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.
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
|This family looks very tired!|
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.