Another year, another letter from Jonas Victor. He talks about the dry weather, crops, buying farms, compares Illinois and Kansas.
Jonas Victor Swenson
Randolph, KS 13 December 1874
I will try to give short answers to your questions. You ask about grasshoppers. They are like your grasshoppers but narrower, longer and with longer wings. They fly with the wind hundreds of miles, but toward the wind they cannot fly, so they stay until they get wind in the direction they want to fly. There are many, when they come. They could eat as much corn as your farm would have in Sweden in half a day. They eat everything they find. Wheat and oats were harvested here when the grasshoppers came. They ate the barley, potatoes, products from the garden and the leaves in the woods and much of the "green on the ground".
It was nice to hear that August has arrived safely. It may be impossible for him to travel again, and discard everything in Sweden. I was not surprised that he did not want to buy Spakarp. I knew that beforehand--to have a farm in Illinois and then come to you in the forest. It is a difference larger than night and day.
You ask about a little home with a little house and a little land so you can have animals. If you have no money, you cannot get that. You have to go away and earn money and then you can get your own home for 300 dollars. You can get 80 acres and a house. Around here there is a place for sale with 30 acres cultivated and enclosed, a little house gone to the bad but stones have been taken out so you can build a better house. The land is good. The whole land can be cultivated. The sale price is under 300 dollars. Near us is land with a fine little stone house, 6 acres cultivated and ready to sow. You cannot cultivate more than 20 acres. The sale price is under 200 dollars, so of course you can get land if you only had money. If it had been foreclosed on, you may be able to come here and get both land and horses, and then you would have it good.
You write that August says that in Illinois you can get a little house and a little land for 300 dollars, but I cannot believe that you can support yourself without working for other people. Those who have a little home and then go out working can perhaps support themselves better in Illinois than those who have a lot of land here in Kansas. Illinois is the corn richest state in America. Here in Kansas, the cultivation is the same but because it lies higher it is more exposed to dry and windy weather. But the climate is more healthy here. The air is high and light. Many people come from Illinois to Kansas to get better health.
Out problem is that we are in the middle of America. What we sell we have to freight a long way, so we do not make as much profit. What we need to buy, we have to go a long way, so it is expensive.
We have not received a letter from you since I wrote the last time until now, for which I say thank you. Matilda put a picture in each of our letters to you and Hamra.
We had a very dry summer. No rain during June, July and August and too many grasshoppers. The harvest was not good, but we can feed ourselves. The wheat is not worth more than 60 cents per bushel. The animals bring a low price. The whole autumn we have had warm and beautiful weather with no frost yet.
You say you have to pay postage on my letters but the postmaster says 6 cents is enough. I will send this letter with no postage to learn what the postage costs.
I finish with kindest regards to all of you. Do not wait too long before you write. I also want to hear something from August.