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Weston Wagons West - Ep. T6 - Life went on for the Weston family and Preston family in Williams County

Updated on May 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.

Asa Thomas worked as a carpenter

Nineteenth Century carpenters at work
Nineteenth Century carpenters at work | Source

Life went on

In November 1837, a third child was born to Truman and Esther Weston. They named him Jack, joining 5-year-old Phebe and 2-year-old Martie.

On 10 Jun 1838, Asenath married a second time to Asa Ruggles Thomas, a carpenter born in Maine in 1799, who lived a few miles north of the Weston Ranch, in Florence Township. At the time of their marriage, he was 39, she was 35. Three sons followed, in August 1839, July 1841, and Jun 1843.

During these years, whereas Alice, aged 14 in 1841, was very helpful to her mother with the new babies, the same was not true with the Preston boys. The boys in the family and their new step-father were always at odds with each other, it seemed, on several levels. Billie, now going by William, wanted to be a farmer, even at age 15. His parents finally agreed with him that they would all be best off with him earning his own way, and learning the trade, from a neighboring farmer. This worked even better than they had anticipated. He thrived in this new environment.

By the time they were ten years old, in the winter of 1842, Asa, the step-father, had decided the younger Preston boys would also be better off working for someone else. Both George and Henry thereafter worked on other farms, earning their own way, with the blessing of their legal parents.

Morgan Horses

The Morgan horse became a staple among the Weston herd
The Morgan horse became a staple among the Weston herd | Source

Life on the Weston Ranch

By 1845, J.P., already long and lanky, was spending much time at the Weston Ranch, with his best friend, Martie, and working with the horses, even at ten years of age (and very unhappy when he was at home). The Thomas' and the Weston's finally agreed that J.P. would thereafter live at the Weston Ranch and earn his keep helping with the growing herd of horses. This herd now began to include Morgan horses, that J.P. especially enjoyed.

Phebe, now age 13, was also showing a special knack around the horses. Truman was enjoying teaching her aspects of horsemanship he had expected only to share with his sons. She showed signs of being able to train horses, and he worked with her on those skills.

When Martie reached his 12th birthday, in 1847, it was time to him to begin to apprentice in the farrier trade. J.P. continued to spend more time with other aspects of raising the horses, as well. Young Jack, just two years their junior, followed them around, helping where he could, and learning all the time.

The Thomas family moved in new directions

By February of 1847, just after her 20th birthday, Alice Preston had met and subsequently married a neighbor, Lucius Van Wormer, and moved away to create her own home and family.

In Jun 1847, the younger Thomas boy, born four years earlier, to the month, passed away, having always been sickly and in ill health. This left two sons in the family, 8-year-old Elihu, and 6-year-old Edward. The loss of the younger son drew Asenath ever closer to the other two boys.

Asa, as a carpenter, Asenath, Elihu and Edward appear in the 1850 U.S. Census in Florence Township. [They moved to Jones County, Iowa, in 1854, to a farm, where they lived for many years.]

The Weston family continued to grow in their life on the ranch

Martie reached age 14 in 1849 about the same time as news of the California Gold Rush was received. Martie was too interested in choosing his two Morgan horses to care about anything else. J.P. on the other hand gathered all the news he could about the Gold Rush and talked with Martie about it, incessantly. At Truman's urging, Martie kept his attention focused on his ongoing farrier, and now blacksmithing, apprenticeship. These services were in demand to a greater extent, each day, as new people continued to arrive in the community, in need of services.

Jack began his farrier apprenticeship, having become 12, and progressed rapidly in his learning.

Phebe had been pleading her case to Truman that she was just as entitled to receive two Morgan horses as her brothers were; she did not press for four. She loved the horses, but she also read her mother's books and the newspapers that were always in their home. She knew that women around the country were beginning to seek their "proper" rights with respect to their male counterparts. She presented her case firmly and fervently, so that Truman knew he had to take it seriously, in one way or another.

Ancestors in the California Gold Fields

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Changes came to the Weston family

On her eighteenth birthday, in 1850, Truman gave his daughter, Phebe, her choice of two of the Morgan mares that they had mutually agreed were the best fit for her interest and talents. This was the first time this arrangement was made in the Weston family, but it would not be the last.

By the time Martie turned 16, in 1851, he earned his third and fourth horses and completed his apprenticeships. However, he and J.P., by this time, had also made the decision to go to California.

Martie's parents, both Truman and Esther, recognized that Martie and J.P. would not be having their minds changed. Phebe was committed to continuing to help with the horses and Jack was making excellent progress towards taking over Truman's farrier and blacksmithing work in a few years.

Truman decided that he trusted Martie's judgement and would not stand in his way. So, he contacted his brother, Charles, to arrange some family support for their efforts along the way. Following their mother's death in 1832, Charles, in 1834, had migrated to Mercer county, Illinois, not far from the Mississippi River. Arrangements were soon in place for Martie, J.P., and their horses to make the trip to Illinois along with two mules carrying supplies and some necessary tools for Martie to carry on his trade. J.P. was pleased to be on the trip to assist Martie with the animals so as to reach their destination. They were confident they could get on with a wagon trail to California with their skills, their animals, and their ambition.

Panning for gold in California

Martie and J.P. prepared to head for the California gold fields where panning for gold seemed the way to riches.
Martie and J.P. prepared to head for the California gold fields where panning for gold seemed the way to riches. | Source

Historical notes by the author

As with earlier episodes in this series of historical fiction family saga stories, each member of the Weston family is fictional in support of all the other characters, places, and activities which are actual historical characters, places and events used fictitiously but adhering as close as possible to all known historical facts.

J. P., James P., Preston was the great-grandfather of the author. The specifics of his youth are speculation based on the combination of known records and his personal accounts of his life. In May 1852 he joined a wagon trail to California and arrived in Sacramento in the fall. His name, J. Preston, appears in newspaper accounts at both the departure point and the destination point, and fit with his later personal recollections.


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    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Nice of you to visit. Preserving the stories is so important, as you say! Best wishes in you work! ;-)

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 3 years ago from Missouri

      Very interesting to read about the history of our country and those who made it. I too am researching and "writing" our family history, mostly for my children's sake. Too much of history is lost, and perhaps work like ours will instill a pride of heritage into future generations. Good work and I will definitely be reading the other chapters of your family.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Your comment is greatly appreciated! ;-)

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Yes, I agree, this is fascinating to read of our country's history and your family's part in it. Great read!

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, again, so much. Your opinion is valuable to me, and motivates me! ;-)

    • W1totalk profile image

      W1totalk 4 years ago

      This is just a very colorful creation of historical accuracy. Great hub.