Written by Irene Clark Davis for her sister, Ada E. Brown (Note: Gearshum & Sarah VanAtta’s oldest daughter Betsy married John Clark. Irene Clark Davis was John Clarks daughter by his first wife.)
Days of Yesteryear
What would a lad of these days think if he had not a penny to spend on his Fourth of July? And what would he do if there were no oranges, no bananas, no ice cream cones, chocolate creams, no fudge, no delicious dainties done up in a perfectly enticing, easily handled shape?
Precisely such was the little fellow’s fate in those days of long ago in 1847, the Fourth I am trying to tell something about. I say something because I was at that time but a little past three, and if I had a great deal to tell it might be thought only my imagination. It was all terribly real to me. I went with my parents to a country celebration. Among the instrument of torture, I had never heard an anvil before and it completely overcame me.
Pa took me out of the roar and scramble to a carpenter’s shop and set me among the shavings and there we stayed until the affair quieted down. Going home we heard a bugle or some such instrument. How sweet it sounded to me.
That summer a neighbor came bringing to me a pretty little rocking chair made by himself. I was very happy about getting it. A little later we went to Aunt Phebe’s. I stayed all night. At bedtime I cried and Uncle Gabriel said, “Why did you keep that child? I went to sleep. In the morning all was well.
Uncle Cyrus spent two winters at Shurtliffe College. One of the winters when Father was there. He married a woman named Charity Hudson and they had two children: Abia, two years older than I, and John Hudson a year or so younger. In the late 40’s Uncle left home, the purpose I do not know. He never returned. Grandma thought he had been suddenly stricken with cholera, as it was a year when that ailment raged in the middle west. The wonder of his going was never solved. Aunt was a good woman–his children fine children. Uncle was the youngest of the Clark children–thought to be quite smart and a sweet singer. I think Father received letters from John Hudson while we lived at Brush Prairie. I was fond of Abia.
The only Christmas present I ever had in my childhood was a fine roll of stick candy from her. Uncle lived in Boston, Ill. He was a minister. The country around Boston is varied. At our home it was level. Near by were large bald bluffs. I saw them in later years.
Uncle Gibbs lived near by us. Father had a friend by the name Cropnel whom we visited sometimes after moving to Sugar Grove. We lived about three miles from New Boston, which was the County seat of Mercer Co., Ill.
Now it is the spring of 1848 and Father moved to Sugar Grove. So does Uncle Gibbs and Uncle Gabriel. At the Grove we find seven Miller families. Father bought of a man by the name of Crull. Uncle Gibbs bought Mr. Griswald’s farm. Uncle Gabriel rented a place. Uncle Ransom soon came to be followed by Lewis and Ware Long. The neighborhood entirely changed in the space of two years. Not a Miller left. Four Miller brothers had come to the Grove from some western part of the state, many years before. Some of them had planted fruit trees that were now bearing. In those days grafting and budding were not known and the seedling is slow to bear, so I conclude they had been there 15 or 20 years.
Their several names were Abraham, Isaac, John, and George. All good religious people. Had a mill for lumber, grist mill, a log house for school and church. In 1850 all the elderly ones except Isaac Miller and his family left for Oregon. In 1851 Isaac left, leaving no one by the name of Miller. The Grove now began to be a different place. People from eastern state moved in. I heard Ma tell Pa that she liked the new neighbors better than the old ones. They were so different, (more sociable, I suppose) such as Ma had always associated with.
A camp-meeting was the first event that struck me as noticeable. It was so near our house that we could tell what tune was being sung. Pa went often to the meeting place. I always went along. It was a delightful occasion to me. At about this time Ma had an untimely birth of a baby girl. Some time this summer Uncle Samuel Rice came to make his home in Sugar Grove. At this time Grandpa Clark was the pastor of a church at Oxford, Ill.
Early in 1849 an effort was made to organize a Baptist Church at or near the Grove. Some wanted it at Millers Burg, four miles from the Grove. Grandpa moved down and a log cabin was built for him and Grandma very near Aunt Rosetta’s. He had no notion of being the pastor at Millers Burg; he thought it a bad move, so he went back, to Oxford. A little later a Baptist Church was formed at the Grove. A minister by the name of Eberhart was called and served the church for two or three years. During his pastorate Father was licensed to preach. After that he often preached. This same spring Grandpa Vanatta bought a place just across from Father.
The camp-meeting was held in the same place, near our house this summer of 1849. We all enjoyed it. It was a real picnic for me. The hymns were sung after lining. (so few hymn books) Father led as he always did wherever he was. I hear them telling the meter now. Sometimes long, sometimes short, sometimes common. By this time I could keep the tune.
Later in the summer a woman from Oxford, one of Grandpas’ friends, came to teach a school for little children. Guess it was about the same as a kindergarten. I enjoyed it very much. I learned of the highest mountain, the largest river, the days in the year and how many months in the year, etc. etc. I was very pleased to stand by her side and be told such wonders.
During this spring Pa had made a big keg of maple sugar–Uncle Gabriel helped him. Oh, that was fun for me! The water from the trees was delicious, and the sugar the same. It was a task. Pa made a trough for each tree that he tapped. The troughs had to be cared for day and night. He was glad to be through.
In June of this summer Uncle Samuel married one of Isaac Miller’s girls. You remember all the rest of the Millers had gone to Oregon. I was very unhappy at his chivalry. The firing of guns overcame me. To this day I cringe at their detonation.
In the fall Uncle Alvin came from Iowa with his children. Aunt Laura was dead. Our house consisted of two log cabins. One was given to Uncle for his use. We had a fireplace, he had a stove to keep warm by–a cook stove. Uncle taught the school that winter. I never ceased to fear him but went to school just the same. He was so stern at home. His school closed, he rented a farm and took his family there. His son Rufus died soon after, the result of infection from a cut with a scythe.
Oren and I had a little experience in the summer. As we were on our way to school one morning we met a bobcat. We were frightened. Oren said to me, “Throw your skirt over your head”. I stooped forward and did so. He threw his coat up over his head. Before long we ventured to look and he was gone. Our story was doubted that night at home. Uncle Gabriel said, “I’ll go see”. He went. Quite soon he returned bringing a big bobcat. “You did see one, I think,” he said.
This summer Aunt Katherine came to stay with Aunt Phebe and with Ma. Aunt Phebe had a large new log house much more desirable than ours, so Aunt went there to live. Aunt Katherine was a maiden aunt, a typical old maid. She and I never did get acquainted, we were so unlike.
In this summer Oren and I began to make our trips out into the woods to see what we could find. Not many berries. We could always get elm bark which we liked to chew. Lynn bud were good. Sometimes we found ginseng; and calamus grew near Mr. Vanatta’s. We liked it a little. Mundrakes were rather scarce but so good when we did find them. There were choke cherries, better than nothing to a child. Crab-apples, but oh, so sour. Wild mints and pennyroyal, black haws and red ones, a large kind so abundant but poor tasting. We found no nuts this summer. They grew on a different side of the grove.
Return to spring time and hear of a new house being built for the Clarks. Uncle Alvin helped Pa build. It was 16 x 32 feet, planned floors, 2 large rooms, one finished sealed and a fireplace in the end. The other the kitchen same size. A porch full length on the south, closed on the west end, one story only. A great improvement over the house we were living in. Pa sold the first farm to a Mr. Jones. A new house was built on the upland, a much pleasanter place than where the one stood down in the timber. In order to have water for all purposes he built out near the middle of his tract so far as east and west was concerned. All fields north of the south line. The house one quarter of a mile from the road. The small road on which we first lived–a county road. A big gate opened the way to the house. The spring we had was a jewel. It furnished water for our house, horses and cows, and made a large brook besides. I spent many happy hours at the spring. The distance from the house considerable but the slant not steep. Pa set out a small orchard right away.
Ma took a interest in her new home. She bought a new feather-bed–the white spread which you remember as an old one and a rag carpet. She pieced the blocks for the “ladies Fancy” quilt, one that I brought away with me. She planted many flower seeds too. They bore beautiful flowers. She put out the first rose bush that was ever planted in that neighborhood. Flower seeds she obtained from Grandma Vanatta who first brought flowers to Sugar Grove.
