Weston Wagons West | Episode H6 | Iowa was growing, as well

The new stage route had been determined

Most travel was by stage
Most travel was by stage

1855 began as a year to hold on tight for the Weston families

As 1854 became 1855, the Weston families in southwestern Jasper County were adjusting reasonably well to their new condition, with the one empty first floor bedroom. They had not heard further from Jake, and now they learned that Hank and Melinda were going to have an addition to their family, as well. Occasional trips to Newton and to Fort Des Moines, and newspapers that floated around the community suggested that their new State of Iowa was also in a continuing growth period. More folks were moving in. Most of the surrounding land was now occupied in the Weston neighborhood. Some folks were continuing to migrate along the southern Iowa route, now often called the ‘Mormon Trail’ to Council Bluffs, with the intent of going on west to Colorado, Oregon, or California.

Over on the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa, the first railroad bridge to span the Mississippi, crossing near Rock Island, Illinois, was under construction. It was expected to open by the middle of 1855. The Western Stage Company was now running between Iowa City and Fort Des Moines, through Newton, just to the north of the Weston farm. The Town of Monroe, to the south, had lost out in its ill-fated bid to be on the route. While stagecoach was still the primary means of distant travel, short run railroads were being built in several eastern Iowa locations to take advantage of the new river bridge when it was completed. The state was growing fastest where stage and rail service was available.

Hank read a newspaper article updating the progress of the survey of land across the State of Iowa. It had started in the southeast corner of the state and proceeded toward the northwest corner of the state. It was currently working in the counties to the west and to the north of Fort Des Moines, proceeding steadily. Although some Indians still roamed the northwestern quadrant of the state, from time to time, ‘civilization’ was marching steadily westward across Iowa. Within a decade, it was projected, western and northwestern Iowa would see permanent settlement by farmers, merchants and families from around the world. It had been happening east of the Mississippi River, now it was happening on the western side of that great dividing river as well.

They heard from Jake

Jake worked as a blacksmith
Jake worked as a blacksmith

A letter shocked the family

In March 1855, Hank Weston received a letter from his brother, Jake. Jake said he was in Council Bluffs, working as a Blacksmith and doing occasional farrier work, as well. He enclosed a letter of credit he asked to be deposited at a local bank to help with the care of his children. He said more would follow regularly. Jake apologized to his brother, and his brother’s family, for the burden he had put on them, but also thanked them for what he knew was ‘a better job than I could have done’ raising George, Jessica, and Laura. He wrote a bit about the level of growth in the Council Bluffs area, the continued influx of travelers, and his role in assisting them to get on their way. The letter spoke of little else.

When Mary and Joe talked about the letter in private, Mary said that she noticed he didn’t really ‘ask after’ the children, just assumed that they were fine. Joe said that while he appreciated the financial support Jake provided, he would have much preferred that Jake simply return and provide his labors to their farm. They talked about the burdens they felt, but also the joy that the large and growing family brought to them. The youngsters all being around tended to keep them feeling young, they had to admit. Having Hank and Melinda as part of the immediate family was also a joy. Life was good.

Hank told Melinda he was very confused as to how to take this new information from Jake. Hank had always wanted to look up to Jake, but this just further showed, to Hank at least, that Jake was really not very reliable or dependable. Melinda was careful not to state an opinion on Jake. Hank was taking it harder than she expected, and she didn’t want to add to his burden. Besides, the arrival of their second child was only a couple of months away, if everything went well. She knew that she needed to concentrate her energies and effort on that as well as holding up her end of the family household duties. She was also very thankful for Mary, Sarah and Cathy being there to share the workload.

Isaac arrived in May 1855

Another boy baby
Another boy baby

Isaac was born in May 1855

Isaac, the second son of Hank and Melinda, was born on the 15th day of May in 1855. Joe and Hank were finishing the planting in the fields, and haying was a month away. Hank was careful to be with Melinda as much as possible those last couple of weeks before the birth as well as after the birth. The whole family was well prepared to accommodate the new addition to the family. Sarah was now 15 and Cathy 11 so they were each of great assistance to Melinda and to Mary. In addition, they were also both very active in the garden and orchards assuring that those tasks were accomplished well. At 7 and nearly 6, Josh and George had regular chores that they were responsible for around the homestead.

Laura, 1, Nathan, 2, and Jessica, now 4, still needed someone to look after them full-time, of course. Mary, serving simultaneously as mother, aunt and grandmother, provided overall guidance and direction to the household not unlike a Master Sergeant and his troops. Everyone knew the persons and tasks for which they were responsible, and knew they were expected to accomplish them without question or complaint in an efficient manner. That was how it was in the Weston household.

Life on the Weston farm was generally good; crops and animals grew and produced in better numbers each year after year as 1855 became 1856 and 1857 approached. In early 1857 Fort Des Moines became simply Des Moines, and also became the capital of the State of Iowa as declared by the State Legislature. The Western Stage Company moved the people and materials representing the state from Iowa City to Des Moines, in the heart of the state. Growth of the state would continue under this guidance from the center of the state.

Note by the author

The Hx series of historical fiction family saga stories following Hank Weston consist of characters that are fictional or real persons used here fictitiously. Activities and events are consistent with known historical facts, but are entirely fictitious. The Jacob and Levi Weston characters were first created as a part of “The Homeplace Saga” stories. The first 20+ episodes of this Lx series filled in the early years of the lives of Levi, Jacob and their family, also descendents of Thomas and Fred Weston

These first 20 episodes of the Levi Weston story have been compiled into an ebook: “Weston Wagons West: Levi Weston, L1-20 (1823-1874).” Thank you for your support.

“Weston Wagons West” and “The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

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Comments 2 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 months ago from Olympia, WA

Better late than never for my visit, right?

What struck me about this episode was the news that a bridge was being built across the Mississippi....what an incredible engineering feat that was for that time....and it was just one of thousands of such feats.....pretty amazing if you ask me. :)


DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

DrBill-WmL-Smith 10 months ago from Hollister, MO Author

I agree, totally, Bill. And, a little later in the article I was reading, it mentioned one being build in Minneapolis, as well... not quite a big, I assume... Engineering feats blow me away! ;-)

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