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Weston Wagons West | Episode H4 | Hank settled in Jasper County Iowa

Updated on March 29, 2016

Young George Weston joined the family

A baby boy
A baby boy

George arrived as the Weston harvest season progressed

Baby George was born to Hannah and Jake in late September of 1849, as the three Weston families were hard at work harvesting the corn, and other crops, on their 320-acre farm in Des Moines Township in the southwest corner of Jasper County, Iowa. The first-cousin sisters, 9 year-old Sarah and 5 year-old Cathy, were big helpers to their Aunt Hannah with the baby. Their mother, Mary, was primary care assistant to both Hannah and the baby, of course. Newlywed Melinda was a very interested observer and provided her support in any way she could, as well. Part of this support included helping Mary with her own son, Josh, still only about eighteen months old, himself. Melinda also worked in the garden and in the orchard to finish the final gathering there and prepare for the following season.

Hank enjoyed working the harvest with his father, Joe, and his uncle, Jake, after having been away at school in Oberlin the prior four years. He threw himself fully into his share of the physical labor as well as observing and learning the techniques of farming that now came naturally to Joe and Jake. Hank also found himself asking questions in the evenings about some of their practices, and they mutually developed some new, improved processes through these discussions. As corn, soybean, oats, and hayfield crops were harvested the men also began to plow some of the land for the next year’s crops. Some new sod was also turned with their steel plow to open new land for production. With all three men working full time they expected to make maximum use of the land they had purchased here in Iowa.

Weather in Iowa, of course, played a major role in the life of every farmer in their new state. Hank learned to watch the sky to the west for possible weather changes. He kept a weather log each day, as did his father, Joe. Hank noticed that Jake never mentioned keeping a journal of any kind. Jake seemed to take each day as it came, reacting to the current situation in his own, unique way. While Hank had always ‘looked up to’ Jake, after spending a few months working with him, again, he realized there were differences in their approach to life. Some of these things that Jake did Hank admired, others not so much. At 23 years old, Hank knew that he still had much to learn about this new life on the farm. He was happy he had both Joe and Jake to learn from during those days.

The rivers flooded at Fort Des Moines site

Wikimedia image of 1851 Flood of Des Moines
Wikimedia image of 1851 Flood of Des Moines

1850 Soon Became 1851 As the Months Continued to Roll By

The three Weston couples, and their families, worked hard to make their farm in Iowa as successful as possible. Early in 1851 they learned that Joe and Jake’s father, Ferrell, had passed away, in his seventieth year, as well as his wife, a few weeks later. They were saddened, of course, but they had said their goodbyes on leaving Ohio well understanding the likelihood of this outcome. Life goes on, they knew well. Hannah was pregnant again, with the baby expected in the summer.

Each year, it seemed, another new family came into the neighborhood, settling on some unoccupied land or taking over for someone who had left, for one reason or another. The village of Newton was the county seat, about fifteen miles to the northeast, but it was hardly a town. To the west, in Polk County, the county seat, Fort Des Moines, was wiped away by a major flood of the Des Moines River in May of 1851. A few years earlier it had been an Indian Trading Post and had developed into a ‘town’ with a brick courthouse, a couple of taverns, two newspapers, a few dry goods shops and perhaps 50 or so residents from every state along with Dutch, Swedes, and others. There was also a structure owned by the Methodist church. All was lost when the Des Moines River, and the Raccoon River that entered from the northwest, “rose to unprecedented heights,” overflowed, especially to the east, and wiped out crops and buildings for miles around. The Westons had visited a number of times, so news of the destruction hit them hard along with their friends and neighbors. During the months of recovery, they also missed reading the newspapers that friends and neighbors always brought back on their return from a trip into Polk County.

Baby Jessica was born to Hannah and Jake in July of 1851 to increase the Weston family by one to a total of eleven in the house. As was their way, everyone pitched in to do what needed to be done to ease burdens and assure that all work that needed to be done was accomplished efficiently. During this summer, Hank and Jake decided it was time to respond positively to requests for farrier and blacksmithing work from neighbors when they learned of the skills of the Weston men. Previously, they had declined, wanting to focus all their efforts on their own farm. Now, they decided, they could afford to do some outside work, for money and for trade.

The Westons were pleased to learn that the good people of Fort Des Moines, in neighboring Polk County, to the west, had recovered from the flood and on September 22, 1851, incorporated as a new city near the confluence of the two rivers. It would continue to serve as a major trading center for the area.

Tool founded a nearby town

The flowering prairie
The flowering prairie

Tool’s Point became the town of Monroe

Also in 1851, a couple of miles south and ten miles to the east of the Weston farmstead a man named Adam Tool laid out a town he called ‘Tool’s Point’ along the southern border of Jasper County in Fairview Township. For a few years, this was the nearest ‘town’ to the Westons. Over time, the name was changed from Tool’s Point to Monroe. A school house was build in the town in the fall of 1851.

Monroe was too far away from the Westons to be visited on a regular basis, but they found that once a month or so the day long trip could be worth the effort for certain items of trade that became mutually beneficial. Hank especially found he enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of being around some folks who had interests besides simply the state of their crops and what needed to be done tomorrow.

Horses provided many uses

Horses grazing
Horses grazing

Note by the author

The Hx series of historical fiction family saga stories following Hank Weston consist of characters that are fictional or real persons used here fictitiously. Activities and events are consistent with known historical facts, but are entirely fictitious. The Jacob and Levi Weston characters were first created as a part of “The Homeplace Saga” stories. The first 20+ episodes of this Lx series filled in the early years of the lives of Levi, Jacob and their family, also descendents of Thomas and Fred Weston

These first 20 episodes of the Levi Weston story have been compiled into an ebook: “Weston Wagons West: Levi Weston, L1-20 (1823-1874).” Thank you for your support.

“Weston Wagons West” and “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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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 15 months ago from The Caribbean

      So many good picture images in this article: the birth of lovely babies, the little cousins helping out, Hank harvesting crops beside his father and uncle, and later in interesting conversation with the traders. It's not just the facts, but also the good-feel happenings.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Sorry I'm so late. I've been doing my real job and I'm so far behind on my reading.

      Now you're in the Holland and O'Dowd area, so this is particularly interesting to me...keep them coming. I may get here late but I will get here.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image
      Author

      William Leverne Smith 15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Dora. Very nice comments. These were interesting times, of course. They were, indeed, feeling good, at this time. Not always so fortunate, of course. Stay tuned... ;-)

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image
      Author

      William Leverne Smith 15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Bill, I'm so happy the new job is working out. I appreciate you taking the time to visit. My wife's ancestors lived in this area during these years, as well. Small world, as we well know!! ;-)

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