[Two letters first published in the Beacon newspaper of Winfield, Iowa in 1890 and 1892, later published in the Reflector newspaper of Battle Ground, Washington August 28, 1975.]
Contributed by his great granddaughter, Sharon Mickey Norton
Battle Ground, Wash., Nov 1890
I will write you a letter that my friends may know how "weíuns" are getting along. I left old high Henry [Henry Co, Iowa] Oct. 23rd for Portland, Oregon, over the N.P.R. Ry. and was fifteen days on the way. We went through fire, steam and water and still live. I had an emigrant car loaded with three horses, two cows, three hogs, four doz. chickens besides a full outfit of furniture. Somewhere out on the run we had a collision. Two freight trains came together ker-chug, smashing two engines and nine cars all to flinders, the tender of our engine landing on top of the cars behind it. My car was not smashed and strange to say nobody was badly hurt. I came out with the crazy bone of my elbow knocked to one side and it is all I can do to write now as there is a sensation running from my elbow to the ends of my fingers. I also got a crack on my head that raised a young knot-maul. At times I hardly know whether it is Mickey or not, so if my old chums see any links out of my letter they will know the cause.
It would take a long time to tell all about my trip out here, so many things of interest. One place we ran through a tunnel three and a-half miles long, lit up by three hundred and sixty-two electric lights. This was in the Cascade mountains and as we came out on the west side it was raining.
We came on to Vancouver the next day after landing at Portland. John Huston rented us a house but the door was too small to get our goods into, so Mr. Bigham, formerly of Henry county, gave us his wood-house to store them in and then I came out north of Vancouver fifteen miles and bought a ranch of a hundred and sixty acres, with about four thousand stumps on it. I always loved to work in timber so I bounced an old log in front of my house and have been working on it for a week with ax, saw and fire and it is not half consumed yet. I am losing faith in myself, or rather my love for being a timber rat. This country is all timber and evergreens are a nuisance.
There has been four thousand lies told about this country so I must be careful what I say, as out here half the truth is one big lie. When I was here thirty-six years ago I was a miner; now I am a farmer, so it may appear different to me.
We have plenty of fruit on the ranch, apples, pears, prunes, peaches and small fruit. The hogs here are like tooth-picks, sharp at both ends. I brought one of Wm Crawfordís Poland-chinas with me and the people say "O, what a pretty hog! But it wonít do here." They want a hog that can go down two feet for a grub worm. You see our corn crop has a prefix (acorn) and what is good can be shocked on a stump.
They say this is a very healthy country, but I notice everyone has a cough in the throat. But this may be only a scare with me. We had some rain when we first came but most of the time it has been lovely. Some frost but warm days. We look for the rainy season at any time. I will not say hurrah for Washington until I see more of it.
I will turn my attention mostly to hay as it is worth $20 a ton in Vancouver and is liable to continue at that price for some time. Cows usually require feed about five months in the year. I expect to see grass up fine in May and June as then is when it does its best growing. I donít think we will starve but may go in rags most of the time.
My boys stand back and look at the big logs as though they donít care to wade into them. There is a lack of sociability here and men will pass by without saying a word. There was a load passed by the other day without even a nod, and I yelled "Hello! You donít know anybody who wants to hire anybody to do nothing, you?"and they said nothing. Give our love to enquiring friends until we write again. John M. Mickey
Battle Ground, Washington, Feb. 15, 1892
Dear Friends and Beacon readers:
It is with a trembling hand that I write. Yes, I have the blues bad. It is on account of too much hard labor. I just thought I could get away with this timber easy by fire and powder. These old logs get so water soaked it takes all summer to dry them out. There is but a short time one has to burn it. It takes from 50 to 75 cents worth of powder to blow one of these stumps out of the ground; then you have a great big thing that you canít handle and too wet to burn. The blues donít express it to a man that wants to do something.
My brother-in-law, David Herrold, and son, have taken two acres of land for me to clear up so I can plow the ground. I pay them $150 for the job. In my first letter I said there were 4000 [stumps] on my ranch, but I find twice as many. It is no use trying to hunt up words to express this stump arrangement. If I had my farm all cleared off I would not trade it for any farm in Iowa and Iowa is hard to beat.
I find this country very spotted; some places the soil is very thin and lots gravel. It is a great mystery to me how the farmers out here make a living. What little time they have they are digging out stumps.
The outside range is all eaten out and we have to feed our cows 7 months in the year. Last November and December was very rainy; the last 7 weeks have been very nice. We have had no winter as yet, have had no freezing and only a little frost in the mornings. There are lots of potatoes out here that are not dug yet and they are sound as a dollar. Potatoes are no price this year, apples ditto. I have 40 bushels of apples in my orchard. I have set out three hundred prunes and expect to put out as many more as soon as I can get the stumps off my ground; also apples, pears and cherries. My how the strawberries grow here! Women and roses do well here. Women look better than men; they are not out in the rain as much as men. The moss does not grow on their backs.
We do not have as much fog here as they do on the Sound about Tacoma. When we are on the side-walk we donít have to carry a fog horn; but we have some bad roads in the winter as the stumps interfere in working them.
Those nice hogs I brought out here donít take. I sold one pig and the man fed him on potato peelings but the pig took sick and died. We lack the corn to make the stock on hogs. I would have been better off it I had not brought stock with me. It takes so long for them to become acclimated. It was 6 months before our old rooster thought of crowing, but now he crows and fights like those bantams do in Winfield.
It is hard to tell what this country will be yet. The towns are away ahead of the farming country. In a great part of eastern Wash. and Ore. the bunch grass is all eaten up and the other grass will not grow and the ground is wearing out. As my boy and John Chrissinger came through last fall they saw lots of farms deserted. No soil. We have lots of men coming in from the eastern part of this state hunting farms. Say friends, write.
John M. Mickey
Return to Main Page
Return to Main Page
Copyright 2003 by Alice Allen & Sharon Mickey Norton. Copying for personal use is permitted. Copying for commercial purposes is prohibited except by written consent from copyright holders.