Read Our Kansas Home Online

Authors: Deborah Hopkinson,PATRICK FARICY

Our Kansas Home


If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

First Aladdin Paperbacks edition February 2003

Text copyright © 2003 by Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrations copyright © 2003 by Patrick Faricy

An imprint of Simon & Schuster
Children's Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Also available in an Aladdin Library edition.

Designed by Debra Sfetsios

The text of this book was set in ITC Century Book.

Printed in the United States of America

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Library of Congress Control Number 2002113774

ISBN 0-689-84353-4
ISBN: 978-0-689-84353-2
eISBN: 978-1-43911-356-1

Ho, brothers! Come, brothers! Hasten all with me. We'll sing upon the Kansas plains, A song of liberty.

from “Call to Kansas”

—Lucy Larcom


In researching
Our Kansas Home
I feel fortunate to have had online access to many original manuscripts, letters, and books written by Kansas citizens in the 1850s. This would not have been possible without the efforts of volunteers, who took the time to scan these documents and make them available online through the Kansas Collection (

Thanks also to Kansas historian Paul Stuewe, who read the manuscript and offered many helpful suggestions. Thanks as well to the librarians of the Kansas State Historical Society and the interlibrary loan staff of Whitman College for their assistance, to Michele Hill for help with research in Kansas, and to Deborah Wiles for her insightful comments. I am also grateful to my editor, Ellen Krieger, for her encouragement. Any errors are mine.

For Toni and Jeremy



Charlie Keller ran down the muddy road clutching two crinkled dollar bills in his hand.

“Calico, ribbon, and candy for Sadie,” Charlie sang to himself. He didn't want to forget anything. “Calico, ribbon, and candy for Sadie.

“I promised Papa we'd meet him in ten minutes, Lion,” Charlie told the golden dog trotting at his side. “So stay close.”

Lion barked and flashed his big dog grin.

Charlie laughed. Finding Lion was the best thing that had happened to him since moving to Kansas. There was only one problem: Lion liked to wander.

“It's dangerous for Lion to roam the prairie,” Papa had warned last fall, after Lion had run off for two days. “Besides, a dog costs money to feed. If we're going to
keep Lion, he has to stick close and learn to be a watchdog.”

Ida Jane had chimed in. “You're nine now, Charlie. You and Lion just can't wander around looking at birds and plants all day. You have to train him.”

Bossy Ida Jane! But Charlie knew his older sister was right, and so Charlie had worked hard with Lion all winter. Now Lion could sit, stay, and come when called.

At least Lion could do all these things at home. But would Lion obey Charlie in the busy town of Lawrence?

Charlie stopped outside the store. Time for Lion's first test.

“Stay,” Charlie commanded. Lion's bright brown eyes sparkled. He wagged his tail, back and forth, back and forth. Then he plopped down. Perfect.

“Good dog. I'll be right back.” Charlie patted Lion's head, turned, and—
He bumped right into a man with a long, sad face.

“Oh, sorry, Mr. Dillon,” said Charlie. Sometimes people called Ed Dillon “Wooden Ed.” He had a shop in town where he built wooden chairs and tables.

“Why, Charlie Keller of Spring Creek! Where's your pa?” asked Ed.

“Papa's buying cornmeal, molasses, and …,” Charlie began.

Wooden Ed held up his hand. “Hold on. Haven't you heard? The town's in danger. Sheriff Samuel Jones and his border ruffians are set to attack the Free State Hotel this very afternoon.”

Charlie's eyes widened. “Sheriff Jones and his border ruffians!”

Charlie knew the border ruffians were rough men, willing to fight to make Kansas a slave state someday. But Charlie's family, and most people in Lawrence, wanted Kansas Territory to enter the Union as a free state, where owning slaves wouldn't be allowed.

“The whole country is watching Kansas,” Papa had told Charlie. “If proslavery folks win here, slavery is sure to spread into other new territories in the West.”

And the proslavery side was winning. Last year some proslavery men from Missouri had pretended to live in Kansas, so they could vote in the Kansas election. And they had won. That's why Kansas Territory had proslavery men like Sheriff Jones in charge.

Papa was still angry about the “bogus” election. “It wasn't fair,” he told Charlie. “But now we're expected to obey their laws and men like that rascal Jones. Why, Jones doesn't even live here; he's from Missouri!”

And if Sheriff Jones was in Lawrence with his gang of border ruffians, it could mean only one thing: trouble.

Wooden Ed strode off toward the hotel, pulling Charlie behind him.

“Wait, I almost forgot!” cried Charlie. “My dog.”

Charlie whistled. In a flash Lion was at his side.

“Now, that's a well-trained pup you've got,” said Ed.

“Lion's a good boy,” Charlie said proudly, patting Lion on the head.

“I guess your pa's been too busy on his farm to keep up with the news in town,” Ed said as they rushed toward the hotel.

Charlie nodded. “Pa planted six acres of corn. Momma says if we don't get a good crop, she has a mind to go back to Massachusetts. She claims she couldn't live through another winter like this past one.”

rough on all the new settlers,” Ed agreed.

What a winter! The prairie wind had never stopped whistling and moaning. Most mornings their drinking water had been frozen solid in the pail. Little Sadie, who was just five, had been sick a lot.

And once, Charlie had found Momma crying softly as she rocked Baby Henry.

“We came here to find a new life, and to keep the evil of slavery from spreading,” Momma had whispered, tears in her eyes. “But I never dreamed life would be so hard.”

At least it's spring now,
thought Charlie. The May sun felt warm on his back. But he couldn't help worrying about what might happen next.

If the border ruffians made trouble all summer, Papa and the other settlers wouldn't have time to work on their new farms. If they didn't grow enough food, some families might give up and go back to their home states. Just what the border ruffians wanted!

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