1860: Charles Thompson Boomer to Sister

This letter was written by Charles T. Boomer (1834-1871)—the son of James M. Boomer (1795-1876) and Lucy McClellen (1800-1872)—who was born in Worcester County, Mass., in October 1834, and lived in his native State until his fifteenth year, when his parents removed to Kendall County, Ill., and where he resided until the spring of 1858. In that year, he came to Kansas Territory and pre-empted a farm near Carson (now defunct) in Brown county, between Hiawatha and Seneca. In this letter, penned to his sister during the summer of 1860, Charles conveys the seriousness of the notorious drought that plagued the state just prior to its statehood.

In the summer of 1861, Charles enlisted in Co. A, 7th Kansas Cavalry, and served until the close of the war, “sharing all the dangers and hardships of his regiment… He entered his company as a private and re-enlisted as a veteran, and rose to the rank of Sergeant. He was wounded twice while in the service, once severely, and his death, which occurred in April, 1871, was directly attributable to the exposure and hardships he endured while in the service.

After his discharge he returned to his brother’s farm in Illinois, where he resided for three years, and then entered the employ of the American Bridge Company. He continued with this company about three years. In 1870 returned to his farm in Kansas to improve it, and where he lived until his death, in 1871. “He was favorably known far and wide to all the old settlers in the northern part of the State for his sterling worth and manly qualities.” [Cutler’s History of Kansas]


Carson, Brown county, Kansas Territory
July 8, 1860

Dear Sister,

I received yours of May & June the 16th of last month and now I will begin a letter to you but shan’t promise to finish today. I am well and I hope that this will find you enjoying the same blessing. I received a letter from James yesterday. Was glad to hear that you were all well. I have been better this spring and thus far this summer than usual. I think that this a healthy climate.

There has been nothing of interest a going on since you heard from me except the wind that has been blowing almost every day for 8 months and that reminds me of that terrible tornado that passed through Iowa & Illinois in May. ¹ That was the most awful storm that I ever heard of in the northern states. I think that it has been tracked for between 4 and 500 miles. Did you ever hear of anything like it? There has been some tornadoes through Kansas—one within a few miles—but nothing to compare with that.

I have just written a description of our 4th [of July] to Mother. All that I left out was the dance after the celebration. I withal wished went to the house and danced ass long as we wanted to. I didn’t take a partner but fell in with some nice girls of about your age although I guess that they…..

….quite so well formed, but for girls that have had no chance, they are smart. There was lots of pretty girls at the celebration but my acquaintance is limited as I don’t mix much in society for I live a good ways from anywhere and dames are scarce and time is precious. But I must cut around the gals some. It won’t do to stay w[   ] up at home all the time, will it, with nobody but a dull old bachelor for company. Don’t you think, Sis?

I went to meeting 2 or 3 weeks ago. I wrote to Susan about it. I don’t know when I shall be so rash again but the Carson School House is nearly done. Then probably they will have meeting  there quite often. That is about 4 miles from here. The Sunday before I went to Sunday School at Hamlin Mill. The last time I was there was a house full of children. They have a day school and some 20 or more scholars. But I must stop for today as I have written some 8 pages and that is enough for one Sunday.

Saturday night, 28th. I didn’t intend to delay quite so long but last Sunday I had to go to Mulberry Creek and when I got there, I found it necessary to leave old Kate and go to meeting afoot with some ladies and gentlemen. We went to the Carson School House. Was a good many out and had a good time. So you see that I had no time to write letters.

Last Tuesday there was a quilting at the Wise’s on Spring Creek 3 miles from here after dark and a hard days work. Bill and I went down afoot to help. We helped all night and had a good time of it too. When there is a party here, everybody goes and all have a good time. But I didn’t feel so very fine the next day as I did not get home till half an hour after sunup and went right to getting breakfast. But it payed. Where one don’t go only one or twice in 2 years, he must stay all night to make up.

The weather continues dry and hot. The mercury has been up to 110 degrees a number of days in the shade this summer. It is so dry that corn don’t grow any hardly. The bottom leaves are dying and if we don’t have rain in a few days, there will be no corn at all about here. It is so hot now that I am all wet with sweat sitting by the open window with both doors open. But I must close for tonight and try to finish it tomorrow. I received a letter from Merrill last week. Good night Sis.

Sunday 29th. As you may suppose, the news of Amelia’s was a shock to me. Only that day as I was at work, I was a thinking that if ever I got back to Bristol [Kendall county, IL], what a good time I would have with her. In the afternoon I received James & Gale’s letter with the sad news of A’s death. The Boomer cousins are all of the same family and we all seem like brothers and sisters. L. is lucky to get Jane to keep house for him, She is a first-[rate] girl. Please remember me to her. I should like to get round home this fall but it will be impossible unless we have rain soon. I shan’t have 100 bushels of corn and the oats were hardly worth cutting so you see that the prospect is slim for money. I don’t know where I am a going to cut my hay. The grass is dying on the prairie and cattle range as bad as they did in the spring. It looks like rain most every day but no rain comes and I believe that there is some sickness around. Most the flux.

What kind of a time did you have the Fourth? Merrill wrote that you was out with a fine young man and of course you don’t go with any other. He said that most of the boys stayed at home and that it is hard times. You may think that I am flush by my being out a couple of times lately but the whole only cost me about a dollar. There is meeting at the schoolhouse today and they are going to start a Sunday School and singing also. I think that looks encouraging for us, don’t you? But I can’t go as I have got some more writing to do and I have had company.

You said that you would like to call and see me. I should like to have you. I would try and have the dishes washed and find something for you to mend and I would agree not to leave you for the first half hour. But we wash the dishes once a day. That is enough for bachelors when they have anything else to do. All the stock that I am raising is four pigs and a few chickens and the wolves have caught more than half of them. Meyer [?] has a cow now and we have plenty of milk.

Well, Melie, I believe that I have wrote about out and if I don’t get the sheet full, it is because of the dry times. There is nothing said here about politics—only that we hope that Lincoln & Hamlin will be elected. Please write all the news and as soon as you can. Remember me to all and accept this from your brother, — Charley Boomer

¹ Possibly a reference to the “1860 Great Tornado” that tracked through eastern Iowa and northwest Illinois on 3 June 1860.

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