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McDonald Tales - MT18 - 1885 Life With William and Charlotte

Updated on November 17, 2017
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

They met in the Community Building in Oak Springs

An 1885 Community Building
An 1885 Community Building

A Community Project of the ‘Willing Workers’ Sunday School Class

Approaching the fall semester of 1885 at the Oak Springs High School, the young married couples of the Methodist Church ‘Willing Workers’ class had agreed to hold a “Welcome Seniors” evening for the incoming Senior Class. The Senior Class would consist of 2 young men, Howard Bevins and Donald Dent, along with 3 young women, Nettie Gifford, Mattie Reeves, and Myrtle Truesdale.

As had been expected, the make-up of the Willing Workers class had changed over time. Two of the couples, now with a child, had dropped out: Grant and Lenore Ward, they had a baby boy; and, Jacob and Irene Carver, they had a baby girl. Earl and Naomi Rhodes had become inactive, as well. However, four new recently married couples had joined the class: Peter and Stefanie (Street) Wingfield, Israel and Lula (Die) Adams, Junior and Lillie (Rhodes) Yokum, and Kent and Janice (Carver) King. Along with William and Charlotte McDonald and Vic and Kate Campbell, that made six active couples.

The “Welcome Seniors” event took place at the Community Building on Sunday Evening, September 20, 1885. It began with a meal prepared and served by the class and included a program planned to get to knew each of the Seniors better and to offer ‘sage advice’ from the couples planning the events. It was both a fun and a learning event for all the participants. Among the students, Howard Bevins and Myrtle Truesdale already were a committed couple, so their questions and the answers they received were especially interesting for all involved. In particular, quite an active discussion revolved around marrying early, right out of high school, or waiting a few (how many?) years after graduation. Nettie Gifford and Donald Dent each planned to go off to college after graduation. This also provided grounds for some good discussion.

Neighbors weren't too far away

Looking across the fields
Looking across the fields

McDonald neighbors

William and Charlotte McDonald, along with his parents, Daniel and Jane McDonald, carefully monitored the three tenant farmers on the Truesdale lands immediately to the west, northwest and north of Williams and Charlotte’s place. Daniel and Jane held an option from the Truesdales, that if (or when) a tenant left their farm, and the land were to be sold, the McDonalds would have the first opportunity to buy that land. That is what they had done with the Gower place, where William and Charlotte now lived. S.L. and Martha Reeves were operating the land to the west. They were dedicated farmers, with children in school, and showed no signs of change. To the northwest, Willis and Isabel Garrett seemed similarly dedicated farmers. They were a little older, early 50s rather than early 40s, and their youngest was now entering the 8th grade in school. They were likely set for at least another 5 years, but would they want to continue beyond that? That was the question with them.

Directly north of William and Charlotte was the Theodore (Ted) and Ellen Warden place. This quarter section also included the original homestead of Hugh and Victoria (Patton) Truesdale in the far northeast corner, on Oak Creek just below the falls, where the creek turned back to the east along the north edge of the original McDonald land. Two years earlier, William and his family knew that Ted had begun formally working, part-time, in the Truesdale horse and mule breeding business in Oak Springs. Another younger part-time worker there was Howard Bevins, now entering his Senior year of high school. He made no secret of the fact he wanted to be a farmer someday. The prior fall, Howard had been out working with Ted on the farm on the weekends. They also noticed that he seemed to spend more time out on the Warden farm in the spring, during planting season, even missing some classes to be involved with the farm operation.

At a Truesdale family gathering in the summer, Jane had taken the opportunity to ask her brother, Lewis, about the Warden farm situation. She was not surprised with what she got as a response. Jane knew that Ted Warden had been in the cavalry unit in the war that Lewis had commanded, and that they had a close relationship. Lewis shared that he and Ted were working together to give young Howard Bevins the opportunity to learn farming, from the ground up, if he continued to show interest and growth in the process. It was no secret that Howard and Myrtle Truesdale, Lewis and Caroline’s only child now, had a special relationship. So, Ted had taken Howard ‘under his wing’ as a favor to Lewis, as well as himself. Ted was moving toward the time when he might move to town and work full time in the business there, leaving the farm. Lewis and Caroline were thinking, at a point in the future, when they could handle it, perhaps Howard and Myrtle would move to the farm - as a part of her inheritance, of the original home farm. Jane thanked Lewis for letting her in on the planning and promised to help in any way they could to help bring this about… assuming the young folks did their part as hoped and expected.

They kept their farm very well

A well-kept farm scene
A well-kept farm scene

William and Charlotte suffer another disappointment

During the latter half of 1885, Charlotte again became pregnant, and again, before the end of the year, miscarried. With the strong support of both sets of parents, William and Charlotte got through the experience, but not without another layer of scars on their souls. The cycle of hope followed by despair had lasting affects, but it did not diminish their generally positive and optimistic outlook for the future. They now knew the family histories, and believed a child was still in their future.

Their positive attitudes also allowed them to ‘redouble’ their efforts at making their farming operations the very best they could be. Their homestead was immaculate and their crops, field, orchard, and garden, were unsurpassed in the valley. This success reinforced their optimism for an eventual family, as well.

Note from Author

With MT17 we focus on William McDonald and Charlotte Crane, personally and individually. Some details of McDonald Tales episodes have been told in other short story collection such as, “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” but here we are seeing the activity through the eyes of Jane, Daniel, and William McDonald, along with new material and insights. The “Kings of Oak Springs” and Life in Oak Springs and more” series have made reference to some of the material here from a different point of view. In this series of stories we learn new behind-the-scene insights about this family. These Tales are a part of “The Homeplace Saga” series of stories.

The earlier episodes of the King Family series have now been compiled into two eBooks, titled: "The Kings of Oak Springs,” Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (20 episodes each). See the link, below, to get yours.

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

Video Book Trailer


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    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Happy to see you got through to the end and left your comments, which I always enjoy, so much. Don't tests of our will always make us stronger, if they don't totally break us? Perhaps that will be the case with dear William and Charlotte. They got an early start, but they will learn that life takes time to reach its goals... ;-)

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      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, I've tried three times to read this during my lunch hour or after work and kept getting distracted. I finally made it through!

      I feel so bad for William and Charlotte. They've been so meticulous with their plans and goals, only to lose two children in a row. Maybe it's just not their time for parenthood just yet.

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      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for your comment, MsDora. Our young folks seem to have more strength than they imagined. ;-)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I like how the community seizes opportunities for gatherings. The hope which William and Charlotte demonstrate is inspiring.

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      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Bill. Really the only way to learn all the nuances, it seems! ;-)

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I like the mentoring of the young man...teaching him the ropes of farming from the ground up...passing on lessons learned and he, in turn, will pass the same lessons on....great read, Bill!