Thursday, January 26, 2017
EL DORADO WEST" [PG] - Chapter Ten
The following is Chapter Ten of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849:
From the Journal of Alice Fleming
Chapter Ten - Westward Ho!
May 6, 1849
Our wagon train finally left the wretched chaos of Westport and began the real journey west to California. Mr. Wendell (he had insisted that I call him Elias, but since I do not know him that well, I decided not to) suggested that I enjoy and appreciate the woods and greenery, while I can. By the end of the journey, the train will be traveling across flat prairies, deserts, shallow rivers and mountains. Even worse, there will be periods in we might not see a speck of green in sight.
Despite Mr. Wendell’s warnings, I still managed to look forward to seeing the West. Contrary to what my older brother Ben might believe, I had not accompanied him in order to escape our family’s reaction to my rejection of Charles Maxwell’s wedding proposal. I genuinely wanted to see the West. I suppose I can blame Mr. Ephraim Whitman for inflaming this desire within me with his tales of the West. He must have missed being a mountain man very much. Why on earth did he decide to spend his remaining years in a place like Cleveland, Ohio?
I was not the only one in our train, gripped with excitement over the journey’s beginning. Everyone, including the taciturn Mr. Bryant and Mr. Moore. Eyes sparkled, cheeks flushed and laughter trembled on everyone’s lips. Mrs. Robbins, bless her heart, retrieved an accordion from her wagon and began to sing a song that has recently become very popular:
Oh California! That’s the land for me!
I’m off to California with a banjo on my knee!”
What a time we had, leaving Westport!
May 8, 1849
We have finally arrived at Council Grove – "the point of no return". Our train camped near a small body of water called Bull Creek. Surrounded by cottonwoods and elms, it seemed very tranquil. Most of the westbound wagons usually formed into companies, here at Council Grove. Although we had already formed a company back at Westport, Mr. James saw no harm in allowing two more wagons to join us. He added that more than two wagons would be too large.
Two women and a man occupied one of the wagons that joined our company. The women wore the most gaudiest outfits imaginable. One of the woman, who possessed a cluster of pale blond curls hanging down her back wore a dress with three flounces, made of deep blue crepe de Chine. The other woman – who possessed olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes – wore a Fuschia Organdie Muslin dress with more flounces and tight narrow sleeves. Both were unsuitably dressed for the journey across the Plains. I could say the same about their male companion. He was a tall, lanky man who wore a dark, frock coat, striped trousers that were narrowly cut and a heavily-embroidered waist coat. Only his wide hat seemed suitable. Unlike the women, he rode a mount. It was not difficult to surmise what occupation they engaged in.
“May I ask who you are, sir?” Mr. Robbins addressed the flash gentleman. The latter’s name turned out to be Clive Anderson of Memphis and New Orleans. And his companions (more likely his employees) were Mary Lee Watkins and Lisette Guilbert. Apparently, they planned to open an ”establishment” in San Francisco. Mr. Robbins replied, “Well that’s fine sir . . . as long as you and your . . . ah, companions wait until we get to California before you open for business.” Mr. Anderson scowled at Mr. Robbins’ remark, but he remained silent. Both Mrs. Robbins and Mrs. Gibson made it clear that they did not want the trio to join the wagon company, but since they were the only females in the party, they were outvoted. Naturally, my vote did not count.
Two cousins from Delaware became the last travelers to join our company. Their names were Marcus and John Cross. I found nothing remarkable or interesting about them. However, they did not exactly make themselves known. After this last addition to the Robbins Company, our wagon train was ready for the journey to California.
End of Chapter Ten