William Hays, Overland in Wagons, Part 3

The story continues in the October 15, 1914 Skidmore New Era, on page 9:

Overland in Wagons From Illinois to Mo.
A Few of the Difficulties Encountered by the Prairie Schooner Traveler.

Written by William R. Hays, 234 Grant St., Denver, Colorado.

(Continued from last week)

It will be remembered that in my former article I wrote that we had employed Reuben Parrish to roof, floor and clink the house heavily. We had the lumber sawed at Smock’s Mill, etc. Well, we found the house roofed, but no shutters to windows or doors, no chinking, no floor, no way to get from one 18 foot square room to the other except to climb over the log partition or from outside. You remember we stacked hay here the Fall before, so we set to work chinking the cracks between the hewn logs with hay, and also sawed out a partition door, set up a stove or two, and that night had the pleasure of sleeping in the new house.

We visited King Grove and bought a milk cow, and also bought a mutton and we kept buying a sheep once a week all summer, and no people ever enjoyed any kind of meat better than we did all that summer. Mrs. Clarissa Grigsby was an excellent bread maker (salt rising) and this with stewed mutton and the soup cooked just exactly right every day is something to remember a life time.

Soon Grigsby and Coston started a blacksmith shop and also a 24 inch prairie plow of the Parlin and Osendorf pattern, with truck to hold itself, the driver of the four or five yoke of cattle only having to press a lever at ends to raise the plow out and raise the lever again to put it in the ground.

James T. Hays and the writer also started a twenty inch plow with three yoke of cattle, so that by fall all together we had farms opened, and then we hauled fencing from Bigelow saw mills and bought smooth wire No. 6 and did quite a little fencing that fall. In the meantime Joseph Bone was making burr oak posts.

My father had Wm. Albright saw him a bill of hard lumber for his residence at Burr Oak. Father resided the first summer at Fillmore and Wm. Albright’s mill was west of there. We hauled the lumber up from there in the fall and Thomas Torrence and his father built the house that fall.

In August of that year, the writer took his cattle team and plow to his quarter of land opposite Robert Bagby’s and plowed forty acres, boarding with Uncle Robert in the meantime, and he and Mr. Bagby formed a strong friendship. In the fall of 1860 I sold this land to Robert Bagby for $1100.00, taking half cash and half in young mules. I invested five hundred dollars in a quarter of land in Brown county, Kansas, four miles northeast of Hiawatha, which I sold in 1868 for $900.

I remember that on July 4, 1859 I remained at home and broke prairie whilst all the young folks at Burr Oak attended the celebrations at Maryville. By this time our log house had been made quite respectable, and there was a shop and a small stable.

During this first fall we were very busy. I broke the forty acres of prairie in front of Uncle Robert Bagby’s in August. Would get up at daylight to find my ox team crossing the Nodaway a mile or more south of your townsite, and then after crossing and recrossing the river several times after the cattle and driving them to the correll, I would be ready for an early breakfast. These cattle would occasionally get back to Burr Oak and had not the river been low, I should have had to swim my horse in getting them back and more than once my horse swam the river after steers who seemed to hunt the deepest water to bother me. This only shows a small part of the experience of Nodaway’s first settlers.

During the building of my father’s residence at Burr Oak, we young folks made frequent trips to Fillmore, where my father lived that first summer, and until his house was ready for the family. As before stated, father bought his lumber of Wm. Albright near Fillmore, and we were hauling it as fast as possible to keep up with the carpenters. We also visited my mother’s brother, James McDonald, who had settled in Savannah, Mo., moving there from Kentucky in 18-6.

In the spring of 1860 Uncle James moved his large family to California, where his son, Dr. Richard McDonald, was living, who afterwards became president of the Pacific Bank of San Francisco, capital two million dollars. Without bragging, I must tell you this family of nearly a dozen boys and girls were the finest looking whole family that I have ever seen. Dr. Wakefield (long since deceased) married the eldest daughter, Milly Ann, who was buried at Savannah, and the doctor afterwards married a Miss Roberts, whose family lived near Amazonia. All of this fine family now living are in San Francisco, and Oakland, so far as I am aware.

During the winter of 1859-60, congress was having an excitable time, particularly over the Compromise Bills, trying to reconcile the South regarding slavery. The Globe Democrat was the most radical outspoken Republican paper and the New York Day Book, the most radical outspoken advocate from a southern Democratic standpoint in politics. Both these papers were taken and read by the people of this vicinity, and the writer formed his opinions a great deal from the reading of these papers.

I remember visiting a family by the name of Gamble, who lived several miles west of Burr Oak, on the little Tarkio, two miles south of Walkup Grove. I think it was in January, 1860, and we were reading the account of the caning, Brooks, of South Carolina, gave Charles Sumner, in the Senate chamber in Washington, D. C. a few days before. This difficulty developed quite a war feeling between the North and the South, and we had been taking sides for two years already on account of such acts, and many warm controversies were indulged in about this time.

Of course we folks from the free state of Illinois had our opinions regarding slavery, and no doubt many Illinois people were truthfully called Abolishionists, but not one of the Burr Oak folks were Abolishionists, and yet when the election came off in the fall of 1860, four of us voted for Abraham Lincoln for president of the United states, and some may inquire why we did such an unpopular thing as that was known to be, in any slave state, at that excitable time. Already many threats had been made by members of congress who represented Southern States, that if Lincoln was elected President they would favor secession of the Southern States from the Union, and already they had opposed every measure of compromise offered in congress. So we people of the free states had become convinced that Abraham Lincoln was the most conservative, well informed man we could expect to save the Union. Sometimes the foresight of man brings him out all right as we think it did in this vote for Lincoln, and often men make wonderful disasterous mistakes by following the dictates of their feelings and prejudices instead of their more conservative reason. At this time Uncle Robert Bagby was for the Union candidate, John Bell, of Tennessee.

It was fortunate for us in Missouri that there were four presidential candidates. This seemed to neutralize the animosities that would have been exhibited had only Breckenridge and Lincoln been running. I remember one striking illustration to prove this view. Robert Bagby, J. D. Hall, Nim Wood and myself were surveying and reviewing a public highway from near Graham up the river past Robert Bagby’s door, and in passing Judge Wm. V. Smith’s, and when crossing the bottom southeast of Downey’s, Hall and I were talking politics when Hall insulted me very emphatically, and he and I were reaching for each other. Things looked a little serious, but Uncle Robert got in between us and poured the oil of kindness on us. Hall was by no means conservative. Hall and I had pleasant business relations after the Civil War, however

(To be Continued Next Week)

Alas, our story ends here, as it seems the October 22 edition of the New Era did not survive. If you’re part of the Hays, Grigsby or Coston clan and know “the rest of the story,” we’d love to hear it. You can e-mail us at nostoryuntold at gmail dot com.

Stay tuned — we’ll print Mr. Hays’ earlier account tomorrow. Another member of the Hays family also sent an account in to the paper in 1917.

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