There is always a line that opens a soap opera to catch you up where the story left off but for the life of me, I can’t recall it. So, I will begin where I left off and hope you remember last issue’s article. Dennis Stone and his son LeGrand left Orange to seek a future in Kansas. The New Haven Colony of Kansas was formed for settlement in the Solomon Valley in 1869 with a reported 100 families. The locating committee included LeGrand with the intention of settling along the Solomon River. Thirty-eight dollars was the price on the railroad from New York to Solomon City, Kansas for adults and nineteen for children between the ages of five and thirteen. LeGrand had three children under the age of 9 and was accompanied by his wife Mary Emily.
The August 27, 1870 article in the New York Tribune spelled it out this way. “ A New England association which, when its membership is complete (and it is already nearly full), will found a New England village on the banks of the Solomon River, Kansas—has adopted a feature in its management which should insure its popularity. Each member, as he arrives at the location, is entitled to make his own selection of land, the condition being enforced that only one of the quarters of a section can be settled on until the whole 36 sections in a township of six miles square shall have one settler on each section and the same process is consecutively applied to the other three quarters.”
To continue, the article states that the town site or center will not be selected until the majority of the members arrive and it would be decided by a town meeting. The readers were encouraged to make haste to get a good start in the fall so as to start building fences and homes and to secure livestock. LeGrand was chosen president. Emigration fever appears to be a kind that attacks some people who are particularly liable to make a change. Not everyone proved to be a permanent settler. Known to be part of the groups west were “fine gentlemen” from Yale as well as farmers, mechanics, merchants and one or two doctors.
Rev. George Balcom wrote, “with one of two doctors being of considerable age, and quite bald headed, we determined to put him in the lead of our van going up the Solomon Valley into Indian country so if we must lose a scalp or start a graveyard, it should be of the most aged and hardest to get for the poor Indian.” Rev. Balcom recalls that they found “hard crossing” with their baggage wagon drawn by two Texas oxen driven by English and Yankee drivers, one on top of the load and the other on the side of the leader. It looks like they neglected to water the beasts but they chose to water themselves by running down, next to a bridge, landing in muddy waters. Despite the urging from the drivers, the wagon went over with the drivers and baggage that were once on top were now on the bottom on Coal Creek!
The wagon now broken and without properly securing the team, the oxen went astray. A $5.00 reward was put on their heads but luckily were found nearby on the banks of the Solomon River. But what of LeGrand Stone? How and why did he leave his home in Orange? LeGrand was born July 18th, 1834, his birthday as I write this. He graduated from the Orange Academy and married Miss Emily Tomlinson in 1861. While in Orange, three children were born, Edward, Ella and Carrie. As previously written, LG came out west in search of game but was soon caught by that emigration fever and the lure of the wild, glorious prairie. Upon making his final goodbyes to Orange, he, his wife and the 3 children set out on what would be his life’s dream or was it?
He was a successful man with all the hardships the prairie can afford. He knew the cost of living was high telling friends back east of bacon $1.50 a pound, sugar 60 cents a pound with flour a whopping $8.00 a hundred. LeGrand had two more children while living in Kansas, Joseph and Flora. Joseph’s obit in 1903 is rather grim in that he took his own life with his shotgun at the age of 31. He was a well-to-do farmer like his father but appeared to others to be unstable at times. At the time of his death, his father was then living in Missouri. It was quoted to say that he “never knew what it meant to enjoy life in any manner.”
Flora was the youngest of LeGrand and Emily’s children dying at the age of 10. Her day at school was uneventful but she came home not feeling well and passed away a week later from lung fever or pneumonia. His wife Emily passed away at the age of 76 having suffered a stroke. Emily was born in Huntington, CT moving to Kansas in 1871. It has been said that she endured the hardships of pioneer life with dignity and did her part in elevating society on the plains of Kansas. Edward, Emily’s first born died tragically when thrown off his horse at the age of 18. He was an expert rider whose daring feats of horsemanship were well known. Ellen who came out to Kansas from Orange at the age of 5 has no information on her death except she was in poor health at the age of 74.
Of all of LeGrand and Emily’s children the youngest to have come from Orange was Carrie and it was Carrie’s wish to make her grandfather’s letters home available to readers in Kansas. Those copies of those letters have come to the Orange Historical Society many years ago having been saved for future generations. Carrie was two years old when the family moved west and died in 1948 having been born in the house on Orange Center Road known as the Stone-Otis house. Dennis moved to Kansas after his son and family left to help out with the new lands and chores his son and his family had undertaken. While in Kansas, he and his two nephews Clark and Fred corresponded with Dennis longing to return to Connecticut.
The next issue’s article will be reprints of those letters which will enlighten our readers with the personal day to day living of one of Orange’s most influential citizens. The letters do not speak of the tragedies above but day-to-day events which will enlighten us with the lives of these mighty pioneers. More later.