McDonald Tales | MT3 | Daniel and Jane after the Civil War
She opened and read some old letters
Jane prepared to return to the Oak Creek valley
As Jane Truesdale McDonald was going through her things at her grandparents home where she was staying in Jefferson City to prepare to return to the Oak Creek valley, she was reminded that this was the second time for her to do that. She had lived with her grandparents those three and a half years from the fall of 1851 through May of 1854, eleven years ago, when she had come to attend the Davis Academy for Girls for her secondary education. She was reminded of this when she came across the packets of letters she and Daniel had written to each other then, packed under the more recent letters they had written between late 1861 and early 1865 while he was away during the war.
She couldn’t help but open a couple of those earlier letters, and read them, remembering those simpler times.
The earliest one, of course, wrote that she had arrived safely at the home of her grandparents where she would be staying. She described her small bedroom and some of the tasks she had agreed to do in exchange for the opportunity to live there and go to school at the academy. His letter of reply was mostly filled with descriptions of the harvest just getting underway, and how much he missed talking to her in person. He wished her well in her studies in the very new and different environment in which she found herself.
After Jane had been at the Academy a while, one letter dated in November that she picked up contained several references to her surprise at how often the subject of ‘women’s rights’ came up in discussion. The majority of the Academy curriculum was focused on preparation for each girl to be a good wife and mother in the modern family. However, from time to time, she noted, there were serious discussions about how important it was to recognize that the role of the wife and mother was equal to that of the husband and father. This was not the common view, she was told, but it was the truth and she should learn to think and act in that way without upsetting the people around her. She shared these thoughts with Daniel in hopes that he would take them in the best possible light. Daniel’s letters in reply did demonstrate understanding based on his memories of his mother. She had been very strong, and found ways to make things right, even when his father often started with a different view, he said. They discussed women one day getting to vote. But, they agreed, that day was likely a long way off… but it would come.
Other letters she picked out were ones where they talked about getting married ‘when the time was right’ and not do it too early. They had actually talked about this in person before she left, and now those feelings had been reinforced by what she was hearing in discussions with other girls and in some of the classes.
William and Tag played together
Mid-October Jane and William went south with Colonel Patton
It turned out that in mid-October when it was time for Jane and William to go south to meet Daniel in the Oak Creek valley, Colonel Patton was taking his carriage so he offered to take them with him in the carriage. Through the summer and fall, Colonel Patton made several trips back and forth, sometimes on horseback, and sometimes by carriage when the roads were ready. He was happy to have the company, and it worked well for Jane and William to have a relatively comfortable ride for the trip. Daniel and Lewis had also been back and forth to Jefferson City a few times, on horseback, since that first trip back in May. On each of these trips, they had taken some of their personal items with them, as well, along with supplies and animals needed in the valley.
Jane and William were tired and dusty on their arrival in the valley, but otherwise the trip had been uneventful, for which everyone was very happy. They and Daniel would be living in one side of a double cabin the men had built for them, with a dogtrot separating the two cabins. Henry and Alex lived in the other cabin along with a small room for occasional visitors. It was primitive, but Jane and Daniel were very happy to be together again along with their son, William, now approaching two-years-old.
The men were in the midst of fall harvest and Jane quickly fell back into the routine of preparing meals for hungry men, now with William there to ‘help’ of course. They now had a dog they had named “Tag” so William and Tag got to be great friends. William quickly learned that Tag liked to go get a stick, or anything else, when William threw it.
As Jane worked hard to hold up her end of the hard work of getting farm and home back to her ‘standards,’ from time to time her mind wandered back to those days at the Academy, the things she had learned there, and those letters she and Daniel had written to each other. Looking at their son, William, who was a strong, bright young boy, she recalled another important lesson she had learned at the Academy: How to keep her husband happy and working hard without having a baby every two years, like so many of the girls and women she knew did. She loved her husband very much, she reminded herself. But, she also loved having a wonderful son who she could devote her full attention to and to bring up as she believed he should be raised. Daniel was happy with that approach, as well. They talked about it regularly. Communication was so important in a marriage, she said to herself, as she finished setting the table for the men to arrive in a few minutes. She looked up briefly, said a little thank you for the husband and son she had, and looked forward to hearing the men arrive any moment.
Even with a mild winter, there was snow
That first winter passed by quickly
Between the harvest and the increased number of freight wagons to cope with, Jane and Daniel kept very fruitfully occupied throughout the rest of the fall and through the winter. Fortunately that winter of ’65-’66 was relatively mild. Daniel took a number of opportunities to fill the chinks in the logs that cold weather reminded them were there. By the time the first five-inch snow fell in January, the cabin was snug and there was plenty of firewood for the fireplace to keep them warm. There were actually only a couple of other 2-3 inch snowfalls until signs of spring began to appear, along with the rains of early April.
At a Fourth Sunday meeting, in Oak Springs, as they were beginning to get things around for spring plowing and planting, David Baldridge came over and said he’d like to talk to them about something important. Fourth Sunday had always been a time when valley residents talked together about their plans for the future, and this was no exception. He said he had talked to his sister, Sarah, and to his surprise, she still had interest in being involved in the use of their Baldridge family farmland, especially the pasture area above the ridge and the mill where their parents had raised their cattle stock. Sarah further surprised him, he added, in telling him that she had not sold off all of their breeding stock, and some cows and bulls were still theirs, being ‘boarded’ at ranches around Jefferson City. She wanted to begin bringing some of those animals back to the valley and continue breeding, and growing cows and calves there. David said that to do that, he would need the help of Daniel and Jane. Would they possibly consider doing that?
Note from Author
Much of this McDonald Tale (MT3) has been told in the short story collection, “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” but here we are seeing the activity through the eyes of Jane and Daniel McDonald, along with new material and insights. Daniel was always seen as the younger brother of Harry and not of much significance expect as eventually becoming William’s father. This Tale starts to tell a much different story that will be continued in coming Tales. These Tales are a part of “The Homeplace Saga” series of stories.
“The Homeplace Saga” family saga, historical fiction stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”
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