Friday, July 18, 2014

Stories of Civil War Survivors - Owen Olson

Stories of Civil War Survivors
Owen Olson

This is the fifth of the five stories of Civil War Soldiers and Others of the Oak Creek Valley from Part III:

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

Owen Olson shares the challenges of rebuilding a community

I have been asked to share my memories of rebuilding in Oak Springs and the Oak Creek valley following the period of the war. This is both easy and very hard to do. My wife, Anna, and I had settled in this valley and helped create this town out of the virgin land beginning in 1833. We were blessed to have been taken in and supported by the earliest settlers in those first years, especially by Jake and Kate Patton. They were more like parents and mentors to us, and good friends, through the years, continuing until they passed from us not too long ago. 

With Jake, I returned to the valley for the first time, on horseback, in late June of 1865, and it looked much as it did, in many ways, like it did in 1833. Most of the people I’ve talked to, who were around to see it then, have said the same thing. We arrived at the mill area, first, of course, having come from the north. The young men had already accomplished a number of their first goals, which pleased us. They had only been there a little over a month. Jake and I were anxious, however, to cross on over to the town site, to see what was and what was not still there. Almost immediately upon arriving back at our home site and Jake’s near the spring, I could see that there was more there, on second sight, than appeared at the first glance. 

Lewis Truesdale was with us, by then, and quickly agreed. Foundations were often still fully or partially intact, once you got past the underbrush built up over a few years. Even some flooring was there, or at least was partially salvageable. Walls had mostly burned down, of course, but some chimneys remained, some fireplace parts and equipment laid where they fell or nearby. 

As a continuing Township Trustee, since 1846, I was curious, anxious was probably a better word, about the roads and the few bridges we had built, as well. I was only there for a few days that first trip back, so I only explored a bit. With those examinations, however, I was encouraged that much of the work we had put in was still there, under green growth, and with a number of scrub trees needing to be removed. We saved the work for later, but began visualizing the work that did need to be done and how to do it. 

We worked closely with Lewis to locate the best site for a cabin near the Patton Springs. It would be a double cabin, built around the fireplace and chimney that was still there from Jake’s original cabin. It needed repairs, of course, but was available for a quick start. They would get the first cabin up in short order, and the second by mid-summer. We would use this site as a gathering point as several of us visited during the year before bringing our families.

We also looked at our homesite, to be built where we had lived before. The foundation and most of the flooring was still there. We worked out a plan to have it at least habitable by mid-September when we expected to bring some of the extended ‘family’ members back for good. All of this of course, was contingent on no outlaws or raiding parties coming through again, to spoil our plans. None had been seen, yet, but the fellows were on constant alert. We knew there were still some bad folks on the loose out there.

Let me stop here for a moment and share some details you should know about. They tend to be left out of stories I hear folks tell about those days. But, they are an important part of the story. All of us left in a hurry, whether planned for a couple of weeks or a month, as we did, or under great duress as did Kate and Victoria, as raiders burned the buildings around them and they escaped into the woods. I mention this to remind you that much of what we needed to live here, again, had to be brought back in. Horses, mules, cows, chickens, pigs, wagons, farm equipment, blacksmithing equipment (in my case), whatever we were each using in our farm or business to survive. 

During those early months of 1865 a number of us met together to decide what needed to be brought back here, when, and how. Roads were still not in a condition to use wagons. So, one priority, perhaps, was to work on the roads. If we were to live here through the next winter, crops needed to be planted so they could be harvested in the fall. That was one of the first things those first to return worked on, thankfully, along with Henry and Alex McDonald, who had managed to survive the war here in the valley.

So, when Jake and I made this first trip back, on horseback, he had another horse with a pack that he brought for Lewis to use, containing goods that had been predetermined would be needed. I had brought a mule, that would be useful, but also had a pack of goods that I wanted to have arrive early, as well. We were confident of this, partially, because David Baldridge and my son, Liam, had already made a trip north and back, early in June, to share what they had learned. They had each brought back a pack mule, as well, by the way, and each had also brought a milk cow.

This working together, and planning together, was something that had distinguished the Oak Creek valley settlers from their initial foray into the valley in 1833. It was continued on the return of many of us in 1865 and after. Another tradition from that 1833 experience was something called “Fourth Sunday.” Now, we were here for that “Fourth Sunday” in June, 1865, so we called a meeting of every one that was in the valley, and re-established that tradition. We used it as time set aside to plan the upcoming month and months, together, to meet common as well as individual goals. And, I am pleased to report, the tradition continues. Not everyone is there every month, like in the old days, but most do try to make it. It pays benefits, both to the community and to each of us individually. I believe in the process.

