If you’re following “A Story, Unfolding” in my blog, you may remember I introduced my grandma – before she was my grandma. She was the girl my grandpa met at that birthday party in 1905 – remember? (If not, click here to go back and read part one: https://elainemcallister.com/a-story-unfolding/. )
Travel in the 1900s
But in 1913, this 25-year old, single school teacher was embarking on a great adventure. And, hers is another story just aching to be told.
She was born and raised near Burr Oak, Kansas, and taught in one-room country schools in the area both before and after this adventure http://jewellcountykansas.com/communities/burr-oak-2/ . Three years after her trip, she married my grandpa which ended her teaching career. Did you know female teachers back then couldn’t be married?
But, what I want to know is, what took my grandma so far away from home in 1913? And did she go alone? I wish I had known about this trip when she was alive. Now, I read her words delicately written – in pencil, mind you – in a slender hardback book and I can only imagine the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say.
Her story is well documented in recognizable penmanship. Penmanship I knew thanks to decades of letter writing between us. You see, when I was growing up, most of her grandchildren lived nearby. My brother and I didn’t. Yet she and I shared a special bond forged by those letters, and now I glimpse further back thanks to this little book.
Long-distance grandparenting is something I tackled in my book, “Intentional Grandparenting: Creating Memories with your Grands,” but it existed years ago and my grandma met that challenge head on, staying connected with grands in spite of the miles between us. Long-distance grandparenting DOES have it’s perks, too. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/life-transitions/grandparenting/long-distance-grandparenting
But, let’s return to her adventure which resides on those yellowed pages written 105 years ago. The summer of 1913 stretched into several months. I don’t know exactly when she returned to Kansas but her itinerary is detailed inside the front cover:
“August 4 to August 19 – Greenleaf, Idaho c/o W. Winslow
August 21 to November 19 – Harrisburg, Idaho c/o Q. V. Moon
November 21 to December 18 – Central Point, Oregon c/o A. W. Moon
December 23 to April 19, 1914 – Whittier, California; 209 S Washington Avenue”
Interestingly, her last journal entry is dated Monday, February 16, 1914 which raises the question in my mind as to why she didn’t record those last two months and her safe arrival home. Was it writer’s block? Or just the Southern California lifestyle – too busy to write?
The word Memoranda is stamped in black ink on the hardback cloth book cover of her journal. Letters of the alphabet are printed down the right side of the pages, indicative of an address book, yet the pages appear more like a ledger.
Each page has blue lines from side to side, and red lines dividing the page into four columns. The little 4″x 6″ book itself is a treasure, but for my grandma it was a perfect diary.
Clues are strewn throughout her entries, some yet to be deciphered. Names are listed, some easily identified as ancestors, and some not. Did she take a train? Was she alone? Did her younger brothers tag along? What possessed her to go?
The Westward Migration of Quakers
My grandma was what is called a “birthright Quaker” (to discover what that means, click here: https://www.genealogy.com/forum/general/topics/quaker/981/. ) Both Burr Oak, Kansas and Greenleaf, Idaho were (and still are) strong Quaker communities, which leads me to assume those people whose names I don’t recognize as ancestors are former Burr Oak residents – probably Quakers – who had traveled further westward to settle in Idaho.
But, let’s join this journey as she leaves Kansas and heads west – in her own words!
“Tuesday evening. July 29, 1913.
Mankato 7:35 evening.
Limon 6 morning.
Denver 9 o’clock.
Colo. Springs 11:00.
Afternoon – Pikes Peak, Manitou, Garden of the Gods, dust storm.
(Interestingly, she later mentioned it cost 50 cents to go to the Garden of the Gods!)
At night, a walk over town.
El Paso CO.
Courthouse. Dwellings. Stores.
D & R G. 10:35 Royal Gorge.
Sundown 6 o’clock.
Tennessee Pass 7:15.
Morning 5 o’clock. Utah desert.
12:30 Salt Lake City.”
Because she mentions a picnic at the OSL depot and changing cars in Pocatello, Idaho, I’ve come to believe her mode of transportation was a train. I investigated online and found this glimpse into what it may have been like: https://www.nypl.org/blog/2013/03/15/cross-country-travel-1912 . A long trip, no doubt – from Northern Kansas to Colorado Springs, across Utah, and then to Idaho.
My grandma wasn’t too fond of Caldwell (Idaho, I assume). Next to her arrival time of “15 min. till 3 Saturday night” she wrote only one word: “Mosquitos.” The next morning she added: “Caldwell Aug 4. Breakfast at restaurant. No good.” I had to laugh! My grandma – a woman of few words, but not afraid to tell it like it was.
Grandma left Caldwell by wagon – a “3-seated wagon” to be exact – and the next few days were spent with some of those unidentified people I mentioned. They’re not relatives – I checked with my brother, the genealogy guy, but they ARE former residents of Burr Oak according to a historian friend. My earlier assumption was right – she was visiting Quaker friends who moved further West.
Her adventure continues….we’re just getting started at digging through this story. There are so many more things to ponder. I’m loving the journey with my grandma.
Making soap. Feeding threshers. Boat rides. Letters from home. Steam boats. “A good room for $1” and so much more. She even watched the parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day….but don’t let me get ahead of myself.
There’s more unfolding to come! Watch for “A Story, Unfolding – Part Three,” coming soon!
(c) Elaine McAllister 2018. All Rights Reserved.