Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Carylin' on the Oregon/California Trail ~ Day Two

On Day Two (Monday, December17th) of our great adventure, we woke up in Saint Joseph, Missouri! I’d never really even heard of St. Jo before the year before when I joined the Lockets and Lace Collection series written by the Sweet Americana Sweethearts Bloggers. In its planning, our leader Zina Abbott (AKA Robin Echols) informed the majority of the ladies chose the historical city for the location of the Bavarian jeweler’s shop where the beautiful lockets that would be the connection that ran through our stories were created.

The first thing I wanted to do was go find the jewelry shop 😊 Of course, it was fictitious, but I messaged Robin asking her for the address, hoping to give her a little smile! In my 2019 Lockets and Lace story UNIQUELY COMMON, they lined the covered wagons up on Francis Street waiting their turn to get on the ferry and the other side of the Missouri River. So we went looking for that very street!

On the way, we passed the statue of the Pony Express carrier which St. Jo is also known for, but that came after 1853 when my story takes place. We were not only able to find the historical street, but we followed it right down to the river just as our characters—and thousands upon thousands—did so long ago. They would wait sometimes for weeks in line for their turn. Imagine how messy the streets must have gotten. Port oxen, poor people!

You can still see how the far bank had been contoured to dock the huge ferry that would carry up to ten wagons with the oxen still hooked up to pull it on and off the ferry! Each Spring thousands of folks with a dream for a new life descended on the town of St. Jo and camped all around the hills and meadows.

This is where they would find a wagon master they trusted and join his train. Trains usually consisted of from ten to fifty wagons.

Some were going to Oregon, some to California, and others headed to Utah, but all were waiting for the prairie grasses to start growing, indicating the time had come to hit the trail.

Each year, there was only a short window for everyone wanting to go west to leave. They couldn’t go before the grasses started growing because their stock needed food, and to wait too late to leave meant risking not getting over the mountains before the winter storms set in.

The Donner Party gained great fame because they ended up eating their dead, but they were not the only ones who died in the snow and icy mountains short of their destination. The Donners only missed it by a week. Time was critical.

Ron and I planned to drive the two hundred sixty-seven miles to Fort Kearny in a few hours; it took those pioneers almost three weeks to travel to the fort in Nebraska, their first destination. It wasn’t ‘Nebraska’ back then though. When the settlers crossed the Missouri River, they were no longer in the United States, but the wild, unsettled west.

I tried to imagine how they felt. They had to be so excited to be going, They’d made the decision, planned, saved, in most cases invested their life savings. And though I’m sure they knew the trip would be hard, how could they begin to imagine the troubles and hardships they’d face? And once on the trail, there was no turning back.

The topography between Saint Jo and Fort Kearny wasn’t too hard with its gently rolling hills. The animals and people were fresh, so the first three weeks weren’t so awful.

I’m sure they were thinking, ‘We can do this.’ On reaching Fort Kearny, they’d only put about fifteen percent of their two-thousand-mile trip behind them.

The grazing around the Fort was plentiful and the Platte River’s water, sweet. It was at Fort Kearny that the settlers picked up and started traveling parallel to the Platte River.

All the trains traveled alongside the rivers, and it was the Platte and North Platter that took them a long way, providing water for the animals and pioneers on the trail. 

In those days, the government was interested in emigrants settling the west. Their goal was for the “Manifest Destiny” to come to fruition, for the United States to stretch from sea to shining sea! So, they built the forts to help them on their way. The pioneers could rest a few days there, restock, make repairs.

The forts purposes weren’t really what I’d thought from all the ‘Old West’ movies and TV programs, and not all of them even had walls like we envision. Fort Kearny had a collection of buildings that expanded to as many as thirty in its latter years. Television would have us believe Indians were a constant threat.

But in fact, the red men were friendly to the travelers and helped them. There’d be as many teepees camped around the forts as prairie schooners to trade. Some traded their animals for fresh ones, expendable household goods for food, trinkets like mirrors or hairbrushes for tools.

The natives knew the covered wagons were only traveling through and posed them no threat. It was in the later years, after the hundreds and thousands of settlers littered the pristine lands and started stopping and settling their lands in the mid and late 1860s that attacks became common on the trails.

Fort Kearny was built in 1845, the year after the first wagon train headed west, served twenty-three years as a U.S. Army fort, and was never attacked. It was the eastern anchor of the Great Platte River Road (a portion of the Oregon/California Trial) and an important waystation for military and travelers. They could send or receive mail there.

In the 1850s, when the most pioneers migrated as many as two thousand emigrants and ten thousand oxen passed through Fort Kearney in a day during late May, the height of the season.

Next destination Ash Hollow! Plus lots more on Day Three!

BIO: Award-winning Author Caryl McAdoo prays her story brings God glory! And her best-selling novels are blessed with a lion’s share of 5-Star ratings! With forty-three-and-counting titles, she loves writing as well as singing the new songs the Lord gives her—listen to a few at YouTube. She celebrated fifty years of marriage to Ron in 2018, and the couple shares four children and eighteen grandsugars. The McAdoos live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County, in far Northeast Texas, waiting expectantly for God to open the next door. 

Contact Caryl: Amazon   BookBub   Website   Facebook   Twitter   Google+ 

Be watching for UNIQUELY COMMON, Caryl's 2019 Lockets and Lace title launching in April and REMI, her May release that picks up where UNIQUELY COMMON leaves off . . . same characters, different love story. :) SAVE THE DATES for Cover Reaveal Parties! February 21st for REMI, and the authors of the Prairie Roses Collection! And March 4th for UNIQUELY COMMON and all the new 2019 Lockets and Lace titles!     

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