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Letters from Kansas Territory

These are selections from letters written from Kansas by Axalla J. Hoole of Darlington County SC. Hoole was among many pro-slavery settlers who came to Kansas for the purpose of bringing it into the Union as a slave state. He eventually returned to South Carolina, became Lieutenant Colonel of the 8th South Carolina Regiment, and was killed at Chickamauga GA, Sept. 20, 1863.

I have seen none of the country except along the banks of the river, which is, with very little exceptions, nothing but lofty, rugged rocks, sometimes two or three hundred feet high. It was quite a sight to me at first, but I got very tired of looking at them. I saw thousands of wild geese in the Missouri river; I shot at them once about 200 yards, and of course missed. I saw duck also in abundance.

Wherever I have been able to see any land besides the rocky shores of the rivers, they, or rather it, appeared to be very rich, and I was told by some of the Missourians that it was much better off from the river. We entered the prairie country before we came to timber again

The banks of the river were low and I could see for miles, but there were houses scattered all over the prairie. I fell in company with a young man who had just married, from Georgia, who said he was going to Kansas, but there were other families along from Georgia, who were going to Missouri, and when they left the boat about 60 miles from here, he left with them and I was not sorry for it, as I did not fancy him much; neither did I fancy his wife. I would have but little to do with them-one objection I had to him was, he drank liquor.

The Missourians (all of whom I have conversed with, with the exception of one who, by the way, I found out to be an Abolitionist) are very sanguine about Kansas being a slave state & I have heard some of them say it shall be. I have met with warm reception from two or three, but generally speaking, I have not met with the reception which I expected.

Everyone seems bent on the Almighty Dollar, and as a general thing that seems to be their only thought.

I don't think I will ever like this country. The timber is too scarce, but the land is very rich-any of it will make from fifty to a hundred bushels of corn to the acre; but then the wind is always blowing, sometimes so hard that a man can hardly keep his hat on his head. I don't intend to preempt land, for all the claims worth having are already taken up, but if I like it well enough when the land comes in market, as there will be thousands who will not be able to pay for their claims, I will then buy a place. But I don't think I will ever like this country well enough to settle here, and I don't think, or at least I am afraid, it will be never be made a slave state, and if it is not, I will not live here on any conditions.

I have no fun here. Game is scarce. Mr. Elison's son killed a pelican in the river yesterday morning. I went out late in the evening and killed two squirrels, which is the first thing of any kind I have killed since I have been here. They catch cat-fish in the river here that weigh from 10 to 100 lbs., but I have not seen any yet. A man caught one yesterday morning that weighed 20 lbs.

I still don't like this country, and I don't care how soon it is admitted as a state.

The general feature of this part of the country is a rolling prairie, with no timber of any kind except along the rivers, creeks, and ravines, and [the] bottomland is heavily timbered with walnut, oak, hickory, ash, cottonwood, elm lyn [sic], &c. The creeks and ravines have the same but not so large and thick; the hillsides are all lime rocks, the soil very rich. The soil of the prairie appears to be very rich but it requires from 3 to 6 yoke of oxen to break it up, but after broken, no trouble to tend. The bottomlands are very spongy and mellow, but it takes 2 or 3 yoke of oxen to break it up; it is said to produce 8 or 10 barrels (40 or 50 bu.) per acre without cultivating. No corn, or very little, planted yet. If they can plant by the 1st. June, they will make a good crop. The sweet [sic] grows well here. The grass is from 6 to 8 inches the whole face of the prairie where I am, on the Kansas River, from 12 to 15 miles. The cattle are very fine. A gentleman near me has one cow, and his wife churns twice a day. They have 5 in the family and a good deal of company. He gives me as much milk and butter as I want, then gives milk to his pigs. There are but few hogs here, but what are here look well and in fine shape. The horses are very inferior; they give them but little corn, and sometimes a little salt.

I expect it will be a great country some day; it is cold though, and the water is bad.

All of the hogs here are fat enough to eat, and don't get a grain of corn. This is a great country for stock. It is a beautiful country in the spring and summer, but looks dreary & desolate in the winter . . . . I saw some of the prettiest corn over the river opposite here yesterday that I ever saw. It was a little over knee high, from three to five stalks in a hill. This is truly a great corn country.

Plums are just commenced getting ripe . . . . There is no other fruit. Dried apples are worth $3 a bushel here. Watermelons are just getting ripe of my neighbors has some almost as large as my head.