Shortly after the “Fourth Sunday” meeting, Jake and I did ride south, to Eminence, to see if he could re-establish himself in what he believed was his continuing role as a Shannon County Commissioner. We always travelled in pairs, and well armed, of course. I wasn’t especially thrilled at making this trip on south, but I certainly didn’t want him to be going by himself. And, I didn’t want any of the young men who were working so hard here in the valley to go either, so I went.

I’ll leave the details of the trip to be read in his memoirs. He had written them, he said, before he died. I am not privy to any plans there may be to publish them. I’ll just say here that we got down there, he made some contacts he felt appropriate, and we got back to the valley alive. It was still hostile territory, but he had earned enough respect in past years to allow us to travel in and return. He did return regularly, over the following months and years, representing our interests, but I was not directly involved in that.

We only stayed a couple of days in the valley before returning to Jefferson City to continue to work on our permanent return.

Late in July, I returned to the valley, this time with Victor Campbell. He wanted to see for himself what “everything looked like.” We were especially watchful on this trip as to the condition of roadways in the various parts of the trips and what we saw that we could plan to assist with, if we could do anything at all. There were more people at various places along the way each trip I made. On the way down, as well as on the return trip, we talked to the local people, especially in Dent County, to determine what they were doing, or planning to do, that would be useful to us as well. Harry McDonald, then affiliated with the Weston-McDonald Freight lines, had asked us to bring back what information we could on how far in that direction wagons could go. 

The road from the Dent County line north to near Salem still needed work. From Salem north was passable. We talked to a number of locals south of Salem, many of whom Jake did know. We let them know we were working to get the mill back into operation, and that we would get the road cleared north to the county line, if they would work to the same point from their side. We generally agreed that the target date was early in September. Daniel and Lewis did make a trip north early in September and let us know that the road was passable, so we stayed with our plan to make the migration move south in mid-September. 

In what many have referred to as the “Olson party” we had besides myself, Anna, and our daughter, Allison, a very pregnant Caroline (McDonald) Truesdale, wife of Lewis, and his 15-year-old sister, Nellie Truesdale. Daniel and Lewis traveled back with us, along with additional horses and mules, a coop of chickens, two more milk cows, and a couple of pregnant pig sows and the boar that had bred them. Among the packs were also the additional tools I felt I needed to get back into the blacksmithing business. It was not an easy trip, for anyone, but all arrived safely (and the baby did wait until after the first of the year to be born on schedule). 

Speaking of blacksmithing, on my earlier trips, I was pleasantly surprised how much of my needed equipment was still on site and usable, with some tender loving care. Jake and I had an agreement that I would re-open the blacksmith shop and that we would also re-open the general store. I purchased the land for both from him on very favorable terms. We were pleased, again, to work together, for the benefit of everyone involved, including the community generally. Anna and Allison would run the store and reopen the Post Office when we got the official word from the government, which Jake helped us obtain in fairly short order, under the circumstances.

By November, Gideon Inman had also made a preliminary trip to the valley. During November then, we managed to get everyone together sufficiently to hold an Oak Springs town election. Elected to the Town Council were: Jake Patton, Owen Olson, Victor Campbell, Lewis Truesdale and Gideon Inman, to serve until the next regular election. Victor and Gideon had signed letters of intention to build homes on lots they already owned in the spring of 1866. With that action, we had both a functioning Town Council and three Township Trustees: David Baldridge in the east, myself, Owen Olson, central, and Delbert Campbell in the west.

I focused my attentions on 1) getting my blacksmithing operation functional, 2) getting the new General Store built by the time the freight line resumed deliveries, and 3) putting finishing touches on our house, as needed. I also spent some time, each week, on dragging the streets and roads in my Trustee district, so they could be as good as possible, as soon as reasonably practical. I felt good about that work.

Also, a number of different times, as people came back to consider rebuilding, I tried to be on-site, to assist them in salvaging what we could and helping them get restarted on their properties.

May we each have a Homeplace, if only in our hearts!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Stories of Civil War Survivors - Gideon Inman

Stories of Civil War Survivors
Gideon Inman

This is the fourth of the five stories of Civil War Soldiers and Others of the Oak Creek Valley from Part III:

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

Gideon Inman

Before the war, I had the real estate and land business along with being town clerk. At the suggestion of Jake Patton, and working closely with him, we had maintained a complete duplicate copy of the Oak Creek Township land records, for our own reference. As war came, we both realized how important those records might be if and when we were all able to return to the valley. I kept all these records with me when I removed to St. Louis and obtained a civilian administrative position with the US Army there. From that position, I was able to keep in touch with Jake throughout the war. Early on, almost as a hobby, I decided to try to keep in touch, by correspondence, with the property owners of our Oak Creek Township. 

