A Different Kind of Quaker

A Different Kind of Quaker
[From Shards of Blue]

John Ratcliff, from the Ohio Town Company settlement, Marshall County, Kansas, 1855

Dear Mary,
I don’t know when this letter might reach you,
but I want you to know that I am well.
I miss you and the boys.
There is much work to keep me busy,
but still I find myself stopping at times
to think about what you might be doing.
Nights feel so long without you next to me.

The journey to Kansas passed without event,
though the riverboats down the Ohio
and up the Missouri were crowded and hot.
Westport was boisterous with activity—
migrants stocking up for the trails
to Oregon and California,
Mormons bound for Salt Lake,
and Free-Soilers like us,
all armed and setting out for Kansas.
We bought our supplies
and headed for our claims.

We measured out the boundaries
of the town, marked the corners of our farms.
Pro-slavery men are already here—
South Carolinians in Palmetto,
Missourians in Marysville—
but they seem peaceful enough.
Still, we are on our guard
and take turns patrolling day and night.
Oh, if the Elders in Mt. Pleasant could see us—
we carry guns at all times.
We decided we will fight if it comes to that.
Kansas calls for a different kind of Quaker.

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