Monday, August 5, 2013

What Happened to Jack's Mother? Guest post by Audrey

I am always happy to include "guest posts" by fans. Many have asked about Jack Goodwin's mother (or lack thereof, I should say). When did she die? How did she die? I'm sorry to say that I have not gotten around to answering that question (mostly because I didn't yet know how she had died). Then . . . drum roll, please . . . Audrey came to the rescue with her guest post on what she believes happened to Jack's mother. It makes sense, and I think it's a good idea. What do you all think? 

Andi's story: I have always wondered what happened to Jack’s mother. While working at Mr. Goodwin’s store that fall of 1881 (see AndreaCarter and the Price of Truth), I gathered some answers.
            Mr. Goodwin and his family lived back East in a terribly crowded city. They ran a mercantile, and Mrs. Goodwin was always cleaning and organizing the shelves. However, poor living conditions were affecting Mrs. Goodwin’s health.
Then Mr. Goodwin received a letter from a friend in California, telling him that the country was beautiful, and that he would be able to reopen his mercantile out there and get more business. The Central Pacific Railroad was laying tracks through the Valley this year, and they had decided to put a terminus along the line and call it Fresno Station.
Mr. Goodwin decided to move his family out West. He could be one of the first settlers in the new town, which would be quite an advantage! However, his decision was no little commitment. The trip would be dangerous and time-consuming. He chose to take his family on the overland route, rather than the just-as-dangerous sea voyage “around the Horn.”
In spite of the risks, Mr. Goodwin decided it was a move worth taking. The family joined a wagon train in the early spring of 1872, just before the ice broke up on the big rivers. The wagon train consisted of twelve other wagons and many animals.
           The trip started out fine; Mrs. Goodwin loved the outdoors. She seemed to be recovering from the poor health she had experienced back East.
Then, about halfway through the trip, a tragedy struck. Mrs. Goodwin was walking hand in hand with five-year-old Jack alongside the wagon. All of a sudden, a pair of the oxen panicked. Mrs. Goodwin and Jack were right in the path of the stampeding hooves. Mrs. Goodwin grabbed Jack and flung him out of danger’s path.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Goodwin was trampled to death.
Jack and his mother were very close, and he took her death very hard. Mr. Goodwin buried his wife alongside the trail and erected a simple gravestone.
Mr. Goodwin and Jack (age 10) and their delivery wagon
They finally reached California. It was hard for Mr. Goodwin to adjust to being Jack’s mother and father, but with God’s grace, he managed. However, he never learned very much about housekeeping, so the Goodwin household and store are always, well, very messy. That’s one of the reasons he hired me to help him out that month!
Jack never talks about his mother. I think he never really got over losing her.
Learning about how Jack’s mother died made me curious about all those people who came West (and are still coming) on covered wagons across the prairies and mountains. I asked some of the old-timers in and around Fresno, and here’s what I found out:
So far, over 300,000 people have traveled the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails.
This family looks very tired!
Wow, that is a lot courageous folks! Sadly, nearly 20,000 have lost their lives so far on the way (like Mrs. Goodwin). A lot of people think their deaths were on account of Indian attacks, but that is simply not so. I know for a fact that the California Indian tribes are peaceful, and they are the ones in danger (I could write a whole post about that sad situation.) In reality, only about 350 people were killed by Indians, and that was a long time ago—back between 1840 and 1860.
Most of the deaths among the wagon trains were caused by a terrible disease called “cholera,” wagon accidents, accidental gunshot wounds, and drowning during river crossings. Sounds dangerous to me! I’m glad I was born right here on the ranch and have never had to travel very much (except to San Francisco, and that’s riding on the railroad cars in comfort).  
Getting a wagon through a boggy marsh
Before the Gold Rush, oxen were used to pull wagons more than horses were, but people eventually started using horses instead. Most people walked instead of riding in the wagon. There were no roads, just unpaved and bumpy wagon tracks to follow. (I think riding all that way in a wagon would rattle the teeth right out of me. But I would have liked to have ridden a horse all the way!)
Pickles and some other canned vegetables were a main food source on the trails, along with the usual flour, salt pork, and beans. They supplied missing vitamins and could help prevent diseases like scurvy (where you start losing your teeth if the scurvy gets too bad. Hmmm . . . maybe that’s the reason a lot of older people in town have no teeth!)
A contemporary of mine, Laura Ingalls (a year old than I am), lived in the Midwest. She was one of these pioneer people, whereas I’m a rancher’s kid. Laura’s mother and baby sister were almost killed in an accident with runaway ox. They were riding in the wagon when the oxen got it in their head to bolt, and that they did.
Laura’s father, Charles, was walking alongside the wagon, and he was able to stop the oxen before they carried his wife and baby over a small cliff. Yikes! That was a close call, but as the Ingalls like to say, "All’s well that end’s well.”
I do not like telling sad stories very much; I think I’ll go back to telling you about the funny stuff that happens to my friends and me.



