Kansas MemoryKansas Memory

Kansas Historical SocietyKansas Historical Society

Thaddeus Hyatt to Cleaveland

Item Description Bookbag Share

Sabbath morning 4 January 1857
My dear Cleaveland
I had thought a trip to Kansas with its inspiriting scenery & braceing air would invigorate my poor worn out nature But with the fires consuming me within, how is it possible to find life short of heaven, and I feel almost to wish the flame expired that it might be relit to burn more brightly and more calmly there After a horseback journey of 20 days with the thermometer at times 8 dg. below zero, & [xxx] such winds as blow no where but in Kansas & facing bleak drifting snows of the gale driven, I returned, The first thing which met my eye in the Tribune shows how my dear & noble friends have been under the necessity of defending me against some pitiful slanderer I suppose I might guess the author, I take him to be a man whos path has been cross in some way by me while endeavoring to protect our Northern friends from pecutation & improper diversion. As I have no enemies here that I am aware of, this is the only solution I can give of the attack. But personally I care not for it. The situation I hold on the National Committee, was not of my seeking. If God wants me there, no slanderer can get me removed, & if he does not want me there I don’t want to stay, I have no anxiety but faithfully to discharge my duty. & There is no time to waiste even in thought upon the poor grnlet-eyed creature whose eyes are circumscubed by the limited orrifice through which they peep out at nature. Tell my Dear friends Greely & Dana, that if possible my heart warms towards them at this moment redder them ever for I see that they appreciate me, however others may not & it is something pleasant to feel that the wise & the good are on one side. It is the nearest [xxx] the human heart on earth can get of Heaven, My Journey has been an interesting one, & not without desired results. Comfort such as our notions paint I have seen no where. Many of the settlers would have had tolerable decent houses if affairs had not been so unsettled.

Page 2

Many of them might have had fer better ones than they are living in Some of them will never have, they came from the wrong stock As a rule the emigrants from the east, & those from the western states who where originaly from the eastern & middle Are the best off & live or attemp to live like Christians
Those from the slave states with some exceptions are a different race of people. Oh when shall the generations of man be wholly cleansed from the stains of their own transgression – would you know how I have fared, lodged & eaten? Listen It was on the morning of the last day of the week when with my two companions I bade adieu to the hospitiable Pensylvanan family by whom we had been entertained, we had reached the extreme limits of our Southern tour on the Yellow Paint, & with our faces Northward, where returning by way of the tributaries of the Marmaton the Little Osage & the Marais des Cygnes. It was the closing of the year, & although late in December Nature still lookd lovely. Around the roots of the pale & I [xxx] grass of the prarie green tender shoots where springing, which our horses nibbled with avidity. Above us show as glorious a sun as ever rose in the firmament. A thin crust of ice had sealed the surfice of the streams & autumn winds had dried up the juices of the trees, whos crumpled leaves brittle & yellow lay thickly strewn upon the frozen earth. The sun was warm & the wind were still I threw off the under robes poncho (I don’t know how to spell that word), which had rendered me such invaluable service, in warding of the [xxx] of the blast, & with exhilirated spirits urged onward the little lazy beast which carried me Sunbeam (the name I had bestowd on my Indian pony) trotted on behind her companions at just such a pace as pleased her, for the little artfull brute knew I had no spur, and as for a switch, she only laughs at my vain attempts to reach her obtuse sensibilities. My companion the fighting preacher declared it was all my fault, that the artful little beast knew her rider was to tenderhearted to strike her hard enough to hurt her! And by an applyance