This summer Lucy Judd and Theresa, her sister came from Iowa to see Uncle Alvin and other friends. I enjoyed Julia and Laura very much. Emily went back with Lucy. That summer Uncle had married Isaac Miller’s second daughter, a widow named Moore, whose husband had been dead some time. She was a dear good woman, two children Mary and Miller. Theresa Judd did not return to Iowa. In a few months she married a Sugar Grove man by the name of Hesser.
Grandpa and Grandma made a visit to the Grove this fall, Grandpa’s last visit. Aunt Rosetta lost her little Helen, two and a half years old, a sweet little girl. Late in the fall Pa and Ma went unexpectedly to Boston to do a little trading. There was nothing cooked. Ma always baked biscuits. Pa had just brought a piece of beef into the house. From this Oren and I cut little strips and broiled them before the fire. A small patch of turnips had been given us as our task to pull. Of these we varied our meal. Howard and Hannah came to see us in the afternoon. We could set nothing before them but turnips. They did not stay late. About 8:30 Pa and Ma reached home. A good supper was prepared so all went well. Ma had bought herself a pretty blue dalaine dress. In those days a nice dress was kept nice a long time. As long ago as I can remember Ma had a pink calico dress which was her best dress for years. It had a white background with pink and lavender stripes running in opposite directions. It was pretty and very becoming to Ma and Ma to it. She had a pretty gingham but it faded soon. Almost every kind of dress goods faded in those days. Ma made her new delaine dress, perhaps wore it a few times. At her death was given to a neighbor, a Mrs. Ebner, who had been so kind during Mother’s illness. In the fall Emily returned from her visit to Lucy’s.
In the winter a meeting of days was held, called a protracted meeting. Emily was converted and several others. A meeting of the same kind was held in 1850. The additions from the two meetings doubled the membership of the church. You may remember that we had Uncle Samuel Clark. Probably would have been mentioned in the New Boston News. I never saw him. He lived somewhere in Mercer Co. He wanted Pa to go to Texas when he went, and after he arrived kept writing. Father never wanted to go there. His heart turned to Oregon. I know the names of but two of Uncle Samuel’s children–think they had a large family. He married Uncle Orange’s widow.
Now 1851. Early in April Uncle Isaac Miller and my Uncle Samuel Rice left for Oregon. (Samuel Rice arrived in Oregon in August of 1851, Source: Oregon DLC #5140) The third day after they started there came a pretty deep snow. I suppose they did not suffer at all.
Uncle Gibbs and Uncle Ransom had an attack of Oregon fever, planning to divide possessions and make the trip together. Uncle Ransom as he was given to doing changed his mind about the last day; and instead moved his family in with Grandpa Vanatta’s. Uncle Gibbs and his family came to stay with us. During the snow spoken of we children had a most glorious time. Ma let us do about as we pleased. They occupied the kitchen. There were seven children in their family. They were with us three weeks then left for Iowa.
Uncle Ransom found an abandoned house and at once began preparing for a new home not far from us. Pa helped him fix the house. At about the Fourth a camp-meeting started in a new camp-ground nearly a mile from us. On Sunday we all went, Aunt Mary and Uncle Alvin were there with their twins, then six weeks old. Their birthday the 17th of May. During the forenoon a wagon drove up–a drink wagon. The nearness to the Fourth made the men bold perhaps. No disturbance was made. After awhile seeing no encouragement they went away. One night about this time we were awakened between 10 and 11 O’clock by someone calling out “Is this where John the Baptist lives?” It was two ministers going home from an Association. Ma gave them a warm supper and all went to our slumber again.
About this time the measles made the rounds of the Grove. Oren had his spell with them but they passed me by, or at least I feared they had and felt very disappointed. After many days Ma told me they had appeared on my shoulders and I was pleased. I had never been sick, had never spent a day in the house. Well, one day was all that I spent indoors at this time. From now on until I was 29 I never was sick, for a day to keep indoors. Then I had the whooping cough and stayed in two days. I was teaching and stayed in on Saturday and Sunday so as to be able to go to school on Monday.
Now let us go ahead to 1852–a sad year for the Clark’s and others related to them. Uncle Alvin, Uncle Ransom and Uncle Gabriel all left for Oregon. We who were left felt lonesome. En-route Uncle Alvin buried Aunt Mary, Uncle Ransom Clark, and Aunt Katy was buried at Willow Creek the same place Aunt Mary was laid. Not many days after they left Ma lost her little baby boy–living only one hour after birth. I was very sorry to have him die and sat in the rocking chair and wept. Oren and I were at Deacon Jones that morning. He left with the boys but I was anxious to go home to see how Ma was. After awhile I saw Pa coming and was glad. He went directly to Mr. Jones and began talking to him about something I could not understand. When they finished talking I asked Pa if I could go home with him and he said I could. On the way he told me of the baby boy and took the opportunity to give me a kind and loving talk about the future. It was the burial preparation that I did not understand. Ma improved very slowly. After several weeks she was able to leave the bed but the whole summer through she was under the doctor’s care. A hired girl was kept all the time She was paid 75 cents a week, the common price.
Some time is June Grandpa died. Grandpa Vanatta took a conveyance and brought Grandma to his house. In the spring she had fallen and dislocated her left collar bone. She had not the use of her hand to any good degree. In the fall she had improved somewhat so she came to our house to help what she could. By mid summer Ma was able to leave her bed and Pa borrowed a buggy so she might have a change and fresh air. Oren was able to drive a gentle old horse we had. Once we went to Miller’s Burg where the doctor lived and made a long call. Your mother was there. She spent two weeks at the doctors as a patient. On our way home a great black cloud came up. We stopped at a farm house for a time.
About this time wild blackberries were ripe. Berries of all sorts were scarce. Oren and the neighbor’s children were going to a patch miles away to get some. They were going on horseback. I did not plan to be left behind. I misbehaved to a great extent. I knew nothing about riding and Pa was not willing for me to go with the children, so he took the other old mare and he and I rode on her. I was aware of my naughtiness and not surprised when Pa gave me a real lecture, promising me a whipping when we reached home. What came over me I never could understand. To please Pa had always been my care. He must have been surprised. I deserved the whipping I should have had but did not get. I never acted so again. The buckets were all as empty to take home as when we went. At that time in Illinois cultivated berries were not thought of except a few currants. Crab apples plentiful. Some wild plums.
As fall came on Ma began to fail. She took to her bed again and suffered and lingered until the last of October. Liver ailment seemed to be her trouble. Had we known more of hygiene then her life might have been prolonged. She was conscious to the last. Calling Oren and me to her bedside she gave a last motherly admonition. I shall never forget it. Be good children, do not ramble around–More she said that I do not remember. Oren was influenced by her words. She had been his heart’s delight. He was never reclined to the change. He was four and a half years older than I and more set in thought and heart. Poor Ma continued to fail. Her suffering great. A most distressing nausea beside the pain. In these days a doctor would have given an opiate, but she had none. This great suffering lasted for three weeks. All who saw her wished she might go. On Friday evening, October 22, her spirit took its flight, and we know she has been at rest ever since.
A dear neighbor woman, who had been kind all the while, and some others prepared the body for burial. On Saturday all arrangements were finished. A dress was made for me of a black alpaca dress Ma had. Girls wore mourning in those days. Sunday morning the services were held. The pastor Elder Cline preached the funeral sermon, and then the grave received and held her pallid sad face from sight. I could not realize all it meant to me, but I felt sad. Grandma, Pa, Oren, and I went to deacon Vanatta’s for dinner. Then came the going home to an empty house. I heard Pa say: “I was so lonely, for weeks many had been coming and going, now nobody came.” Perhaps the neighbors wished to make up for time lost when they came to see the sick. Ma was loved by all who knew her. Pa was a social being and just now loneliness overcame him. Grandma knew no one but the Vanattas. They had been acquainted a long time. There was a church at Rock Island. It was that took Grandpa there. He spent his life in looking after needy churches. I think he and Grandma rendezvoused at the Vanatta’s and Huff’s sometimes, from what Grandma told me. Before Uncle Cyrus left he preached in that neighborhood and he baptized your mother. Grandpa baptized Jane and Mary. There was a family by the name of Essex that Pa and my mother knew and that took them to Rock Island once in a while. Maybe you remember the Essex squash. It came from them.
