Manitou Springs, Colorado
January 21, 1876
Assistant City Marshal Wyatt Earp,
Dodge City, Kansas
Since last I wrote many interesting things have happened, which Uncle John asked me to relate as he has been burdened with repairs to the cabin and barn, then chopping wood most every day so we have enough to see us through these gray winter months. The weather held through Thanksgiving, which aided his efforts, and I did most of the hunting and laid in a goodly supply of smoked meats and pelts.
Now don't be fretting none over that fancy salutation of 'Respected friend'. Miss Lacey, the Manitou schoolmarm, rode out our first week to offer a hearty handshake and welcome, and found me sharpening my wooden pencil. She insisted I greet you proper-like in this letter. I reckon her busybody ways was worth it though, what with that fine apple pie she left behind.
I purt-near skedaddled when she said I should join her class in town for some book learning, but Uncle John just laughed. Miss Lacey looked all put-upon, so he explained how he'd taught me my ABCs before my third birthday and that you'd encouraged my learning by sending books my way pretty regular-like. He pointed at the pencil and said I had just sat down to write a letter to you 'cause I could spell a sight better than he could. Well, she flushed bright red then, whether at the mention of your name or his spelling I don't know, but that didn't stop her from telling me how to start and end this letter and telling Uncle John that there was more to her school than just ABCs, thank you very much!
It did come to me later that it was a good thing she didn't catch me practicing with my Colt .45s. My left hand is as strong as my right now, and I believe I would make you proud. Uncle John said he hasn't seen anyone draw that fast, ever, and he just shakes his head and rubs at his chin when he watches my target practice. Not to be a braggart, but these days, I never miss.
But I need to back up some. We arrived safely in Manitou mid-October, and after three days rode to the homestead Uncle John was to purchase from General William Jackson Palmer and Doctor William Abraham Bell, the town founders. They intend for Manitou Springs to be a scenic health resort, so folks can enjoy the healing waters the Utes drank for years. That mineral water is clear and cold, and Uncle John wonders whether the well on our new homestead taps into those very same springs. We reckon the Utes were mighty upset about losing their land, and the General thought Uncle John's reticence was 'cause he was scared the tribe might come back to fight for their land, but you and I both know it was the injustice that soured him.
We talked some, and looked over the quarter section before he signed the deed. The homestead is southwest of Manitou, and the ride settled our spirits some. While the cabin would have fallen down if you sneezed on it twice, the land laid claim to our hearts. Rolling foothills, tucked up to some mighty tall peaks. Despite his concerns, Uncle John is pleased to have finally settled down, and you know hard work don't scare us none.
I do confess to missing my Cheyenne friends, especially Wontoa. And Colorado is as different to South Dakota as a tomato is to a potato. I reckon next summer I'll ride up to visit him, if he don't show up here first. Uncle John has been as much a father to him as he is to me, and the reservation don't agree with Wontoa's wild ways.
Please accept my sincere thanks for the fine book you sent for Christmas. Mister Verne and his Around the World in Eighty Days has me thinking hard about all I have seen of these United States and what all I have yet to see and do. In two or three years, after I know my way around these mountains, I believe I'll take up guiding. I know that'll rile some folks, me being a girl and all, and while the notion made Uncle John shake his head, I think he also hid a smile.
The arrival of your package was the first we had heard of you heading to Dodge City with James. We hope you are content there in your new position as Assistant City Marshal.
I will close now with Uncle John having asked me to send you and James his regards as well as his advice, to stay out of the gambling halls. He prays that you and your brothers will someday have the means to settle on land as fine as ours. Please also give Morgan my regards.
With great affection,
Misfortune Annie's correspondence with family-friend Wyatt Earp
by Janet Fogg, co/author of Misfortune Annie and the Locomotive Reaper