Page 3

or two of his own occasionally succeeded in getting the party to make tolerable time. In less than two hours after starting scuddaly clouds suddenly flitted across the face of the heavens. The sun was darkened, & the lull winds which untill this moment where lying hiddin & hushed in the breast of the North came rushing out in long drawn sizs & whistles louder & louder not lulling & increasing, but higher & higher, wilder & fearcer, constantly on the ascending scale, untill amid clouds & snow flakes & [xxx] & gathering darkness, I felt under the kene cutting blast almost as though naked, notwithstanding the enormous load of clothing piled upon me Guess what this covering on your humble servant was The ennumeration will make inventory. Buffalo overshoes, thick boots with the original hair of the animal inside, two pr of wollen socs, two pr of drawers, over my pantaloons, blanket leggins of double thickness with inda rubber coath ones over these, two wollen shirts & a dogskin shirt with the original curly wool, outer garments of extra warmth, being padded with an abundance of cotton batting. A shawl around my loyns & a shawl around my sholders & over this my India rubber Poncho, Would you think I could be cold & yet I was foursed to have a hole cut in a heavy spare blanket & thrust my head through it. even then I but barely endured the piercing gale.
Before sundown we reached the house of a Missouri settler The man was outside busy choping wood. Our feet when almost froze, so without ceremony we alited & entered the cabbin was of round logs pitched together in the rudist manner, & some little attempt to keep out the weather, out made by craming mud into the chinks between the logs. The uneven floor was laid of puncheons; the door cra[xxx] on its wooden –inges, & there was no window, & but little nead of any, for day light as well as air entered the building from all sides as well as from the roof, & a ly on of unplastered creases The floor was thick with dirt.
Beside the huge fireplace, in which a moderate fire was burning

Page 4

& at a sickly looking pale woman crouched in a chair with durty fat child at her brest, while another equally interesting, toddled about the room. A rickety table, a broken chair or two, & a couple of durty beds in the corner of the appartment furnished that interesting picture. We had eaten nothing since morning & as I comtemplated the scene before me I must say that for one I felt thankfull I had no appetite. It was not yet dark but I felt tired & sleepy. I had been up the whole of the preceding night writing a long letter to the Tribune & desired now nothing so much as a chance to throw myself down & drop into the land of forgetfulness. “Come General you go to bed” said my attentive kind companion Bickerton (whose faithful nursing of me the whole journey through I shall never forgett) and when supper is ready Ill call you. How long I had slept I know not, when the same kind voice aroused me with, supper is ready, & that bushel of durt to, but no matter lets pitch in – dirt hasn’t killd killd Tom Bickerton yet, & I guess a little of it wont kill you – so get up & try it or youl fainte away. With a sigh & a grown I thanked him turned over again & dropped to sleep. The next morning instead of taking black water (as the Osages call coffee) & corn bread with the rest of the party, I went down to the spring & tried the tonic effect of a douch bath, which the Captain performed with a couple of buckets of water The Missouran stood & witnessed the operation in utter amazement – well there Ill be dand blast – if I did not think there was something of that feller until I saw his clothes off. (turning to me) See here mister you’re a right smart chunk of a man when yours got all that [xxx] on – do you take that kind of doctrin every day If you do I like you to make your will soon & remember me in it – Some days had pass & we still continued our Journey Northward examining into the wants & sufferings of the settlers & making provisions for their speedy relief. The morning was [xxx] & threatened snow, as we left I [xxx] at Miami Village & set our faces toward Lawrence. With no sine to guide us across the prairie, & the little rosin weed so withered, that its North & South
[Page 5}
pointing leaves where no longer useful as a compass, we found it impossible to make very rapid progress. It was growing late Neither man nor beast had eaten anything since morning. The poor animals seized every dry twig & leef they could munch or make food of, for the green spears of grass where all buried in snow that had recently fallen, we where in doubt as to our course At this moment the keen eyes of my companions espied a cabbin in the wilderness at some distance to the right. On reaching it we where greated at the door by a group of poorly clad children, the oldest of whom an interesting girl of some 15 years of age She could not impart the desired information but sent immediately for her father who proved to be an intelligent foreigner. My cabbin is humble Gentlemen & I have but poor fare to offer you but you are welcome to such as I have, you can at least be sheltered from the storm that is evidently coming upon us. If you go on there is no place you can stop at under many miles & you may get lost & perish in the praries. The storm which if I can judge right is likely to be a severe one. We accepted the invitation. The cabin was a small one but pretty well built. Two poor beds ocupied the corners of the room on the side oposite the fireplace. The fire for greater warmth & to avoid burning the chimney, which was partly wood & partly earth, was burning upon the earth, making the appartment rather uncomfortable by its smoke The young girl had prepared a meal of boild beans & corn bread the children where evidently anxious for the signal. A small black walnut table held the scanty repast while an old box or two served for seats to those who did not stand. I do not know what to call this meal gentlemen whether dinner or supper sometimes we have two meals a day & sometimes three. But sit by & partake as I did say you are hungry To see 5 poor little hungry children looking at that scanty meal, took away what little appetite if any I possessed, I there for excused myself, on the ground that corn bread did not agree with my stomach. At dusk the wife appeard, having just returned from waiting on a sick neighbor. With true English hospitality the poor woman welcomed us to her humble abode thankfull at their ability to offer us an assylum from the storm which began to herald its appearance with wild & fearfull howling

Page 6

The young girl had gone to take the place of her mother at the bed side of the sick neighbour & also to inform her that three strangers were at home, just as she had predicted in the morning when she told father she knew that strangers would visit them before night. As the place quite out of of the way & a traveler rarely ever appeared, this was considerable of a prophesy. As we set around the smoking & blazing fire listening to the musick of the elements, I endeavoured in the most delicate manner possible to assertain the wants of the family I knew that outwerd signs where not always indicative of eather poverty or riches. But I thought my instinct could not be far out of the way in the presant instance. I found the task a dificult one for a long time, the poor man could not trust us. He had some knowledge of Border Ruffins & our appearance certainly was rough enough. But at length the Ice fairly melted & we succeeded in securing his confidence. His family had been all sick, so sick that one could scarcely help the other & he had at the same time been laid up with an injury to his leg. At length he so far recovered as to be able to ride to Westport. Here he made known his suffering condition. As a compensation for his two days travel he returned home with 6 ¼ cents worth of medicine This was benevolence of Westport in Mo contained To night gentlemen I have 15 cts left in my pocket, we have a bushel or two of meal which I purchased from a Skin I sold, a few beans, a little coffee, a few pinches of tea & a trifle of suger, with a few pounds of dried meat is all my house contains. As for clothing we are badly enough off as well as for bed clothes. My books two are all gone & you know there is a deal of wholesome amusement in books (of a winter night. We cant afford to have candles to be sure, but then a body can make out very well by the blaze of the fire. On further inquiry I learned that while the husband & father was here in the wilderness seeking a home, he had left his wife & children to follow him by sea. They had been shipwreckd & by that calamity lost there earthly all. The poor the poor man seemed to greve particularly over the loss of his

Page 7

books, he had received an education & possessd a literary turn of mind. I explained to him the nature & object of the National Kansas Committee & after convincing him that he would not be degraded into a pauper by accepting its profferd aid, induced him to receave such releaf as the occasion seamed to justify.
The poor wife & mother as she cast her eyes upon the little half clad children lookd at the strangers whom heaven had driven to her little cabbin in the wilderness & then with a heart swelling with gratitude retired to a corner of the cabin & wipt the fast fallen tears. I knew Husband. I knew providence would not forsake us. The bluff old salt who was sitting near me my generous hearted friend Capt Bickerton at this instant seazed my arm & in his head strong accents whispered in my ear. There didn’t I tell you that when I lost my way that something would turn up. You see weve been sent here on purpose
In the morning we awoke to find ourselves lying under a blanket of snow, which still continued to drift in through every crevace The thermometer stood 8 dgs below zero A driving storm filled the air We found ourselves wetherbound for another day & wisely determined not to pursue our journey. I lurned subsequently that both man & beast who where out that day suffered severely, the men freazing their ears & faces & the cattle freezing there noses so that they afterwards crackd open. The practical result of this journey is that I found a sufficient number of distitute families to justify the distribution of a thousand dollars worth of supplies. Tell the generous donors of the North that allthough the distribution of their gifts have been by no means perfect, yet enough has been done to warm their hearts with the reflection, that but for their bounty an amount of suffering appaling to think of would at this moment prevale through the length & breadth of this territory. Tell them that want – woe & suffering still exist that at this hour of dead winter they should not withhold their hands As our clothes as been so much froze up there is more need for money to purchase blankets & shoes & boots at the nearest point. Around the region of Manhatten at this very moment there are cases of suffering which if narrated would wring with anguish the hearts of the North.