Grandma Vanatta was converted before Grandpa. (He did not have any wish to go to meeting–would rather spend his Sundays horse racing.) She was impressed with the belief that if he would go to Boston he would be converted. he did not want to go but their meal gave out and there was no place nearer to get it ground; so he had to go. A revival meeting was in progress at Boston. Being acquainted with the Clarks he went there to await for his grist. Our cousin Orange, Aunt Cynthia’s oldest son was baptized that day. Sure enough Grandpa did feel convicted and before long was converted.
You see there had been a long and close acquaintance before Grandpa Vanatta came to the Grove in 1849. As I said before Grandma Clark knew no one but the Vanattas–so she never wanted to go anywhere else–and we were all welcome there.
Pa was lonesome and always went with Grandma. Oren and I went along. So it was not strange that Pa began paying attention to Miss Betsy Vanatta and a wedding followed. A Homemaker was a blessing to us. Our new mother was good to us and did not try to exercise any authority over Oren and myself. By degrees I readjusted my duty and did obey. She was not accustomed to children and we two gave her much annoyance many times. Once she punished me for sauciness. I deserved it.
Early in the spring Grandpa Vanatta sold his place and bought the Jone’s place. Grandma said that was their 20th move and they had been married 20 years. Grandma had a wonderful garden. Our family often spent Sunday with them on our way home from church.
Summer came and Pa had an attack of pleurisy. He was very sick. The doctor came and tried to bleed him but the blood was too thick to run, just coagulated on his arm. We were all dreadfully frightened. He suffered very much at times. Once Oren and I were called up in the middle of the night to go to the garden for a cabbage leaf to wilt and lay on his breast. It was a dull rainy night with such continuous flashes of lightning that we had no need of a lantern. We brought the leaf, but it did not avail much. Pa was ailing about six weeks with pleurisy. The doctor told him he would have to make a change or that climate would kill him. The changes in temperature were so sudden and so great. Pa had a longing to go to Oregon for along while. The doctor’s had a deciding effect and from that time on that was his determination–a settled fact in his mind.
Pa was anxious that I should go to school. Ma’s illness had kept me home the summer before. Oren was needed to help at home. I had never gone alone and I was lonely and afraid and did not want to go.
About this time a mad-dog furor spread–that was a terror to me. I had to go by the county road and I feared every minute of the way. Once I went through Grandpa’s cornfield but he left word for not to do that any more.
If there had been anything in the school house to attract me I should have gone more willingly. It was the same old reader I had since I left the primer, so every lesson was familiar to me. I knew how to spell all the words in it. The old Elementary speller was all right. That I liked and studied faithfully. Not a bench in the house had a back. Only a few pupils came–all small. Just one recreation, a noon recess–that was going to the creek for a drink of water. NO playful exercise to refresh us. If only a slate and pencil, or pen and ink had been given us I should have been happy and satisfied. Nothing of that sort then for young pupils. At ten years of age I did not know one word of our written language. Truly the age has advanced. I was glad when school closed.
The summer passed quickly.
In September the Baptists held an Association with the Sugar Grove church. We had a goodly number of delegates to entertain. Ma and Grandma seen to the entertaining with ease. Pa furnished them melons by the score. Everyone had a good time.
On October 26th Cline came. That was something new. I was sorry he was not a girl. A neighbor woman had a little girl two months old. She asked me if I would swap our baby for hers. I said yes. Ma was shocked at my reply. Cline was only a little mite to me. He improved with age and soon came to be a very dear brother. A neighbor loaned a cradle for Cline’s benefit. Pa went after it, the distance being about a mile. Pa brought it in, set it down saying, that is the heaviest cradle I ever saw”, We looked to see why he said so–and found it half full of walnuts he had carried nearly all the way.
Ma and Grandma had never seen a girl of nine who knew so little of work things in general as I. They sent me to Grandma Vanatta’s to get a skein of thread. She said, “Yes, it is hanging out in the yard on a rack, you can get it.” It was drying, just from the dye pot, an horrible something mixture. I was not willing to carry the vat smelling thing in my hands, so I found a stick and put it on that. I reached home. My thread as I supposed it was, proved to be yarn, and quite a bit snarled. Post haste I had to return it. Poor Grandma Vanatta was both vexed and surprised. I was not given to saying things but I did not feel guilty. The thread was coarse and the same color as the yarn and as bad smelling. I detested it. I knew nothing of such things. My mother from her Connecticut home brought no knowledge of wool and cotton industries.
About this time Pa placed a very pretty monument at the grave of my mother and her two babes, not an expensive tombstone, but appropriate. After moving up to the new house Oren and I made the west side of the Grove our runway. A little creek came down from the upland. We followed it to the Edwards River. our fishing place. So we learned something of the Grove from all points. How Oren and I did enjoy those trips! He was rather successful. We carried home a good many little fish. I had seven to my credit; but never did I touch one nor did I bait my hook. Oren was obliging and did it for me. Pa would go with us sometimes when he wanted a cat fish. On this side of the Grove we found hazel nuts and sometimes a few wild strawberries. No cultivated berries of any kind.
I used to ride stick horses. Grandma said I must not ride them astride.
About this time with two neighbor girls and their brothers and I went to church. I knew one of the women. She knew me and saw that I was alone so asked me to go with them to our big gate. I was never more glad of an invitation. Well, we passed the big gate before we were aware, and by the time we made known my want we were some distance past. I left the wagon, or it left me. I climbed the fence so fearful I should meet some of the Ridge rowdies. I meant to sit down if I heard them coming–believe they were ahead of the wagon. I feared them as though they had been wild animals. I ran all the way home and vowed to myself I would trust no one but Pa after this. I kept my vow.
Leaving for Oregon began to be uppermost now. When Grandpa Vanatta saw Pa was certainly going he had the notion too. But he was not able. I do not know but suppose Pa offered him help. He gave him help. We had three wagons between the two families, and Pa paid for all tolls and such expenses and the road demanded. Pa began looking for a buyer for the farm. I think Providence helped him. The county bought his and Grandpa’s place for a poor farm, paying for both in cash. no change to be made until starting time.
The preparation for the journey was uppermost in mind. Early in the spring Uncle Gibbs and his son Orlando came from Iowa to see if it could be arranged for him to go to Oregon too. It was thought not best but Pa would take Orlando to help him. After staying a week or so they started back home. They had journeyed one day when Orlando was taken sick so they returned. Orlando was very sick for days. When he was much improved Uncle left him to come with us.
Oren and I went to school all winter. A good number of pupils all ages. The fun we had at recess and noon made the going all I could wish. The games, anti over, black man, and ring-around-the-rosie gave me just the exercise I needed and were a delight to me. My reader was the New Testament. One day I was sitting with my Testament spread open in my lap when, shocking to me, one of the girls sitting opposite me five or six feet away had me by the neck hugging me. I jumped up, dropped my book and screamed as loud as I could. The teacher rushed to us and began to separate us and to find fault; when the pupils knowing the cause of it all said, “Eleanor is having a fit.” That is what so terrified me. I knew she had them. I could scarcely attend to my lessons any further that morning. Eleanor lay down and slept.
I think at the first of the year the Baptist church thought best to discontinue their meetings and so did not re-hire their pastor, Elder Young. Deacon Jones had moved to another neighborhood. Deacon Vanatta was about to leave, there was no leader left. They were much discouraged. The Methodists and United Brethren were keeping their appointments so there were services often. Sometime late in March special services were held and some converts resulted. Oren and I were of the number. We did not unite with the church then. No minister lived near. We were just ready to start for Oregon, so we waited.
The morning came for us to start on our journey. April 1st, 1854, a cold frozen morning. Ground frozen. We all put on extra wraps and were cold even then. Pa and Grandma both took heavy colds. Pa broke his with quinine, Grandma wore hers out. The neighbors said “don’t start on Saturday.” Pa said “any day is all right.” Neighbors came to say good bye. All ready we climbed into the wagons. We had lived in the Grove six years. Not a person who had lived there before we came was now left. The Poor Farm moved in the same day we moved out. Sugar Grove began an entirely new life.
