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By Linda Emley
This letter appeared in the Richmond Conservator on Jan 8,1891 under the headline “A Wanderer Returns to God’s Country.”
Jan. 3, 1891
“As I promised to write to you when I got to Louisiana, and as I did not stay long enough to write, I will now write and tell you about the wanderings of a fool. I pulled out of Orrick, Dec. 17th and went to Kansas City, and laid over 24 hours with my car. I had five head of mares and two mules and my household goods and farming implements. We went on the M. K. & T route : our first stop was at Paola, Ks. , and then on to Parsons, and the next stop was at Muskogee, Indian Territory, and I will say right here that the best land I saw while I was gone was from Vinita to about 40 miles south of Muskogee. It had good grass and cattle looked well.”
From there, our “wanderer” stopped in Denison, Alvarado and Taylor, Texas. He passed through some fine country and thousands of acres of cotton. There was cotton at every town and cotton in most every yard. He saw farmers with eight- and 10-inch plows. At Taylor, he took his livestock off to rest and then reloaded them on the train car and headed to Lagrange. There, he boarded the Southern Pacific railroad and passed through Glidden, Houston, and then on to Lake Charles, La.
His story continues: “When morning came we were about 50 miles from Lake Charles and then I began to feel sick of the country: looked anything but inviting; everything we saw seemed to testify to the poorness of the country, the poorest cattle and horses you ever saw. We got to Lake Charles at 10 am, and my family got there at 11:25 am, and felt glad that we were at the end of our journey, and the real estate sharks were glad we were there. Long before we were unloaded they were after us to sell us land.
“I paid a man $2.50 to take a load for me out to Mr. Stickel’s farm, and before we got there I found we had to cross English Bayou, the ferryman charged me one dollar for putting me over, and when we got to the farm we found an old man in the house, and he said he knew that it was not the house we were looking for, and we drove to another house that was empty, that we supposed was the place, looked over the farm the next morning and pulled back to town. Everyone was talking rice and raising rice. Upon inquiry I found out that 25 men out of 30 had failed in the rice business, and had lost all they had taken with them, and many would gladly go back north if they had anything to go back with.
“I saw enough during the day to convince me that I had made one of the worst mistakes of my life in leaving Ray County. When I got back in the evening my wife was badly worked up and told me we were ruined. I told her we were going back and I never finished unloading my car.
“We started back on Saturday, Dec. 27, and was wrecked on Monday six miles east of Lagrange, Texas. We came back on the same route and nothing important happened until we reached Denison, where I got water for my stock and then pulled over into the Indian Territory. At the first station the train stopped, someone began to work at one door of my car. I thought it was some of the train crew and told them that door was hard to open, to come around to the other door. My lantern had gone out and it was dark in my car. I shoved the door back and two men stuck their revolvers up to my head and told me to throw up my hands. I threw myself back in the dark and grabbed my pocketbook out of my inside pocket and threw it into the back end of the car, and they called on me again to throw up my hands P.D.Q. and up they went. One of the men jumped up in the door and went through me, and then remarked to his pal that is was a waterhaul and jumped down and left. I had some $250 in my pocketbook,which I found after a big hunt. I got back to Orrick in old Ray Jan. 1, 1891, a complete cured wanderer and now I expect to remain here.
“They have a fine climate down there, but the land is no account, and it is too swampy for even to be of any good, and I was told by one man that he actually had shaken his bed to the floor. The lumber interest is considerable there and most every other door is a saloon, and the like of drinking I never saw before and I don’t know how many I heard of being held up for their money and other valuables.The jails are full to overflowing. If there are any more fools in Ray County like myself they had better take warning and know what they are doing before they leave Ray County, but if they will take a trip like I did they will then appreciate Ray County. My old neighbors have all welcomed me back, and you may bet I will remain at home from now on. Please change my paper back to Orrick.
Yours, a wanderer, N.H. Endsley”
When I read this story, I knew I had to share it. My favorite line is, “and they called on me again to throw up my hands P.D.Q. and up they went.” I can just see our poor “wanderer” putting his hands up in the air. It sure looks like P.D.Q. Stood for “pretty darn quick” in 1891 just like it does today because he was moving fast.
I tried to find out more about N.H. Endsley, but I have yet to figure out who he was. There were many Endsleys in Ray County and the only one I found that might be our man was Nimrod H. Endsley. It looks like it’s going to take a little more research to find the rest of the story on our 1891 “wanderer”.
I’ve spent a few years away from Ray in my days and I agree totally with our main man, “I might go on a trip now and then, but there’s no place like home.”
You can contact Linda Emley, a real homebody, at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her at Ray County Library, Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.