The Lawrence Journal recently said that the present was the first year of real solid, substantial prosperity Kansas had ever known, since it was the first time in the history of the State that its prosperity was based on something else than ephemeral or accidental causes.
There is a great deal of truth in this statement. We went down to hard pan during the disastrous years of 1873-74. Previous to that time the life of the State has been a succession of excitements. Kansas was the John the Baptist of the great civil war. During her territorial pupilage there was neither enduring or solid prosperity in her growth. Excitement, a sentiment, love of adventure – these and other kindred motives attracted people hither from all points of the country. During the war, Kansas progressed as a crab is popularly supposed to move, backwards. She had not as many inhabitants when the great struggle closed as when it commenced. Following the war Kansas grew with wonderful rapidity. The unsettled condition of the Southern States; the thousands of Northern soldiers returning to their old homes and finding their old places filled, and all the conditions of the old home life so changed that it was not only new and strange, but unsatisfactory to them; the great wars in Europe which speedily followed; the unstable and speculative tendency of the inflation period; the restlessness and love of excitement and change born of the war, and so strongly tincturing our body politic as to be a national characteristic for the time – all these conspired to populate Kansas with a hardy, brave, energetic, enterprising people, and keep her, to use a western phrase that is expressive, if not elegant, “booming” right along.
But the time came when the speculative era collapsed like a punctured soap bubble when the war fever and its excitement had worked out of the blood, and when men began to see that we must go back to the old ways and the old life, and that there, any how, were to be found the greatest happiness and the most enduring prosperity. With the dawn of this era, most unfortunately for Kansas, came first the drouth of 1873 and then the locusts and drouth of 1874. Either of these without the other would have hardly been felt as a serious calamity – succeeding each other, and blotting out the labor and the crops of two years, they were well nigh fatal to Kansas. No other State in the Union could have recovered from such a calamity in less than half a dozen years. Kansas was restored in one, and here on the dawn of the second year following this terrible calamity, drouth and locusts are only a memory. Old soldiers joke about their hardships and privations, of their campings, if indeed they remember the somber and trying ordeals of their experience in camp and field. They vividly recall the pleasant episodes of their soldier life, and remember with pardonable pride the glories of the great scenes now passed into history with which they were personally identified. Just so Kansas looks back upon the past, forgetting all that in dark and discouraging during the recent years of disaster, remembering with lively satisfaction the many years of fruitfulness and plenty, and glorifying in the wonderful beauty, fertility, and development of their State, in whose future greatness and prosperity they have the most implicit confidence.
And this confidence is fully justified. Kansas is a great young State, and will have a grand future. Her growth has been phenomenal. Her history is the most exciting drama of modern times. Her soil needs only to be “tickled with a hoe and it laughs with a harvest.” Her climate is healthful. Her resources and wealth have only begun to be developed. The countless millions of buffalo that once fed upon her beautiful prairies will soon be succeeded by countless millions of cattle and sheep. She has coal, and gypsum, and salt, and lead, and other minerals, and the deposits of these are enough to supply the markets of half the continent. Her crops of last year would feed a population of five million people. Her railroad system is more complete and extended than that of four-fifths of the States of the Union. West of Kansas is the richest mineral region on the continent – Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona – which will contain, within five years, millions of people engaged in mining and manufacturing industries. This population will be supplied with breadstuffs and other agricultural products by Kansas, because Kansas is their nearest and most direct granary of supplies. In less than a dozen years nearly every bushel of wheat and corn we raised in Kansas will shipped West, instead of East, because our nearest and best markets will be found in this rich mining region.
These facts are well understood and appreciated, and this is why every train arriving is loaded with immigrants for Kansas, and along every road leading hither are seen the white-topped wagons of movers to Kansas. Very few even of our own people know how great is the tide of irrigation pouring over our prairies. It is almost unprecedented, this exodus to Kansas from all parts of the country; and it is now growing larger every week. One of the most intelligent men in Southern Kansas told us a few days ago that the country in which he lived had at least one thousand people added to its population within two weeks.
We feel confident, in view of all the circumstances surrounding our situation that Kansas is about entering upon such an era of real abundant prosperity as she has never before known. Every indication promises this year the largest and finest harvest the State has ever reaped. There is hardly a doubt that we shall have the heaviest immigration, during the Centennial year, that ever poured into the State. Our Centennial exhibit at Philadelphia will attract general and deserved attention and very materially assist in directing capital and population to Kansas. Most of our railroads are preparing to advertise the resources of our State systematically and extensively and two of the lines terminating at this city, the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe, and the Central Branch U.P. Companies, will be especially active in this work. There is, too, a better feeling among our people than we have known for years. They are hopeful and confident. They believe firmly in Kansas, they write and talk for the State. All of these things will tell. They will bring capital and people here. The Centennial year therefore promises to be a year of extraordinary prosperity and growth for Kansas. – The Atchison Champion. The Iola Register, Iola, Kansas. May 27, 1876. Page 1. © Transcribed by Darren McMannis for the Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies, Inc.