I have not told you anything of the topography of the Grove. As I remember it was some 9 miles in circumference. Three little creeks have their origin in the upland called The Ridge. The landscape was very much broken. One house in sight from ours. We could speak across the intervening valley. Hillsides very steep, really almost too perpendicular to go up or down on foot–not all but many of them were so. One thing was peculiar to that place–a fine spring for every home. Not a well was in the neighborhood when we went there. Such beautiful springs! Most of them gushing out of a cliff-like hillside. I can yet recall a full dozen. Two wells were there when we came away. All the springs and creeks made their way to the “Edwards”, the south boundary of the Grove.
The first day we went about fifteen miles. Stopped at a farm house owned by an acquaintance of Grandpa’s. They had a large basement, which the woman gave us in which to spend the night. We had a stove, made coffee on it. Put our beds on the floor.
Early in the morning we started on our journey. Went a few miles and stopped at the home of a niece of Grandma Vanatta’s where we stayed until Tuesday morning. Then made another start. We crossed the Mississippi on a ferry boat operated by horse power. Two horses treading on a great wheel that propelled the boat. Rev. Eberhardt came and took Grandma, Ma and myself to his house, where we spent the most of the day. At evening the caravan started again. We went out to Cedar Creek where we spent the night. (Rev. Eberhardt had been pastor of Sugar Grove Baptist church. He came to our house every time he filed his appointment I think.)
Wednesday morning I washed the dishes, ever after a task to continue for ten years. But those dishes were so bright and light and I had no fear of handling them. Grandma took care of Cline while I helped Ma. This was the program across the continent. Nothing unusual to speak of.
Iowa City next attracted my attention. Here Pa bought Ma a pair of side combs. I was much pleased with them. On Wednesday morning Orlando did not feel well. On Thursday he was no better so Pa put him on the stage and sent him on to Uncle Gibbs, We continued on our way and reached Uncle Gibb’s Sunday forenoon. Francis, Orson, and Omar came away out onto the prairie to meet us. When they were pretty near us I ran and climbed into their wagon, too glad to know what to do. Frances and I had been just like two sisters.
Oh, the good times we had together! We were soon having another good time. We stayed and visited until Wednesday morning. We children did not let a minute go to waste. The moon was at its most accommodating stage, so the house did not contain us during the evening. We exercised too vigorously to feel any cold. But this had to come to an end. Thursday morning we were on the go again. Uncle had ten children. Several of them started, all of us on foot. Four of them walked a long way with us until Uncle thought they had gone far enough. He himself kept on walking by Pa’s side. They two had been so much to each other I think he was Pa’s favorite of the brothers. Toward noon he turned back and that was the last we ever saw of Uncle Gibbs. He was loved by all who knew him. Orlando was very sorry that he could not go with us, his father and my father both thought it unwise for him to try to go.
But few of the camping places and not a great deal of the country comes to me now, somewhere in Iowa we passed through Winterset, a little town, in the country, also another little town, Newton by name. Here Pa stopped and had some blacksmithing done. We all ate with Grandma that night because Pa was so late getting in. On the 16th of April we passed through Des Moines, crossed a river the Des Moines, I suppose, and camped near the bank of the stream. A man, a farmer, came to chat with the men. He said he had a new calf, and new colt, and a new son-in-law. The next morning, the 17th was my birthday. Mary, Ma’s sister blackened my face, which really vexed me. I was real ugly about it. Quick as a wink I ran to the nearby wagon wheel, put some tar on a finger, then ran to her and daubed it on her face. It was a mean trick. I am sorry I did it. I still think it a mean way to celebrate. It did not break our friendship at all.
Up to this time we had not made any rapid progress. Had spent time with friends. No more hindrance until we arrived at Council Bluffs. This place we reached on Monday, April 24th, about noon. On reaching the outskirts of the city we came near an Indian Camp. Everyone except the two grandmas and myself were so overcome with something, curiosity, I suppose, that all of them rushed out to the camp. Grandma Clark was badly frightened to have the teams left without anyone to care for them and I shared her fears, but most of all I was so shocked to see them wanting to get near and have a good look at the Indians. I had never seen any nationality but our own except once in a while an Irish peddler would happen along; but he was white. Oh these Indians were so repulsive. I cried for fear and disgust. Grandma told Pa she thought him very unwise to leave us at the mercy of the situation. Cattle are much frightened at the presence of Indians until they get a little acquainted. Horses are the same, but we all survived the episode.
Stopped at Uncle Miner’s for dinner and later went on to Lewis Huffs. Without delay Pa began to attend to our farther journey. At the ferry we was told we must wait until the next week. “First come, first served.” We could go over there next Sunday, not before. Pa had to find a helper to take Orlando’s place. He was successful in finding a real helper, a German named Rouse, a man who knew his place and always kept it. But he could not join us till Monday morning. Once that week Pa, Ma, and I went up to the city. We saw lemons for the first time, and Pa bought one. We ate it, sour as it was. Pa bought Ma a silk handkerchief, very gay, white with big figures in it. You may have seen it. Will Poe bought Jane one.
The Huffs began teasing Grandpa Vanatta to go no further; but they had no listener from Pa. He was on the way to Oregon. I do not know but they would have succeeded if Ma had been left behind. She was going they would. I feared at first that Pa might change his mind, but he said no when I asked him about it.
It was a week of good weather. In fact, we had no rain on us through Iowa. The skies were threatening three days before we reached the Bluff. The wagons were stopped and turned so the wind would do no harm to them. Grandma and I went to a house near by so Grandma might be safe from harm and smoke her pipe. The people were very kind to us. They had a “fiddle”, as the violin was then called. I thought they must be wicked people.
Sunday morning, April 31, ’54 came at last. We started for the Missouri River, waited till afternoon. Ferry very busy. Pa came to me and said, “I want you to go on the boat with me and watch the cattle while I come for another boat load.” If ever he asked me to do anything so terrifying I have no remembrance of it. Indians first came into my mind. Then herding cattle was not to my liking. An ox was an unknown animal to me; but I said not a word. Pa had 8 yokes and 2 wagons–how he arranged the crossing I know not. There were four cows; Pa’s three, Grandpa’s one, and six or eight oxen. They gave me no trouble and the Indians I had so much feared were not to be seen. We reached the Nebraska shore. A family was camped not so far away, so I did not feel so lonesome. The next boat brought Ma and Grandma, then I was at ease. That night we camped close by the river, on the ground where now stands the city of Omaha. Grandpa said “Now we are out of the USA. That surprised me but I soon learned we were still in her territory.
The first day we crossed a stream called Elkhorn–not a large stream. Another stream somewhat larger was crossed the next day. Now I remember nothing more of this journey until we were on the Platte. It was a sandy piece of country, sometimes flat open hills and mounds of sand. Here we saw Castle Bluff. Looking at a distance as one might think a castle would look. Many wolves were out here, big ones. One day while traveling we counted twenty-seven. Our worst storm we had here. One morning Grandma and I were wakened by the tent falling on us–wet of course. We climbed out. A bunch of Irishmen had camped a short distance away. They saw what had happened, came at once and asked us to go to their fire, they had no tent. We went and they gave us each a bowl of real good bean soup. Oren was the hardest hit by the storm. He had a new straw hat of which the wind robbed him. Poor boy! He had only a fur cap to wear all the way after that. He suffered with so warm a head gear.
It was the camp habit to take the cattle out to graze as soon as we stopped for the night. One night a man named Smith whom Grandpa was bringing out to Fort Laramie went to take the cattle. Soon the most dreadful yell reached the camp. Just one thought was in the minds of all–the Indians had attacked him. Every man and guns were immediately on the way. What do you think they found–a scared man, but no Indian!–some animal–from his description the men thought it was a porcupine. It gave relief to know it was only a small animal to do us no harm. One day Grandpa spied an antelope. He tied a bandanna on his head and went in pursuit. He got him. A dish of fresh meat was not undesirable.
Not being acquainted with snow-capped mountains, we thought Fremont’s Peak was a cloud. Now my report will be only by guess. I remember “The Devil’s Gate”. It was a pass on the Sweet Water River, I think. We were not very near it. Independence Rock we passed by on the 9th of June. All the camp except the two Grandma’s, the children, Mary and myself went out to it and spent some time. It is a wonderful rock.
