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  ;-)

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