Friday, November 2, 2012

The Founding of the Homeplace - Story 1, The Trek, Part 1

The Founding of the Homeplace
Story 1, The Trek, Part 1

Beginning today, "The Founding of the Homeplace" saga will be shared here on the first Friday of each new Month. This will be a serial presentation of the story, beginning in 1833, when four families decided to settle the land, the valley, that would become the setting of the first two books in the The Homeplace Series: "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited" as well as the forthcoming third book in the series, "The Homeplace Forever." These three books are set in the years 1987, 1996, and 2006, respectively. The underlying premise of this trilogy is the desire of the family matriarch to retain the family farm in the southern Missouri Ozarks in whole and in the family.

[Source: Currier & Ives, “Home in the wilderness,” c1870; Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress ( : accessed 31 Dec 2012)]

Characters in the trilogy become actively involved in the study of their family history and snippets of that research appear, from time to time through the trilogy (one example). This serial presentation begins to share that ‘research’ in Story Form, and, some of the Stories represent 'writings of the family' that were ‘discovered’ in the process of that research. Each Story is an essay or report of the activities of the initial four families and their descendants that settled the Homeplace – the farm and the surrounding valley.

Story 1, The Trek to the Homeplace

In this episode, we share "Part 1 of 4"

            “They’re back. The men-folks have returned from t’other side of the mountain.”
            Eleven year-old Sarah ran thither and yon looking for kinfolk and friends to tell that her pa and the other men were coming down the mountain path.
This was the spring on 1833, and four men had gone over the mountains to the southeast in search of a location for a mill on a spring fed creek along with abundant farming land in the adjacent valley for their families.
            Sarah’s father, Robert Baldridge, wanted a mill of his own after working for his father for nearly ten years here on the Big Piney River in south central Missouri. Robert and Susannah, his wife, along with Sarah, and their son, David, three years younger than his sister, had been preparing to make this move for a couple of years now. A young farmer, a farm family, and a blacksmith family planned to join them on the move, when the time was right. That time was drawing very near.
            Hugh Truesdale was a mature twenty-one year-old young man who wanted a fresh start in new territory as well. He was big and strong, intelligent, and hard working. His father wanted him to be a mill operator here, but Hugh was headstrong and determined to make his living working the land in a new, pristine location.
            Henry McDonald, with his wife, Laura, and their son, Harry, eleven years old, also wanted a new start in a new place. Laura had lost three babies, here, and yearned for a less congested life, away from the active logging environment here in the heavy pine forests. Henry wanted to farm his own land like his father had done before they came to the Missouri logging camps from Kentucky.
            Jake Patton was one of five blacksmiths in the area. Jake was also an accomplished gunsmith. However, he was most often found working at shoeing the many teams of oxen used to pull the cut pine timber to the river for transport, down the Big Piney River, then down the Gasconade and the Missouri River to St. Louis. He and his wife, Kate, and their fifteen years old daughter, Victoria, had made the commitment to join this group in finding a new life over the mountain, where the streams flowed south, not north like they did here.
            The three men dressed in buckskins, axes hanging from their belts, and carrying their Kentucky long rifles, powder horns and pouches, strode down the path and now approached the Baldridge home. Susannah had come out to greet Robert, along with Sarah and David. She saw Henry and Jake behind Robert, but asked, “Where is young Truesdale? Is he alright?”
            “He volunteered to stay behind, to guard our properties and to begin cutting timber for housing for when we all get there! We found the place we were looking for. It is a virgin valley fed by three springs – one large one back up on the ridge to the north, and two smaller ones to the west across a great valley of excellent soil and healthy air. The larger stream is ideal for our mill. The middle stream will accommodate Jake’s needs as a blacksmith, and there is plenty of land for farming. Fish are abundant in the streams. We need to make the move now, before others discover it and compete for the best locations. They’ll be following, soon enough, I’m sure.”
             Laura and young Harry McDonald arrived to greet Henry. Kate and Victoria were not far behind to meet Jake. It was a happy reunion all around. As it was still late afternoon, the families soon were back at their own homes beginning final preparations for the move. The men had agreed as they walked the return path that they would try to get packed and start moving in five days. There was no time to lose.

[ be continued... on December 7, 2012, with Part 2 of Story 1]

Note: Story 1, by William Leverne Smith, was originally published as a Short Story, "The Trek to the Homeplace" in the anthology: Echoes of the Ozarks, Volume VII, 2011, published by the Ozarks Writers League (pp. 55-64).

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