The Black Hills furnished our first evergreen timber. We thought it quite interesting, the smoke quite fragrant. The Fourth of July we found ice. We were then in the Rockies. We greatly enjoyed the huge fires at night. After camping on the Platte where we had nothing but a certain kind of chips (buffalo chips) to burn we were prepared to appreciate all the best firewood quite well. Tamarack not the best stove-wood, too soft. We had a little sheet iron cook stove so did not have to cook over the campfire–this was put in the wagon each morning and lifted out each evening…..About this time we fell in with a bunch consisting of four men, three brothers and a cousin, a woman and two children, by the name of Marsh. All went well for a few weeks, then what consternation our train was thrown into! One of the brothers fell into a fury at something another brother had done, jumped out of the wagon taking his gun to shoot his brother. Some of the men rushed to him and took the gun from him. He ran and grabbed another gun out of the wagon. That was taken from him, then he took a dirk. This too was taken. Oh, what commotion! What profanity! The first I had ever heard. The one so badly treated left at once. The one who had made the trouble was the husband of the woman. Poor soul! She was in trouble. The man crept into the wagon and we saw no more of him that day. The next morning our men told him to go ahead or fall behind. He went ahead.
We had a hound dog which Oren had brought to help drive the cattle. Grandpa had an old dog. These two left with the Marshes, which seemed strange. After a while Bose, the old dog, came back, but not White Foot, Oren’s dog. He was much grieved. Several weeks later near camping time we saw the Marsh outfit. We went on but they had seen us and the mad man, now in a better state of mind, came and begged pardon and asked to be allowed to be in our company again. Permission was granted and after that we were together until the roads parted. They were on the way to Puget Sound. White Foot was with them but they must have ten dollars for caring for him. Everyone believed he would have come back with the old dog if he had not been tied up. Pa did not think he could afford to pay ten dollars, he offered them five but they would not give him up for that. Oren, poor boy was all broken up. I grieved with and for him.
On the first part of our journey I rode alone. Through Iowa and on to the Platte I felt so lonesome. William Poe who drove the company wagon was no company for me. We never spoke from day to day. I told dear old Grandma about being so lonesome. She said “I will ask Sister Vanatta”, (she always called her Sister) “if Mary can not ride with you”. She said “Why yes”. So Mary and I were together all the rest of the way. After that I was perfectly happy.
It may be late to tell of the cute little Prairie Dogs. They were very interesting to me. Their manner of life so peculiar. We were told that they occupied the same hole in the ground that the owls and rattle snakes did. The portion of country where they were was flat and acres of it covered with mounds looking like huge ant hills. A little fellow about as large as a half-grown kitten would appear on the top of this mound and bark so fiercely, defiantly that it was laughable. Sometimes a man would take a shot at him. He always dropped back into his hole, over which he stood. I have just read in the Oregonian of June 25, 1933 that 12000 acres are in their possession. How can this be?
About this time a family by the name of Willis became a part of our company. A son of the family fell sick with what was called mountain fever. No doctor to call on. Pa had brought several kinds of medicine. He went and gave the youth such as he thought would help him. He soon improved and before long was well.
The “Pony Express” was met on this side of the Rocky Mountains. At about equal intervals of time and distance we would see at the side of the road a tent occupied by what we termed a French man with a squaw woman. These were the places to change horses and pick up letters left there by emigrants. After passing the junction of the California and Oregon roads we never saw any more Pony Express. Now Mary and I began our daily walks. She carried Cline. We showed him every flower we could find. Soon the hand he always took them in began to swell and have blisters on it. Right away we stopped that way of doing. Some simple remedies cured the hand.
On this part of the trip we saw no Indians. We feared nothing so went sometimes far ahead. When we came to the far west we were more cautious and stayed nearer the train. The Indians we saw about midway of our trip were not warriors. They were tramps going from one place to another with their luggage. Bucks going ahead, squaws bringing up the rear with papooses strapped to their back, driving the ponies with long slender poles dragging behind them. On these poles were their belongings.
If I had paid more attention to the many presentations of the trails I should know more of the particular features. When and where we crossed Green River I do not know. The wagons were ferried over, I think the cattle were made to swim across. Pa had a guide book and more common sense than most. He was the nearest leader of the train. He avoided crossing the Platte, and kept on the south side of the Snake. As I remember it, the Snake River country was the most disagreeable part of our trip. We were weary, the heat oppressive. No cool drinking water. Rocks, sand, high hills, cattle getting thin and needing extra care to get them to food and water. Sometimes the river was far down in a deep canyon. Then it took time and extra help to get them to food and water. The coolest water we had was what was brought up at night and left till morning. It was a little satisfying. A large water can was always filled in the morning. Oren and I went hunting wild currents and once we trudged a good way, found but few. We passed around some hills where a misstep would have cost us our lives. We became rather fearless. The river ran below and the hillside had only a path made by Indians I suppose. Lame geography confronts me. No map to turn to. Suppose Blue Mountains were near. Came down Grand Round Hill. It was a difficult hill to drive down, but we all reached the bottom safely. There we found such a beautiful spring. We passed on and camped on the west side of the valley, so it seemed to me, by a refreshing laughing brook. I think we stayed there a day before beginning our mountain climb. We greatly enjoyed the handsome ferns, the lacy shrubs, and the fragrance of the woods. Grandma thought she detected the odor of the winter green plant, but though I brought everything I could find I was never successful in getting the right plant.
I think we went upon the hill for some distance and hunted for berries–found none. While much interested in looking for them a man of our company came near and said “Booh!” I was not aware that he had left the camp and thought only of an Indian. I was too badly scared to run. He was amused at my fright but it was not funny to me. After getting over the mountains Grandma thought she would like to walk with Mary and me, so she began. We stopped oftener and walked as slowly as was convenient for her. We enjoyed her company and had all the time we wished. Grandma Vanatta had a spell of sickness, not dangerous. After she recovered she too joined the walkers. Jane had care of Willie. He was too heavy to carry and too young to walk. Eli walked or rode as he pleased.
The Soda Springs, The Three Tetons, and Sour Pool were left behind, somewhere in Wyoming now I think. Oregon was a large territory in 1854. The next thing I remember was the Owyhee River, a wide shallow stream with a very pebbly bottom. Fort Boise we left to the south.
The next to come to mind was Malheur River and the Indian scare. I told you of the Indians gathering at our camp one morning when every man was away bringing the cattle to yoke them for the days trip. One Indian was saucy. He lifted his bow and arrow as if he meant to shoot Bose, Grandpa’s dog. Grandma said “you kill him and you will be the next to die”. He put his bow and arrow down. To the relief of all of us at the camp the men returned, but not before a good many reds had arrived, for they bobbed up here and there over the hill tops in various directions. Quick work was made in hitching up. Every gun and revolver came into sight . The wagons started. The Indians looked on. Not a word was spoken. For a day or two there was fear expressed of their following us, but they did not. Two days later a family by the name of Ward was massacred on the north side of the Snake, two of their boys escaped, neither knowing at the time that the other had escaped.
The barren hot region over toward John Day was reached by us ere long. Little creeks so hot the dogs sat down and lapped their paws when they had crossed. One night we traveled till midnight, to help the cattle as much as we could. The next morning left camp early. Before noon some of the oxen began to show much distress. We were now getting near John Day. Pa unyoked one yoke of oxen, turned them loose. They were all right afterward.
I may be getting the first last, I do not know. We came to Burnt River held small glistening particles quite interesting to us children. They looked like gold. Powder River country pleased Pa very much. After this the alkali beds. Grandpa lost his cow and an ox I think. Pa lost an ox or two. When they fried out bacon and poured the grease down their throats no more cattle died.
On the 12th of August Uncle Alvin and Uncle Ransom met us. We were so glad to see them, some tears of joy were shed. We felt too that we had living guides. Their companionship was so enjoyable too withal. We were east of Willow Creek when we met them. When we reached Willow Creek Uncle Alvin took Grandma to where they had laid Aunt Mary two years before. I went along. I knew my Aunt Katie too lay there. They had markers but when I went to Hepner with Napoleon early in this century the markers were gone and there was no sign of any graves.