Between our locations in and around St. Louis, and in and around Jefferson CIty, we had what truly acted as a ‘government in exile’ and to a large extent, we acted that way. We could only hope it would be worthwhile, but I know each of us felt that it was.

By the fall of 1864 we began to feel hopeful, and by spring of 1865 we began serious and specific planning. We supported and encouraged those first four young men to be ready to re-enter the Oak Creek valley in May of 1865. Along with Lewis Truesdale, Jake Patton and Owen Olson were making specific plans for the return of the next wave of returnees, along with recognizing who would not be returning immediately. Victor Campbell, Hugh Truesdale and I were regularly involved in developing these plans, as well. 

It was during this planning period that we developed the idea for a “letter of intent” to return to owned property. It was purely speculative, during mid-1865, of course, because we didn’t know what was ‘on-the-ground’ in the valley, at that point. Once we established that conditions appeared conducive to returning and rebuilding, we stepped up our efforts to contact every property owner.

By the fall of 1865, after actual visits to the valley and return, and Jake Patton’s return to participation in the County government, Jake, Victor and I formed the Oak Creek Real Estate and Land Office to carry out our plans. We built an office building in the spring
of 1866, and moved back to that office to continue our efforts. Two related matters were that the Oak Springs Bank now had a board consisting of Jake, Victor and David Baldridge, and, we had agreed on a new town council, though we waited until later in the fall to have the ‘election.’ Over that winter, I had developed a fairly complete list of the intentions of the bulk of the Oak Creek Township property owners I had been able to contact.

On a personal note, my son, Jacobi, had taken a position with a bank in St. Louis during the war. He had decided to stay there, where his wife continued to suffer through several illnesses. In the summer of 1865, she had taken a turn for the worse, and died. By the fall, he was talking to Victor about returning to Oak Springs when the bank was ready for his continuing services. My wife, Louisa, and I, of course, had already indicated our intention to return in the spring of 1866.

Among the reasons for forming the Land Office company early on was to be in a position to buy and sell available lands not re-claimed and re-settled by returning folks. A date of December 31, 1870, was set as the limit for reclaiming. This date was confirmed by a court order during the ‘reconstruction’ period, as well. 

We also suspected that many pieces of property in the county would likely be available at ‘distress sale’ prices that were still owned by the government. These included scrub forest, rocky, and other such properties undesirable to most wanting to make a living farming. We decided to create the Oak Creek Forest Trust for these purchases, with Jake, Victor and I as the initial trustees. We were correct in that assessment and are continuing to add land to the trust as I write this. The trustees of this trust are dedicated to making these lands most useful to the ‘general good’ of the Oak Creek valley community, without making any early, specific commitments. If a trustee dies, or can no longer serve, the other trustee are empowered to select a replacement. Any residue in the trust, on dissolution, must be turned over to a governmental unit within Oak Creek Township. Trustees are free to buy, sell, or lease any assets of the trust at any time.

We were saddened, of course, to receive word that some of our residents had died, for various reasons, by 1866. On the other hand, we were gratified at the number who let us know they were returning, and when they planned to do so. We also appreciated those who let us know they would not return, and provided the required documents to make their lands available to future residents. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of properties that were left in limbo for a long period of time, and we were able to get the courts to take appropriate action on those.

There have been a few new people move into the valley since the war, though not as many as I had hoped. The single largest number were men who served under Lewis Truesdale in his cavalry company. I think that number now stands at six men, each with a young wife. Tough economic times, throughout the country, in recent years, has at least partially contributed to a slower than hoped for growth. We will continue to be optimistic, however, as we move forward, working hard, for the betterment of the entire community.

Upcoming Stories of Civil War Soldiers and Others

*** Owen Olson

May we each have a Homeplace, if only in our hearts!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Stories of Civil War Soldiers - Lewis Truesdale

Stories of Civil War Soldiers
Lewis Truesdale

This is the third of the five stories of Civil War Soldiers of the Oak Creek Valley from Part III:

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

Lewis Truesdale Civil War experience

I was in my nineteenth year when war was declared. I was well aware of what was happening and what might happen as my father, Hugh, was a state legislator in addition to a farmer and horse and mule breeder and trader. My maternal grandfather, Jake Patton, had previously been a state legislator and now was serving on the County Commission which had divided loyalties between northern and southern interests. I expected to join the Union cause when the right time came.

