The following letter was written by 52 year-old C. Van Piper who we learn was the station agent in Nunda, Livingston county, New York, before heading west in 1873 with his wife Susan to accept a similar position in Boulder, Colorado Territory. The letter was written in two parts, by both “Van” (as his wife called him) and by his wife.
Van addressed his letter to William Van Nostrand (1835-1925), a native of Allegany county, New York, whose father, Luzon Van Nostrand (1807-1895) was an early settle of Short Tract. In 1880, William was enumerated at Nunda Station, Livingston county, New York, where he ran a saw and planing mill. He was married to Susan Maria Swain (1839-1902).
In his letter, Van writes of his journey from Chicago to Colorado by train but first stops to see Henry Moore Teller, a native of Allegany county, New York, who earned a law degree and settled in Morrison, Whiteside county, Illinois, before joining the gold-seekers in Colorado in April 1861. Rather than pan for gold, however, Teller accumulated wealth as a supplier and opened an office in Central City—the chief mining area west of Denver. In 1865 he drew up the charter for the Colorado Central Railroad and got the Territorial legislature to back the project. Henry and his brother Willard built a hotel in Central City in 1871-72 which was the town’s main hotel for more than 60 years.
Colorado Central Railroad
October 27, 1873
Wm. Van Nostrand
You have probably heard how I slid out and left Nunda Station. No living soul knew where I was going when I left home except my wife—not even my mother—but I was bound to see this country and here I am and not sorry for it. It was a fine ride for me. After I left Chicago, I stopped at Mr. Teller’s [in Morrison] and then met H[enry] M[oore Teller. Stayed from Thursday till Tuesday and then left for Colorado, passing through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, touched Wyoming Territory, and then Colorado.
We left the Union Pacific Railroad at Cheyenne (pronounced Shyan) and took the Denver Pacific Railroad 106 miles and this was a very pleasant and interesting road. On the west you can see the Rocky Mountains with their snow-clad peaks and on the east the broad plains as far as the eye can reach and all dotted over with large herds of cattle, accompanied with their her wagons and tents—a most splendid sight to me. You can see so far in this country. The air is so clear you have a fair view of the mountains—can see them for some 300 miles.
I was disappointed in the way they look. I supposed we would come to them by degrees but not so. You keep on the plains and all at once as it were you come to them staring you in the face and saying, hold! and come no farther, but man is a progressive animal and into them he has you in search of the precious metals and it is wonderful to see what man can accomplish. For instance, the railroad running from Golden to Central City follows up Clear Creek Canion and is wonderful to behold. Rocks from 5 to 1500 feet high piled in all manner of shapes and the railroad track cut in the rocks and crooked. Not half of the time you can see either end of the train. But I cannot describe it. You must come and see for yourself and it will pay you well.
This is a great country for stocking can keep all you choose and no fodering winters. They say you can turn out an old broken down ox in the fall and he will come out fat in the spring. If your wife and girls was here and had about 30 coins [?] and 500 hens, could make as much money as all Grangers. Butter 40 cents, eggs 40 cents, and they say you can keep eggs till the Holidays. You can get from 6 to 8 bits per dozen up in the mountains among the miners. They do raise the finest wheat I ever saw sown—white and plump—and spring at that. Oh what nice flour. I believe irrigating is the way after all for fine crops. You say it must cost something to irrigate. So it does, but not as much as to clear up a farm in your section.
But I must quit as I will tire your patience. You will please write us and let us know how you and all the folks are. Please accept this from your friend, — C. Van Piper
[In a different hand]
October 27, 1873
Dear Friends, Van Norstrands,
Here we are this beautiful Sabbath morning literally among the mountains. I wish I could describe to you the beauty of this mountain scenery—peak upon peak, glade upon glade, more rough and rugged now, more smooth and undulating as far as the eye can reach north and south, and even east of us is somewhat sharp points, but not so high. So we are almost surrounded by mountains.
In coming from Central City (where the Teller’s live) to here, we, in the first place come down out of the mountains following a canion down some 20 miles to Golden, just out on the plains. Then changed cars and come north about 28 miles, following the base of the mountains all the way but keeping on the plains. Such splendid views as we had some of the way. Got here just dark. Was here a week before out household goods come. The former agent moved out the next morning and left the coast clear but so dirty. The new only been built three months. Well, we got dirt out as soon as we could. Van had to do the most and he bought out a chap who had kept bachelor’s hall and we went to eating ourselves. Got along very well but it was an experience quite new to me. Well, we are comfortably settled now. Got such a nice little stove for 35 dollars, kettles, and everything with it. We burn a sort of soft coal. Makes a splendid fire. Got our carpets down and my melodian here and bought some fowls. We can keep as many as we like. Bought 7 old hens and 8 chickens half grown. Have the whitest bread here. 1.75 for sack of flour, potatoes 1.20 per bushel, butter 35 to 40 cents, sugar about the same. Their tea about the same though we have not bought any. Had some eggs 40 cents a dozen.
I am going to go into the poultry business. Bought a good chance. Had warm pleasant weather all the time. A little snow now but won’t lay long. We are half mile from the city proper of Boulder but they are building down this way very fast. 25 brick houses going up now. It is quite lonely for us here—too far to go to church for mother and me at least. Van goes. Heard the bells ringing this morning very lively. Sorry I could not go. The town is right in plain sight but farther off than it looks. I have not been up town yet. Don’t know how it looks nearby.
Well, I must get dinner. Please write us, will you. Ever your friend, —S. A. Van Piper
Van will write himself. I am getting better.