Postcards: The adventurous life of David Kell, part 2

By Linda Emley

Last week, I told the story about David Kell’s trip to California in 1865. Several people asked to hear some of the adventures he recorded in his diary, so here are some highlights.
David averaged 15 to 20 miles a day and took nine months to get to California. He left Alton, Ill. April 6, 1865.
“April 16th Sunday – Easter Eggs and Prairie Chickens plenty for breakfast. Left camp fast passed through Mount Air County Seat. Camped on Grand River.”
A few days later, “April 18th Tuesday – Started to leave camp and while taking up tent. Charley Cooper got shot with a shot gun in the calf of leg accidentally. I went for doctor in haste to Bedford. Doctor came and dressed it. The Doctor’s name was Galliday. Seventeen of the shot went through and struck the carriage. Stayed in camp all day.” They stayed here until April 22 while Charley healed.
The boys got a taste of the Wild West in May. “May 16th Tuesday – Left Camp traveled on Little Blue all day. Crossed a number of small branches and very bad roads. Saw two stage stands and one house that was burnt by the Indians last winter. Camped on Little Blue. Three Hundred Indians came into camp as soon as we camped. Big excitement. May 17th Wednesday Left camp – Saw a train of soldiers going out to the Sioux Indians.
“May 18th Thursday – Left camp. Looks like rain. Passed seven graves. The seven were killed by the Indians on the 7th of August last. May 19th Friday – There was an Indian attack on the 32-mile station last night in which one man was scalped and three killed. They were led by white men. The soldiers were on their way after the Indians this eve. We were camped within 4 miles of them last night;
“May 20th Saturday – Left camp passed through Ft. Kearney. Organized into a train of 56 wagons. Camped 3 miles further on the Platte River. Distance 11 miles.”
Mother nature wasn’t always kind. “May 24th Wednesday – Left camp passed a ranch 3 miles down. Camped in one of the hardest hail storms ever saw at the mouth of the North Platte. The hail was 1½ inches thick on the ground.”
David had a little fun on his journey, too. “May 28th Sunday – Left camp passed through Julesburg. Drove down to general’s headquarters. Gen. Connar and the head boss drank champaign with the general. Drove out one mile and camped. Indians and federal soldiers here, plenty of them. It was against the orders to cross here so we had to go up Platte further.”
I mapped out the whole trip and they followed the Pony Express Trail, the Mormon Trail and sometimes the California Trail on their journey.
On his trip home, David took a steamboat out of San Francisco to Central America. Once there, he crossed Lake Nicaragua and went up over the mountains to the ocean shore on the east side of Nicaragua. He then rode a boat across the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans. The final leg of his trip was by boat up the Mississippi to St. Louis.
Now for the final chapter of D.W. Kell. This was in The Richmond Missourian July 10, 1911. “David W. Kell Dead. Well Known Ray County Citizen Died Saturday Morning. This community was shocked Saturday morning to learn that David W. Kell had died suddenly at his home near Richmond. He had apparently been enjoying as good health as usual and the news of his death was quite a surprise. Mr. Kell was born in Illinois in 1844 and came to Ray County in 1874 and resided here continually until the time of his death. He was one of the county’s representative citizens and was a man highly respected in every way by all who knew him. He was engaged in farming and stock raising and was a valuable man for the community and his sudden death is deeply mourned by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. The funeral was held at Hickory Grove church, Sunday evening, conducted by Elder G. E. Higdon, after which the remains were intered in the churchcemetery. A large number of his friends and acquaintances were present to pay their last respects to their friend and neighbor, who had lived among them for over 35 years and who had so honorable done his part in every way.”
I looked up David’s death certificate and he died from being a diabetic with a heart condition. My grandmother remembered the day he died and told me the story as seen by a 4-year-old. David was living with his son Mike and his family. One of David’s duties was to haul water from the well to the kitchen each morning in a bucket. She remembers seeing him lying on the ground by the well as some of the men from the neighborhood gathered around. I’ve always thought this was a sad way for an adventurous man like D.W. Kell to leave this world.
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