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Weston Wagons West - Ep. L15 - Mid-1865 Was a Time of Critical Decisions for Many

Updated on March 23, 2019
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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.

The valley was overgrown with brush and trees

Common Hawthorn
Common Hawthorn | Source

Some decisions were harder than others

Levi Weston realized that the decisions that were being made in the middle of 1865 by the families from Oak Springs and the Oak Creek valley of southern Missouri were often very difficult for each of them to make. Levi himself was committed to returning, but not right away. Some others would be continuing to maintain a life both in Jefferson City and the Oak Creek Township of Shannon County. Hugh Truesdale, of course, would do that. His seat in the State Legislature was representing that area and surrounding areas to the west and north. He and Victoria would rebuild their home in Oak Springs.

Jake Patton continued to serve as County Commissioner and would establish his residence there in the double-cabin being built with his grandson, Lewis Truesdale, and his wife, Caroline, with their expected child. Jake and Kate would also continue to maintain their Jefferson City ranch and had invited Hugh and Victoria to continue making it their home when they were in Jefferson City. With that decision, Hugh and Victoria had sold his father Eli's house having no further use for it.

Levi knew that Harry and Sarah (Baldridge) McDonald had the hardest decision to make. Over the recent years, they had established a very good life in their new home in Jefferson City, with their daughters, Mahala, now 13 and Rebecca, now 10. Caroline was making plans to return to Oak Springs, of course. Harry and Sarah told Levi they had decided to make regular trips back to Oak Springs, but would maintain their residence in Jefferson City. Harry added that he was totally committed to making Weston-McDonald Freight Lines a continued success, and he felt he could best contribute to making that happen from Jefferson City headquarters, working closely with Jacob and Hiram. Sarah mentioned that she would continue to be actively involved in the stock brokerage business including raising cattle on the family land in Oak Creek Township.

Would Rosemary have grown in the valley?

Rosemary gets a visitor
Rosemary gets a visitor | Source

Both Gideon Inman and Victor Campbell were also involved in the Oak Springs planning

In June 1865, while Lewis Truesdale and Daniel McDonald were back in town to report on what they saw in the Oak Creek valley, Jake Patton had called a meeting in which Levi was pleased to be invited. He was mildly surprised that Gideon Inman and Victor Campbell, who were living in St. Louis during the war, were in attendance as well. They came over on the train. Hugh Truesdale and Owen Olson were also at the meeting. To assist in the resettlement of Oak Creek Township, Levi learned that Gideon Inman, in concert with Jake Patton, had maintained correspondence with nearly all of the property owners in the valley. He was now attempting to learn from each of them their intentions regarding returning to the valley.

Levi also learned that Victor Campbell had maintained, and had actually grown, the assets of the Oak Springs Savings Bank during the war years. His plans included returning to Oak Springs at an early date and have the bank up and running for the benefit of everyone in the valley. All were pleased to hear the reports of Lewis and Daniel that resettlement was reasonable. It would just take a lot of work and dedication. Lewis felt confident that some families could begin to return in the fall. He was making his plans in that direction. Owen Olson agreed to make a trip to the valley with Jake Patton before the end of June to survey the possibilities themselves, as well.

On Owen's return from that trip, he was anxious to share with Levi what he and Jake had found on their visit to the Oak Springs. Owen had discovered that although there was four plus years of brush, trees and weeds grown up around everything, without undue effort, there was quite a bit a material salvageable at each home and business site. The buildings had been burned, of course, but each area was virtually undisturbed beyond that. Owen told Levi that he actually found that to be astonishing; and good news. Owen was anxious to get back down there and get to work. Levi did notice that Owen really didn't want to talk about the experience of riding south, with Jake, to the county seat. It was obvious that they still faced much hostility while there, but, they did return alive, and apparently not physically harmed.

All took extra horses and mules on their trips to the south

Both horses and mules were needed in the Oak Creek valley
Both horses and mules were needed in the Oak Creek valley | Source

Common Heather covered some of the countryside

Common Heather
Common Heather | Source

The Weston family had matured by mid-1865 as well

Levi could not help but step back and take a fresh look at his family as he was meeting with all the others from his new, adopted home in Oak Springs as they planned to move back or to stay in their new location. Both his father, Jacob, and his mother, Dinah, were now age 65. Both were in good health and seemed to be enjoying success in their business and private lives. They visited their daughter and her husband and their family in St. Louis a couple of times a year. Ezra, 33, was well established now as the family farrier with a successful practice and two growing sons. Alfred was 8 this year and Otis had turned 3 in the spring. At 29 years-of-age, Hiram was well established in the Freight Line business and had a healthy and happy daughter, Ella, now also 3. At 42, Levi was not unhappy at never having married, and looked forward to returning to Oak Springs and re-establishing himself there, in a few more years, when the population had grown some.

Word was received in the middle of July that a small raiding party had entered the Oak Creek valley but had been turned back by the quick action of the young men being on their guard. The story was that they had all reminded themselves, during their modest 4th of July Independence Day remembrance, that raiders were still possible, and to stay on high alert. This vigilance had paid off. Owen Olson had brought the story back from the trip he made to Oak Springs with Victor Campbell, late in July of 1865. Victor had been getting anxious to really know, first hand, what was going on, and Owen had agreed to go down with him. They always traveled in pairs, for security and safety reasons, of course. On this trip, they also made their own survey of the condition of the roads, especially south of Salem and throughout the valley. Harry had asked them specifically to assess what needed done before wagons would be able to resume freight runs on those roads.

Owen and Levi had a lengthy discussion on Owen's return in late July. Owen said he felt confident his family would be ready to return fairly early in September. On each trip that anyone had made they took along extra horses, mules, and cows as well as tools and supplies needed to allow everyone there to sustain themselves better. He felt it was nearing time for the store to be back in operation as well as his blacksmith shop. Owen had entered into agreements with Jake Patton to rebuild the store and the blacksmith shop in essentially the prior locations, using existing as well as new materials to rebuild. Owen and his family would now own and operate the store, the shop, and the postal contracts that had been extended and still existed. Anna and Allison would operate the store and postal facility, as they had before the war, for the Patton family. Levi could see that Owen was getting anxious to make the move "home."

Historical note by the author

As noted in Episode L1 of this series of historical fiction family saga stories, all of the characters in this episode are fictional. Activities and events are consistent with known historical facts, but are entirely fictitious. The Jacob and Levi Weston characters, as well as the McDonalds, were first created as a part of The Homeplace Saga stories collectively identified as The Founding in Missouri. This current Lx series fills in the early years of the lives of Levi, Jacob and their family.

Some of the stories of the forthcoming "American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1875)" collection of historical fiction family saga short stories are being published on "The Homeplace Saga" blog, found at the link, below, including those introducing Levi and Jacob Weston.

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


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