In short order, Jake let us know that he had obtained an Army Commission and would be recruiting and organizing a cavalry regiment. From that day forward, he was always, “Colonel Patton,” even in the family. It was agreed that his son, my father, Hugh, would be responsible for rounding up all the horses and mules in the valley as quickly as feasible and driving them to Houston, west in Texas County, to be sold to the Union troops already there and growing. I was to help with that activity, finish what farm work I could, and head north, myself, to become a recruiter for Colonel Patton of young men to join his regiment.

I had spent three years with my Truesdale grandparents near Jefferson City attending secondary school, so I knew many of the young men there, already, and had kept in touch with a number of them. I had even continued to visit my grandparents, from time to time, of course, since my father and mother were also there regularly due to his legislative duties.

By the time I was ready to leave the valley, Daniel McDonald, my 22-year-old brother-in-law had decided it was time for him to leave, as well. Perhaps he was my first recruit, because we did both end up serving under Colonel Patton in his Cavalry Regiment. Later, I found that David Baldridge had also joined the regiment as a supply Sergeant and Liam Olson became a farrier working on care of the horses.

I spent several months recruiting while the regiment was being organized; official organization of the regiment was January 1, 1962. Our patrols were generally in the central Missouri area. I never left Missouri on a patrol. On January 1, 1963, I was promoted to Lieutenant and was second in command of Company G. In the fall of 1962, I had been assigned to recruiting duties for nearly three months. This pattern continued in fall of 1963, and I was promoted to Captain on January 1, 1964, and assumed command of Company G. My company never saw any enemy military action, although we were involved in a number of incidents that might more accurately be called police actions.

During a leave in 1864, Caroline McDonald and I were able to marry, at my Truesdale grandparents home, with many family members present, including Colonel Patton and Kate as well as my parents and Caroline’s parents.

We were mustered out almost immediately upon receiving official word of the end of the war. As the expectations began to become clear it would be ending, we had begun to prepare for our return to the Oak Creek Valley. Daniel, David, Liam and I met on several weekends during this time.

Colonel Patton had gotten the message that GranPa Henry had asked a patrol to pass along to him that he was safe and still living in the woods near Oak Creek in late November 1863. We hoped and assumed he would have still survived by the time we got there in May of 1865. Colonel Patton had helped and encouraged us in our plans to return to our home valley.

When we finally arrived, Daniel and I were so happy to be greeted by GranPa Henry McDonald and young Alex McDonald, all grown up, and just as happy to see us. The two of them looked like a couple of mountain men, for sure. They were already to get to work on the farms when they saw the mules and the packs we had with us.

I should mention, at this point, that the valley of the Oak Creek was a beautiful sight, as we came over the ridge from the north, along the west side of Oak Creek. It looked just like it must have when my father and the other settlers arrived in 1833. There were no signs at all, that met the eye, that the valley had previously been settled and prospering. It made us want to try twice as hard to make that happen again.

David and Liam must have traveled faster than we had, because they arrived about ten days after we did. By that time, under directions from Henry and Alex, we had retrieved the plow and other implements from their cave storage cache and had already begun to do some plowing. Henry had in mind the area to work on first, so we got right at it. When David and Liam arrived with the next set of animals, both horses and mules, we were able to get some planting done pretty fast, even though it was late in the season. We assumed other folks would be following us into the valley before winter.

Along with harness, seed, and supplies, we had each brought with us an extra rifle and ammunition. We had heard that outlaws and raiders continued to roam the area, and we didn’t want to be caught off-guard and unprepared. And, there were a couple of incidents over that first summer. By being on-guard, we were able to drive off the two sets of ‘invaders’ without further incident.

David and Liam had brought some tools and equipment hoping to get a simple saw mill operation going and the grist mill in some sort of operational state by fall. Liam set up what blacksmithing tools he had near the mill site.

Over the summer, in pairs, we made several trips to Houston to the west, and Salem to the north, to begin to bring in other items we needed, and did some bartering with goods we had available. For example, the many deerskins that Henry and Alex had preserved still had value. 

With the end of the war, horses and mules were available in abundance, no longer needed by the military. My father, Hugh, and I believed that mules were still going to be valuable assets as farmers got back to their land, so we planned to resume our breeding and training program by picking up quality stock as we could. Colonel Patton was an active participant, a partner, in our plans. Each trip I made out of the valley, I attempted to pick up one or two more good animals for our herd. We assembled them in the central valley, near Oak Springs, where we had been, before.

Before winter, working together, much like our forefathers, we had four houses constructed, one near the mill, one on the McDonalds place and two in the central valley. 

Daniel, Henry and Alex occupied the house on the McDonald land, of course, and Daniel’s wife, Jane, and their young son, William, just a year and a half old, joined them that fall.

