Three years after the Kansas-Nebraska Act embroiled the plains states in a struggle that presaged the war to come, the irrepressible Erastus F. Beadle left his home in Buffalo, New York, and set out for the territories to see about some land. Specifically, Beadle had a stake in the Sulphur Springs Land Company, an enterprise that proposed to build the community of Saratoga just north of Omaha for prospective settlers, who were arriving by the boatload. In diary pages and letters home, Beadle noted his impressions-the details, anecdotes, and characters that filled his days-and in doing so, left a remarkable record of a bygone way of life in the American West. Beginning with his three-month journey westward, Beadle takes us from the hardships and amusements of travel on the "Big Muddy" to the magnificent sight of a prairie fire at night, from the political propaganda abroad in the "slavery stronghold" of Kansas to the realities of doing business on the Nebraska frontier. Whether describing roads or water routes, mishaps or accommodations, finances, politics, or daily life, Beadle writes with an immediacy and character that make his diary as entertaining as it is informative-a living, intimate chapter of American history.