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McDonald Tales - MT14 - Late Jun 1882, Gower Farm Talk
Is the neighbor's land as good as ours?
Would they buy the available land?
The Status of the Gower Farm was up in the air
Earlier in the spring, when Jane (Truesdale) McDonald had talked with her brother, Lewis, they had briefly discussed his interest in renting or selling to Jane, and her husband, Daniel, any of the four quarter-section plots he owned (all of Section 24) immediately adjacent to the original McDonald farmlands on the west. All four were currently rented on shares to men, with their families, who had been in the cavalry company Lewis had commanded in the late war. He anticipated this would go on for many years, but, inevitably, some changes would occur.
In the middle of June 1882, the unexpected had happened. Farm rental agreements, including share rental agreements, normally ran from March 1 each year, to coincide with the farm crop year - plant in the spring, harvest in the fall. Lewis received word that one of his tenants, Gilbert Gower, was essentially abandoning his share agreement and moving, with his whole family, out of town, leaving crops in the field. This particular piece of land comprised the southeast quarter of Section 24, immediately to the west of the southwest corner of the McDonald farm property in the east valley, along what was called the Houston Road.
Upon determining, with certainty, that this was happening, Lewis, approached Daniel and Jane to see if they had serious interest in the property and under what conditions. As Lewis talked to them, he confirmed that Gower had sold off or was taking with him all of the livestock. The house and buildings were all still there and the crops were in the field, but there was no one currently in place to look after them. Lewis added that he did not want to disturb his existing relationships with the other three tenants. This was one possibility, but he simply did not want to do it. Jane and Daniel said they would have to think about it, talk to their son, William, who had just become full-time on the farm with his high school graduation, and they would get back to him in short order.
The livestock had been sold or moved
The McDonalds mulled their decision, then talked to the Cranes
This happened fairly quickly, but Jane and Daniel were careful to consider their options with clear heads and minds. They talked it over, in detail, at length, with William. It was the first major decision they would all be making together. They of course had hardly had time to seriously consider, now that the time had arrived, the exact role that William would play next on the farm and the details that would entail. Now this new twist was thrust upon them. Were they ready, did they desire, to take on this new challenge? But, was there really any doubt? Not really. They wanted to buy the land and take over the operation. How it would happen was really the focus of their discussions, as they looked back on their decision processes.
A key aspect of the decision process was that William and Charlotte planned to marry one day and eventually assume the responsibilities of Jane and Daniel. The timing involved in these steps now came under closer scrutiny than ever before. Although William and Charlotte were ready to get married now, they believed, their ‘good sense’ said they should wait a year, or two, or three to gain more maturity to be set for a long life together. Did this new option change that point of view? How did all of them really feel about this key set of issues? This needed to be seriously discussed. Once the McDonalds realized they were going to do it, the how of it needed to include discussions with Charlotte, and with her parents. The six of them gathered around the big dining room table at the McDonald’s farmhouse for some serious talk.
A plan, an approach, to deal with the new situation, and William and Charlotte’s involvement, was developed through extended discussion, including side discussions, to be sure everyone agreed to the plan. The upshot could be summarized as follows. They would all work together to assure that the current crops in the field were maintained and harvested. Effective the following March 1, William and Charlotte would become the owners and operators of that 160 acre farm. They would plan to wed shortly before that date. This would give them the opportunity to ‘take ownership’ in this land, continue to learn, and continue to also work on and for the other McDonald properties as ‘added responsibilities’ for which they would receive appropriate compensations. During the coming months, William and Charlotte, on their own time, could work at preparing the farmhouse and other buildings for their use come the following spring. All agreed this was an excellent plan that they each felt could be implemented to everyone’s advantage.
They relied on the legal system for future security
Other considerations came into the decisions and the plan
Section 26 was the original Truesdale homestead and ownership actually resided primarily in Victoria (Patton) Truesdale following the death earlier of her husband, Hugh. Lewis had effective control and managed all of the land and other Truesdale properties. Following the death of their father, Hugh, and working with their mother, Victoria, the siblings Lewis, Jane and Nellie had been involved with the attorney for their father’s estate in working out some specific divisions of ownership, management, and financial considerations regarding all of the Truesdale properties. This had been primarily to provide for Victoria’s needs, but also to clarify future divisions of those interests in order to prevent future conflicts, to the extent possible.
Because of these pre-existing arrangements, Jane actually had some residual future ownership interest in Section 26 already. This made it easier, although requiring some legal maneuvering, to expedite the purchase of the land. Finally, Jane and Daniel then made a wedding gift of the farm to William and Charlotte, as a part of their own estate planning. They were far ahead of their contemporaries in this kind of planning. However, this is exactly the kind of action for which Jake Patton had been noted, and which helped him accumulate the estate that he left to his family, which was of considerable breadth and value.