Ella's Challenge

Ella's Challenge

Ohio Observer, Montpelier, Ohio   February, 1859

Meadows and Wade Lumber Mill in Bryan, Ohio will become The Meadows Lumber Company as of March 1, 1859.  Long-time partner in the thriving lumber business, Mr. Shird Clemons Wade, is selling his share of the company to his partner, Henry Olin Meadows.  

Wade founded the lumber mill with Meadows in 1835 upon arriving from Pennsylvania the previous year.  “There was a need for building materials for the new community of Bryan and the small towns in the area.  We have been successful filling that need,” Wade stated.  Meadows is on a buying trip to Michigan at this time and unavailable for comment.

The Wades, with four other families from the area, plan to join a wagon train forming in South Bend, Indiana to travel the Oregon Trail to the Nebraska Territory.  Wade told this reporter he and his wife were going to join their son, Holand C. Wade, in the Platte Valley, where father and son intend to start another lumber business. The Wade son relocated there four years ago and is farming in the Platte Valley.

The community of Bryan will say farewell to the Wades in a social at the Grange Hall on Friday, March 3.


Ella’s Journal      March 1, 1859

Shird is finishing up the business with Henry Meadows today.  He has been engrossed in dealing with all the legalities while I have been preparing the household for the move.  There are so many decisions about what to take, what is essential, and what I will not live without.  Although Shird said we will not need anything ‘fancy’, I am not leaving Grandmother Melinda Hite’s lead crystal pitcher behind, even if I have to carry it on my lap the entire trek.

The wagon train leaves South Bend on April 1, so we only have a few weeks to get all our supplies gathered, the household packed up and the leftovers disposed of.  My thoughts are so scattered, a journal might help to keep track of my mind. 

Mr. Garcy, owner of the Ohio Observer, interviewed Shird about the sale and insisted on taking a photo of him for the newspaper.  I think it is a good likeness, and since I complimented him on his good looks, he persuaded me to have my photo taken too.  He made an appointment with Lockhart, the photographer here in Bryan.  Shird seems pleased with it, but I imagine that will be one of the last times I get dressed up for a good long while. 

March 3

We went over the list of supplies recommended by the organizers of the wagon train.  Shird is out now making arrangements for the wagon that is to be our home for the next few months. After that he will need to choose oxen.  He said oxen are less expensive and hardier than mules, although both can live off the rough forage along the way.  Mules cost 3 times as much as oxen.  I am to make a list of foodstuffs for him to take to the mercantile for Mr. Sweeney to prepare for us.  It is hard to comprehend the huge amount of goods we will need.

200 lbs. flour   
20 lbs. sugar           
25 lbs. coffee          
10 lbs. salt       
60 lbs. beans
25 lbs. rice
150 lbs. bacon
Pemmican (I can make that before we go)
Dried fruit
huge barrel of water
a keg of lard generous amount of Saleratus for leavening bread

And that is not all.  I am sure there are things we will want that are not on the list.

Reports said that those who had dried fruit were less likely to get sick along the way.  The tinned fruits and vegetables that have just come to the mercantile are far too expensive and too heavy for wagon trains.  There have been many cases of cholera on the Trail due to thousands of people contaminating the streams.  We’ll have to be sparing of our drinking water.   Holand wrote us that the muddy Platte River, although quite wide, is shallow, but is too thin to plow and too thick to drink.  We were told the name comes from the Oto tribe’s word for ‘flat water.’  The French trappers used the word ‘plat’, which became Platte. 

Our son dug a well on his place with plenty of good clean water at less than 30 feet.  It comforts me to know I will be able to have a deep hot bath when we reach our destination.  That will be an impossibility, I suppose, on the way.

Tonight is the social at the Grange Hall.  It is nice that the community wants to do this for us, but I suspect it is more an excuse for a party than to say they will miss us.  And I am sure those fighting over bringing the county seat to Bryan from Montpelier will be glad to see us go.  Shird made no secret of his feelings on the subject.  I think this conflict, in addition to the uneasy political situation back East, is the reason he wants to go West.  Both the county seat and abolition/secession issues have created considerable tension and division.   He has been irritable about it all, and that is why I am willing to endure the rigors of travel.  Fortunately, there has been no recent hostile activity from Indians on the route we will be taking.

March 5

The gathering at the Grange made for a pleasant evening.  It was hard to say good-bye to friends who have children who grew up with Holand. Those mothers have been dear to me, but I am determined to find new Platte River friends. I cannot dwell on the idea of never seeing them again.

The foodstuffs have been ordered. Shird brought the wagon to the house so we could begin loading it.  He said the oxen are mild mannered and easy to drive.  The beasts do not look very smart, but all four of them are sturdy, healthy looking and should see us to the end. 
There have been a few conflicts between that man and me over what constitutes necessities.  How we load the wagon is also a source of debate, but I usually win that battle since I will be the one most needing to have certain things handy.  At least the preparations are improving Shird’s mood.  Our spats are never serious, as much as he aggravates me.

March 10

Although I’ve packed a trunk with clothes we will need on our travels, it seems more practical to take along bolts of calico, muslin and cotton duck to make up as needed.  The bolts take up less space than ready-made garments, but the woolens are bulky.  Shird actually said he thought I had a good idea.

It has been difficult to pack all the necessities to be ready to go, while still providing for our daily needs.  I suppose the cooking utensils will be the last to load.  There are only 3 days left before we leave for South Bend.  Shird says that will be our ‘shakedown’ part of the trip—to see how well the wagon and our goods travel.  If we discover anything we have forgotten or need, we will have one last opportunity to get it there.  After that we will have to make do, so I am checking everything at least three times.  Shird thinks I am fussing, but I saw him doing the same thing with tools and so forth.

March 13

Shird laughed at my bundle of ‘last minute forget-me-nots.’  He held it for me as he handed me up to the wagon seat.  Before we drive out to meet the other families going with us, he inspects the wagon and animals once more, and I am making this quick note.  The Milners, Heidelmanns, Storys, and Cartwrights should make good traveling companions.   All five men appear to respect one another, and their wives have been congenial.

Good-bye, Bryan, Ohio.  We’re off to the Nebraska Territories.

Paco Bell

Paco Bell

The Quiet Snow

The Quiet Snow