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Weston Wagons West - Episode H1 - Hank Weston at Oberlin College

His two horses could be rented out

Riding horses eating hay

Riding horses eating hay

Hank Weston traveled to a new community and a new world to him

Nineteen-year-old Hank Weston was well aware that he would likely be an oddity in his new environment of college classes, even in a school noted for a diverse student body in the fall of 1845. At 6 feet, 4 inches, in height and right at 200 pounds packed into a steel hardened blacksmith’s body, he was not the typical bookish student he expected to find in his classes. He arrived a couple of weeks early to be able to settle in at the boarding house near the school where he would be in residence during the school year. Hank had taken along two of his horses and his farrier tools, having ascertained that the barn and yard at the boarding house could accommodate them. In fact, he had learned that they were welcomed, especially if the horses could be made available for short-tern rental to other residents. By this time, Hank had become a very personable young gentleman and this allowed him to fit in very well with the other residents during those early days of his arrival.

Mr. Phipps had prepared Hank well for the school days that now lay ahead of Hank as the new term began. He expected the daily regimen to be very strange to him, and it was. However, by being prepared, he was able to make the necessary adjustments fairly quickly. In fact, within the first couple of weeks, he found himself counseling other students on how to adapt to the new routines of the school. He had been careful to show full respect to the faculty from day one. Some of their habits seemed nearly bazaar to Hank, but Mr. Phipps had prepared him for that, as well. As with his earlier studies, with Mr. Phipps, the ‘book-learning’ came very easy to Hank, even though the material was at times very strange. He enjoyed the challenge of learning about things he had never even heard of previously. He was even able to provide some assistance and encouragement to fellow students to whom it didn’t come so easily.

Hank was popular, or at least respected, by just about everyone with whom he had reason to interact. That continued through the school year. On the other hand, he was so involved in so many activities, at school and at the boarding house, with his horses, that he soon realized that he had not developed any really close friends. He was happy in his new life so that did not really bother him, but he did notice it. It was the subject of very brief discussion with his parents, Mr. Phipps, and his Uncle Jake, when he visited over the year end holidays on the school break. No one made any more of it, but Hank wondered if that would change when he returned to school early in 1846.

Hank was a student at Oberlin College

Oberlin College logo

Oberlin College logo

Fall of 1846 came quickly

The spring went by quickly, and Hank stayed at Oberlin until the middle of July when he went back home for a three-week visit before returning for the fall term. Second-year classes turned out to be populated by a more diverse set of students than the first year experience had been. There were now ladies and colored folks in each one of his classes. With the additional mix, Hank actually felt more comfortable and was pleasantly surprised to find that he fit right in just as he had the year before. There was, however, soon one distinct difference.

Melinda Gentry was from Georgia, with honey blond flowing hair, about 5 foot eight inches tall, and talked with an accent and a high degree of self-confidence. Melinda was in three of Hank’s classes and he soon discovered that she challenged him for top student in each of their classes. She seemed to enjoy the intellectual challenge. This was no shrinking violet. He had never met anyone like her, before, and she seemed to relish the role of challenging him. It wasn’t long before they found each other in deep discussions, never quite arguments; often long after class time had ended. It was not long before they were going on horseback rides. Hank was pleased to learn that Melinda was an excellent horsewoman and loved horses. She even enjoyed rubbing them down and taking proper care of her horse following a long ride. He had never met anyone like this before, either, let alone a lady.

Hank was disappointed, but not surprised, when he learned that Melinda’s father had seven slaves on their modest plantation. She spoke of them as if they were just extended family and that they all worked together on the cotton plantation. Hank knew better but he did not challenge her descriptions. He had a few relatives with slaves back in Virginia, and they were not ‘treated like family,’ even though they were generally decent folks. However, Hank did notice that Melinda did treat their colored classmates just like she did the whites. Hank decided that was good, and tried not to get involved in the issue any further. Actually, of course, he was so fascinated by this lovely female creature that seemed to enjoy spending time with him, that he did his best to avoid any sort of negativity in their relationship.

They enjoyed discussing what they read in their books

Books were studied in each class

Books were studied in each class

Summer break of 1847 came and went

During summer break, Hank became aware that his father, Joe, and his uncle, Jake, were beginning to talk of finding new land to farm, possibly in the new state of Iowa, far to the west. Hank knew that lots of folks were moving. Jake had also met and married a young lady by the name of Hannah. Hank could feel changes coming but he wasn’t sure what they might be or might mean for him. The one thing he did realize fairly quickly, however, was that he missed Melinda, even though it was only a few weeks. They were exchanging letters, and that actually almost made him miss her more. He wanted more than a letter from her. He wanted to be able to talk to her, face-to-face, and hold her hand.

By the time the fall term of 1847 began, Hank and Melinda each realized that they were no longer just good friends. Their conversations had turned more and more to a future life together. Coming from very different backgrounds, they knew that it would not be easy to make their dreams a reality. However, they became determined to talk it out, come up with feasible alternatives, and somehow work it out. What would the future actually hold for them, that was the question?

Note by the author

The Fx and Hx series of historical fiction family saga stories consist of characters that are fictional or real persons used here fictitiously. Activities and events are consistent with known historical facts, but are entirely fictitious. The Jacob and Levi Weston characters were first created as a part of “The Homeplace Saga” stories. The first 20+ episodes of this Lx series filled in the early years of the lives of Levi, Jacob and their family, also descendents of Thomas and Fred Weston

These first 20 episodes of the Levi Weston story have been compiled into an ebook: “Weston Wagons West: Levi Weston, L1-20 (1823-1874).” Thank you for your support.

“Weston Wagons West” and “The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

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