March 2, 1877 letter from Robert Burling to John Burling


Date:  The letter was written on March 2, 1877

From: To:
At the time of the letter, Robert Burling was 44 years old and living in Reno County, Kansas.  The letter was written to his brother, John Burling, who was 41 years old and living in Otto Township, Kankakee County, Illinois.
  March 2, 1877
Langdon, Reno County, Kansas

Well, John, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know how we are, all well but mighty hard up at present.  We have a comfortable dugout to live in, it is 14 x 20, it is dug in the side of a ravine and fronts to the south with board roof and boarded up at the south end with door and window in it, and a prairie stable for my horses.  I went 60 miles for the crotches.  It is in the ravine and covered and banked up with straw.  I have a fair claim.  There is about 120 acres of good land as any in the neighborhood and the rest is broken with dry sand draws, I call them ravines.  There is two of them, one starts in about 6 rods from the NW corner on north side and the other about 60 rods from it east and come together and running out on the west side about 20 rods from SW corner.  NW corner is gravel and sandy soil, the rest of it is heavy soil.

I like the country pretty well at present.  They raise mostly winter wheat here and not much corn.  I donít think corn will make a very big crop here.  It is too dry for it in July and August as far as I hear, but some of them talk of raising 40 and 50 bushels per acre, but none of them put in much here.

Well, John, you wanted me to look over the books and see how we stood.  I received in all for the girlsí board 226 dollars, 15 cents.1  They was with me 2 years and 17 weeks.  Making 242 dollars, you worked for me 4 days haying, and 4 days thrashing, and 1 day shelling corn.  Whatever you think there is due me, if any, I would like to have it, as I have only 11 bushels of corn and nothing to get any more with, and only one old breaking plow, 12 inch, and left handed at that.

Breaking plows are very dear here, new 12-inch plows, 24 to 26 dollars, and larger more in proportion.  I think [I] will have hay enough to last until grass comes.  They have been plowing all through February and last days of January here.  Some mornings it is froze too hard to plow.  It never gets too wet to plow here.  It is most too dry now.  I started breaking this week.

I will have nothing but sod corn this year.  I could rent plenty of second sod for corn or oats or spring wheat, but I canít get the seed and they are all too poor to furnish seed that wants to rent, and I canít sell any of my teams here for money.  I have been trying to sell one team for cash but cannot get a bid on them nor trade them for any cows or young stock.  Nothing to trade for them, only old broken down work cattle and I donít want them.  I expect to see hard times here for a while, but will have to do the best I can.

There is a good range for cattle here and plenty of water on the section west of me, never fails.  It is a small stream about 20 feet wide call the north Ninescha River.  It runs through the railroad section west of me, mostly on the west half.  They hold the east half at 350 per acre, north of me one quarter at 450 and the other three at 475 per acre on 11 years time.  The section north of me is all very good land.

Well, John, I will send you an account of my road work in this letter and if you can't attend to it, get Charley Atkins to do the best he can for me and tell him there is ten posts that I never hauled on the last order from Reits Brothers.  Collect it as yours if you can.

If you could spare me any money for two years, I would pay you 12Ĺ percent on it.  One year would not do me any good as I could not raise anything to pay it back in that time. 

Please give our love to the girls and Cris and Sarah, and receive the same yourself.2  Answer as soon as convenient.

Robert Burling
Reno County, Kansas

Donít mail in Chebanse if you want to send money, Hutchinson is a money order office.





After John's first wife, Lucinda Tennis, died in 1869, his two daughters (Lizzie and Nonie) went to live with various family members, including Robert and Kate Burling.  


"Cris and Sarah" are Robert and Johnís sister and brother-in-law, Christopher and Sarah Stimpson.  

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