This letter was written by Nathan Dundore (1839-1899), the son of Gabriel Dundore (1799-1853) and Lydia DeWees (1812-1872) of Bern Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Nathan wrote the letter to his older brother, Levi Dundore (1833-18xx).
A biography of Nathan claims that he was raised on the family farm until 1850, after which he was educated in a private school [Rev. W. A. Good’s Academy] in Reading, Pennsylvania. He then became a teacher in Bern Township. In 1856, he moved to Monmouth, Iowa, where he established a general merchandise business and became postmaster. In 1859, after the business failed, he went to Quindaro in Kansas Territory to teach. He was a Civil War Veteran and in 1864 received a license to trade with the Delaware Indians. In 1865, he opened a grocery in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he stayed for two years before returning home to Bern Township to tend to his ill mother. After she passed away, he became a successful stock broker in Philadelphia. In 1881 he published a genealogical record of the Dundore Family in America.
Whitewing Farm,¹ Quindaro Township, Wyandott County
Kansas Territory, U.S.A.
Sunday, October 14, 1860
Dear Brother Levi,
To begin, I have a wretched pen. so you may look for wretched penmanship.
I received your letter of the 4th inst. yesterday — the one you wrote in relation to the Power of Attorney has not yet come to hand. I am well with the exception of three several boils on my person — two on my left thigh and one on my right resting spot, which makes locomotion rather difficult as well as sitting unpleasant.
I have now taught 5 weeks. My term will be up about the 10th of December when I shall quit, if not sooner. I am looking for a clerkship at Topeka, but I can’t look for more than about $10 and board at present and that is rather small to go 60 miles for it and sacrifice here. My mind is still as much as ever bent on Law and I think if I can trade my pony off for a fair price to pay in board, I’ll go to Wyandotte into a Law Office. Mr. [Daniel Bryon] Hadley ² has offered to take me and hear me every other day recite free of charge and I keep the office, make fires, sweep, copy manuscripts, etc. Now if I can make arrangements for my board till spring till I can get my money from Pennsylvania, I believe I’ll pitch in. I think I shall go down next Saturday and see what I can do.
My school don’t afford me more than a living for myself and pony, and without a pony or horse, a person can’t do living in the country if he calculates to go out at nights. I got into a scrape the other night with several Indians in the course of which I had my hat stolen — and so had to tread home minus my hat which was nearly new and cost $2.00 but I was glad to get off that way. I had no arms — not even a club — and those Indians are always armed. I was afoot and about a half mile from any house. I carry a shillalah now that will give the settler to any one if rightly applied; besides all those disadvantages. I walk one & half a mile to my school morning and evening and have very indifferent accommodations. All my writing I do on my knee on a paste board portfolio. Still, altogether, I am faring as well as anybody else here. If times were only ordinary, I could make money.
I post Kessler & Taylor’s Mill books and journalized and posted two Saturdays and several evenings books for Johnson & Seale Merchants, but I am owing them $5.50. Kessler & Taylor are owing me about $28 but one might as well try to get blood out of a white turnip as money out of them. I believe I have “told you all” about my affairs as near as I can. My Iowa debts I have secured by “Collaterals” splendid security, but if they don’t pay, I pay not — at least not for the present. Would you pay our your “bottom dollar” if you were situated like me? I want to see all my debts paid before I die, or settled, somehow.
I have a good many warm friends here who would assist me into something if it were in their power, but there is no money and every enterprise is flat. But times will change. If may appear to you that I am visionary and constantly changing from one thing to another, and it is true, but I have an explanation on that head to offer. My desire has been to study the law this long time. I never could get things into a shape and the nursery business has also been quite prominent in my mind. But there are several disadvantages under which I would labor. Prominent is the want of a home and secondly a good partner that understood the business thoroughly. Clerking, keeping school, engineering etc., are only necessary make-shifts, and in spending a little time and money in studying the laws of our land I would not be unfitted for any of these employments in the future, and I would at least minister to a long cherished desire if it does take some of my substance. It is an investment be it good or indifferent. The chances are as much in my favor as against, so I think I shall reject the Topeka offer unless I can get more for I do not believe I shall follow the business of merchandising anymore for myself. What think you of it? I ask you although I shall have to decide before you could advise me what course to take.
I don’t like to go so far into the interior altho’ Topeka is said to be a thriving place and will be the Capital of the State. If I can only read for one year I would be in a way to save my living, I think, and the first year dating from December I can get through easy with one hundred dollars and the interest or avails of the balance of my friends with what I have got. $100 & my pony will pay my board & washing for the year. What I have coming from Kessler & Taylor and what little I shall have left of my school money after paying my expenses & the interest of 300 & less would keep me like a fighting cock. Boarding at good regular boarding houses is $3 per week in Wyandotte but I think it can be got for $2 or at highest $2.50 & washing included. By economy, I believe my calculations would hold out. This you perceive is making no calculations on earning anything beside which I could not safely calculate on these times. The second year I would expect to pay my way somehow. If I could not get my money from Kessler & Co. this fall, I would be in a tight place but I expect I could get through somehow. At all events, I shall try.
You appear to be bound for the revolutionary homestead — well the price seems low — and as you say, “Nothing risked, nothing made.” One smash up won’t kill a man nor two. If I ever smash again I can assure you it will be with more money in my pocket than the first time. I read somewhere that “The shipwrecks of others should be our landmarks.” Advice on that point is needless. Have your Co-partnership articles written out in full in your day book and signed by both and witnessed by two competent resident witnesses. Furnish no more money than your partner if you have it in your pocket and pay interest for. If your partner don’t come up, you will have to go down yourself and with nothing in your pocket and debts unpaid. Therefore, take this resolution not to advance money over your partner. Better stop and go no farther in the outset than go on promises. One should not be afraid of the name of having quashed. It looks a little curious but never mind. It is for your benefit. That is the course I have marked out for me.
This is Monday evening and I have fully come to the conclusion “to go to law.” I think I can trade my pony from what I have heard for 20 or perhaps 25 weeks board.
¹ The Whitewing Family was one of the many half-breed Wyandotte Indian families living in Wyandotte in 1860.
² Daniel Bryon Hadley (1819-18xx) was from Elba, Genesee County, New York. He first practiced law in Ohio and came to Kansas Territory in the fall of 1857. He was the first county superintendent of public school in Wyandotte County.