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Provisioning for Train Travel

McCroskey Letter
McCroskey Letter

Hollister, Cal
Sept 7th ‘77

Dear Friends,

Your letter has just come. I reply right away hoping this will reach you before you start. In the first place let me tell you what it will pay to bring with you. Every one here sleeps on mattresses, it is not cold enough to need a feather bed, and the others are considered the healthiest. It will pay you to bring your pillows and bed covers, but I would advise you to sell off everything else for what they will bring.

In the way of clothing lay in clothing before you start for you can get things here as cheap as you can there. Tell your wife to have a dark woolen suit to travel in, so she can come through without change.

Start with a provision basket with enough in it to do you two days anyway, and don’t forget to put in a tin-cup or small coffee pot and ground coffee and sugar. You can then save lots by making your coffee on the car stoves.

Put up soap and towels, or you will suffer from the dust, Have a strap and buckle to put up a pillow and blanket or shawl for each of you, and unless the cars are crowded you can come all the way without the expense of a sleeping car.

You may be crowded till after you reach Omaha but after that you will have plenty of room. We got through tickets at Chattanooga to San Francisco by way of Grand Junction, Miss, Cairo, Ill, St. Louis, Council Bluffs and Omaha. They will only check your baggage to Omaha. There get it rechecked to San Jose, Cal. Have it put up very securely, or it will be smashed certain.

Put a little wash-pan and tin cup to drink out of in your basket and have as little loose baggage as possible, for you often have to change cars in a hurry.

From Omaha to Ogden, three days travel, you don’t change cars. At Ogden, you can lay in provisions right at the depot for the rest of the way, two days.

When you get to Niles Station, nearly at San Francisco, change cars for San Jose where you will have to stay all night. It costs less than in San Francisco and is right on the road to Hollister. Stop at the New York Exchange Hotel, it is the best and cheapest.

From there, get tickets and checks for Hollister, 40 miles. You have to change cars at Gilroy and will get here at 2 o'clock in the evening. This is said to be the cheapest and best route. My ticket from Chattanooga cost $136.00 to Niles, $5.00 from there here.

If you want to come by emigrant train you will take it at Omaha. I did not try it, it is so slow. Gold or silver is used here but you can exchange your greenbacks at the banks here as well as you can there. You will have to look out for your money for a set of smooth-faced roughs frequent the cars.

Mrs. McCroskey and I got here without being the least tired. We tried the sleeping car once, but did not like it. It cost us $2.00 apiece each night and we were glad to get out of...

Travel to the west was made easier with the completion of the transcontinental railway but it was still enough of an adventure to benefit from guides from friends who have gone before. J.H. McCallie was Moscow’s first dentist, arriving here in 1878. His daughter Margaret attended the University of Idaho and graduated in 1898. Between 1899 and 1905 she served as the University’s librarian. Before her death in 1972, she donated this letter, and other materials, to the University of Idaho Library.

This letter illustrates the common tendency of primary sources to locate themselves in archives which scholars can only find through painstaking research in unlikely places. In this case, the letter was written in California as advice to an prospective emigrant in Tennessee who carried it west in his well-secured baggage. And further, he carried it with him from California to Idaho; where, years later, his daughter in Spokane donated it to her alma mater. In such ways, are manuscripts materials located in what is clearly the perfectly logical repository; yet so difficult to anticipate. Only after all the relationships are known is it possible to discern the logic of its eventual resting place.

Letter fragment, from a McCroskey to J.H. McCallie, September 7, 1877, describing provisions needed for train journey from Tennessee to California. Part of the Margaret McCallie Moore Papers, MG5159, University of Idaho Library.

Written in 1999 for the UI Library’s Digital Memories website.


MG 5159

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