After leaving Willow Creek where we camped for the night a half day’s travel brought us to Dechutes. Here we stayed a half day, then forded the stream . The water was swift but shallow. I meant to speak of a severe sand storm. It covered our plates in a short time, so we had to eat sand. We had a salmon given to us which was a disappointment to all. It did not seem at all like a fish…
Now for the last long high pull across the Cascades. On the mountains we found such quantities of huckleberries, wild grape and slalas. I was not very wise and proceeded to overeat and wanted no more for awhile.
Having left behind us two hazardous obstacles, the descent of Laurel Hill and the crossing of Zigzag River (Boulder Zigzag) we were soon upon the ascent overlooking the valley between us and Mt. Hood. We seemed to be so near, just a deep gulch between us. We had seen many mountains on our trip, but no Mt. Hood. It was the most magnificent sight on our entire journey. How we did enjoy it!
The next day in the afternoon, being the 27th of August, we arrived at Foster’s. Oh, so glad! The long trek over, it’s hardships and incessant cares once and for all left behind. At Foster’s we were cordially received. The green vegetables that we had missed so much were freely given for our stay. The weather was unfavorable for travel so we spent more than a day here. Then started out for the 100 miles yet before us till we should reach the garden spot of Oregon, according to Uncle Alvin’s reckoning.
Father’s heart took deep root hereabouts and kept itself in this region until he returned about 9 years later. We resumed our way with light hearts. A friendly fertile valley was so different from what we had left behind. That night we camped at Clackamas. Next day ferried over rather early. Father had to pay 12 dollars more because we waited for morning. At Oregon City the wagons were shunted out of the road to permit others to pass and all the older people went to the stores to make purchases. We children stayed by the wagons. How pleasing the houses and stores looked after seeing rocks, tree, sand, and weary travelers. Ma bought a dishpan that hung up in the kitchen for years, and other kitchen supplies. Oren a hat to take the place of the one the wind deprived him of on the Platte River, and a pair of shoes for myself. I was barefoot and had been for some time except for some boots father bought for me before starting.
But two encampments s are in my mind as we passed up the valley–Clackamas, and what was then called Consors on the Santiam, not far from Albany. Here Uncle Ransom, who with Uncle Alvin, had come to meet us on our way, left us to go on to his home on horseback. Mr. Rouse, Father’s hired man, had left us at Oregon City. Now it is September 4th, mid forenoon, we are a Cynthia’s, her house being the first in our line of march. We all knew and loved her. Our reception was a hearty one. She said Uncle and Aunt had gone to the store but would soon be back. All waited for their return.
Cynthia began dinner, Ma and Grandma bringing in of their supplies. There were about a dozen on hand for dinner. None of us had lost an appetite. Great rejoicing abounded. After a while the oxen were attached to the wagons and all but myself and Amanda left for Uncle Ransom’s At night the tents were spread and all found good accommodation.
Now what next was the thought. No land anywhere about to homestead. Some places had seemingly been abandoned. To one of these on Wednesday Grandpa took his family. On Thursday Father ventured onto a piece near Harrisburg. For a house there was nothing but four walls with a covering. Friday morning Father began digging a well. Quite soon two men of the neighborhood came and tried to persuade him that he would lose his labor. They were sure the man who had stopped there could hold the place. In those early days it was the rule that if it was necessary for a Homesteader to leave for supplies of food his right to the home he had located could not be violated. Father listened to them. Just then a man on horseback came up and began to talk with Father. After some time he went away. Father came and said to Ma, “Maybe it is not wise for us to stay here. The man who was here for awhile has a place for sale and will take some of our belongings as part pay.” Ma was agreed and soon we were on the way to the other place. Pa had seven yokes of oxen, two wagons, three cows, and a horse, a young gentle mare that Ma could ride. We started on the back track. Pa and Oren drove the oxen hitched to the wagons, Ma rode the mare, while I drove the cows and loose oxen. Passed Uncle Ransom’s and on to the Little Muddy, forded it, small matter after crossing so many rivers on our way. Now we were in view of the house to which we were going, Well, it looked at that distance about as big as a chicken coop. I have told you it’s size. I’ll tell it again. 15 x 15ft. Now we are here. Father and Mr. Folsom are talking about the deal. It is soon settled. I see no papers, no third person is witness to the affair. The whole as unpretending as the swapping of horses. It proved to be all right, We heard tales that such was customary. Mr. Folsom picked up his whip, his wagon and oxen being ready, drove away.
About 5 months and 4 days of wandering we were again at home. This was the 8th of September. Some scaffolds called bedsteads already in the cabin, we did not need to sleep on the ground or in the wagon.
At Aunt Rosetta’s different work was going on. Ma’s sister Jane was to be married on Sunday the 10th and under Aunt’s direction a wedding dress was being made. We all went to the wedding. Jane became Mrs. Wm. Poe. Aunt entertained 18 or 20 for dinner, a satisfactory dinner, but minus all dainties.
What Pa did on Monday morning I can only conjecture. Since Oren and I had nothing on which to rest the center of gravity he probably tried to supply us with benches. Before leaving Illinois he had put boards around the top of the wagon-bed to make the depth greater. Of these I think a table and benches were made. He had brought some tools with him to use in case of emergency. Now they proved really handy. The chimney was not very safe. It was soon done over and lasted well. Everything appeared to need attention first. Fortunately the oxen and cows had no notion of straying away. They were pleased to be content with the tall grass and plenty of water. In the farm deal Pa had fallen heir to an old Mexican Cow and to an amazing big sow. These came home of their own accord. The little tumbled-down pig lot was repaired and piggy put in there of nights. No corn was in the bin for her, but she came home without it. The old cow was gentle, but I did not like the look of her horns, more than two feet apart at the tips I am sure. She was not kept long on her feet, but was put in a barrel so soon as she fattened a little.
Twice a week Oren and I went to Aunt Rosetta’s for a gallon of skimmed milk. How good it did taste. Our buckets were not planned for carrying milk, broad as deep, we had to be careful lest the milk should spill. Sometimes Aunt would slip in a piece of butter. We appreciated that, for butter was scarce and high, we thought. In Ill. it was 7 and 8 cents a pound. By going a couple of miles we could have turnips. Once in a while Oren and I went for them.
Father did not forget his Lord. Inquiring here and there he heard of a church some nine miles away at Pleasant Butte. On the 23rd of the month he went over to it. Although he had the quiet young mare he preferred to walk. That afternoon late a man rode up to the door and asked if he could get lodgings. Ma said no, her husband was away and she could not keep him. I was near and he said “how do you do, Rena”. I looked at him and said “Oh Uncle Samuel”. I was very happy to see him. He was my mother’s brother who had been at our house a great deal when I was small. Then Ma said “To be sure you can stay all night”. He left early the next morning saying Aunt Jane needed him at home.
It was forty miles to Kings Valley where he lived. Sunday evening when I saw Pa coming home I ran a good way to meet him to tell him the news. I was a child then. About this time Pa began to make preparations for a lean-to to the house. He went to the mountains and brought down cedar cuts of which to make clapboards. These he split with a fro, nailed them to posts for the siding and covered it with clapboards. This was a great addition to our house, no floor to it as yet. Cedar was brought for a picket fence too, so that a small patch of wheat could be sown.
The time passed. The last of October Pa hitched a yoke of oxen to the wagon and took us all to the church he had visited at Pleasant Butte. We spent the night at Elder Spery’s. Father and Mother placed their letters in the church roll. We returned home having made the acquaintance of pleasant people whom we enjoyed all the time we lived in Linn County. Trips to the mountains were often made. Wood and everything pertaining to the fence had to be brought the eight miles. October and November were very pleasant months. The roads kept in good condition, no heavy nor long continued rains.
On the 16th of November we started for Kings Valley where Uncle Samuel and Aunt Phebe, my Mother’s sister lived. Aunt Rosetta went with us. Aunt Phebe’s husband, Gabriel Long was Uncle Ransom’s brother. We left home Monday morning, stayed with an Ill friend near Corvallis that night. Ferried over the next morning to Corvallis, a real string town, which had always been called Marysville. It was thought to be near the center of the valley, so that name would be appropriate. Benton Co. hoped to gain it as capital of Oregon. This failed, but the name remained.