David and Liam lived in the house by the mill, of course. Liam liked the idea of setting up his own blacksmith shop near the mill, as well.

Colonel Patton wanted us to build near his former home and Caroline and I would live in it. He was determined to “get things back to normal” in the valley as soon as possible. Honestly, we younger folks didn’t understand his “normal” but we worked hard to help make it happen. 

Caroline was pregnant with our son when she arrived in the fall along with the Olson’s, Owen, Anna and Allison, as well as my 15-year-old sister, Nellie. James arrived in early February; that is a story in itself, for another time. 

Colonel Patton and Owen Olson had agreed that Olson would return to open the town blacksmith shop near the original site, under his own ownership, but the Owen house would be rebuilt near its original location. In between, Olson and his family would open a new General Merchandise store near where the original Patton store had been.

Colonel Patton made several trips through the valley continuing his role as a County official and political person. I didn’t understand it all, at the time, but have since learned to appreciate his efforts, and those of some of the other older men and women, as well. My father, Hugh, continued to represent the area, along with parts of Texas and Dent counties, in the state legislature, as well. So he came and stayed with us, from time to time, even in that first year back. I later realized that these visits by my father, my grandfather, and even Victor Campbell, Owen Olson and Gideon Inman, were part of a concerted effort to “resume the building of Oak Springs” even though there was no longer anything there, from the past efforts. The dream lived on, however, and they actually made it happen, I’m pleased to report.

Part of this dream, and as the result of efforts continued through the war, a new Town Council was elected in late November, and I was elected along with Jake Patton, Owen Olson, Victor Campbell and Gideon Inman. Victor and Gideon, along with a number of others, had already filed letters of intent to build homes on lots they already owned in town in the spring of 1866. Gideon, working with Colonel Patton, had kept all the town records, along with the Township real-estate records, and had kept in touch with most of the land owners. It was a remarkable feat, and paid off handsomely over the next few years. 

By fall, Township Trustees had also been certified by the County, through Colonel Patton’s efforts: David Baldridge in the east, Owen Olson in the central, and Delbert Campbell in the west. Delbert and his wife, Delia Rhodes Campbell, had filed a letter of intent to return to the family farm in the spring of 1866.

Through that first year, as we cleared land around homesites and along roadways, we discovered there were more salvageable materials and spaces than was first apparent. By the fall, the first wagons had come to town over the Houston road, the road north to Salem, and southeast to Eminence. By the spring, regular freight runs had returned.

With the return of the Olsons, and freight runs, the mail, though slow, and sometimes sporadic, began to return to normal. 

With encouragement from Colonel Patton, I had re-established correspondence with several of the men in my cavalry company who I knew were thinking of getting a new start at farming, and had expressed some interest in our valley. Over the next three years, six of them had actually come, with their brides. I rented some of our land in the east valley to four of them and two joined me in the central valley in the horse and mule business with smaller plots of land to use and care for.

We now have added the Oak Creek Valley Livery and Stable to the Oak Creek Valley Breeding business.

Upcoming Stories of Civil War Soldiers and Others

*** Gideon Inman
*** Owen Olson

May we each have a Homeplace, if only in our hearts!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Stories of Civil War Soldiers - David Baldridge

Stories of Civil War Soldiers
David Baldridge

This is the second of the five stories of Civil War Soldiers of the Oak Creek Valley from Part III:

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

David Baldridge

I didn’t really want to leave the valley, but in the fall of 1861, when they actually set the mill on fire, I was lucky to get away alive. I was angry. I should have joined Colonel Patton’s regiment right away, but instead volunteered with an infantry unit. With my experience, they did make me a Supply Sergeant. However, our unit was sent into combat. I did my duty, but I didn’t like it. When I had served my three years, I re-enlisted in Colonel Patton’s regiment, just in time to be there for planning our return as the war was about to end.

I had been able to get a furlough when I was notified that my parents had both died in a carriage accident in 1863. My sister, Sarah, and her husband, Harry McDonald, were nearby and were helpful to me in getting connected with Colonel Patton’s regiment over the following year. 

Sarah had been much more involved in the cattle business that my parents were conducting during the war than I had realized. Actually, I was surprised how involved she had been when I returned, after their death. During that next year, we worked together to allow me, when the war ended, to concentrate on the mill, and she worked toward using our remaining land to raise cattle, again, after the war.

Once I got into the Patton regiment, I was reunited with Liam Olson, and that was good. Lewis and Daniel worked together well, as did Liam and I. They got left a couple of weeks earlier, to return to the valley, because we were getting some special materials we wanted to have to get the mill back in business, if we could. Arriving back in the valley and finding Henry and Alex well, as well as Lewis and Daniel safely there was a thrill I’ll probably never equal.

