The Indian Territory in the Civil War Message Board

Wanderer's Western Trip to Fort Smith

THREE NEW LETTERS FOUND THAT WANDERER WROTE ON HIS WAY TO VISIT INDIAN TERRITORY, BEALE WAGON ROAD AND PHILADELPHIA’S BRIDGE WORK IN 1859

Wanderer appears to have left Philadelphia, PA about July 20, 1859 headed west on the Pennsylvania Railroad to visit Indian Territory and the construction of the first federally funded interstate wagon road to California. He will write at least three letters about his trip west, not previously identified, for publication in Philadelphia’s newspaper “The Press.” These letters describe, among other things, how and when The Wanderer got to Fort Smith, AR. The title of the first letter suggests that Wanderer even wrote a prior, or first letter, which may have described the purpose and proposed itinerary of his trip. This introductory letter may not have been published, however.

Letter A: “Letter from Wanderer – No. 2 “

Letter A was written on July 27, 1859 in St. Louis, MO following a long railroad journey from Philadelphia, PA via Cresson (historic portage site of Allegheny Mountains) to Pittsburgh, PA. There he took the Fort Wayne Rail Road from Pittsburgh via Fort Wayne, IN to Chicago, IL and, after a visit around Chicago, he continued on via rail to Alton, IL. There he took a ferry across the Mississippi to nearby St. Louis. Letter A was published in The Press of Philadelphia, on August 2, 1859 on page 1. Wanderer and a fellow correspondent apparently traveled together from Philadelphia by rail to their first rest stop at a mountain retreat named “Allegheny Mountain House” at Cresson, PA, where, only a few years earlier, canal-boats had to stop and portage (by steam-powered and mule-powered cable-way rail flat-cars) up and over the Allegheny Mountains before continuing on by canal west to Pittsburg. By 1859, rail operations had recently bypassed and replaced the complex canal-portage system, but the portage facilities over the mountains were still a sight to see, as described in the following:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegheny_Portage_Railroad
https://www.nps.gov/alpo/learn/nature/mountains.htm

Letter B: “Wanderer in the Choctaw Nation Region”

Letter B was written on August 4, 1859 in Camp in Indian Territory, just west of Fort Smith, AR. Letter published in The Press of Philadelphia on August 15, 1859, p. 1. Letter B describes, compares and contrasts Chicago with St. Louis. Says St Louis is the larger city but Chicago is really growing and has the best hotel in the West. Wanderer describes his Butterfield Overland Stage ride from western railhead then at Syracuse, MO to Fort Smith. He crossed the Arkansas River on a two horse-powered ferry.

Letter C: “Wanderer at Edwards Camp”

Letter C was written on August 8, 1859 at Beale’s bridge construction supervisor and brother-in-law Henry B. “Harry” Edward’s base camp near Fort Smith in Choctaw Nation. Letter published in The Press of Philadelphia on August 22, 1859, p.1. Letter provides a description of Wanderer’s initial camp life to date among the Choctaw Indians.

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