Saturday, May 25, 2013

John R. Vamplew's Little Cabin on the 1884 Kansas Prairie?

For several years now, I kept passing over this side-view image of a cabin. I think it could be great-great uncle John Rouse VAMPLEW's "cottage" near Larned, Kansas. This was the only cabin picture I knew of until yesterday, when I ran across a front-view of the same cabin in another box of pictures! That got me to this John Vamplew's Cabin?

I don't know where the cabin is located. I don't know who the persons are in these pictures. I've seen other pictures of a man with the same hat on as in the second picture show. Maybe the account in diary entries written by John's nephew James Wright VAN PLEW will yield a clue.

Could this be great-great uncle John R. Vamplew's cottage near Larned, Kansas?
Who is that carrying a fry pan?

Could this be great-great uncle John R. Vamplew? The hat he's wearing looks like one worn by a man in another image I have. I can only guess the starkness of the countryside around this cabin could be the high prairie near Garfield and Larned, Kansas.


My great-great uncle Henry Vamplew (Van Plew) did come to America in 1871. Prior postings on this blog discusses letters of his wanting to and then deciding not to come to America, but he did about a year later when he found he had enough assets to immigrate. He became a citizen 15 Feb 1887 in Waukegan, Illinois. On 18 Sep 1873, Henry married Sarah Almond, daughter of the Wright Almonds who ran the boarding house Henry stayed at in Chicago. The Almonds were natives of Lincolnshire, England which is where all my Vamplews were also from.

Henry carried on the profession of carpenter and evidently he had a chance to go to Denver, Colorado. According to James' entry in the diary, he said on "10 Mar 1879 He went to Denver Colo to work with a company who put up cottages and shak [sic] for miners in the mining towns. He left his family in Rockefeller, Ill. He build cabins for those miners in different parts of Colorado for instance, Colorado Springs, Cripple Creek, Manatou Springs, Gunnison district, Leadville, Ouray, Durango, Salida and others and finally Denver."

Then in 1882 Sarah and the three kids, James W., John, and Annie, went out to Denver where Henry rented a "brick cottage at 705 Glenarm Street and settled down with his wife and three children, James, John and Annie." In 2011, Bob and I were out near Denver and we went into the city to see if we could find that house. The street numbers have changed so the images we thought were of the house turns out to be a block away. Anyway, someone from the (now defunct) Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) helped me out and sent pictures.
House at 705 Glenarm St., Denver, Colorado. Taken and sent to me 
in 2006 by Paul Daraghy who was a volunteer at RAOGK. It is hard to tell, but the 
house is brick, at least on the bottom. Paul said, "Denver had an all-brick building code after 
a disastrous fire in 1800s; finally repealed only a few decades ago. The upper 
story is probably just wooden shingles over a brick wall." 
Which seems to have been common practice then.

In August of 1884, "He left Denver with his family and his possessions in a covered wagon traveling east across the prairies of Colorado and Kansas as far as Atchison Kansas from where he took railroad train" on to Libertyville, Illinois to stay with the Almond's until they could get a place to live.

When we were in Denver, Bob and I thought we should take near the same route as the covered wagon since we were also traveling to the same area in Kansas to do a little more research on the Porteous family. 

James' accounts of their trip home to Illinois in a covered wagon had caught my fancy. James said, "I remember seeing the wagon in front of the house all loaded up and the two chicken cages each with a chicken in it, Johns and mine, hanging underneath the wagon just missing the ground. Also underneath at the back was a sheetiron cookstove having four griddles and oven. Mother would get it off and on the ground at meal time."

Could this also be a view James saw as they traveled south from Denver? [Photo by me.]

Now a free public park - a plaque on one of the rocks, "Garden of the Gods, given to the 
city of Colorado Springs in 1909 by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins, in fulfilment of his 
wish that it be kept forever free to the public." [Photo by me.]

They traveled "thru one place where red rocks big slabs sticking up high in the air on their edges heaved up in the past ages and left standing there." [Garden of the Gods?] and they stopped at Johnson's ranch near Colorado Springs to give the horses a break. They set up camp and stayed for a couple days. James said, "their dog got into our tent and stole a smoked ham. I missed that ham a lot because we did not buy another one."  

We drove to the Garden of the Gods as you can see by my pictures above and I was amazed and excited to explore the area. Can you imagine how a young boy of about 10 years old felt seeing these rock formations jutting up out of the earth? He never saw something like that before. Bob and I had a chance to walk through the park in 2011, but in 1884 it was wild country with no nice paths and stations explaining the view's history.

On their way again, James said the foothills were "high and up and down for a long way. Then is when I heard the breaks grind as they rubbed against the wheels when we were going down one of the many hills." The family stopped for awhile; the breaks evidently needed some time to cool off as well as the horses need a rest. James said this also gave him and his brother a chance to play around the area, but not too far from the wagon; they didn't seem worried about anything as they scavenged the area as young boys would do. "We found horned toads and big grasshoppers to play with and had them in pens like sheep. The grasshoppers were so big and clumsy that they could not fly and could not hop very far."

