Sandburg's Hometown

May 11, 2015

Pawnee County, Kansas - Map - 1878

Pawnee County, Kansas

by Barbara Schock

The United States Government has given away more than one billion acres of land since 1776. The first recipients were Hessian deserters from the British Army after the Revolutionary War. In the following decades, Congress passed hundreds of laws dealing with the surveying and selling of land. Offices were established for registering land transactions. The railroads received large land grants from the government to develop the West. The Santa Fe and Rock Island railroads received substantial grants in Kansas.

In the 1870s and 1880s, there were agents who visited more populated areas in the eastern parts of the country. They praised the open country in the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas where land prices were low and opportunity was great. The railroads had plenty of land to sell to people willing to settle in the open spaces of the West.

August Sandburg looked up to his cousin Magnus Holmes, who was fifteen years older. He had encouraged August to settle in Galesburg and also gave him advice on financial matters.

Magnus had purchased a quarter section (160 acres) of land in Nebraska. He paid taxes on it each year. After three years his son Frank went to Nebraska and farmed the land. He built a sod house, planted corn and raised hogs and cattle.

After three years Frank wrote to his family that he was lonely. His sister Lily went to live with him and teach in the local sod school. She received a draft from the school board as her pay. She gave it to her brother who traded it for a windmill. All the shallow wells he had dug went dry. The windmill could pump water from a deeper source for the animals and save a great deal of labor.

One year August Sandburg rode the train to Pawnee County, Kansas. He purchased a quarter section of land near Larned, the county seat. Later he sold the acreage for a small profit and purchased another quarter section. It lost value during the Panic of 1893. August had to sell it because he couldn't pay the taxes during those hard times. If he had been able to hold on to it for another ten years or so, the price of the property would have multiplied several times.

Larned, Kansas - Main Street - ca. 1900When Carl Sandburg was hoboing across Kansas in 1897 and following the wheat harvest, he spent several days working near the town of Larned. He observed the Main Street could be walked in about three minutes. There were empty houses on several streets which the owners had abandoned. The county courthouse stood on the Main Street. Carl walked by it feeling that he was a proper citizen. Each year he had written the letters to accompany the money orders his father sent to pay the real estate taxes.

Whenever August talked about moving to Kansas to farm, the rest of the family began to worry about leaving Galesburg. The town, the people and the railroads were familiar to them. Living on a farm in the middle of the prairie would be a drastic change. Farming was hard work and the weather could cause economic hardship. Homesteading in Kansas meant subsistence farming. Families had to grow and preserve their own food and sew their own clothing. It also meant isolation from other people. The biggest attraction may have been the feeling of independence that came from being on your own.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
May 11, 2015 Pawnee County, Kansas
May 4, 2015 Detective Stories and the Real Thing
April 27, 2015 Professor Isaac A. Parker
April 20, 2015 Celluloid Collars
April 13, 2015 Asparagus
April 6, 2015  Mayor John C. Stewart 
March 30, 2015 Basket Ball
March 23, 2015 The Courthouse of Knox County, IL
March 16, 2015

“Trifles make perfection...”

March 9, 2015 Uncle Tom's Cabin
March 2, 2015 Martha Sandburg Goldstone
February 23, 2015 Devotion
February 16, 2015  Gumbiner's Pawn Shop 
February 9, 2015 White Bread
February 2, 2015 The Monarch Club
January 26, 2015 The Silver Dollar
January 19, 2015 The Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railway
January 12, 2015 The Four Corners
December 22, 2014 Swedish Christmas
December 8, 2014 Christmas 1878
December 1, 2014 Bunker Boots & Shoes
November 24, 2014 Galesburg, Illinois
November 17, 2014 It was Buffalo Bill's Day
November 10, 2014 The Election of 1896 (A follow-up story)
November 3, 2014 The Election of 1896 (continued)
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014 4  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013 Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013 Lace Curtains
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity