Friday, February 1, 2013

The Founding of the Homeplace - Story 2, First Plantings, Part 1

The Founding of the Homeplace
Story 2, The First Plantings, Part 1

"The Founding of the Homeplace" saga will continue here on the first and third Friday of each month, going forward. See Story 1 (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4) earlier. This is 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, "Falling Spring, c 1868"; Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress ( accessed 25 Jan 2013)]

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 2, First Plantings

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

The settlement party of 11 persons fell into a daily routine that combined meeting current needs and accomplishing long-term tasks needed for a successful stay in the “Oak Springs” valley. 

Among the first tasks for the new residents were to use the oxen to pull some of the trees that Hugh Truesdale had felled to the common campsite to use for a cooking ‘lean-to’ and as permanent supports for the tents for the first few weeks. Some of larger branches were also available to begin construction of a rough corral and pens for some of the animals. Henry and Harry McDonald drove the oxen following Truesdale’s guidance to locate the trees and bring them across Oak Creek and into a staging area in Cardinal Corner. The trees were allowed to dry, were stripped of leaves and branches (stacked and piled for later use), and cut to proper sizes for their intended use.

Robert Baldridge had apprenticed as a surveyor as a young man in Kentucky and had taken enough surveying work in later years to maintain and increase his qualifications. In his earlier visit to the valley, he had identified the base survey markers that had been in place a few years. By 1833, this valley existed as part of the far north west end of Ripley County, Missouri. Robert and his son, David, along with assistance from Jake Patton, allocated some early time to laying out and marking the key lines each family would need to claim their individual lands.

Following the pattern the weather had been in as they trekked from the lumber camps to their new valley, every several days a thunderstorm rolled through the valley followed by hot and humid days. This was actually a very fortunate circumstance because it gave them an excellent opportunity to observe water run-off patterns both for their camp and for planning garden and planting plots. 

They had agreed that a community garden made the most sense for this first season since it was already late in the year for some plantings. For this reason, a nearby spot in the newly named “Cardinal Corner” was identified and plowed as one of the early tasks. A drag was constructed from tree branches to drag over the plowed ground to break up the bigger clods in this virgin soil, since they did not bring a harrow. The cast iron plow Jake had brought worked well. They were careful to watch for boulders in the ground, so as not to risk breaking the plow at an early date. Henry McDonald and his son, Harry, took the lead on the plowing and dragging, assisted by Hugh Truesdale. Hugh continued to allocate some time each day to felling more trees joined by the other men from time to time.

Once the community garden plot was roughly prepared, the women took the lead in final preparation and layout of the garden for planting. Kate and Victoria Patton used rake and hoe to finish the preparation for planting the seeds. Susannah and Sarah McDonald planted and covered the seeds as had been agreed. Laura McDonald kept an accurate written plot map, marked each planting, and assisted getting all the materials to the right places as needed. They also prepared barriers around the garden to keep out the pigs and other animals as best they could. They also installed a couple of scarecrows. Before long, green spouts could be seen throughout the garden plot. 

[ be continued... on February 15, 2013, with Part 2 of Story 2]

Note: Story 2, by William Leverne Smith, was originally published as a Short Story, "First Plantings" in the anthology: Echoes of the Ozarks, Volume VIII, 2012, published by the Ozarks Writers League.