They all helped build the first cabin near the mill, and then Liam and I helped them build the other cabins, as well. We helped out taking turns working on the crops. Most of my time, as I was able, was devoted to getting a saw mill working, and then getting the grist mill working. We built temporary buildings to shelter the mill when they neared working condition.

Liam and his blacksmithing skills were essential in getting the saw mill in operation as quickly as we did. We appreciated the assistance the others gave us at key times as we got things going. We travelled a few times both to Houston and up to Salem to get supplies we needed. It was truly a team effort.

As the two bachelors in the group, Liam and I enjoyed living and working together. He decided to continue to keep his shop near the mill. Once things settled down to routine, he began to create decorative and ornamental iron works as well as practical items. He was very artistic, and enjoyed doing those things. Also, on some of his leaves while in the service, he had begun to learn to do the work that created stained glass windows. Over a few years, he found time to learn more, and did some of that work, as well.

There was not a lot of work for the mill, in the early times back, of course, so I was able to spend some time helping with the cattle that Sarah and Harry had put on our land, with the help of some others. I enjoyed seeing my sister, from time to time, as she came down and checked things out, herself. She had really become an ‘independent’ woman. She even got involved in the “women’s suffrage” movement, trying to get women the vote. 

In the spring of 1866, I was pleased to have Riley Cooper, and his wife, Julia, return to the valley, to help with the mill. They also bought the full 160 acres, themselves, where they had lived and farmed our 40 acres there. I was sad, of course, to learn that their son, Anderson, had not survived his service in the war. Riley and Julia both became involved in the cattle business with us, too, as we revived that business.

When the politics got newly re-organized, I was pleased to resume my service as the Eastern Trustee for Oak Creek Township. It was certainly in my best interests to be sure the roads and bridges worked well to allow my customers easy access to the valley and the mill. It also supported Harry and Sarah’s freight line business, as well. 

I also agreed to serve on the Bank Board as Jake Patton and Victor Campbell were getting back in a position to resume business. I felt this was an important thing to do to keep involved in the community without taking too much time away from my own businesses.

Upcoming Stories of Civil War Soldiers and Others

*** Lewis Truesdale
*** Gideon Inman
*** Owen Olson

May we each have a Homeplace, if only in our hearts!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Stories of Civil War Soldiers - Daniel McDonald

Stories of Civil War Soldiers
Daniel McDonald

This is the first of the five stories of Civil War Soldiers of the Oak Creek Valley from Part III:

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

Daniel McDonald

Jane Truesdale and I had married in June 1859 and looked forward to continue farming with my older brother, Harry, and grandfather, Henry. Harry’s boy, Alex, had become a good worker on the farm, as well. I also made regular freight runs over to the west, to Houston and back, part of our family business. The war pulled us away from all this, but never a day went by that I didn’t think of returning to our farm, with Jane, and raising our family there. I really loved that farm along Oak Creek.

As soon as Colonel Patton got his commission, his grandson, Lewis, my brother-in-law, Jane’s brother, began helping him recruit troops. Lewis liked to joke that I was his “first recruit.” I don’t remember it quite that way, but I’ve always played along with the story. Even though younger than me, he was real good at what he did. I’m a decent worker, not a leader, by nature. My wife, Jane, and her brother, Lewis, they were raised by their parents, Hugh and Victoria (Patton) Truesdale, to be leaders, and they were. I feel lucky to have been able to be around them, and maybe have a little of that rub off on me.

After about a year of being a cavalry soldier in Lewis’s Company, he promoted me to Sergeant under his leadership. I worked really hard to justify his confidence in me. And, it seemed to work. By the time the war ended, I had learned to lead my men, and actually kind of enjoyed it. 

Jane had gone to live with her Truesdale grandparents, who lived near Jefferson City, not far from where my brother, Harry, and his wife, Sarah, and their two younger daughters, lived. Since our assignments and patrols never took us too far from central Missouri, I was able to obtain a number of furloughs to spend time with Jane, and them, when duty allowed. We managed to have a son, William, born 31 Jan 1864. William had a lot of Truesdale blood, I always said, because he was born big and mature, and continued that way. I think that is why we always called him William and not Bill or Billie. His mother raised him to be a man while he was still in diapers. He was smart, handsome and humble - at least he got one characteristic from me.

