Dorothy Sloan -- Books

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October 26, 2007

“Informative and interesting, giving a picture of conditions soon after the close of the Civil War” (Graff)

214. NICELY, Wilson. The Great Southwest, or Plain Guide for Emigrants and Capitalists, Embracing a Description of the States of Missouri and Kansas, Showing their Topographical Features, Climate, Soil, Timber, Prairie, Minerals, Water, Amount of Government Lands, the Various Railroad Lines Completed and Projected, Table of Distances, Homestead Laws, with Incidents of Two Years’ Travel and Residence in Missouri and Kansas, and other Valuable Information. Also a New and Complete Township Map of Missouri and Kansas. St. Louis: R. P. Studley & Co., Printers and Binders, Cor. Main and Olive Streets, 1867. 115, [9, ads] pp., folded lithograph map: New Map of the States of Missouri and Kansas Compiled from United States Surveys, and Other Sources by Wilson Nicely. R. P. Studley & Co., Printers, Lithographers and Stationers. S. W. Cor. Main and Olive Sts, St. Louis, Mo. (neat line to neat line: 46 x 71 cm). 8vo (18.6 x 11.5 cm), original tan pebble and embossed cloth, lettered in gilt on upper cover: The Great South-West, Missouri & Kansas, With a Township Map. By Wilson Nicely. Price $1.50. Cover slightly faded and worn, small snag in spine, edges of a few leaves nicked and lightly stained (not touching text), map detached. Overall very good; the map very fine.

            First edition. Bradford 3972. Cambridge History of American Literature, p. 712. Clark, Travels in the New South I:158: “[Nicely] described the destruction and abandonment of property caused by war, and told in some detail of products of field, forest, and mine of various parts of the states through which he traveled. He also made some keen and shrewd comments and observations upon the character of the people among whom he traveled; their ignorance, superstitions, and social customs are interesting delineated and exposed. This is a valuable work.” Dary, Kanzana 112. Graff 3021: “Pages 60-106 give an account of Nicely’s travels and residence in this country over a two-year period. His visit via horseback to the Cherokee Neutral Lands, as well as his camping trip to Arkansas, is informative and interesting, giving a picture of conditions there soon after the close of the Civil War.” Howes N134. Rader 2484. Sabin 55165.

            In the Kansas State University Library on-line exhibition “Kansas: The Formative Years,” the book is illustrated and annotated with this note: “This emigrants’ guide heavily promoted settlement in Kansas. Although it is well-written, many of the claims about resources in the state are exaggerated.” The text presents a county-by-county breakdown and description of each southwestern Missouri county with its principal features and advantages. Other sections include tables of distances, the Homestead Law, and a journal of Nicely’s trip. The map shows the still-unsettled Cherokee Neutral Lands, the developing railroad system, Pony Express route, land districts, waterways, counties, settlements, etc.

            The author comments of the nature of the new pioneers of Kansas and Missouri: “Topeka, like Leavenworth, has been settled and built principally by Eastern men. With this class of pioneers, no town or village is planned or built in which the church and schoolhouse do not form leading features. The men of this class are not in reality pioneers of civilization, inasmuch as they carry their civilization with them. The true pioneers were men of a different type; men who hated cities and settlements, who loved solitude, who lived in huts and cabins, and fought single-handed against savage men and savage beasts. Boone and Kenton were examples of such. The modern pioneers are more gregarious in their habits. They love the hum of crowded street, the excitement of trade; they take kindly to potent labor-saving machines, and delight in speculation.” ($1,200-2,400)

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