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Kansas Memory Blog

Kansas Travelogues

Posted by Megan Rohleder on Jun 30, 2022

By: Lauren Gray, Head of Reference

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it often doesn’t tell the full story. In the days before cell phones and cameras, tourists would keep travelogues during their journeys to record their thoughts. A travelogue is a written account about travel to a particular place and is a way to reflect on the experience. Many people who traveled to Kansas kept accounts of what they saw and did, who they met, and even what they ate. Travelogues also capture important historic events and are a lens into a moment in time.

Travelers came to Kansas for many reasons. Some came to see the sights, while others came to make their homes here. Many recorded their experiences in journals, diaries, and letters sent to loved ones back home. Two notable diarists from the time, contemporaries Carl “Ado” Hunnius and Abbie Bright, were astute observers and included many colorful details in their travelogues. Their travelogues document their experiences with Native peoples, the uncomfortable rigors of traveling, Kansas diseases like ague, and how Abbie and Ado perceived their place in Kansas. Abbie also made several acute observations on what it meant to be a woman on the frontier.


Abbie Bright was born in Pennsylvania and came to Kansas as a young woman to help her brother on his homestead. While she only stayed a season, her canny observations and thoughtful descriptions leave a lasting impression. Abbie arrived in Kansas by stagecoach during a period in which it was unusual for a woman to travel alone. 

May 1 1871—Ninnescah River Kans.


Crossed the Mississippi at night, reached Kansas City next morning, where I had to change cars, and have my trunk rechecked. …[The Conductor]said the winds were so strong, that by the end of a month, I would be tanned the color of a buff envelop… They changed horses every ten or twelve miles, and at times drove like fury. Sometimes your head would bang against the top; then those riding out side, would call, "How's that for high." A very common expression out here.  When we came to rough places—the driver usually called out "Make yourselves firm." Knowing what to expect, we grabed hold of the side of stage or the seat, and avoided getting badly thumped…I was the only woman, and kept quiet, and tried to be dignified, whether it was a success or not I do not know; but I do know that I was always treated with courtsey… I was treated with the greatest respect. 



Ado Hunnius was another traveler to comment on his travels in Kansas. A Civil War veteran, Ado was born in New York and traveled extensively around the country. He was also an accomplished sketch artist and included many drawings in his diary. He traveled through Kansas in January 1876 to visit the Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribes in what was then Indian Territory.



The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 opened Kansas to white settlement and displaced the tribes already living there. By the time Abbie and Ado visited in the 1870s, tensions were increasing between settlers and Native peoples.



Ado wrote about meeting Cheyenne children at a school run by the U.S. government. Ado was a shrewd observer, but he viewed Native peoples through a lens tinted by racism and the belief in his own cultural superiority. He used words that we find hurtful and disrespectful today, but we have left them in the text to reflect the original language.


Monday. January 17 I876


Got out of bed at 6i o'clock had brackfas in Company Kitchen hash, got the wagon hitched up and went to to town, saw Mr. Miles the Indian Agent…we went to his office, just a few minutes before some photographs was given to some Cheyenne women, which had come in this morning, it being ration day, of their husbands and sons now held prisoner by the govement in Florida, who took part in the murders comitted in 1874 Those women had on the spot' a whaling, she cried and did awful. She had plenty help on the other squaws and girls, it seemed to me as if the men did not care much though one can hardly tell what an Indians face is about to express… Then we saw the school, the most interesting to me, on the right to me in two rows of desk a two the boys on the other side the girls all dressed nice, boys in shoes, stockings, dark blue (navy) pants, vest and jackets, they wear, grey velt [felt] hats. The girls have a calico dress a moderate pattern, and their hair praited in two strains and tied together, hanging down. —  Miss Lina Miles as teacher, was just bussy to call out the names of the boys, each one having now lost their Indian name and being christianed The Superintendent Mr. Leger was there too. The teacher called for instance David, Mr. Leger had a list, children being numberd, not on their person but the desks seats, he motioned to the boy to rise and say present, which was pretty well understood and pronounced…Thence we went up stairs where there were sick, and sleeping rooms for girls and boys…


Abbie also remarked on the passing of the tribes from the area around her brother’s homestead, who were displaced because of settlers like Abbie and her brother:

May 8 - Two weeks today since I left Hirams [Abbie’s brother].  No letter in all that time.  This is a new settlement.  A year ago, I do not think there was a white woman within 20 miles of here, and last Winter the Osage Indians camped along the river, their teepes are still standing.  Now there are several [white] families scattered along the River. 

Kansas was much different than what Ado and Addie had experienced back east. The state was still largely rural and sparsely populated and was still very frontier-like. There were few modern amenities, and living was hard.


Abbie described her experience with the “ague,” a mosquito-borne illness similar to malaria. (Little House on the Prairie readers will remember Laura and her family suffering something similar during their time in Kansas.) Abbie and her brother Philip were periodically ill during the summer of 1871.


On August 10, Abbie wrote:

Baked yesterday, in p. m. fever came worse than ever. P said I was getting ready for the ague, and had better take quinine. So I did, and this a. m. another dose, by to­morrow I think the quinine will help me. I do not have chills. Shall not tell the home folks, it would only worry them. Philip went to W this morning, and will bring me writing paper. Copies of a W paper and their compliments ct. came. I will write another article—as soon as I am free of this pesteriferous ague. 

While neither Ado nor Abbie settled permanently in Kansas, they were part of a larger migration of people westward. During her stay, Abbie purchased 160 acres of land in Kansas as an “investment.” If the land were in Pennsylvania, she said, “it would be worth a fortune.” At the end of August 1871, Abbie wrote:

I am asked sometimes, if I am not sick of Kansas.  No I am not; Hiram wanted me to go along back – but I said I would stay my two months yet.  It is very sickly, but so it is in most counties, people are careless too.  Philip was not over the bilious spell – when we all went on the buffalo hunt and the long ride in the sun was too much.  I took that walk through the wet grass the day the boys left, and ate mushmellens at Lanes.  Which I should not have done.  So it is nearly all carelessness.  I would dearly like to go on another hunt and not be so hurried.  The sun is setting, the sky is a glorious vision of colors.

While they are less circumspect about their individual roles in history, there is a sense in both Abbie and Ado’s diaries that Kansas in the 1870s was on the precipice of change. The presence of white settlers was changing the face of the prairie and its people. They documented the destruction of Native peoples’ traditional way of life, even as their very presence helped precipitate that destruction.

Near the end of his diary, Ado entered this sobering note:


Saturday, January 22d 1876

Woke early of a curious noise I heard, it came from the Indian camp, U-chie sang his mouring song or “whaling.”  I being told afterwards by Mr. Hopkins that he lost in the last 6 weeks 9 out of his two tents most children…  

These travelogues provide a glimpse into the unique and tumultuous history of the period and help today’s readers understand the complexity of westward expansion, and the roles of individuals in history.

Ado and Abbie’s diaries are available in their entirety on Kansas Memory.

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