Fr. Butler's "State of Kansas and Irish Immigration," continued:


     The population of the city of Leavenworth, according to the census taken last year, is twenty-five thousand.
     Of this number of people, inhabiting the city of Leavenworth, about one-sixth, or four thousand, are Irish Catholics, and the children of the Irish. They are to be found in various positions and walks of life. The sheriff of the city is an Irishman, the deputy-treasurer is an Irishman, the market-master, the weigh-master, many of the foremost lawyers, and some of the city police are sons of "the old land." A great many "saloon-keepers" (publicans) and shopkeepers are Irish; and a stranger from "the Emerald Isle" might read such Celtic names, on show-boards, as Phelan, Whelan, Casey, McCarthy, Cooney, &c., &c. The dray-men and railroad porters are almost all Irishmen; also a great many of the bricklayers, masons, and carpenters. But the majority of our countrymen in Leavenworth belong to the labouring class, and are obliged to work hard on railways and streets for small wages. Four years ago the pay given to labouring men was two dollars per day; and if you take into account many inclement days during the year, when the labourer cannot work, it will be seen that such men have hard times here. The stern truth of the case is this--Irishmen must not hope to make much money as labourers in the towns and cities in the future. Since the emancipation of the negroes the labour-market has been glutted, and, undoubtedly, in a few years more Sambo and John Chinaman will be the only labourers on the highways. Then, indeed, many of our people will regret having squandered away their money, and not having gone out, to work a farm for themselves, in former years.
     Some, however, of the Irish labourers have, very wisely, purchased farms and gone to live upon them within the past year.
     I am happy to say that many of our good Irish


people in this, and other towns of Kansas, exhibit a provident spirit. When labourers had good wages, a few years ago, many Irish workmen saved money, and when an opportunity presented itself, purchased a house and "lot" in the city.
     In the course of time, as the city grew, the value of property increased, and in a few years the house and "lot" sold for five times the amount paid for it by our countrymen. The money thus acquired was sufficient to purchase a fine farm within a few miles of the city, and so some of the Irishmen who made our streets and railraods are now happy farmers in the country. But, as I mentioned before, labourers who have families to support cannot now do what was done a few years ago.
     The only chance for labouring men to procure a farm now-a-days is by first becoming "farm labourers." "Farm labourers" have generally about twenty dollars per month, and board. Young unmarried men can save about two hundred dollars per year as "farm labourers," and thus, in four or five years have sufficient funds to purchase a small farm for themselves. Or, if they cannot save so much, they can, at least, in two or three years, "rent" some land, which they may afterwards buy out as their property.
     Some may wish to know something concerning the wages, prospects, &c., of tradesmen in Kansas. In some small cities of this State tradesmen soon make a good deal of money. This refers especially to blacksmiths and carpenters, who "made a start" in a young town, or promising village, where there are no other men of the same trade to be found. But in large cities journeymen carpenters and smiths cannot acquire money now as readily as a few years ago.
     The demand is not so great, and many carpenters and smiths spend weeks and months seeking for situations. I have known a carpenter to come from Boston to Leavenworth seeking work, who spent five months


in unavailing efforts to get something to do. Steam machinery, too, does a great deal of work formerly performed by carpenters. The average wages of carpenters here is between three and four dollars a day; of blacksmiths a few cents more. Bricklayers have very good pay, and constant employment for about six months in the year; their work opens early in spring, and ends at the commencement of the month of November. Their wages is between four and five dollars per day.
     So far as my experience here can lead me to judge, I am decidedly of the opinion that Dublin tradesmen at home need not envy their brethren in the Far West. However, as I stated before, the prospects are brighter for tradesmen in young towns and settlements than in large cities. Boot and shoemakers do well when they have large stores, and cheap "machine-made" goods; but the race of "cobblers" is unknown; they disappeared years ago.
     Let us now turn our attention, once again, to the farming lands of Kansas. A government fort, or a mission house, was generally the nucleus of a little town in Kansas in the early days of its first settlement. By degrees farms where purchased, and farm-houses were erected at some distance from the forts and missions, forming, as it were, many concentric circles through the country.
     The United States Government offered most liberal inducements to persons wishing to till the soil of the fresh young State.
     People can yet obtain splendid land in Kansas under the law of "pre-emption," and also in accordance with the "Home-stead Law."
     And now I will endeavour to explain what is meant by "pre-emption" and "home-stead," premising that the proper understanding of these two things is of great importance to persons intending to immigrate to Kansas.


