Friday, April 19, 2013

The Founding of the Homeplace - Story 3, The First Valley Visitors, Part 2

The Founding of the Homeplace
Story 3, The First Valley Visitors, Part 2

"The Founding of the Homeplace" saga will continue here on the first and third Friday of each month, going forward. See Story 1 (Parts 123, and 4), Story 2 (Part 123, and 4) and Story 3 (Part 1) 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 Threatened." These three books are set in the years 1987, 1996, and 1999, respectively. The underlying premise of this series 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, "Summer landscape, c1869"; Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress ( accessed 17 Mar 2013)]

Characters in this series become actively involved in the study of their family history and snippets of that research appear, from time to time through the series (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 3, First Valley Visitors

In this episode, we share "Part 2 of 4"

Preparations were underway to build the McDonald cabin but actual construction had not begun. Most of the logs were cut and shaped, but the actual ‘raising of the cabin’ had not been scheduled pending completion of the final materials. Both the McDonald family and Hugh Truesdale continued to live in their tents at Cardinal Corner until their cabins were completed.  

The Baldridges, Robert and Susannah, Sarah and David, had only been in their cabin for a few days when the preacher arrived in the valley. The cabin was finally located at the base of the ridge about fifty yards west of the base of the falls, where it was planned to build the mill. During the preparation for building the cabin, Robert and David had discovered a small cave entrance just about ten feet behind the anticipated location of the cabin. This discovery certainly solidified the decision of the actual location of the house.

By digging out the entrance, just a bit, and construction of a door, a naturally cool-temperature storage facility became a ‘built-in’ home feature for the Baldridges. Each home needed a facility like this, either a cave or a springhouse on the moving water. Since this house was built away from the stream, they were fortunate to have discovered the useful cave location. 

Eleven year old Sarah had done such a conscientious job with the chickens that it was agreed the chicken coops would be moved with the Baldridges and they would continue to be her responsibility. She continued to gather the eggs and share them around the community.

Four days after the preacher left to the southeast, another visitor arrived from the northwest. He was a trader who called himself ‘Big John’ - he said he didn’t use a last name because it wasn’t necessary. Everyone remembered Big John, because he was. He carried a variety of trade goods in the pack on the mule he led, from tin cups to ribbons; from hammerheads and knives to calico cloth. He took hides, grain and other locally produced goods in trade; anything he could carry in his pack or consume along the way. 

Big John was about 6 foot 6 inches tall and muscular, really very large for the times. He wore buckskins, and walked with long strides. He initially spoke in a loud voice, and especially around the young folks, he told very tall tales. The adults wanted to remain wary of Big John, but he also had a conversational style around them that drew them to him. He regularly talked of activities and events at the lumber camps. He knew about people they knew. Big John was in no hurry to move on. He talked and traded and traded and talked. It turned out he preferred talking one-on-one with each person. In groups, he told stores and endeared himself to folks. One-on-one he was a business man of great acumen.

He made his own camp-site and generally prepared his own meals. He was not pushy as might be expected but rather let the people come to him. Over the few days he was in the valley, everyone traded something and he had endeared himself to everyone. 

By the time Big John arrived, Harry had one of his hides ready to the point he believed he would be able to trade it for some things he wanted. When the opportunity arose, Harry and Big John had a good one-on-one conversation. Big John, of course, having been alerted by Harry’s parents, was very thorough and careful in dealing with eleven year old Harry. This was a very big deal, to him.

[ be continued... on May 3, 2013, with Part 3 of Story 3]

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