Traveling along to Kansas, they would stop in the evenings to set up camp. Sarah would get out her stove and make their supper. The boys were sent out to find firewood. "If we could not find kindling wood for to burn in mother's stove she would send us boys out with a basket to pick up buffalo chips which burned fine and made a hot fire." 

Continuing on to Kansas, they followed the Santa Fe Railroad and "I remember of hearing them speaking of Garden City and Garfield and others. When we got to Larned we took the road for a while then started across the fields to go to our Uncle John Vamplew's where we had planned to visit for a few days." John R. Vamplew and Henry are brothers to my great grandmother Mary Ann (Vamplew) PORTEOUS of Rockefeller, Illinois.

This landscape view is located approximately where John Vamplew's land purchase was about 1878.
I didn't have the cabin pictures, so didn't know there was a hill nearby. Next time Bob and I go
through there, we will definitely look for that hill behind the little cabin.

"As we were coming across the field toward his house we saw him sitting near his kitchen door with his foot bandaged up. As we came along he got up and pointed to where we should go. He had cut his big toe and had it bandaged up with a soap and sugar mixture. He lived in a sod house with a bedroom and kitchen."

A "soddie" is a sod house which many settlers could erect rather quickly. It was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. One problem, it also had worms, bugs, and other living creatures the humans had to share the space with.

This image of a Pawnee County "soddie" is from a collection of such housed at 
the Santa Fe Trail Center in Larned, Pawnee Co., Kansas. The curator at the center couldn't identify 
whose soddie this was. It does have some of the characteristics described in the diary, but I doubt 
this was great-great uncle John's house, it looks a little bigger than 12' by 15'.

This soddie is part of the living history outdoors displays at the Santa Fe Trail Center in 
Larned, Kansas. According to the site, the Santa Fe Trail Center is an American Alliance of 
Museums accredited institution. The museum is a not-for-profit organization, privately 
owned and operated by the Fort Larned Historical Society. [Photo by me.]

In another part of James' diary is an interesting description of uncle John's sod house: "We had an uncle 'John Rouse Vamplew', brother of our father living near Larned Kas. not far from Garfield on a farm. Dad had planned to go there to see him. He lived alone in a sod house about 12 ft by 15 ft inside, flat roof covered with sod. A small narrow kitchen with stove at far end and bedroom with door at left hand of it leading to main part of the house which served as bedroom, dining room and parlor. The bed was built in center of room, four posts to ceiling which served as four bed posts as well as supporting the roof. It was built in as a permanent fixture off from foot of the bed was a window. There was room enough between the bed and the window for a small table. There was only one door for entrance into the kitchen which was only just wide enough for the stove to fit in place at the far end. It was a regular cast iron kitchen stove with four griddle and oven. The house was back from the road about 100 feet and he had a vegetable garden along the road between the house and barn. Next to the barn was a chicken house. Practually [sic] no fencing on the place except around the barn, chicken house and garden. A wide space was kept plowed around the buildings to stop prairie fires that might come that way." 

The Henry Van Plew family set up camp to stay a few days. "After we got our tent up mother started to get things in shape. She planned a real supper which was a real treat for Uncle John. His garden was complete and he told her she could use anything in it. He had musk melons and watermelons ripe. We had fun with them. One day we went to a ravine a mile away and picked wild plumbs and they were very sweet." 

Visiting for a few days turned into staying a month. Henry had brought all his tools and I guess when he saw the sod house he decided to build a "frame cottage for his brother." Before the construction started, James helped locate the North Star and "I remember helping to find it to get the house lined up." 

When the cottage was built and ready for habitation, Sarah prepared dinner for all of them, and "we had the first meal in it and the old sod house was abandoned." They left Uncle John's soon after the cottage was built and continued following the Santa Fe Railroad in their wagon. Along the way one of the horses got sick and died. "My parents then decided to sell the other horse and the wagon and take the train to Libertyville Ill."

Who can tell me? I got no clues like I thought I would from the diary. I really don't know except the cabin is small enough for one person and I know Uncle John never married. I believe Uncle John wore that type of hat shown in the second image. I also believe this image below is of John Rouse Vamplew at the Arkansas River...sure looks like the same hat! Oh, by the way, what is the name of that hat?

Possibly John Rouse Vamplew sitting on a log by the Arkansas River
near Garfield, Kansas. [old image found in family picture box]

It wasn't too many years after his brother Henry's visit and the cabin was built, John sold his property and moved in with my great-great grandfather William Dennis Porteous at the north edge of Garfield, Kansas. Uncle John lived there until his death in 1921. He immigrated to America on the same ship the SS Bothnia with the Porteous family in 1875. About 1878 John settled in Kansas, the same time the W.D. Porteous family did. I feel it was only natural since he never married and he lived with the family for so many years that he would be buried in the Garfield Cemetery in the Porteous family plot. [ memorial # 59225622]

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