Page 8

We nead more supplies here & we nead more men to hold & distribute them. Men not devoid of sympathy Men not politicians. Tell the friends of Kansas that if all there gifts had reached their destination without any mishap it would have been a miralce.
The first urgent appeal from Kansas was more men The next gives us arms & amunition. The next we are starving, & the next cloth us or we perish, & all the embarisments which complicate these questions of releaf, the national Kansas Committee have acted by their best lights, selecting for the most part Kansas men as their agents, supposing them best qualified the result of there selection has induced them to appoint a New Distributing Committee in Kansas wholly disconnected from politics The new committee probably already known at the North & there appointment I think must satisfy the friends of the cause that the National Committee, have spared no exertions, to faithfuly execute their trust. Shall it ever become necessary to explain the reasons why some of the men here in Kansas cling so tenaciously to the office of distributors of the supplies, I shall not shirk from my duty in the premises
Thaddeus Hyatt.

Page 9

You see my dear Cleaveland that I have signed my name to the proceeding It is necessary I should explane. I find that a plot exists to crush the National Committee one of the prominent men of the Central Committee Said to me to day. There is bound to be a quarrel between the Central & the National Com. – if your comtt. Comes out a head , we shall get no more money. Documents have gone east to bolster up the Central & so undermind the National. I feel no further intrest in the matter Then my sympathys for the cause Rev E Nute was deceaved in some way by these men & maid to seem to endorse them. I have a letter from him of an explanatory carachter he hopes the matter will not be made publick. I have labored hard to prevent this. But there men I judge are determined to appeal for funds direct if we do to furnish them any more. I should like that the friends of the cause might know that the course adopted by our Com. was to personally visit the Territory. Without stating this finally perhaps the fact might be made sufficiently to appear by publication of this leter or such a part of it over my sygnature as my Friends Greely & Dana may approve. I have no desire to appear in any way before the public, I wish I could move among the suffering like the spirit & not be seen or known yet with ample power to bless them I court no popularity I want no position or place or power save for good. I would not be president unless duty urged me there I would not accept of it if I coud avoid it & yet satisfy my conscience. Oh how I long for peace. Oh I could almost lay me down on the [xxx] [xxx] [xxx] of my mother earth, & sleep to awake no more. How I hate ambition, what a mockery & Cheet is Fame, Can a sane man look at the sleeping dead & covet the Ephemeral which the skeleton hand has crushed Oh who can [blank space] The past & the future & covet ought but to do good, to fill up his few breaf moments with the only pleasure that is real. The only consolation that can render even death dear to him. The only life of the soul that we can desire to carry with them beyond the grave. Do I cheat myself in beleaving

Page 10

Can I have been deceaved in the heart seems of a life I will remember when a child how the whole earths wretchedness defiled before my framed immagination till my young childish heart ached with sorrow to think I had but two tiny hands to work with I had no money, but was a poor little boy, & could do nothing. & then how I pictured the future splendid schemes for wealth & amid it all I cried till my young heart seemed bursting emmotion
Have I been always deceaved. No my Dr Cleaveland it cannot be. And now with the full consiousness that at no distant day the spirits will call for me & I shall go away, how can I do otherwise then hasten in my work & when I shall come again they will not know me for I shall come on the breath of the orange blossom comes on the wings of the night & I shall bless them & not be seen
Farewell & beleave me always yours here & hereafter – Thaddeus Hyatt.
P.S. I hope you call often & see my poor little disconsolant wife I have not recd a line from her since I left
[Capt. Bickerton and John E. Stewart, the “fighting preacher”, appear to have accompanied Mr. Hyatt in this 20 days trip through Kansas.]

Item Description

Copyright © 2007-2019 - Kansas Historical Society - Contact Us
This website was developed in part with funding provided by the Information Network of Kansas.