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McDonald Tales | MT9 | Jane and Nellie - Sisters
Nellie rode out to the farm on Saturdays
The subscription school and the Truesdale family
Daniel and Jane (Truesdale) McDonald had fully supported the efforts of her brother, Lewis Truesdale and his wife, Caroline (Daniel’s niece), to organized the subscription school, in Oak Spings, late in the 1860s. They had been one of the very first to sign up their son, William, for the fall class in 1870, even when the school was expected to open in 1869. Jane was especially pleased that the plan, a family plan actually, was for her younger sister, Nellie, to be the teacher of the new school. Nellie had spent additional months away from home in acquiring the best available training to be a teacher. With the delay, and addition of Jerry Potts to the organization, subscriptions picked up sufficiently to begin classes in the fall of 1870. They had also contracted with Levi Weston to build two “school coach” carriages to pick up the children across the valley to get them to school.
Daniel and Jane were able to continue to concentrate their efforts on their agricultural goals with William off the school each day, along with Charlotte Crane, their neighbor, in 1st grade together. William’s Aunt Nellie was their teacher. He, of course, had to learn to call her “Miss Truesdale” at school. That became a family joke, and helped him always remember to be correct, even as a six-year-old. Since Charlotte and her mother had often visited at the McDonald home when Nellie had visited, she had to remember as well.
With the new regimen in place, Nellie’s visits with Jane took a new turn, as well. Whereas earlier, Jane had made the effort to go visit Nellie, their new routine had Nellie riding her horse out to the farm, on nice days, on Saturday mornings. Nellie enjoyed the excuse to go riding, and Jane was able to stay home and work until Nellie arrived. Then, they could spend quality time together with few outside distractions.
The saddlebags were generally full both ways
Nellie enjoyed her rides out to the farm
Nellie actually owned two Morgan mares that she enjoyed caring for at her brother’s stable across Patton Road from her home. The men at the stable looked after Hanna and Maggie when Nellie couldn’t, but she preferred to spend some time with each of them every day, and ride each of them a couple of times each week. They were available to the stable, as needed, as well. They each were typically used to pull the “school coach” carriage, from time to time, for example.
Nellie had a set of saddlebags she used on each of her visits to Jane at the farm. During the week, as she collected materials to take along, she would save them near the saddlebags, to take with her. On the return trip, she always added some newspapers or books that Jane had for her to bring back on her return trip. She would take the saddlebags across the road to the stable, saddle up one or the other of her horses, and tie on the saddlebags. Typically, she tried to leave mid-morning, so that she arrived at the McDonald farm before noontime. They would have dinner together, with Daniel and William, and then Nellie would help cleanup while Daniel went back to his work and William got busy playing or reading. Jane and Nellie would then spend a couple of hours talking about family, the community, school, and life in general, as they saw it.
Early discussions revolved around getting the school started. They agreed that both their father and their brother wanted to emulate Jake Patton on his community building and his politics. It seemed to them that Lewis was more into community building and Hugh more into politics, at present. Jane and Nellie enjoyed discussing what had happened, what was happening, and what was likely to happen next, in this regard, with their brother and their father. They agreed that the effort to start a school had been an admirable goal, and they were each proud of the result to actually get it started. Nellie was very proud to be a part of it. Jane was pleased to have been supportive from day one.
Nellie liked to ride to the farm and back
Jane and Nellie on other issues
The ongoing national women’s rights issues continued to be regular topics of discussion between Jane and Nellie, and sometimes Grace Crane joined them in those discussions. They continued to keep a low profile about it in the community, but among themselves, they kept up to date on the latest developments. Each of them had her own way of gathering newspapers and pamphlets. They shared what they had obtained with each other, so each could be discussed, and sometimes cussed, fully. They were fully aware that they lived in a very conservative community, but in their own homes, they each had their distinctive point of view.
After Jake and Kate Patton passed away in early 1874, Jane and Nellie had much more to talk about as they watched their mother, father, and brother react to the different issues that arose around property, offices and positions held, and the handling of money and property in particular. Father Hugh felt he was entitled to a firm grip on everything that Jake and Kate had left to them. Mother Victoria didn’t want to be left out of any decisions; after all, the Patton’s were her parents. Brother Lewis wanted any “piece of the action” he could get his hands on. Both Jane and Nellie felt it was their duty to keep track of everything going on in the family, and providing balance wherever possible. Sometimes, that was not possible.
Jane and Nellie agreed that they were happy when Hugh became State Senator and Lewis succeeded his father as State Representative. Those positions gave each of them a specific focus that they each seemed to need. However, the sisters worried whether either their father or their brother could also handle the increased responsibilities of money and property for which the men were now accountable. They agreed to continue to monitor the situation, share their observations, and try to be ready to assist their mother, and themselves, when the inevitable crises arose.
Note from Author
With MT9 we continue our journey through the early 1870s with a focus on Jane (Truesdale) McDonald - this time, her ongoing relationship with her younger sister, Nellie. Some details of this McDonald Tale (MT8) have 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. Some details in this story were also introduced in the Levi Weston series (Lx) of the Weston Wagons West series of stories. See Related Stories in the sidebar. Here we learn new behind-the-scene insights about this family. These Tales are an integral 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.”