Friday, July 5, 2013

The Founding of the Homeplace Story 4, Fourth of July, 1833, Part 3

The Founding of the Homeplace
Story 4, Fourth of July, 1833, Part 3

"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), Story 3 (Part 123 and 4), and Story 4 (Part 1 and 2) 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 4, Fourth of July, 1833

In this episode, we share "Part 3 of 4"

On Tuesday, each person knew exactly what their role was as soon as they finished their individual chore responsibilities and converged on the McDonald building site to get right to work. The ground had been prepared, the site had been laid out, and materials had been placed in the most advantageous positions to ‘raise the cabin’ in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Having already done this twice, recently, certainly helped.

At appropriate breaks in the work, water and nourishment were available in the designated shady areas. Following the breaks, work began again immediately so that the ‘cabin had been raised’ well before dusk. Finishing work would follow, but the cabin was now ‘built’ and no longer required the entire combined work force. Everyone was very satisfied with their long day of work. They even noted a few improvements they would make for the next planned ‘raising.’

The following week on Thursday everyone looked forward to the 4th of July Independence Day celebration. A short program, beginning at 11 a.m. was organized. Jake Patton agreed to serve as Master of Ceremonies for this event and gave a short address at the end of the program. Hugh Teasdale read the Declaration of Independence. Patriotic songs were sung. Both Robert Barksdale and Henry McDonald spoke briefly about their ancestors involvement in the Revolutionary War and the fight for Independence from Britain. A community picnic followed the program. The men used this holiday gathering as an extra community planning opportunity as well.

The Barksdales shared their plans for the mill with the others, based on the results of their trip to Big Piney and their work since their return. Henry McDonald finalized plans for a four day trip to ‘widen the trail’ in a couple of weeks. Jake Patton announced that the wagon was already under construction. Hugh and Owen discussed their planned timing to raise the Owen cabin in about three or four weeks. By mid-afternoon, everyone had returned to their own places to take care of work that always needed to be done. 

Five men made the trip back up the trail westward toward the Big Piney to widen the trail in the necessary places so that the bigger wagon would be able to make the trip when it was ready. They were Henry McDonald, Robert and David Barksdale, Owen Olson and Hugh Teasdale. It was hard work but with good planning, use of the mules, a couple of oxen and one of the two wheeled wagons, they managed to achieve their goals, and returned without serious injuries before sundown on the fourth day, as planned. Although the summer heat had worked against them, there was no rain, so they were able to work straight through and stay on schedule. They were a welcome sight to those left behind as they returned to the valley that evening.

On the afternoon of the third day following their return from working on the trail, as they were working on their mill site near Oak Creek, Robert and David Barksdale became aware of a stranger, on horseback, leading a fully packed mule, coming down the east bank of the Creek from the north. With their rifles at the ready, they watched the rider who now obviously knew he was being watched, cross the Creek while still on the ridge and then proceed down the ridge toward them. He looked much like a trader, but unlike Big John, he had a more menacing air about him. They weren’t sure what it was, but both Robert and David felt it, as the rider approached.

The rider introduced himself as Warren Mather, an explorer, writer and sometime trader. The Barksdales introduced themselves and welcomed Mather to the valley. They of course asked him early on where he’d come from and where he was headed if he didn’t mind sharing that information with them. He was very open about having no particular firm plans; today he was following this creek to see where it took him. He said he would pause, from time to time, to make notes of his surroundings and new things that he saw. Further, he said that one day he would like to write a book about his travels on this part of the frontier. The Barksdales briefly told him about the settlements here in the valley and invited him to join them at their evening meal. When he accepted their invitation, David went to let the women know that their guest was staying for dinner as Robert kept Mr. Mather engaged in conversation. 

By the conclusion of the evening meal, Robert had concluded that Mather was a self-absorbed, well-educated loner who, in fact, was out exploring the world, for his own gratification, but otherwise seemed to be harmless. As he said he would, Warren Mather had cleared his small campsite on the edge of the forest west of the Barksdale cabin by sun-up and moved south down Oak Creek. Henry McDonald reported seeing him pass by their place as Mather went south along the river, but they did not speak. No one in the valley ever saw or heard from him again. 

[ be continued... on July 19, 2013, with Part 4 of Story 4]

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