Chapter 22: Opportunities of Settling and Remembering
Father Stranger, Oliver wrote before crossing it out. No, stranger was too harsh, he thought.
It was true that much of his childhood had been spent without his father. But to call him a stranger now would be erasing all of the memories that they had managed to make. A younger version of himself may have seen him as a stranger, but Oliver now understood that his father’s absence was never from a lack of care but because he had no other choice. Whether it had been for his country or to provide for his family, Chadwick never stopped caring and this was what Oliver had learn in the last two years of getting to know his father.
Oliver dipped his pen and started again: A tribute to my father, he wrote, thinking of what had gotten him to write this piece—the letter that Aunt Diana had read aloud moments ago.
June 3, 1842
It is with a heavy heart that I reply to Tyler’s letter on the news of our brother. He was beloved by so many as one of America’s heroes and a treasured sibling; that was something Chadwick and Rosie had in common, both adventurous souls who, as I used to say, were very in tune with nature. It was inevitable that Mother Earth would take them sooner than us.
I do very much understand how you are feeling right now; with my twin, Rosie, gone and William back at sea, my world is truly very small as of present. I cannot fault William, however; your letter had arrived after he had left, and my husband loves his ship.
Perhaps you and Oliver could visit me for a while. Owen can manage the newspaper now that he is older and has experience of his own. I would love some company, Diana, and Chadwick wouldn’t want you to wallow in his passing. He wanted you to remember all the memories that we siblings made together and be happy that he lived rather than grieve his passing.
The sea air here is also very calming for the soul and I’m sure Oliver would love it; many writers have been inspired by the great sea.
I do hope to hear from you soon.
Forever your sister,
Tyler was wondering how to contact James; no one had heard from him in years. But he was the only one old enough to decide what to do with the farm. Oliver would be staying with Tyler and Diana because he was too young yet to manage a farm.
“I suppose Paul could run it for the time being,” Tyler said, watching Diana, who was still sobbing on the couch.
“Have…you thought much on Flower’s offer to visit her?” Tyler spoke gently, aware of how fragile his wife was at the moment. “We could go just for a little while; I think a change of scenery would do you well.”
Diana looked up at her husband; she didn’t want to go—how could she find the strength?—but Tyler was right and, as Flower said, maybe Oliver would enjoy the sea. “I suppose. I have yet to visit Norfolk.”
Tyler smiled at that; it had been the most that she had said since reading Flower’s letter. Hopefully, Flower would be able to help with finding James.
James was on the Oregon Trail with a wagon train of a thousand pioneers; after he parted ways with Blue Snake, James, along with the other soldiers, had continued to force the Cherokee to the west where all soldiers were dismissed on arrival. James’ instinct had failed and left him wandering again, alone. He had heard a rumor that Blue Snake had joined the tribe members that had escaped removal by hiding in mountain caves and dens, but all the same, he knew to seek his brother again would be to walk toward death, and so James trudged on.
He had returned to his old ways when he caught word of the organization of a wagon train in Missouri. It was to be the biggest one yet and this had been the third time that James had heard of these wagon trains. His interest had been more than sufficiently piqued when he met Jesse Applegate, the man who was now the leader of the wagon train.
Applegate had told James that if he had nowhere to go, he might as well join the wagon train. The man knew that James’ horse could be an asset for the journey. Applegate had spoken of gold and the great potential of western Oregon; it had all sounded very good. But, of course, James was beginning to wonder if this journey would really be worth it.
Many of the pioneers wanted the land, a homestead. That wasn’t what James wanted and this journey had turned out more distressing than he could have guessed. It wasn’t the risk of bandits, Indian attacks, or even disease that worried him. What worried him was one of the most pathetic things. The travelers of the wagon train would park their wagons in a circle at night as a makeshift stockade. A stockade that reminded James of the Cherokee, and now every night when the pioneers drove their animals into the stockade, James would see the Cherokee and their lashed backs, their screams as they were driven into the stockade.
James had watched the men round up the tribe and he didn’t care then; he didn’t bat an eye when his mother had died or when he had shot those travelers…so why? Why now, after so many years, did some wagons in a circle cause these emotions?
June 21, 1843
Hope was reading a tale that Oliver had written while the boy sat next to her. Oliver had started coming over every week since returning from Flower’s home and he would always bring some of his writing for Hope to review.
“Another very good piece, Oliver; you have described my mother’s home so beautifully and I can see the influence from Edgar Allan Poe in this one,” Hope said, finally facing Oliver to see him smiling a happy grin.
“I thank you. Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite writer.”
“Is that so? Well, how would you like to meet him?” Owen said while keeping his eyes on Samuel and Maria—the two had been little troublemakers since the moment they’d learned to crawl.
Oliver stared at Owen with bug eyes. “Meet…Edgar Allan Poe?”
Owen and Hope looked at each other; they were amused by this youth.
“Yes. I’m sure you know that he published a book today, and so the journal has secured an interview with him and…I also got him to agree to review one of your stories during dinner tonight,” Owen said.
Oliver nearly collapsed hearing this. “Oh, my goodness, I must hurry home and decide what I want to show him!” The boy barely finished uttering the words before he was out the door and away from the chuckling older cousins.
February 17, 1844
Dear Mother and Father,
I apologize for not writing to you until now. The last few years have been very bizarre, with my best friend dying on the journey and myself having married his wife, Roberta. Truthfully, the thought of marrying Roberta hadn’t felt right at first, but Frank had left us, and I had grown fond of Roberta and her children.
Know that I am well and have settled at Sutter’s Fort, where I work as a tanner in the area. The work of turning animal hide into leather is truly fascinating and has acquired me a few friends. I am currently drinking with them at a tavern, which is how I’ve been able to send this letter, actually. The barman informed me that this tavern also acts as a cheap postal service; rest assured, taverns are not places I visit often—they are much too far from the fort and we are only here to celebrate a friend’s fortieth birthday.
My friends are very merry, but Captain Sutter…he is a stern man that rules his fort with an iron grip and the fact that he built this fort for the sole purpose of making himself a monarch is something I have yet to decide on how to feel about.
Hopefully, this letter reaches you. I don’t know when I’ll be able to write again, but how are things at home? Does William write often? And what about Hope? I do miss you, Mother, Father, and my siblings.
Your loving son,
May 24, 1844
Samuel Morse Sends America’s First Telegraph
For years, letters have been our only companion
for distance communication and so it is with both
excitement and the slight unease of an aging mind
that I tell you of the first-ever telegraph sent from
Washington to Baltimore today.
The message was “What hath God wrought.” Ominous,
but it brings about much opportunity…and some adjusting
for me to get on with.
William was sitting in front of the college of dental surgery in Baltimore as he read the article his cousin had written. Dentistry had been a truly amazing field to study; it was one that William had wanted to study ever since his father started telling tales of pirates knocking sailors’ teeth out and he had told those very often—so often, in fact, that William sometimes wondered if this had been a form of conditioning, but of course, it was not.
He had always had an interest in science and, combining that with his attention to detail from a childhood of constructing model ships, dentistry just made the most sense to him. William looked at the article again. Baltimore and his future were certainly appearing promising.
Written By: LiannaC