Sunday, March 20, 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 8

In this valley we saw our first frendly Indians. After passing through this fertil country we came to Idaho and Boise City and campted their for a month. The teams were faged and tired. We thought we should get them in a pasture which we did, and my father and older brothers worked in harvest for a man by the name of Gray. My mother helped Mrs. Gray to cook for the harvesters. I kept camp and the children. Mr. Gray’s farm was just at the edge of Boise City. At that time, Mr. Gray had a large farm. Our camp on Mr. Gray’s farm was under some large trees in a nice green meadow, just our family and one other that had left Council Bluff with us. After the harvest was over, we started on for Walla Walla Washington. We folled the old Oregon trail out of the Boise Valley up through Weiser, Idaho. In those days in Boise Valley the farmers raised wonderful vegetables and were so generaous with them.

We traveled on through Grand Round Valley, Oregon and pased through Union Town and LaGrand, Oregon and on over the Blue Mountains to Walla Walla, Washington. My parents thought that we must be getting near our destination. We campted out three or four miles before we got to Walla Walla in Alane on the farm of Mr. Laster. I have passed the place where we campted many times since.

We stopped in Walla Walla and laid in a supply of food and clothing at Dusenberrys and Schabachers stores. Walla Walla at that time was not very large, just dust and cobble stones in the streets. It was a rough town in those days where miners and gamblers gathered to spend the winter in farrow games and gambling, fighting, shooting and killing and drinking. It had been a worse town a fiew years previous. They had a viglanders commite and a good many desparate characters had been taken out and hanged. I was shown a big pine tree several years later that I was tole that several men had been hung from its branches. We found out some way that we were onley a little over hunred miles from what was called the Palouse country in Washington or the Palouse river where my uncle lived. He had come out west five years before we came. He came in 1865. He sold his team some where in Iowa and crossed to Salt Lake on the UP rail road, and then he bought an other team at Salt Lake and came the rest of the way by wagons as there were no rail roads to come any farther than Salt Lake or Ogden. Walla Walla was called Fort Walla Walla then. There was an army fort there and soldiers stationed in case of uprising of the indians, of which there were thousands of them roaming the country. The fiew settlers could go to the fort for protection in case of an up rising.
We got our supplies and among them father bought several large wate melons, the first we had seen all summer. And we started on the last lap of our journey. The roads were bad dusty and full of chuck holes. The farmers had been hauling wheat to Walla Walla for shipment down the Columbia river to Umatilla where they unloaded it and hauled it below the rapids and then loaded it on boats bound for Portland, to be shiped by sea going veseles for markets of the world. A fiew years later than our journey writing, old Dr. Baker as he was known, built a narrow gage rail road from Walla Walla to Walula so farmers could ship their grain that far by rail which proved very sucessful in those days. That country was nothing but a wilderness, it was just a wagon trail to haul freight and grain. Men would take a load of grain down to Umatilla and bring back a load of freight for Walla Walla. My husband hauled freight from Umatilla to Walla Walla with a six horse team for years, that was before I ever met him. At the time of our journey the government was building the Cascade Locks down on the Columbia river which when finished filled a long felt need.

It is so different now with the beatiful high ways, one can hardly believe it is the same place. I just made a trip from Portland to Spokane by way of Walla Walla. As I road along at a fast fifty miles an hour, I thought how diferent it is now from 1875.


(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.


Donnie said...

Another great installment. When we go back to North Carolina next week I know I'll gaze out the window of the car and look into the hills and ridges. When I do I always wonder at the people who traveled where there were no roads, going to an unknown place. Now I'll think of your great,great aunt Barbara.

Pondside said...

As your great aunt travels into familiar (to me) country I think of how it is now all so layered in the the remains of years of modernization. It's just taken 150 years to pave it all over. We sure have it easy!

Ames said...

It's amazing to think of all the changes your great,great aunt has lived through. I am so glad she remembered as much as she did and had the foresight to write it down.

I live five houses away from a neighbor who is 96 years old. She has been sharing the history of my hometown with us. It's so very fascinating to me. I have really enjoyed your aunt's story. Thank you for sharing it with us.~Ames

Karen said...

Yet another fascinating chapter. I don't want the story to end! When I was a child we drove from the east coast to Colorado many times. I never appreciated how quickly we traveled the 1800 miles to and from.

Reading your aunt's story has become a nice part of my Sunday mornings, along with watching the Sunday Morning show on CBS:)

Cynthia Lloréns said...

Hi Jenny....I just love your blog at all...
I read your post and I really enjoy your story..
Hugs from Brazil
I'm your follower and I will came again for sure!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Walla Walla was a pretty wild place back then. I have been there and I have to agree it changed a lot since the 1800's. Just look how much everything has changed since then. I am still enjoying reading this Steve. Looking forward to next Sunday. Hugs

H said...

It feels weird to hear her talk of riding on a highway in a car. How quickly things changed!

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

I always enjoy my 'reads' over here. Jenny you do a bang~up job!

God bless and enjoy this beautiful Spring day!!! :o)