17 July 2012

Nebraska: Soil - Coal - Indians - Game

Correspondence of The Tribune.
Table Creek, Nebraska Territory, April 21.

I have traveled the distance of four hundred miles in Nebraska, sleeping under bluffs and encamping upon "spring branches," as the little rivulets are called which meander through the prairies, and now have the satisfaction to declare to you that the Nebraska Territory offers greater advantages to the settler than I had previously anticipated.

The quantity of timber is small, and it would require a careful use to render it sufficient, but the soil is unequaled for fertility, health and vigor of life certain, the climate agreeable and scenery beautiful.

At this place, previous to the commencement of the Mexican War, there existed a military post, called "Old Fort Kearney." About 10 miles below this place, which is a bluff on the Missouri river, and distant about 25 miles from the mouth of the Nebraska, or Platte, a vein of coal, resembling the coal taken out at Cannelton, (Ind.) — similar to Pittsburgh, though not so good for some purposes, and yet better for others, comes out and shows itself in the bluffs on the Missouri. Distant about 90 miles southwest, another vein of similar coal makes its appearance. Several other veins of coal are said to have been discovered in the Territory, and my observation, as well as information assures me that coal of a good quality, and in sufficient quantities may be found in the Territory. Forty-five miles from this place, in a westerly direction, is a salt spring, from which a sufficient quantity of salt may be manufactured to salt half of the sinners of this continent. On the north side of the Nebraska or Platte, distant 15 or 20 miles from the Missouri, I discovered iron ore of a good quality, which there exists in great quantities. It shows itself in boulders along the bluffs for the distance of several miles. Limestone prevails almost everywhere, and a fine quality of clay, such as it found on the Ohio River, and there used for pottery, accompanies the exhibition of coal on the shores of the Missouri River. Accepting these facts, you will readily acknowledge that the Nebraska Territory is a country worthy of the attention of those desiring good and pleasant homes. I hope to live until Nebraska is accounted the sixth state of this Union. This Territory is now occupied only by a few miserable Indians and before a civilized people can be commenced here, must be some special legislative Congress for the purpose, and the Indians removed. This without doubt will be effected within a year. At this time no agency which you and your friends could send out would procure any advantage.

I have visited every section of western Iowa. The lands there are equal to those of this Territory, which are the best in America; but in Iowa there is no stone, of which there is an abundance in Nebraska. Nor coal, nor salt, nor clay, only such is fit for brick, which also presents here. Again in Iowa, the land is all "claimed up," and in the travel of 300 miles I could not find a single quarter section of land, available for a farm, which could be entered upon without the payment of a considerable sum of money more than the Government price.

As for "goods, wares and merchandise," there are here, on the opposite side of the Missouri, in any quantity desirable, and sold as reasonable as to price, as in Cannelton. Farming utensils are here in abundance, and sold as cheap as at your place. Household furniture about the same. On this subject I will hereafter write you more fully.

I can say nothing further at this time, than simply to declare that I am delighted with the country, am determined to have a home unit, and that I shall expect to have you and your friends for my neighbors.

T. J. S.

P.S. — I have written this letter with the quill from the wing of a Bald Eagle, taken by Mr. W., with a rifle bullet, a few days ago in this neighborhood. The river seems full of wild geese, brant and ducks. I have seen some twenty deer, and some dozen of wild turkeys. Of pigeons there are some, squirrels are in the timber in great numbers. On the prairies the fowls are numerous. I use both rifle and shot gun.

June 3, 1851. New York Daily Tribune 11(3160): 6. Also June 26, 1851 in the Glasgow Weekly Times 12(17): 1.

This is probably the first newspaper article that mentions wild birds to have come from Nebraska. The state had not even been established at this time. Table Creek is undoubtedly near Nebraska City, Otoe County, and near the Missouri River. The military post was called Fort Kearny.