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Weston Wagons West Episode H8: The Family Faces Adversity again

Farm life was good to the Weston family

The farm life

The farm life

The year 1858 passed by quietly for the Weston families

With a full contingent of men on the Weston farm for the full 1858 season, a very productive year was completed. Joe, Jake and Hank worked well together, and with their full support, the garden and orchard also seemed to be even more successful for the women and children, as well, along with the field crops and animals.

Meanwhile, in Kansas Territory, slavery and antislavery forces continued to clash. In May, what became known as the Marais des Cynes massacre took place in which Missouri-based ‘border ruffians’ killed five Free State men. Following that event, competing interests focused on political action, with each side meeting and preparing state constitutions representing their interests. These were being prepared to send to Congress for their approval for statehood.

Hank, Melinda, and the rest of the Weston family members each kept up with their reading of national events in the newspapers, but family discussions were kept to a minimum. Successes in other aspects of their lives made it easier to ignore, at least in discussions, what was going on in national politics. Local affairs were much more interesting for most of them as 1958 came to an end.

Gold discovered in Colorado

Used in the gold rush

Used in the gold rush

1859 brought national news to the Weston family that was hard to ignore

As the early months of 1859 passed, and the men’s attention turned to getting in the new crops for the year, news appeared in nearly every newspaper of placer gold being found in the creeks of central Colorado. Joe and Hank found this news of interest. Jake, however, was excited about it. He had always felt he ‘missed’ the California Gold Rush, which he did, of course, due to family obligations. Now, however, he seemed to view his world differently. With no wife, and his three children deeply imbedded within the ‘extended family,’ it soon became obvious that Jake was about to take off, again. Mary realized that Jake had not really become any closer to his own children than to any of the others. They were all just part of the family.

Joe and Hank worked hard at keeping Jake focused on the spring crops, and he did fairly well at doing that. However, they each realized that when the crops were all in, Jake was likely to be gone. They were correct. The new report of a rich gold-bearing vein in Gregory Gulch, between Black Hawk and Central City, arrived just as the final crops were in the ground. Within a couple of days, Jake was gone. He took two of his horses this time, and some of his farrier and blacksmithing gear. He promised to keep in better touch than when he went to Council Bluffs, but no one in the Weston family had high expectations of that happening. They wished him well, and let him know he was welcome back when that time came, which they were sure it would… again. They now knew how strong the ‘wander lust’ was in Jake, and that he just had to give in to it, from time to time.

Late in the fall, they heard from Jake that he had moved from the Central City area to near Breckenridge, where a new rich vein of placer gold had been found. He admitted that he was making more money plying his trades in the area, with all the new people moving in, than seeking gold himself. But, he admitted, he loved being in the midst of the excitement of the hunt, and the occasional new discovery. By the time a year had passed since his departure, in May of 1860, the family got word that Jake was in Oro City (the first of several new gold discoveries that became known as the Leadville district, some of the richest areas).

Lincoln was elected President

President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln

The national political scene was heating up prior to the 1860 Elections

The Democratic Party split into three separate nominating conventions after the first failed to agree on a candidate. Stephen A. Douglas became the nominee of the (Northern) Democratic Party and John C. Breckinridge became the nominee of the Southern Democratic Party. In the third ‘rump’ convention, John Bell became the nominee of the Constitutional Union Party. The Republican Party, all northern interests, in attempting to put forth its second Presidential nominee in 1860, also became deadlocked with none of the leading contenders winning on the first ballot.

U.S. Senator, and former Governor of New York, William H. Seward had been expected to win the nomination over Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase, former U.S. Representative Edward Bates of Missouri, U.S. Senator Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, and former U.S. Representative Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. Seward led on the first ballot with Lincoln a distant second. Lincoln floor manager, David Davis reached an understanding with Cameron, and the Pennsylvania delegation switched to Lincoln on the second ballot, putting Lincoln in a near tie with Seward. On the third ballot, many additional delegates switched, giving the Republican Party nomination to Abraham Lincoln.

In the November 1860 election, Lincoln polled 39.8% of the votes, to 29.5% for Douglas, 18.1% for Breckinridge and 12.6% to Bell. Voter turnout was noteworthy both for exaggerated sectionalism and, at 81.2%, was the highest in American history up to that time (only 1876 topped it all-time). The northern states had sufficient electoral votes that Lincoln won in the Electoral College even had the split in the Democratic Party not occurred. With the election of Lincoln, talk of disunion ramped up quickly.

The air in the Weston family home in Jasper County, Iowa, became very thick with silence of talk of national issues. Turning 12 late in the year, young Josh began his farrier apprenticeship with his father, Hank, and they each put all their energy and time into that as the harvest was finished. George, just a year younger, watched carefully and learned, as well. The harvest had taken longer than usual, but both Josh and George combined were able to nearly make up for the absence of Jake during harvest time. The year-end holiday festivities would turn out to be less festive this year than in many prior years. Joe and Mary did their best to keep the family focused on their own activities, and away for the newspapers that came into their hands from time to time.

Note by the author

This Hx series of historical fiction family saga stories following Hank Weston consist of characters that are fictional or real persons used here entirely 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.”