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Weston Wagons West - Ep. T7 - Charles Weston moved to Mercer County, Illinois
Charles left Picqua, Ohio, and found a new home
At age 42, in 1834, Charles Weston sold off all but six of this horses, packed two mules with his farrier and blacksmithing tools, along with basic supplies for a few months, and joined a small group of others on a trip to the frontier, along the Mississippi River: New Boston, Mercer County, Illinois. The Black Hawk War was over, and there were those who believed this would be a great place to settle. Charles agreed, and looked forward to the trip and a fresh start. It had been nearly two years since his mother died, and his younger brother, Jacob had already left for a new beginning of his own.
There were probably no more than a hundred or so people in this little river town when Charles and his party arrived. Being single, and wanting to get out the word that his farrier and blacksmithing services were available, Charles met most of the residents in the first couple of weeks there. Of particular interest were a group of about 25-30 people that had come from Virginia, the same state of origin as his parents. In talking to them, he met a widow lady, Lucy Cramer, who said she was from Fauquier County. As they talked, she remembered the name Weston, Elmer, the older, as well as Clark, his son, both in the blacksmithing trade. They were cousins of Charles.
Lucy said her husband had died in a river accident on the way out, leaving her and their two daughters, Ruth, 12, and Jane, 10, to fend for themselves. They got some help from their traveling companions, and decided to continue the trip, rather than turning back. They had come down the Ohio River, then up the Mississippi to New Boston. She had been taking in work, as she could, as a seamstress, since they arrived a little over a month earlier.
Rock Island a few miles north of Mercer County
Learn about the Mississippi River - I own this book!
New life in the new land
Having so much in common, and Charles offering to help any way he could, they ended up spending a lot of time together, and in a few months decided to marry and share their lives together. The girls adored Charles, and soon they were joined by a son, Orin, born in 1836, and Oliver, born in 1838.
Shortly after Oliver was born, word was going around about a "Duncan Settlement" of former Virginia residents a few miles to the north and east of New Boston. After a visit to the Duncan Prairie, it did not take long for Charles and Lucy to decide to move there and make it their home as well. Some of the Duncan members, and there were a flock of them in the settlement, along with several married daughters of the two Duncan brothers, had know the Weston blacksmith father and son, in Fauquier County, as well. With this introduction, Charles soon became a busy farrier and blacksmith in the community.
Buford Duncan had been the first to settle in what soon became Duncan Township on the north edge of of what we know today as Mercer County, the second county in from the river. He was soon followed by a daughter, Eliza, and her husband James Vernon. A year or so later, Buford's younger brother, Braxton, his wife, Araminta, and other family members also arrived. Charles, the father of the brothers, a Revolutionary War soldier, had planned to come, too, but died shortly before Braxton left Virginia for Illinois.
Braxton and his wife had a daughter, Manitia, born before their arrival in Illinois. A son, Oscar, was born in 1841, and a daughter, Ann Eliza, was born in March of 1842. Another son, Granville, was born late in 1844. Braxton was a man of "slender constitution" but manage to father ten children in total, but he was not a leader. Buford was already 60 years old by 1847, so a good deal of the leadership of the family, and the community, fell to Buford's son-in-law, James Vernon. Along with a neighbor, William Epperly, James Vernon was remembered in the area as a community leader.
Mississippi RIver Steamboat of the mid-1850s
River Boat Rides
Have you ridden a river boat?
Life in Mercer County, Duncan Township, in 1850
Life was good for the Charles and Lucy Weston family in Duncan Township. Daughter, Ruth, had married R.J. Davenport and they lived on a farm about 2 west of the home place. They had two children, as son and a daughter. Daughter, Jane, had married P.T. Bosworth, and lived on a farm two miles east and one mile north. They had one daughter.
Their sons, Orin and Oliver, were following in their father's footsteps by learning the farrier's and blacksmithing trade while helping Charles raise his herd of Morgan horses for sale, rent and use on the ranch and farmland. Orin was 14 this year, and received his first to horses, according to Weston custom, and Oliver had just begun his apprenticeship on his 12th birthday.
Lucy had helped to form a ladies reading club as well as was an active participant in the garden club. In 1849, Charles and Lucy had taken a steamboat ride down the Mississippi River to St. Louis, and had a week long visit with Jacob Weston, the brother of Charles, and his wife and son, in Missouri.
Typical Cable Ferry
Word arrived of visitors from Ohio in late 1851
In August, Charles learned that his nephew, Martin, and his friend, J. P. Preston, would be arriving to spend the winter. They would be on their way, in the spring of 1852, to cross Iowa and catch a spring wagon train to California. Truman said the young men had made good plans, he had done what he could do for them, and asked that Charles continue to support them and get them on their way, in the spring, as best he could. The family, and especially the boys, looked forward to the arrival of the young men in the middle of September.
As soon as Martie and J.P. arrived and got settled in, they immediate made themselves available to neighboring farmers as laborers to earn addition cash or barter during the balance of the harvest season. It did not take long for them to find several opportunities and they demonstrated their level of commitment, to everyone, by performing at an admirable pace in each job they tackled.
With the end of the harvest season, Martie and J.P. settled into getting to know the neighbors better, and seeking out information that would be useful to them in the spring. Then went into New Boston to inquire about the use of the Ferry, and talk to people who were using it, as they waited their turn to cross. By the time winter was over, they had made arrangements to join up with a group also headed for Council Bluffs where they would join a wagon train for California. The excitement built as the time for departure approached. [Follow their next adventure in Episode P1 of this series of stories.]
Learn more about wagon trains
Historical notes by the author
While each of the Weston family and extended family members are fictitious, all the other persons mentioned are actual historical figures used fictitiously based on the best information available at the time of the writing.
Ann Eliza Duncan was the author's great-great grandmother so the other Duncan family members are comparably related as well.