Sunday, February 7, 2016

Voices of Frontier Women

 Voices of Frontier Women

Kathleen Ball

Jo Ella Exley complied a collection of incredible writings of frontier Texas through the eyes of Texas Pioneer women. From what she named the Log Cabin: Colonization of 1821--35 to the Texas Sunshine: The Last Frontier, 1865--1905. 

It’s a book of hardships, illness, deprivation and death. These remarkable women persevered and survived. They are an example of the resilience of the human spirit. Their faith and strength of character got them through the immense difficulties. These women built Texas.

One narrative that really struck me was the story of Rachael Parker Plummer. On May 19, 1836 married with a young son, Indians near Fort Parker captured her, which is present day the town of Groesbeck. They soon separated her from her son and she became a slave of the Comanche’s. She gave birth to her husband’s child and it was murdered in front of her.

A Mexican trader eventually bought her. When asked she was told that her husband, mother and father were all still alive. When she mentions her reunion of her family, she talks about her parents and the whole town embracing her. There was no mention of her husband.

She survived and he wasn’t there. Not uncommon, but sad.

I found this book riveting. Each woman’s story is different but they all had a common goal to thrive in the Texas frontier.

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Adeline Johnson sent the dark-haired man sitting across from her on the stagecoach a smile she hoped said sorry as her niece Peg let out a piercing scream yet again.
“Maybe she’s hungry?” the man asked.
“No, she ate at the last stop. She hasn’t slept well, and I think this is the result.”
“What’s her name?”
“Peg and I’m Addy.” She moved the fretful child from one arm to another.
“I’m Shane O’Conner. I’m one of five kids. The oldest to be exact.” He grinned. “Let me try.” He held out his hands, ready to take the child.
Addy hesitated, sighed and nodded. “I’m ready to try anything.” She placed Peg into his arms. Instantly, Peg stopped screaming and smiled at the stranger.
“Hey!” Peg gave him one of her winsome smiles.
“Hey, yourself.”
Peg giggled and rubbed her eyes with her little fists. She gazed at Shane for a bit, and then she slowly her eyes closed and snored little baby snores.
“How on earth?” Addy’s jaw dropped. “She’s always been a fussy baby, and lately it’s gotten worse.”
“Probably the traveling.” Shane leaned back and cuddled Peg against his large chest.
“Going to Asherville or further West?”
“I’m the new sheriff of Asherville. You?”
Gazing at Peg, Addy tried to even her breathing. Her heart pounded so loud she was certain the sheriff could hear it. “Yes. I’m getting married.”
“You’re a widow, then. My condolences.”
Her hands clasped and unclasped. Finally, she folded her hands to keep them still. A widow? She hadn’t thought that far ahead when she grabbed Peg and fled. “Thank you. Yes a widow. I…  I couldn’t make ends meet by myself, so here I am,” she said peering at his face for any sign of suspicion. Seeing none, she leaned back against the wooden bench. “I can take her now.”
“If it’s all the same, I think if we move her, we’ll be pelted with screams again.” His smile was wide showing off his dimples.
She gave him a nod of appreciation and closed her eyes. She couldn’t sleep with Peg in his arms, but she couldn’t make conversation with him either. If they continued to talk he’d see right through her lies. Of all the luck why did she have to ride in the same stagecoach as a sheriff? It was bad enough she hadn’t told her groom she was bringing a child with her. It couldn’t be helped. Normal people would understand. Normal people were not like the Boston elite. Normal people were lucky.
Opening her eyes, she watched Peg. She had the coloring of her father, but the rest of her was all Sondra, her mother. Addy’s  heart hurt thinking about the loss of her sister, and her pride raged at the bargain her parents had made with her brother-in-law. Marrying him was something she would never do. He was a wife beater, and her parents had turned a blind eye to all of Sondra’s bruises.
“She’s sweet. You’re lucky to have such an angel.”
He bought her lie. “Thank you. I do cherish her.”
“Will your intended be there to meet you?”
Her heart sped up again. “That’s what his letter said. He just started building his ranch, and I’m both nervous and excited to be a part of it all.”
“You’ll do fine. We’re slowing down. We must be in town.”
Addy lifted the window shades and nodded. Reaching up she tried to straighten her hat.
“You look fine. He’s one lucky fella. What did you say his name was?”
“Keegan, Keegan Quinn.”
The coach stopped with a jerk and Peg opened her eyes. She eyed Shane for a minute, sighed and went back to sleep.
The door opened and the driver offered his hand to her.
“I’ll carry Peg out,” Shane offered.
“Thanks.” She took the offered hand and stepped out onto the dirt road. She’d made it, and hopefully they would both be safe.


Keegan stopped pacing when he spotted the stagecoach. He’d second guessed his decision to take a mail order bride a hundred times since he’d sent her the proposal letter. Maybe he wasn’t cut out to make a good husband. He had too many secrets to be responsible for another person. What if he had to cut and run?
He stood to one side waiting for the passengers to exit. A lovely blond-haired, blue-eyed woman stepped down first. Her curves were in all the right places. His hopes dimmed a bit as she looked back into the coach. A tall man climbed out with a child in his arms. Then he handed the child to the woman. A married couple.
The stage coach driver took down a few bags and climbed back up ready to go.
“Wait! Isn’t there another passenger? A woman? Her name is Adeline Johnson.”
The driver shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know names, but I think that gal over yonder is supposed to meet her groom here. Ya!” He flicked the reins and was off.
Keegan scanned the wooden walk and noticed the woman stood there without her husband. Perhaps she’d know where his bride was. He admired the way she lovingly gazed at her child. Once again, the pangs of doubt came back. He’d be fine as long as his past never showed up to haunt him.
He walked toward the woman and tipped his hat at her. “Ma’am, I’m looking for a woman named Adeline Johnson. I thought she’d be on the coach with y’all. Did you happen to see her in your travels?
She swallowed hard and nodded. “I’m Addy. You must be, Keegan.” Her smile was wobbly and her eyes reflected fear. He was a sucker for a woman in distress.
“Well now, you have a young one.”
“Yes,” she replied, her voice barely a whisper.
“Let’s get you out of the sun. We can have something to eat over at Eats. Best place in town for a meal.” He smiled and nodded to her.
Tears filled her eyes. “I didn’t know what you’d do when we both showed up.”
“You’re here now. It’ll be fine. Here let me take her.” He eased the baby out of Addy’s arms and held her close. “What’s her name?”
A terrible shriek filled the air as Peg woke up. Startled he almost dropped her. She looked wildly around until she saw the man from the stagecoach. She pointed and yelled, “Daddy!”
The world slowed as Keegan turned toward the man, only to have Peg shriek yet again. Something wasn’t right and he wasn’t about to be fleeced of all his hard earned money. “Hey, Mister, come get your child.” He put Peg back into Addy’s arms and walked away. He hurried best he could to his horse, mounted and headed out of town. He didn’t look back.
The longer he rode, the madder he got. He pulled lightly on the reins and slowed his horse, Strike to a stop. It would be one thing if only the woman was involved in cheating him, but the man with her needed to take a few lumps for his part. Keegan had worked too long and too hard to allow anyone to cheat him. Damn! What was he supposed to do now?
“The hell with it!” he yelled into the hot, dry Texas wind. He didn’t need complications. Right now he had cattle to take care of and it wasn’t easy starting a ranch alone. He’d  been on his own too long.

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