William H. Kimball, "Letter from Wm. H. Kimball," The Mormon, 3 May 1856, 3.
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- Church History Library, M205.1 M865 v. 1-3 1855-1857
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Letter from Wm. H. Kimball.
FLORENCE, K. T., April 4, 1856.
JOHN TAYLOR, ESQ.—Dear Sir: I arrived here yesterday, and have had an interview with the proprietors of the town, with whom I have concluded satisfactory arrangements for making this the permanent starting point and outfiting place for our emigration, for all the purposes of which its advantages are far superior to those of any other town on the Missouri River. I am aware, sir, that you, and many of your readers, are well acquainted with the position and natural advantages of "Old Winter Quarters," now "Florence;" and that to you, and such readers, a particular description of the place will not likely be very interesting, except that part of it which relates to its present condition and prospects; yet there are doubtless many others, not so well informed, who under existing circumstances will be interested in, and pleased with such description, I will therefore, in my feeble way, give such information relative to the place, as I am conversant with, trusting that it may find a place in your valuable and widely circulated paper.
Florence is situated on a beautiful bank, some forty feet above high water mark, on the west bank of the Missouri River, about seven miles northwest of Bluff City; immediately opposite the Pigeon Valley, the surveyed route of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, and very nearly on a direct east and west line, from said valley to the great bend of the Platte River; the Missouri here is but from seven to nine hundred feet wide, perfectly clear of sand bars, snags, and all other obstructions; with rock bottom, all the way across at a depth, in an ordinary stage of water, of from two to ten feet; a Rock Island nearly in the middle and rock bound shores on both sides; and consequently permanent banks affording decidedly the best steamboat landings, and ferrying point on the river, and offering facilities for bridging such as cannot be found at any other place on the Missouri; and such as are rarely found among large streams. Mill Creek which runs through the town site affords an easy grade to the ridge landing to the Platte Valley, via Elk Horn City, with all these advantages there can scarcely be a doubt but this will be the great railroad crossing, and that the surveyed route will be selected as it has certainly been the great emigrant crossing since emigration to Utah and the Pacific first commenced; more having crossed at this point than at all other places on the river, above Saint Joseph. There is an abundance of timber; hard wood, as well as cotton wood, in the immediate vicinity of Florence; excellent lime, and sand stone quarries; gravel, sand, marl, and first-rate clay from making brick and potters ware; brick of a very superior quality were made here last year, and preparations have been made for carrying on the business quite extensively this season. Stone coal of a fine quality is to be found at various places in the vicinity, and from all indications there is strong reason to believe that it will be found to exist in large quantities; as yet there has been no search for it, except merely on the surface. There are two fine streams of water running through the town about three-fourths of a mile apart, on one of which there is an excellent mill, doing a firstrate business in the way of making lumber and lath, and in which it is intended to put two run of burrs the coming fall; which will be needed as there will be quite a quantity of grain raised in the neighborhood this season. The proprietors of Florence themselves have four hundred acres adjoining the town which was broke and fenced last year, and which they design cropping this season; they are now at work sowing spring wheat, they also intend breaking an additional hundred acres in the same field, and planting it with corn, which will make five hundred acres under cultivation in one field "quite a farm for Nebraska," and as the soil is unsurpassed for fertility they will be likely to realize an abundant harvest.
Florence, thus far, has been in a great measure overshadowed by Omaha City which is only six miles below, and which in consequence of being the seat of Government and of other political advantages has outgrown all other towns in Nebraska, but such advantages when unaccompanied by natural resources (as in this case) cannot be of long duration, they are not such as are requisite to the building up of a large and prosperous city, and in this case like all those of a similar nature there must and will be a reaction, its position and resources, however, are now pushing it forward. Day is dawning and Florence is coming from under the shadow of Omaha; everything here wears a lively appearance; enterprise and industry, is the order of the day; there are no hangers on, no idlers here, everybody is busy at something; carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers, teamsters, laborers, &c., &c., all are busy at high wages, and many more are needed; there are a number of good buildings in progress of erection, among them several stores and warehouses, which will soon be filled with goods. Next week our people will commence building a large warehouse, upon a beautiful and convenient site which I have selected, and which with other lands have been donated to the Church, by the proprietors of the town. There is an excellent hotel here, kept by Mr. P. C. Chapman, a very gentlemanly landlord, who has the reputation (and deservedly no doubt) of keeping the best house in Nebraska. There is a fine steam ferry boat, plying between this and the opposite shore, capable of crossing at least two hundred teams per day and manned by competent officers and crew who seem disposed to do all in their power to accommodate the travelling community. There has been arrangements made for erecting another water mill and a large steam saw mill this season, the latter of which is to be finished and in full opperation by the 15th of June. Arrangements have also been made by a company from Ohio to establish a large foundery and machine shop, as soon as the necessary buildings can be erected, which are to be commenced at an early day. The Bank of Florence, chartered by the last Legislature, and to be located here, will go into opperation in the course of the coming summer, in fact the present prospects of Florence are exceedingly flattering, the place will doubtless improve very rapidly this season, and all branches of business bid fair to flourish. In fact the destiny of Florence is onward and upward, her position, resources and natural advantages are such as must force her into notice; and cause her importance to be felt and appreciated. I feel confident that the time is not far distant when Florence will be recognized as the great commercial Emporium, not of Nebraska only, but of the upper Missouri generally.
I will further state that the call at this place and vicinity is very great for mechanics, laborers and help of all kinds, wages ranging from two, to four dollars per day. Female help readily commands from two to four dollars per week, if you can send on a hundred or so, they will have no trouble in finding employment, at the above rates of wages.
WM. H. KIMBALL.