I purchased broken for fall wheat, but I could not find any Oxen suitable for that purpose during the limited time I had to look and upon consultation with my Brother we have determined that we cannot do anything towards breaking this summer, because we have all that we can do to handle our Cotton Crop, the price bids fair to be renumerative and we are anxious to make a large crop. I don't know how we should have succeeded without the returned imigrationists, they were very glad to get back, and give your country a hard name in many instances, which pleases the

Page 4


whites but the blacks to the contrary, the latter still cherish fond hopes of reaching the promised Land of Kansas, and I believe will continue to go as opportunities arise, but under better leadership and more prudent management. I am besieged with questions in regard to your country, by all colors and classes. it is necessary to be prudent in answering. I speak freer to the whites than to the blacks, because there is considerable excitement on the subject among the latter already and any flattering remarks I should make would spread with the wings of the morning. the former do not relish my assertion that you have a fine country. (despite the scarcity of wood) and that colored people can live there and better their condition if they knew how to proceed. they are pleased at my opinion that your people do not understand the management of colored people and that your present policy is inadequate to accommodate a wholesale Exodus. Of course they are not informed of the changes you have made or contemplate making in the distribution of cold refugees. I hope the Association has provided for the families I recommended and got them on their lands. I shall watch their progress with much interest, in fact more depends on their success than you are probably aware of. I told them they could write their friends here freely as to their progress and prospects but not to indicate that I took any interest in situating them. I shall send them some China Free seeds and field hoes in few days or as soon as I learn that they are out at the place. I have been anxiously looking for a letter from them or Gen Willard Davis (who represented me in the purchase)

Page 5


explaining if matters were progressing favorably or otherwise, this letter has already grown too lengthy and I fear it may tak your patience to peruse it. Please address an answer (as early as convenient) with no mark on the Envelope to denote that it comes from the Capital or any official note that I address you without prefixing title in order that the letter may not attract undue attention. Nothing is too hard to suspicion of this Country where it has been the custom for a century or more to ransack the mails to prevent the circulation of documents breathing the spirit of freedom. Hoping to hear soon of the favorable progress of the Freedmen A & R Association, also of your continued good health I am with best regards
Very Respectfully
Your ObtServt
Isaiah T. Montgomery
P.S.
One of the first things I learned on reaching Home was that our county school which usually runs five months has been suddenly reduced to four months without previous notice to the Teachers or Trustees I consider this a bad step in view on in the heels of the late promises, coldpeople being almost wholy the ones interested in country schools but we are dumb, having no organ we cannot complain to an enlightened public, who consider free education one of the bulmarks of liberty. I find that their will be no trouble

Page 6


in finding purchasers (who are able to pay) for the section I requested reserved. my brother is of the opinion that we will take more
Very Respectfully
I.T.M.
No. 3406
Book B Page 425
From Isaiah T. Montgomery
Place Hurricane Miss.
Date [XX] 23
Rec'd [XX] 29 1879
Ans'd [XX] 31
Explaining some of his actions while in Kansas looking after the interest of the Freedmen en route to and in Kansas also advising all letters for colored people in the south to be put in plain envelopes.

Item Description

Copyright © 2007-2014 - Kansas Historical Society - Contact Us
This website was developed in part with funding provided by the Information Network of Kansas.