Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sundays with Steve - Crossing the Plains

These Sunday's segments are written by my husband, Mr. Jenny. Here's what he has to say about his posts:

Since I’ve started writing “Sundays with Steve”, I’ve been thinking about vignettes of my life growing up in North Idaho. I realize the town where I grew up and the life I lived with my family is really a classic, all-American story. Perhaps you will recognize some of your childhood in these writings. And perhaps you will recognize the town you grew up in along with some of the characters you knew. Mrs. Steve has encouraged me to write these attempts of “creative writing” as opposed to the more factual journalistic style I was trained in and practiced in my early career many years ago. So my apologies if I stumble a bit here and there trying to blend the two styles together.


This is a continuation of Crossing the Plains, a fascinating tale of a covered wagon trip from Missouri to the Washington Territory in the post-Civil War period when the U.S. population poured to the West. It was written by a distant great great aunt, Barbara Jane Matlock McRae in 1939, when she was 81. This story will occupy this space for the next several weeks, as it is a fascinating peek into what we often consider the pioneer days.

Part 11


When a bunch of cow boys road up and wanted lunch, and as we ran a wayside inn, my father and mother and I went out to prepare the meal. There was one desperado by the name of Hank Vaughn. He decided he was going in the living room where the church services were, shoot up the place, and make the preacher dance a jig. My father locked the door and told him he dident want any disturbence, for him to eat his meal and be on his way. He finely gave in and as they road away they were firing six shooters in the air.

The Spokane army post was being built at this time just to the north of us, and lots of suplies were being taken in by the Government with Government teams, soldiers being stationed there. Some one had taken a ranch where Spokane is now, and laid out some town lots for sale. At that time the whole Spokane prarie was open to settlers. My father was sorry in later years that he dident go to where Spokane now stands and take a claim. Between the years of 1877 and 1880 the country had changed quite a lot and began to settle. A town had started at Spokane and at Cheeney, and Sprague. Building suplies were packed into Cheeney and Sprauge with mule pack trains. I stood in the cabbin door one day and counted 250 mules pass by on the old Indian trail, packed with such loads that they could hardly walk. Some of the mules were loaded with too barrels of surgar. In those days sugar came in barrels, it was all brown sugar as there was no such thing as white sugar then. It was a sight to see so many mules packed with barrels and boxes.

The rail roads were being built from the east toward the west by this time. Between 1879 and 1885 a rail road had been built from the east to Pendleton in Oregon, and a branch line had been extended to Spokane. When that was done, Spokane began to boom. Between 1878 and 1888 renegade horse thieves and cattle thieves over ran the country. They drifted in from every where. Cow boys and buck a rews were aplenty. On Sundays they would gather up a bunch of wild horses and all hands would show their skill at riding. Cattle buyers came into the country to buy beef cattle to drive back east, and cow boys a plenty would be on hand for the round up.

After Chief Joseph’s band of Indians was captured and sent out of the country, things became quieter in the Indian uprisings. In 1879 General Sherman came through with his escort of soliders from the east, on a trip of Inspection. He went through Lewiston and the Camas prarie country, over the Lolo trails into Montana, then came back by Cordelane (Couer d’Alene) and down through the Spokane prarie and Spokane falls, and followed the old Indian trail through the country to our place on the Palouse river. He called a halt when he got there of about too hours rest, as traveling over the rough trails was tiresome. The General came in the house and visited with my father and mother. My mother served coffee which he seemed to enjoy verry much. His bodygards stood at atention at each side of the door all the time he was there. He was a fine old gentleman. When he went to leave he shoke hands with all the family, and bid us good bye, and said how much he had enjoyed the visit even though my father had been a southern soldier in the war. We thought we had a big treat to get to see and visit with General Sherman.

When we first went out to Washington in 1875 there were no schools in Colfax. In time the small town had a little school house and the whole of Whitman county was all in one district. There were so many of us youngsters and others thah needed schooling that the neighbors got together and decided to build a school house. They cut the district in to too and we had the rest of the county in our district. They built a small school house and hired a teacher. He was from Maine, and used opium. He would sit in the school house and smoke opium in his pipe. But he taught a verry good school for three months a year. Our next school teacher was a neighbor from the Willamit valley of Oregon who had been sick with rumatism all winter. He wasent a verry well educated man. They thought he would do, so they hired him for the next three months. After that teachers came in from the east and there were plenty of teachers.

TO BE CONTINUED ON SUNDAY, April 17

(c) 2010 Stephen J. Matlock
This publication is the exclusive property of Stephen J. Matlock and is protected
under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this post/story may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, Stephen J. Matlock. All rights reserved.

7 comments:

Ames said...

It sort of threw me off when she started talking about her mother again in the present tense, after she had already written that she died 3 years after giving birth to the last baby.
I think it was neat that she got to meet General Sherman and knew the significance of meeting him back then.
I have so enjoyed reading this Steve, and I am glad there will be at least another installment for me to enjoy with my morning coffee next week. See ya next week!~Ames

Mumsy, Chancy and Co. said...

Another interesting chapter. My, my what experiences they had. Interesting they only had brown sugar back then, that is my favorite sugar. Meeting General Sherman must have been an exciting time for her. Looking forward to next Sunday. Hugs

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Very interesting piece. I've really enjoyed some of the history in the midwest during travels, but have never made it all the way out to Oregon or Washington. Hopefully one day!

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Very interesting piece. I've really enjoyed some of the history in the midwest during travels, but have never made it all the way out to Oregon or Washington. Hopefully one day!

H said...

Fancy having a teacher who used opium!

Watching all of those mule trains passing by must have been a little like living right next to a motorway (Do you call them Interstates?). I wonder how they felt about all of the development happening around them; incomers and railroads and cowboys...

Pondside said...

A teacher who smoked opium! How times have changed! I taught on a reserve in the north and came in after a teacher who'd had a terrible drinking problem. He'd ordered all the books and supplies and then put them in a room and left them. A year later when I arrived I had to shovel out the moldy and mice-chewed books - what a waste!

Judie said...

Steve, I really hate for this to end!! It is such a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!