SUNBONNET DAYS - CHAPTER XII - A CARPENTER'S WIFE IN ST. JOSEPH
We came back to St. Joseph in the spring of 1865 and remained for seven years. They were difficult years in consequence of the mob led by Jeff Thompson, which in 1861 had removed the United States flags from the post office and Turner Hall, as I have already told.
Until that time, St. Joseph was conceded to be the most likely terminal for the Pacific railroad. Not only was it the Missouri River city with eastern railroad connection, but from that point the plains would be crossed with greatest freedom from hills to climb or rivers to bridge. The superior situation of St. Joseph was know to Joe Robidoux, even in the Indian days when he founded his trading post there and named it St. Joseph for his patron saint. Robidoux knew that the best route to the mountains lay on the gently rolling divide between the waters of the Kansas River and the Platte.
The tearing of the flag from the post office roused the authorities at Washington. A cabinet member is reported to have said:
"We will not invest a dime for a railroad to start from that rebel town. What if a mob should wreck our depot?"
When the Union Pacific Bill became a law in 1862, two villages, Omaha in Nebraska, and Wyandotte in Kansas, were designated as the two Union Pacific termini. Wyandotte was across the state line from Kansas City, Missouri. Neither Omaha nor Wyandotte had railroad connections with the East. Rails, engines, and cars had to be hauled by steamboat from St. Joseph to the designated termini. And thus were Kansas City and Omaha made great, while St. Joseph suffered hard times. Generous land grants and bond issues were voted to help the Union Pacific. In desperation, St. Joseph business men tried to build a railroad to the Pacific, but it did not go far in competition with government-aided roads.
There is little business for a contracting carpenter in a stagnant city. We wanted to move away, but could not find a buyer for our cottage. In order to find building contracts, Christian often had to leave home, and even then he was not steadily employed.
Lack of occupation gave him time to develop two hobbies, church work and politics. From then on he gave a great deal of effort to Sunday School organization, Y.M.C.A., and temperance work. He also joined a Republican Club. Before the war he had been a Democrat, but in the army he became a Republican, and, after the war, worked for his party as though he wished to make up for the years when he had followed Stephen A. Douglas.
In 1870 he built a home for E.N.Morrill, a banker, of Hiawatha, county seat of Brown County, Kansas. This building was the finest residence in the county at that time. While building the house, my husband and Morrill formed a friendship which lasted through life. Morrill later represented us in Congress and became Governor of Kansas. My husband was one of the delegates who sat in the conventions that nominated him for his offices. But what was of more importance, the friendship brought us an opportunity to buy a farm.
Kansas was preparing at that time to sell a part of its school land which had been given to the state by the federal government as an endowment for the public school system. It was through Morrill that Christian learned of the impending sale.
At the same time came an opportunity to sell our cottage, although for less than its value; and with our children who had been born during our seven years in St. Joseph, Alice, Henry, Lydia, and Olivia, we moved to the prairie farm in Kansas.