Recently I had the privilege of transcribing the original journal kept by Washington Marlatt as he traveled to Kansas Territory in the spring of 1856. This journal is currently in the hands of Sally Nield, a descendant of the Kansas pioneer whose name is so prominently linked to the history of Manhattan, Kansas, and with the Blue Mont Central College that has morphed into what is today Kansas State University. She graciously allowed me to publish it on-line before depositing it permanently in an appropriate archive.
As a means of introducing this journal, I have chosen to use a previously unpublished paper by Marlatt’s son, Charles L. Marlatt, who framed the piece from voluminous papers he inherited from his father—this portion entitled “Post-Graduate Years in Indiana; 1853-1856.” I find that it serves as a suitable introduction to the journal. — Will Griffing, October 2019
“The interval between his graduation from Asbury College [now De Pauw University] in 1853 and his journey to Kansas [Territory] in the spring of 1856 was spent at home near Milton, Indiana. Following his graduation, his father had presented him with the original ‘home place’ on the White Water in Indiana where he was born. He immediately took over the management of this farm, but at the same time was feeling about for some other career for which he evidently felt his college training ought to have fitted him. Unfortunately the training at Asbury [was a typical “classical” education], centered largely about Latin and Greek, with some philosophy and history, &c., and left the graduate totally unqualified for an technical field, and for the “learned professions” he must enter on a period of several years additional training.
“His college influences and surroundings had given him a strong religious bent, resulting in his experimenting a little in the field of the ministry. From an old renewal slip found among his papers, it appears that he had been licensed as a lay preacher by the Methodist Episcopal Church in Indiana, the license bearing date of 4 August 1854—the year after his graduation.
“During this period, as he told me, he had been a constant reader of the writings of Horace Greeley—owner and editor of the New York Tribune—and as a result became fired with zeal to follow the latter’s urgings and, “go West and grow up with the country.” With this in mind, during his last year in Indiana, he arranged his crops so that they would require little summer care—planting in fall to wheat for July harvest. Then, with his gold strapped about his waist and with his carpet bag, he entered on his first adventure of freedom—destined to govern his whole after life—in the trip he had determined upon to the newly opened Territory of Kansas, then in the throes of a crusade to prevent its becoming a slave state.
“Brief daily notes were kept during the trip continuing through the first weeks in Kansas Territory (April 23 to May 31st, 1856). These notes, entitled “Kansas Journal” were found, in pencil, on some pages that had been left blank in the last college diary—that of 1850, and are well worth perpetuating as giving the means and incidents of travel of the period—particularly in Kansas where it was altogether on foot! Later this journal was made the basis, in 1872, of a more complete account in his “Kansas Reminiscences, Recollections of Ten Years on the Frontier,” the publication of which began in 1872 in the Manhattan Beacon.
“… In a sentence summary, the journal gives the incidents of his journey by rail, steamboat, and on foot from Indiana to Manhattan, Kansas, his experiences in ‘claim hunting’ in eastern and central Kansas [along the Blue, Republican and Smokey Hill bottoms], and his final choice for location [some three or four miles south of Manhattan and the Kansas River.]” — Charles L. Marlatt
Go to Marlatt’s Kansas Journal