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Weston Wagons West - Episode H5 - Jasper County Iowa continued growth

It was the middle of planting season

Uneven corn rows on relatively new land

Uneven corn rows on relatively new land

Nathan arrived in the spring of 1853

Hank and Melinda Weston became the parents of their first son, Nathan, born in March of 1853. As the spring planting got underway, all three couple found that sharing the one house was still working for them, but were not sure how long it would be until a change was required. Fortunately the three downstairs bedrooms were sufficient for each couple and a small child. Josh, now 5 and George, now 4, had moved up to the ‘boy’s end’ of the full-length loft second floor. The girls, Sarah now 13 and Cathy now 9, were quite comfortable still with the ‘girl’s end’ of the loft. Jessica wouldn’t be 2 until July, so she still slept in her parent’s room, but that would soon be changing.

Rumors abounded throughout 1853 that the Western Stage Company was planning a regular stage route from the east into Fort Des Moines, and that stations would be required along the way. The good folks in Monroe, to the south and the east of the Weston farms were hoping to get the route through their new little town. The people in Newton, to the northeast, however, were also working hard at getting the service, and claimed they already had the superior trails to do so. The Weston men kept listening, realizing that such a new business in the area might be good for them, but were not overly optimistic of the possibilities.

As the men were finishing the harvest of the fall of 1853, Hannah realized that she was pregnant again for the third time in less than five years. Mary, her sister-in-law, encouraged her that it would be all right; they were all there to support her, again. Melinda said that Nathan would be more than a year old by the time the baby arrived. They could all share the workload for the family, as they had so successfully in the past. Jake was happy to hear he would be a father again, would it be a boy or a girl to ‘break the tie’ was his major concern. Mary, now 45, was simply quietly happy that it was not her having another child; ‘enough of that’ for sure, was her internal message to herself as she went about her work.

Laura arrived a healthy baby

A girl baby

A girl baby

Laura arrived in the late spring of 1854

As the birth of Jake and Hannah’s third child became imminent, Mary expressed concerns to her husband Joe, only, that Hannah was in a very weakened condition, and she hoped that Hannah’s young body could handle another childbirth. Mary insisted that Hannah get plenty of rest as her time drew near.

The men were in the middle of spring planting season in April when baby Laura decided to arrive. Mary and Melinda were there to assist Hannah, and the child appeared to be healthy. Hannah, however, seemed to use up just about every last ounce of her being to birth her third child. She was able to nurse the baby a couple of times a day, but it stretched Hannah near her physical limits. After about five days, she could no longer even do that, and at the end of the first week, her body simply gave out. It had given all it could give. Jake provided all the support and encouragement he could offer, but Mary and Joe could see that it wasn’t going to make any difference. Jake was simply inconsolable. He felt he didn’t do enough for Hannah, he said he didn’t realize she might die. Surely there was something more that he could have done.

Baby Laura adapted quickly to cow’s milk and appeared to be in continued good health. They buried Hannah on the ridge at the west end of the property, on the edge of the forest, in an area they marked off for a small cemetery. The process was painfully familiar to settlers on the frontier of society. Jake’s self-imposed guilt rendered him useless to any work tasks for days that stretched into weeks. One morning, he saddled up his favorite horse and said he “had to get away.” He rode off to the west and they didn’t hear from him any further.

They faced the future in the spring

A rural spring contryside

A rural spring contryside

The Weston family faced their challenges

Suddenly, in the midst of spring planting, the three-man farm only had two men. The three-woman household only had two women with seven young children. Fortunately, Sarah was now 14 and learning quickly to pull her weight and Cathy was now 10 and very helpful with the children around the house. At five and six, Josh and George followed directions very well, and were becoming capable of helping out with some simple household tasks. Jessica, now three, Nathan now one, and the baby, Laura, needed constant attention, of course. They were thankful, now, that they all lived in the one large house so that someone was always available when someone was needed for a task.

Father and son, Joe and Hank, realized immediately that some adjustments would be necessary in the crop plans and other farm growth activities that had been planned for the year. There were no nearby farmers with extra labor that they could call on. All were already stretched near their own limits. They would continue to cooperate with neighbors, from time to time, where they could, but that was limited in usefulness. They knew they would be fine; it just would not be the same. They hoped that the weather would cooperate, which was a constant challenge for Iowa farmers. They were fortunate, in that respect, as the weather that year was about as good as they could have possible hoped for it to be.

Mary and Melinda essentially took the same practical approach to their challenges. With Sarah’s help, they adjusted their workloads to get the jobs done that needed to be done when they needed to be done. Cathy learned quickly to find new ways to help, as well. Each of the babies continued to grow and be healthy aside from the normal and occasional colds, cuts, and bruises encountered growing up on a frontier farm. The garden and orchard provided a good harvest and the animals provided the family with the milk and proteins they all needed for the hard work they each accomplished.

Note by the author

The Hx series of historical fiction family saga stories following Hank Weston 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.”