     The term "pre-emption" is used to express the right of the "squatter" on the public lands of the United States to purchase in preference to others when the land is sold; or, in other words, pre-emption is the mode of acquiring a title to Government lands, by taking possession, and paying a sum specified by the laws. "Every head of a family, or widow, or single man or woman over twenty-one years of age, being a citizen, or having filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen, can pre-empt 160 acres of land, by paying therefor, and complying with certain regulations. The (qualified) party who makes the first settlement upon any public land, by improving the same, is entitled to the right of pre-emption, if the pre-emption laws are subsequently complied with, including filing upon the same." The price to be paid for these pre-emption lands is 1 1/4 dollar per acre. Les [sic] us now take a practical illustration.
     Suppose some young Irishman--married or unmarried--driven forth from his home in "the old country," and anxious to obtain a farm amidst the rolling prairies of Kansas. He asks me, "How much money will I require to obtain a farm by pre-emption?" I answer, "You can have 160 acres of the most fertile land that ever the rains and dews of heaven fell upon for the small sum of two hundred dollars, or about thirty-six pounds; and, therefore, for house, and farm of 160 acres, you have to pay fifty-four pounds sterling. And these become yours for ever! No rents, no landlords, no danger of eviction!"
     Of course you will require horses or mules, a wagon, a plough, and other farming implements, as also a cow or two. All these necessaries will cost you seventy pounds sterling.
     I must state, however, that if you cannot pay for the land immediately on taking possession, you are


allowed from one to two years to pay for it. In fact "a pre-emptor cannot pay for land until he has actually resided upon the same for a period of six months." Having therefore, the great advantage of postponing the payment for one year or two, you require very little more after pre-empting than the things necessary for farming, and provisions sufficient to last for a few months. If, then, my good fellow-countryman, you find you possess ninety or one hundred pounds sterling as you step upon the deck of the crowded emigrant ship, and turn your eyes, dimmed with tears, toward the Far West, have courage, and be consoled by the thought that you can soon possess lands as fertile as the green fields of sorrowing Erin, where the voice of famine can never reach you, nor the threats of tyranny strike the ear.
     I come now to describe another manner of obtaining State lands--namely, by "home-steading." "The home-stead law permits any person to acquire by occupation, and the payment of commissions and fees, one hundred and sixty acres of land. Under this law the settler may file on the land he desires to obtain, and that filing holds good for six months, during which time the settler must take possession of the land by occupation and improvement."
     It is required that affidavit be made that he or she home-steading is the head of a family, or is twenty-one years of age. The amount of the commission and fees does not exceed eighteen dollars in Kansas.
     Consequently, by the payment of eighteen dollars, and fulfillment of conditions above prescribed, a man may obtain a good farm in the State of Kansas. Before a certificate is given to the person who claims a home-stead he must "within seven years from the date of the duplicate of entry, given to the settler by the receiver at the district land office, personally appear at said office and make affidavit that he has resided upon or cultivated the same for the term of five years immediately succeeding the time of filing the affidavit of entry, and that no


part of the land is alienated." The registrar and receiver endorse their opinion upon the testimony and affidavit, and transmit them to the General Land Office at Washington. If the proceedings are satisfactory to them, they also give a certificate to the settler.
     From this it will be seen that five years must elapse from the date of settlement until the settler can call the land his own. He can, however, till the land from the first day he enters upon it.
     Now, as I do not presume to state anything that I do not believe to be strictly true, I refrain from the custom common amongst writers, who, in their admiration of certain laws, picture their beneficial effects in the most glowing colours. The unvarnished truth, regarding the great advantages arising from the operation of the Pre-emption and Homestead Laws, is simply this--tens of thousands of brave and honest immigrants have been made happy and contented in a brief period. But all this has not come to pass in a few months. Three or four years of hard labour upon the virgin soil must pass away before "the squatter" can sit outside his cottage door with his heart free from care and anxiety. From the day he drives his landmark into the fertile bosom of the prairies, until the shining axe strikes down the last post for fences on his farm, the sweat of labour will often roll down his face in little streams.
     Let me picture for you the beginning of a "squatter's" life. Having been informed that land may be obtained by "pre-emption," or "homesteading," in a certain district of country, the person proposing to "squat" endeavors to procure all the information possible relative to its exact position. He may be so fortunate as to obtain a map of the district with the townships and sections marked upon it; if this cannot be procured he will have some trouble making "random lines," striking the stakes, and "marking the corners." If some other "squatter" is on the next section, the trouble will not be at all so great in fixing the boun-