  1. That was nice I liked it.:-)

  2. poor little Jack, that must have been horrible! :(
    But this is a good job Audrey! :D

  3. Very interesting, Audrey. Poor Jack. I wonder if his father will marry again.

  4. That was really good Audrey!!!

  5. Thanks everyone!!! It was kind of fun to research. I wanted to do something realistic, and sadly, this was a common death. I really like the pictures Mrs. Marlow added! By the way, she did a lot of editing on this story. You can read more about traveling in covered wagons in the little house on the prairie series.

    1. I did not "edit" it very much, audrey! I'ts your story and writing. I just checked the facts and tweaked a bit. :-)

  6. Thanks, Audrey, this is a great, accurate summary!

  7. And...mmm, Rebekah, that's an interesting question. That would make a good story...Andi trying her hand at match making to try find Jack's father a new wife. I'm afraid I'm simply too hectic at the moment to write stories for fun, but that is definitely a story someone needs to write, it could make a hilarious comedy :)

    1. Yes!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. Well, I'm not going to write about it .. . I leave this all to your creative imaginations, fans! I'm caught up in the new Cattle Drive story I'm writing. :-)

  8. That would be funny, but I think it would be hard story to write. You would probably have to create a whole new lady character for the story, or maybe........Elizabeth Carter????????????? That is the only widow I can think of at the moment. :-)

    1. Is this Audrey, and the Audrey French below, the same person???

    2. Yikes! :-) Andi's mom and Mr. Goodwin. Oh. My. Goodness. Can you imagine that? ROTFL. I think Andi would run away from the ranch again if that happened. he-he

    3. Wow! I didn't know my quick thought would trigger such a reaction! Someone go ahead and write it if you want, 'cause I'm not going to. :) I hadn't thought of Mrs. Carter. Yeah, I think Andi would run the other way if anyone so much as hinted at such a thing! :)

  9. What do you think Susan? Is this idea just crazy or is it some what plausible? By the way, I got my books on Saturday and I finished them that night! They were awesome!!!!

    1. Oops, I commented in the wrong box. See comment above. :-)
      I think it's crazy, but in a "good" crazy way, like an alternate universe. It could bed hilarious!

      So glad you liked the books. But goodness! All in one night? How many did you read in ONE NIGHT? Two?

  10. Yes, I am the one and only Audrey.

  11. Yes, I can read really fast. I started somewhat earlier in the night. Yes two, I had to find out what happened! I have to remember to start your books earlier in the day, because I practically stay up half the night to finish them!

  12. I enjoyed your summary Audrey, and I was sorry I couldn't comment sooner. Horses have got to be ridden, you know. :)
    I really enjoyed this and I was impressed with your research, it was plausible and realistic and a great summary. I totally could see this and that's good, when it comes to history I'm really picky and you got it down good! :)
    Keep up the good writing and I look forward to more from you!

    -Calamity Rene


Let Andi know what you think!