We made a short stay and started for Kings Valley, where we arrived in the afternoon. Everybody happy to see everybody. Spent three days in the valley. Uncle Samuel gave Father three squashes, three cabbages, and a bushel of wheat. Saturday morning started to find Uncle Alvin, found him in what was called the Stump Neighborhood building, a large house for Mr. Stump. He took us to Newton Miller’s. We were with them a day. It was Saturday evening when we reached there. On Sunday all went to church, where we heard Rev. R. C. Hill, the L.L.D., M.D., and D.D. preacher. He was the father of Lair Hill, Julia’s husband, a really smart and useful man.
Monday moring started home coming by way of Albany, which was mostly in name at that time. Stopped at another Ill. Friends’ house to visit them. Tuesday left for home.
This was Oren’s birthday, fifteen years old. Reached home late in the afternoon. Found home all right. December came bringing nothing new. At Christmas time Pa and Uncle Ransom went up to the mountains to kill a deer, were gone two days and brought home two deer. Early in January Pa and Oren went to the mountains to get some rails ready for summer hauling. Ma and I were lonesome. Grandma had been at Aunt Rosetta’s since we came to Oregon. Ma asked her to come and stay with us. She helped us to pass the time and it was then that I questioned her of our fore mothers and relatives in general. She was a good companion. After this she made our house her home till death took her on Feb. 4th, 1860. She was such a wonderful woman, a great blessing to me.
Pa had not been long on the mountain until such a heavy snow fell up there that he had to leave for a few days until thawed. He was sorry to be hindered. Oren was helping by trimming the trees ready for splitting. Their fare in the mountains was bacon, potatoes, hot flapjacks, and molasses. It was no picnic for them.
February was spent putting up picket fence east, west, and north of the house, and digging a fence on the east of the field that was to be. This was laborious and slow. A ditch near three feet wide neat the same depth and every spade full laid upon the inside with care.
The flowers were beginning to open. The strawberries I watched with eagerness. The blue flags we thought beautiful. The camas too, was new. It seemed like wonderland to us who had known nothing but deep snows and ground frozen almost or altogether a foot. There may have been later years when February was as favorable as in that year, but they never left the same impression upon me.
Two inches of snow at Christmas was all we had in the valley and no freezing weather. March came bringing some snow along with the rain, but it melted as it fell. On the 2nd of the month Uncle Alvin came bringing Father a big bundle of seedling apple switches with which to start his orchard.
On the 3rd of March Cephas arrived. The largest of Mother’s children, but such a cross baby. Some nights he kept us all awake for some time, yet he grew and seemed all right until he had scarlet fever at three years of age.
A little garden was made, but like all our gardens there grew slowly and gave no good returns. Father began giving attention to his apple trees. Where he secured his buds and grafts, I do not know, but he had eighteen or twenty different kinds of apples. He had a few plums, gotten from somewhere. Some gooseberries and currants too, were set out.
In the meantime Pa had been busy hunting Christian people. There were some good Methodists living two miles away. One family had a big log house, they were courteous, and there we went to meetings in May. For three months in succession we went there.
Then Father, learning of some Baptists five miles away who would be glad to have him hold meetings in their house, went there several times. Before we left Ill. he had been licensed to preach by the Sugar Grove church of which he was a charter member. Late in the fall of 1855 an arm of the Pleasant Butte Church was organized in our neighborhood by Elder Wm. Sperry. Not long after this a school house was built in our district and our meetings were transferred to it. In the spring of 1857 Pa was ordained and the church became independent of the Pleasant Butte Church. Of this church Pa was pastor until we left for Washington in May 1863.
By your leave I will return to ’55. The ditch fence was finished, a patch of grain sown for our bread the next year. Grandma got a piece of dried leaf in one eye, and she came near losing the sight of the eye before getting it out. She was suffering acutely with it. We all were so sorry for her. It became known around about and a stranger hearing of the fact told Father to put a flaxseed in the eye. We did so and very soon a piece of a leaf half as large as a little finger came out. The eye recovered speedily. I have told this because I thought it worth knowing.
It might have been this spring of ’56 that Pa made plow handles in order to get a little extra cash. We were always well supplied with the necessities. He and Mr. Caviness did the work together at our house. Where they got the timber to make them I do not know. It was oak and no oak grew around us. They put them (the end they wanted to curve) into the big brass kettle and hanging on the crane boiled them until they would bend under pressure. When cold they would smooth and make them ready for market. This is the process as I remember it. My memory may be at fault. After getting through with this job the two made a house in Brownsville. Mr. Caviness was an experienced carpenter. He always was pleased with the work Pa did.
This winter was not a pleasant one. At Christmas very stormy, wind, snow and ice everywhere. A clapboard on our roof slipped sidewise, snow drifted in, melted and when it reached the floor became a small cake of ice. In a week better weather followed. During that winter Oren killed twenty-nine wild geese. I picked them all and was very tired of the job. We had wild goose until we would eat no more except the breast fried.
The first day of February of ’56 the district school started which I attended. Reading and spelling were given me the same as I always had, only the reader was the 4th instead of the 3rd. Women did not have need of an arithmetic, that must have been the thought–no one said arithmetic to me. I took that up of my own accord, and went as far as the fifth division of fractions, imperfect is what they were called. After the district school closed a pay school started. I went to that and was given a small grammar for a change, also a geography. In this I took the premium.
In July, on the 6th Miner was born. In September we all went to Pleasant Butte. Mary Vanatta went with us. She captivated Eslem Hall and he captivated her. We stayed until Monday, which was Mary’s 16th birthday. On the 2nd of November Eslem and Mary were married, at Grandpa’s, by Elder Sperry.
About Nov. 12th Grandma was stricken with paralysis, was very sick for a few days. After two months or thereabouts she was able to walk from her bed to her chair by leaning on the wall with her hand.
The winter of ’56-57 was a mild one, but very wet. Late in January Pa began teaching in a district just south of us and nearer to us than our own. He told Ma he would buy her a cook stove with his wages. So he did and she was glad to get it after cooking by the fireplace for three full years.
The spring of ’57 was full of plans for a new house to be built right soon. A granary and woodshed had been built of the same kind of material as the lean-to on the house. The house now to be built was to be of lumber.Father helped Uncle Alvin to build a house near to us and Uncle returned the work on our house.
The summer passed by quickly, everybody was so happy and so busy. Ma painted the house, climbing on a scaffold when necessary. It was not a two-story house. There were four rooms, two large and two small, with generous porches, one north and one south. In November, I know not the date, we moved in. It seemed like a palace. The doors for the time being were made of that handy, helpful cedar. Good floors, good windows, and a safe fireplace. By this time the old house stood in a puddle, the floors even with the street. I had swept too much of the dirt away in the summer time.
That winter a very pleasant one. February 17th, 1859, Phebe arrived at Grandma’s and I spent two weeks there.
On April 11th Mary Sarah came to cheer us. I was so glad to have a sister. When she was two weeks old I started to school. Grandma had been taken to Uncle Alvin’s to stay awhile. This was my last schooling till after I was twenty when I went to Oregon City.
Mary was a happy child and spent much of her time in a jumper which Pa made for her. Father had made a capacious cradle and the little boys had delightful rocks in it. I do not deny that I did too.
The scenery from the south porch was captivating to me. It never grew old. There never was a more beautiful panorama than that prairie with the beautiful changing wooded hills and mountains beyond.
Fall of 1858. Oren began paying attention to Lydia Bond. In November Eslem and Mary moved in with us to spend the winter and stayed until March. Nothing unusual till fall. Then Pa was sent out to Umpqua as an Evangelist, and was gone two months. Mother and I were very glad to see him home again. We had fattened three immense hogs upon squashes, corn, wheat and potatoes. Had all the apples we could use now.
Nothing unusual about the winter of ’59-’60.
On Feb. 4th, ’60, Grandma passed away, and on Feb. 22nd Martha came to us. We were glad to have two little girls. Dried many apples that summer.
