Biographical, Historical, Fiction

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The wagon train reached Pendleton and it was getting late in the year. The winter would be starting and the snow flying. Joe Snyder turned the wagon train over to a local man that would guide them into Portland. He said his goodbyes to the members of the train, collected his fees, gathered his scouts and turned towards St. Joseph. They would have to move fast to make it back in time to gather up a new train and make the trek again. Joe wanted to be in St. Joseph by late January to give him time to accomplish what needed to be done to prepare for the next trip.

Joe and the scouts headed southeast from Pendleton. Joshua Holbrooke and Red Redd had been scouting for the Joe Snyder wagon trains for the past four trips. They got along very well and could almost anticipate what the other would do. Red was a large man and very knowledgeable in the art of self defense. His name was not a nickname. His father’s name had been Red and he was Red, Junior. No one called him Junior more than once. Josh was the quiet, studious one and was the one that made the decisions. Red recognized Josh’s skill and knowledge and gladly left the important decisions to him. Josh was slight of build and stature. He didn’t have to fight because Red would not allow him to be goaded into a fight. Red took care of the fighting.

The trio continued southeast and went around the east end of the Great Salt Lake and then changed to a more southerly direction. They were now travelling in the area of the Navajo and Zuni Indians. They were now far enough south that winter’s worst blasts would be tolerable. In the village of Albuquerque they turned more easterly to move into the Republic of Texas. They did not want to spend a great deal of time in Texas. That was the home of the Comanche tribe and the Apache tribe. Joe did not want any part of either of the tribes. They were fierce warriors and did not like the white people being on their land. As soon as they crossed into Texas they headed north and a little east and then when in the Kansas territory they headed east towards Wichita. Then they aimed towards Fort Scott. About four days from Fort Scott Josh became very ill. Joe and Red helped him as much as they could to make it to Fort Scott where there was a doctor. The doctor examined and talked with Josh and informed him that he had a severe case of cholera and was lucky that he had made it. Joe asked if they could go on and the doctor said sure but they would have to stop tomorrow long enough to bury Josh. He put Josh in the Fort infirmary and started giving him large amounts of water and other liquids. He put sugar and salt and some fruit juice in the water. He told Joe that Josh would have to stay at least six weeks to recover from the disease. Joe and Red decided to go on to St. Joseph and get ready for the next wagon train. A month later they got a message from the doctor that Josh was not recovering as fast as he had hoped and would have to stay through April to be certain all of the cholera was gone.

Joe had a wagon train lined up and they would have to leave by the first of April if they were to be able to complete the trip. Red and had a friend that he could count on to be the second scout and the wagon train left without Josh.

Amos and Blanche Morgan lived in the village of Carrollton, Missouri. They had been sweethearts for a long time and married at an early age. They had tried a number of different things to survive but were not making it. Amos had a dream of going to Oregon since he was young. He expressed the dream to Blanche and she bought into the dream. Every spare dollar the couple had went into building the covered wagon and getting the animals to pull the wagon. They had little to take but loaded up what they had and, after saying goodbye to friends and family, left for St. Joseph to join a wagon train.

Amos was a handsome young man about five feet ten inches tall. He had a muscular build from working hard all of his life. Blanche was an attractive young woman about four inches shorter than Amos. She was slender but not thin and had long, wavy blond hair. When they were together people could see the love that they had for each other.

They found a wagon train that would be led by a wagon master named Jeb Bancroft. Jeb was not known in the St. Joseph area. He told people he had been taking wagon trains out of Omaha. He seemed to know his stuff and had two scouts with him. The scouts were rough looking men but that was not a bad thing for a scout. Jeb would only take twelve wagons on the train and quickly assembled the number of wagons that he wanted. The wagons took the ferry across the Missouri River and the next morning they left for Oregon. Everyone on the wagon train was excited.

Jeb explained that he didn’t take the usual route along the Platte River. He preferred to go further north and follow the Niobrara River. This was a shorter route and they could get to Fort Laramie with a week less travelling. He was the wagon master and that was what he was paid to know so the party took his word for it. The train crossed the Platte River and headed north and a little west. A week later the train was crossing a tall grass prairie when they met the scouts and ten other men. All of the men were well armed and told all of the people to get out of the wagons and to assemble in a group. They were forced to empty their pockets and to remove any jewelry. The men gathered it all together and put it in one of the wagons.

One of the gang kept looking at Blanche and Amos did not like the way he was looking at her. He started for Blanche and Amos stepped between them. The man pulled his pistol and told Amos to move. Amos wouldn’t move. Just then Jeb saw what was going on and hurried over. Jeb told the man to leave them alone. Jeb may have turned to thieving but he would never molest a woman or allow another man to. The man told Jeb that he wanted Blanche and he was going to have her. What happened next was so quick that most people missed it but the man was on the ground bleeding from several severe cuts. Jeb had pistol whipped the man into submission.

The thirty-nine people were all gathered together. The men sat the wagons and started to move to the east. The thieves thought that they could make a clean getaway as it was at least a five day walk to any place. The people from the wagon train were left with only the clothes they were wearing. They had no food or water or any firearms that would enable them to kill some game to eat. There was a good chance they would starve before they got help.

The next day, three cowboys from the Williams Ranch were startled by a sight they couldn’t believe. There on the prairie was a strange group of people. The majority of the people were women and children. They were wandering in no particular direction as though each person wanted to a go a different way. The cowboys were at the far end of the Williams Ranch looking for strays. They rode up to the people and were greeted by a cacophony of voices all speaking at once. The head wrangler held up his hand and told them to be quiet. He pointed at Amos and asked him to tell them what happened.

