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Jake Patton Memoirs - JP7 - Jake and Kate Received More Visitors in the Valley

Updated on March 6, 2019
Homeplace Series profile image

Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

Owen wanted to become a blacksmith and farmer

A Blacksmith at work
A Blacksmith at work

Jake, Kate and Victoria Met Owen and Anna Olson

We were each surprised that day when Owen and Anna arrived at our home, but, looking back, it was one of the best moments of our lives. They have become co-workers and lifelong friends. They had walked to our cabin from the Big Piney lumber camps as young newlyweds. One of the first things they did on their arrival was to show us their marriage license, they were so proud of it. The medium-sized packs on their backs as they arrived were all of their earthly possessions. Owen, a powerful young man of Norwegian stock, wanted to become a farmer and a blacksmith. He and Anna had become convinced that I was the man who could help them achieve those goals. They said they had talked to a number of the blacksmiths, and others, at the lumber camps and, based on those discussions, set out to get a fresh start with us.


I was very flattered, of course, but also had to be very skeptical about their true intentions on coming clear out here to our valley to see us. What did they really want, and expect? How would they fit in here in the valley? How could they possibly make a go of it, starting with nothing, essentially? But, at the same time, they did seem to be very sincere if quite naive in their expectations. I felt it was very important to keep them talking to find out as much as possible about them. I asked about the different people they had actually talked to at the lumber camps. Their answers made me feel I could make a pretty fair judgement about them based on their answers. My judgement was that they were indeed sincere, that they had a strong work ethic, and that they seemed totally willing to do whatever it took to earn the way of life they sought. My challenge was how to make that work for them, and for me, if I chose to assist them in getting that fresh start they sought.


Of course, we invited Owen and Anna to have their evening meal with us. Victoria was especially happy to have another young woman to talk to. They set up a temporary camp at the edge of the woods near our cabin. They wanted to help out, so we set a few tasks for them to do for us, as I took the opportunity to talk to the others in the valley about our guests. As I expected, for example, Robert was especially happy to hear a new strong back would be available to help build the mill, if they stayed and became residents. Getting only positive responses, we all agreed to respond to their offer of hard, honest work, with offers of assistance. I agreed on a sharecrop arrangement with them on a piece of my land on the northeast corner of our property. We all agreed to help them plow and plant a ten-acre plot of their own there. Hugh offered to show them what to do and how to do it. Included was a small garden plot for their use as well as sharing in the community garden this year. We agreed that, if things continued to work out, that the community would help them build a cabin before winter, using some of the timber on the eastern part of our land. I would begin an apprenticeship with Owen at the blacksmith shop. We had worked out a compensation agreement with both of them for work they did for others.

Big John had a typical supply of trade goods to trade

A typical array of trade goods
A typical array of trade goods

Jake Discovered Another Visitor to the Valley

When I went to talk to my neighbors about Owen and Anna, I discovered another visitor had arrived in the valley a day earlier and set up his camp in the east valley near the pond under the waterfall, on Hugh’s property, actually. This was a trader who went by the name of “Big John.” He said he didn’t use a last name because it wasn’t necessary. Everyone remembered Big John, because he was. Big John stood about 6 feet 6 inches tall and was very muscular, really a very large man for those times. He wore buckskins and walked with long strides. He had walked into the valley from the northwest and led a pack mule loaded with a variety of trade goods. He had tin cups to ribbons, from hammerheads and knives to calico cloth. He said he took hides, grain and other local products in trade; anything he could carry in his pack or consume along the way, he added.


He initially spoke in a loud voice, and especially around the young folks, he told very tall tales. I noticed that the adults wanted to remain wary of Big John, but he also had a very conversational style around them that drew them to him. He regularly talked of activities and events at the lumber camps, including about people we had each known there. He 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, much as I do. In groups, he told stories and endeared himself to folks. One-on-one he was a business man of great acumen.


Big John had made his own camp-site and generally prepared his own meals. He was not pushy as many 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. I took Owen and Anna over to meet him and we picked up some kitchen utensils and work tools they would be needing that they did not have. I helped out with the trades, indicating to them that they could quickly work off what I had helped them with in work they would be doing for me. It was a part of our new relationship. As we were leaving, we noticed that young Harry McDonald appeared to be approaching Big John to talk a trade. We wondered how that would go.

The trader made his camp along the nearby forest

The valley was filled with grass and trees
The valley was filled with grass and trees

Jake Learned What Harry and Big John Had Traded

Later, the next time I talked to Henry, I learned more about the experience that young Harry had with Big John, the Trader. Henry said he had been impressed with how Big John had worked carefully with Harry and the one fine deer hide he had ready to use in a trade. Big John talked with young Harry, very carefully, he said, about how each side of a trade should be satisfied when a trade was completed. He added that it should not be done in haste. Each person should get the most they could out of each trade, a trade that both parties would be happy with in the long run. Otherwise, he had added, neither person would want to make a trade, again, and that was bad for everyone. Trading was good.


I also learned that Harry had made the last trade. When he was done, true to his word, after a couple of hours, Big John packed up and headed down Oak Creek to the southeast to find his next trading partners down there, wherever they may be. He had promised to be back through in a couple of months. Another new experience for the valley settlers. But, I knew there would be many more to come.

[See JP8, to follow]

From the Author

This series of stories, JPx, is part of a first draft of what I hope and assume becomes a published novel in support of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction stories. It features the self-told story of one of the original settlers of the Oak Creek Valley, Colonel Jake Patton. Some, including him, would say he was the leader of the group. He had a very big ego, that is for sure, but he always tried to make it look like what he was doing was for the benefit of the community. And, of course, it was. But, there was always something in it for him, as well. He managed to grow the inheritance he was fortunate to receive from his father into something that left a nice trust fund for his descendants. We’ve already seen some of these stories, earlier, in the Saga tales. Come along, and let’s see how Colonel Patton tells his own story.


Note: I will publish JPx hubs, from time to time. I will write occasional notes at Patreon about Jake Patton. I may write other things elsewhere. These are each a part of the creative process to create the true first draft of a novel. You, my readers, can take part in this effort at www dot patreon dot com slash HomeplaceSagas. Join us there Today.

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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 months ago from Hollister, MO

      I have yet to decide, for sure, what I would have been doing, back in those days. Fascinating thoughts! ;-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      If I were living back then, being a blacksmith is not what I would choose for a profession....tough job if you ask me.

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