Now it is 1861. Lydia and Oren married on August 25th. On January 23rd, 1859, Amanda Long and James Tuttle were married, Father performing the ceremony. It was quite a wedding, a few friends, a few relatives. Quite a bit of preparation was made. A Mrs. Debbie Davis was the main helper. Oh, the cakes they did make! As many as I had ever seen in all my life before! And frosted too! This was also new to me. The day was a happy one to all except myself. Amanda and I had been close friends and I knew that was the end of such friendship. I had gone over the evening before the wedding, on horseback and stayed until the next morning after. A few weeks later James and Amanda left for their home near Springfield. True love welded them. I do not know when death separated them–not far from sixty years they lived happily together.
Late in the fall of ’59 Uncle Ransom and Aunt Rosetta went to live near Springfield and we saw but little of them after that..
Early in the 60’s Father began digging a well where he could water without carrying so far. It was winter and soon it filled almost to the full. The boys were playing around it and one day Clime slipped in. Cephas with presence of mind grabbed him and pulled him out. Maybe you can imagine Ma’s feelings and mine. Gladness was paramount of course, but what might have happened, that came vividly to mind too.
During the last year we were in Linn Mr. McCune boarded with us. He was charged $1.50 a week for his board. He was quite agreeable and had much sport with the little girls. Martha always demonstrated with her forefinger if she were really in earnest. If she did not have that finger raised he would say, “Oh, you don’t mean it”. Then she would look a little puzzled and say, “I do”. One time he was tossing her up in the air and her petticoat caught on a nail and a piece was torn out. He was somewhat embarrassed, but the rest of us thought it quite a joke.
Mary had her experience with a man named Loveall. She was about the age of a little girl of his. He called her “My little girl”. One morning he was walking in the yard. Mary saw him coming so she called out, “Yonder comes my man, yonder comes my man”. Just as much in earnest as could be. Pa and I heard her and laughed, but did not let her know we had heard her.
Early in September 1861 Uncle Alvin left for Walla Walla, having sold his farm and invested in cattle. The winter of ’61-’62 being a winter long to be remembered for its severity and long continuance. Uncle came through with one cow, I believe. We all felt very sorry about his loss.
Now the flood of ’61. On the last day of November it began to rain. It was the day of our Covenant meeting. Father and I went to church–too far to walk so took light wagon. The rain was falling gently. I took a quilt to keep me dry. An umbrella would have scared men as well as horse in those days–nowhere to be seen. The quilt would not hold water. I had a nubia on my head. Before we reached home the rain was trickling down my back. Rain continued. No wind. Water came down the chimney and sputtered in the fire. Sunday it still rained and I did not go to church. Monday morning Grandpa came over having gone five miles to get one and a half from his starting point. Little Muddy was swimming to a horse before reaching the side of the bridge. A bridge farther down was longer and answered its purpose better. You have read how chicken houses with crowing roosters sailed by Portland. Pigpens and shanties went sailing down. Many old stumps and much debris of all sorts left for the ocean. Of those who lived near the Willamette many were driven from their homes.
At our home another little one, Riley Hubbard, came in on the big flood–born Dec. 4th. The weather through Dec. continued warm. With us in Linn Co. the snow began falling on the second day of Jan. It kept on until there were several inches; with the temperature below melting point. Snow remained until Feb. The 8th of Feb., 1862 was the coldest day of the year. Soon it began raining, the weather turned warm and spring arrived as usual. With the coming of spring came the excitement about the Florence gold mines, of Idaho, I think. Oren thought he would try his luck, but he soon made up his mind that was not his calling and came home. During the time he was gone was the visit of the Bonds and myself made at Springfield.
Summer sped and Fall followed. Father had made preparations for a barn, which was soon built. Uncle Alvin came, took sick at Mr. Thomas’s and stayed in the neighborhood a couple of weeks or thereabouts, the last week at our house. He brought the word of the timber land back of Vancouver, telling that he had taken a homestead. From that time on Pa was much interested in the prospect Uncle held out. The more he thought of the matter the more the prospect pleased him.
His mind was soon made up to see the place. Oren, Eslem Hall, and Frank Vanatta were of the same mind as Father, so early in March they all started down to Washington Territory. They were gone till the middle of April. Each had selected a home-sight, all well pleased.
Father soon found a buyer for his farm, a man, Simons by name. I think he paid $1200. Pa doubled his money, but it was not the same place as regards its homeliness. It was ready to be enjoyed. When we left there was a house, a barn, woodshed, granary, smokehouse, a fine walled-up well, a large orchard, and considerable fencing done. Yet Pa was wise in leaving there even if he did ‘take to the woods’. Father had six small children to raise, and that was no place in which to bring them up. No society, no school, no neighbor children that were proper associates for our children. Atheist, Universalists, drunkards, some thieves.
One day when we were gone to church two large sacks of apples disappeared-not 50 lb. flour sacks, but large wide sacks brought across the plains with flour in them. No one in the whole place, except ourselves ever went to church or wanted to go. It was sometime during the last year we were in Linn that Pa bought the small hand sewing machine for Ma. The neighbors were all neighborly so far as that goes, and never did a word of dissatisfaction circulate throughout the neighborhood. All was peaceable, each attending to his own business.
I had no chums to leave. Since Amanda’s marriage Lydia had been my only chum. So I had no one to grieve after. When I was about fourteen Pa told me he wanted me to go with him and Ma, said he was not pleased with the doings of the young folk. I was perfectly agreed and never once went out with them. I have always thanked Father for the stand that he took.
Now it is the middle of May, 1863. We leave the home we had had for nearly nine years. Pa had three wagons–Eslem one–Oren one. First night camped near Calapooia, second night at Consor’s Ferry, where we camped as we come into the valley. Ma’s big dish cupboard went in one wagon, the clothes cupboard in another. The little girls slept in one wagon. Ma put the milk on the cupboard where the girls slept. Next morning the men thought to grease the wheels so they lifted one wheel, this splashed the milk in the girls’ faces while they slept. Oh, what screaming! The whole camp was stirred. When the cause was known what merriment and joking. I laugh yet today as it comes to mind.
The ferryman had a pack of hounds that he started out with on a hunt the morning we were there. They were merely interesting to the boys. The third night we camped near Gervis. Fourth night in French Prairie, the fifth night at Boone Ferry just on the north side of the bridge. Arrived in Portland late in the afternoon and went right aboard a scow all ready for the next morning’s start. Father, Mother, Eslem, and Aunt Mary went out and purchased two stoves, one for us and one for them, $35.80 for each.
The restaurant where we ate our supper was lighted by gas. That was a surprise to this green unsophisticated country girl.
Next morning started for Vancouver, which we reached in due time, then out to Uncle Alvin’s we all went. He was on the old Durgen place at Burnt Bridge Creek. We were made welcome and as it seemed best we waited to finish our trip in the morning.
Next morning, March 23rd, started for our future home. The roads! Oh! The Roads! Nothing dangerous, for so many trees, logs, stumps, and small brush along the way that the wagon could not turn over. About noon we came to the spot where our log cabin was standing. What an outlook! Different from anything we had ever seen before. Such tall trees and heavy underbrush! No way to see anywhere but upward. Nothing to cheer. The children perfectly quiet. Ma dejected. I shed a few tears for which I have never been ashamed. Pa said not a word but looked satisfied. Grandpa and Mr. Thomas, who had helped us move started immediately for home. The lovely panorama we had enjoyed for almost nine years would return to my vision and the comparison was not exhilarating. The adaptability of youth has it’s worth-while side. The old passed away, and in time the new became quite bearable.
Everything needed to be done first, so Pa engaged Howard to help him for a time. A well, yes, no drinking water nearer than Mr. Bowmann. A chimney to put up for the stove. Puncheons to be hewn and laid for a floor. A small enclosure to be made to keep the cows from the door, etc. etc.
Busy days for a long time. It was a wise move on Father’s part, for he was able to make some choice for his children’s association.
Contributed by: Lois T., Carolyn Hutton, Wesley Cherry, and Peggy Rowe
This is so exciting for me. My gr. gr. grandparents are Gersham and Sarah and their daughter Phoebe is my gr. grandmother her youngest child Sarah Harriet (Hattie) is my grandmother!
Hi there and the author of this website is the person who contacted you through findagrave figuring we were related. 🙂 I come down through their daughter, Mary. Also we have a VanAtta group over at Yahoo groups if you want in that though, it seems to be fading in use. There is another over at facebook. We have a LOT of cousins out there. 🙂