As I recall, as 1864 became 1865, about the time William had his first birthday, actually, Lewis and I, along with David Baldridge and Liam Olson, also serving in the regiment, in other companies, began to meet and plan our hoped-for return to the Oak Creek valley. Lewis said Colonel Patton was behind the planning, but I was never involved in that part. Indeed, by the first of May we were being mustered out, gathering supplies, and about ready to head south.

Lewis and Caroline had gotten married the prior year, so it was hard for both of us to leave our loved ones, but, we expected that they would be able to join us before long, later in the year, certainly before winter set in.

Lewis and I left first. He hoped and expected to find GranPa Henry and Alex on our arrival, as they had remained in the caves and the wilds of the valley all during the war. A message had been received by Colonel Patton from Henry that was written in November of 1863. That was now nearly eighteen months past and we were concerned as we approached the ridge above where the mill had been as we rode down the west side of Oak Creek, leading mules with filled packs.

Catching sight of Henry and Alex, dressed like mountain men, was a total thrill, once we recognized that it really was them. GranPa Henry looked old and tough. Alex looked all grown up, though still small, but tough as nails, just like his GrandPa. What a sight... We were home.

Learning that the war was actually ended and that more family and neighbors would be coming yet that year, they were as anxious as we were to get to work on crops and additional housing. That is easy to say, now, looking back. At the time, looking out across the valley, all grown up in trees, bushes and other vegetation, not homes, and barns and cultivated fields, it did seem a daunting task ahead of us. But, we each got right to work.

We soon discovered that they had been planting seeds saved from the prior year in individual hills with fish, like the pilgrims and the Indians had. Those were all planted. Seeing the mules, Henry was anxious to retrieve the plow from the cave where he had cached it to get to work on some real crops, with the new seed we had brought. Since the season was already a bit late, that took a high priority. 

Another priority was self-protection. We had brought extra rifles and ammunition. Henry and Alex were very pleased with this. They had survived with bow and arrow. There was still a high probability that outlaws and raiders might still be in the area. We took precautions, and continually reminded ourselves, all through the summer, that we were “home” but not necessarily “safe.” 

David and Liam were about ten days behind us in arriving in the valley. They also brought more mules with more packs of supplies and some of their equipment to begin to salvage what they could around the mill. Liam brought some of his blacksmithing tools, and hoped to set up shop near the mill. David hoped to get a saw mill operating fairly quickly and the grist mill at a minimal level by the fall harvest, assuming there would be one. 

We decided to build the first small cabin near the mill site, not too far from the caves where Henry and Alex had been living, and all of us based there in the early days. The second house was to be for the McDonalds on McDonald land, but further west than the original home; closer to the former Truesdale place, where Jane and I had started our married life. We decided to build a double cabin, with a dog-trot separating them. Jane, William and I would live on one side, Henry and Alex on the other, with a little room for visitors.

I helped as I could, also, with the first two houses built over in the central valley, one for Lewis and his extended family and the other for the Olson’s, under some agreement he had made with Colonel Patton. They each made several visits during the summer. Col. Patton was returning quickly to involvement in his earlier political activities. He still served as a County Commissioner, which apparently had benefits for us in the valley to assure our continued ownership interests and political entities. We learned that David Baldridge would resume his duties as Eastern Township Trustee, for example, with responsibilities for roads and bridges, among other things. 

That interested me, as after we got the crops in, I wanted to begin to get the roads back in shape so that the freight runs could be resumed. I had agreed with my brother, Harry, and the now much expanded freight line he was affiliated with, to be the local contact, to set up local pick-up and delivery points, and to be responsible for the mail routes to the local post office when it was resumed by the Olsons in Oak Springs.

By the fall, when a few other families arrived along with the rest of our families, we resumed the “Fourth Sunday” tradition in September. It was very useful for joint planning and keeping in touch with what others were doing. It was at that first gathering that I attended that I fully realized how much planning was going on in Oak Springs. 

I’d been spending my time on the farm and on the roads. We got the first freight wagon through from Houston in late September, just before the meeting, and the first freight wagon through from Salem, to the north, in early October. In November the first wagon headed on south east to Eminence. By spring, regular service had fully resumed, including regular mail service.

Jane and William were able to make the trip down with Colonel Patton in his carriage in mid-October. A few weeks later, Owen Olson, his wife, Anna, and daughter, Allison, along with a very pregnant Caroline (McDonald) Truesdale, and Nellie Truesdale arrived in the central valley via a “covered wagon” to join Lewis. The baby, their first, a boy named James, was born the first week of February. 

