Friday, July 25, 2014

The Founding of the Homeplace - Part IV, 1865-75 Report, Section 1

The Founding of the Homeplace
Part IV, 1865-75 Report, Section 1

The green hill in the valley

From the forthcoming short story collection:

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

**Part IV - 1865-1876 review completed

1865-1875 Report with comparison to 1860 status - Section 1 of 6 (arbitrary sectioning)

[It is believed this narrative was a joint effort of Alex McDonald and Jerry Potts.]

This is an American Centennial Report for Oak Springs and Oak Creek Township by xxx xxxx. In this report, I will discuss the activities of the principal families living in the Oak Creek valley to 1860 (from the time of first settlement in 1833), discuss their status in 1860/61, and then look at the activities of the same families here between 1865 and 1875, following the Civil War, based on available information.

I will begin with the four initial families who first settled the valley in the late spring of 1833: Baldridge, McDonald, Patton and Truesdale; plus the Olsons who arrived in June of 1833 and the Campbells, the first to arrive in the west valley, in 1836. 

Robert and Susannah Baldridge arrived in the valley with their children, Sarah and David. Robert and his family built and operated the mill on Oak Creek, farmed, and raised beef cattle on the pastures on the ridge above the mill. In 1860, Robert and Susannah were 57 years old. Their son, David, in 1860, was 35 years old, unmarried, and was the principal operator of the mill with the assistance of Riley Cooper. By 1849, Robert and Susannah lived in Oak Spring and had opened a combination feed store and lumber yard selling in the central valley the products produced at the mill. They continued to broker beef cattle, as well. In 1853, the young man Theodosius Rhodes, who started clerking for them in the store as an 18-year-old, as a 21-year-old became the manager of the store.

Politically, with the changing environment in Shannon County, the County Commissioner districts were changed in the mid-1850s, and Robert Baldridge lost his re-election bid in 1857 (he had served since 1847). 

When the war arrived in Oak Springs in 1861, Robert and Susannah bought up most of the beef cattle in the valley, and, with the help of several young men in the valley, drove the cattle to Houston, along the Houston Road, to sell the cattle to the Union army. Using the many contacts they had in the beef cattle industry, they subsequently moved north to the Jefferson City area and continued selling contracted beef to the Union army. Sadly, unrelated to the war activity, they both were killed in a carriage accident pursuing their business interests just outside of Jefferson City in 1863. 

David Baldridge kept the mill going through the fall of 1861 when raiders coming through the valley set the mill on fire. He managed to escape and made his way north through the woods and joined the Union Army. He saw combat, he said, but didn’t really want to talk about it. Not withstanding that, he was among the first to return to the valley in 1865 and began repair and recovery work on the mill on behalf of himself and his sister (Sarah Baldridge McDonald) following the death of their parents. For the return trip, he was joined by Liam Olson and the two of them took the lead in the restoration work, as Liam set up his blacksmithing operation near the pool below the mill. Liam and David continued to work closely together in the milling, lumber and blacksmith shop business, as well as beginning to rebuild a cattle herd, with Sarah’s urging.

Henry McDonald and his wife, Laura, with their son, Harry, arrived in the ten-member settlement party with the Baldridges and Pattons. Henry and Laura had a second son, Daniel, born in 1838. Laura died in 1848. Henry farmed from the beginning. He and his son, Harry, also operated a freight business for the valley with interests in Texas County to the west. Harry had married Sarah Baldridge in 1842 and they had a large family, starting with Caroline, born in 1843, Thomas in 1845, Patrick in 1847, Alex in 1849, Mahala in 1852 and Rebecca in 1855. By 1860, Caroline, their oldest daughter, had attended a girl’s academy for two years and was back in the valley preparing to become the bride of Lewis Truesdale, her neighbor, in a year or two. The coming of war interfered with these plans and many others. As soon as the war broke out, son Thomas went off to Houston to join the Union army and son Patrick ran off to the south to join the Rebels, as happened in so many families in the region. They never heard from Patrick again. Thomas was killed in the battle at Shiloh with thousands of others on each side. Alex managed to survive in the valley through the war with his grandfather, Henry McDonald. (Read his story elsewhere in these American Centennial stories.)

By the summer of 1861, Harry, Sarah, Caroline, Mahala and Rebecca packed up their things in a freight wagon and headed north, managing to get to the Jefferson City area. Accompanying them was Levi Weston who had set up a woodworking shop in Oak Springs but was also the son of Jacob Weston who ran a freight line in central Missouri out of Jefferson City with whom Harry had exchanged services in the recent past. They formed a working partnership and eventually created a very successful contract freight business together during the war. Following the close of the war, Harry, Sarah and the two younger girls remained in the Jefferson City area. Harry and Sarah each visited back in the Oak Creek valley, regularly, for business and family reasons. The Weston-McDonald Freight Line continued to flourish and included regular trips into the Oak Creek valley where Harry’s brother, Daniel McDonald, eventually oversaw the valley freight stations for pickup and delivery.

Daniel McDonald, age 22 in 1860, had married Jane Truesdale in June 1859 and had continued the McDonald farming operation with his brother, Harry, father, Henry, and young nephew, Alex. However, Daniel also felt called to join the Union army in 1861. His wife, Jane, left the valley as well with the other McDonalds and Levi Weston as noted above.

Daniel and Lewis Truesdale (married to Daniel’s niece, Caroline) were the first two to return to the valley following the war. They had come to reclaim their families’ land and resume farming operations. They were also anxious to reconnect with young Alex and his GranPa Henry, who had stayed in the valley, if they were both still alive. They were, and they did, and all immediately set about getting in crops for the 1865 year. They each continued to pursue their farming interests as they also helped out with other reconstruction projects across the valley. By the fall, Daniel’s wife, Jane, and their one-year-old son, William, had joined him in the valley, as had Lewis’ pregnant wife, Caroline.

After originally living in the cabin built near the mill site with David Baldridge and Liam Olson, by the time the families arrived, the McDonalds had built a double cabin, with ‘dog-trot’ separately them, near the original McDonald ‘homeplace’ on Oak Creek. Daniel, Jane and William lived in one cabin and Henry and Alex lived in the other. This also allowed room for visitors in the early years, before more permanent housing could be built.

To be continued... next Friday.

May we each have a Homeplace, if only in our hearts!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

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