daries sought for. If there is no neighbor near, he will not give himself any trouble "fencing in" his farm for a year or two.
     Out far upon the lovely prairies where no farm house can be seen, the traveller descries the white sheet covering of an immigrant wagon. As he draws nearer he notices the bright-coloured wagon that bears the white covering upon it, and horses grazing near by; and at a little distance from these white smoke is curling upwards amongst the trees.
     The immigrant's wife is preparing the mid-day meal over a fire she has kindled upon the ground, for she has no roof to cover her but the white covering of the wagon, under which she sleeps at night. Little children are running about, or swinging from the branches of tall trees, or playing with some lubberly-looking mastiff. The ringing sounds of an axe are heard at a distance in the woods, after a while the father of the family is seen striking down some forest monarch. This is a scene that has much in it to remind "old country folks" of a gipsy encampment; but it is one that is often to be met with by folks in a new country--like Kansas. There, where "the squatter's" wife seems so lonely, cooking beneath the shade of the forest trees, a "log cabin" shall soon be built of the wood that the husband is hewing; and where the covered wagon stands the yellow corn shall soon wave its tasseled heads in the breeze of the early summer.
     It does not take up much time to build a snug "log cabin," where wood is near at hand. The builder does not endeavour to make the cabin present a finished appearance--it is "more useful than ornamental"--and will resist the wild wintry winds that rush across the prairies as stoutly as the best "frame buildings." In three or four years it shall disappear, to make way for a handsome cottage, whose ornamented porch will be covered in the summer with bright blooming "morning glories," where a happy family shall sit and smile, as they talk of the early days of "squatting."


     There is often a great deal of trouble in "clearing the land" for cultivation. Sometimes a large portion of "a claim" is covered with "brush," all of which must be "grubbed" and removed before ploughing.
     But the Indian corn is so easily cultivated, and demands so little attention from the farmer, that when the ground is ploughed most of the work upon the fields is finished. I do not intend to conceal from the reader that sickness may soon visit the immigrant family, and make them grow dispirited and discontented for a little while.
     In most newly-settled districts, when the land is ploughed up for the first time, especially in the vicinity of creeks, a disease known as "chills and fever" often attacks and prostrates entire families.
     I speak from a brief personal experience when I state that it is a most unpleasant illness while it lasts, and, as the only remedy prescribed by the physicians is a liberal use of quinine, the head suffers considerably for some time even after the sickness itself has passed away.
     But as "the chills and fever" is a disease never looked upon as dangerous, there is generally as little sympathy for the sufferer as for one suffering from the horrid sea-sickness.
     Besides the lands already mentioned, there are immense tracts of country known under the name of Railway Lands.
     The Congress of the United States, in its laudable desire to see the new State developed, made most liberal offers to railway companies to induce them to build roads through Kansas; and as the great highway from the East to the shore of the Pacific was to be made through the heart of Kansas, every facility was given to the "Kansas Pacific Railway Company" to push on the good works.
     Congress made immense grants of lands to the company on the line of the proposed road, and now, by con-


tract with the Kansas Pacific Railway, the National Land Company have the agency of 6,400,000 acres of land in Kansas. "The Railway Company have adopted a liberal policy, by reduction of passage and freight rates to persons buying lands or lots of the Land Company, with other valuable aid, facilitating the emigration and land business."
     These lands are sold for cash, or on credit. Sales are made on credit as follows:--One-fifth cash down at time of purchase; no payment except interest due, at the end of the first year; one-fifth cash, with interest due, at end of the second year; onefifth, with interest due, at the end of the third year; one-fifth, with interest due, at end of fourth year; one-fifth, with interest due, at end of fifth year. Interest on deferred payments at six per cent, per annum.
     The price charged for the lands depends, of course, upon the nature and quality of the soil, and the proximity to railroads and markets. Very good land, however, can yet be bought for four or five dollars per acre.
     When I arrived in Kansas, in the year 1867, a number of Irish families, resident in the city of Leavenworth (where I now reside), had just purchased railway lands, about fourteen miles from here, at the low price of two and a half dollars per acre, with the privilege of paying in instalments of one-fifth per year, as stated above.
     My ministerial duties were sometimes required amongst the people of this new Irish settlement, and many times, for six months, I have galloped my young horse over the wide prairies, from log cabin to log cabin, and noticed the kind of life the settlers enjoyed.
     Undoubtedly, their mode of life was rather "rough," and their troubles considerable; but the certainty of better times in the future buoyed these people up. The accommodation for travellers who sought a shelter in the chill at the close of day was not such as hospitable Irish tenants would consider good; but the smallness of the dwelling-house must be a strong excuse. What


a wonderful change has taken place in that district of country, and amongst those people, since I first rode around that Irish settlement! Then there were about thirty-five Irish families scattered over the prairies; now there are eighty families of Irish Catholics on the same prairies. Then there were few fenced farms to be seen; now hundreds of "zigzag fences" meet the gaze as you look around.

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This page was created on March 25, 2000,
Feast of the Annunciation.