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Weston Wagons West - Ep. L20 - Levi Weston in Oak Springs from 1871 into 1874

Updated on July 19, 2014
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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.

Horses were the primary means of transport

A horse like many in Oak Springs
A horse like many in Oak Springs | Source

A weekly newspaper was started in Oak Springs ahead of the 1871 elections

22-year-old Alex McDonald had been the subject of discussion between Levi and Jerry Potts. They had been in Book Clubs together and at social gatherings. Jerry wanted to get Levi's impressions, essentially to confirm his own feelings, or in the alternative, to see if he was missing anything. Alex had been working for Jerry, in various capacities, including his school assignments, for nearly a year and a half when they talked. Even without formal education, Jerry found Alex very well-read, very articulate and he even wrote very well. He had learned that during the war, while he and his grandfather were alone for those years, Alex had read extensively in history, literature and the classics. They had an extensive library in the caves, and carried on many related conversations. Jerry had not realized how well-read both Henry and Laura had been, and what a fine library of books they had accumulated.

Levi said he had no reason to doubt anything that Jerry had said. Jerry then said he believed it was time to start a weekly newspaper in Oak Springs. He had done this before in others towns, and felt the time was right. He planned to hire Alex as reporter, salesman, and distributor. He also hoped to teach Alex the entire business, over time, assuming he showed interest. Levi said he felt that was a fine idea, and was sure Alex would be very pleased at the opportunity. Levi had also noticed that Alex was very inquisitive, and seemed to have a mind like a sponge. He seemed to retain everything he heard and observed, and was able to also write about it, as well. He had helped Levi with a number of advertising posters, and had been impressed how quickly he had picked up what Levi wanted and to translate that into a fine poster.

Following this conversation, Levi learned that Alex had accepted the challenge and word was soon out that a weekly newspaper, the Oak Springs Enterprise, would begin publication. Jerry Potts would be Publisher and Editor, with Alex as reporter, salesman and distributor. Polly Potts would handle the business side of the paper, as she did with each of the other businesses they ran. About this same time, Jake Patton announced his intention to retire from the Oak Creek County Commission. This, in turn, set off a chain reaction of additional election related announcements that made the early editions of the weekly newspaper great reading for the community.

The telegraph extended into Oak Springs from the Old Wire Road

A modern telephone line looks much like the telegraph lines of old
A modern telephone line looks much like the telegraph lines of old | Source

The summer and fall of 1871 saw political changes and some new businesses in Oak Springs

With Jake Patton's announced retirement from the County Commission, Gideon Inman immediately announced that he was running for the seat that Jake Patton had held since 1859. A few weeks later, Hugh Truesdale announced that he would be giving up his State Legislature seat in order to run for the State Senate. In the wake of that announcement, Lewis Truesdale announced that he would be running to succeed his father in the State Legislature. It was during that same summer that a man named Ivan Toll arrived in Oak Springs with the idea of building a new hotel, on the east side of Central Avenue, just one block south of the new Town Square. This would be just north of the existing business buildings in "downtown" Oak Springs. He hoped to have the ten-room hotel open by mid-1872, under the name "Diamond Hotel." He also planned to operate a free-standing restaurant, to be built across the street to the south, also facing on Central Avenue.

Early that fall, the Weston-McDonald Freight Line announced they had purchased the corner lot on the west side of Central Avenue, at the far north end of the town, which was less than a half-mile south of the Houston Road. Bernie Cox, from the west valley farm family, would be in charge of the new station, under the general direction of Daniel McDonald. It was also announced that a telegraph line would have a station at the facility, as well.

In the fall elections, each of the three new major candidates won their respective races. Gideon Inman was elected to the County Commission, based on the good work he had done with Jake Patton on getting Oak Creek Township resettled. He resigned his seat on the Town Council and his son, bank clerk Jacobi Inman, was appointed to replace him. Jacobi indicated his intention to seek the position in the next election, and he did. In the same manner, with his election to the State Legislature, Lewis Truesdale resigned his seat on the Town Council. Joshua Cox, who had recently moved to a new home in Oak Springs, from the family farm in the west valley, was appointed to that seat. He also expressed the intention to stand for election to the seat at the next election.

Teams of horses brought families to their new farms near Oak Springs

Horses in harness, typical of new arrivals
Horses in harness, typical of new arrivals | Source

1872 through 1874 was a period of consolidation of existing interests in Oak Springs

The Diamond Hotel, and the nearby restaurant, named the Diamond Restaurant, did open on July 1, 1872. Ivan Toll ran the hotel himself, with the assistance of his wife, Hazel, and their grown son, T.J. About this same time, David Baldridge had decided to rebuild the Lumber and Grain Store in Oak Springs to serve as an in-town outlet for the goods also available by going out to the mill. He hired as manager 18-year-old Simeon Bishop, who had recently returned from secondary school in the Jefferson City area. Most folks were at least mildly surprised how professional he was and what a fine job he did, at such a young age.

One new farm family arrived in the valley in 1873. Russell Nixon and his wife, Norma, bought the former Bartlett place, just north of Oak Springs. The nearby Dodson place, which had also set dormant since the war, was purchased by J.P. Polk and his wife, Jean, in 1874. Nationally, what became known as the Panic of 1873 may have contributed to the general lack of new businesses being started in the valley in 1873 and 1874. Others just suggested it was a sign of the times, that people were working hard to consolidate their holdings, expecting a new boom-time further down the road.

With the national centennial observance approaching in 1876, just a couple of years in the future, Jerry Potts assigned his Oak Springs Enterprise reporter to begin collecting stories from the local residents about their experience in the valley since the founding in 1833, and especially, during and since the Civil War. Alex approached this task with vigor.

Early in 1874, word was received that Jake Patton, and his wife, Kate, had each passed away, from natural causes, at their home in Jefferson City, where they had planned to spend the legislative session. Levi was saddened by the news, of course, and joined others in the valley in planning a proper commemoration of the life-long contributions of this pioneer couple. A stone monument was created to be located on the grassy knoll just east of the Patton Spring, only a few feet to the northwest of his former gun shop in the early days of the settlement. They were also buried on the site following appropriate Town Council actions. This was not far from the newly designated City Park, and the monument and pathway to it were dedicated as a permanent part of the Park, as well.

I just liked this image, so I included it! ;-)

A team of horses with white manes
A team of horses with white manes | Source

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.

These first 20 episodes of the Levi Weston story with be compiled into an ebook shortly. Thank you for your support.

“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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