Upcoming Stories of Civil War Soldiers and Others

*** David Baldridge
*** Lewis Truesdale
*** Gideon Inman
*** Owen Olson

May we each have a Homeplace, if only in our hearts!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Today's Thoughts on… Part III, of the Founding Book-the rest

Today's Thoughts on…
Part III, of the Founding Book-the rest of the stories

The following will serve as a guide to the weekly Friday posting for the next several weeks:

Starting tomorrow, we share the five other stories....

From the:

Table of Contents

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

**Part III - Stories of the Civil War Period (1861-1865)

Stories of Civil War Soldiers and Others
*** Daniel McDonald
*** David Baldridge
*** Lewis Truesdale
*** Gideon Inman
*** Owen Olson

The "Civil War Short Story" is the Feature Presentation of the Book.

May we each have a Homeplace, if only in our hearts!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Civil War Short Story - Part 4 of 4

The Civil War Short Story
Part 4 of 4

The following excerpt is from Part III of the forthcoming Short Story Collection:

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

The "Civil War Short Story" is considered by the author as the Feature Presentation of the book.

Statue of a Civil War Soldier at Gettysburg
Source: user smithwil

The Civil War Short Story - Part 4 of 4:

As that summer of 1865 moved along we worked together and separately on the various jobs we felt needed done, in order, based on the weather, our projected needs and individual interests in moving back toward normalcy - if there ever again would be such a thing. From the beginning, we agreed to each keep our rifles within reach and to be constantly on alert for raiders, outlaws or strangers coming into the valley.

It turned out we did have two incidents of note. One occurred in July and and the other in the middle of August. I remember that the first occurred about a week after we paused in our work to celebrate Independence Day. On that occasion, among us we had actually talked at length about how “lucky” we had been not to have any raiders, but, we also reminded ourselves to remain alert. And, by being alert, we spotted the group of about ten horsemen entering the valley, along the river, from the southeast before they saw that we were here. We all converged, as we had planned, just north of a little ridge on the west side of Oak Creek, just south of the McDonald land. As the horsemen were beginning to come up that ridge from the south, we all emerged, spaced out, rifles at the ready, like a well-drilled military squad, to challenge their approach. Whatever their original intent, they were not expecting what they found. They claimed to be ranchers from the Jack’s Fork area scouting for unclaimed cattle. We all knew better, but as long as they were willing to turn around and return the way they came, no one challenged their assertion. We were even more vigilant for the next couple of weeks, but no further  incidents occurred at that time.

I’ll never forget the mid-August incident, because it was the one and only time I was actually shot at. That is something you do not forget. This time, we didn’t spot the eight riders quite as early, and only three of us got to the ridge in time to confront them. Without sufficient numbers we did not intimidate them, and they decided to challenge us by drawing pistols and firing at us almost immediately, without more than a few words exchanged. Lewis, Daniel and I were the three on the ridge. Each of them had seen combat, so were well prepared, hit the dirt and came up firing. I did hit the dirt, effectively, and the shot in my direction flew over my head. Since I was not combat trained, they had told me to just stay down and assess my situation before moving. In those couple of seconds, thankfully, David and Liam, both also combat veterans, emerged over the hill to our left. All four of our veteran’s were firing at the invaders, who decided the odds had changed significantly, wheeled around, and headed back south. We were pretty sure that four or five of them actually were hit, but they all stayed in their saddles as they hightailed it out of our valley. We kept on high alert, again, for the next couple of weeks, by never had another encounter. 

Early in the fall, the outdoor saw mill at the mill was producing lumber three days a week and the grist mill was operating on a small scale three days a week with a workable temporary shelter. Pairs of the men made several trips to Houston to the west and Salem to the north for more supplies and occasional replacement parts for the mill and other operations. 

By late in the fall when cold weather really set in, collectively, we had three houses constructed. One was over west by the old Patton Blacksmith Shop. My sister, Caroline, had arrived to join her husband, Lewis Truesdale (Lewis was your mother Jane’s brother, of course; both children of Hugh Truesdale and Victoria Patton). Lewis and Jane’s grandfather, Colonel Jake Patton, though 67 years old, had decided it was critical to the valley and his family to return, reestablish political relationships, if possible, sufficient to assure continued title to the respective properties in the valley. From the time of his arrival, Colonel Patton made regular trips south to participate in county government representing this part of the county. While in the valley, he lived in the house with Lewis and Caroline.

The second house was built near the Baldridge mill. David Baldridge and Liam Olson lived there, initially. Liam had hoped to bring his family before the winter season arrived, but then decided it would be best to wait until spring. A few other woman and children had arrived as well as two additional families who resettled in the western valley.

Along with your father, Daniel, GranPa Henry and I occupied the third house which was at the McDonald farmstead. Before long your mother, Jane, also arrived with you, William, and joined us there.

The End