May 23, 1849
From letter published in the Missouri Whig , Palmyra July 12, 1849
FROM THE PLAINS
Our old friend, Mr. Lewis Vanlandingham, has furnished us with extracts from a letter written by his son, Mr. R. K. Vanlandingham, now on his way to California. The letter is dated near Fort Kearney, May 23d, and will be interesting to many of our readers.
I embrace this opportunity to let you and all my friends know that I am well, and in fine spirits. My comrades that left Warren with me, are all in good health. We are 326 miles from St. Joseph, and 520 miles from home. We have had no accident to happen any of us worth notice. Our wagon is the only one that came to this place without having to double teams. The postmaster at this Fort told me this day that 1416 wagons had passed, up to the 22d instant; and 186 had passed during this day, ant it was about 3 o’clock. P. M., and it is thought there are two wagons behind, to one before us. Of course we are in a fair way to go through the mountains, if any one goes through. There is in sight of us at this time more than 300 wagons, and not a single stick of timber to be seen. We are encamping on the bank of the Platte river. Ft. Kearney is on the bank of this river, which at this point if about a mile and half wide, The water is yellow, like the Missouri river water. We are in company with twelve wagons. We could have got in a company of 44 wagons, commanded by old Mr. Owsley, of Canton, Mo., but would not go with time for the reason that it takes too much time, in so large a company, to pass over rivers, &c.
The roads from St. Joseph to this place are fine. Our cattle look well, and have improved, if any thing, since we left home, I heard that A. B. Hawkins was four days drive behind us. I have not seen R. Payne or Mr. Bell since I left them 2 1-2 days travel of the fort. Wm. Muldrow & Co. are six or eight days drive behind us. Uncle Abraham Bird’s son and John Furkin, the old blacksmith of Palmyra, are in camp near us at this time.
The weather is remarkably cold at night, and warm from about 11 o’clock in the forenoon, til 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We have travelled at the rate of 20 miles per day since we left st. Jo. The Government train leaves Ft. Kearney to-morrow, to guard out the California emigrants. Of course they will be of great aid to us.
Some of the boys are now fishing, some hunting, some cooking, some fiddling, some dancing, and some gone out to kill antelopes. This morning I killed two fine antelopes. They are not as long as our deer, and have more white about them. I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing buffalo, although there are some not far off.
We have 35 men in company, and I have to stand guard two hours every third night. It does not rain here as it does on the States. We have passed about 25 or 30 graves since we left St. Jo. the most of them were from St. Louis; some of them from Ohio and Illinois.
Transcribed courtesy of Kathleen Wilham