When Amos was finished relating his tale of what the wagon train had endured at the hands of Jeb and the gang, the cowboys were amazed. They were amazed that they had been left alive. On the prairie they could have all been killed and no one would ever have known what happened to them. They were at least a one day ride from the ranch headquarters so one of the cowboys took off at high speed to get to the ranch and have some wagons come out and bring the people to the ranch. The other two cowboys had found a stray steer and proceeded to kill the animal and butcher it for the group to eat. They built a fire and started to roast the meat. The cowboys made the people as comfortable as possible as they knew it would be several days before help would arrive.

When the cowboy arrived at the ranch and told the story of the people, the owner, Edgar Williams, sent five men into Niobrara to tell the sheriff so that they would be pursued. The sheriff gathered ten more men to join him and the cowboys in tracking the men. It was not difficult. The wagons left a good trail on the prairie. People that saw them thought it peculiar that the wagons were going east and had no women on board. The caught up with the men at the town of Blair where they were waiting for a ferry to cross the Missouri River. The local sheriff was already talking with the men as he was curious about who they were.

The men were taken into custody and taken to Omaha for trial. The judge wanted at least three men from the wagon train to come for the trial so the men and the wagons could be identified. Amos and three other men came to Omaha by riverboat. They identified each of the men. Amos did tell the judge how Jeb had protected his wife from one of the gang. It made no difference. The men were sentenced to hang and would be hung in three weeks. Amos and the other men decided they did not want to watch them hang so they got on a riverboat to go back to the Williams Ranch and decide what to do. On the river boat they met Joshua Holbrooke. Josh had heard about the trouble the train had and wanted to see if he could help them. He had nothing to do until next spring so he went to try and help.

The boat arrived at the ranch landing and all of the members of the train were waiting to hear what happened. They had mixed emotions. They did not like it that the men would die but realized that they could have died.

The four men introduced Joshua to the others from the wagon train. Josh had a plan that he wanted to discuss with them. There was chance that if they moved very fast that they could make it over South Pass before winter. The ordeal of the thieves had cost them five weeks of travel but Josh thought they could make it. If they could get over the pass before winter then they could make it to Oregon this year. The group decided they had to try. They would have to travel without scouts. The Williams Ranch had good relations with the Sioux Indians and got the tribes permission for the wagon train to cross the tribal lands.

The wagons had been moved back to the ranch even before the trial so they were ready to move west. The ranch had furnished them with all fresh horses and some extra horses since they would need to move fast. The people from the train were effusive with their thanks to the Williams family and all the people that had helped them. The people from the ranch loaded the wagons with food so they would not have to stop. They also gave each wagon a rifle and ammunition for hunting. It was a long way to Fort Laramie with no towns on the way.

Joshua set the pace and the wagon train was moving. It was easier for Josh with only twelve wagons instead of the usual twenty to twenty-four. They were making good time. There were no major rivers to cross and only a few small creeks. They made it to Fort Laramie four days sooner than Josh had thought they would and it was looking promising for the train. They got to South Pass in late August. Josh rode over the pass to be certain there were no unforeseen problems. He took Amos with him. This time allowed the horses to rest for the rough pull over the pass. The wagon train made it over the pass and it looked as though they would make it to Oregon.

Amos had seen some antelope on the prairie. He decided he needed to continue on foot to get close enough to the animals for a kill. As he was watching the antelope he didn’t watch where he was stepping and stepped into a nest of rattle snakes. Three snakes hit his right leg and stuck the fangs in deep and released the toxic poison into him. Amos rode back to the camp. Everyone did what they could but Amos was beyond help. There was too much poison in his blood. He died during the night with Blanche by his side. They buried Amos on the prairie. A cross marked the spot. There were many crosses along the Oregon Trail. Blanche had to continue as she had no choice. One of the men offered to drive her wagon.

Josh took a special interest in the welfare of Blanche. He spent a great deal of time making certain that she had food and anything she needed. Blanche was very grateful that Josh was so willing to help her. He had so many other duties that she didn’t know how he found the time for her. She was still grieving for Amos but was looking forward to her nightly meetings with Josh.

The wagon train had passed Fort Boise with just a short stop. It was the middle of September and they had to keep moving to be in Portland before November. They continued to move at a fast pace. Josh and Blanche were growing close. Blanche had thought that Amos was her one true love but now realized that she had room in her heart for another love. She was falling in love with Josh and knew that he felt the same for her. All of the people on the train knew that they were in love and they were all happy. They all thought this was a perfect match.

On the first day of November they arrived in Pendleton. Josh had never been further than this as Joe had always left the train here and that is what he wanted to do. He asked Blanche to marry him and they would settle in the Pendleton area. His days of crossing the country as a scout were over. He wanted a home and children. He needed a loving wife.

They found a small ranch that they could buy. Josh wanted to raise cattle. They looked at the land and thought it perfect. The people next to their land were from Tennessee and were very nice. Abner and Molly remembered Joshua from their wagon train the previous year. They only saw him a few times but knew that he was one of the reasons they made it to Oregon with no problems.

Abner helped Josh to build a house. Josh wanted three bedrooms because he planned on having a large family and wanted plenty of room. Abner laughed at his planning but they became good friends. The house was finished and they were ready to move in. Blanche had been spending a lot of time with Molly and they had become very close. That was good as being alone in a strange place is not good. The two families would have each other.

Life was good.

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