Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail - Ezra Meeker, Howard R. Driggs - ebook
Kategoria: Humanistyka Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1922

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Opis ebooka Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail - Ezra Meeker, Howard R. Driggs

The Oregon Trail--what suggestion the name carries of the heroic toil of pioneers! Yet a few years' ago the route of the trail was only vaguely known. Then public interest was awakened by the report that one of the very men who had made the trip to Oregon in the old days was traversing the trail once more, moving with ox team and covered wagon from his home in the state of Washington, and marking the old route as he went. The man with the ox team was Ezra Meeker. He went on to the capital, where Mr. Roosevelt, then President, met him with joy. Then he traversed the long trail once more with team and wagon--back to that Northwest which he had so long made his home. This book gives Mr. Meeker's story of his experiences on the Oregon Trail when it was new, and again when, advanced in years, he retraced the journey of his youth that Americans might ever know where led the footsteps of the pioneers. The publication of this book in its Pioneer Life Series carries forward one of the cherished purposes of World Book Company--to supply as a background to the study of American history interesting and authentic narratives based on the personal experiences of brave men and women who helped to push the frontier of our country across the continent.

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Fragment ebooka Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail - Ezra Meeker, Howard R. Driggs

About

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE AUTHOR

Part 1 - FROM OHIO TO THE COAST
Chapter 1 - BACK TO BEGINNINGS
Chapter 2 - BOYHOOD DAYS IN OLD INDIANA

About Meeker:

Ezra Meeker (December 29, 1830–December 3, 1928) was an early pioneer who traveled the Oregon Trail by ox cart as a young man. Beginning in his 70s, he worked tirelessly to memorialize the trail, repeatedly retracing the trip of his youth. He was the principal founder of Puyallup, Washington. Meeker was born in Huntsville, Ohio, to Jacob and Phoebe Meeker; his family relocated to Indiana in 1840. Married in 1851, in 1852, with his wife and his newborn son Marian, he headed to the Oregon Territory during the era of the donation land claims, ending up near Puget Sound. They settled permanently in Puyallup in 1862, where Meeker began growing hops for brewing beer. By 1885 his business had made him wealthy. His wife Eliza Jane convinced him to allow her to build a mansion similar to those she had seen in Europe. Three years and $26,000 later, her mansion was finished. However, in 1891 an infestation of hops aphids destroyed his crops and nearly ruined him. He subsequently tried a number of ventures, including dehydrating fruits and vegetables, working on packaging milk in paper containers, and four largely unsuccessful trips to the Klondike looking for gold. He also wrote a novel about his experiences on the trip west. Meeker is an important figure in what is now the southern portion of King County and the eastern parts of Pierce County. A statue to Meeker was erected near the Puyallup Library in 1926. —Wikipedia, 5 November 2009

About Driggs:

Howard Roscoe Driggs (1873–1963) was an English professor at the University of Utah and New York University. He also was the author or editor of over fifty books, including at least seven novels. Driggs was born in Pleasant Grove, Utah. His parents had both come to Utah with the Mormon pioneers. Driggs studied at Brigham Young Academy, the University of Utah, where he received bachelor's and master's degrees, the University of Chicago, and New York University where he received his Ph.D. in 1926.

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2126 PRAIRIE AVENUE, CHICAGO


The Oregon Trail—what suggestion the name carries of the heroic toil of pioneers! Yet a few years' ago the route of the trail was only vaguely known. Then public interest was awakened by the report that one of the very men who had made the trip to Oregon in the old days was traversing the trail once more, moving with ox team and covered wagon from his home in the state of Washington, and marking the old route as he went. The man with the ox team was Ezra Meeker. He went on to the capital, where Mr. Roosevelt, then President, met him with joy. Then he traversed the long trail once more with team and wagon—back to that Northwest which he had so long made his home. This book gives Mr. Meeker's story of his experiences on the Oregon Trail when it was new, and again when, advanced in years, he retraced the journey of his youth that Americans might ever know where led the footsteps of the pioneers. The publication of this book in its Pioneer Life Series carries forward one of the cherished purposes of World Book Company—to supply as a background to the study of American history interesting and authentic narratives based on the personal experiences of brave men and women who helped to pushthe frontier of our country across the continent.

 

PLS:MDOTD-5


Copyright 1922 by World Book Company
Copyright in Great Britain
All rights reserved
PRINTED IN U. S. A.


AN INTRODUCTION TO THE AUTHOR

OUT in the state of Washington recently, a veteran of more than ninety years stepped into an aëroplane with the mail pilot and flew from Seattle to Victoria in British Columbia, and back again. The aged pioneer took the trip with all the zest of youth and returned enthusiastic over the adventure.

This youthful veteran was Ezra Meeker, of Oregon Trail fame, who throughout his long, courageous, useful life has ever kept in the vanguard of progress. Seventy years ago he became one of the trail-blazers of the Farther West. In 1852, with his young wife and child, he made the hazardous journey over plains and mountains all the way from Iowa to Oregon by ox team. Then, after fifty-four years of struggle in helping to develop the country beyond the Cascades, this undaunted pioneer decided to reblaze the almost lost Oregon Trail.

An old "prairie schooner" was rebuilt, and a yoke of sturdy oxen was trained to make the trip. With one companion and a faithful dog, the veteran started out. It took nearly two years, but the ox-team journey from Washington, the state, to Washington, our national capital, was finally accomplished.

The chief purpose of Mr. Meeker in this enterprise was to induce people to mark the famous old highway. To him it represented a great battle ground in our nation's struggle to win and hold the West. The story of the Oregon Trail, he rightly felt, is an American epic which must be preserved. Through his energy and inspiration and the help of thousands of loyal men and women, school boys and school girls, substantial monuments have now been placed along the greater part of the old pioneer way.

Two years ago it was my privilege to meet the author in his home city. Our mutual interest in pioneer stories brought us together in an effort to preserve some of them, and several days were spent in talking over the old times and visiting historic spots.

Everywhere we went there was a glowing welcome for "Father Meeker," as he was called by some of his home folks, while "Uncle Ezra" was the name used affectionately by others. The ovation given him when he arose to speak to the teachers and students of the high school in Puyallup—the city he founded—was evidence of the high regard in which he is held by those who know him best.

Other boys and girls and older folk all over the country would enjoy meeting Ezra Meeker and hearing of his experiences. Since this is not possible, the record of what he has seen and done is given to us in thislittle volume.

The book makes the story of the Oregon Trail live again. This famous old way to the West was traced in the beginning by wild animals—the bear, the elk, the buffalo, the soft-footed wolf, and the coyote. Trailing after these animals in quest of food and skins, came the Indians. Then followed the fur-trading mountaineers, the home-seeking pioneers, the gold seekers, the soldiers, and the cowboys. Now railroad trains, automobiles, and even aëroplanes go whizzing along over parts of the oldhighway.

Every turn in the Trail holds some tale of danger and daring or romance. Most of the stories have been forever lost in the passing away of those who took part in this ox-team migration across our continent. For thatreason the accounts that have been saved are the more precious.

Ezra Meeker has done a signal service for our country in reblazing the Oregon Trail. He has accomplished an even greater work in helping to humanize our history and vitalize the geography of our land, by giving to us, through this little volume, a vivid picture of the heroicpioneering of the Farther West.



HOWARD R. DRIGGS


THE WORLD'S GREATEST TRAIL

WORN deep and wide by the migration of three hundred thousand people, lined by the graves of twenty thousand dead, witness of romance and tragedy, the Oregon Trail is unique in history and will always be sacred to the memories of the pioneers. Reaching the summit of the Rockies upon an evenly distributed grade of eight feet to the mile, following the watercourse of the River Platte and tributaries to within two miles of the summit of the South Pass, through the Rocky Mountain barrier, descending to the tidewaters of the Pacific, through the Valleys of the Snake and the Columbia, the route of the Oregon Trail points the way for a great National Highway from the Missouri River to Puget Sound: a roadway of greatest commercial importance, a highway of military preparedness, a route for a lasting memorial to the pioneers, thuscombining utility and sentiment.


Part 1
FROM OHIO TO THE COAST


Chapter 1 BACK TO BEGINNINGS

I WAS born in Huntsville, Butler County, Ohio, on December 29, 1830. That was, at this writing, more than ninety years ago.

My father's ancestors came from England in 1637. In 1665 they settled near Elizabeth City, New Jersey, building there a very substantial house which stood till almost 1910. More than a score of hardy soldiers from this family fought for the Colonies in the War of Independence. They were noted for their stalwart strength, steady habits, and patriotic ardor.

Both my parents were sincere, though not austere, Christian people. Father inherited to the full the sturdy traits of his ancestors. I well remember that for three years, during our life in Indiana, he worked eighteen hours a day as a miller. For this hard service he received only twenty dollars a month and bran for the cow. Yet out of the ordeal he came seemingly as strong and healthy as when he entered it.

My mother's maiden name was Phoebe Baker. English and Welsh strains of blood ran in her veins. Her father settled in Butler County, Ohio, in the year 1804, or thereabouts. My mother, like my father, could and did endure continuous long hours of severe labor without much discomfort. I have known her frequently to patch and mend our clothing until very late at night, and yet she would invariably be up in the morning by four to resume her labors.

Small wonder that with such parents and with such early surroundings I am able to say that for fifty-eight years I was never sick in bed a single day. I, too, have endured long hours of labor during my whole life, and I can truthfully say that I have always liked to do my work and that I never watched for the sun to go down to relieve me from the burden of labor. My mother said I was "always the busiest young 'un" she ever saw, by which she meant that I was restless from the beginning—born so.

According to the best information obtainable, I was born in a log cabin, where the fireplace was nearly as wide as the cabin. The two doors on opposite sides permitted the horse, dragging the backlog, to enter at one and then to go out at the other. Of course, the solid floor of split logs defied injury from such treatment.

The skillet and the Dutch oven were used instead of the cook stove to bake the pone or johnny cake, to parch the corn, or to fry the venison which was then obtainable in the wilds of Ohio.

A curtain at the farther end of the cabin marked the confines of a bedchamber for the "old folks." The older children climbed the ladder nailed to the wall to get to the loft floored with loose clapboards that rattled when trodden upon. The straw beds were so near the roof that the patter of the rain made music to the ear, and the spray of the falling water would often baptize the "tow-heads" left uncovered.

Our diet was simple, and the mush pot was a great factor in our home life. A large, heavy iron pot was hung on the crane in the chimney corner, where the mush would slowly bubble and sputter over or near a bed of oak coals for half the afternoon. And such mush!—always made from yellow corn meal and cooked three hours or more. This, eaten with plenty of fresh, rich milk, furnished the supper for the children. Tea? Not to be thought of. Sugar? It was too expensive—cost fifteen to eighteen cents a pound, and at a time when it took a week's labor to earn as much money as a day's labor would earn now. Cheap molasses we had sometimes, but not often, meat not more than once a day, but eggs in abundance.

Everything father had to sell was low-priced, while everything mother must buy at the store was high. Wheat brought twenty-five cents a bushel; corn, fifteen cents; pork, two and two and a half cents a pound, with bacon sometimes used as fuel by reckless, racing steamboat captains of the Ohio and Mississippi.

My earliest recollection, curiously enough, is of my schoolboy days, although I had so few. I was certainly not five years old when a drunken, brutal teacher undertook to spank me because I did not speak a word plainly. That is the first fight of which I have any recollection. I could hardly remember that but for the witnesses, one of them my oldest brother, who saw the struggle. My teeth, he said, did excellent work and drew blood quite freely.

What a spectacle—a half-drunken teacher maltreating his pupils! But then, that was the time before a free school system. It was the time when even the parson would not hesitate to take a "wee drop," and when, if the decanter was not on the sideboard, the jug and gourd served as well in the field or in the house. In our neighborhood, to harvest without whisky in the field was not to be thought of; nobody ever heard of a log-rolling or barn-raising without whisky. Be it said to the everlasting honor of my father, that he set himself firmly against the practice. He said his grain should rot in the field before he would supply whisky to his harvest hands. I have only one recollection of ever tasting any alcoholic liquor in my boyhood days.

I did, however, learn to smoke when very young. It came about in this way. My mother always smoked, as far back as I can remember. Women smoked in those days, as well as men, and nothing was thought of it. Well, that was before the time of matches,—leastwise, it was a time when it was necessary to economize in their use,—and mother, who was a corpulent woman, would send me to put a coal in her pipe. I would take a whiff or two, just to get it started, you know, and this soon developed into the habit of lingering to keep it going. But let me be just to myself. More than forty years ago I threw away my pipe and have never smoked since, and never will smoke again.

My next recollection of school days was after father had moved to Lockland, Ohio, then ten miles north of Cincinnati. It is now, I presume, a suburb of that city. I played hooky instead of going to school; but one day, while I was under the canal bridge, the noise of passing teams so frightened me that I ran home and betrayed myself. Did my mother whip me? Bless her dear soul, no! Whipping of children, both at home and in the school-room, was then about as common as eating one's breakfast; but the family government of my parents was exceptional for that time, for they did not think it was necessary to rule by the rod.

Because my mind did not run to school work and because my disposition was restless, my mother allowed me to work at odd jobs for pay instead of compelling me to attend school. This cut down my actual school days to less than six months. It was, to say the least, a dangerous experiment, and one to be undertaken only by a mother who knew her child better than any other person could. I do not by any means advise other mothers to adopt such a course.

In those days apprenticeship was quite common. It was not thought to be a disgrace for a boy to be "bound out" until he was twenty-one, especially if he was to be learning a trade. Father took a notion he would bind me out to a Mr. Arthens, the mill owner at Lockland, who was childless, and one day he took me with him to talk it over. When asked, finally, how I should like the change, I promptly replied that it would be all right if Mrs. Arthens would "do up my sore toes," whereupon there was such an outburst of merriment that I never forgot it. We must remember that boys in those days did not wear shoes in summer, and quite often not in winter either. But mother put an end to the whole matter by saying that the family must not be divided, and it was not.

Our pioneer home was full of love and helpfulness. My mother expected each child to work as well as to play. We were trained to take our part at home. The labor was light, to be sure, but it was service, and it brought happiness into our lives. For, after all, that home is happiest where every one helps.

Our move to Indiana was a very important event in my boyhood days. This move was made during the autumn of 1839, when I was nine years old. I vividly remember the trip, for I walked every step of the way from Lockland, Ohio, to Attica, Indiana, about two hundred miles.

There was no room in the heavily laden wagon for me or for my brother Oliver, aged eleven. It was piled so high with household goods that little space was left even for mother and the two babies, one yet in arms. But we lads did not mind riding on "Shank's ponies."

The horses walked so briskly that we had to stick to business to keep up with them. We did find time, though, to throw a few stones at the frisky squirrels, or to kill a garter snake, or to gather some flowers for mother and the little ones, or to watch the redheaded woodpeckers hammering at the trees. The journey was full of interest for two lively boys.

Our appearance was what might well be called primitive, for we went barefooted and wore "tow pants" and checkered "linsey-woolsey" shirts, with a strip of cloth for "galluses," as suspenders were at that time called. Little did we think or care about appearance, bent as we were on having a good time—and that we surely had.

One dreary stretch of swamp that kept us on the corduroy road behind the jolting wagon I remember well; this was near Crawfordsville, Indiana. It is now gone, the corduroy and the timber as well. In their places great barns and comfortable houses dot the landscape as far as the eye can reach.

One habit that we boys acquired on that trip stuck to us all our lives, until the brother was lost at sea. When we followed behind the wagon, as we did part of the time, each took the name of the horse on his side of the road. I was "Tip," on the off side; while brother was "Top," on the near side. Tip and Top, a span of big, fat, gray horses that would run away "at the drop of the hat," were something to be proud of. This habit of Oliver's walking on the near side and my walking on the off continued for years and through many a mile of travel.


Chapter 2 BOYHOOD DAYS IN OLD INDIANA

WHEN we reached Indiana we settled down on a rented farm. Times were hard with us, and for a season all the members of the household were called upon to contribute their mite. I drove four yoke of oxen for twenty-five cents a day, and during part of the time boarded at home at that. This was on the Wabash, where oak grubs grew, my father often said, "as thick as hair on a dog's back;" but they were really not so thick as that.

We used to force the big plowshare through and cut grubs as big as my wrist. When we saw a patch of them ahead, I would halloo and shout at the poor oxen and lay on the whip; but father wouldn't let me swear at them. Let me say here that I later discontinued this foolish fashion of driving, and always talked to my oxen in a conversational tone and used the whip sparingly.

That reminds me of an experience I had later, in the summer when I was nineteen. Uncle John Kinworthy—a good soul he was, and an ardent Quaker—lived neighbor to us in Bridgeport, Indiana. One day I went to his house with three yoke of oxen to haul into place a heavy beam for a cider-press. The oxen had to be driven through the front dooryard in full sight and hearing of Uncle John's wife and three buxom Quaker girls, who either stood in the door or poked their heads out of the window.

The cattle would not go through the front yard past those girls. They kept doubling back, first on one side and then on the other. Uncle Johnny, noticing that I did not swear at the cattle, and attributing the absence of oaths to the presence of ladies, or maybe thinking, like a good many others, that oxen could not be driven without swearing at them, sought an opportunity, when the mistress of the house could not hear him, to say in a low tone, "If thee can do any better, thee had better let out the word."

My father, though a miller by trade, early taught me some valuable lessons about farming that I never forgot. We—I say "we" advisedly, as father continued to work in the mill and left me in charge of the farm—soon brought the run-down farm to the point where it produced twenty-three bushels of wheat to the acre instead of ten, by the rotation of corn and clover and then wheat. But there was no money in farming at the prices then prevailing, and the land for which father paid ten dollars an acre would not yield a rental equal to the interest on the money. The same land has recently sold for six hundred dollars an acre.

For a time I worked in the Journal printing office for S. V. B. Noel, who published a Free Soil paper. A part of my duty was to deliver the papers to subscribers. They treated me civilly, but when I was caught in the streets of Indianapolis with the Free Soil papers in my hand I was sure of abuse from some one, and a number of times narrowly escaped personal violence from the pro-slavery people.

In the office I was known as the "devil," a term that annoyed me not a little. I worked with Wood, the pressman, as a roller boy, and in the same room was a power press, the power being a stalwart negro who turned a crank. Wood and I used to race with the power press, and then I would fly the sheets,—that is, take them off, when printed, with one hand and roll the type with the other. This so pleased Noel that he advanced my wages to a dollar and a half a week.

One of the subscribers to whom I delivered that anti-slavery paper was Henry Ward Beecher, then pastor of the Congregational Church that faced the Governor's Circle. At that time he had not attained the fame that came to him later in life. I became attached to him because of his kind manner and the gentle words he always found time to give me.

One episode of my life at this time I remember because I thought my parents were in the wrong. Vocal music was taught in singing school, which was conducted almost as regularly as were the day schools. I was passionately fond of music. Before the change of my voice came I had a fine alto voice and was a leader in my part of the class. This fact coming to the notice of the trustees of Beecher's church, an effort was made to have me join the choir. Mother first objected, because my clothes were not good enough. Then an offer was made to clothe me suitably and pay me something besides. And now father objected, because he did not want me to listen to preaching of a sect other than that to which he belonged. The incident set me to thinking, and finally drove me, young as I was, into a more liberal faith, though I dared not openly espouse it.

Another incident that occurred while I was working in the printing office I have remembered vividly all these years. During the campaign of 1844, the Whigs held a gathering on the Tippecanoe battle ground. It could hardly be called a convention; a better name for it would be a political camp meeting. The people came in wagons, on horseback, afoot—any way to get there—and camped, just as people used to do at religious camp meetings.

The journeymen printers of the Journal office planned to go in a covered wagon, and they offered to make a place for the "devil" if his parents would let him go along. This was speedily arranged with mother, who always took charge of such matters. When the proposition came to Noel's ears, he asked the men to print me some campaign songs. This they did with a will, Wood running them off the press after the day's work while I rolled the type for him.

My, wasn't I the proudest boy that ever walked the earth! Visions of a pocketful of money haunted me almost day and night until we arrived on the battle field. But lo and behold, nobody would pay any attention to me! Bands were playing here and there; glee clubs would sing and march, first on one side of the ground and then on the other; processions were parading and crowds surging, making it necessary to look out lest one be run over. Although the rain would pour down in torrents, the marching and countermarching went on all the same and continued for a week.

An elderly journeyman printer named May, who in a way stood sponsor for our party, told me that if I would get up on the fence and sing the songs, the people would buy them. Sure enough, when I stood up and sang the crowds came, and I sold every copy I had. I went home with eleven dollars in my pocket, the richest boy on earth.

In the year 1845 a letter came from Grandfather Baker in Ohio to my mother, saying that he would give her a thousand dollars with which to buy a farm. The burning question with my father and mother was how to get the money out from Ohio to Indiana. They actually went in a covered wagon to Ohio for it and hauled it home, all silver, in a box. This silver was nearly all foreign coin. Prior to that time but a few million dollars had been coined by the United States Government.

Grandfather Baker had accumulated his money by marketing small things in Cincinnati, twenty-five miles distant. I have heard my mother tell of going to market on horseback with grandfather many times, carrying eggs, butter, and even live chickens on the horse she rode. Grandfather would not go into debt, so he lived on his farm a long time without a wagon. He finally became so wealthy that he was reputed to have a barrel of money—silver, of course. Out of this store came the thousand dollars that he gave mother. It took nearly a whole day to count the money. At least one of nearly every coin from every nation on earth seemed to be there, and the "tables" had to be consulted in computing the value.

I was working on the Journal at the time when the farm was bought, but it seemed that I was not cut out for a printer. My inclinations ran more to open-air life, so father placed me on the farm as soon as the purchase was made and left me in full charge of the work there, while he gave his time to milling. Be it said that I early turned my attention to the girls as well as to the farm and married young, before I reached the age of twenty-one. This truly was a fortunate venture, for my wife and I lived happily together for fifty-eight years.